Saturday, September 30, 2006

in the family

I cannot imagine a single civilization that does not honour its dead. That's something about humans, surely? That we recognize not just our own mortality, but also the mortality of others. That's probably where religion comes from; the knowledge that we will all die; that we all will die.

Yesterday I watched my father and his siblings bid farewell to their father; and watched my grandmother reassess her idea of herself as a woman, rearranging her thoughts to accomodate the idea of herself as a widow. Here was a woman who, almost singlehandedly, raised four children; who turned out, every one, into successful, happy adults. A grandmother with an open mind and an enormous heart. A grandmother who would take English lessons from even such a capricious teacher as a ten year old me; who would, uncomplainingly, satisfy every whim of five demanding grandchildren. A grandmother who would think nothing of cooking omelettes for her grandchildren if they wanted them.
And there she was, rearranging her mind to accommodate the idea that she was now a widow. I stood behind her and watched her hold on the iron railing of the window into the room where the ceremony was taking place, and I held her hand and wished I could do more.
This morning she is in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

There is not a woman in my family who does not deserve respect. Aunts who have handled demanding and thankless in-laws, scraped and scrounged to make ends meet, worked for eight years to reach a PhD, refused to go on their honeymoon so they could finish their MSc. Grandmothers who will, everyday, teach you that there is a reason to be glad that genetics mean you might just turn out to be half as wonderful as they are someday. If, before I die, I can look back and say I lived with a fraction of the dignity these women have invested their lives with, I will be content. Every cliché about the strength of women is an understatement.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I just finished reading this book.
If you haven't read it yet, what I've written below may spoil it for you. Not by much, but it might.

I had a dream one night that led, over many months, to a sad hotch-potch little story that you could, if you really wanted to, read here. I wouldn't advise it, but I had to have it said. I did think about it. I did try. I got nowhere, but I tried. I was so reluctant to talk about what I'd dreamed that I did not address the issue even here, letting it end, instead, hanging. Happy. Safe.
I didn't feel right talking about something of which I had no knowledge.
What right had I?

And yet, I know the fear. As a woman, I live with that fear every day. I don't know if all women do this. I know I do. Every time I am out walking by myself. Every time I'm carrying bags, so my hands aren't free. Every time I smell drink on the breath of the driver of the auto I am in. Every time I find I am alone, anywhere, with a man I don't know beside me. Every sense is suddenly heightened, every thought is about possibilities. Every cell is afraid.
See, I'm not stupid. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs. I don't party, I don't stay out late, I don't hang out with strangers. (much). When I'm alone, I'm alert. When I walk out at night, or late, I walk with an umbrella in my hand; the cord wrapped around my wrist; as a weapon. When I'm on a public bus, I stand with my elbows out; I sit with my arms wrapped around my body; as weapons, as protection. I try to draw as little attention to myself as a female as possible.
But not always.
Not always.

These are my scariest nightmares. I have dreamed of a day when I'm not as careful, when I let down my guard, when I'm vulnerable; when I suddenly become a victim.
My mother believes that I am too naïve, too trusting, too gullible; she fears for me all the time. I know she worries about me; when I'm alone, out late, at a party, at a pub. She worries, but she never imagines it. I do. I know that there are too many. I know how easy it is, how common.
Until today, I always felt that I had no right to imagine it because it had never happened to me. I had no right to imagine it because it was something that could not be imagined. I read about hundreds of women who had been raped, by people they knew, by people they trusted, by strangers; and all I could think was that trying to write fiction about it would belittle their pain.
Now I will attempt it again. I don't promise it will be better; I don't promise it will be good. I just want to be able to imagine the horror of a violation of my own body.
It's my body. I believe I have the right.

Five months. A hundred posts. Have I ever said anything worthwhile?

Monday, September 25, 2006

far too many

I found myself at Bangalore Central with my sister this evening. I had to meet a guy about a thing, and this was the spot he'd chosen. Hence, naturally, I'd dragged the child along as chaperon. Now, Sunday evening at a mall is possibly one of the worst ideas a person can have. We hadn't been there ten minutes before I'd saturated both eyes and ears, stubbed my toes, and developed a highly unpleasant edge to my voice. Four escalators later, I was following my sister in her search of Wai Wai noodles and snapping at every second word out of her mouth. We followed that with a discovery that she'd picked shrimp instead of vegetarian, and a colourful pain-filled trip back down to the lobby. I wonder if humans are supposed to be so easily mesmerised by bright shiny lights. It's probably the idea behind advertising. And festivals. And fireworks. And a host of others i am too tired to imagine, but which will probably slip into my mind when least expected and wanted. The way of the world.
So, after the short, yet painful mall-crawling, we finally got what we'd gone for; and I drove home to television therapy and a two hour long nap. Now all I have to look forward is an entire 24-hour day of work I am in no mood or state to begin.

I just need to get this bitter taste out of my mouth.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

anonymous passing

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seem limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your seccret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.
from The Body, Different Seasons; Stephen King

So, after Pratchett, I went back to King today. I don't exactly know why.
Perhaps it was because my grandfather died three days ago and I realized that here was someone related to me directly by blood whom I'd never seen in my life, whom I would never see, and for whom I could not find it in myself to grieve. Perhaps it is the impending design review on Tuesday and the fear attendant. Perhaps it was the waiting for phone calls.

There is something choking about the fear of disappointing that never seems to lessen with time. The fear of doing less than you are capable of, purely because you do not have it in you to get your act together. The fear that you have wasted an entire day with Different Seasons and washing the keyboard and other pleasant time-filling activities; when you have a review on Tuesday for a design that hasn't yet been approved, with the added responsibility of wasting four hours of your day on Monday getting the studio ready because you were too pussy-whipped to say you wouldn't.
The fear that guilt is as easy as blame. The fear that everything is your fault.

I need some help getting through this. Song suggestions, anyone?

But, in happier news:

Dear Mensan,

We wish to acknowledge receipt of your application form towards life membership. We shall be adding your email address to the official e-group of mensa india (bangalore). We shall keep you informed regarding your membership card.

Thank you,
Best Regards,
for mensa india (bangalore)

*sigh* Life is so sly. And I still need those songs.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

painful days

The state of my work is alarming.
Mostly because there is so little of it.

This is what you call fun?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

and a little madness

Where's the line between reality and fantasy then? Already it blurs, already my imagination gets me into trouble that I can't get out of without pain and heartbreak. Already I retreat into a wonderful painless perfect world of my own creation whenever anything goes wrong. And it’s getting worse. The world I’m creating fits on all points with the one I inhabit in my waking dream more and more, and that’s the danger zone.
Let me go. The imagination is not a dog on a leash or a bird in a cage. This mess I have to accept as part of who I am. I am not changing it. Yes, stubborn I am. Yes, yes, yes, resistant to change, wise man. In this instance, though, I will fight you to the death to defend my right to insanity.

I hate how easy it is to lie to the people you say you love. I hate that I still can't tell what love is. I hate how I try to package and label all the things I feel. I hate how I know this is going to end. I hate that I know it will all be my fault. I hate how much I see and how little I use. I hate that I was happy this morning and I'm messed up again. I hate that I spend all this time thinking about it when there's absolutely nothing I'm gaining from it at all. I hate that I don't know whether I want to be right for the right reasons. I hate that I can't tell what's going on inside my own bloody head. I hate that everything about me is a lie. I hate that everything about me is an act. I hate how I can use words to make everything fine without solving any of my problems. I hate how easily I use the word addiction and still truly believe I mean it. I hate how I can no longer tell what I truly believe and what I've convinced myself I believe. I hate that nothing I convince myself about stays for more than a day. I hate how my dreams are no longer distinguishable from reality. I hate how I can't tell people what I want. I hate how I can't tell the difference between an excuse and an explanation. I hate that I don't know how to stop making excuses. I hate that so many words aren't defined. I hate that I can't tell what's true and what's not. I hate that I'm thinking that all of this is just me being poetic. I hate that I don't know whether I mean anything I'm writing now. I hate that I can convince myself of anything. I hate that I always fall for it. I hate that the simple things will make me happy but a boy can still turn everything on its head. I hate that I don't ever know how to make people go away when I don't like them but I always manage to get rid of the ones I'm afraid to need. I hate how I always want the most painless way out of everything. I hate that I'm not afraid of hard work, but I still cannot apply that to relationships with people. I hate that it takes me so long to think of anything. I hate being so wise in the head and so abysmally clueless everywhere else. I hate that I don't know how I feel about anyone. I hate that I keep thinking the only reason I can say I love them is because they love me. I hate that I know so much in theory and yet nothing in practice. I hate that I still love me. I hate that I can anticipate change and still never reconcile myself to it. I hate that I haven't figured out the world. I hate that that bothers me. I hate that I have no ambition. I hate how I can convince myself of something and then fall in the same traps every time. I hate that I can't fix it. I hate that the ones who love me will always offer things I can't use to make me all I want to be. I hate that I can be content sometimes. I hate that I love to self-destruct. I hate that my instincts don't prevent me from doing the wrong things. I hate that right now I'm thinking that I can't ever avert any of the messes I see coming a mile away.
I hate that I decided words weren't enough and then went ahead and used them to fix myself for this moment anyway.

And because I must always end high and poignant and poetic. And because she always makes it better. And because she is right now.
My song.

I would rather a bad day that ends well than a great day that ends badly.

i wantahug.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

bleady good

And it's been ages since I did the promised. Wonder if that's the reason I haven't seen hide nor hair of bleady anywhere. *sigh*

From a terrace quietly

street watching

Monday, September 11, 2006

weekend surprises

Ultimate props for my girls. A weekend, a whole new wardrobe, and - dare I say it? - shopping. Pecos for the first time in my life. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. My oldest and best friend in the world. My mother and my cousin. New music. Sad letters. Missing people.

There is so much.
And suddenly the words aren't there any longer.

Thursday, September 7, 2006


And suddenly, the streets are as dangerous as the proverbial nursery closet.
I was thinking of fears today. Not fear, but fears. The stuff childhood nightmares are made of. The things that lurk under the bed and sneak up behind doors and eat little kids. The things made up to keep you on the path of good. The parents' best friends.
I realized, to my chagrin (why chagrin? no idea) that I'd never had a terrifying childhood experience in my life. I've never had nightmares involving creatures richly endowed with tentacles, arms, legs, eyes, mouths and other appendages in the generous plural. My dreams have rather involved things like floods, earthquakes, lightning, loose electric wires, mad bulls and angry teachers (yes, i have issues, i'm aware).
Today I went out to buy some stationery, and added a new and overwhelmingly frightening monster to my meagre list.
Male. Creep.
Someone I've never seen before in my life; and I would know, I have an excellent memory for faces; came up to me as I was making my innocent and unconcerned way home.
"Excuse me", he said. I stopped. You do, you know, for polite persons. Woe betide my fondness for manners. Ted Bundy springs to mind rather forcibly at this point.
"Is your name..." he went on. I looked at him for an instant, and he went on, "I think we've met somewhere?" I was turning away even as I said "I don't think so.", and I hotfooted it home as speedily as I could without actually running, every nerve in my body tingling.

Now here's the point. How dared he? What in the entire universe made this person believe that he could walk up to a complete stranger and lie?? What in the world did he expect to get from it? Of course, my five month stint in the world of orkut tells me quite clearly that an exchange of phone numbers, meetings in coffee shops and various other mating rituals were probably in the offing, but seriously. Who'd trust someone who came up to you in a dark alley at half-past seven, and tried a lousy pick-up line that probably wouldn't even work if the girl were drunk?
Now, I doubt I'd have spoken to him if he'd actually known my name, but who knows? There is no saying what anyone else might have done, and no knowing what it might have led to. There is no knowing.
There are the dreams, though.
This is the kind of thought that keeps me awake at night. These are the dreams that I don't ever want coming true.
This is the kind of story that is thought in italics.
This is what this one was about.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006


On Monday there was a celebration back at school. A Teachers' Day celebration, complete with songs, dances, speeches; a daring offer by the students of grade eleven to take over the school for half the day; and an afternoon of games.
I missed all the excitement, because I got there too late and left too early, but what I did manage to grab were a few hours with my old teachers. Most of the teachers who taught me have left, either to other cities, other schools, or retirement; but there were enough of them who remembered the person I'd been. What was brought to my notice, in a rather unnerving manner, was my apparent tendency to think like one of the gang. I found phrases like, "children that age", and "kids nowadays" and "there's no respect" and "parents really don't understand" trip off my ready tongue in spite of my brain revolting in a marked manner somewhere in my head.
I tried analyzing it, as I do all my quirks, and I came up with something rather depressing. Not I have no friends I want to die depressing, but rather Oh Good Lord I'm turning into my mother depressing.
Alas, it is true. I am more like my mother everyday. But back to my teacher tendency. Perhaps it's because my mother's a teacher? (also an aunt and two cousins. explaining seems to run in the family.) Perhaps it's because she is a good teacher. Perhaps it's because she is what I'd call an educator. Somehow she can make education seem the most important thing anyone can be involved in. And I believe it, too. Nothing is as rewarding as making someone understand something they didn't before. Nothing is as close to a free high as the look on someone's face when there's a brand new idea in their head.

This raises more questions than it answers. I do believe I prefer it that way.

Sunday, September 3, 2006


Here's some fun. Last night, I got a missed call from an unknown number. 9894411127, so you know. Many missed calls. Each time, my phone rang once, and the call was cut before I culd answer. I sent a message; "Who?" it said. I got a reply saying "i am in madras can u help tell me ur work" or something to that effect. Now, this sounded incredibly suspicious, so I ignored it. I then promptly received three more missed calls. Since this was in the middle of the night and I was sleeping, besides, I sent the unknown a message saying "Bugger off, I'm sleeping". "i dont understand", came a plainitive reply. I cursed all phones and went back to sleep.
This morning I got a three more of the single-ring calls; and finally, just to ensure that my instant radar was right and I wasn't inadvertantly ignoring a friend in distress, I called the number (9894411127, in case anyone's forgotten) It rang a number of times, but no one answered. I was left alone for four hours, and it happened again. This time, when I called, a man answered. Presumably in a very noisy environment. Perhaps a pub. Or a party. "I got your number", he said. "I will send my resume", he said.
I hung up.
I've since gotten five more calls and a message saying "tell me where u work and your email id".

Life was probably simpler in the olden days.

It's nice to believe that, anyway.

Friday, September 1, 2006


Perhaps it's useful doing these things over and over in new and improved settings. I don't know. The only things I seem to get out of them are brand new ways of describing what an astounding ass I am.
Went AWOL and worried the parental units, and they spent the evening calling up half my class. No one seemed to know where I was, perhaps because my phone was out and I was reading novels at a bookstore all by myself. The déjà vu was rather unnerving. Also the fact that I repeatedly have very tame adventures. *heap big sigh*
I don't like worrying my parents. It's a little thing I keep promising myself. It's a duty, see? Make sure they never have to worry about you except for all the things they already worry about for you.
It's all very well sneaking off and wandering around, but if you are going to give your parents reason to stay up late at night wondering where you are and what you're doing and what might be happening to you, then there is something amiss somewhere.

The shame is not a pleasant feeling.
The amusement? Perhaps a little :)