Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Rose

I still remember in 10th standard Geography class when I was pulled up by Liz Miss for talking and asked to read aloud this poem. Most. Embarrassing. Moment. Ever. The class thought it was a love poem for Rose and teased me endlessly. I died a little that day, I tell you! And never had the courage to share my poetry. Till now. Boo Yeah! 

Sensual incantation of scent
Blood-red heavenly angel sent
Pricking the fox who dares
Approach thy thorny lair

Passionate tango of romance
Thy fragrance with senses dance
Inebriated as they float along
Sways each to thy crimson song

Petals of gentleness adorning thee
Robes of scarlet jealousy
Regally they shroud thy soul
Sweet perfume so softly unfolds

As thee, my life takes shape
These dusty words, my escape
Thorny eyes protect inside
Soft, red scent, within I hide

As wild like vermilion fire
Thy radiance do I desire
Unbending under command
Of wind or rain or sun to stand

If No One Were Looking

If no one were looking
We would stop pretending
Our actions real, true
Emotions in plain hue
No longer meekly hiding
If no one were looking

If no one were listening
Secrets cease to be silent
Out loud would speak minds
Not a fragment straying behind
Each signal openly sent
If no one were listening

If no one were judging
Choices solely our own
Expectations no longer to meet
No victory or low defeat
Or disapproving undertones
If no one were judging

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Diwali with the Mittals

Today, on the eve of Diwali, it felt like Delhi was closer to home than ever before. 

We don't celebrate Diwali in Cochin (hell, we barely celebrate Christmas). So when the PG was all decked up in lights and tassels, it felt really wonderful to be living in a house of just five and not one of those Kamla Nagar hostels. We're one of the few people that call our PG "home". It's not only because we have a whole flat to ourselves, but also because of the Mittals, our wardens. 

Background on the Mittals: Uncle's a professor and DU big-shot and Aunty is.. aunty. And they can be very mean sometimes with night outs and late nights and what not. Over the last year though, it looks like they've gotten pretty fond of us. And vice versa, I must say. They do these things that normal wardens don't do. Like make sure everything is working in our house, and that there is a good helper to cook and clean, and that the food is made on time and a whole bunch of other things. Aunty checks on us during exam time and sends up everything from sweets to kulfi to pumpkin curry and poori. She also is instrumental in drilling nails into our walls for all our posters ("Drill four holes here for the white board also, beta!" I've never seen anyone so happy about drilling holes in their own house). She is excellent at hugging. Uncle laughs out loud enough to make you nervous. For an old guy; he's pretty tech savvy. He does these cute things like drop you at the metro when he sees you struggling with bags. He is also a good hugger, though sometimes those pats on my back hurt a tad bit. 

Diya and I, being the cool people we are, decided to celebrate Diwali all on our own. We bought colours for rangoli and crackers. Aunty gave us these gold bobby-things to hang on our door. Heera, our helper, and the both of us went over to uncle and Aunty to ask them if we could draw a rangoli at their doorstep and they happily agreed. Aunty gave us atta for the white lines and tons of glue so none of it would fly away. I think she was a little skeptical about our ability to draw pretty things on the floor when we have had no prior experience. About fifteen minutes later she walks out to the door and sees us at work and beams. I am not kidding you, she said, "awesome!". I refrained from laughing out loud. She was so excited that she said, "It feels like a real Diwali now" about ten times. Not to mention, "Our house finally looks like it has children in it" and "Beta, put a little more purple over there". Uncle took over the directing after a while and watched over as our multi-coloured doodle came to life. That laugh was ringing all over the house every five minutes. It was a good kind of ringing, though. After an hour or so, we were done and for a free-hand rangoli, it looked pretty good. Aunty and Uncle took pictures and gave hugs. They treated us to delicious kulfi. They looked incredibly happy even though it was just a tiny party of their day. These little things do make differences, you know. 

Tomorrow, we will burst crackers together like a family. And do puja. And share breakfast and dinner together. Just as if we are home. I suddenly wish I could stay longer. 


My roommates call me a music snob. In an attempt to live up to that name, here are some of my favourite albums. Yes, albums; because that's how music snobs listen, okay.

                                                      1.Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon                                                                                                                            
They don't come a whole lot awesomer than Pink Floyd. For me, these guys are just pure GENIUS. Yes, The Wall was epic, I know. But this album appeals to me a whole lot more. Maybe it's because I've heard most of the songs all through my childhood. Listening to this album takes me back to humid nights at home with my dad singing Money. It reminds me of that time Brian, Pa and I sang our version of Time in Bangalore. Wish You Were Here is Amit. Along with all those memories and thoughts, I love how each song on this album just flows into the next. Alan Parson's sound engineering is just a joyride for the senses. Not to mention Gilmour's silky smooth voice that never fails to make me melt. I could go on and on about this record, but to save you from boredom I end with a request: even if you don't care for any of the following albums, listen to this one. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

2. Eminem - Recovery
Okay, I know Em fans probably will disagree with me on this one. This one's my favourite for a bunch of reasons. For one, I really do prefer the melodic rap to the superfastcrazynonsense that some rap ends up as. Eminem manages to rap incredibly complicated verses with killer beats with an ease that makes you wonder how in the hell he does it. He brings out this whole emotional side of him that, although not rare, is quite refreshing after the madness of Relapse. He even admits that he may have "ran 'em accents into the ground". From Relapse to Recovery saw such a change in his rap; part of it really insightful, part of it telling the world he's still on top of his game. It's not just Cinderella Man with all that chorus-y awesomeness and Spacebound with that fresh guitar in the background that makes this record a winner with me. It's practically every single track.

3. Adele - 21
When this woman debuted with 19, I was impressed. What a voice she had. And then when I listened to 21 I was sold. It's rare to find this kind of passion and raw emotion pour out of a voice. I chanced upon videos of a few live performances and she had me cringing with pain when she sang Someone Like You with a simultaneous power and gentleness. Anyone who has even remotely glanced through Billboard would not have missed Rolling in the Deep's seemingly permanent stand at number one. Rick Rubin's production did wonders too I'm sure.

4. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
I don't care what you say, Caleb Followill's voice is just plain sexy. Apparently this album got a bunch of mixed reviews ranging from twos and threes on ten to five on fives. So what if the critics didn't like it right? I don't know if it just grew on me, but I love the sounds in the album; often sinister and macabre melting into some sort of incredible hotness. Don't believe me? Listen to Closer. I'm not kidding you, that guitar will give you the shivers. There's also Sex is on Fire and Use Somebody, but you've heard those, right?

5. Alterbridge - Blackbird
Okay fine, i'll admit it already. I have a thing for vocalists. Myles Kennedy almost tops my list. Have you heard this guy? I haven't heard someone who isn't my dad's age rock out like it was the 80s again. His entrance into the band, not just as a vocalist but as a song writer and guitarist makes this album a hit with me. Alterbridge relased a new record last year ABIII which I didn't like all that much. But Blackbird is pretty damn cool. They have the slow thing going with Watch Over You and a whole bunch of awesome headbanging material too.

Alright, alright I'm done. I'll save the rest for another day. I'm guessing I've lost like seven (read: all) of my followers.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Hands and Wrinkles

She walks into the front porch at a slow, yet even pace. Her eyes squint in the gorgeous sun. After decades of living midst the wet, green trees and paddy fields, she is oblivious to the Eden that surrounds her. She has tread the floors of this house for more than half a century. Mottled, old floors that creak when the rains are heavy. Her freckled cheeks part with a smile. Every line in her face is deeply etched into her skin and her feet are swollen and pale, but the glow that emanates from her eyes, lighter with age, hint of a youthfulness hidden within.

They hide secrets, too. Secrets her son and daughter have never heard. Secrets she kept from her husband. Secrets that have been made invisible by a strength she draws from some unknown source. As if a veil covers her feelings, displaying only a translucent hint of what lies behind. She is some sort of Athena, I think to myself as she walks towards me. Her gait shows no signs of strength, wobbly knees and a back that bends slightly. But as she her wrinkled arms wrap me into a hug, I get the impression that she will be able to protect me come what may.

She is not always gentle. She can make biting remarks that sting harder than a scorpion. She can rebuke me so that even a small error raises a considerable amount of guilt (especially when it comes to my not going to church). But she will also buy me a small bar of dairy milk when she comes to visit. She will also cook the most delicious meals I will ever have in my life. 

And she worries like a mother does. About everything. Least of all, her own health, which she meticulously tends to. She worries about the children, the grandchildren, the sisters and brothers. Amma. That word couldn't hold more meaning than when used to address her; because she fits that role as if she was born for it. Do we all eventually mould ourselves into that form? She is sentimental, too, I think. Because she keeps those old diaries to read through. She saves sweaters preserved from some bygone era. She gives me a gold bangle from her wrist as a coming-of-age gift.

And I see myself in her; that uncanny way that we bottle things up. The way we sift through old letters to find meanings lost in time. The way we care so much our hearts burst but we are too proud to ever admit it. It makes me wonder, almost obsessively, what she was like at my age. Was she vibrant and ebullient or quiet and reserved? In seventy years, a person can change so much. I wonder if the Amma I know is unrecognisable to her 20-year-old self. I wonder if she was as efficient and matter-of-fact as she is today, or was she impulsive and free? I wonder what kind of mother she would have been. And I sit for hours just dreaming up a life for her, because I dare not ask her.

Oh but when she laughs, it is as if my whole world just melts into nothing. I see that effervescent spirit of hers glint; just barely in sight. I want to hold her and never let go in those moments. It is as if all the heaviness she holds in her heart has, only for a few seconds, evaporated. As if all those stern words of advice she gives me can be thrown to the wind like paddy husk just so that we can share that tiny little joke together.

She is my inspiration.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Nursing Like a Boss

There are four people in my family. Right now, one of them had a little problem with mobility and is on crutches. It happens to be the little one, my brother. Putting aside the technicalities of his injury and the events leading up to his rather uncomfortable predicament, I noticed myself doing something I didn't think I would. I found myself falling perfectly into roles defined for a woman; without ever knowing it.

When someone in the family falls ill, everyone pitches in. There are so many things to be done that one person doing all of it alone is worthy of a hundred gold medals. How is all this work divided among the members of the family? In mine it followed the traditional setup. Dad would pay the bills and talk to the doctors. He would give the green light on what tests to take, which room to book, when the car would come to pick us up and all that jazz. Mom would stay overnight at the hospital, make dinner, buy provisions, give hugs and apple juice. Suprisingly, I fell into my stereotype too. I was doing odd errands, traversing elevators and stairs to fetch some dressing from the pharmacy or chicken rolls from the cafe or drive around when needed. When Ma was busy, I was feeding, heating up dinner, dressing, swabbing or giving medicines.

In retrospect, I think of the ease with which I slipped into those (relatively) feminine roles and wonder whether those roles are taken up because we have a sort of comparative advantage in them. Like dads are just better at paying bills and being tough and moms are just so wonderful when they make home-food and touch you with their gentle yet weather-worn hands and sisters just sit next to you and talk endlessly so you don't feel lonely.

The thought is reinforced with little tidbits of conversation floating around the house

Baby brother:"I wouldn't have been able to move my leg if Pa hadn't been tough on me during physiotherapy"
Ma:"If I was the one in charge of physio, I'd have failed miserably because I'd have stopped every time he so much as winced!"

Baby Brother:"Mari let Ma do all the wound dressing, she's more gentle."

Baby Brother:"Can Mari stay at home for a few more days? I need her around for support."

As an aside, that last one had me sold. That kid had never said anything about needing me his whole life and even though he probably meant support while he walks to the other room, I'd like to believe it was that other, more important kind of support.

I know every family is different, in that each member has special strengths and in a crisis they play on those strengths. Maybe that  is all I witnessed at home this week. But maybe, like I said, women are just more into that whole nurturing business and men are more of that protective sort.

Then again, maybe my family is more stereotypical than we'd like to admit.

I have been rambling, haven't I?