Friday, June 24, 2005

We are Still Waiting

There we were, a bunch of guys
drinking and generally having a good time
in our favorite pub, when into
the reunion party walks
an old associate of ours.

“Look who is here !” we exclaim
and there is a lot of fake enthu,
shaking hands, back slapping…
The newcomer was whom
most of us contemptuously
referred to as the Rich Rasputin,
dressed in white like a politician.
New round of drinks is ordered,
to try to forget our envy of him.
RR was our most successful peer,
generally resented by most of us.
He was also once
my idol, in my gawky-eyed years*.
And that is why I am
the only one still
admiring him.

He however refuses to share
the spirits with us and we feel hurt.
And offended. It’s as sacrilegious
as refusing to break bread.
When there is a loud round of
indignant protests, he raises
his hand and says,
“Guys, I am trying to say
goodbye to all my vices…”
But why ? we ask .
“Well, I guess I’ve
had enough of them, to do
without for the rest of my
life…” he says philosophically.
Now I understand his
Swamiji like dress.
He does look enigmatic to me
as ever, whether while rolling in sin or
relinquishing the same.

“You mean you’re giving
up booze ?” someone asks
“And cigarettes,
and many more things…”, he smiles.
More groans of
collective disbeliefs
rend the air.

“Like some richie rich diamond
dealers in Gujarat who renounce their
incredible wealth, women and world
and go to the caves in the
Hima for the rest of their
lives?” some guy asks.
RR nods, “Almost.”
We feel bad. Here is a
guy who is a regular
Pg 3 Item and lives with
a gorgeous woman for
whom we would have
willingly traded all our
women put together
and he is planning to
leave everything.

For nothing.

Somehow, it is not an event
for us poor ordinary souls
to rejoice about, as you’ll see :

01. He had wallowed
in numerous luxuries earlier.
Now, he is going to subtract
the same.
Either way, he has
multiplied our miseries.

02. Why is it that he who has everything,
does not want them ?

03. Why is that those steeped in
sins want to become saints ?

04. Why is it that the vicest,
want to become the virtuoust?

05. Why should such weighty
thoughts arise to me only
in stupid bars ?

Life certainly is
unfair, unbalanced.

Then the Inverted Guy** speaks up.
“You are planning to give up all
your vices, you say ?” IG asks curiously.
Like IG was insinuating
that something was still left
to give up, to attain sainthood.
RR nods, already sagelike.
“Have you ever tried giving up lying?” IG asks.
RR looks nonplussed.
“Just try not to lie to yourself,” suggests IG,
“for an hour. A day.
A week. Then, come back to us.”
RR leaves, smiling and shrugging
his broad shoulders. Like it was the
easiest thing for him to do, and that
he would be back soon…

That was some six months ago...

* Being The Lackey, Nov 2003
** The Inverted Rainbow, July 2003

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Enlightened Scribbler

He who can’t write good,
must read.
It might not make him
a better writer.
But it might just stop
him from being verse.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Chennai Trip

2 a.m

am sitting beside the transparent airconditioned
coffin of my recently departed aunt,
at a nondescript village near Chennai.

We are a few close relatives who
are keeping all night vigil,
for what reasons I don’t
know, except to
salve our collective remorses
of not having spent time with her
when she was alive, lonely and sick.

Am sweating profusely
in the sweltering night,
the oppressive heat,
and feel jealous of my aunt inside
the cool coffin.
I can see the icicles clinging to the
steel sidewalls, below the
clear glass top.
wished I were in the coffin,
instead of her, just
to escape from the glowing
embers of the night.

The incense sticks thick smoke
around the coffin gets me high,
and as I look at her face,
I feel as though she were
reproving all of us, at what we
were doing or were talking about.

Worried that
I am hallucinating, I walk out
and sit in the verandah and
smoke, to keep myself awake,
waiting for tiredness to take
over my guilt feelings.

3 a.m

I stretch my legs walking on the dark
rough stone road, beside the house
and am warned of venomous snakes
abounding in these areas.
Hoped I could see one or two,
just to make my night. Or morning.

Suddenly, I am punched in my face by an intense
fragrance, and I look around dazed, and I
find blooming mehendi flowers.

The fragrance is intoxicating, and
it’s the first time I have felt its
full allure. I just stand there in the dark,
drinking the heady scent,
god knows for how long.

4. a.m

I come out of the mehendi
trance, break a branch of it
and bring and lay it among the withering roses
on the coffin. I am afraid to look at her face.
I join the silent and now dozing
mourners in the verandah again.

A rooster crows nearby and I’m surprised
because I never hear such things
in my city. The crowing is answered
by another awakened rooster, a bit away.
And by yet another, farther away.
Then the main guy starts crowing again,
and the others follow the sequence.
“Must be a cock from Malaysia,”
my bleary eyed Uncle and says, “it must
be breaking dawn down there.”
Funny reason.
But couldn’t beat the logic. The crowing
cycle goes on, for about five times.

5 a.m

Having driven 350 kms
last night to be here, am beginning to
feel bone tired and less guilty.
I get into my car, lean the
seat back and go to sleep.

I’ve done my mourning bit.

Whether my
Aunt repudiates me or not.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Just Another Sunday at Home

It’s Friday afternoon and I get
the call I dreaded most.
“We’ve decided on Sunday,” says Dad.
As though it was a family get together
he was inviting me to.
“I’ll come,” I say.
“Are you sure?” he asks. “Otherwise
I’ll call somebody else…”
“No, I’ll be there by 10.00,” I say
brusquely, angered by
his eternal distrust of me.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I know
my responsibility, I tell myself.

I reach home and
Mom is all dressed up.
In black. Like she was
attending a funeral. Wasn’t she ?
Dad of course is in his
usual cold, remorseless self,
reading the paper.
It is just another
Sunday for him.
I too act nonchalant,
as though today was no
big deal for me.

I walk up to mutt, who is actually
Buddy, a name I had fondly given
long, long ago.
Almost a brother I had grown
up with, who had shared my
secrets, my joys, my tears, my bed.
Now he is senile, stinking,
almost blind and paralytic, among
other infirmities. He senses me and
as I rub his ears, looks at me through
his bleary rheumy eyes.
His tail twitches spasmodically,
but he can’t get up. I feel awful.
But there is little I can
do for him, except
continue to rub his head
out of affection.

10.30 a.m. “The vet will be
here by 11,” says Dad, glancing
at his watch. He is a stickler for
timing and sometimes I wonder
whether I was born at the time
he willed. Maybe I didn’t,
and so, I’ve never ceased to
disappoint him since then.

Mom gets me tea and
I can see her eyes moist and
she is babbling her head off,
about some inane matter
to no one in particular, as
she is wont to when she is
all tensed up.
The mood is turgid and charged,
as though
we are anxiously waiting
for some exam result of mine.

11.15 a.m . The vet comes and it
is all over within minutes,
with least resistance.
I feel the life ebbing from
the limbs I’m holding
and they stiffen.
So wooden. Dad is watching
me closely, as though
he expects me to swoon on
my feet like the the sissy
he believes I am.
I can feel my heart hammering,
face flushed, sweat trickling
down my spine
to between the tensed cheeks.
But, I hold my ground and
the carcass.
I surprise myself.

And disappoint Dad.

For once, I have not lost
to him in our never ending
battles of one up manship.

Yes, yes, yes !!!
I gloat and
smirk at him and
look for Buddy to
share my rare joy.

That’s when I
break down.