Monday, June 30, 2008

Who wants to be an idiot

Watching Indian television is a mind-numbing experience. Life generally evolves, so does Mallika Sherawat, but not television. With every new game show hosted by ageing botoxed superstars, every recycled soap, every Noida murder drama, television drives home the point why it is an idiot's box.
Indian television is just about as original as an Anu Malik score (ok, most Malik tunes). The beast feeds on about five ideas:
Who wants to be Amitabh Bachchan.
Ekta ke paas saans hai, mere paas maa hai.
American Idol and its shrieky children.
I am the nuisance between songs, they call me VJ.
I want to be Christina Amanpour but they want me to be Raakhi Sawant (or vice versa).
It's possible I may have missed a trick or two but at the heart of it, the idiot box is run on a stunningly original philosophy: We all have the same thing, but mine is bigger.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Helter Skelter

He presses his face against the windshield of my car. I can see the soot that has staked claim to the lines of his face. It's a face that has been defeated by time but his insolent grin suggests a spirit. I try avoiding his gaze but I can't escape the disturbing presence. The face pressed against my pane is not looking for pity, it is looking for recognition.I distract myself, fiddling with the knobs of the car. I am willing the traffic lights to go green so the moment shall pass. I don't want to acknowledge his existence. But that stubborn gaze forces me to give in; I look him squarely in the eye.He is not really looking for anything. He is laughing at me, secure in his insane world. He has no green lights to wait on, I am the one who is running.

Buena Vida

It's amazing how you can live a lifetime without impacting life in any anyway.You eat, you crap, you fall sick, you bitch, you borrow, you pay credit card bills, you go on holidays, you fornicate, you procreate, you seethe, you vegetate, you help, you harm, you hurt, you inflict pain, you cry, you pretend, you get diabetes, you criticize, you feel, you are numb, you fear, you desire, you wait, you sleep, you buy flowers, you spread disease, you curse, you heal, you yearn, you shun, you run, you pray, you turn away when they kill in the name of God.
You have used up the earth's water, oxygen, chicken legs and patience. In the end you are just a life insurance policy number.
Could life have done without you and carbon monoxide?

The joy of madness

It would be fun to be insane.
I think insanity is liberating. It frees your mind, your tongue and your credit cards. Imagine a Lenonesque world where there is nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. In an insane world it wouldn't matter if it's Obama or Clinton as long as they didn't kill people in Baghdad. It wouldn't matter if Laloo cut railway fares, the insane travel ticketless everywhere.
The insane are honest. You've got to be insane to say "yes darling, not only do you look fat in that dress but you really are." The insane don't hurt when she flings that heavy crystal vase. They just fling it back.
Insanity is freedom from everything that made you less of you. The insane dont wear Prada, don't push people down to climb up, don't envy their neighbour's success or wife, don't bribe God, don't need to suffer Shah Rukh Khan, don't need to laugh at the boss's jokes. The insane are free to walk earth the way they choose.
The insane are naked. And even the lord is scared of a man who doesn't really care.

To catch a falling star

Running blind, with the wind, against it, stumbling, falling. Chasing a dream, chasing many. Much has happened in between.
And when you do catch that flaming star, you wonder if that's what you really wanted. It looked so incandescent from a distance. It's just burning ash when you find it.
Oh, the business of dreamcatching. It's so tiringly futile.
It's like the puppy who chases the car down the street. When the car stops, the puppy doesn't quite know what to do.
Go boy, get that star. The world is waiting to applaud.

The dead stay dumb

They say when you die your life flashes by in that last nano second before it's all over. I don't know of anyone who can confirm this but I wonder how the brain puts together this little highlights package.Does that incredible machine in your head just put together those happy moments? Or are they those painful memories that you have tucked away in the recesses? Or are they things that you never got down to doing, like getting your nostril hair trimmed?It's a pity the dead stay dumb.

Dream Catcher

Freddie Krueger, to me, is one of the most enduring movie characters of all time. Freddie, in the 80s slasher flick, A Nightmare on Elm Street, stalks that unmarked line between dreams and reality, this world and the other one. He is powerless in the real world, but he can kill you in your dreams. I have read that Wes Craven was inspired to make Nightmare after reading a news story about Taiwanese children who died in their sleep after experiencing horrific nightmares.
I have always been fascinated by the surreality of dreams. This whole vividity of REM dreams is more Alladinesque to me than Einsteinish. I am told, the congenital blind do not have vivid dreams because they have no visual references. But they do experience dreams that are sensory. That's incredible, to be able to dream a little dream that you sense and not see.
The interpretation of a dream, Freudian or Floydian, is just that ... an interpretation. What interests me is the construct. Imagine having the power to engineer your dream. To be able to create a world that you want to inhabit in your dreams; drag and drop people, places, emotions, colours, situations.
To be able to paint your dreamscape, would be to play God. To create that parallel universe where you never lose, where everybody loves you and not Raymond, where you pay no taxes, and everyone looked like Michelle Pfieffer. Imagine, John.

Waiting for the sun

I find myself being sucked into a blackhole of mediocrity. It's like falling in a dream, arms and legs flaying, gagged, mute, helpless. I am surrounded by it, I am part of it, I am consumed by it.I find myself living in a world of short cuts, I don't need to be informed because I can Google on demand, then erase my hard drive, and Google again if I need to. I don't need to express lucidly any more because smileys do it for me. I don't even need to spell right, there is predictive text. I could even be a vegetable if I chose to, there is nothing VLCC cannot fix.What's scary is I have started using smileys. What's scary is I am hoping someone else will solve my problem while I assimilate home truths around me like Saif's tattoo and Bipasha's new squeeze.I need divine intervention, I key in "miracle" into a little white box, Mr.Google says it was released in 2004 and stars Kurt Russell and Patricia Clarkson. :)

Champagne Sky

I look up and see a champagne sky.I can see the clouds jostle and joust, trying to give themselves shape. The incandescent silvery cumulus humilis has painted itself into a polar bear. It's like a beautiful barren mother that can't conceive rain. A low sweeping one becomes a white christmas tree. The stars twinkle in applause.It's a champagne sky, intoxicating and transient.

Our Galaxy

On S.V.Road in Bandra, there is a little hole in the wall called Galaxy. It's very close to my stomach. Galaxy saw me through my heady impoverished years. And what a time it was. It's a freedom I have never known since, where the biggest decision to make was between vada pav and omlette pav. Vada pav allowed me the luxury of a post-feast smoke.
Galaxy loved me. Every morning when I walked in bleary eyed, the good men there would plonk a cup of the vilest tea, alongwith the newspaper and a cigarette. No matter who was reading the newspaper, they would snatch it and hand it over to me, always with a smile.
I met Tanvir across the newspaper. He had this annoying habit of peeping into my newspaper and it used to tick me off no end till I discovered he was illiterate. Tanvir worked as a stuntman, crashing through glass, breaking bones and jumping off heights while Bollywood heroes powdered their noses in the shade.
We formed an easy camraderie. I taught Tanvir ABC, he regaled me with tales from the movie studios, many of which I suspect were flaming red lies. Over many omlettes and chai, I learned to love the man for who he couldn't be. He wanted a better life and for him English was a passport to that other world.
Tanvir never learned much. Though he could say "how are you my friend" with a Meerutish flourish. I learned much more. He could talk without fear or shame about his life, his people, his fears and ambition. He had a fresh scar to prove it everyday, a broken bone, a gash or just a burning heart.
I moved on from Galaxy. I hope so has Tanvir ... with a newspaper tucked under his scarred arms. Inshallah.

I remember the time

In my first year in school I had a fragrant pencil eraser which was white in colour with a green crown. It smelt so good, I tried to eat it once. It tasted like rubber.I am always amazed how my handicapped brain can go that far back and retrieve pieces of useless information and play it out like a scratchy old record.I can remember the Casuarina pines at school, the taste of that birthday cake, the smell of fear in the examination hall, the wrinkles on Ms.Ramachandran's face as she struggled to teach us the syntax and the semantics. I remember listening to the radio, watching Amitabh Bachchan beat up Amjad Khan who was about three times his size.I can remember Preeti and her braces. She used to coyly slip Melody chocolates on to my desk during lunch time. How I hated those chocolates and how much my six-year-old heart beat for that girl.And I can't remember a lot. I can't remember my first lie. I can't remember the first time I hated someone so much that I wanted to kill them. No, not the first pang of jealousy or envy either. Try as I may, I can't recollect the day I grew up.I can't remember the end of innocence.

Stranger in the rearview mirror

Have you ever been touched by a stranger's simple act of kindness ...The man in the Dadar local who offered to hold your bag while you held on to dear life.The two boys who pushed your car when it sulked and died on the busiest road in the world and the world just honked you into shameThe lady who let you see the doc first, after alcohol had bludgeoned your body into submission.The math teacher who gave you that one extra mark that saved you a year.I am sometimes ashamed I don't remember them often enough ... how they just faded away from my consciousness like objects in a rearview mirror.

When the Wind Burns

I used to spend my summers in Thalassery, a sleepy, windswept town that rolled from the hills to the Arabian sea in one lazy turn of green. It used to be a place untouched by progress, a pretty little postcard suspended in a time capsule all its own.
Anand used to be my companion of the summers -- first cousin, friend and fellow conspirator of my teenage years. He was closest in age and temperament to me among a gaggle of younger pests who came to town come April.
The problem with sleepy towns is they aren't made for teenage hormones. After the initial thrill of the sound of rain and the smell of earth, we spent hours watching the grass grow. Anand and I found inventive ways to beat the boredom. One trick was to walk along the railway track which ran parallel to the farm land that my granny owned. We walked along the steel lines all the way up to the single track railway station. The station was the busiest place in town, noisy, smelly, dusty and alive. We would sit for hours on end on wooden benches, watching the trains come and go, bitching, laughing, plotting and dreaming. It was even more thrilling because we sat there ticketless; the danger of being caught out on the trudge back home was supremely exciting. And of course, no one at home, had any clue where we were.
We would walk up to the football stadium sometimes and watch the locals kick the ball around in their lungis or swagger up to the seafront promendade to check out the local beauties. We were 14 and 11 respectively (and looked about 8) and didnt get a second look from the girls but we strutted around believing otherwise.
The boldest thing we ever did was to smoke our first cigarette. After much plotting and planning we gathered enough courage to walk up to the store where our fathers bought their stock, and demand cigarettes. Our nervousness was a dead giveaway but the old man behind the till didn't ask too many questions. The tough part was lighting a cigarette on a man-forsaken bridge that was blustery as hell. We couldn't risk lighting up on an open road, so it had to be on the bridge. Let's just say we burnt more fingers than cigarettes.
Thalaserry has changed much since then. It even has Chinese restaurants. The main station block, however, remains the same. When I walk into its post-colonial portals, it feels warm and familiar, like an old friend. So does the wooden bench on which Anand and I had a 100 cups of sickeningly sweet tea while we checked out the humanity that tumbled in and out of trains.
And I miss him. My brother, my friend and my partner in crime, who left us when just out of his teens. This one's for you dude, I think of you everytime I light up in the wind.