I finally publish

Sunday, July 31, 2005

I dwell on maybe

It was ideal. He liked her. She liked him. They could talk. And she wanted to. He obliged she guessed and he wanted to too she hoped.

He was just out of a bad affair. She was... well, out of an affair. 'Relationship', if you don’t find that word comfortable.

She enjoyed today with him. Tomorrow she stored up conversations to repeat to him. The day after existed too, but not very clearly. That's the closest to 'Constance' she’d been.

For a person who wasn't able to love someone whom she was in love with, being faithful had never been an issue.

For someone who was self protective, he didn't want to love. And he wasn’t sure if he wanted her to love him. He might be unfaithful.

Everyone except the two of them knew it was love.

She really didn't know. She knew she could. She didn’t know if she already had.

He didn't know. That's what he said. Or pretended.


She knew she was being unfaithful. She didn't love him. Couldn't. He was nice and all that. But he wasn't him. Unfair, but that's how the mind works.

Conversations were minimal. She liked it that way.

Her husband wondered why she was the way she was. He wondered if she was having an affair. But she'd always been like this. Damn women and damn her.

Conversations were getting to be more and more. And she knew as time had moved on, she'd customized him to mirror her own thinking of who he was. His answers always pleased her. If alone her husband wouldn't insist on dinner conversations, she might as well have been living completely with him.

Sex wasn't a sin. Making love was. And making love when it didn’t exist was 'sinner'. She hoped the fires wouldn’t be too hot.


He remembered her. When he picked up a book. Watched the rain... He didn’t remember how she looked like. Not very well. But yes, her.

He never dwelt on maybe. Conversations he could have with anybody. And she'd loved him too much. And she wasn't woman enough to hide it.

There were many before her. After her too. And that's all her remembered of her. A milestone of books and late night phone calls.

His wife wondered which of those 'hers' he was now thinking of. She'd seen enough books with different names and different inscriptions on them. She'd never managed to progress beyond touching the long dried inked handwritings on the pages and wondering if they were all very pretty and intelligent. It bothered her so much, that she never asked. That was his cue. Which he never took.

He was faithful. He couldn’t bother to be otherwise.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

There's balloons and balloons, and one for everybody

The sky was an azure blue. Heraldic and tinctured. The woods were dark and must be cold. What do you choose? Which direction do you take?

You were one of the many balloons that were tied with a cotton string. Held tightly in the dirty fist of the little girl who’d saved up all her money to buy balloons. Handing over the grimy coins, she was told she could choose eight of them.

You’d never seen a happier child. A dirtier one too, but well, happy anyway.
She began choosing them one by one. She had all the time in the world. It was then that you knew when you saw her shining eyes that you wanted to belong to her. While the other times you hid behind the blue and red ones that got picked first, this time you strutted forward, “Pick me. Choose me”, you nestled closer to her hovering fingers.

When she touched you, you know for sure. It was a touch that caressed. You’ll keep the air longer for her, bounce merrily in the wind for her… stay alive longer just for her.

When she held the string that tied you and the others tightly in her fist, it hurt a little. You knew but that she held it so, because she didn’t want to lose you. Her eyes still shone with the joy and you skipped happily along with her. After all, one is made to bring joy to the others…

It was the first thing she ever bought. Out of her own hard earned money; chores around a wedding that happened, running messages between lovers, selling flowers... Every penny that she’d saved, she’d done so to buy you and when she puffed out her chest and showed you off to her friends, you puffed up a little more too and beat a tattoo with the wind.

You stayed so for three days. Longer than the other seven. You wanted to stay longer… but the strength and vitality no longer was taken for granted. Even balloons grow old…

You were her favorite and you felt good about it. She played with your every night. Carefully so, so that you wouldn’t fall and prick yourself on the nails on the wall, on the sooty lamps that were around or fall a prey to her envious neighbors.

Your strength left you each passing day, but you did your best. When she untied you and blew her hot breath tainted with spit, you could have popped with joy. Or you didn't pop because of your joy.

You worried over the pennies that she was saving again. You worried over the smiles on her face when she counted her savings everyday. A foreboding feeling. Even balloons have feelings…

When she came home with glass bangles on her wrist, you knew you’d been replaced. How could balloons replace bangles or vice versa? Ah- we are talking about attention here. The red and golden bangles on her wrist made her eyes shine. Every night after she came back from work, she would put them on and watch them shine in the light of the sooty lamp. They would clink merrily and roll on her arm. You knew you’d make a better bangle, because you’d be redder and clink louder without breaking; but just for her.

Love is such a silly thing. Even balloons have a heart…

The cottages were at the side of the woods. All of them looked alike. Shabby, dirty and cluttered. And full of life.

It was the boy next door, who’d always pull her hair who’d cut the string and carried you to the field, walking till the edge of the woods.

Bright colored balloons dotted the sky. You could see them.

When he let you go, you weren’t really sure. It was painful living on seeing her rub her red bangles with the same love she once touched you with. But go where? You were tired already. Watching your love go unnoticed is exhausting.

You’d never reach those bright ones up there. You’d even faded in color from what you once were. Dull and lifeless. Almost.

The woods were lovely dark and deep. Ah- that was almost poetry. But for sure some poet must have said that already. The best ideas were already taken...always…

They were dark and deep. Lovely, you really didn’t know.

You fluttered slowly towards the woods. You didn’t want anymore heartache and pain. No more love and no more loving.

Pine needles are sharp. It hurt when it pricked your almost saggy body.

Everything’s just rubber and air ultimately.

With a tired sigh, the air inside you joined the air outside. A sigh of two people who’ve been apart too long… There are lovers everywhere.

And they lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Festival des livres

I have a friend who lives in Paris. Envy is the word I most associate with him. I envy him. Several reasons. Especially so when I sit in front of my computer and stare at the market shares, sizes and shipments and wonder on how stupid I was to imagine a life without financial management.

He is a free lance journalist at one of the Parisian newspapers. He reads Indian books, interviews authors and writes reviews. He also handles a paper on Indian writing at the university there. I envy him because he is happy with his job and knows for certain no other job can make him happier. Organizations, yes, but job, no.

Every year when he visits India apart from Chanel, Coty and innumerable stories; he brings me something. Something special. A book. A book which he’s read and enjoyed most that year.

We have amazing conversations.

Why I like Salman Rushdie the way I do.
Did I think Anita Nair was an Indian author to be reckoned with? Are people in Kerala proud of her?
He liked Anita Desai and staunchly so, no matter what I say, so there! Could I write a book better than her?
Would I one day write a book? One day... some day? Oh, he’d never write one. He can only analyze a book and he’d wreck his own sanity if he was to write one.
Oh, he’ll never review what I write. He’s biased. Brown always made him biased; didn’t I know.
Bengal had amazing authors, yes.
I should read travel writing and I better start with Pico Iyer.
Why did I like Jhumpa Lahiri’s “interpreter of maladies”; which one of the short stories specifically?
I haven’t read the poetry of Vikram Seth; that’s a shame.

Did ‘God of small things’ mean more to me than it could ever to him because I was from Kerala?
These conversations would sometimes appear in the most delightful of places. An interview with Arundhati Roy where he mentioned ‘a young friend of mine from Kerala was one of the first people I talked to about your book and before the Booker’- a translated copy of which found its way to my inbox and a copy of the French paper in my post box with a note ‘You’re world famous now my girl!’

When I saw his number on my mobile, I looked up at the calendar... A few more days. He was coming in August.

Would he be introduced to someone special this year?
He can find his own girl.
Tch tch, he was talking about me here.
I’ll look harder the next few days and when I don’t; I’ll hire one to show him.
What was wrong with all the Indian men? Didn’t they see what he could?
He’s been too long in France.

It always went like this. No change. Year after year right from when I was out of school.

So apart from Satanic verses, what was the one book I was dying to read?

I’d taught him that- ‘Dying to do something’. On how it was almost sacred. You have to really, really want something real bad and only then can you use that word; did he understand? He did.I could have given him a list of books, but I honestly wasn’t dying to read them. Wanted to, yes; but dying, no. There’s a difference and a huge one at that. How do you explain all this to a person who’s waiting on an international call, pen in hand to jot down a few books names and buy them for you?

Hello, was I still there? Oh, he’s already bought me my Salman Rushdie, but is there anything else?

Yes there is. There is a book I’m dying to read and it’s still in the head of this amazing person I know.

How do I explain all this?

“Trotter Nama and Vernon god little”. Easier answers. Expected answers. Understandable answers.

“Ah. For a second I thought you are going to tell me you wanted an unwritten book”, he laughed at his own wit.

If only you knew. I laughed too.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Its very windy at my balcony

“Dinner tonight?”

“Hmmm… not really. Thanks though for asking”

A few weeks later…


“Hmmm…. Not really. Thanks for asking”

He never gives up.

“Why are you so anti social?”

Before I can launch on an analysis as to why I am the way I am, he hastily added, “I mean, can’t you be more social?”

“It’s a choice”

“It’s not a good choice anyway”

Days later.

“Snow bowling”

“I wouldn’t even be able to lift the ball. And I have a terrible aim”

Another time.

“Go karting?”

“Hmmm… why don’t you just go ahead with it and without me?”

I was at a loss. It wasn’t that I was always like this. Beaches, ice cream parlors, parks, friends’ homes, restaurants, movies did exist in my life at some point of time.

Maybe anti social attitude was a catching disease. I think I caught a very potent strain of the virus from someone.


I had to do it. He was standing outside my house when he asked me this!!! With him were a few of his friends as well. A clean shirt and a quick introduction later, we found ourselves outside the restaurant.

I found myself sitting beside someone who was 5 minutes old in my life. The person I’d come with had deserted me to get food!!! As if food was important! &*^%$#@

I was getting tired of smiling the same strained smile at the same person, when I decided that talking was less painful to those forced muscles.

“So, where do you work?”

“I don’t have a job as of now. I am jobless. Unemployed like a lot of Indians.”

I wish the earth had opened up and swallowed me. But I sat on firmly on the chair which was firm on the unmoving ground.

I took another look at him and decided that he looked very familiar.

“You look very familiar, but I can’t place it…”

He smiled. We went back to forced smiling. I’d done my bit.

It was when he was biting onto his burger and the lettuce popped out of that I got it!

I told him, “You look exactly like my cousin Anitha Chechi!”

I’ve stopped going out.
I’ve stopped trying to be social.
I hang out in the balcony with the clothes in the clothes line.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Meet me at the car park

‘Spandan’ was the most happening college fest in Pondicherry. JIPMER- one of the best medical colleges in India. When Jipmerites do things, they always do it to perfection- at least that’s what they say…

I have a lot of friends in Jipmer. And together we stood yelling our heads off, to outdo the mike machinery that was in place during the rock thing that was going on. I yelled and screamed because that was the thing to do. Yet another hypocritical attempt from my side…

The music was so loud that I couldn't hear myself think! The lights were blinding and changed colors before my myopic eyes could begin to decipher shapes!

I was so intent on having fun that I missed out on the fun part. You know what I mean. One moment I was screaming and laughing and the next moment I wanted to run. I don’t really know what got into me, but I wanted to be out of the place immediately. I even felt sick. It might have been the loud music. It might have been the weather. It might have been neither.

I was with five of the best doctors I’ve known. Best because they all cared about me. They were best for me that is! Right from a wasp that stung my friend to a leg pain, all I had to do was call them up. Cure was just a phone call away. All the time. But this time I knew that it wasn’t from them that I would find a solution… I had to get away…

All of a sudden I wanted to see Swapnil. Doctor, friend and more. I knew she would be studying as always in the sound proof library that they had. I yelled out to the crowd that I am going to see Swapnil and would be back and ran out of the place before they could even realize what was happening...

Come with me...Let's go back a couple of years. Those were the days of incessant partying. Because none of us knew where we were gonna be because none of us knew how much marks we were gonna get or how many entrance exams we would all fail to clear. When laughing became painful, jokes boring and the word ‘party’ seem almost political, I would call Swapnil; send her a note, “Meet me at the bicycle stand”

She would. Always. My reassurance of normality, stolidness and life.

We would sit on the bicycles that were parked in neat rows and pedal away furiously. Going nowhere. These days it’s called an exercise bike what we once called a bicycle and a gym what once we called a bicycle stand.

We've grown. Meet me at the car park. Mobiles are a boon.

She came. As always.

I went for the best drive of my life. We drove through the deserted lanes of JIPMER where couples sat necking and more. Yoga at night. We ignored them. We drove to the beach and back. Jagjit Singh- whom I’m not very fond of- playing in the car… She changed the music to something I better like. Why I loved her the way I did was because she never asked me anything. A stranger who would meet me in the bus would know more about me than this girl whom I grew up with. But in our complete anonymity we were best of friends. She knew me. She didn’t have to know anything about me…

We sat in the car; doors opened, listening to music and the crickets.
We sat in the car; doors opened, listening to music and the sea.
We sat in the car; doors opened, listening to music and each other.

The mobile rang. It was the crowd calling. I ignored the call. Mobiles are a curse.

I’ve never had a better time.

The night sky was the prettiest I’d seen. Dotted with the prettiest stars that were almost handpicked… maybe they were a little dewy wet too…

Lying on the wet grass, we shared an almost conversational silence...

“It’s almost as pretty as an Arizona night sky”

“When have you been to Arizona?”