I finally publish

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Crystal Lullaby

Grandfather's letters were always the same. Crisp white envelopes that dared not crumple in the long journey, strong black words that spelt my name and address and on opening smelt of cardamom, pepper, rubber, nutmeg or any of the innumerable things he grew that year.

The words... stern, straight backed words that dared not lean, quite terrified of this forbidding old man.

But this comes later...Let me tell it as the story goes.

Grandpa was a stranger all my early growing years. He was someone who was just around the house. Like the walls or like the furniture even. I really didn't know a use for him, except maybe to give admonishing stern looks that quelled everyone except grandma. Everyone was scared of grandma. Grandpa secretly so.

It changed. Not the fear, but who I knew as my grampa. Even the words took an almost personal nature, a tone of belonging- grampa. With a wrong spelling that otherwise would have self corrected itself, ashamed to belong to the correct man.

It was a boring Math class and a more boring professor that changed everything. I'd written to everyone I even vaguely cared about. I'd written to people I didn’t care about. I’d even rewritten my will, leaving everything behind to my sister- now that would give an idea to the kind of mood I was in that day.

That’s when I wrote that letter to grandpa. A cheeky letter to a man I’d rarely heard laugh. An exaggerated description of my professor, his gestures, mathematics in general, my view of life at that moment, about the guy who always stared(at first I thought it was me, then cold realization that it was at anybody) and everything else a 17 year old girl could write decently about.

Had I been given time to think over it, that letter would have found place in my pack of written but unposted letters. They would have whispered secrets between licked and sealed covers, a letter to a lover who stopped being mine, to a friend that no longer was and a bunch of other unsent letters…

So when I get a letter in unrecognizable handwriting, typical of me, I sit and wonder who it is from. Opening and finding out would to me then have been pretty lame. What seventeen without the romance of thinking of innumerable people who would write to you.

It was grampa. It told me on how irritating mathematics can be; but to be kinder to my professor and asked exactly how old he was; that life would change shapes over the years; and guys staring was quite ok- just don’t stare back.

And out tumbled an envelope, with grampa’s name and address and a stamp stuck proudly on top. It was for me to reply.

I write back, your writing is almost like a chicken scrawl.
Martin Luther King, Jr’s was also called the same, I learn in rely.

Over the mails they went, to and fro we covered the seventeen years of unspoken words, acts and love.

These days he hardly recognizes me. Not my voice over the telephone. Not even when I walk in to his house. His memory is almost gone, they tell me.

I reach out and touch his hands that once wrote strong black words that my name, address and more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Raining under my umbrella

So what if you have to deal with a little bit of rain if you have to get your weekly shopping done? Ok... So you didn’t anticipate it and you step out and you feel the drizzle.

You contemplate if the drizzle is worthy of carrying an umbrella. After all you are from India and more so from a part of India that is blessed with rain almost all year through, so much so that it becomes a part of your life- like morning tea.

People don’t stop to consider if it’s raining. My aunt would forget her handbag, her husband and her children- but never her umbrella.

So I think all this and get quite wet. The drops fall slowly but surely. And I don’t know what rules apply to a wet passport and I don’t want to risk what I really do not know. So I walk back inside after opening two doors and look for the umbrella that came with the house.

Tiny umbrellas are the latest in India I heard. And I am not too pleased with the only offer I have. My grandpa had a better one… but well, enough of all this complaining. The shops close early here.

So I walk down, armed with an umbrella that can house an entire family- a conservative, listening to the government and investing in condoms family I mean.

Rain anywhere is beautiful.

In front of me walks an old lady; wispy white hair and all…

The drops glisten on her cobwebby hair…

I think of home and an incident of rain-kindness.

And pay it forward.

I walk forward and pause when my steps rhyme with hers. Slow and small… The edge of the umbrella moves sidewise, making her a part of my life of a few steps.

She looks surprised. Startled, I must confess.

Smile- the first language we have in common.

And we walk along. When it comes to the bus stop that she must get off, she touches my arm that holds the handle.

Touch- the second language we have in common.

That’s where I leave her, under the canopy of the bus stop at the corner of the street.

I hope I made her a good story to tell someone who would care to hear.

Its time to close the umbrella.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So I killed a hero

Paris is addictive. Every trip there I get a little more drunk on the place.

The streets of St.Michel with their clumsy, warm, cosy cobbles. The number of footfalls on the old stones… imagine the number of stories they would have to tell.

Of happy skipping steps...
Of sad lingering steps...
Of drunken non-caring steps...
Of curious wonderstruck touristy steps...

I play hopscotch on my mind, the stones are too tempting not to and I am too old to.

‘So tell me about your book that you might never write’, he asks.

I push the marker with my mind, stop, think and don’t answer him.

‘Where is it set?’

This I can answer. ‘India and Paris’.

In a fit of magnanimity I tell him some more.

‘The girl is Indian.’


‘And the hero is French.’

I hear his quiet voice tell me, ‘There are no heroes’

Except in books, I want to tell him. But even they are created.

The marker falls on the line. The game ends.
The stones are cold now.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Redemption Redefined

I wash my sins with his guilt.