Sunday, July 29, 2007

While the world is going places

Walking home on a still-sunny evening. The light which gives you a kick each time you step out into it. You cross the road to walk along the park and there - a huge rainbow above the building where you work. You have of course been inside all this while, earning your living, and not noticed.

* * * * * * * * *

Walking by the park. Three huge brown prize-breed furry dogs being taken for walk by owner. Two stray park dogs running up to them and stopping, fazed by their total disdain and lack of reaction. What can you do in the face of such self-possession?

* * * * * * * * *

They have bent part of the fence to let a sloping sidewalk tree lean into the park. So nice.

* * * * * * * * *

A young couple on a bench, arguing, angry. They're perhaps not even married, and are just discovering that men and women are from different planets.

* * * * * * * * *

At the traffic signals where you usually wait ages, and watch people and try to imagine what kind of homes and happiness/loneliness they are returning to........... you slow down and still try to do the same.

* * * * * * * * *

"Pretending, walk beside me
for some time in the streaming crowd,
stranger: while the world is going places."

Taposh Chakroborty

* * * * * * * * *

At the planetarium, the garden has been freshly hoed, and has beautiful hoe lines in the rich dark mud, like a Zen garden. You stop to look at the fallen frangipani, fragrant even in death.

* * * * * * * * *

On the beautiful golf course, now that the games are over, fat mynahs waddle around, stopping to peck on something or other in the grass. The squirrel baby clambers over wire fence, falling off funnily all the time. Squirrels. Some part of your soul lies in them. Or why do you connect to them so much?

* * * * * * * * *

Three village people ahead. Two men in white dhotis and Gandhi caps, and a young girl with the big plastic bag which usually contains certificates. One of them is showing the father and the girl (who perhaps has come for an interview or a college admission) the former President's home. The father, hands ties behind his back, trying not to look too awed. They are possibly walking down to the bus stand, to save on exhorbitant auto charges.

You remember first coming to the Big City city one cold August evening, 20 years ago. The exact feel of the air. You who cannot remember that you just collected the change, a few seconds ago.
You wonder about the shy girl walking beside her father, slightly scared. What will be her life after he leaves, if she does stay here. Oh what will it be.

* * * * * * * * *

Political party workers, tying small party flags on strings from tree to tree. Casuarina trees they are, though no beach within 500 kms radius. One of the guys has just realized that the flag string is too short to reach the next tree. He stands with the string end in his hand and laughs, looking at his friend.

You remember prayer flags back somewhere in Ladakh, when you asked the driver to stop because you want to take a picture. Bare huge mountains all around. Utter stillness. One small gompa and a colored prayer flag string, faded by the harsh elements, in the middle of nowhere.
You look through the viewfinder, and you realize how very little you can capture with a camera.

* * * * * * * * *

Along the way you have driven down 15 years, you discover an art gallery and a new restaurant you have never noticed. Familiarity breeds blindness.

* * * * * * * * *

The last few kilometres are the toughest. The ones where you have to look down and will your asthmatic lungs to not give up, not yet, not on the road.

* * * * * * * * *

They are so beautiful, the houses you walk past in the residential areas, lit, awaiting the breadwinners. Old photos on the wall, the comforting smell of cooking, of anticipation.

* * * * * * * * *

The road in front of your house. The lane where the neighbour got your favorite orange flower tree cut down, one fine day, just like that. When you come home, and stop there, too shocked to cry. For a while. The huge empty space. The tree with the bird nests. With the babies.

But then you are just passing through this world.

Walking by.


"...The complaint which does not reach the lips leaves a mark on the heart;
The drop of water that fails to become a river is simply food for dust on earth.

If, at the time of telling, blood does not flow from each eyelash,
The story would not be of love merely (but simply as) the story of Hamza.

If it cannot see the entire Tigris in a drop and the whole in a part,
Such an eye would merely be a child’s game, not the eye of a wise man."

Mirza Ghalib

An Ordinary Sunday Morning

Sunday morning. While riding out from your lane, you almost bump into - A Camel. A huge big tall camel, it's head way above you.

A camel loping into your lane with long camel strides, along with camel boy. After you recover from the surprise, you turn the bike back and watch what happens.

Camel stops in front of our apartment block.

Child runs out from the ground floor apartment.

His mommy and aunt run down behind him.

The camel boy invites the child to climb on camel.

Mummy lifts the child on to camel back.

And camel moves down the dead-end street.

All this within a matter of a few seconds.
Like it was all planned.
Or like it was a regular Sunday 11.A.M neighbourhood ritual, which you were unaware of until then.

Wonders never cease. You like it that way.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


"Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment."

Jelaluddin Rumi

Of Cows and Muttons

Beautiful sunny evening. After your vegetable shopping, you go to Gangothri, the Gujarati snack shop at the bus stand nearby, and order quarter kilo fresh jalebis. While the jalebis are getting fried, you sit and watch people, your favorite pasttime.

And then this man comes with a cart piled with loads of soppu (leaves) - palak, methi, coriander, curry leaf, mint etc. And he rolls a stone under the front wheel and stops the cart on the slight slope. And comes in wth 3 bunches of coriander. The bhelpuri-making man gives him a coin, he touches it to his forehead and puts it in his pocket, delivers the coriander, and stands there chatting and joking - probably this is a daily ritual.

And then when you get up to leave, you see the coriander man running outside like his lungi caught fire or something, shouting. You look outside - a big fat black cow is standing on the other side of the cart and happily chewing away on the soppu feast laid out for him so generously :)

Some boys walking by help him chase away the big fat cow and pick up the fallen bundles. Everyone is laughing, including the soppu man. The fat cow walks ambles away slowly chewing a nice bundle of mint leaves in its mouth, totally unfazed at being caught stealing.

On the road back home, Disco Mutton stall. And notice the arrow mark drawn the wrong way, which has been corrected.

This funny country of Thieving Cows and Disco Dancing Muttons, you So Love It.

City Man

Sitting in a van early one Saturday morning, going to distribute notebooks to village schools with Dream School Foundation volunteers and some Infosys employees. Facing you, this old-ish gentleman who is a school master at a government school in Rajaji Nagar. He will take us to some of the schools, he is a native of that area.

He starts talking about his village. None of the others are paying much attention, they return to their own conversations. You smile at him so that he does not feel disappointed, and urge him to go on. He is enthused, talks at length. Obviously he loves to talk about his village, and has a sense of ownership about it.

It is so remote that no buses go there. There is no proper road for vehicles. So the last few kilometres you need to walk. At the nearest village, a bus comes twice a day. But he still loves the place, it is his own, his people live there. His descriptions paint a world so very alien to Bangalore just 30 kilometres away. We could be living on different planets, you think.

When the stories are over, you happen to look down at his feet. He is wearing cheap brown shoes. And written on them are the words - "City Man".

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