Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Great Indian Poster-child

If you come to think of it, there are  a lot of elements that are unique to India alone, things that a foreigner from other parts of the world wouldn’t recognize the essence of or connect with unless they have lived in our culture for a few years and grown to despise and love them. From sitting in dingy by- lanes drinking tea out of earthen cups or cooking entire meals in mustard and coconut oil, to the kids trying to dupe you into buying unusually  bright strawberries in cheap plastic boxes while you wait in a traffic jam. The list goes on, and can perhaps be continued in a different post, the discussion here is about how the auto-rickshaw is the most all-encompassing symbol of India. Yes, the auto-rickshaw that you will find in almost all cities in our country, that very public transport that you share a love-hate relationship with. Of course, the bigger question here is how did we all ever become friends with them? Maybe because it is a microcosm of all Indian energy.

1.       Too many people can fit into a disproportionate space. 3 kind hearted souls in the back with 2 people boasting of a high metabolic rate on their laps + at least 1 braveheart in the front= 1 entire Indian family and a stingy neighbour. (Our country’s population in relation to its geographic capacity, if it were a person, would not have a right to judge an auto rickshaw. Yes, we could do with some family planning to say the least)

2.       No auto-wala has ever obeyed traffic rules. But. Must. Pick a fight with other vehicles. How many times have you nervously waited inside while the guy dives out of the rick and looks for bricks and damaging substances to throw at car windshields because it happened to cut past it? (Of course it is never India’s fault, it is always Pakistan who fired first, or China who sold us cheap phones and let’s not forget Sri Lanka who cheated in the Test Match; and our forever-favourite USA who sends its skimpily clad tourists to our beaches, they were literally asking to be raped.)

3.       As the list is in no particular order, I would like to mention here the ever-refusing auto walas. Kings of the road, the auto rickshaw gets to decide whether it would oblige you enough to give you a lift. You can curse whoever and as much as you like, but you ain’t getting on till you get a side/backward approving tilt of the head. (India, much like the auto rickshaw, will also do as it pleases. Wish to get work done? No, you wait. Or bribe someone. Or you just wait. Switzerland wants to invest? Hold on for a while till all the political riots kill each other out.)

4.       Of course, the pollution. Ever noticed how all auto-rickshaws make the darnest of loud noises as they seem to “cruise” past by you? They are loud, crass and the smoke they emit would have been Hitler’s god-sent. However, those inside the rick remain blissfully oblivious. (This connection isn’t difficult to get; it is indeed a long standing Indian tradition being faithfully passed through generations – keep your home clean and your neighbour’s entrance dirtier).

Concept credits – Salik and Disha

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Why artists go crazy and cut off body parts

For moment after moment
While she lay on that place
He tried to assess how
The light fell on her face

He was studying the measures
Of depth, space and layer
And how they would match
The colours of her hair

During this process
of waiting, in progression,
The elegant lady
tried many an expression

Seriously arrogant
then wickedly furious
Impish and naughty
Then somehow mysterious

After some hours
Of playing with her chin
He decided to paint her
With her evil grin

He stroked and he dabbed
With oils and dyes
And painstakingly the painting

The painting brimmed
With subtle lovely motif
He himself was surprised
And stared with disbelief

It had an oyster
Of mother of pearl
She lay inside it
This essence of a girl

She was a reincarnation
Of the Goddess Isis
Barely attired
And left to her own devices

Her beauty was captured
And frozen sublime
No matter the relentless
Passage of time

Those pale features drawn
So delicate to the eye
Long thin fingers
Placed on a quivering thigh

They came from far and wide
To the most talked about party
Van Gogh, Self Portrait with a bandaged ear
The glittering names
Of the French Literati

Everyone was anxious to see
The art most awaited
After a scrupulous year
The Master had painted

And in the midst of the multitude
Stood the elegant lady
The crowd wasn’t interesting
To her, just maybe

Indifferent she stood
To the gasping and the awe
Nothing extraordinary in
The painting she saw

So they had to ask her
Don’t you like what you see?
She said “This isn’t quite frankly
A good one of me”

So he simply went home
He laughed at his career
And grabbed the closest knife
And cut off his ear

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Our life, a beach, in a tea kettle

It’s all a matter of the mind, time is irrelevant, moments are timeless. No matter that, because one year has taught me to jump into a lake of ice cold water, come out of it shivering and count the goose bumps on my skin.
I had a dream of us a year ago, when you were shy and I was violent. In the dream you looked just like you do today and I looked beautiful. A polka dotted dress and a bright pink umbrella and margaritas on the beach, a dog played in the sand near us and the sea looked edible and aquamarine. The sun was scorching down on us but we remained unblemished. We talked about global warming and saving the polar bears, and of Tolkien at length and I played with the sand with my feet. You told me I am an exhibitionist and I confessed you crack silly jokes, and we laughed. We spent a day and a half by the beach in bright daylight and we never looked at our watches, it was poetry.

It has been a year, but I still see that dream sometimes and it seems more believable than it did the first time I saw it. You’re less shy now, and I’m more violent, but it’s still poetry, we still hold hands, I still play with the sand, we still talk at length and you still laugh at your own jokes. Our life is a beach together and we keep pouring ourselves out of a kettle, a small little kettle, but it is pretty.

“You know I’m such a fool for you, you’ve got me wrapped around your fingers”

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Lost in Transit

So I hadn’t been home in a few months and when I did manage some free time, I dumped some clothes in a suitcase, filled it with a lot of gifts for family and friends and with big plans of taking a lot of lovely photographs in a city that will always be home, I found myself standing with my heart in my hand by the luggage belt of the Kolkata Domestic Airport. It had been at least half an hour, and one by one all my fellow Jet Airways passengers collected their bags and “fragiles” while I stood there hoping against hope that mine would be just around the corner. But it never came and I slowly became convinced that it was time I screamed at someone. My baby, my camera was in there! If this should ever happen to you, do not do what I did instantly, hurl abuses at the ground crew or throw things at them (it’s a bad idea especially if you have sharp objects in your hand) and you might also want to refrain from peeing in your pants (use the nearest washroom instead, it’s less embarrassing). Try skipping these natural human reactions to save yourself the time and the adrenaline and simply move ahead with the next steps.

1.       Stalk the baggage office for a while, try listening in on their hushed conversations and see if they sound nervous about lost baggage. This way you’ll get a clearer idea of the real situation at hand instead of buying all the diabetic encouragements that they might feed you with when you confront them.

2.       Storm into the office and demand an explanation, don’t threaten to sue just yet.

3.       You might have to spend some time while the nice lady makes phone calls trying to locate your baggage, feel free to make a few comments about your super-precious suitcase and its contents while she makes the calls.

4.       If they are unable to trace it still, you will be required to fill up a form

5.       Remember to jot down the make and colour of your bag and any identification marks that there might be on it. You will also need to recall as many things as you can remember of its contents. They might not be willing to note down something expensive (for instance my camera) for some apparent security reason; which could mean that it could get stolen or could be used by a suicide bomber (I’m guessing).

6.       Have an address handy that they could deliver it to, when and if found.

7.       Walk out in a huff and act angry, in fact try coming up with a few harsh comments while filling up the form (better chances of them remembering you). Don’t forget to take with you their toll-free helpline number and your reference id.

According to procedure, your baggage will not be declared lost (after which you are eligible for compensation) till two weeks of them making an effort to look for it since the day you, no, they lost it. Mine was a happy ending, that is to say that they found my suitcase (it had never even gotten loaded into the plane when it took off from Bombay) and it was delivered to my home in four days, after four days of 25 phone calls made to the helpline (eventually from a few different phone numbers).

Moral of the story:
1.       Take the extra effort to attach a large tag to your bags with the origin and destination places, lest they assume that the bag had taken a walk to the airport on its own, I’m assuming they thought my suitcase had come to chill.

2.       Also, make some kind of identification mark for easy recognition (however throwing it in front of a moving truck will make it unique but might render it useless).

Nonetheless, I shouldn’t be complaining; I got my bag back with nothing missing. But I am. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Short note on Us and Inspiration

It is obvious; a person who creates, needs inspiration. There is no formula to creativity or math or even errors. Much like a tan, if you live out in the sun and out of the shade, very soon your skin gives way, it wrinkles, hardens and tans. Creativity thus is not for the fair skinned and the delicate to touch. Air conditioning cannot be an artist’s way of life.

I struggle. Yes I do. Unfortunately for me, I am born into a family of air conditioning, carpeted floors and scotch. The struggle has been to find inspiration, to have some sun beat down on me and darken my skin, to rough it out in the wilderness in the midst of plague and war. I grew up wishing I had a sad story to tell, wishing there was a secret in my life that I was yet to uncover, that my home would suddenly be struck by disarray or that I would be kidnapped by aliens…as you can see, I grew desperate. There was no poetic injustice that offended me.

Would this big bad world deprive me of my true inspiration by giving me a content life? The questions burnt my brain as I would imagine sweet unhappiness strike me down and how the words would then flow over the blank pages that sat before me. Oh, mischievous discontent, how you escape me!

Imagine a room in the middle of a hurricane. That is what it would have looked like inside my head. Papers flying, ink pots smashing against the wall, a flickering bulb from the ceiling swaying first and then tearing off of its wire and cracking on the floor, chairs flinging themselves against the brittle window. Me, standing in the middle of it all; with sweaty palms, desperate for one of the objects to knock me out so that I could wake up from my unconsciousness in a different life with a different story. But the hurricane always left me untouched, my brain would tire and I would sleep, completely conscious of my unpoetic life.

That suddenly one day turned to poetry.
I woke up from the hurricane one day and realized that I’m in love with a unicorn. I can write my poetry with his silver ink.