Sunday, September 23, 2007

This one is for you, Aai

It took Namesake an entire fat book for the protagonist to get hooked to a novel. And it happened because the poor sod has nothing better to hold on to.

Various are the reasons why a book becomes a man's best friend. Dangerous, and fatal are the germs that carry this infection. In Namesake, the incubation period was far too long, too lonely.

I thank God, for giving me a mum who was such a bookworm that I got it too. The Sunday afternoon which had three of us, Aai, Raju ( my sis) and I, each sitting with her back against a tree, each with a novel from the local library. The place was a garden, and the triangle the trees made was aligned to a secret pot of nectar somewhere in the heavens. For a long time we sat thus, lost in our three different worlds, our feet in touching distance from each other's.

So, before I talk of the book that hasn't left my hands (mind, actually) since the last two days, like the dancer on stage, I thank the one who taught me how to love a book.

Beg, borrow, steal, fight for, give away, read in the toilet if no other place is safe. Buy, or occasionally, bid for. I confess, there are at least two books in my house, that I have stolen.

Beg? A few years ago, Aai was in a train when she saw her favorite author's book in a woman's hands. An unread edition.

"Excuse me, where did you get this book?" Aai asked her.

"Library" the lady answered.

"Oh. Which Library? When are you planning to return it? How much did you pay as deposit to the library? I mean, how much money will you lose if you don't return this book? "

...the end of the story is that the lady handed over the book to Aai, without even having finished it.

Goddess Saraswati, you are my birthright and I shall have you!

So the book I was talking about, is a book on a very interesting aspect of the life of a great writer: Amrita Pritam.

Actually, I started this post with the thought that I will write about Amrita-Imroz, A Love Story, by Uma Trilok. But I got so overwhelmed by my religious fervor that, well, if you have reached this far, you know what I am getting at.

Next blog: Amrita-Imroz, A Love Story, by Uma Trilok.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ah, I found a sleeping pill.

At one thirty am, I give up the effort. It is so tiring to be 'trying' to sleep. I get out of the bed. I open the fridge and pick a packet of dates to munch. They say warm milk is good when you can't sleep, but who would warm it? Besides, I am not too fond of milk. It leaves a taste, and I would probably have to eat more dates to get rid of it.

The house feels empty, but I am in no mood to appreciate the silence. Prayas is in Bangalore and I have no one on this earth to bug. So I do what anyone who has been married to a nerd for six years would do. I switch on the comp. While I am waiting for the mail to open, I pick up a book to browse. It's The Power of Now, written by Eckhart Tolle.

I have read this book cover to cover and back and forth. But it's a god-forsaken hour and I am insomniatic and I lack the concentration to read a single line. I open the book and shut it.

Since he has had a long relationship with me, somewhere God feels an itch. And I get a thought. And I watch this video on U-tube. Ten minutes later, I am back in bed. I am already enamoured by Ekcharts words. But to see him smile, and half laugh like he cant stop himself, is gobbling a choclate ice cream. My mind out of the picture, the body realizes that its so tired! I sleep.

So, Eckhart, if you so badly wannna talk to me, we might as well meet at ten, ten thirty, just before I am off to bed. Date?

Monday, September 17, 2007

From across the street

As I sat eating an ice cream, my eyes
followed her from the first step.
The old lady bent down and touched
the floor then held the pole and started
to climb. One, two, three, she walked
like my grandmother, one step at a time.

On the seventeenth step she paused, or
maybe the step was rather wide. I will
have to check the next time I go up there.
After the final step, she crossed the altar
and started to shrink.

Above her disappearing head was a faint
light, slightly pink. Maybe the gods
were dressed in red tonight. As I stared from
across the street, the old lady sunk out of my sight.
Her head must have touched the temple floor,
But I was the one, in seventh heaven.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh God, give me Dog

"Aai, what did you ask from God when you were praying today?" Pavan asked me as I was getting him ready for bed.

During the entire Ganesh Arati that we attended in my neighbor's home, I was busy singing out the various texts. One for Guppa (read Ganesh), one for Shiva, another for Vithoba. Who had the time to pray?

But the parent ego bobbed up and it lied: "Umm..I prayed that my kid doesn't get hurt when he falls, no, I prayed that my Tukru doesn't fall at all. No, actually I prayed that Pavan gets the sense not to run fast when the bell rings and so doesn't fall."

The kid did not look impressed.

"So what did you pray for?" I asked him.

"I prayed for dhammi, that she comes to live with us." he said softly. Dhammi is our dog, she lives in Nagpur, with my mum.

"I see. So this is what it's all about. You want dhammi to come stay with us? "


"And who will feed her?"


"And who will clean her shit?"


"No deal, sweetukuttu. Now give me a kiss and go to sleep."

I wonder how long it will take for him to figure out that all he has to do is to promise is that he will look after the dog. And I wonder how long I will be able to lead a dogless life.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

I was never a bathroom singer.

How does anyone sing with water going in and out of the mouth? I always found it easier to sing in the kitchen, specially those days when I had to cook on the kerosene stove. The kerosene stove always provides a fantabulous background score. It can transform anyone's voice to Lata. Music director, sir, you should try it.

Better than a kerosene stove, is to sing standing on the door of a local train in mumbai. The train should not be too crowded, you should be able to stand at the door holding the center pole, close your eyes to the sun, feel the breeze and pretend you are all alone with Krishna. Its nice if you have just visited your guru. The throat is open, like a windpipe. Or should I say bansuri?

Traditionally speaking, I learnt singing on a two-wheeler. Mum was worried that we kids sitting behind her might doze off and lose our balance. So singing was our childhood duty, yodeling together was bonding, with each other and with our most important culture: Indian Cinema.

No wonder, then, I find it painful to sing singularly in front of anyone. You don't do that. Not in real life. In real life you sing in satsangs, with other devotees.

Yes, it is fun to call up Prayas and burst into a song on him. More effective than actually tickling.

Gone far away are the days when I would sing to myself, sitting all alone in the safe white walls of a home, and sing one bhajan after another, till my tears would dry and my throat hurt. Gone are those heavenly singing spells after which, Krishna would get me a glass of water.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Portrait of an Artist ( one )

Name : Kusum Sharma
Relationship with blogger : Grandmother

Yes, she was an artist. In fact, she was a true blue artist.

Which means that she suffered for her art, perhaps a little more than she made others suffer.

"I sometimes cry loudly, in the middle of the night," she once told me.

I didn't ask her why.

I thought I understood.

In fact, I did not. I was too young, too full of myself to understand why a sixty year old woman would cry loudly, in the middle of the night.

Countless tears after she passed away, I still don't understand the relationship between art and suffering.

Except that suffering is worth it if there is art.

My grandmother, whom I called Kushuaaji (Kusum + Aji ), was by no means a sad person. She was, what they call Passionate. She was stupid enough to be passionate. She was energetic enough to be passionate. And the passion spilled over, in her poetry, her letters, her pickles, her singing, her sketches, and the thousand little tidbits that she collected over the years that comprised her artwork.

Her first poem:
Her daughter was six months old. In those days, they had to cook on an open fire with three bricks around a log. Kushuaaji was making chapatis when the baby suddenly woke up and started crying. If it were a matter of turning the gas off, she would have taken the child for a feed. But a log of wood takes a lot of effort to burn again. So Kushuaaji continued to make chapatis as the baby cried herself back to sleep, unfed, untouched.

This is when she wrote her first full length poem, 'Kalpana, chimukalya bala, jivacha hoto kala' ( Kalpana, my little child, you wring my heart).

Anything can be beautiful.

"I didn't know for a long time that I was an artist." she said once, as she cut up the newspaper and hung it upside down to unfold into a lampshade. "Nobody in the family ever appreciated my work."

Another sign of a genuine artist. Everyone in the family considered her art work as trash. But she had a vision. She could see beauty in the strangest of corners.

Once, when I must have been under ten years old, I was watching her bake chapatis.

"What will happen if this roti burns?" I asked her.

"Lets see." she said.

And we burned to charcoal the poor roti, as it turned completely black. Before it could catch fire, she gingerly removed it from the fire and kept it aside.

'What shall we do with it?' I asked her.

'Let it cool down, then we will see.' she said. 

The next morning, what do I see but a black round roti, hung on the wall in Kushuaaji's bedroom!

"If you touch it, it may crumble," she warned me, "Just look at its texture. Isn't it beautiful? I couldn't bear to throw it away."