Bliss

My summer vacation has officially begun and this is a list of things I am going to make myself look forward to with mind numbing enthusiasm.

  • Finally got hold of a desktop. It’s a Dell something something. It is taking care of my movie/music/TV show catching up. Also got a printer/copier/scanner thingy. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to go looking for a printout shop. Ever.
  • My room. I don’t know if it is the madness of last year or that I finally have a place to wear shorts and just chill in life, but when I get back home every night, I feel happy knowing that I am going to crash in my bed soon even though all it has is a table fan.
  • I feel stupid saying this but I am beginning to see how busy the city can keep me if I just give it the chance. Even if it means going to Lalbagh on a Saturday evening and looking at the bloody birds. And the bloody trees.
  • I feel stupider saying this but in this whole process of growing up, I have forgotten what it’s like to watch movies and plays in theatres. I have only myself to blame for this. Bangalore is thriving with plays, cinema, talks, art and the whole thing. It has always thrived and I don’t know why I was dead for so long but I feel great now just being in the city and knowing that Kala Soudha and Rangashankara are so close to Basavangudi and that Alliance and Guru Nanak Bhavan are so close to K.
  • GLEN’S. I have found the Yin to my Yang, the Ki to my Ka. Good food, better than Parisian, and best iced tea. One of those places where they’ll leave you alone. Last week, I settled down there with my netbook and watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for 3 straight hours. And then a couple more writing about the movie. And they just kept bringing me cold water.
  •  My reading and writing didn’t die as I suspected it would over April. Tipping the Velvet brought with it my lost London mania, The story of a Widow taught me how to just let go and write, Where there’s smoke is teaching me what I ignored in my childhood.
  • My traveling plans in May are giving me the happies. I am looking at 4 possible trips, which means that if I am alive by the end of May, I have something to write about.
  • People saying mean things about my blog makes me want to write more. So I am sending you much love from here. Keep it going.
  • Grey’s Anatomy. Two episodes down. I should listen to Mintu more often and just watch shit when she tells me to watch.
  • GILMORE GIRLS REVIVAL.
  • I have a renewed interest in shopping for clothes. Bless you, summer. And skirts.
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Yashogathe

So I watched the Kannada period horror film, Yashogathe. I didn’t know it was horror until a good 30 minutes into the movie. I watched this with nothing but a box of Nachos and a cup of cold ginger chai at PVR. This is my first time watching a horror film in a theatre, all by myself. I survived it alright.

Here is the link to my review of the film.

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Picture courtey https://twitter.com/yashogathemovie

 

 

I see in my mind sepia photographs of women in coffee shops

I see in my mind, sepia photographs of women in coffee shops.

One is sitting by the window, hand in hair, palm on cheek, looking out the window.

One is sitting with a book, not reading.

One is sitting with her coffee, waiting. Waiting waiting waiting.

And then I see Eiffel tower in black and white and next to it, a coffee shop.

I see a woman rocking back and forth on a plastic chair. Somebody has offended her and she is wondering if she should respond.

She will pause, take a deep breath, roll her eyes and let go.

I see a man with crew cut sitting with a magazine, not looking up.

Often I have thought that our cook, Shobamma looks like a teletubby in a sari. She has a green sari, a white and a cream one. When she cackles with laughter, her body shakes. Often I have wanted to sit with her and talk to her about life.

She says definitely, some day.

I nod.

Will I ever be the woman in these sepia photographs?

I wonder.

I see my mother sitting with her big family in a black and white photograph. It looks painted and a scary time in history to have lived. She is wearing a white blouse and a printed brown skirt. Her face is round, like I have always found mine to be.

I see three women sitting and laughing at a bar. They have all let their hair open. They each have a beer mug in hand and they seem like a portrait. They seem unbothered by where they are or who is watching them.

I see women in sepia photographs taken in some far away country whose name I cannot pronounce because it is too difficult.

I see a woman in all these photographs. She is as real as I am and probably more because she is unafraid of being alone.

 

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Here is the writing by Ila Ananya that inspired this poem.

Rendezvous

When we were little, my sister and I were obsessed with Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. We would all watch the show together in the hall, where the big screen TV was — Mom, Dad, Mintu and I. Mom had to constantly shush my dad because he wouldn’t shut up. He would always have more questions than Simi Garewal.

Yen ante? Maduve aagalvanta avlu? Thu bevarsi saabi are some of things he said quite often.

Mintu and I would be sitting in two corners of the hall- far away but not so much that I couldn’t see her when I wanted to. Watching Simi Garewal together was also a way of watching my sister and checking. Checking to see if she nodded and smiled at the same points that I did, to see if she’s copying me, to later force her to pick another favourite show, and by extension — to make sure that we were living safely different lives.

Watching the show uninterrupted was of prime importance. Pees would be held in, thirsts would be quenched by gulping slivers of saliva and curses were muttered when phones rang or doorbells violated our sanctity.

An episode that I really liked a lot was the Preity Zinta one. She was well liked at home, except for dad who couldn’t stand her. He had read somewhere that she didn’t want to marry because she could never share a toilet with a man. Owing to my mother’s histrionic complaints about his fart smells — he decided to take offence on behalf of all men and has, since then, never forgiven Preity Zinta for that comment.

I, on the other hand, was simply nuts for her right after Kya Kehna. She was chirpy and funny. I had never seen an actress be funny outside of a movie before. And so I was glued right from the beginning. Here was the deal — if any actress on Simi Garewal had a nice English accent and spoke really well — she would be my sister’s and my favourite actress for weeks after that. We would fight and make each other promise that we would not like her, but secretly we would worship her. We didn’t like breaking rules we had set for ourselves — actresses couldn’t be shared. We had to have our own individual actresses to look up to.

An anecdote that PZ mentions on the show still makes me giggle. When she was 12 and wasn’t allowed anywhere near an army party, she went to her mother’s wardrobe, picked up some random bra, wore it and stuffed oranges down there.

‘Oranges?’, cried Simi Garewal. That was probably the first time someone mentioned bra at home and on TV. My father shifted in his seat a little bit but we continued watching the show. The remote control was safely tucked away under some newspapers so we were secure in the knowledge that the moment had passed and there would be no channel changing.

Another favourite was Sushmita Sen, someone I am still besotted with. Her black formals and light lavender lipstick were objects of desire for a long time.  But that wasn’t all. It was the way she laughed so openly, the way she had something witty to say to each question and the fact that she had adopted a girl. Later, I would find out from another chat show called ‘Jeena Isika Naam Hai’ that she didn’t know English very well until she started to prep for the Miss Universe pageant. And also that the evening gown she wore in the final round – one that she was eventually crowned Miss Universe in, was stitched by a tailor who ran a small shop in her building.

Once these shows were over, Mintu and I had to get back to our sad little lives again. But I would still be hungover so I would walk back quietly into my room, lock it and stand before a mirror. Simi Garewal’s voice would come undulating from inside the mirror and I would answer all her questions patiently, knowing when to pause, when to brush hair off my face and put them behind my ears, knowing when to say, ‘um, wellll’

The questions would all be deeply personal but it was the answers that I gave more thought to. My answers ranged from thank you speeches to curt responses to jackasses in my life back then. Never mind that today, those jackasses seem like angels I would happily give away my kidney to.

A gnawing worry would be that my sister would be standing in front of her mirror and doing the same thing I was doing. I never got around to finding out the truth until a couple of years ago when she finally confessed. Turns out she did it more than me. And even more elaborately — with a shawl and combed hair and all.

Mintu was insanely ahead of me in all aspects. Hell, she was the one who told me that Rendezvous is pronounced ‘Rondayvoo’ and not ‘Rendezvas’ as I continued to pronounce just out of spite.

London

Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet took me around a London that was a lot more fierce than the London in The Paying Guests or even in Fingersmith. When Kitty and Nan see London from the window of their carriage, I saw a London that was distant and hungry. It suddenly felt like I was reading a lot more Dickens and less Waters. I cared more for Whitstable than London. By the end of it all, I wanted the damn oysters back.

Even so, the London in Tipping the Velvet left a lot to be desired. Which is why I spent all of last Sunday riding quite high on London mania. I finally watched Four Weddings and a Funeral. After recovering from drooling all over Andie MacDowell, I watched Peter Ackroyd’s documentary on London. For an hour and a half, I was zapped by London and its history. I took particular interest in all of London’s great fires.I kept wanting to begin writing about my trip to London but it still seems like I am not ready.

Over a cup of mushroom soup and a mug of tea, I watched London in its finest black and white form. In his deep fascination with London, Peter Ackroyd acknowledges how cities become strangers and then people. But they become people who will always remain that little bit strange, that little bit mysterious. They will lure you into their stories, seduce you with their history but they will never be able to tell you exactly what happened on those streets.

I remember getting off a mini-bus in Kurukshetra ten years ago and wondering if the mud was really red because of the war. It is the same fascination I saw when Ackroyd stands on the oldest street in London and calls it so. Virginia Woolf too, writes maddeningly about a London that she grew up in — that she is not satisfied by, because she is convinced she will never fully learn its streets or its scars.

In Arts & Culture one day, a student asked me which my favourite area in the city was. I didn’t have to think much because before I knew it, the long, snake and laddery streets of Cottonpet came zooming back to me.

You’ve Got Mail

My fascination with London has grown after Tipping the Velvet. Like always, Sarah Waters has left me craving for London – the city, its streets, its history, its bridges and its theaters. I cannot bring myself to write about visiting London last year, something seems miserably amiss every time I attempt a description of its big red buses and big red post boxes.

When I was done, I looked up and smiled like I always smile after finishing a book. I can imagine most people doing this. But moments after I had finished reading this, I leapt at Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s The story of a Widow.

I don’t know if it was Sarah Waters’ doing or Farooqi’s but between these two, I find that I have become very susceptible to words. The Story of a Widow has me by my balls. It’s a simple story told even more simply. So much so that I can imagine how writing it must have been annoyingly difficult. The portrait of the dead husband is funny, yes but told so unmarquez-ly that it is refreshing. I am halfway through the book and very often, I don’t even notice the page I am at.

In the middle of this, I have rediscovered what a little delight You’ve Got Mail is. Meg Ryan is my dream woman. Everything she says or does in the movie, I want to say and do. My London madness lent its energy to salivating at New York. I loved everything about the movie, from its little coffee shops to how unbelievable Tom Hanks looks and Meg Ryan’s hair and sweaters and home and books and the little walk she takes every morning to work.

Somewhere in my head, many Meg Ryans are living my life for me in London. The coffee shop scene where Ryan and her boyfriend break up in the most convenient yet totally believable way had me smile endlessly.

I liked how the movie teased us, teased Meg Ryan till the very end–. After falling in love with her all over again, it felt as though I deserved to see her watch Tom Hanks striding towards her in the garden to finally reveal himself. I just checked to recall if I am sober as I have had to check very many times this week, and it turns out, yes – I am sober. You’ve Got Mail is stunning.

Homes, Smells, and Red Oxide floors

I’m not sure that any of the homes I have ever lived in had a distinct smell. Or if they did, I don’t remember them now. What I am sure of is that other homes certainly had smells. These were either relatives’ homes or more peculiarly what I can only call tuition homes. But they were each different and very memorable.

My sister and I went to the same tuition till the 7th Standard. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if one’s sibling is a rank student then you will be jealous all your life. And my sister has always been a good student – did her homework, did extra credit, corrected people’s spellings, stayed back and helped teachers carry books, and topped the bloody class year after year. But mother still made her go to tuition so that I wouldn’t die of inferiority complex. But I think having her in tuition didn’t actually work in my favour because she was better than me even there. It just gave her another space in which to be really good at.

I knew of friends who did badly at school but they would always do well in tuitions. I saw no such thing happen with me. I was equally bad everywhere. And teachers made no qualms about hiding it. ‘Born gift’, ‘knack’, ‘natural talent’ were words that were thrown around when they talked about my sister.

Mother couldn’t control what other people said but she developed her own ways to curb my growing competitiveness. She celebrated both our births even if it was only my sister’s birthday. As far as I can remember, there were always two birthday frocks, two birthday cakes and two birthday presents. This often led people to assume that we are twins.

In Mangalore where we went to Lady hill convent, an old lady would take tuitions for us after school. She was tall, pulled her grey hair into a bun, wore gold-rimmed glasses and was only seen in nightgowns at home. My mother and aunts wore the same –only they called them nighties or maxis.

This old lady was fair and had kind eyes. I don’t know if it’s because of her but I continued for a long time after that to believe that all Christians were fair and had kind eyes. She was soft-spoken but very stern. Like one of those people who are very nice to you but you don’t want to piss them off because their meanness is already implied in the way they have been kind to you.

Her home always smelled of meat and wood. And for a long time after that, I continued to believe that Christian homes always smelled of good food and nice furniture. My father had warned us to not accept food if offered because ‘they will give you dhana mamsa’ (cow meat)

This got me more curious. But she never offered us food. I never even stepped beyond the living room. Although I tried very hard to peek into the bedroom on various occasions — she would look at me quietly and I would go back to reading.

The table we all sat at was their dining table. It was faded brown and long. There were two long benches on either side for all of us. There were nine students and we all went to Ladyhill. I did a stupid thing here, like I have done stupid things everywhere else. We were writing our finals and our third standard timetable was out – I gave this to my tuition teacher. The next day, the timetable was cancelled and we were told to wait for the new one. My tuition teacher was anxious when I told her about this. She said to let her know when the new timetable is announced. I forgot about it but she called twice that week to find out. The third time she called; I felt bad so I made up a fake timetable and dictated it to her over the phone. I don’t know why I did it. Perhaps because I didn’t want her to be upset or because I was tired of saying no.

Next morning, things got very unpleasant. I was mugging multiplication table for twelve when Miss Rose, my class teacher dragged me by the ear to meet Madam Principal. Apparently they frown upon things like leaking fake timetables.

At tuition the same day, my teacher pretended like nothing had happened, like my parents weren’t called to be questioned, like I wasn’t hauled out of class and yelled at. I was determined to look angry – here I was trying to protect her happiness and she goes around calling the school to confirm the timetable I had given her.

I don’t know what happened to her after we left Mangalore for good. But everytime I think of her, I remember the smell of her home and her eyes. The skin around her eyes was loose and white and wrinkly. I would often wonder what it would be like to poke it. But I was so convinced that the skin would just stick to my finger, like hot wax.

The other tuition class I remember very well was in Belgaum. This one was a stone’s throw away from home and the lady here was rather old. She had a small head full of white hair and she had wise eyebrows that would disappear under the creases every now and then. I looked only at her eyebrows when she taught. I like to think all her wisdom came from the eyebrows.

She wore cotton nighties with lacework down the front. The home had red-oxide floors and we would sit in the veranda on a bamboo mat.  I had a spot I liked to sit on – it was in the corner, and a window opened right above my head. I had marked my corner on the mat – I would dig holes with my pen to open up the bamboo lining. I don’t think she noticed it and if she did, she never mentioned it. Her home had a musty -old lady smell to it. After a point, I couldn’t tell if it was her smell or the home’s. Either way it wasn’t a pleasant one. I would take a deep breath before I entered and would hold it in for as long as I could. And when I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I would exhale and take all the smell in one quick swoop.

Near the gate was a small pond with a moss green spread on top. My sister and I would sit here sometimes after tuitions. There were a couple of frogs with creepy eyes. Barring that, I didn’t see anybody else living with the old lady. I heard very often about a son who left her but I never saw him or her husband. She lived alone. Sometimes when we were leaving, I would turn back to see her standing by the gate, waving at us. I wondered what she would go back home to. She had no TV and nobody to talk to.

I think my father made us stop going to her tuition because he saw no improvement in our marks. He made mother go tell her we won’t be coming anymore. I felt a little bad but got over it quickly because mother decided she would teach us so we didn’t have to go to tuition anymore.

Much later when we moved to Bangalore and started our tuition, I found it strange to go to homes that didn’t have old ladies. The first one that I went to had a middle-aged lady and sometimes her husband and their daughters. The oldest one I saw very rarely. But from what I could gather, she had an interesting life. She had male friends who would drop her home and hang out later. This made my father be very cross with her.She went off to the US after a while.

H – The lady’s niece was my age. She had been living with them after her father passed away. She was a quiet girl who would walk to school and back. Her uniform was a brown skirt and a white shirt. Her hair was combed tightly into the neatest partition I have ever seen. She wore two ponytails and let them hang by the shoulders. From the edge of my terrace, I would watch her walk down the street in the evenings. She would walk with her head bent down, carrying a water bottle with a big white cap. And every day I saw her empty the bottle into a plant near the gate. When I started tuition, I noticed how quieter she seemed. They all spoke Marathi and I found myself growing amused with words like zhaale and haal. Often I would see H – all cried out and red-eyed. P, her cousin would say ‘She is missing her father’

The next home I went to was interesting. An old couple lived right behind our house with their two children. The boy was in senior year, degree and the girl had just started college. I don’t know how but my sister got out of tuitions here and it was only my brother and I. The lady taught us from 4:30 to 6:00. At 6:00, her husband would wake from his nap, sit in the hall, his legs folded up on the chair and ask for tea. Occasionally, my brother and I were given snacks.This home too, had a red oxide floor with green borders.

My first day in each of the tuition homes has been very scary. It took a while to get used to the people who lived in these homes, the mosaic floors, the red-oxide floors and the smells. The tuition homes also meant that the children who grew up here had to have been rank students. They were doing something right in these homes that I wasn’t doing in mine. They woke up at the right time, drank milk without throwing any down the sink, they did their homework at the same time every day, they went out to play at the same time every day. In so many ways, these homes reminded me of what a perfect student’s life must be like. It never occurred to me to look into my sister’s. I was fascinated with these homes just as much as I was afraid.

I couldn’t imagine living in these homes after 6:00 pm. It made me very depressed to look at red-oxide floors in the night. It is strange how I don’t remember the men in these tuition homes at all. I don’t remember what they looked like or what they said.

Stranger still is the fact that even after all these years, I have forgotten what the homes looked like but their smells have never left me.