Invigilation

Was very kicked to learn that to invigilate literally means to stay awake. It comes from the Latin Vigilare, meaning “to stay awake”. Made me think about all the other words I use everyday unconsciously and the many more I use annually without any idea about why they mean what they mean.

I’ve been thinking about old posts I wrote back when I was more earnest. Earnest is a word I tend to use when I am doing admission duty and I’m interviewing a student who is paapa and eager to learn. Apparently the word earnest comes from the early 15th century (“a pledge or promise;” often “a foretaste of what is to follow”)

Perhaps I’d pledged a kind of discipline, hunger, desire that is no longer easy to manifest anymore. I read this and felt a dull pain somewhere in the chestage area.

I need some invigilation in life.

Simpal aagi ondu short story

First I thought you should be from my department, my college, my area at least. Then I thought people will be so jealous of our friendship that they will put kannu, kai, kaalu and all. So the new plan is that you also teach, like I do – but in another college, maybe you teach Physics or Kannada or English or Math. Or maybe you don’t teach- you are in advertising, maybe you are in the middle of a messy divorce. I don’t know. Anyway it’s not important because in the story of our friendship– where we work, who we are, and what we do doesn’t matter.

So let me begin from the beginning. 

At first, it will seem like I like you more than you like me. But then later you will tell me that you also felt like you liked me more than I liked you. After this we will giggle and eat shawarma in front of Chin Lung where there is a memorial in the name of someone who died in world war II. We are sitting down next to each other eating shawarma and reeling from perhaps the 2 beers we’ve just had, perhaps the bellyful feeling of finally having found someone to walk bangalore with, we won’t know but it is a good moment and we are looking quietly at the passersby hurrying to get on the bus which is leaning so much to its left that its edges are always threatening to scrape the road.

We are in no hurry to get home because today your parents are not in town and mine have given up on me and are fast asleep. We will walk towards Garuda mall just like that to see if we can get an auto from there. Should we take a bus? One of us will ask the other. We can but it’ll go somewhere and all before it reaches our stop so why chumma, the other will say.

This is why I keep saying we must get a bike. Tomorrow we will get one.

Let me tell you why I am telling you this story. Basically I woke up early today and didn’t want to go back to sleep so I jammed some loud music.

I listened to Karthi songs because I like that fellow’s face. Too much in love it is. Then as I was getting ready to jog, I started listening to Ada from Garam Masala. Then I thought how nicely john and akshay roam around in their bike while this song plays in the background. A song will never play in the background for me in real life but if I have a female friend then it is like a song is always playing in the background.

First of all, we must get a bike so that when one of us brakes hard, the person sitting behind will dash in and get fake angry so that the one riding can say, machi here’s why I braked – can you please check out the babe/dude/giraffe hanging out there? Then we will remove our sun glasses (first we will remove our helmets carefully) and stare for an appropriate amount of time before proceeding with our lives. 

Where are we going on our bike, you might ask. Let me tell you, we are going to watch a film- first day- second show at Poornima theatre. It is a Sunday. It is a Vijay Sethupathi film. We will whistle and take off our dupattas and swirl it over our heads while doing colourful dance moves. But obviously when the moment comes, we will both chicken out so we will keep in our bellies all the things we want to do but won’t be able to so we will look at each other with full feels and enjoy quietly while looking at others who are dancing guiltlessly.

But the throb of an unbegun dance will still be singing in our bodies so we will carry it to Cubbon park where we will jump and try to catch the highest branch. Then we will sit under that same tree and count all the couples. When we get bored of doing this we will start telling each other our love stories. Obviously I will ask the first question because I always do – I will ask ‘when was the last time you desired someone’? – don’t take it personally but this question is just the stepping stone to the many other straight to the heart direct questions I will be asking you. 

Also we should start somewhere, no? Half the time I will be asking these questions just so you can ask me the same question back and I can tell you the answer I’ve already rehearsed many many times. So then after we finish talking kashta sukha we will go to cottonpet because it’s my favourite part of bangalore and not just because my ex used to live there and his bike would snake us around all the gallis of cotton and akkipet but also because there are old shops and small factories there that I love looking at. All the while, there will also be a strong incense smell because there are so many agarbatti godowns.

Along with that there will also be a cow dung smell but that’s not a problem no? Because if there are cows all over Bangalore, then where will their dung go? Paris? Also what is Bangalore without the combined smells of agarbatti and cow dung mixing in the nostril like Gordon Ramanna’s cooking patre?

Then you will take me to that part of Bangalore where a lover had once broken your heart along with your will to love again. Say it’s Sreeraj Lassi bar where you were in the middle of mango lassi when he told you he didn’t think this was working out anymore and you couldn’t stop drinking the lassi because you thought that if you did, you might start crying so you kept sucking on the straw even if the lassi was over and all you were drinking was air that made your throat dry so you waited for him to leave and ordered another mango lassi and drank it all up in one go. 

We will go there together and drink as many mango lassis as it takes for the memory of the other one to exist more quietly and eventually to exit just as quietly. Then we will go to Nandi Hills to rescue all my college trip memories there made with people who aren’t in my life anymore. On our way there, we’ll sing halli meshtre songs.

Sunday evenings, we will make plans to befriend girls like us from Hanumanthnagar. Girls like us means broken hearted girls looking to make themselves open hearted. Especially girls who have terraces even if they don’t have rooms of their own. This is because Bengloor sunsets are best seen from Hanumanthnagar. The homes are all dotted next to each other on slopes that have right angles and other maths expressions. Terraces are not secrets here unlike everywhere else. Here they are shared unwillingly with other terraces where conversations from all over meet and spillover like oggarane smells from neighbouring houses. On the terrace, we will sit in between lines of clothing separating chaddi baadi from their respectable outer-wears. Then we will have masala chai in steel lotas like we used to when we were children stupidly yearning to be adults, better adults (nan thale) who drink tea from big ceramic mugs in earthy colors.

Mondays after work, I will call you and say come on. Then we will go play cricket with boys from Basavanagudi. This is because they cry easily. After we have made enough of them cry we will go eat Bangarpet pani puri till we only become pani.

Every time I listen to old Bengloor stories, I’m taken in by the urge to rewind either Bengloor or myself back to a time in history where we could be fiercely together. I’ve been told that the most intimate way of knowing a city is alone, and the second most intimate way – through friendship, and then finally, through a woman. If you haven’t already noticed it yet, this is a sci-fi story. Because I can’t rewind, I am forwarding. I am writing to ask if you will be my personal female friend. It will be nice.

Fill this form if you are interested.

Early morning Madurai Calling

I woke up at 3:55 with a strong feeling that I was in Madurai, in my hotel room with its three huge windows, twin beds, and one Kiruba Devi. Kiruba Devi who laughs like water following the rhythm of an old Tamizh song my father used to hum while fiddling with the remote control to put udaya news.

On stage, in front of Pa Ranjith, we were like little children – giggling, nervous, stomach churning but held despite this all by the affection he was throwing at us with his smile from the first row. When we felt like we were going to combust and die, we took turns to steal glances at each other, and then at him.

I was talking in English to an audience that understood it in Tamizh and only she could’ve taken my words and translated them with more love than I’d put in. The previous night, we were all squeezed into a tiny room where a lot of orange juice was consumed and many more tamizh songs were sung.

When I woke early that morning and looked outside, I felt a stab. Madurai was still there, looking like a dream. It’s probably why it’s called Thoonga nagaram – it doesn’t need sleep to dream. If I ever get a chance at life again, I want to be Madurai.

Postcard from today II

Woke up late and groggy. Last night’s short story energy was a ball of memory already. 2 hrs of invigilation duty. Spent the day running around and feeling better about no yoga. Spoke to a student today who asked me what it meant when I say in class ‘250 words’ — what is words? how does one calculate it? Was pinched back to the time not so long ago when I too didn’t know how to quantify words, letters, and alphabets. I am thinking of how much of what I do everyday is on auto-pilot, especially teaching, and how unaware I am of this. Write 250 words, 500 words, 1000 words is something I say everyday and yet I am also the same person who, once upon a time, couldn’t tell if jack opens a box of potatoes had 6 words in it or 23. How and why do we forget ourselves so easily?

When I’d joined the department 10 years ago, I’d asked A.M when I will begin to feel like a teacher. He told me I will feel like a teacher the day a student will tear my ass.

Today, after a long time, I felt it tear.

Student said he wanted to join the army, and spends 4 hours a day working out before beginning his job as a Swiggy Delivery Executive between 10 and 12 in the night.

I thought how immune our jobs sometimes make us to the very people we are in the job for. Ate grumpily at my desk later and wasn’t able to write.

Two mofo deadlines hang over my head as I type this.

P.S: Autopilot riding is ok, autopilot living too, why can’t autopilot writing happen?

Postcard from today

Today,

lunch with 2 students in the canteen. unexpected. wise. a hearty break from my usual grumpy self at the desk who always wants to watch something as she stuffs face with food. lunch with students, in the canteen – good idea. listened to them, told them stuff.

back at my desk, i spoke to a student, a champion, a winner through and through – a kutti little Marquez breaking history one kickass story at a time. i wish she never stops writing. later, another girl whose smile invites me to smile back, regardless of what i am thinking, and another girl – who is translating a tamil short story whose sentences land on each other like the pleasant oomph of cement upon cement. i felt like writing after a long time.

later, still at my desk, i read a line by gabito that made me ride back with the most agonising desire to spend each night working on a short story.

“i have always believed that good writing is the only happiness that is enough in and of itself” – Gabito

i am now realising that there is a reason why i am setting questions papers with so much enthu. i am writing them like short stories.

now, i am reading the fragrance of guava by  Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza – a long series of conversations between him and Gabito. now i am dying, i am new, i feel reborn with a greater desire to write and keep writing.

here’s gabito again – quoting hemingway from whom he learnt a great deal about writing short stories. “a short story, like an iceberg must be supported by the part you don’t see – all the thought, the study and the material collected but not used directly in the story”

i’m here again, to say how grateful i am to learn from students, from this profession, my darlingest gabito, and my riding self that is more rewarding to me than my writing self or even my fuckall living self.