Archive | October, 2013

Banaras

30 Oct

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September 2012.

Me, to a friend living in another city: “I hate Varanasi. The city is covered in filth, the roads are dotted with potholes, and don’t even get me started on the people! They are a group of uncouth barbarians!”

October 2013.

A friend living in another city, to me: ” I hope you are okay over there, I have heard that the city is strewn with rubbish and the people are very gawaar.”

In the span of thirteen months between these two conversations are tucked away hundreds of instances when the same dialogues have been repeated over and over. Sometimes in the form of tears of self pity to my parents, sometimes woven into a telephone conversation with a sympathetic friend, and sometimes as a silent wail of anguish in the middle of the night, the echoes resounding through my mind, rendering the difficult task of falling off to sleep, close to impossible.

Having spent the last three years in the capital city of the country, studying in one of the best colleges in the country, making the transformation to a small city caught in the terrible confusion between turning into a big city and at the same time holding on to its small town roots had the impact of a huge culture shock on me. Suddenly the people around me started labeling me as a snob if I conversed in English, I developed rashes on my shins from being covered from head to toe even in the sweltering heat of North India and I had tears of panic leaking out of my eyes every time I stepped out of my house, out of fear of the menacing troop of monkeys loitering around like the gali ka gundas.

As I wallowed in my grief of being away from my friends and no longer having the freedom to wear shorts, I had no inkling of what was in store for me. I learned to embolden myself to venture out of the house the very next day after I witnessed the bizarre scene of a naked man with a tortured expression on his face turning in small circles in the middle of an empty field I cross everyday on my way to the university. The absurdity of the scene was such, that even today, it makes me doubt its reality, my mind suggesting that I might have conjured it up. I also learned to clean my own bathroom and wash with my bare hands the slimy algae off the floor of the water jar. I battled with rats nibbling away at my food and sometimes new clothes, setting traps and spreading poison around the house, eventually learning to go to bed with the knowledge that a rat might dare to jump up on my bed, run up my leg, and in the process get entangled in the blanket and stay there till I free it with a cacophony of my shrieks in the background. I also learned to develop trust again in rickshaw walas, after one tried to take me off to a deserted place, replying with more furious pedaling to my continuous appeals to him to stop.

After all these incidents and more, I found myself praying for a miracle that would magically shorten my remaining months in this city to minutes. I seemed to have sworn an unspoken oath to myself to never give this place a chance to woo me, not after all the terrible scars it left on me. And so, I was surprised at the words that flowed out of my mouth with ease, when a friend of mine told me to be careful of the city and its people after about a year of having endured Varanasi. My words seemed to be trying to convince him that women are in fact treated with polite courtesy, be it about the seat in an auto, or getting an urgent work done in government offices, and that one or two rare cases of eve teasing or molestation happen everywhere. There was a dissonance in my head, as one part of me tried to stop my words and agree with my friend’s opinions, as I had been doing for the past one year. In that moment, I realized that somehow in the one year, the relentless lover named Banaras had discovered a tiny gap between the doors to my heart, and pushed and edged its way inside, covering the walls with wallpapers of its love, keeping them skillfully concealed under a dark cloth, until that day. The day when the cloth slipped off, and I found my heart painted bright red.

Maybe it happened during the times I fell sick, and I wept, touched with gratitude as a friend came over everyday to nurse me, armed with food and medicines and big smiles, fluffing my pillow and fussing over me. Maybe it happened when a friend took me out and made me meet new people on days I wanted to lock myself into solitude, and turned the throes of a shattered heart into stomach cramps from delirious laughter. Or it might have been the times I had a glass of mouth watering thandai and bhaang with a friend, and spent the next few hours giggling and laughing over things as mundane as the dropping of a pencil. Or maybe, it happened over the evenings at the ghats, with a cool breeze playing around with wisps of my hair, the faint ringing of aarti bells and the intoxicating smell of dhoop in the air, as I gazed far off in the darkness, a serene contentment settling over me.

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Romance on the beach

30 Oct

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The grime and dust of the 32 hours journey in the general compartment of the Sampark Kranti train added to the giddy excitement churning my stomach as I stepped down at the station, at the magical land of Goa. I had heard numerous stories of this wonderland from my friends, and so when the opportunity presented itself, I took it up on an impulse, and nothing could deter my spirit then, not even the lack of comfort of an air conditioned compartment to travel in.

Personally, I find rides on two wheelers the most scintillating, and the best way to travel around Goa is on a rented scooty, which one can rent at an affordable sum of fifty to hundred rupees a day. It was early evening and the weather was pleasantly cold. The wind tousled my open hair and soon I was surging with energy, my aching and cramped muscles no longer screaming for a soft bed. The roads were smooth and clean and soon I was singing out loud old Hindi songs, my heart dancing to the tunes.

I stayed at a small hotel on Calangute beach and sauntered off for dinner at the beach in the evening. I chose a small candlelit table where the water lapped at my feet every few seconds. There was a sweet silage wafting in the air and dim lights twinkled far off somewhere, like fireflies in a bottle. As I sat there gorging on the exquisite local cuisine, basking in the soft radiance of the moon, I felt utter bliss.

I woke up early the next morning, to reach Baga Beach on time for the water sports, grumpy and hungover from the previous night. As soon as I reached the beach, the bright blue of the water and the sky hit me, curing me of the headache and washed over my soul with a calmness. What followed was a day of squeals and giggles, banana boats and jet skis. The highlight of the day for me was para sailing high above the sea, flying with wings of hope and youth. In the evening, I waded through the water, my flip flops in my hand, feeling the wet sand between my toes. I felt at complete harmony with nature, walking along the shore with the setting sun.

Goa is one of the few places which is endowed with both rich aesthetic beauty, and the wildest night life in the country. Be it the old churches in South Goa, the flea market at Anjuna Beach, or partying the night away at Tito’s and Mambos, Goa has it all. One can also drive around and visit nearby waterfalls, a must being the Dudhsagar falls, the highest waterfall in Goa, shot magnificently in the recent movie Chennai Express.

I returned after a small trip of three days, with memories of sunsets perched on huge rocks at Wagator Beach, evenings at the legendary Curlies, braided hair, sundresses, and a tiny tattoo tucked away like a secret, serving as a symbol to the most romantic escapade, the time I gave my heart away to Goa.

Closure

21 Oct

Closure. Ah! Such a sweet word. So strong and yet so elusive. It comes to you like a jolt, an insight, in the form of an unfolding of secrets and lies, or an honest talk, or maybe just one fine day, it calls on you while you brush your hair and puts your heart to rest, soothing your nerves with a soft hand, and in that moment, you just know that the worst is over.

I had heard people talk about it and never really understood why it seemed so difficult for them to get a closure. I know now that it is because its never where you look for it, and it never comes when you search for it frantically, it just visits you when it must, tapping on the back of your head, and that’s when the invisible curtain is lifted and you can see everything clearly that was there right in front of you all along.

I never knew just how integral closure was to survival. Until now.

You realize it when that one thought keeps gnawing at your brains every waking second, and takes a bizarre, monstrous form in your sleep, when no amount of things manage to distract you, when it feels like your thoughts keep going off the straight road you set them on, zigzagging their way to the winding routes the moment you set your eyes off them.

So you try to calm yourself down, light a cigarette, watch the wisps of smoke rise up and disappear into nothingness. It provides some respite, until you hear his voice in your head, disapproving this habit of yours. You move on and try reading this new novel you really like, but you manage to read only half a page when you suddenly remember the exact time and place when you sat discussing the story with him. You fling the book away in dismay, and put a light hearted movie on, but soon your eyes get defocused and all you can see instead is a series of grainy pictures of you two running through the mall to catch a movie. You give up exasperated and lie down curled up willing yourself to sleep, all the while yearning to rest your head on his chest and feel his arm wrapped around you. You miss the warm embrace, it used to be your refuge, a place where you climb in and pretend to be invisible to rest of the world. Because you already had your world wrapped around you. A lone tear trickles down your cheek and you wipe it away, angry.

When this happens every moment, every day, you soon find yourself wishing for a miracle, anything that will take this torture away. You pray, you meditate, you take advices, and then give up dejected when none of it offers a solution. You dread having to plough through another day with the baggage on your back, weighing you down, the weight only seeming to increase with every passing day. You pray for an end, a closure.

I never knew just how integral closure was to survival. Until now.

The dance of words

21 Oct

Have you ever wondered about how words sound? Ever wondered about the hues movement paints? Or how a novel tastes? Have you ever imagined poets as musicians? Or dancers as painters? Have you ever wondered if your nose could hear? Or if your eyes could taste?

Poets twisting their words into rhymes, creating a melody of notes bobbing up and down in a rhythmic pattern in the reader’s mind. The forlorn ballad sounds like a melancholic wail. The words of a revolutionary poem land like the crack of a whip by the general on horseback. The romantic poems surge through your body like the sound of a flute, flowing smoothly through your blood and landing into your heart, making it flutter with every different note, with every different word. And sometimes, just sometimes, you chance upon a piece of poetry where you can hear the guitar, the piano, the flute, the violin, all together, merging into each other till they sound one, and yet posses their distinguishing identity, rising to a crescendo and the last words of the poem falling like a calm wave washing over the shore.

When you dance, and dance with your heart, like noone is watching, like you are on top of a platform on the apex of earth, your feet soon seem to move on their own. You succumb to the magic and lose yourself to the volcanoes of passion and freedom bursting inside. Every movement of yours feels as swift as the brush stroke of an artist on a plain canvas. Every twirl of yours while you pirouette feels like the rapid yet rythmic movement of the brush as the painter creates a whirlpool on his blank page, tapering its end to a mere dot as you gradually slow down to a top, resting on your toes. You sweep around the dancefloor as you waltz, closing your eyes to really feel the beauty, and you see the beautiful colours of love the brush sweeps on the canvas. You move on to another dance style and every somersault, every cartwheels, every leap that you take looks like the splashes the painter makes on the wall, suspending in the air for a fraction of a second, and then landing neatly on the wall, just as you land on your feet. You exist in a peaceful dichotomy with the brush, becoming one and then again dividing into two in the blink of an eye. You then come down from the platform, exhilarated, almost expecting to see the soles of your feet to be smeared with paint, because for a while, instead of the brush, it was you on the canvas.

The words in a passage, the passages in a page, the pages in a novel, sometimes they all seem to be coated with a certain flavour. When the gallant knight professes his undying love for the beautiful maiden and she flings herself into his open arms, your mouth fills with a gush of sweet honey, spreading its warmth and sweetness all over your heart. The lone man sways slowly on the boat as he sails over still waters and a star lit sky, and you feel yourself swaying similarly, drunk on the best vintage wine. And when the author speaks of the sunny sky and open meadows and the fragrance of lavender blooming everywhere, your mouth is filled with the flavour of the dreamiest thing you have ever tasted. I taste strawberries.

Some of the best poems were actually the most melodious music I have heard. Sometimes when I dance, I marvel the beautiful painting my feet painted. And sometimes even the best chocolate bar cannot compare to the novel I just tasted.