Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There will be no white flag upon his door...

Holding his hot palms in mine, his tiny head cradled in an indigo lap, my tears racing time with the ice-pack drippings. Half-open eyes, flushed cheeks, the tiny sighs, and the constant, sandpaper sound of wheezing. I breathe deeper myself, willing my lungs to work for him, pushing the air into his tiny, and now tired, body. His fever seeps into my thighs, branding its presence: this fight will take more than my prayers.

The speedometer says 120km, and yet, the world goes by in slow motion, the mountains towering before choosing to fade, vast desolate stretches dotted here and there by the flaming kesuda flowers. Even there, in that panic, that fear, in that vast expanse of waiting below an unforgiving sun, the orange bursts from the black shoots seem strangely symbolic.

Short, staccato conversations that plan routes to match with hospital timings, a quick stop to get some more ice. There's more than one laboured breathing inside the car. He sighs, not very often, my lap speaking to his needs, shifting and slackening on its own, seamless in agony. And yet, he will not moan. For a while, I will him to complain, to cry, to shriek, like I want to, but can't. He doesn't protest it at all, he's meeting it head on.

What was meant to be a long weekend of family bonding, some serious fun and adventure, has turned into a trial, by bedside. What was a five-hour ride filled with wheeees at the undulating roads two days ago has turned into a deafeningly quiet ride towards an answer, and a solution.

In these last two days he helped build his first bonfire, raced up a stony hill, felt the might of the wind and heard it move, marveled at the 11 and 20 stars he could see, the loud drone of the crickets at night. He, who lives surrounded by glass and concrete mountains, woke to the gentle warmth of the sun creeping into the window. He picked flowers, rode horses, danced with tipsy adults to loud 70s Bollywood music, made peace and war with cousins.

In these last 24 hours, I've discovered a part of my son I've not fully understood. I met with his will, all three feet and three inches of it, battered, but not broken. I met his strength, not tagged in kilos or how many jumps he leaped, but in his grim countenance behind the nebulizer mask. I stood in awe of its bright orange brilliance, not dulled by physical pain. In these last 24 hours, I now know, for today and through his life, he will not go quietly into the night, ever.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The age of wisdom - part two

I'm babysitting two kids - Nino and his elder cousin and role-model, Karanbhai - and we've played and read, and watched Tom and Jerry and there's still ages to go for bedtime, so we start to talk. We're talking of different places of worship, as in a temple, a church, a mosque, etc, since Nino recently visited a Church for the first time. And just like that, conversation takes a turn...

Karanbhai: I'm Jain, what are you?
Nino: Random muttering about the church and the baby Jesus he saw there.

Karanbhai, persisting: I'm Jain, and you are?
Nino is a bit flabbergasted. Eventually he says, I'm people.


Today when I pick him up from school, he's chattering excitedly about some Inden Fly. I don't get it, frankly I think it's a montessori method I haven't read up on, and the worry starts to set in.
In the car, the muttering continues.
On the top there is saffron. In the bottom green. Middle is Ashok Chakra. Inden Fly.

OMG, I want to scream, I din't realise he's talking about the Indian Flag. So we open up his bag and see the painting of the flag, just single strokes of the three colours on paper. Beautiful painting Nino, I tell him. Its not a painting, he says. Its called republic.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A tyrst with destiny, once again

He's done it. Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th President of the US - a man who won his people's vote for his dream of equality, peace and justice.

Follow the best of what happened and is happening on inauguration day through Sujatha's collage of words as she paints a kaleidoscope of images that we here have not been able to see on beamed images. And her hope and the hope of millions with her, drips through the keyboard, seeping through monitor screens, entering our lives and ideologies as well. It's going to be tough sleeping tonight.

Congratulations, America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mr Roncon take a bow

I've never attached a lot of importance to my name. My identity of myself was always very distinct from it, maybe attached and coloured by it at times, but never truly defined by it.

My name today carries my maiden and Nino's Dad's surname. That's how Nino, who is currently in the phase where he refers to everyone in their 'full name', no doubt inspired by roll calls at school, calls me. Why? Perhaps because my father's name represented the culture I'd come to be familiar with while the husband's stood for a culture I was willing to accept. It's a odd thought coming from a person who has survived mix-breed parentage, because the fact that you grow up on the borders of two totally diverse cultures should be a life-long reminder that tags hurt, tags type-cast and tags build barriers.

My name now often attracts two distinct sets of attention: there are those, including the husband's sisters who 'appreciate' it and then there are those who seek to define it in terms that are usually enough to get any sane person's heart-rate high. Surprisingly, the husband and I have no take on it. Neither on the fact that I use my maiden-name passport or bank under two identities. There is so much more to me and my opinions than the name that you use to refer to me, that it honestly does not matter if I'm Acme, you know? As women, we tend to understand this more. The roles we play, sometimes define our existence and frame of mind so completely at times, that our multi-faceted personality is at peace with the one facet that is visible at that time.

I've seen fiercely independent and identity conscious friends simply change names after marriage and I've seen friends add in their maiden name years after having carried their husband's name. What sets them apart, is that either ways, it was a decision of choice, not a social/cultural/family diktat.

Which is why Sanjay Dutt's quote that 'girls who become part of a new family after marriage must assume their new surname and all the responsibilities that come with it', really ticked me off. This is what this man had to say about his sister, who still carries her maiden name, a fact, the actor says, 'maybe fashionable these days, but is dis-respectful to the person she married.'

Stopping short of calling Priya Dutt a fame hanger-on who uses her father's famous surname for her own benefits, Sanjay, who has recently entered the political fray, also manages to rubbish her identity - as someone's daughter, as a wife, a politician and a mother. It's alright that Sanjay uses his nomenclature heritage: his father's goodwill has managed to save him from conviction even.

What gives a son the right to use a particular name, while the same is denied to a daughter? This reformed junkie/gun-loving social deviant believes there's only one Mr and Mrs Dutt, and that's him and his latest wife Manyata, someone who carries as many dubious distinctions to her credit, as her latest husband. Not considering that she has changed names several times over to suit her divorce statuses and starry aspirations.

With his regressive views and criminal background, Sanjay seems the likely choice for Amar Singh and his party. And as for Priya's husband Owen Rancon, may his I-don't-give-a-damn-what-my-wife's-ration-card-says tribe increase.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Uttarayan and Pongal!

You have to hold it in your hands to feel it: the tug on the thread spool by the kite that's soaring in the sky. An unequivocal message: its time to let me soar. Let me go, I belong here.
Very few things in life are as obvious: a diamond shaped piece of paper that was meant to fly - and knows it purpose. When the north winds begin to blow, it's the call of rustling paper dreams that begins to play first, the war-cries come much later.
A true kite-flyer is mesmerising when you watch - the symphony between man and object, the former helping the latter get to horizons that have fascinated mankind since we began to write our own history. There's a joy in the tugs and pulls, silent effort in the navigation, and the thrill of feeling the wind play along. It's a journey and a destination whose celebration is very quiet, and very personal. It's a rare meeting place of man and nature and philosophy: the azure blue above waiting to be touched, its improbable physical frontiers broken by the humblest of all things - a scrap of paper.


My earliest memories of Pongal were that nobody in my class knew what it was. Surrounded by predominantly Gujarati friends and family, there were about five people in my life that I could wish a happy Pongal. Squatting next to my mum in the garden, next to the Tulsi shrub, I'd see her roll small mounds of pongal khichdi, speaking to her ancestors, and to the dog, crow and cow. Small yellow mounds on green coconut leaves, the aroma of food and foliage and mud mingling into memories that are now tagged as childhood. Today, only for today, I pray only for my family, she'd say, her nose and cheeks reddening in a sign I deciphered quite early on, that meant she was home-sick. Seeking her parents, family and language in a foreign land, far away, further than just distance measured in miles. She, who had atleast two dozen people on her daily prayer list, who'd hear a moving story and add the characters to her prayer marathon, she, would then close her eyes and remember the siblings who nurtured her, the parents she hurt when she ran away to get married, the grandmother she never knew, the temples she visited when she was a child, her silk skirt rustling as she raced the younger sibling up the stairs. It was one of the few times when my mother was inaccessible to me - her pain and nostalgia was for her alone.

Today, I still have less than five people to wish happy Pongal. I have much lesser faith in God than I'd like, more questions than conversations with Him/Her. But when I squat down to do the ritual that comes to me in automation, I will put aside thoughts of the son and the husband, of my life and it's tiny trials, and think of my family not so far away. Parents, sibling, cousins and grandparents here and those watching from above. And the dog, crow and cow. My nose is reddening too, and my pain and my nostalgia is for me alone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Old friends

It’s still a familiar sound
after all this time
the tiptoe of melancholy
behind the hum of everyday life-
a long forgotten song
on a stranger’s ringtone –
background score to my tears.

Discarded dreams
crunching beneath my feet
like fallen yellow leaves:
and yet, with enough life for one satisfactory stomp.
My first sprouts of hope
that made way for our big, grownup shoots.

Old friends with whispery hellos and my smiles,
as I duck behind age and maturity, embarrassed
how they still stick around.
Don't they get the point?
I know better -
silly dreams now discarded for big, grownup shoots.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Quiz time

If there's one thing that I hate about Facebook - apart from the fact that it makes my life seem much more mundane and boring compared to what friends are doing - it's the various requests from friends to match scores on quizzes such as those where I get to find out what kind of a person I am, what colours define me, what I am most likely to say to get easy sex, how will I handle a breakup, what film character I am and the kind.

Hot-tempered but considerate. Orange. Please can we have some sex before the kid wakes up. Five shots, a weepy movie and two of my best friends who bring the tissues. Scarlett O'Hara.

I know my answers, even if I do whine that I am yet to fully discover myself. And considering my belief in the philosophy of the unique, off-beat, off-the-beaten-track and sundry, I refuse to believe a bunch of generalisations can offer to sum me up. At least I hope I'm not as predictable.

So it is with slight moral trepidation that I took this particular quiz that I found on Seher's blog - just the kind to do with a cup of tea in hand, although I must say, some of the options are very America-centered: What Font Are You? *drum roll*

I can understand that very few will feel the leap-right-out-of-my-chuddies kind of anticipation I felt when I read those four words. I've fonts for most of my opinions, fonts for fashion, fonts for business, fonts for humour, fonts for tragedy. Teen audience? Try Cherry Bomb or Jokerman. Writing on the magic of the ages, the movies? Try Budmo Jiggler. Flashbulbs going off, very Moulin Rouge, I assure you. Interviewing Waheeda Rehman? Try Kaufman.

They carry weight, they carry the message, left hanging or underlined, given a shadow or just left stark, fonts give the reader the gist before you begin to read. They can even kill a really good copy, like a great song with dismal cinematography. Sometimes, I fall in love with their names. Take the money 1. Universal Jack. Biting my nails. Multiple personalities for my words.

And the result is:

"You are the Times New Roman.
Some call you timeless - others call you a snob. Either way, you're a class act all around. Just don't take yourself too seriously."

Sigh. If there's one font a journalist who's been warbling with words long enough considers straitjacketed, its the Times New Roman. It's what my words begin with, before they are polished and hewn and then crafted into something more magical. Basic, easiest to work with when trying to pick errors, easy on the eye, decent on printer paper. Sounds increasingly like me.


ps: Try the test. And tell me if the readings were close!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Writing Prompt # 1

"Write about a sleepover, a slumber party or the time you stayed somewhere overnight. " - Sujatha. 10 minutes, timed.


It was the first time I had taken an auto rickshaw at 7:00 in the morning. I’d stopped at the general stores and picked up a bottle of milk before I went home, the neighbours merely assuming I’d walked out 15 minutes back to get myself some breakfast.

Of the first time that I slept over at your place, without intending to, before name-tags entered our spaces and feelings, before the need to touch replaced the need to connect, of that first time, I remember the morning the most.

I don’t know when I went to sleep. I know we were arguing about something, there were a couple of other friends in your room. Your room, all amber glow, low mattresses, cigarette haze, Pink Floyd-tinted. Some time later, we were alone, talking about boyfriends and girlfriends, listing the 30 things-we-wanted-to-do-before thirty (I still have that paper, your signature scrawled over it, handwritten in short exclamations like the ones we shared with classmates in annual slam books), lying low, propped up by soft, decade-old cushions. Talking, discovering, flirting with our boundaries, flirting with a reality that was about to change in ways we never really expected.

I remember waking up on the floor, my back hurting, while you were asleep on your stomach on a bed close-by, Wish You Were Here still playing to the fall and rise of your breath. I remember smiling, and then laughing uproariously at this unintended sleepover, the taste of independence, the tang of having done the forbidden. I remember waking you, and you brushed my hand, muttering, no pretence of manners on display, just a regular, ‘bye, see you.’ I had walked out of your sleeping house to an already awake morning, humming, trying not to catch your neighbour’s eye.

And while we would eventually turn into lovers, we became friends that night.

Five things I don't tell you I do when you're gone

Wear one of your tee-shirt's to bed.
Sleep on your side of the bed.
Never empty the ashtray.
Keep your slippers neatly arranged right next to mine in the bathroom.
Miss you. Because after eight years of a relationship, it's not the easiest thing to say.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Letting go

I gave up my Gods today.
Reached out through the clutter, cleaned away a fortnight of dust, anointed them with just a dab of vermilion.
I held them in my hands for a long time, not knowing how to apologize for seeking them and then abandoning them and then seeking them all over again, at will.
Some went into soft jewellery pouches. Some in hard cardboard boxes. And some lay bare, their eyes boring into mine as I pushed the drawer shut.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

The Nino Family wishes you a year that's filled with love and joy, and with hope that survives the darkest hours...

I Am Completely Different
By Kuroda Saburo

I am completely different.
Though I am wearing the same tie as yesterday,
am as poor as yesterday,
as good for nothing as yesterday,
I am completely different.
Though I am wearing the same clothes,
am as drunk as yesterday,
living as clumsily as yesterday, nevertheless
I am completely different.

Ah -
I patiently close my eyes
on all the grins and smirks
on all the twisted smiles and horse laughs -
and glimpse then, inside me
one beautiful white butterfly
fluttering towards tomorrow.