Sunday, July 22, 2007

JK Rowling is a kindred spirit.

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

My favourite lines from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hah.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Agony and The Ecstasy.

There is one complaint I have always had with imaginative writers – they give me heartache with their food. When you have a hyperactive imagination and think up the most ingenious things one can eat, you ought to spare a thought for a hungry little kid with an imagination equally hyperactive. Which is why I can almost always be seen with a wistful expression on my face after I’ve (re)read certain books – it just kills me that I will never know what Butterbeer or Frobscottle taste like, or find a shrine as perfect as Honeydukes or Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Eventually, my wistfulness did materialize into something more productive – I took to cooking. Correction, I took to birdwitted attempts at creating Eat Me cupcakes. I also tried to recreate everything found in the Land of Birthdays when it came to the Faraway Tree. Turns out you can’t cook if you daydream, work yourself into a frenzy, or jump when the oven beeps. I didn’t exactly flavour cakes with liniment, or put salt in the strawberries, but the sorrowful concoctions I forced down my folks’ throats weren’t any better.

I think I am a better cook now; I do come up with edible things now and then. But what I call the book-hunger tops any masterpiece I manufacture. I remember running home from school, hastily putting together a plate of jam sandwiches, and trying desperately to get through a particularly toothsome Five Find-Outer mystery while my grandmother watched grainy black-and-white movies at full volume without her glasses on (she’d have done better to listen to the radio, but there, I’m diverging). Blyton made me hungry, so did Dahl. Dickens too. CS Lewis always had his characters eating mushrooms and fried eggs with talking badgers for company. And, as always, there was a veritable overdose of roast boar with Obelix. These are books I grew up eating, quite literally. And the more the descriptions, the more I slathered the jam onto the bread. And I hoped beyond hope that I’d simply walk into a page someday.

And I wondered how I grew so fat. But then, the well-fed women in the stories always ended up in ivy cottages by the seaside with buried treasure under the floors and smugglers nearby – or at their mundanest, a rabid dog. So I don’t think I’ll complain.

For all of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, do go find an emo blog. The only thing I’ve even come close to slitting is a sachet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The World is a Voyeur.

Laugh all you want, but a window is a very important thing. In the room I lived in for the first seventeen years of my life, I had a window with an attached balcony. It just proves what a tiresomely unsocial kid I was, but it became the centre of a little drama that I watched wide-eyed everyday. The window looked down upon a little alley between two buildings, which was home to a little shanty inhabited by a chronically drunk durwan and his family. I learnt a few lessons through that window. As an unabashed observer, I learnt the most exhaustive variety of Bangla swearwords. I also learnt that the durwan, or Potbelly, as I called him, had the most terrifying gargle in the world - I was woken up by its sound at six every morning. I learnt that there were these two children my age who studied their lessons by the light of a Petromax, and that the wife took pains over her fish preparations, which were clearly a weekly luxury. I learnt their daily habits and their way of life, and how they moved and how they stood from a strange top-sideways angle that can only be achieved when you're looking down from the fourth floor. I doubt if I'd recognise any one of the family if I met them face to face, but I had every tilt of their heads memorised from my viewpoint.

The most important lesson that I learnt, however, was that no matter how poor you are and how frustrated you are, you do not return home sloshed at one in the morning, drag your wife and daughter out, and attempt to abuse them. There is this old neem tree that grew over the alley, and all the neighbours who had woken up stood staring from their worlds of four-walled rooms and balconies as the son broke off a low-growing branch, and hit his father full on the face with it.

My father crossed the hall at that moment, opened my door, scooped me up, and carried me away to my parents' bedroom. I wish he had let me stay.

There were other brawls in that alley, and a lot of merrymaking during festivals, with songs playing on a battered radio. Much dancing and raucous laughter. Wedged in between the two comfortable buildings, the alley was like a separate, parallel universe. I spent many hours by my window. watching a tall gulmohar that burst into flames every summer, and how the children collected the fallen blooms and decorated their doorway with them. By night, the neem tree and the alley became the focus of activity. They told me stories, and I grew up with them. Then I moved into a new flat in an unimaginatively civilised area this year, and left old Potbelly and his family behind. I got a big window that covers almost the whole of one wall, but looks out onto a busy road that stretches far into the horizon. It looks glitzy at night when the cars and buildings are lit up, and it looks quite glamourous when it rains and the raindrops make psychedelic light patterns on the glass, but there is none of the old familiarity that the alley gave me.

It rained gloriously the whole of last week. Our school remained closed due to a mysterious short circuit, and after many months I sat down by my window and looked out. It took some time to get used to, but I realised I could make do with this window after all. I could even create a new parallel universe. And I remembered, I am ashamed to say, in a strange slow-motion filmi sequence, the neem branch hitting Potbelly on his jaw, and the stunned, almost comical look on his face. I know I have always been a little over-dramatic, but I don't know why it's that one memory which came back to me. It's strange what one remembers sometimes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


You are the man who offered me his seat the first day I got onto the bus.

I don't know whether it is a strange sympathy for a schoolgirl taking the public bus - I see the mute, fatherly pity in your eyes, and I wonder how to tell you that I do it out of a strange adolescent desire to assert my independence, not out of compulsion. I wonder how to tell you that my school bag is not the biggest trial in my life. I don't quite know how, so I mumble a word of thanks and sink gratefully into my seat.

Unwittingly, you have given me a moment. A moment that allows me to forget the boredom of the forty minutes I spend in that bus, fighting a wave of perspiration and clutched briefcases. You have given me a compulsive belief that someday I will chance upon you again when I am older, and offer you my seat to return that favour on that first uncertain day.

I do not forget faces.

I invent a game. I observe all the people climbing into this metal contraption, and I study their faces. I look for the nuances of features and bone structure, note the interweaving of brows and lashes and nostrils and teeth. I give them names. I weave stories about them and recount their histories - fabricate tragedies and romances, workplace problems and marital spats. And sometimes, I forget to get off at my stop.

Now you are in a sari, defensive and gruff, elbowing your way through the mass of travellers hanging onto the railing. Now you are in a worn kurta, fanning yourself with a newspaper. Now, you flick your bunch of tickets at me, indicating that I should respond with my jingle-jangle bits of change. Now, you are every other person looking towards the door, waiting to get off.

And the journey seems over so soon, but it is different everyday. The only constancy being that I still have not run into you.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Another one on tennis. The last one, I promise.

Well, let me elaborate on the earlier entry. Roger Federer is my ultimate Georgette Heyer man. Only a little flawed, cool, calm, composed, overwhelmingly confident, and, what do you know - he has a nice smile.

Roger is the kind of person you can get fanatic about and mindlessly worship, even want to marry. But if I had to choose a person to bestow a teenage girl-crush on, it would be Novak Djokovic. In fact, I'm pretty much sold already.

It's kind of unfair, really. He's only nineteen. He earns a million a match. He's impossibly cute. And he has the nicest, clean-shaven smile ever. Plus he has a head of hair you feel like ruffling. And Vijay Amritraj called him "The heir to Roger's throne".

I'm just a little smitten. It's raining, and I need some form of distraction. I promise to not gush in my next entry. But before I stop, here's another pic. This time, in a tuxedo.

Go on, tell me I'm being silly.

Nimble at the Wimble.

I feel a strange kinship with The All England Lawn Tennis Club. It’s been raining incessantly here, and it’s been raining incessantly there too. Half an hour into any game, down comes the rain. Then the officials scurry around covering the court, and a whole bunch of white-clothed tennis players who should have been running around on the grass are left to switch on their iPods and meditate about life. It doesn’t really matter. A rainy spell doesn’t mean the tennis disintegrates, and let’s face it, all those promotional ads showing the strawberries-and-cream do help you stay put.

At the end of the day, Wimbledon still rules. It has a funny name, though. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to come up with a name like Wimbledon. Leave out the “don”, and the fact remains that the first part of the word is, quite simply, “wimble”. But in spite of (or perhaps because of) the name, Wimbledon remains my favourite tennis tournament – heightened all the more by the fact that it is clearly Roger Federer’s territory.

My attempts at making Roger win the French Open included much finger-wagging and air-punching, not to mention arguing about his unforced errors with my father and waving a mineral water bottle about animatedly. It wasn’t witchcraft. He lost miserably, and I hated him for a whole week afterwards. But we eventually made up, and here I am, wagging my fingers as usual. And I can’t help but beam as he stalks about the court like a wiry panther (let’s ignore that beige outfit), turns some pirouettes, floats about on the grass, flourishes his racket, and creates poetry. He makes a game which involves so much sweating, running around and straining of limbs look ridiculously, incredibly easy.

This is my toast to you, Roger. Thanks for making me actually take to a sport and promote it obsessively. Thanks for making me add another note to my wish list – I want to watch Roger play at Wimbledon before I die, and eat the strawberries-and-cream while I’m at it. And above all, during an era when most other players’ game strategy consists of getting the ball over the net by hitting it as hard as is humanly possible, thanks for making tennis look beautiful.

And when you win, I shall throw my cushion into the air with a hurrah.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Growing Up

And there shall be no more time to climb trees.
Not that I have climbed any,
But the dream must cease
Because terrible things like higher education
Are going to happen to me.

And I must not whistle.
Not that I did it before,
But now that I can't do it anymore
The urge comes back to me,
And terrible things like maturity
Leave me completely at sea.

And I must not be inappropriate,
Whatever that means,
And my whole life leans
Towards Responsibility,
And terrible things like sophistication
Will change me horribly.

And there shall be no more time for laughter
As laughter is frivolity.
And income tax, and investments,
And a confusing salary
Are what I need, and my every deed
Will be held up to me,
Because terrible things like a Career
Are going to happen to me.

And there shall be no more time
To climb my childhood tree.

My eighteenth birthday approaches, and I feel littler now than I have ever done in my life. I think I'll dedicate this month to the pursuit of everything I love about being a kid. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go play football in the rain with my six year old neighbour.