Monday, December 06, 2010

In retrospect


There is something ominous about the way the clock is ticking. He looks at it hanging on the wall. It reminds him of the day she followed the architect's assistant around the house like a shadow, getting pictures hung, wallpapers pasted at right angles and little stars painted on the ceiling in glow-in-the-dark paint. He remembers the warmth that engulfed him, just watching her. It was one of the things he always liked about her -- a delicious mix of passion and patience. Was it this quality of hers that made him fall in love with her? Or was it the way she could connect with almost anyone? However random or distant the people, she could engage them in conversation within minutes. Or maybe it was the way she always used a thorthu to dry her wet hair, and never let a plush Turkey towel take it's place. He tries hard to remember, hoping it would help him weave some sense into the mess their relationship has now become, but cannot.

He doesn't remember when they'd first met. Neither does she. That's the kind of lovers they were; the kind who didn't need to declare milestones in their relationship through dates, events or other people. He did not remember the day when he first kissed her, and she didn't save their first rose between the pages of her Random House dictionary. There were no grand celebrations on Valentines' Day, but they gave each other quaint little gifts on ordinary days, when something as commonplace as a kid's laughter tugged at heartstrings. They weren't each other’s better halves. They were two lost souls who shared their incompleteness.

They would listen to the silly fights their friends have with their husbands/wives, and wonder why every other couple out there weren't like them. They gave each other space, and sometimes they were each other’s space. They were inseparable, in an almost cosmic way. This made it all the more difficult for him to make peace with the current state of affairs.

When did that occasional, harmless lie creep in? What made him stay longer at work, even when he wasn't really busy? When did the eagerness with which he would check his phone for unread messages get replaced by disgust and paranoia? When did the seemingly joyous task of fixing him a cup of filter coffee turn out be a chore for her? How did they grow so far apart that togetherness seemed to look absurd?

Answers are hard to come by.

There is a knock at the door. It’s the lady from the rice mill, with the month’s supply of fresh, home ground masalas and powders, custom-made per his wife’s instructions. He pays her and walks back in with the jute bag, which is overflowing with a multitude of smells. What’s the use of customized flavors, if they leave such a bad aftertaste in the mouth?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

An ode to my friend

The title to this post refers to a poem a friend at work wrote about me a few years back. It was the second time someone wrote me a poem (the first was when I was in Kindergarten, which I'll blog about some other day) and I was really happy. In excitement to share it with the rest of my team (since it has references to work specific details that only colleagues can appreciate), instead of sending it to my team's alias (20 subscribers) I accidentally forwarded it to a global mailing list (~1000 subscribers). Less than a year old in the company then, I realized the extent of my spam only when a colleague from Dublin pinged me, with emoticons flooding the chat transcript.

Things didn't turn out to be as bad as I thought it would. In fact, no one got angry/irritated, but accepted my follow-up email profusely apologizing for the spam, instantly. I also got hundreds of responses from across the globe (maximum responses any of my emails have ever elicited), all sent in laughter and good spirit.

The person who wrote this has written so many other poems (way more hilarious!) that have ticked many a bored bone at work. Although we lost in touch (like I always seem to do) once she quit her job, she's one of those people I can start a conversation with instantly, even if we've had years of silence between us; because our friendship goes way beyond social networking norms.

Soum, this post is a cyber nudge I'm sending your way, asking you to publish those funny poems/short rhymes that used to get Priya, Sana, Amu and me ROFL.

Here's the poem that Soum wrote about me, in under 5 mins:

A limp she continues to work with and drinks when time permits
If she continues working like this, she will have the aura of a hermit
She lives in office and visits home occasionally
Guess ATM and the Help Center is what she wants to do best sensationally
Whiskey woman and workaholic of mine you remain an inspiration
One more week I'm giving you to get over this concept of overtime--and its fascination

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My love turned out to be a Vulcan

I thought I met the perfect man
Who was nice n subtle n smart; with elan
who read n wrote n had nice, big hands

We held n touched n kissed n sang
We named n dreamt n had big plans
Then one day he left, in Jan

Nothing was said, much less written
In an email penned in brazen fashion
That it's over; this is it
I've a "bad feeling", so let's just split

I was hurt, surprised n in shock I cried,
I gave it thought n then replied
Reasons and detail in plenty supplied
But it wasn't for me to decide

Then one day I had a dream
Of posiedons, deep valleys and a stream
I woke up with a wand, mighty n supreme
that was left for me, it seems
to find ANY answer; a power beseem!

As conditioned, I waved the wand
and thought of memories fond
wondering how the magic would respond;
and then suddenly in me, it dawned --

It's neither my fault nor his
that our relationship lost all fizz
You see, he wasn't a regular human
My love turned out to be a Vulcan

This is the result of an age old poetry exercise -- pick 5/7/9 random words and write a poem in 10/15/20 minutes. My 7 random words were:

hands, stream, vulcan, magic, fizz, January, brazen

I know parts of it are pretty weak and there is no real structure or form, but I doubt if I'll ever get back to it in 'drafts'; so I decided to post it anyway. Keep them comments/emails coming. Better still, try it out and share your creative outburst :)

PS: Some kind of bulk comment spam for backlinking seemed to have got through my comments moderation section in the past weeks. I got it sorted out with Blogger support. Sorry about the adult hyperlinks the comments had left (in case you noticed). It's gone now and shouldn't happen again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Conversation with a stranger


She died when I was 15. I distinctly remember the day when the doctor came in, checked her pulse, and pronounced her dead. In a normal world (if there is such a thing) it would be easy for anyone to accept the death of someone like my grandmother -- an 87 year old woman, with arthritis and other such 'acceptable' illness that comes with age. But not to me. She was the only person whom I knew at such proximity to always fight the odds and do good. She was a wife at 13 and mothered 12 children in a span of 25 years. She was in school only till the 4th standard, but spoke English with such flourish that she always left my foren friends astound. Shakespeare, Keats and Chaucer was no stranger to her either. Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to tell you how great a woman my grandmother was; That would be attempting to do the impossible.

A week before my grandmother's death, she told me something. She told me that there are some things one never learns but always knows, and some things one can never unlearn. It sounded like a warning/advice and I was a little surprised because she wasn't the kind to give advice (Yeah, she was nothing like others of her generation). A confused teenager that I was then, I never understood the depth, beauty and relevance of what she told me. It's safe to say that I almost forgot about it after a few days.

A few days back I met this woman at the theater. We were both waiting backstage for the lead characters to step out of the changing room. After a fabulous performance that commanded a 3 minute standing ovation, it was strange that there were just the two of us waiting backstage. Then again, I digress.

The woman was wearing black trousers and a royal blue, cowl-necked top. With some trendy silver beads thrown around her neck, and her hair (most of it) held together by a plain clutch clip, she was stylish, but not 'jhantak' (If you don't know what that means, say it aloud. You'll get it). We were waiting for a good fifteen minutes or so, and still no sign of the cast. I was scratching at the scab of a week old wound on my left elbow when she tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around.



"What's the time like?" (What a fine Brit accent. Hugh Grant. Yes. So cool.)

"Oh.. Uhm.. Just a minute" I grabbed my BB out and realized that I hadn't included Eastern Time to be displayed on my widget. I took note of the Singapore local time, quickly did the math and said "I think it's between 8:00 and 9:30 pm. I couldn't be sure" Now I don't know why I didn't just say that I'm not carrying a watch, or that I don't know or just proximated and said "around 8:30".

She smiled, and said "Now thats a first!"

A nice conversation ensued. She turned out to be quite a talker and told me almost everything about her. But not in a creepy way; it was like reading her FB profile -- job, where she stays, hobbies, relationship status, book she is reading currently, global warming, Dylan, The Beatles, favorite movies, and so on -- except her name. She seemed to know a lot about English literature, talked about her childhood, how Thames was the reason why she got interested in poetry, and so on. I mumbled something now and then as well. The cast finally came out, and spent about 20 minutes talking to us, but turned down my new friend's request to pose for a picture. Someone came in a few minutes later and told the male lead that his cell phone was ringing off the hook* and that he better answer it. We bid goodbye to both of them and started walking down the flight of stairs towards the exit. There was silence between us until we reached the main gate, and then she held out her hand and said,

"It was nice talking to you. I'm Paro, by the way. What's your good name?" There was a moment of surprise and I'm sure it showed on my face. Here I was, thinking she is a pukka Brit, and now we share the same Indian name? (Paro is also a Japanese robot)

"Oh. Heh. My name is Parvathi, but my friends call me Paro"


"Have you been to India?" I didn't want to sound rude by asking her if she was of Indian origin.

"No. But my mother is from India. She ..." Turns out her mother was from a small southern state called Cairla (Kerala) and had immigrated to Britain to live with her extended family after the death of her mother's parents. She met her father there, fell in love and got married. Her real name was Parvathi too, named after her mother who died at childbirth.

"I don't think I've a single Indian bone in me. I wasn't brought up to believe in Indian gods, was never in the company of Indians or anything of that sort"

"Hmm. I see."


A taxi pulled up next to us and asked if we wanted a ride. She said she lived a few blocks away so she'd prefer to walk. We said goodbye and parted. I kept thinking how one's surroundings and upbringing plays such an important role in building character. I always thought that a lot of things that are characteristic to Indians was passed on because it was in their blood. This woman here was the first one I ever met who was the absolute opposite.

As the car drove into the lane and waited for the signal to clear, I watched Paro walk away. She was texting, didn't see an old woman walking towards her, and bumped into her. The old lady was holding on to her leg with a pained expression. Paro swiftly turned around, apologized and then did something that I took great interest in. She touched the old woman's hand and then touched her chest. This is a classic Indian gesture of showing respect when asking for forgiveness. I laughed out loud. I felt a sense of pride and happiness. I suddenly remembered what my grandmother told me, and had this strange feeling; like I had eaten a good meal, or filled a glass up to the brim with water or finished cracking a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

She could be a Brit in every sense, but she asks for forgiveness in Malayalam.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back home

Every time I return from a trip abroad, I appreciate my mother's food more. The warmth and comfort that comes from watching soft-soft idli sucking in hot-hot sambar is nonpareil. As the idli melts in my mouth with the sambar, I feel happy; so peaceful and complete that it's almost orgasmic.

Thank you Amma, for the gift of good food, for so many years.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Two

The two people with whom I usually spend all my non-working hours. My adorable nephews -- Govind and Achyuth. Can't wait to get back home :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reflections at Midnight

is inevitable
time heals
wounds but
scars are here
to stay
change is
a way of life
so is

Black and White

the view from
the top
is fleeting
every day
is a new
inaction is
also a choice
lying is not
a recluse/excuse

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Over and Out

you feel it
say it
the warmth is
not forever
cannot exist
withot evil
it will make
in retrospect

Monday, February 08, 2010

Writings on the wall

are the most
what you see
is what you
the clothes
make the man
the leopard
does not
change its


if the shoe fits
wear it
don't go near
the water
unless you
know how to
there are
more than one
side to every
nine tailors
make a man

Found these as part of an exhibition at MoMA. The work was a collection of charcoal drawings of wigs, with taglines that reflected the color divide in America in the 1950's and suppression of women, both black and white.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Asking questions into the void - 3

I'm really tired of these mind games. Solving the many mysteries of my life in the last few months has put me in touch with a part of myself I never knew existed. I'm looking for something to trigger memory loss. Help ?

Who reads this stuff, anyway?