Thursday, May 28, 2009

Me, by Myself

I am slow. I can only do one thing at a time. That's because my mind is in ten different places, nine of which have no bearing on reality. I like my day to be filled with large spaces of calm peppered with bursts of newness - new energies, new people, new experiences...Like this morning, I found a lizard in the kitchen sink that was trying to get out but kept slipping against its steel interior. So I wracked my brains and came up with an ingenious solution to slip a newspaper in. By doing so I achieved two things that I had never done before in my life. I rescued the critter and I conquered my fear of lizards.

I love music; although it used to mean much more to me when I was younger than it does now. Then, a song was a direct message to my insides that skipped past thoughts and landed smack dab in the centre of my emotions. Although, it would take many more years for me to learn to express myself honestly, those first few songs at 15 taught me that there was an entire world within that I'd missed all along, a world that would eventually lead me to myself. Now, at 30, music is still an essential part of my day. But I no longer need its permission in order to feel my feelings. I love it more for itself than for its services as a shrink.

I also enjoy dancing but don't do it as often. I don't do it as often because I can only dance when I can feel the song and its rhythm. I don't often feel the rhythm in public because I am uncomfortable about how my body will be perceived.

I am a fat chick. This, as you might imagine, make things a little difficult when it comes to establishing romantic relationships with men. Unfortunately, what the world does not know (or won't admit) is that most men are scared of fat chicks. It's like the homophobe's reaction to gays. They're constantly terrified of being hit on by the 'undesirables'. I've had the horrible experience of having a good friend call me up one day (admittedly drunk) to tell me that I should not fall in love with him. At the time it hurt like hell. Today I look back on it and feel infinitely sorry for the gentleman. (a) because he lost the respect of a fabulous friend and (b) the arrogance of such men who feel they are so irresistible....

But don't get me wrong. I've also met some rather lovely men :)

I am 30, female and unmarried. In India, that short sentence acquires a whole host of meanings. I don't need to spell them out but I would like to say that these 'meanings' and assumptions that people form about me were, at one point, so strong that I thought there was something inherently unlovable about me. Then, spectacular things began to happen this year. I just stopped caring. Stopping to care meant looking at every choice I made to get to this moment and acknowledging their rightness. I may be husband-less but it is not a failure. I see it as an acknowledgement of my own independence and refusal to settle for anything less than love. I have never, sadly, been in love. Not even close (in spite of the lovely men!). So, I see no reason to get married.

I love, love, love to write. It is the most satisfying activity I've ever indulged in. I'm even more in love with it now that I am not competing with the phantom Pultizer Prize winners in my mind. I'm not the best writer that ever lived. I'm not the worst either. But by god, I love the damn feeling of words spilling out of me. I love the tactile experience of fingers knowing exactly where to go on the keyboard.

I enjoy blogging because it lies at the intersection of secrecy and exposure. It's not writing that's buried deep within the 'Personal' folder on my computer. It's unadulterated me placed in the public domain. At the same time, in the vast ocean of blog posts, this is just one miniscule drop. No one's seen my blog yet, I haven't told anyone about it although the link is on my Facebook profile. If they find it, great. If they don't that's fine too.

I put myself out there and that's all that matters for now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things We Lost in The Fire

Shit just happened. There was a fire. No one was hurt but it destroyed my enitre past as a television professional. Tapes destroyed, backup copies destroyed, digital versions destroyed, scripts destroyed, words and images reduced to ash. And I stand to lose a lot of money as a result. Money, that my unemployed ass cannot afford to lose.

The place that burnt down was not mine. It did not belong to me, I did not have a financial stake in it and its destruction does not ruin me. It was where I, the philosophy graduate fresh out of college, walked nervously into the office seeking a job, knowing nothing about television except that I wanted to be a part of it. It is where I spent month long night-shift stints, learning the beauty of masterful editing, the sublime art of cinematography and the camaraderie that comes with making tv together. There are many firsts associated with this place. When I branched out to become a freelancer, this was the place that supported and believed in me the most.

With family out of town, friends too busy or not clued in enough to understand the extent of this tragedy (I must admit, I'm responsible for this lack of sensitivity. I guess I don't reach out enough...or whatever), I am left to my own devices with next to no distractions, left to feel the full impact of what happened two nights ago, absolutely alone. It is hitting me in stages.

The immediate response was a mix of two absolutely conflicting emotions: One, gratitude that no one was hurt. Two, extreme disappointment and fear at having a major source of income being literally burnt to the ground. What do I do now? With no great work on the horizon, I am looking to a very scary future.

My second-stage reaction was calm and a sense that the inevitable had just happened. God, destiny, whatever you choose to call it, had as always, taken matter into its own hands. I find that if we don't listen to signals life is handing out to us, it has a way of teaching us that ensures we never forget again. Bhagwan ka Thappad, I like to call it (!). So, I sat there thinking - I KNEW this day would come. In some form or the other, people, who were becoming too comfortable in their spaces, will now be forced to look at all that is toxic in their environment and DO something about it. And they'd better get the message now. When a fire burns things so completely, it's almost like a cleansing ritual.

As I sit and write, I look back on all the wonderful years - close to a decade - that mark my professional/ personal growth with the place that now lies destroyed. There are SO many memories. So many. Even the bad ones have weight and substance that I wouldn't trade for the world. In those tapes, were the magic moments created not just by me or by the director or the camera person. They were created by a team. For the longest time, they were my family. They taught me everything I know today - both about film making and life. I always thought - no matter how badly I fight or bitch or argue or threaten to break ties and walk away, there would always be a place for me there.
To admit that that is gone is very, very difficult to acknowledge.

When something that decisive happens there's not much a person can do. There's nothing to go back to, and so, I can only look ahead. I'm lucky that way, crisis of any kind, has only fuelled me to act. Whenever faced by setback, I have always fought back and fought hard. Since the firegods have spoken, I guess, it's time for me to bring it on.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blurry toes

I've got me a bad case of blurry toes,
The purples, greens
And the blues


We are roasting here in New Delhi. 'Hot' is no longer a sufficient word for the scorching furnace this city has become. It's bad enough as it is, but to be jobless and boiling is even more excruciating.

Some people, like my sister and my best friend, always seem to be busy, no matter what. Somehow, I've never understood how they manage it. How do they manage to fill every second of the day? Even when they've reached their deadlines, completed that project or are on 'holiday'. They're always at one of their 3 jobs, or at a dance/yoga class, at the library, at a party/a play/ a film. They are always rushing from one place to the next, they always have people to meet and they always seem a little out of breath.

I am always, it seems to me, static. I can only do one thing at a time. When I work on a project, that's all I do. When I take time off, I can only do recreational things (if people offer me a 2 day project during this time, I say no - unless the money's good). I often have the sense that if I take on more than one thing, there won't be enough time to complete it. You know how some people never feel they have enough money? That's me, with time. I can spend a whole day at home, not doing anything except watching television, not meeting anyone new or doing anything to contribute to society. And yet, I will guard that time jealously, as if it is sucking out all the energy I reserve for living a fuller life.

The consequence is that sometimes life happens and I am left, as I am now, in a state of being that's not necessarily been chosen by me - unemployment. I am technically in work mode, wired to be productive. My grey cells have been given ample rest and now they're on the brink of going into rust mode if they don't find something useful to do soon. I want to sign up for stuff (that's something my perpetually busy friends and sister do) - like a yoga class or a singing class. What stops me? Maybe the money. With unemployment comes a depleted bank balance. Also, there aren't any decent classes happening in my neck of the woods. Everything is so far away and in this heat, that's an important thing to consider.

I also offered my services to a volunteer organization. They gave me an assignment, I completed it and now am sitting jobless again. All seems to be quiet on that front.

I must try and find activities that take me beyond the computer into the land of living breathing human beings, where things happen and the heat is only a part of a person's day and not its entirety.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

90% Metaphor

"Us people are just poems...
We're 90% metaphor...
With a leanness of meaning approaching hyperdistillation...
And once upon a time we were moonshine..."
- Ani Difranco 'Self Evident'

This incident happened to me a couple of years ago. I don't remember most of the details. I don't remember exactly where I was or who I was with. But it has stayed with me over the years and last night it came to me suddenly again.

I was walking down a street somewhere in the CP area, with a friend-who-I've-forgotten. I remember we were laughing about something. The kind of laughter where you throw your head back, open your mouth up wide and don't care how your guffaw sounds. We saw a lady coming at us with great speed. She was really tall and thin, mid 50s perhaps, short cropped, peppered hair. She could've been a lawyer because of her black and white suit (were we near the high court, then?).
What I do remember clearly is her face. She looked like a sprightlier version of Miss Havisham and she looked so, so angry. As we laughed, my friend and I, she charged at us and when she was close enough, yelled, "Shut Up! Shut Up! You rude bitches!" Then she charged off muttering for us to 'fuck off'. I was stunned but I remember my friend becoming really pissed off, turning back and hurling choice abuses back at the woman. The whole exchange would've lasted not more than 10 seconds.

I know that my friend was indignant and angry and reacted the way most people would've have at being needlessly assaulted in that manner. But the more I replayed that instant, the more I realised that what I got from the lady was a deep, deep sense of sadness. Yes, she was a little unhinged perhaps...but obviously she'd thought we'd been laughing at her. She looked like she'd fought many battles and hadn't exactly emerged in one piece. Even now, what remains with me years later, is the bitterness and absolute lack of softness in her eyes. She was somehow different from every other angry Delhiite I'd ever encountered.

And I think about the times that I have walked through this world with maelstroms of emotion churning inside me. Sometimes deep sadness, sometimes hopeless frustration and bitter hurt. Often I am ecstatically happy and bubbling over with excitement. Either way, I walk through this world with my own story, my own metaphor. Yet, when I engage with another human being I fail to give the other person the same consideration. They've all got - we've all
got our own metaphors. Some make us hurl abuses, others make us give up our seats for the elderly in a DTC bus.

We are nothing but a mass of dreams - some fulfilled, some left by the wayside, some still to be looked forward to.

"I would have returned your greeting...
If it weren't for the way you were looking at me...
This street is not a market,
And I am not a commodity..."
- Ani Difranco, 'The Story'

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Slutty Democracy

I woke up this morning to read about the latest episode in the soap opera that is playing out in the run-up to May 16th (when the election results will be announced). As the Congress turned its attention back from the TDP and BJD to the Left and Lalu, I was reminded of that episode of Friends when Rachel tells Ross that sex between them will 'never be off the table'. I suspect Ross and Rachel had more legitimacy to their decision than most of our political parties do.

In the whorehouse that Indian politics seems to be descending into, I picture our political parties slapping on gobs of magenta lipstick, donning their flashiest petticoats, oiling their hair with badam tel and hanging from doors & windows, hawking themselves to the highest bidder. It's not about who's a better lay, it's about who's willing to pay more.

Saw a ridiculous episode of 'We The People' on NDTV. The discussion revolved around the bizarre notion that Mayawati could be India's Obamavatar. Hello? Obama isn't just a black man who became president. The man has depth, an education and visionary idealism with the strength of character to convert it into reality. Plus, he is backed by a group of people who are just as talented and loyal in carrying his vision forward. Are you telling me that Mayawati (who no doubt has conquered great odds and has had the 'audacity to hope') has enough time between transferring officials who piss her off and building shrines to herself, to look beyond caste politics and have a coherent vision for the nation (forget the globe) as a whole?

I'm aware that the vastness and diversity of our nation implies that its politics will be as diverse. And perhaps when you have these many players in the field, there's bound to be a bit of chaos. Chaos, I'm okay with (after all it's the Indian way). Power brokering? Well, sure. I can't be all doe-eyed and believe that it's not part of the political process. But does it have to completely ignore the basic point of democracy?

Instead of talking about the issues, Indian democracy has been reduced to an incestuous play-by-play account of who's f^&*king who. Ideology be damned, I'm just waiting for the day the Left aligns itself with the BJP because that'll bring them into power. Let's not even talk about Obama, please. In a 5 year period that saw a massive upswing in terrorist attacks, countless farmer suicides, large parts of India including its financial capital brought to its knees by floods, the Satyam scandal and much much more, I find it absolutely abominable how our leading parties are prostituting their ideologies just to gain power in the Parliament.

Right now, I'm angry and to be honest, as an educated and non-apathetic citizen of India, I'm at a complete loss on how to understand the current scenario. I'm not really looking forward to May 16th. I'm dreading the drama that'll play out. The worst thing? It won't even be a high-class piece of'll probably be as bad as a cheap porn film.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Belly - 22.1.2009

If my belly weren’t so round,
How would I belly dance?
But you don’t.
But I could.
If my cheeks weren’t so ripe,
How would my smile reach my eyes?
But it would.
But not the same way.
If my breasts weren’t so full...
Well, yes.

A True Story

I am such a child sometimes.

Last night, I had the fortune of meeting a gentleman with a sizable sense of self. I've met his kind before, typically sprung from the loins of Mother India, very enamored with his many (real & imagined) accomplishments and (real & imagined) acquisitions. He proceeded to enlighten me on his latest endeavour - a work of brilliance, I was informed. He spoke of form and content, of plot lines and characterisations. He spoke of premise.
In between large swigs of his drink, he jokingly informed me he was a bit of an alcoholic (har har) - but only in the way that intellectuals are allowed to be alcoholics. Next was the string of questions that intellectual gentlemen like him never fail to ask to test your capacity to volley bullshit (if you pass the test, you get to move on to the next round of the BS Grand Slam). He wanted to discuss the trials and tribulations of being a writer (o what tough lives we lead...). That's when the conversation faltered.

For I was engaged in a complex internal dialogue of my own:
Gotta pee, gotta pee, gotta pee.
My jeans are giving me a muffin top...his jeans are giving him a muffin top.
Man, he looks like Himanshu.
Gotta pee, gotta pee, gotta pee.

My inner struggles must have reflected in the dumbass expression on my face, because the said gentleman's enthusiasm suddenly faded and he receded into his rum and coke.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Whote vote?

Voting from the Vasant Kunj constituency is interesting. I say 'Vasant Kunj' constituency because not even my candidates seem to know which one we belong to. The EC website says we're West Delhi. My Congress and BJP candidates seem to think we're South Delhi (even though they are officially candidates from West Delhi). It's all so bizarrely convoluted and no one seems to care.

It disturbed me greatly that up until an hour before I was to cast my ballot, I knew more about the US Vice Presidential candidates than I did about those running to become Lok Sabha members in my own backyard. At 7 am on voting day, I ran a quick internet scan and checked my newspapers to learn more about them (incidently both major candidates from my area had the same first names). At the end of my research I discovered that 2 candidates are pro-Gujjars and the Congress guy was running on the goodwill generated by his brother (who was denied a ticket by his party this time round - why, I wonder.)
Having no love lost for caste politics and not knowing much about the 3rd gentleman, I had no option but to vote for party over candidate.

This is the first time it struck me (and I've been voting since I was 18) that most of us in this nation have gotten into the nasty habit of not knowing about our candidates and therefore not expecting anything from those who come into power. I don't support abstinence from voting, but I also think it is a bit pointless to walk into a polling booth knowing nothing about who you're voting for. Why don't I know anything about my representative? Why haven't they bothered to communicate with me? Why don't I know where they hold their rallies? Is there something wrong with the system, with the campaigning rules? Am I, as a middle class voter, not as important as a voter from other sections of society (how can that be when the papers announced that the highest turnout was that of the middle-class voter). Or is it me? Am I that apathetic? Do I really believe 'they're all the same' so why should I bother?

So, with all due respect to all those (including me) who campaigned for the very idea of democracy, who said that just putting your vote forward s putting your voice forward, I beg to differ. It's simply not enough to get a blue ink mark on ones index finger. We've got to know more, find out more, care more about who we're selecting as our representative. We've got to demand more.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Googled myself

I googled myself today (don't we all?).

I discovered I am the former captain of the National Indian Women's Cricket Team.
I am also an obstretician of some repute.
I have also written a scientific paper on the link between maternal education and child development.

But the one that brought a lump to my throat is this woman, who's set up a blog just like I have. She has no entries except a photograph. This Purnima Rao is married and lives in Bangalore with her husband. The photograph is of her daughter, Trisha.

Colour Me Jobless

I'm super paranoid about being jobless.
No, it's not the money - got enough to last a while.
No, it's not the boredom - nothing entertains me more than the lack of a job.

I think it's my mother's index finger wagging in my face, "At home? Again?"

And although I think - yeah, ma, even when I have a job, I'm at home. I'm a writer, remember?; I still feel real, real bad that I Don't Have A Job.

Now, the finger wagging and guilt is all in my head. (I don't think my mum's ever wagged her index finger at me. The guilt? That's a story for a whole other therapist session.) It's this damned society I tell you. It won't let the jobless be.

I have a friend (a freelancer like me) who, when I called him in the second week of January to ask how his New Year was going so far, said - "It's going really well. I haven't had a job since 2009 began." And he wasn't being sarcastic. He felt real joy at being jobless. Said it gave him more time for his Wii.
I think his general sense of ease with unemployment popped a lightbulb in my head. Dammit. Why the hell not? Isn't this what we all crave? Isn't this why we work so hard in the first place? Isn't this why Gandhi fought the good fight? get my drift.

Fortunately the battle between joblessness guilt and joblessness joy abates from time to time. That's when I enjoy marathon sessions of tv viewing: This week, I have learnt craploads about the Swi-Imean-H1N1 flu, I have wept over Hometown Baghdad, I have indulged in Seth Rogan's raunchy (but open hearted) humour. I found out that Beyonce's new single is no. 5 on VH1's countdown.

When the radiation from the television becomes too much I head for my books. I'm reading Ravipaar by Gulzaar. I read it aloud, proving to myself that I can read the devnagri script comfortably enough. Thank God it's a collection of short stories because after a while my throat gets parched and I need a break. Besides, I'm craving the radiation of a monitor again. So I switch on the computer.

Ah, what WAS my life before Facebook? Nothing but an empty, empty existence, devoid of any meaning. Never have I felt love the way I have felt it through my friends crammed into inch-high boxes, giving me the thumbs up sign every time my musings amuse them (if I tried to be half as witty in real life, I wouldn't get so much as a smirk). It's very a distant mere-baap-ka-kya-jaata-hai kinda way...

I have also taken up Yoga. For real, no jokes. It helps a lot with the lower back pain (which I've been told is the seat of happiness and creativity, so if that's screwed, what else is left to live for?). Unfortunately, all my feelings of inadequacy get triggered during the meditation bits. My instructor (on the ipod) tells me to go deep within my body, to go deeper and deeper until I'm only focusing on my breathing and nothing else. Then after around 15 minutes, she tells me to come out of it gradually by reconnecting with the external sounds, 'the chirps of the birds' etc. Great. Except I never left. That jackhammer from the construction site outside? It makes going within a bit difficult. And that darn fly... Of course, I'll never still my thoughts enough to go within, I'm just not spiritual enough, I'm so useless at this, I'll never achieve inner peace...I could go on all day but I don't think that's what Swami Yogaratna had in mind.

I am also trying to expand my social circle. So, people I arrogantly ignored for a bunch of years are suddenly getting smileys in their facebook inbox. Long forgotten acquaintances are finding my number pop up on their cellphones. It's great to keep in touch. The only problem is they're all busy through the week, whereas I am Not.

At the end of it all, I think unemployment is a life-experience that can teach me a lot. It can teach me how to spend time with myself, not skirt around things that need to be looked at. It can help me clean my closets (literally and figuratively). It can bring in a lot of fun stuff - like new music, new flavours of ice-cream (that I'm otherwise too busy to try - coz when you're swamped, all you want is chocolate), new friends, new skills like making friends.

How can that be bad?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Homebound and brimming

Been at home for two weeks now. No new project and plenty of time to do as I please. Had me two marvellous experiences...

The first was reading Saeed Mirza's book 'Ammi - Letters to a Democratic Mother' and the second was watching the 2 hr Nat Geo special on the online films collectively titled 'Hometown Baghdad' (
Both are intensely personal and human takes on national and global events and neither allows us to remain cocooned in the safety of war-stats and newspaper headlines.
These are throbbing, pulsating and REAL accounts of the horrors of what man does to man. There are no fingers of blame being pointed. Just mirrors being held up. Look, they both say, look - this is happening all around you and but for the grace of God, it could just as well been you. Or me.

And then we have young people who think it's 'too hot' to go out and vote. It's the bare minimum we can do...

First, dip your toes...

I have hovered, for a little under a decade, around the idea of blogging. Once, I even started a blog and posted the mandatory 'I have started this blog but have nothing of any consequence to say...' post.

Then, things fizzled out.

Now, at age 30, I realise that my inability to keep up with this activity has to do with my rather warped notions of blogs being linked to narcissism and an inflated sense of self-importance. It's time I grew up. Which for me means - Chill Out Yo and Write! So if I want to blog, I will. Even if I have nothing to say. Or even if the things I have to say interest no one. Or even if the language skills I display make me cringe from time to time (no, not all sentences turn the way we'd like them to).

It doesn't have to be anything, it doesn't have to mean anything. I'm coming out of a decade of writing where every sentence had to have meaning and purpose (for the 'masses'). Or else - cut. I'm emerging from a profession where words have images attached and images need words. Baki sab? Cut. I'm coming from a world where everything must have rhythm. Nothing can be bumpy or skip a beat. Or else - cut.

But that is, obviously, not how I think or feel. I scratch around language, I love words but am not always fast enough to catch them. Rhythm? Those things I leave to unforeseen forces. Sometimes it comes, sometimes I can see it stick its tongue out at me and scamper away naughtily.

At least I don't have an evil producer giving me the stink-eye and telling me that what I've written in 'banal'....or worse still - 'yaar, mazaa nahi aa raha hai.' I'm sick of being told that I'm an 'angrezi ki ghante me 30 minutes ki script likh dogi na?' This is a no-entry zone for nincompoops. Go poop your nincoms somewhere else.

And let me take my first dip...