Saturday, September 29, 2007


While I talked and smiled, hugged and listened, slept and breathed...

Delhi decided she'd had enough of summer and slipped quietly into a fledgling winter.

The cold waits for me, around early-morning-hazy-foggy roads, in blurry monuments rising out of a suddenly-dark 6 a.m., in the bathroom under the shower, on the balconies late at night, outside the rolled-down car windows, in the slight sniffles from wearing sleeveless on a Novemberish September evening, on the blades of the fan that I rarely use now, in the welcome heat spiral over my cup of coffee.

Winter comes in. Cold and warm, chilly and friendly, distant and near, grey and bright, frosty and sunny.

I wait. And hope that spring is far behind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cricket is Just a Game... not something you'd have believed last evening as howls of shock or joy erupted from houses across India during the nail-biting-at-every-step Twenty 20 World Cup final match between, who else but, India and Pakistan.

The thrill was tremendous, the finish was close, and the adrenalin was all over the place. But one thing spoilt it all.

As the Pakistan captain, Shoaib Malik came up to speak to Ravi Shastri, his first words were (and I paraphrase somewhat because I wasn't expecting memorable words), 'I'd like to thank Pakistan and Muslims all over the world for their support.'

WHAT??? This is a man the world was listening to. Who captained an able, strong side to the finals in a world-class tournament. Who (supposedly) plays for his country and not a religion.

We've all heard people make derogatory comments about the hush in Indian Muslim neighbourhoods if Pakistan loses a match to India. It is often said that there are celebrations in Muslim-majority areas in Indian cities if India loses to Pakistan. These are rumours that are used as facts in any communally tense situation. But to have a man give them the backing of truth by speaking those words into a microphone was upsetting, chilling, and took away from the rush we'd been experiencing ever since Sreesanth caught out that last Pakistani wicket.

If he believes that Muslims around the world were rooting for Pakistan, where does that leave Irfan Pathan (the best bowler on the Indian side yesterday) and other Muslim players on the Indian team? With that awful statement Malik placed a giant question mark on the patriotism of Muslims around the world.

I believe that the orthodox members of any community can damage their own people with far greater ease than any other, rival group can ever do. Malik proved that yesterday. And I wonder how many anti-Muslim people were listening and have now added this to their ammunition against a community that really doesn't need more bad PR.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Last Laugh

She watched them cry and mourn. Oh they would miss her. She'd miss them too.

But she was better off here. Finally, she had the peace her name had promised her for 78 years. No doctors. No tubes. No needles. No ugly hospital gowns. No numbers and data telling people how well (or not) she was doing.

If only she could tell them how glad she was that one crazy life was over. Heaven had a lot of parties and boy, was she going to live it up for a change.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5th September

It's Teacher's Day today. And I thought I'd write up one memory I have of a strict teacher who taught me one of the earliest lessons of my life.

It was April of 1988. I was new to the school. Our home room teacher was a lady called Abha Banerjee. A very strict teacher, who apparently glowered at girls whose skirts were too short, who was known for cutting boys' hair if they weren't properly groomed, and who we all were very, very scared of.

I forget what class we had but the teacher hadn't shown up. Like all 9-10 year-olds tend to do, we were making quite a racket. Groups of kids were playing in the corridor, some were scribbling on the blackboard, there was a game of Cluedo going on in one corner, and suddenly in the middle of it all, someone let out a Tarzan-like yell. That put us on to another decibel level altogether! The staff room was near enough that someone would have heard, and would make it their business to punish us. In the hush that followed, we all looked at each other and waited for retribution to arrive.

It did, promptly, in the form of Banerjee Ma'am.

We all stared at our desks as she gave us a piece of our mind without once raising her voice. And then she said, "Who shouted like that?" When there was silence, she repeated her question, adding that the whole class would be punished. There was no way she could have guessed who had done it. She could have asked all day and been none the wiser.

In the continuing, pindrop silence, suddenly a boy at the back raised his hand. There were murmurs. Oh he'll definitely have to go to the Principal. Do you think they'll call his parents? Our childhood imaginations ran riot, visualising the things they could do to him.

Harsh Chadrath (I don't know if I'm spelling his last name correctly) was an average kid in our class. Not a rank-holder, but not someone who flunked either. Just your regular school-going kid who, at the age of 10, wasn't hugely interested in acquiring an education. He stood up slowly and said "Ma'am, I did it. Sorry Ma'am."

Banerjee Ma'am stared at him, said "Really? It was you? Come here."

Head bowed, Harsh walked to the front of the class and stood before all of us. We waited.

And then, Banerjee Ma'am raised his arm like they do for the winning boxer in the ring and announced:
"Harsh Chadrath, the hero of our class. He can take responsibility for his actions."

Harsh got a stern glare and that was that. I don't think the implications of it all hit him at the moment as he walked back to his seat with a goofy smile. But that moment, that decision of our teacher's, all of these have stayed with me even nearly 20 years on.

It was brave of Harsh to do what he did. And Banerjee Ma'am could have punished him. In which case he would never have told the truth again.

Instead, she took the chance to teach us all a lesson for life: If you do something, you take responsibility for it. And you don't drag your team down with you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Totter Potter, "ala" Govinda!

There's been a current in the air. I can hear far-off drum beats since morning. Any Indian knows that means a festival and definite excitement. Occasionally, loud, rowdy cheers waft in through my window although I cannot see the young boys (for that is what they sound like) who are so happy! Since noon, people have been going to their balconies and windows and peering down to see what's going on. A while back, some young boys and girls and uncle-auntys began to line the lane behind our house. I could tell something was about to happen.

This is Bombay, and today is Janmashtami. Need I say more by way of explanation?

Finally, a bunch of young men arrived in the lane and began chanting Goouuuuvindaaaa, Goouuupaaaalaaa, Goouuuuvindaaaa, Goouuupaaaalaaa. Then they began demanding water in this novel fashion:"V for water, V for water!"

Hmmm....anyway, this post isn't about the alphabet.

I had heard that the real show happens in more crowded, typically Maharashtrian areas. The boys who do the climbing and breaking are absolute pros, and I believe they are sometimes even insured against a fall resulting from a shaky human pyramid!
Still, I was rather excited to notice a pot strung up on a rope that went across the lane behind our house. So there was going to be action in that sleepy by-lane!!!
I wanted to see it all, properly. But I didn't want to run downstairs and risk missing the event. So I climbed shakily on to the kitchen counter for a better view as the youths assembled.

I needn't have worried. Since they were not pros, it took them a considerable while to get organised and manage the feat. Enough time for me to fetch my camera, even! Several permutations and combinations were attempted, and several falls were broken, just about.
As a thin group of spectators watched, a nimble-footed guy, who reminded me of Mowgli from The Jungle Book, darted up, using the others' elbows, thighs and shoulders as footrests, and in a swift move had reached the handi or pot suspended above him. He hung on to it for sometime, and then smashed it.

Bright red gulal came down in powdery gusts and streaked the team with scarlet. There were loud cheers, much clapping and everyone went home.

My little group of amateurs will certainly not make it to the news or to images of Mumbai on Janmashtami that will be splashed on newspapers tomorrow. I don't know if they got any money as a reward for their participation, as is the usual custom. But they seemed to enjoy themselves. And it is the spirit that counts. They lived Janmashtami for those few moments, and I got a window-seat to view it all from!

Monday, September 03, 2007


She blew out the candles as another year began. Her friends cheered. Her parents' faces shone with pride and affection. The balloons swayed in the sea breeze on their balcony as she turned a year older.

Her shining black hair ruffled by all the hugs she'd received. Her eyes were slightly moist from all the goodwill in the air. Her new saree, to mark her adulthood, swished around her legs and made her feel feminine, pretty, irresistible.

18. She was here. College began in a month. Psychology to study. New friends to make. Finally, co-education and boys! Debating championships to win. Class trips out of town. In a few months, a license and her own car.

Closing her eyes, she made a wish.

Please let the tumour be benign.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

All in a Day's Work

They are born to be used. Dressed up to look their best, they are sold for money. Rudely taken from their homes, they huddle close to others of their kind until someone uproots them a second time, bundles them together with strangers, and hands them to an unknown entity.

They will never return. Having water to drink will not ensure their survival, and they will start dying.

Before the day is over, some of them will apologise. Some will express undying love. Some will form beautiful, but inadequate, expressions of sympathy. Some will just look good. Some will smell good too.

People will be drawn to their natural beauty. But no one will care to look deeper. To see beyond the obvious to what remains unspoken as the wilting flowers are thrown away after they have outlived their utility.

Happy birthday.


I love you.

Marry me.

My sympathies.

Get well soon.

Missing you.

Those are the things we make flowers say for us. What would flowers say if they could speak for themselves?