of thoughts in ebb and flow

Archive for March, 2011

On being overwhelmed

I read my daily newspaper with great interest. I glance at the news but devote considerable attention to the rest of it. Makes for far more interesting reading I find. Take today’s Times of India for instance.

Shobhaa De writes about Liz Taylor and her violet eyes… ok more than that but this is what stuck to my mind. She thanks Vijay Mallya for giving her the opportunity to sleep on the same bed as Liz and her beau of the time Richard Burton (Not all at the same time (un)fortunately else we would never have heard the end of it) – in the yacht Kalizma which he now owns. “As you can imagine” she writes,`it was an overwhelming experience’

No. I CANNOT imagine! I mean one assumes these two events are many moons separated  and so the bed linen and possibly even the mattress and pillows have been changed, not once but multiple times. That Liz and Burton’s spirits do not haunt the bed for posterity. WHAT, pray, made this an `overwhelming’ experience?

I can quite relate to feeling overwhelmed standing at Jallianwala Bagh or on Normandy beach or being in any place for that matter where something momentous had occurred or which were witness to the heights (and depths) of human emotion, be they individual or small group or all humankind. Or feeling reverence for an object that belonged to someone you admire and was important/central to that person – say Sachin’s bat or Picasso’s brush. Or having goose-bumps on handling Aurangzeb’s sword as it tumbled out of the long-forgotten AMU cupboard. Or even feeling emotionally charged on seeing any object that belonged to someone very close who one misses – grandfathers watch, mothers perfume and so on – even if these were not all that important as objects to them they acquire a symbolic value in our eyes.

But why does a bed slept in for some days by a star couple or a tea-cup used by a famous politician inspire so much reverence or a dress worn by a famous actress in an award ceremony be much-coveted?!!!!! Beats me!  Sigh. Either my understanding is severely challenged or strange are the ways of the world and its denizens. Possibly a bit of both – less of the former and loads of the latter 😉

Today’s newspaper also informs me that this strange world had better make hurry with its plans cos it is all going to end on 21st May at 6 pm sharp. Yes. Harold Camping, preacher from Oakland, California, hath made this declaration of doom. Quick, let’s bid for that towel used but once by Liz (so it has much wear left see?) so our ka can find peace and we are properly equipped for our afterlife journey!!!

Colorzzzz – Impatient; Untameable

Pause

“When can I drop this off Ma’am?”  Umm.. Anytime is fine. I will be here! You see I am now one of those `working from home’ types that all those `have to go to office’ types envy! Oh it has it disadvantages to be sure. You can lounge about in your tees all day, declare power-nap time when the sun blinds you thru the window, have a window to look out of, pretend to be hard at work if the pesky aunt wants to chat, eat lunch out of proper plates, raid the refrigerator for inspiration… Oooh what is that green pallor on all you office-types? Heh! Heh!

Seriously, there ARE some dis-advantages too. But for now the advantages, to me, are more in focus. Changing from office-goer to work-from-homer brought about a total change in the daily rhythm of my life. Suddenly those early morning yoga sessions were do-able, scheduling personal work on weekdays was do-able, getting chat-time with an itinerant hubby at a decent time for both was do-able. `Can do’ took on a whole new meaning for me!

Now I recognise the urban song my neighbourhood grooves to & can listen to any single note and tell you what time of the day we are at. That’s the lady in the bungalow next door sweeping the yard with the kharaata. So its about 5 am. I can dawdle in bed for another 5. Bliss. Vishwanathan Uncle is at his mridangam.. mid-morning… Earlier I had never paused to register what was happening around me. Time was always a blur until I got into the car to drive to work. And then time and the traffic streeeeeteched unending. Just when I didn’t want it to.

Reminds me of the song `Jame Raho from Taare Zameen Par! And I am in the happy situation of being closer to the Yahaan Alag Andaaz Hai than ever before!

Now that I walk to do my errands instead of drive around I am `seeing’ the neighbourhood afresh. I no longer do the `drop this off of for photocopying, go pick up groceries, come back to pick up copies’ kind of planning. I twiddle my thumbs and chat awhile with the vendors, sit there while the puncture is being repaired, wait while the chicken is being cleaned and the fat trimmed.

I have learned that my tyre-repair wallah, Raja, is from Orissa. He is getting married in a month. He doesn’t like it here as much as his brother does. On a good day there are 4 cars that he works on for punctures and one that needs a tube change (today I am that statistical `One’!)  The fruit vendor is from Jejuri – home to one of the most famous Khandoba temples. He thinks it’s very silly how people pay fancy rates without demur in the `shops’ but haggle with him for 2 and 3 Rs.  “Hmmm”, I agree with him while quietly handing over his `asking’ rate. He reddens and returns change I didn’t ask for. The hairdresser … THATS an interesting story now … but you get the drift … now I get friendly waves and nods in the neighbourhood where earlier I was a stranger.

I am seeing the day in 300 dpi resolution not 72 dpi quick-upload, compressed version. And it feels .. different.. nice different methinks. At least for now.

Coffee Break

My fingers itch. I can’t concentrate. But I MUST NOT move. Let it be. Let it be… It’s not important. I am strong. I can control an urge. …. Sigh.. I give up. Give me a minute while I move that candle-stand a couple of millimetres to the right. There, now the world is fine again!

Do you suffer from this.. this.. urge to place things `just so’? I am a long suffering patient. It is an unending source of merriment in my family –  how I go about making tiny adjustments to stuff placed around the house after the maid has finished with her dusting. I suspect my father and better half have at times laid bets on how long I will be able to sit still without `adjusting’ something that is not placed `just right’ !

I find that objects around us speak – by virtue of their shape, color, their weight, how they are angled…

Approach

Here are some snaps of  coffee and tea mugs that, to me, painted a picture of human body language ……

Conversation dynamics de-constructed. What do you think just happened here? (Now you know why my family treats me with the fond indulgence reserved for the slightly off- the- rocker, essentially harmless specimens)

Yes??

WHAT did u just say??!!!

That's it. SCAT!

Grief

It is International Women’s Day today. My inbox is flooded with Happy Women’s Day messages. Today my thoughts are with one woman. A woman I know but slightly. She is my friend’s sister. And today she has lost her son. All of twenty-three he is, no, was, a strapping young lad who was in the Indian Army. I do not know the circumstances of his death. But today, I doubt it matters to her. What matters is he is no more.

I remember her. Full of life, smiling, happy, a teacher in a local school. Having gone through the trauma of losing her husband early on and faced with the challenge of bringing up a little son. Now the son is gone too.  I can see how their home must be today. Throngs of relatives, oceans of concern, the unavoidable buzz of activity as the last rites are planned and performed. In all of this she must be sitting. Stunned. I wish I could reach out to her in some way. But I don’t even have the courage to go there. And what is there to say really?

Hindu traditions being what they are she would be left behind in the emptiness of the home that had seen his first halting steps, heard his exultant shout on being selected into the NDA, the million images would be pressing down on her, her alone as the men-folk make their way to the cemetery. In all her grief to have to look out for an even older mother… who has had to see three members of the family bid an untimely farewell. Who will be the consoler and who the consoled?

And I don’t know if I can face you either my friend. I shall be a coward and not meet you today. I wish for the three of you that you find some way of holding on to sanity, of finding meaning in life again. I don’t know how, I don’t know from where. But I pray really hard that it comes to you. I wish I could do more.

Me & my bookshelf

I admire those who read multiple books concurrently. I really do. And I also admire people who plough through books at an amazing pace. My son is like that. Give him a book, any book, and he stays glued to it like most people stick to their favourite TV shows. I have tried telling him that the story will be kind enough to wait for him to get back after attending to somewhat important actions like bathing or eating. But that’s not a risk he thinks is worth taking!

Me, I have to savour the book.  I need to experience for myself what the central and not-so-central characters are going through. I need to smell the air around them and live their emotional lives vicariously. If Humayun is making a lonely trek across the high passes to reach Persia I need to feel the cold air on my face, worry that the stock of firewood and dried dates is almost over. My stomach cramps in shared labour with Hamida as Akbar pushes his way through into the world and I quiver with indignation as my half-brother carts away little Akbar and dares to look upon my wife directly.  As you can possibly sense, my reading leaves me exhausted!

If the book is one of those `non-fiction’ ones I need to constantly summarise in my head what the author is saying, have long monologues with her on why this is or is not making sense from where I sit . And so books sit on my stand for what, to my son, seems an eternity! Ah well! Better that than no bookshelf at all I assuaged myself.

So it was with a sense of wonder that I read that Raj Kapoor once allegedly (heh heh… the Times Of India newspaper style `alleging’) said in an interview that he had never read any books other than Archie Comics. That the bunch from Riverdale told him all that he ever needed to know about life. Now I don’t understand ALL comics e.g. I have never quite got Peanuts. Give me Calvin any day. But what is it about Archie that I am missing here?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to dismiss comics as frivolous at all. They are a seriously serious form of art. Every little line and indeed, the absence of some little line too, is not a matter of chance but born of studied understanding of human perception and inferencing. The book `Understanding Comics’ opened my eyes to THAT once and for all. But I still think the Archie comic thing is bit fanciful. What say?

That reminds me of a candidate I interviewed once. He courageously (and fans of Humphrey Appleby will remember this isn’t a very bright path to take) voluntarily proffered that he was not into reading. `I learn from movies’ he proclaimed. So, seeing as he was hoping to channelize the discussion and keen to see where this would lead, I asked, `So which is your favourite `learning’ movie?’ and he says, “It is No Entry”. I acquiesced. My courage failed me.

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