When Machado Writes

You take a liking to them immediately. It’s what they say. Not much how they say it but what they say. It’s how you think they would laugh into their bosom at a private joke you wish you knew. It’s how you imagine them at their table, their laptop fully charged and unplugged, the mug of black coffee on a wooden coaster, one you know they would have spent an entire evening looking for. It’s not so simple, you know. It’s what they are going to be looking and blinking at furiously, while their brows are inked with words that haven’t appeared on the word document yet. The window is open, the blinds are moved to their rightful corners. One doesn’t really use the blinds for their actual purpose in this house. Windows simply look so much more emptier without blinds. They are a dull orange in Machado’s home. But she has bright colored carpets lined with cat hair all over it. Mascot, his name is.

Now she is trimming her toe nail as her foot inches towards the space button on her keyboard. She has logged in and out of Twitter 5 times already. A room in a story is what’s bothering her today. She thought it would be square but this morning she woke up and didn’t care about the room anymore. She is scared now because slowly the room is fading from her story. What if she cares lesser about the story tomorrow?

The coffee is cold now. She drinks some, picks up Zadie Smith and rolls the book like a dice, hoping it will reveal secrets to Zadie Smith- like metaphors. Nothing happens. In 20 minutes, she will start writing. The room is still there, but the painting on one of its walls is more interesting now.

Of Old Homes and New

Today, I saw time slip from between my fingers and hide behind familiar trees and houses and shops and their shadows. Balling up to finally start riding the two wheeler on the main road is the first best thing to have happened last year. I don’t say this to myself often but it has enabled a certain kind of freedom that can only come from being responsible for my own transport no matter where I am or where I have to be. Not that I don’t miss the one and a half/double meter hassling with auto drivers, but it is a strange pride, this one. Getting around the city, knowing certain short-cuts, knowing what routes to avoid at what hours- these, for a long time remained parting wisdom and long prologues to farewells only among grown ups and friends who had vehicles. I would listen with intent, hoping they would make a mistake so I could catch on and instruct them about this other road that nobody knows about and how closer it is to our destination.

I make the mental map myself now. I stop, ask for directions, use GPS and everything and it is bloody intense. But today none of that happened. I rode to the other end of the world to deliver a cheque and caught myself smiling at the prospect of visiting my old house. I took the correct turns and noticed that nothing much had changed. I was pulled 8 years back into Jayanagar 7th Block. I saw Channel 9, Coffee Day, the Government hospital which, I was surprised to see, still functions. The street looked narrow somehow. It was wider in my head, and perfect. It’s like somebody squeezed into my memory and narrowed the streets down. Young boys playing cricket and all, I couldn’t remember if they had always been there, playing cricket, screaming, making way for vehicles. How could I not have remembered this tiny bit of detail?

The house looked the same, thankfully. It stood the way it always has, in my head. White and 3 floors. The owners have now added layers of grills. I tried peeking into the window of a room which I remember now as the most neglected room. I re-winded to when I was 16 and in love. Walking the length of the corridors, making sure my feet were stepping on the insides of the box tiles and not on the lines, whispering into the phone, sitting with books around me and watching snowy make his way into my arms. Snowy was my first dog. I found and lost him within a month in that home. A lot of firsts happened in this house. I remember them all.

I rode slow until the dead-end forced me to look for the bakery my brother would be sent to so often. Bread, cheese, butter, chips and pepsi. The footpath was painted yellow and green. I remember walking there, earphones plugged in, drowning my head in imagined miseries, none of which have come true btw.

As I was heading back to my now home, I took a left instead of right because I wanted to go see my school. It was still there but I expected it to be bigger. It was sad to see it shrunken down in size. I almost felt bad for it. Somehow all the resentment I had against the school and its people seemed to peel away from me. I thought of all the things I hoped would remain permanent when I lived in this part of the city. I looked fondly at the shop in front of a former home and remembered a birthday I tried hard to make perfect. How I wanted to give a box of chuckles to classmates and how I convinced the shopkeeper to get a whole new box for me.

So much has changed, so much more is going to. It’s probably only now that I am not as afraid of change as I was when I grew up in the other part of the city. The city that I spend time in now, is carefree and I don’t want to know why and how but it is making me unafraid of change.

Don’t Know

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The painter on his way to work by Van Gogh

I may have nothing left with me in sometime. Three months, six months, a year. Beyond that, the unknown and the imagined merge and stretch into a path I am scared to take alone. When you make the journey alone, the road seems longer, but that’s not what I am worried about. It’s the people I have left behind. Their shadows are cast, long and dark, all along the stretch. Now they are solo, now they are joined at the hip with another. What becomes of us, them? It may not be a bad idea if your worst nightmares come true, this way you’ll know that they weren’t lying when they said they can’t be with you.

TFA 2015

From the third row in the auditorium at Alliance, I watched my first, live award function. I have shamelessly written for Toto only in my head. To watch actual people walk up to the stage and receive awards is better than me receiving mine in my bathroom. When I made my way to the third row, stamping wires and size 9 shoes, I realized it wasn’t just the writing awards they were giving away today.

I sat and watched them call out the short list. One by one, all the pieces that had made it. The writing, the photos, the music, the short films. I was excited. It was a train of showpieces. Like in an orchestra, I felt my senses go up and down, when the gorgeous man read out the winning piece, when I listened and watched in frenzied rapture, Parvaaz play their music, when I warmed goosebumps into submission as I listened to the Chief Guest’s confession of never having made it to any list – long or short.

For so long now, I have played the late bloomer card to escape writing and my inexperience with it. So it wasn’t very reassuring when she took away my card. I have no cards now.

There were funny moments but I wish they hadn’t come so often. Yes, they wore nice clothes and I saw Arundhati Nag and whooped twice. But the highlight of the evening was watching Parvaaz perform. I hope I have left marks on Surya and Ila’s thighs to prove this. I wanted to sit in a car, windows rolled up and speed into the night with their music playing in the background. I am not one to notice or understand good music when I listen to it, but if I was a music expert, I would tell them they were brilliant and marry them. All four of them.

I was so high on all the skills I had watched and listened to all evening, I didn’t go to the toilet even once. I wanted to run home and do productive things. And then I went to K and started a writing group.

Painting 101

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Girl and her Duenna (1670) by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Like the insides of an eye, there is black before there is white. The window is a square that a child finds easier to draw than the circle which is her face. It sits quietly on her neck. Something calmly disturbing about the way they are both looking at you, her right hand cushioning the chin and hers holding up a veil in agreement to the lack of shyness between the passer by and her friend. The play between the colors is harsh, unlike the softness of their clothes and faces. Their eyes are shadows to the secrets they lure you inside with. Now she smiles, now she giggles and between them, there is the ease of a secret growing old. That’s the only yellow in a window of black, brown and white.

Chitra Santhe 2015

It was my first art event. I was drawn into it very easily, by the clothes that people wore at first and then by the paintings. I noticed that people brought kids to art events. I was more surprised that photography was allowed in some stalls and prohibited in one, maybe two. I gasped at the first painting I saw there. It was a painting of  a galli.

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The boxes on the cement floor were uneven but looked compact, like a completed jigsaw puzzle. Two men were on their cycles, riding. They have very little face so I cannot say what they look like. There is water on the ground, it looks washed because there are blotchy reflections of white all over. There is no sun but the light is fading into the corners of the canvas. Above their heads, there are bits of cloth and paper strung together with ropes.They are yellow and white. The sidewalls in the shop are lined with packets of chips. There are men who are walking down the galli. Some are standing in a group at the far end of the painting. One half of a black tawa is visible in the corner of the painting. It looks very much at peace, like a man whose one ear goes missing in a photograph. Tin roofs jut out their tongues all along the street. Beyond this, there is a white building and this is where the painting ends.

I found this to be rather interesting. I realized that I was more drawn into paintings like these where there is nothing on the canvas beyond a point, unlike most other landscape paintings which stretch into the unknown. A road, the sky, a curve. It leads you further into its depths. I found myself dismissing these. I turned to look at other paintings that have no beyond, that are still, like the canvas.

Like this one. I liked how the light yawns into the courtyard and then cuts off.

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When I wasn’t salivating on my clothes, I was listening to people. A couple was fighting because he wanted the painting with the cupboard full of books to go into the kitchen and she wanted it to go on the drawing room wall. I was ashamed of how many times I caught myself debating the same issues in my head. I didn’t care about where the money to buy either a flat or these paintings would come from. I was busy deciding where I would put each. The painting of the woman smoking and showing her back would go above my writing desk, you know for inspiration. The painting of the galli had to be shown off as though I painted it so that would go above the sofa.

Also, who wears white chiffon sarees to art events? I wouldn’t know. But some people do. And I love-hated them.