Another Sunday

I went to sleep over at N’s last night. The plan was ripe and had vaguely been discussed over the phone in the midst of all knowing giggles. ‘I’ll bring wine, we’ll write.’ I didn’t bring wine and we wrote a little. The place had changed a lot from the last time I was there. The tiles were cooler and the walls were whiter than I remember. The couch was soft and warm, she’d been sitting there. We sat at the table for a little while and I opened the many drafts I’d saved. I added a sentence to each of these drafts and closed them all. Later N and I showed each other what we’d been writing over the week.

Her new one is about a girl who has to stay home because of a fever and then when she goes back to school – the boy she had a crush on has fallen for her friend. Mine was about a boy who works in a college canteen. He is very curious about the order of nature and refuses to accept that it’s just chance that makes people get a leg piece from the big boulder of chicken biryani he scoops from.

We talked about college, swimming, and sarees. We decided that it’s time I wore one. I mentioned Heteroglossia. I didn’t even know that I remembered the word. When I’d learnt all about it in M.A, I thought it’d be one of those words that would escape me and then years later when I’m explaining it to somebody, I would remember the meaning but not the word. It would have to be googled. But last night, it just popped out of my mouth – as if it had been sitting there all evening, waiting to come out.

At 12:15, N gave me her copy of Electric Feather – a book of erotic stories. The cover is off-white and the spine is a dark purple. On the front, there is a picture of the same book hidden under a pillow – its purple spine shamelessly showing from the gap between pillow and the bed. My eyes are already heavy when I start reading it. I have to read a page over and over again because each time I read it, I realize that I haven’t read it at all. At 12:45 I give up and snuggle under the circle warmth of the rug.

In the morning, we eat Idli and Vada. We make plans to go out. We don’t consider writing just then. When we talk about going to Glen’s, I can picture us there. I have already picked out the table we are going to sit at, and the soup I’m going to order. We stop at Health & Glow for a while and I gather the courage to pick up exotic shampoos in fruity colored bottles. At the counter, my courage skims and becomes a thin line of what ifs. I return the exotic shampoos and buy the more comforting Pantene.

On our way to Glen’s, we decide to be adventurous and go instead to Café Mezzuna.We’d heard enough about its dessert platter. The glorious Cheesecake – Crème brûlée – Chocolate Mousse – Pannacotta combo. Mezzuna is in a basement but looks a lot like a rooftop coffee shop. We order us some chicken and barely soup, bassa fish, coffee and creme brulee.

N and I can comfortably sit with each other in silence. Now and then, she will suddenly burst into a string of laughs and then nod as if in agreement with herself.

I had started reading the electric feather. This time, I picked a story by Paromita Vohra called Tourists. It’s about two people whose fondness for chocolates and their livid attractions for each other take them back in time to 1977 Andaman & Nicobar. And here they discover that in this strange house, nobody can see them or hear them. Like a Bollywood movie, the plot thickens and thickens, often only interrupted by gorgeous sex scenes. They fuck like bunnies all over the house. It’s a perfect sex getaway. And then I giggled joyously when I read that one morning they wake up to find Indira Gandhi in their bedroom. She of course, cannot hear them or see their naked, exhausted bodies. This was the best sex story I’d read in a long, long time.

My Sunday took off to a great start. On my way back home I had to buy a new helmet because somebody robbed my old one. It was only when I was nearing home that I realised that this new one was awfully tight and left me with a throbbing headache when I finally removed it.

Anyway, I had a sudden desire to watch old TV shows so I spent the rest of the evening downloading Bewitched and watching the movie adaptation. If all my Sundays this year can promise to be this fulfilling, I don’t mind dying next year.

Bliss

My summer vacation has officially begun and this is a list of things I am going to make myself look forward to with mind numbing enthusiasm.

  • Finally got hold of a desktop. It’s a Dell something something. It is taking care of my movie/music/TV show catching up. Also got a printer/copier/scanner thingy. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to go looking for a printout shop. Ever.
  • My room. I don’t know if it is the madness of last year or that I finally have a place to wear shorts and just chill in life, but when I get back home every night, I feel happy knowing that I am going to crash in my bed soon even though all it has is a table fan.
  • I feel stupid saying this but I am beginning to see how busy the city can keep me if I just give it the chance. Even if it means going to Lalbagh on a Saturday evening and looking at the bloody birds. And the bloody trees.
  • I feel stupider saying this but in this whole process of growing up, I have forgotten what it’s like to watch movies and plays in theatres. I have only myself to blame for this. Bangalore is thriving with plays, cinema, talks, art and the whole thing. It has always thrived and I don’t know why I was dead for so long but I feel great now just being in the city and knowing that Kala Soudha and Rangashankara are so close to Basavangudi and that Alliance and Guru Nanak Bhavan are so close to K.
  • GLEN’S. I have found the Yin to my Yang, the Ki to my Ka. Good food, better than Parisian, and best iced tea. One of those places where they’ll leave you alone. Last week, I settled down there with my netbook and watched Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for 3 straight hours. And then a couple more writing about the movie. And they just kept bringing me cold water.
  •  My reading and writing didn’t die as I suspected it would over April. Tipping the Velvet brought with it my lost London mania, The story of a Widow taught me how to just let go and write, Where there’s smoke is teaching me what I ignored in my childhood.
  • My traveling plans in May are giving me the happies. I am looking at 4 possible trips, which means that if I am alive by the end of May, I have something to write about.
  • People saying mean things about my blog makes me want to write more. So I am sending you much love from here. Keep it going.
  • Grey’s Anatomy. Two episodes down. I should listen to Mintu more often and just watch shit when she tells me to watch.
  • GILMORE GIRLS REVIVAL.
  • I have a renewed interest in shopping for clothes. Bless you, summer. And skirts.

I see in my mind sepia photographs of women in coffee shops

I see in my mind, sepia photographs of women in coffee shops.

One is sitting by the window, hand in hair, palm on cheek, looking out the window.

One is sitting with a book, not reading.

One is sitting with her coffee, waiting. Waiting waiting waiting.

And then I see Eiffel tower in black and white and next to it, a coffee shop.

I see a woman rocking back and forth on a plastic chair. Somebody has offended her and she is wondering if she should respond.

She will pause, take a deep breath, roll her eyes and let go.

I see a man with crew cut sitting with a magazine, not looking up.

Often I have thought that our cook, Shobamma looks like a teletubby in a sari. She has a green sari, a white and a cream one. When she cackles with laughter, her body shakes. Often I have wanted to sit with her and talk to her about life.

She says definitely, some day.

I nod.

Will I ever be the woman in these sepia photographs?

I wonder.

I see my mother sitting with her big family in a black and white photograph. It looks painted and a scary time in history to have lived. She is wearing a white blouse and a printed brown skirt. Her face is round, like I have always found mine to be.

I see three women sitting and laughing at a bar. They have all let their hair open. They each have a beer mug in hand and they seem like a portrait. They seem unbothered by where they are or who is watching them.

I see women in sepia photographs taken in some far away country whose name I cannot pronounce because it is too difficult.

I see a woman in all these photographs. She is as real as I am and probably more because she is unafraid of being alone.

 

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Here is the writing by Ila Ananya that inspired this poem.

Marzipan & Cotton Sarees

I finally went to Marzipan on Tuesday. I took a roundabout of Ulsoor lake and landed at a junction I should have paid attention to much earlier. When I got there, I was relieved to find that it had an accessible parking spot – something that Bangalore has taught me to look for, so meanly.

N and I ate New york Cheesecake, Moussaka, Chicken Baguette Sandwich and downed it all with a cup of Cappuccino. Marzipan is nothing like Parisian Cafe. It’s not small and one cannot get lost in thoughts, much less eavesdrop on other people’s conversations here. The tables are all safely placed at a careful distance from each other. A corner I would have preferred otherwise is furnished with a humongous sofa, and a teapoy with Pictionary, Scrabble and other board games on it. The cushions are blue and the interiors, brown.

On the other side, there are two long wooden slabs with bar stools. Both these slabs open to glass windows. I made a mental note to not to sit by the window that opened to the view of the main road. Too distracting. I ushered myself instead, to sit by the one that opened to the empty space. But that’s for another time, when I will go there alone.

N and I read each other’s pieces. Hers was Sci-fi. Mine was about going to Bhadravathi. She wore the green dress I have seen before and have come to feel so reassured by. I see her shuffling around in her apartment wearing a red lungi and a loose white tee — wondering if she should step out, pausing to see if the green dress would do today.

I don’t remember the first time I met her. I only know she must have been wearing a saree, a blue one. N and another N I know are the coolest saree-wearers. On many an occasion, I have pondered wearing a saree like that, but that’s for a world I haven’t made too many promises in. When I wear a saree, it will be a cotton one with a blouse that stubbornly won’t match the saree.

I liked Marzipan. Its windows are big and personal. And they have the best cheesecake I have tasted in ages. It’s our new writing group place.

A Tuesday in December

Last night, I downed half a glass of wine and watched Hannah and her Sisters. I am going through a Woody Allen phase. Waking up was hard, had to skip Yoga to beat the 9:00 am traffic. I used a new soap today. It was very soapy and not creamy at all. In college, my day got interesting. After running around a lil bit to wrap up some tax documents, I – wow. I have tax documents and all. God, I feel like such a grown-up. It’s also not that scary anymore. I just need to stop being lazy.

Back in the department, I made chai and settled with Faulkner. I had to reread those three pages again. It was difficult because of all the names. But after 30 pages, I didn’t want to do anything else but read Faulkner. It’s rattling. I made two post-it notes today. Both pink. One had a list of all the reading I have to catch up on over the weekend. The other had a list of writing projects.

On instinct, I opened the London word document again. This piece was due a week after my return from Europe. It has been seven months now. It gave me troubles and that’s why I had to put it away. I had made a habit of opening it, looking at it, feeling disgusted with the writing and going back to my sad little life. This happened everyday for two months and then I couldn’t look at it anymore.

I was thinking of a short-story to show my students. A story written in second-person narrative. I read Lorrie Moore’s How to Become a Writer and then it hit me. What I hadn’t been doing with my piece.

I sat for an hour after that and changed all the I’s to You’s. It’s more readable now and in better shape than it has been in months. But it still needs work. In class, I think they liked the Lorrie Moore story. More than their predecessors did.

After class, I wanted to write so here I am. If the other Tuesdays are like today, I will grin throughout the year. I watched Tamasha last evening. I liked the first-half of the movie. The second -half scared me. That mad storytelling  – baba is frightening. Why did he have to scream so much? The film took forever to move from screen to screen. I was perpetually worried that I was going to be stuck watching one scene for 15 minutes, which at one point did happen.

I must go to book-worm today and put my coupon to good use. I also have Marzipan to go to today. I can’t believe I am still on the lookout for my replacement Parisian. So you know what they went and did to Parisian Cafe? Turned it into some hoity-toity apartment grocery shopping dump.I am not amused.

The Parisian Cafe – III

It stands quietly at the end of a street, the way small town coffee shops sometimes do in big cities. Unafraid, yet unwelcoming because of its smallness. Everybody can see everybody and everybody seems to know everybody. You wonder how the chairs fit themselves into their tables on days that you are not here. You wonder if yellow cars parked neatly in front of apartments have that much character on days that you are not here. Who sits in your spot next to the dustbin and eavesdrops on conversations when you are not here?

A house is broken down and its ghosts collect themselves in heaps of sand and stone while behind, a building grows and how slowly. Little people move about on random floors like thin candles on three tiered cakes.

‘Fine, Fine!’

This is a story I love telling. I have fought with people just so I can tell this story my way simply because it is that funny. When I meet new people, I tell them this story and wait to see if they laugh. If they do, we become best friends. If they don’t, I sit quietly and judge them.

Many years ago, maybe not so many, because it is in color and not black & white in my head, a man and a woman were deeply in love. It was a happy love, undisturbed even by an ex wife who one day called our hero for a favour. The ex was a writer and needed help with selecting readings for her book launch. Our hero being the kind man he is agreed to meet her for coffee scheduled an hour before he was to meet our heroine, the girlfriend.

They met at famous coffee shop which we will call K. The ex who came with a couple of girls who are important to the story only because they are girls, decided to go somewhere quieter because K was noisy.

It is at this point, I must introduce a man who is responsible for all the giggles this story gave me. Outside K, a man named Abu helped park cars. He knew our hero quite well so when he went over to say hello to him, he witnessed the hero being ambushed by the ex and the girls. Hero couldn’t say hello to Abu because he was being hauled by the women half way across the road. An hour later, after the favor had been done, hero returns to K to meet girlfriend who has only just arrived. They were only just exchanging hellos when Abu steals the moment and appears on the scene and utters these words

“Maydam, aap nahi thi, maine saab ko hi bola lekin who kuch ladkiyon ke saath bhaga jaa raha hain, bhaga jaa raha hai”

(Madam, you weren’t here. When I tried to say hello to him, I saw him running off with some girls)

It is at this point that the hero’s face falls flat to the ground like meteors to earth. In a hurry he tries to explain what just happened before the face in front of him was going to balloon up into an even bigger balloon. After the last full stop to his story had been put, the heroine gathers all her face into her two eyebrows, raises them and heaves them down to her breasts and hisses “Fine, Fine!” jumps into an auto and leaves.

Our hero’s face by now is just a hole. It is difficult to say if the hole was because of the open mouth or it was how his face was going to look for the rest of his life. Nobody really cares what Abu did after this. I don’t know if he left soon after he had dropped the bomb or left after the hero’s monologue. All I know is the hero went inside, had chai and left.