F.R.O.G.S

This piece was written over a stretch of the first few rainy evenings in September. On the first evening, I sat at the department computer, earphones plugged in — listening to YouTube audios of croaking frogs, crickets and other night sounds.

Mangalore and Goa are two of my favourite cities because the frogs here know me well. What began as a tribute to frogs became an inward journey  into the home that I spent my childhood in.

TVs had a volume of their own here and this was the most liberating thing about the house. It was always blaring loud no matter who was around. Back home in Bangalore, every time I sensed my father’s mood swings, I wished all the TV volumes in the world would mute. But in Mangalore, rules bent themselves so neatly that we sat on them and made paper boats.

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In the afternoons, Goa and Mangalore have the same slumberworthy capacities. The heat becomes duller, settling on the eyelids — making it heavy with sleep. And if there are trees around, the occasional rustle of the wind sends the birds into disarrayed flapping of wings, causing many hypnic jerks. The short dreams are always about birds – flapping eyelashes instead of wings. And, of aeroplanes that fly dangerously close to huts.

Read more here.

Crab Story

The spicy crab meat soup yesterday was an oval red in a white ceramic bowl with a blue border.

When I was 9, I ate crab and my lips swelled up like a big balloon.

When I was 24, I ate crab again and didn’t care because its meat brought the sea to my mouth and I grew more and more carnivorous with every piece of shell I cracked.

When I slide my index under its shelly stomach, the meat yields and polishes my fingernail, like cutex.

There’s Mangalore Pearl and Carnival De Goa and Fishland. I also have a Souza Lobo on my crab list now.

In Souza Lobo, they gave me a black pot with the biggest crab I had ever seen. It took me an hour to finish it.

I am all hands, fingers, mouth, hair, and cheeks when I eat crab. Sometimes, I think crab is flavorless, lost now and then in overpowering enthralls of coconut, spices, and garlic butter.

But I eat it anyway. Hands, fingers, mouth, hair, and cheeks.

Seaside

His face emerged yellower and clearer from where I could see the end of the beach. A rushing white line of waves, his smiling mouth, teeth grinning to the sides of his strong jaw, and his blue swimming trunks dripping sea water. I looked away from him and found a pair of brown slippers. Their owner, the babe was in a golden bikini basking in the now orange light the sea was beginning to cast.

I pushed my hands deeper into the sand, measuring its cold trickle between my fingers. Somewhere, the ice cream cart tolled its sad bell. Somewhere else, a bunch of boys were being noisy. A woman in a big white tee sat looking pleased at the sunset. I watched her and we smiled. The city was closing itself around this beach and this moment. As the ice cream cart bell lolled somewhere into disappearance, a family of five sit gaping at the bikini babe.

Behind me, the street is beginning to widen with noise and activity. I turn back to see the bustling red Pizza Hut shining next to its Shoe Bazaar neighbour. It’s the street you recognize very well. There’s a Kamat down the road, its dull orange and green standing out in your memory. That was the day you sat sulking next to your mother in the car, right after your father whacked you with his belt for running off without telling them.

It was a ship that looked interesting. Was it a ship? You weren’t sure. You are 12 and you beg your parents to take you on the ship. You have all just belted 2 rounds of caramel custard and even the memory of its taste isn’t distracting you from the ship that takes cars, people, and dogs alike and drops them to the other end.

Instinctively, you will lure your younger brother into the ship with you. It starts sailing and suddenly you are unsure about this adventure. What if they freak out? What if the ship stops at the other end? What if they came asking for money? What if my parents leave?

His little cap is getting smaller and smaller and I just realise how small he is. I notice his fingers and toes. They are tiny. And I had carried this little thing with me into my adventure. I saw them standing at the shore. Like my brother, they were becoming too small and I was worried about how small they looked from here. When the ship stopped, my panic grew stronger. I waited, my legs shaking, palms sweating and eyes growing wider with anticipation.

Finally, the ship made its loud bellowing call. We were going back and I felt relief thundering down into my panties and my long, terrified sigh masking the shame I was now carrying in my panties. We stopped.

They had been waiting there. And when I got off the ship, they weren’t around. I held his little hand and led him to the main road. My mother had wept. Her face was red and cheeks, flushed. It’s a face I am both terrified of and detest strongly. Not long after I notice her, my thighs are burning with a mark he has made with his black belt. My brother got one too. We didn’t cry. At the signal, the dull orange and green colors at Hotel Kamat keep me occupied. Its memory caving coyly into that ship I will always be unashamedly happy about.

When in Goa, watch Magadheera

I was watching Magadheera. I was minutes away from sleeping all by myself for the first time in my life and I was watching a movie so lame, it was that good. The cottage was lovely. It wasn’t too far from the beach so I could listen to it and wasn’t too close so if a Tsunami came swimming by, I could make a quick exit. I think Magadheera will be my favourite movie for a long time now because it kept me company when I was trying to postpone the grand event of finally switching all the lights off to sleep. That yellow bottle of pepper spray could only do so much. I kept it close by at all times, but I knew when the time came, it would not be able to do much. I was able to forgive its uselessness sooner than I thought. I didn’t need it though. The occasion never arose. But I was scared, my toes kept feeling it all night. There were strange noisy men around the cottage. Their noise kept me up and I slept restlessly. The morning was innocent, like all mornings are. As if my toes hadn’t curled up at all, as if the men and their voices hadn’t reminded me of all those rape and revenge movies I had binge watched long ago, as if the morning was a different morning, tail to another event-less night at home. It wasn’t a memorable night but it was my first time alone away from home.

Finding fanny

A dog yawns, an old aunty sits at her tailoring machine, and a middle aged man lies half awake – half in a drunken stupor, his newspaper imitating his posture on an arm chair outside a Goan home porch. Pocolim, as Deepika puts it is a sleepy town, and to show you just how slow they mean by sleepy, another cat yawns into the silence interrupted only by the lazy croak of a frog. That pleasing coastal sound which comes only if the green in the surroundings is just as pleasing.

Finally a movie set in Goa that doesn’t freak out on beaches. They actually show you a whole other side to goa – its green, the trees, and not just coconut trees. Homes with Goan brick compounds, uncles sleeping in front of dusty chess boards, and a ceiling with unambitious cobwebs.

The town is delightfully Macondo-like, in its half- sleep, half-awake state. Nobody is happy and nobody is sad. To add to that, there’s also a rusting old blue car, a dead cat that is forced to look alive to keep its master’s sanity and a weirdass painter who follows the cat’s tragic fate. Atleast the cat’s dead body got to lie on Dimple Kapadia’s chest.

The movie has some fine flattering bits of comedy. A scene shows Deepika crying on her bed and her mother in law asks her if she is crying and she says yes. Another scene has Naseeruddin Shah howling like a baby while simultaneously riding his bicycle. In much the same spirit, this is what weirdass painter says about the cat that is out to scratch human eyeballs out: ‘Billli pyaari hain lekin thodi paagal hai’.

Even as Arjun Kapoor is contemplating his abilities in bed, random young children appear on screen only to show him their middle fingers. The movie bumps off Pankaj Kapoor (weirdass painter) and nobody notices, a seemingly charming death for a man who looked confused at the concept of biscuit falling off into tea due to over dipping. He gets shot by a bullet that wasn’t even meant for him, rolls off the car, falls into some fishing net and then into the ocean. Ranveer Singh meets his end after choking on his own wedding cake, in much the same way that the cat meets its end after having been flung out of a moving car and hit by a tree.

A letter remains undelivered, sleepy town doesn’t wake up, and the remaining action of the movie unravels in an open field: sex, confessions and denials. The climax boils down to a broken mirage of love as it should be (I want to say, like a Marquez novel here, but I will not). How love may not change but its intensity may plummet down with a massive force after the lover discovers that his loved one has put on ominous amounts of weight, even as she lies dead in her coffin.

I love this movie and not because it was my first time watching a movie alone, but because it didn’t have to try hard to make me laugh. At no point does the movie take itself seriously, not even when the 4 single people that initially went to find fanny get married to each other.

Along with the people and cats dying bit which was hilarious; even interior knowledge that the characters in this movie have about one another manifested into light hilarity. Even as Naseeruddin Shah is recovering from the horror of an undelivered letter, Arjun Kapoor asks him if he was the one howling like a baby the previous night. The over infused ‘mad or what’ in between dialogues cheered me up.

Also, I have decided to move to goa. If I cannot find Pocolim, I will call a stretch of land Pocolim and live there. And I want a cat. Its name will be Dominique Bredoteau.