Watered Meet

Two mobile phones on either ends of the city beeped and blinked with an array of urgent text messages.

Wednesday morning?

Each message was read the moment it blinked into being, but the replies were deliberately delayed.

Later in the afternoon would be fine.

A resto-bar?

If we need to talk, we need to be in some place quiet enough to be heard.

In a gush of enthusiasm, Parth shared a few links of online restaurant reviews.

There’s Melange, where can step in for breakfast and stay on till dinner. They will not show us the door.

A cafe?

Sort of!

Done! Kayal texted him a thumbs-up of approval.

 

Parth arrived early. The café was actually a refurbished colonial bungalow, bang in the middle of that fast-fuelled and humid city. Great canopies of trees arching over its vast garden zoned out all the hustle-bustle outside. Tables were set along the corridors. Bougainvilleas burst in full bloom. It was a green lung that a city trapped in pigeonholes of office cubicles and residential complexes was glad to escape to.

Parth chose a table along the corridor overlooking a lily pond in the garden. It was to be his second meeting with Kayal, and their first private one. Kayal arrived late. After a spate of meetings with strangers arranged through matrimonial sites by her parents, all of which she intently ended, she wasn’t sure what to think of this one. But the bougainvillea blossoms brightened her up somehow. She smiled.

“Sorry for the delay!”

“Anything to eat?” he asked, sipping his juice.

She picked up the menu card, settled in her chair and dropped her handcrafted cloth bag on a chair beside. She studied his face nonchalantly above her spectacles and menu card, wondering where to begin the conversation. He moved cautiously between the table and his chair as the Prada aviator sunglasses hung from his Ed Hardy t-shirt. Last time, thanks to a cacophony of cousins, high and excited, there had hardly been any conversation between them. She had sensed his face smiling at her through the small talk she had held with everyone else. Numbers had been exchanged as a parting note.

He beamed. “What next?” he said.

“Meeting friends and some packing left.”

The conversation floated around, nothing of much substance but with smiles for a while as a warm up. Her sandwich came along with a coffee. The bitter after taste of coffee made her want to have a sip of water. She held a tissue close to her mouth since the coffee made her conscious of her breath. She looked around. As if reading her mind, he piped up, “One should not drink water after coffee.”

She looked at him quizzically.

“It gives you a headache,” he explained.

“But I don’t like the taste it leaves in my mouth,” she replied, unmoved.

She spotted a waiter at a distance and waved out to him. He reached their table with a notepad.

“A glass of water please,” she said.

“What brand would you like, ma’am,” chimed the waiter. “Himalayan, Qua, Evian?”

“I just need a glass of ordinary water,” she said.

“Sorry ma’am, we only serve bottled water, you need to buy one,” said the waiter.

“Can I meet your manager?”Kayal said. Her face was calm but the icy tone was enough to freeze the air.

“Hey, it’s just a bottle of water, we’ll get one,” Parth cut in hurriedly.

Eyebrows arched, she stood up. “I’ll meet the manager.”

The waiter smiled in disbelief. She walked in search of the counter. Parth hurried behind her. The waiter walked behind both, an inscrutable expression on his face. After crossing a few corridors she arrived at a raised platform with a counter. Heads from other tables turned in mild curiosity.

She stepped up and cleared her throat, “Excuse me!”

“Yes ma’am, how may I help you”, smiled the man behind the counter.

“Can I have a glass of water please”, she replied.

“Which one ma’am?”

“I just need a glass of water.” Kayal stressed every word with dangerous slowness.

“Ma’am, but we only serve bottled water”, parroted the man.

Standing next to her, Parth tried to get her attention in vain.

“Do you all drink from bottles?” she asked curtly.

“No ma’am, but…” said the man.

“Then give me the water you drink,” she finished and stepped down.

Parth looked abjectly apologetic. The manager turned to get a glass of water from a jug. All heads at tables nearby had turned towards them by now.

She got her glass of water, drank it and returned it with a firm “Thank you.”

She walked back to her table along the corridor at a leisurely pace. Parth looked at the manager. “Sorry,” he mumbled, thrust fifty rupees in his hand, got a bottle of water and paced behind her.

He sat at the table, looked at her and said, “Should I ask for the bill?”

“No, that’s fine, we can talk for a while”, she replied in even tones. Not a trace of the exasperation of the past few minutes on her face.

He thought about what might burst next, pulled his chair closer to the table and eased into it.

“They can’t capitalise on water!” she blurted out finally, relaxing into a smile.

“Quite hot headed, hmm!” he muttered, loud enough for her to hear.

“Difficult to handle, eh?”

“Not really”, he replied, struggling between a smile and embarrassment.

“A smoke?” he offered placatingly.

The smoking zone was enclosed in an opening beyond the tables and the garden at the far end of the pathway. A standee arrow mark indicated the direction.

“You have not understood and I have no patience to explain. Anyway, I don’t believe in harming others for self-amusement”, she said. The smile had wiped itself off her face as she stood up to leave. She placed some money under the plate before she turned away.

He almost got up from his chair in protest, but sank back in silence and smiled pensively.

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in between

In between birth

And death

There is life.

Identity is what we strive

For, when alive!

In anonymity we begin and end,

A new born and a mortal remain

Immaterial of what is desired.

Resurrecting

As strangers we met,

Sharing spaces we slept.

Through silence you spoke,

The child in me awoke.

I failed to observe reason,

Probably it was the season.

Under the winter sun

And blossoms of spring fun

You knew a demented me

I, a resilient you,

And then came summer

Departing with a whimper.

Through distance you emoted,

I restless and agitated,

A word could have been said

But I was quite afraid.

To rest in peace,

Thoughts had to cease,

The moment it vanished

I resurrected it!

Until the end

While Tata’s fought an internal battle, Ambani’s infiltrated into every segment of Indian’s life and demonetization arrested the economy of the entire country, a formidable misery overtook Tamil Nadu. It grounded the state to a halt. It numbed its citizens as tears welled their eyes at the break of dawn. Its tall and fearless leader lay under a gold and glass casket draped in her favourite green, eyes closed without the trademark benevolent smile. She rested under the burden of her party flag the functioning of which she had overseen with single handed authority over a crore cadres and seven crore people of the state. The onus proceeded to her bearing the tricoloured national flag on her mortal remains, the one she had on several occasions hoisted and let it flap up in the mast fluttering against the wind. She lay oblivious of the lakhs of people streaming down the aisles appalled  to have their first or last glimpse of her, still and unresponsive, neither lifting her two hands nor her two fingers in symbolic gestures of gratitude or her party sign/victory. The ones she had banished stood rooted around her – she may also have felt claustrophobic by their presence and the cool air they blocked from tall air conditioners that followed her to all public events.

She decided to call it off finally after waging a lonely, onerous and tempestuous battle all her life. The baton was passed on since the break of her adolescence and taken only with the lowering of her sandal coffin under the earth.

Personal desire, betrayal and unsurpassed professional success seemed her lifelong companions. While she rode high waves strong undercurrents worked its way to keep her down. She broke barriers, crossed hurdles and transcended boundaries yet stayed within her fort. She was imputed for the misdeeds and celebrated for her resilience. She hit the bull’s eye in her scheme of affairs but was on many occasions led astray. As the exterior fort strengthened her internal fort crumbled. She enabled people to see light at the end of the tunnel, but did not miss out on showing them how crude darkness can be. Her intentions were intact but some of her strategies backfired. Despite her sharp intelligence she failed to recognise repetitive patterns that saw her to the end. At every juncture she was beneficial to another’s cause while her own lay in stalemate.

Dignified, deep, unwavering and astounding, she never had the final say even in the last lap. She was made to rest beside the man she must have despised in the bosom of her heart, surrounded by people she had lost trust in and through practices she would have defied and abhorred. She had not had her say on the latest national catastrophe that had struck her people, she would have definitely fought their case. But an unfaltering wave of love and respect outpoured from the millions of hearts she seemed to have struck a chord with, despite being isolated and stigmatized as inaccessible, she had reached. She never could be at the receiving end, for when she did, she was taken to nether land.  Then came the cyclone that had waited till her death threatening for a month but dared not to venture until the strongest one had passed on, to wreak its havoc on already injured souls and to revive them back to life.

SHANTH SWAROOPI

Pre planned imagery of an impending visit to Goa can lead to ecstasy or disaster. A trip in the making for a decade when it finally realized, all the layered imagination had dissipated. A blank mind with wavering excitement landed at the airport. Recurring sights of green, blue and orange filled my eyes and it traveled to nourish all my senses. From the lap of cushioned luxury, I chose to try the bohemian way. Not that I succeeded in entirety, but an attempt was made against all the rulings of mind.

A stickler for comfort and not the usual icebreaker at gatherings went against the wind and engaged in conversation with an unknown pilot (one who gives bike rides in Goa, similar to travelling by auto or cab). The most random I have ever had with a stranger and without an intended purpose, on a dusky Goan evening after a spell of monsoon showers.

The conversation meandered from the distance to my destination to details of the towns along the way, fishes to be eaten, new malls in the city, iron mining and politics. His opinion of the ruling party was not different from their successful poster boys’ rhetoric of development and progress, despite him being a Muslim. He did not feel threatened as a community was what I understood from the conversation. As the conversation drifted to my whereabouts, he acknowledged Tamil Nadu and Chennai. His voice turned enthusiastic as he spoke about it.

‘Amma aapka leader abhi, right?’ he said.

‘Yes’, I replied.

‘Amma is Shanth Swaroopi’, he said.

‘Matlab’ I intervened.

‘Unke muh par tej dikhta hai, ma ki tarah, shanth se, aur woh bahut acha kaam karti hai – Amma canteen, humko maalum hai’, he finished.

I didn’t know if I should have felt proud, for my state and its chief minister managed to impress someone random I met across a thousand miles or just acknowledge it as part of overt media reach.

‘Haan’, I replied and stayed quiet for rest of the upward travel to Siolim.

Moving Life

On a hued evening sky,

Orange, blue and grey;

Your presence and otherwise,

Marks significantly the calendar of life;

Waxing and nurturing through your bountiful supplies

Waning and depleting when the brim fills,

To signify that cycle of life

Moves from one being to another and does not stay still.

DISPENSABLE NECESSITY

Oh the disposables we add to our everyday lives! Disposable cups, disposable bags, disposable spoons and the so many other disposables that have become integral in our lives are accumulating quietly and hazardously in street corners, empty lands, inside and outside trash cans and our homes.

Even the most pri(c)(z)ed possessions we acquire – smart phones, laptops, televisions and accessories follow in the league of disposables, considering its extremely short lifespan (until a new model arrives).  Owning a TV that is thirty years old and still in working mode could raise a lot of eyebrows and belittle you to antiquity.

So ‘the disposable culture’ is it a product of the market, or our busy and reckless lifestyle?

‘Planned obsolescence’, a concept of industrial design and economics vested in to effective use during The Great Depression, is the ideological basis of electronic gadget manufacturers. A product is inherently manufactured to last only a short spell so the industries keep its labourers in constant work and the consumers in continuous need of new devices, thus keeping the demand – supply chain in balance. The result has been a steady accumulation of non recyclable waste.

Amassing short term usable waste at ones’ fingertips is dictating the lives of human beings. Service centres offer much less options to reuse an existing product. The eventual fall out happens when a model becomes extinct after a couple of years and accessories in the market don’t fit the instrument, one is forced to invest on a new product.

We like change! We keep changing. But have we found methods to clear our new disposable accumulation?

A Familiar Distance

Familiar, yet so distant

It had grown over years
Owing to time and distance,
Of the innumerable crevices
And blemished patches, I had
Looked in awe on its first
Encounter, grew into strange
Inexplicable fear, unnerved by its
Presence, every day by my side.
Time and tide
Changed perspectives,
Cognizance of blotches,
Above the layers behind a
Tale of tragedy, surfaced enough courage
To trace its physical contours
And dissolve in memory
From its exotic status to
An ordinary experience.
Tracing the bearer of
Those exquisite scars after
Years of dissolved memory,
The referral mind deludes to
Pick the exoticism associated
Despite the congenial company enjoyed
In one’s presence; thus
Making the heart a guilty culprit
For the mind’s judgement.