Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Past and Furious

Belgium, for all that's said about it, is a colorful and powerful country. But the view of a traveler is so dramatically influenced by personal experiences, that abstracting out from travelogues is a gross approximation.

And that's especially true if you are a solo female traveler who meets an intellectual criminologist - a witty man who speaks English as a second language, using little-too-appropriate words and wren-and-martin grammer.
She had met him earlier, and now she was in his town as if by chance, but actually because she had planned this visit in her itinerary. He came to pick her up at Eindhoven, a small town in Netherland, and they crossed the border to Belgium by car. (crossing national borders so easily just doesn't come so easy to Indians).
Initially it was awkward, but he being him, went on to spout information, crack jokes etc. Even the silence got comfortable. They reached his house and directly headed for the lawn where they sat under the sun, drinking beer. They talked about travel, grass, music, wacky crimes, teaching, ex-girlfriends, cynicism (not connected to ex-girlfriends), poetry and people skills. They yapped till it was late evening. He took her out for a stroll to show her his part-time job - owning & managing a cozy and chilled cafe in his town. They walked along the wharf and watched the waves. After dinner, they went home where he put on world music and poured some wine. They danced - he did some solos and she laughed with tears in her eyes... watching him perfom his moves, in the candle light. It was a magical evening.

She then moved on in her travels, and he, in his life. It was a dream sequence of life that happened while she was transitioning from one state to another - one mindset to another - one roadblock to another.
It made a lasting impact - to have seen something very beautiful is to set a standard - to measure everything that comes consecutive on that yardstick - to see things not as they are, but in comparison to that most beautiful thing.

And then, after a few years, came the day when there was a new development... from old times.
She found herself amidst a newer setting - not the carefree and breezy one as that of a travel-junkie, but the grounded and pragmatic approach of a 'settled' mind. It made sense to play a game that was socially more acceptable and had more guaranteed returns, than the one which was suspended on hopes of reliving the fresh life of travel and love and everything free and liberating. One in hand seemed clearly better than two in the bushes of expectations and dreams.

This newer setting came home :-)
He chanced upon her belongings and picked up a tattered paper from her travel memoirs... it read "Cafe Zuidpool, Belgium".
He looked at her quizically and raised an eyebrow "Ah, that Belgian guy you kinda liked, na?".
It seemed like such a crass sentence. It was like describing Dhobi Ghat as : "A movie where a rat-killer fell in love with a photographer"... a true but painfully incomplete sentence with irrelevant details.

He dropped the paper and the talk. She picked up the paper and the thought.

Sometimes, a chance glance at the clothes while walking past the shop and wondering how they would look on you, is way better than going into the shop to buy them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blissful Ignorance

What a silly rat! - little did it know that it's quick scurry across the room would churn the juices of the onlookers' stomach, the wrong way.
It was a strange sight - all of us busy in our worlds . There were two men - a young and a slightly older colleague with strange spectacles - discussing their mundane work and the mundaneness of it.
There was an extended family of 6 crowding on a table meant for 4, ordering meal for more than 8.
On the next table was a solo guy, ostensibly hungry and waiting impatiently for his order to arrive.. checking his cellphone every 5th second.

And the rat made it's move. Somehow, everyone saw it in that split second - that black blob move across the tainted marble, out of the kitchen.
There was a longer second of silence after that subtle verdict on the quality of Mysore Sada Dosa and 'fresh' watermelon juice that most people were consuming.
Finally, the kid in the family of 6 suddenly cried, and broke the discomforting silence. All got back to eating.

Information is not always good. It comes in the way of new decisions, it makes you reconsider older decisions that were made with clarity & certainty... it an annoying piece of data that sits idly in your brain and interferes with everything productive.
The worst part is that it's impossible to erase it, and difficult to ignore it. It peeps out at wrong times and stares you in your face, especially when you wish to overlook it.

It is precisely for this reason that reading books, watching movies, holding serious conversations etc are a double-edged sword. While they may serve as intellectual fodder, it is very difficult to undo them, once done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fire vs Water

It is the festival that celibrates the victory of good over evil.

I reach the venue of celebration, to see thousands of kindred souls, enraptured in the music... some trying to match their steps with the groups', others trying to come up with innovative steps... still others with eyes darting and following the moves of co-ordinated choreographies. As they move, there is a cacophony of colors of their attires - vibrant hues of bandhani used in chaniya cholis as well as modern-day adaptations of kurtis, along with the dangling of oxidized jewelry and the what-have-yous of the garba ensemble.

The music is good, the original songs have always been soulful. There is a marked difference in listening to them in the privacy of your room, versus dancing to them openly, boldly in public.

I move in rhythm - swirl, hop, kick, almost pirouette in the tempo for a couple of minutes... until the mix of daze and sweat stop me. Even as I stand and stare, I take vicarious pleasure in the people of other groups.

Some people come to join our dance group. They know someone from the group. I notice that it's a couple and their friend - a strikingly handsome guy.  He was the kinda handsome who, you would wish, would never open his mouth to talk or try to dance or do anything else that is high on your litmus test... you know that it is highly improbable that any of his actions would match up to his handsome-ness. In fact they are more likely to reduce his handsome-ness by reminding you of his fallibility.

Well, he looks around, seemingly unimpressed. He waits and composes himself, drinking water to cool himself, and letting the scene sink in. You can see that he is judging, but not letting the verdict show on his face.

In some time he joins in. He starts dancing. I watch him amidst my swivels, wanting to decide how good a swivel-er he is. But he is moving in his neither-impressive-nor-clumsy unique, confident style. He smiles occasionally.. almost to himself. He doesn't care if he's fitting in... but he knows he is in sync.

The stomach gets butterflies amongst all the blazing music and heat and the growing exhaustion. The basic instincts, of putting forth the best appearance, grip over. There is adjustment of clothes and hair and smiles and steps. The carefree-ness is marred by the unaware intruder. But the excitement is doubled. Along with the growing tempo of the songs, I sense a growing fire in the belly.

And then I see her - an exquisite face with a coquettish charm. She is dressed in bright peacock green, with the right shade of make-up. She is alone.
She is fiddling with her cellphone, and... looking around, unimpressed.

She looks at our group and decides to join. She is a killer dancer... with flawless synch and matching expressions. She is so graceful and riveting that it makes the 'weaker' dancers pause and watch in admiration.
There is an understandable renewed vigor amongst the men. There is greater energy.

The show goes on. The butterflies wax and wane... now there are additional butterflies of (peacock) green wings of envy.
People come and go. I dance and pause and resume and pause.

We are trying to decide on newer steps. I look around. Too much happening - vicarious stuff, colors, synchronizations, butterflies, humidity, and the escalating tempo of the beats. The show is almost coming to an end, as the music suggests.

And then, in a speechless moment, I see them talk. Clearly, they are introductions. Clearly, they are both playing hard-to-get.
Mysteriously, the butterflies escape.

I turn around to my boyfriend. He smiles and asks if I want water. I nod.
Comfortable love.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Importance of Being Cool

You buy tees from Pantaloons and dresses from Ritu Kumars,
You read the paper every morning to not miss out on the lunch hour discussions
You listen to HipHop so that you can mouth the songs while grooving in the club
You don't answer personal calls at work coz you pretend to be busy at work
You wear halter bras to show a little bit
You put up pretty pics on FB and untag yourself from the unprettier ones
You want a knowledge-filled and social boyfriend
You use a Mac
You have your eyebrows in shape and ensure that no underarm curls sprout out
You talk about evolution with the authority of Darwin's first cousin
You talk about Futures and Options without knowing the underlying
You put up psychedelic posters on the walls of your room
You follow FIFA and the stock market and entrepreneurship blog with undetectable fake passion

You tread the path of coolness... you try to ooze as much of it as you can imagine

Can you afford to be uncool, is the question?
More like, do you have the courage to be uncool?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Squeezy

Read the paper during breakfast,
Check the stock prices while going to work,
Listen to music while working,
Browse the net while talking on the phone,

Dream while sleeping,
Calculate calories while working out,
Think of other conversations while conversing,
Rush around fervidly in this beautiful weather... all one has to do is pause, and stop the f*@#ing multitasking

Monday, July 05, 2010

Love's in the air

Falling in love has it's advantages, and catches.
However, re-falling in love has a different set of upsides and downsides.
And re-falling after several re-falls is a totally different ball-game. It is certainly not meant for the faint hearted.

For starters, even if the initial gush of love is strong, stronger is the caution that grips you from the fear of falling off the love-fence.  Romancing the idea of a long-lasting, 'happily ever after' liaison is given up, and its place is taken by pragmatic thoughts of potential issues that could crop up eventually. At odd times, when one is immersed in throes of passion, skepticism peeks out its annoying face to disrupt the bliss. And one of the biggest and unforeseen challenge is to not let the new participant's actions trigger those of the past ones. A joke, a song, the word selected... hell, even a sneeze can transport one to those 'good-old days' with good-ol participants of love. The more 'colorful' a past one has, the more compounded this problem gets.
Then there is the perennial thought-race of who is 'better'. An impossible answer to come up with. And just as impossible to get rid of these comparisons. I guess it's inherent. Humans compare people. That's not the problem. The problem is that this is socially considered to be insensitive. And so along with a seemingly-genuine confusion of 'whos better', there is an added baggage of guilt associated with asking such unkind questions.

So, what's the key to cracking the puzzle? Is it a wiser strategy to give up on love? How much can a human heart endure? What is the healthy option - to risk another damage, or to go ahead in hope?
A good friend had once given an interesting theory - every time one falls in love, one gives a piece of one's heart to the person. And when there is a break-up, the piece is lost. After several such endeavors, one has lost several pieces (big and small) and the size of the heart has considerably shrunk. Eventually not much of the heart is left to give, and since love primarily involves in giving a piece of heart to someone, one cannot fall in love after some critical number of attempts.
Although hilarious, this theory seems to make sense at different levels of abstraction, and is gradually rising the ranks to becoming my personal favorite.

There are other statistical theories that claim that you should just discard the first 30% of people you date, find the next best and stick on. But statistics get my mind muddled up, given their tricky nature...so, that theory is discarded.

All said and 'done', there is some truth to the adage- "the heart is forever inexperienced"
The butterflies in the stomach during the initial dates, the long dates that get over too quickly, the "good-night" calls stretching to a 3-hour late-night mushy talks, the storing of every sms on the cell only to re-read and re-live the moment... it feels good to be in this state.

Also, the re-falls have helped in aligning priorities, and discovering the must-haves in potential partners. Love is respected. It is taken seriously, it is given time and resources. It is not a 'by-the-way' activity, it is THE activity. There is an increased awareness of the emotional investment made.

More than anything else, one feels free and on top-of-the-world... fearless, flawless and filmy :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sarpas Final Day

Vast stretches of snow welcome me. I walk across them - sometimes carefully, other times with carefree abandon.
The sun shines so bright that I feel the burn on my hands. The combination of snow and sun is comforting - if too hot, just lie in the snow, if too cold just stand with arms stretched facing the sun.


The snow passes. The scenery becomes fairy-tale picturesque. It's a scene straight out of childhood dreams. There is a lush green sloping land. There are mountains all around - some snow covered pristine peaks and others green with tall pines. There's a distant sound of the stream that runs into the divide between two slopes. The sky is clear except for a few stray clouds forming curious shapes (which can engage the imaginary mind for hours). There are small flowers growing wildly, out of free-will.

Footprints guide me as I walk along... and the breeze brings with it the stories of people who live and breathe here. I stand still for a moment and shut my eyes. I see healthy horses galloping in the freedom, a wooden hut housing a fulfilled family, and I see a kid lying on the grass with sunlight playing on his face.


I don't want to move. I want to capture this feeling. I want to return to this feeling in the dark hours.

I open my eyes. I see a face. A smile. Confident eyes. And a conversation begins with a fellow-traveler who is equally sunk in the surroundings. We click. We talk and laugh, violating protocols of propriety and appropriateness. We immerse ourselves into each other and the beauty around. General rules of conduct and acceptable principles of communication have no place in a place gushing with natural instincts. We take in the beauty of the wild nature. And walk along.


And then there is rain. We look up. It's hail. Small, but sharp, balls of snow falling around. They stun me. This is even beyond my fecund childhood imagination. There are milk-white balls bouncing off the ground. The lush green gradually gets covered by a white carpet. It drives us crazy. We jump and dance around, two people who have never witnessed such a spectacular performance of nature.