Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poems of longing

“Have you read Ritusamhara?” she asked.

The four of them were driving out of the city. Somewhere in the northwest, a mansion lay waiting for them – an old relic of the past, which belonged to a man who had made it big in pharmaceutical business in a city along the Arabian Sea. Ritusamhara. The memories of a decade-old past occurred like a flash, very much like last-night’s perfume, which had now diffused with sweat beneath his neck.

Ritusamhara. He had held the verses close to his heart while sitting on a round-about, next to a news agency. Towards the right, a cinema-hall had been closed for renovation. On one end, a lone man sold cigarettes. A small eatery offered tea and coffee to love-lorn couples.

Even during the nights made pitch-dark
By clouds thundering long and loud
Impassioned women
Set out to meet their lovers
Their path lit by lightning flashes

The year was 1997. And he was in love.

Love? Love was like a coin coated with opium. To be kept hidden behind the cheek as it released its invisible coating in the bloodstream. The ears would turn red. Kalidasa would lend a private audience. Seasons would come gushing in. The cigarette stuck between two fingers would turn limp with sweat dripping from the palm. The pen would sprint on blank pages. The gashes of ink would decorate his hands. And the whole of his shirt in the front. There would be an orgy of words – forty pages by the time the tea-maker brewed his tea. He would then raise the cup to his lips, pretending that he was drinking hemlock.

Ritusamhara. Ten years have passed. More than ten years. The script is lost. The cinema-hall is a multiplex. There is no news agency. It is an Adidas showroom now. The tea-maker is lost. Café Coffee Days are around now. There are no pages to be filled. The coin has rusted; it tastes sour now – tamarind like.

“No, I haven’t read it,” he replies to her, “what is it?”

Ritusamhara. A nail in my heart. Remain there. Make me bleed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Grenades as metaphors

I have come back from Kashmir, my third trip in the last two months. This time I almost got lynched at Nawhatta, in downtown Srinagar. My colleague, photographer Shome Basu was also caught badly in an incident of stone pelting.

The Kashmiris are too angry.

But in between, we got some time off and, one afternoon, the two of us went to the Ahdoos for lunch. The hotel’s restaurant was empty because, one, it is the month of Ramzan, and two, a strike had been called by the separatists, and nobody was in a mood to enjoy lunch. So, we got the seniormost and, obviously, the most experienced waiter to serve us.

We had rice, Roganjosh and Haakh.

I felt so sleepy afterwards that I was tempted to cancel all my post-lunch appointments. But after a strong Kehwa, I continued my interviews, and also managed to witness a major clash between a bunch of youth and the paramilitary forces.
This was when a young man died – a man who was not even taking part in the protests. He had just stepped out to buy toffees for his nephew when a rubber bullet him, and he died on the spot.

A day later, I met that two-year old nephew of his. He is still under shock and all his chirpiness is gone. He is almost paralysed by the shock.

Back at the hotel, the image of that boy kept on haunting me. Till Muzamil Jaleel arrived, and till midnight regaled us with his anecdotes.
As we invoked Bacchus, 'Z' drooled at Sridevi’s rain dance sequence in a film of 80s. Noticing that, Muzammil made a dig at his alleged virginity at the age of thirty-two.

“It makes no sense to watch someone hurl a grenade; one has to do it himself,” he said.

In Kashmir, only examples of grenades or bullets serve as metaphors.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Life is a half marathon

The well of my stories has not dried up – I have many stories to tell you. Like Anupam Kher says in Santosh Sivan’s forthcoming film, Tahaan, set in Kashmir: Mere liye to zindagi ek dastaan hai.

But it’s just that I am increasingly struggling with right words and a right beginning.

I also have a book to finish and at least two major assignments are to be done from Kashmir. That means I will have to go through bundles of documents on issues like Naxalism and mining in the next two days. In between, I will also have to write mails, make phone calls for appointments, take print outs of flight tickets and money from the accounts department.

Two days later, I will have to be in Kashmir.

I am also seriously pursuing running. When I began a few weeks ago, after throwing a brand new packet of cigarettes out of my car, I could barely run two hundred metres. Afterwards, I would clutch my chest and, sometimes, hold my waist for supporting my back. Now, I can run up to two kilometres. So, between running and walking, I do about eight kilometres every day.

This Sunday, at six in the morning (Yes, I get up at six these days!), along with a mountaineer friend, I went to the Lodhi gardens, and ran the entire jogging track thrice. Later, we had a buffet breakfast at eight at the nearby American Diner inside the Habitat Centre.

I intend to run a half marathon before this year ends.

Some friends have asked for a better pic of my bookshelf. I am finding it a bit embarrassing to do so. But, let me tell you, I have bought eight books in the past one week, which includes an anthology of poetry and A Blue Hand by Deborah Baker.

So far as reading is concerned, I have just finished Hari Kunzru’s The Impressionist and regret not reading it earlier. I am now reading Herzog by Saul Bellow. I like Bellow very much and am desperately looking for one of his novels called Humboldt’s Gift. I have also been searching, in vain, for Heinrich Boll’s Billiards At Half-past Nine.

If you find them anywhere, please buy them for me.