Friday, December 30, 2005

This Characterless String

Bazaar mein,
baune khambe ke upar
Teen baar mudi hui
eik charitraheen rassi

Koi khambe ko chhue
to fanfukaarti hai,
Naagin si bal khaati hui
eik charitraheen rassi

Do premiyon ko dekhkar
thoda hilti hai
maano laaj se ho simti hui
eik charitraheen rassi

Aur saamne madiralay mein
shaam guzaarti hai wo
dekho, jhumkar nikalti hui
eik charitraheen rassi

Hai to wo khaane peene ke thelon ke beech,
pur unse duur uska apna chulha hai
alag khichdi pakati hui
eik charitraheen rassi

A translation by my friend Tanzan Senzaki:

This characterless string
Is clinging to a stumped pole,
Going around it three times,
In the vendors’ street.

Many lovers she has.
But this one,
This pole is special,
For the characterless string.

Should someone touch the pole,
She uncoils fast like a snake
And snaps back sharply at him.
This characterless string.

When she sees two lovers together,
She acts as if drenched in shame.
This characterless string.

She spends her evenings at the pub.
Look there she is,
Walking out all drunk.
This characterless string.

Though in the middle of vendors’ street,
She cooks her hotchpotch in a pot,
Placed in a hearth away from street.
This characterless string.

Of Human Bondage

It was not true that he would never see her again. It was not true simply because it was impossible.
Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

Writing a line or two on every page. Page after page. Then making paper boats out of them. And then turn on the kitchen sink...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Poem in Hindi

A co-traveller on the Intentblog, Tanzan Senzaki has translated my Hindi poem in free English verse: (You can find the original - in Roman - below this translation)

Time does not hang
On trees for me,
It passes like a rope passes
Through a bull’s nose

Even if I am still
It still moves on
Marching past my pulse

Carrying my subconscious
In a sack on its back,
To savor the sweetness of future
It still passes on

Once I ran fast after it,
Asking it to stop and stay
Under the tree of my memories
Blinking its eyes it marched ahead,
Saying if it did stop,
My pen too would stop,
And only when it moved
‘Now’ became ‘yesterday’
Making my memories thunder in the skies
And passing them on into my pen

Time moved on
I turned back

Reaching far back,
I heard the skies thunder
And my pen moved on

Translated from my Hindi Poem:

Mujhe Samay, Paed pur latka hua nahi milta
Wo guzarta hai -
guzarta hai, jaise bael ke nathunon se nakael

Uske saamne mein thithak bhi javun, pur wo
meri nabz pur kadam taal karte hue
aage nikal padta hai

Apni peeth pur mere antarmann ka pitthu baandhe
wo bavishya ka gud khaane daud padta hai

Maine use raukne ke liye eik baar daud lagayi
aur poocha - ki wo aaram kare
meri smritiyon ke vraksh ke neeche

Wo palke jhapkaata hua mujhe dekhta gaya
lekin ruka nahi
aur phir wo muskuraya
bola -
mein agar ruk gaya to tumhari kalam ruk jaayegi
kyunki mein jab chalta hun
to hi 'ab' kal banta hai
jiske aasman mein smritiyan
bijli bankar kaundh ti hein
aur tumahri kalam ki syaahi mai tabdeel ho jaati hai

Wo chalta gaya
aur mein bhi mudkar chalne laga

duur nikal aaya
aur phir bijli kaundh ne lagi
aur meri kalam chalne...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Retinas on Nanda Devi

After six years, he came back. For a day. To visit an old, empty cottage. To taste the strawberry lip gloss. Images of a plane hijack. Tunes of Latino. Smell of ear wax. And Nanda Devi. And a promise. Of coming back. Permanently. And then...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Jammu Roughcut

He searched for her... in mental spaces... on the Palace road. He could not find his past; Raju tea stall was closed... and Amit's dream was hit by precision-guided-missile of destiny. And then those 4o-page letters... Read More

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Half Tomato, Boiled Sparrow Eggs

I wrote this story, in two parts, for Intentblog:

Half Tomato and Boiled Sparrow Eggs

Half Tomato and Boiled Sparrow Eggs: Part 2

This story extends from Kashmir to Gujarat. It is the tale of a man haunted by tomatoes; of a sparrow, its master and a naked fakir called Sarmad. It also has Ehsan Jafri. And it also has she, who hates tomatoes and eventually...

The Quest for a House

The front wall painted red. Pebbles of various shapes and sizes put in a ceramic basket. A sofa set in one corner. Not the Godzillas put on sale in imported furniture showrooms, but medium sized with striped upholstery. An orange rug beneath a mahogany table. A laughing Buddha on the side table. A bunch of Narcissus in a transparent vase. ‘Potato Eaters’ on the wall. Floor cushions scattered here and there. Coffee table books on the shelf. Black and white photographs, framed, placed under the hanging light. Two goldfishes in a glass bowl; ones which would live till he did. A Thai mask, smiling at him, from above his bottles. And then he pours himself one, swirls it in his mouth for a while and gulps it down without making noise. Abida Parveen’s voice wafts through the house. The house which is his home.

A study in the remotest corner of the house. Books on shelves, with a delicate layer of dust on them. But not on ‘Lust for Life’. How could it be? He reads it daily, taking inferences from it to conduct his own life. There is a Van Gogh’s Self Portrait on the wall. A table lamp – 70’s model. A rock picked up from the Dead Sea. Fountain pens and sharpened pencils in a holder. Few read and unread mails. A paper cutter. Some white, neat paper. A few lines scribbled on the topmost paper. A mattress thrown in one corner. Cushions of various hues. Thick curtains to darken the room or let in streams of sunshine once lifted. A DVD player to watch ‘Pyaasa’.

And then the bathroom. Dry, first of all. With water coming in taps, whenever needed. A shower. Clean hand towels on the shelf along with a bamboo shoot. One single stick of Gladiola in a sleek bottle. A quote or a thought on a stick pad, pasted on the wall. A mirror with electric blue frame.

And finally a terrace. Flowers in pots. A reclining chair in one corner. Terracotta pots and figures in one corner. A rug to sit on the floor. Petals floating in water in a rectangular earthen basin. A water lily, may be. Overlooking a park or a monument.

Honkkkkkkk… he woke up startled. Dam’n these cabs which come to pick up call-centre executives. Naipaul’s ‘A house for Mr Biswas’ fell from his chest. He was reading Page 329, where Mr Biswas writes a report for his newspaper Sentinel. One of the lines in his report read: “It was midnight and I was alone”. He looked around. A dog was barking incessantly in the street. Tunes of Jagraata, based on popular Hindi songs also reached his ears. In the night, trucks came along with drillers for illegal boring of water. There was everything illegal in the colony he lived.

For years, they had lived in rented rooms, he and his family. One room – where they lived, cooked, ate, slept, studied, received guests. Then a room and a kitchen, but the bathroom had no door. So once inside, you turned into a singer. He still sang pretty well. May be he needed more practise. But by that time the landlord had turned hostile. So the singing stopped. Then they shifted to another room. And then another. And then another.

Once he shifted to Delhi and his parents came to stay with him, he wanted to put an end to all this. In his own little way. Four years ago, he finally managed to buy a 2- bedroom flat in the illegal colony. “The colony will be regularised in no time by the Government and then you will see the rates sky-rocketing,” the builder had told him.

His father followed the Hindustan Times everyday. “Oh, that colony has been regularised. Our colony will also be, in no time”. Yes, the colony was regularised, but nothing changed really. The water remained scarce. Power cuts were a reality that downed upon them, a dozen times a day. There was no place to park the car. There was no pucca road. After every rain, the road became a swamp. There was noise everywhere. Of children wailing on the road. Of cabs coming to pick up call-centre executives. Of loud music being played on local-made speakers. Of dogs barking in the night. Of drunkards creating a brawl in the back street. Things turned from bad to worse in four years.

Then his father banked his hopes upon house loans. Every week, he would study Property Times, as if he was preparing for an entrance exam. “We will sell this house and take a bank loan. We will shift to Gurgaon from Delhi,” this became his new mantra. But his horoscope dashed his father’s hope. Every astrologer who studied his horoscope would prophesise that he would turn into an ascetic one day and run away. That is why his father always grew wary when he chucked his jobs like diapers. He feared that now, now he will run away. Whenever he chucked his job, he would not wake up in the morning at his usual time. For two days, his father would watch patiently and pray that what he thought was not true. But when the same thing got repeated on the third day, his father would understand. Then he would talk to himself for some time which sounded like, “God knows what he keeps on doing! I don’t know what he is up to! Bad luck, nothing else. Unlucky stars.” And then he would throw away the Property Times and immerse himself in the almanac. Study his son’s planetary position. But nothing would help. One day he would run away. One day.

He was not meant for these regular jobs. He wanted to write. He had all his hopes on Yimberzal. The novel which he claimed to work on. Yimberzal would bail him out or so he thought. And then there would be a red wall. Pebbles. Paper cutter. Mask. Narcissus. Water lily. And a dry bathroom.

He put the book back in the shelf and began to write: It was midnight and I was alone…

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kabir, Katrina and Ketchup Dreams

I don’t know who I am. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror, I find myself staring at a stranger. I think I am great. Sorry for being immodest, but that is what I think. I also think I am an escapist. I run away from the realities of life, as far as I can. And sometimes I lurk close to see what is happening but far enough to shrink further into the depths of my own being. I am also impractical. If I was not, why would I leave a job which fetched me three-quarters of a lakh every month, probably the highest earned by anyone else in my entire clan? I am also a dreamer and they sometimes (read most of the times) ruin me. Dreaming is my biggest vice. Let me explain how.

When I was very young, my mother took me to a marriage luncheon. I would have been three years old or little younger than that. But this bitch, my memory that is, keeps on reminding me of my follies. So yes, people were having their lunch and I saw a baby crying. Now my mind, as it always does, started working overtime. I thought (read imagined) that the baby was separated from her parents. Back home, for weeks, I dreamt of creating a space (I had no idea what space meant, but whenever I thought of it, it felt like something secure) where I could keep that baby. This dream ruined my days and robbed me of my childish play. I grew much before it was expected of me. It is another thing that when I was fourteen, I was still creating bubbles out of soap water. I hate to tell you that that act was also a manifestation of my dreams.

Don’t tell this to anyone, but sometimes I dream that I am Kabir. Now this dream gives me twin pleasure. One is regarding words. Kabir wrote such beautiful verses that no matter how great I am (refer to my earlier statement), I cannot write with such intensity. And second, I dream that Osama Bin Laden and Praveen Bhai Togadia are fighting over my dead body. And they kill each other. And then I rise again and see my disciple waiting with pen and paper. I start writing again. Chaah gayi chintaa mitti, manwa beparwah, jinko kachhu na chahiye, wahi shaahanshah (Desire killed, worries gone; he who desires nothing is an emperor)

But I have lots of desires. Like making my greatness known to all and sundry. I dream of being paid the highest advance ever paid to an Indian author for his book and then being interviewed by the news channel which I left. And then Tarun Tejpal, when he meets me during a book launch will not have to remark, “Oh, have I met you before, you smart young man?” (Don’t miss the adjective ‘smart’). Is it called adjective? I think yes.

Cut the crap man! You know Katrina? Katrina – super model. She proposed to me. And you know what (with due apologies to Tata Indica), I said yes. But I told her that I don’t like Salman Khan. Ok, if it is of any consolation to him, I don’t like Aishwarya Rai either.

Let me kill my desires. If not anything else, I will become an emperor.

Dream on, Rahul!