//

// I have come to realise that human touch is important. Being isolated for a long time messes up the psyche quite significantly. More than anything, you feel extremely bored and mundane. For the first few days, it feels quite peaceful to retract away from the general, everyday maddening crowd. But then, this retraction becomes sort of a permanent phase and that’s when you realise that this is not what you asked for. For me, periodical isolation is fine but a prolong state of that starts eating me up as you crave for some human company. Sure, I can immerse myself into all forms of technology and back-lit screens to fill the time up or work on writing a piece or get busy with some internship work but no matter how much you try to divert away from the fact that you actually want to hang out with your friends or just anyone for that matter and no one is actually available, all of your diversion methods become futile. Even the PC games that you love playing so much become unappealing. //

// My teacher told me to write about sounds that you hear in summer. The sound that I can mostly hear when it’s summer is the whirring of the fan above my head although I can hear it throughout the year. But I guess the sound matters more when it is summer. I also hear the sound of ACs when I walk in alleys or beside buildings from where the AC exhaust boxes jut out. The loud whirring sound is accompanied by occasional pouring of water from it. I used to hear the sound of the blowhorn of the Ice Cream vendor who came on a small three wheeler with a box attached to the rear side in the afternoons when I was back home in Tezpur, and how the kid in front of our house always threw tantrums whenever he came. I also remember how the Ice Cream vendor used to deliberately slow down in front of our house as a result. I remember how people sighed and moaned whenever there was a sudden power cut and the entire area was momentarily filled with darkness until some of the backup generators came on. But the world used to be so calm during that flash of a moment of total darkness. //

Family anecdotes (Pt. II)

She died when I was in 3rd standard so I didn’t get to spend much time with her properly. The only vague memories which I have about her are from two incidents. The first one is one from my cousin sister’s marriage and the second one is from her funeral. She was always sick. She had been sick since my mother was born, who was the sixth child in the family. My mother told me that she became ‘mad’ after her birth and that she was almost totally bed ridden all the time. She used to do the chores and scream and talk to herself. Things got even worse after my grandfather died when my mom was just 16 years old. It was an unexpected death; an accidental death caused due to an injection containing the wrong medication. He was the breadwinner of the house and his death nearly made the family homeless. They had to vacant the quarters they were living in. Hopefully, there were a few of my relatives who helped and supported them in getting a house for my mother and her siblings to live.

I remember my maternal grandmother as a short, frail lady with an expressionless face. She was somehow frowning all the time; about what I never knew. I do not remember her being amused by anything in the period of time I got to spend with her. She was toothless and she had a hunched back. Her eyes were devoid of any light and I don’t remember how she sounded like. I don’t remember her ever speaking to me. There is a group photo which we have from my cousin’s marriage where she is seen sitting on a chair, eyebrows furrowed and without any expression at all, while I am standing with my cousin and two other people but right now, I do not remember who they are. I was wearing a red t-shirt with cream coloured shorts and I am shielding the sunlight from my eyes. The photo was taken one afternoon in the month of June and if you look at the photo, you can see all of our faces gleaming with the sweat. Apart from this photo, I don’t remember anything about her from the wedding.

I remember the day my grandmother died. It was another sweltering day and I had no idea why me and my mom were travelling on a bus to Biswanath Chariali. This is my mother’s native place which was around 400 kilometres from Duliajan, where we lived back then. It was a tiring 8 hour journey on a yellow coloured bus and I remember feeling nauseated by the end of it. I do not remember if I puked but I do remember that I stepped on cow dung and decorated the entire bus floor with it. My mother and the conductor were annoyed and the latter was ranting about the mess I had made and the poor guy had to wash the entire floor when we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch.

I had no idea whatsoever that we were going for my grandmother’s funeral, that she was already dead and that my relatives were waiting for my mother to arrive so that she could have a last look at her. That was perhaps the first day when I saw my mother cry. And she was crying hysterically while I was too petrified to react. It was my first time seeing a dead body and seeing people grieving. I was unsure as to how I was expected to react over this. All my relatives appeared crestfallen and my maternal uncle was holding my mother while weeping silently. I went and stood near the gate and cried a little but I didn’t know why I did that. I didn’t even properly know the lady who died. Perhaps it was because my mother cried. My mother stopped crying after the body was taken away to be cremated while I asked one of my relatives for some water to drink. I don’t remember much as to what happened afterwards.

This doesn’t happen often

Yesterday evening brought a strange feeling within me. I had just woken up from my afternoon slumber to remember that we didn’t have any food for the next day. That meant going out again and buying more junk to have a bowl of breakfast. The room was dark because it was almost 6.30PM and my roommate hadn’t bothered to switch the light on. The fan was whirring on top of us but that didn’t make much of a difference because I felt the stickiness on my body as I tossed and turned. The room was warm and the windows were shut. The door was ajar. I tried to get hold of my phone to check if I had any notifications. I had been waiting for an email to arrive but for the time being all I got was some SMS from BOX8, asking me to use my coupon.

I exhaled and the reminder to buy breakfast came back to prick. Typical breakfast for me when there is no college mainly comprises of one thing – instant noodles. It is absolute junk and highly unhealthy but it is cheap and it is food. The logic makes no sense whatsoever but it is breakfast, although it fails to qualify as one. I craned my neck to look over at my roommate. His face was illuminated by the light pinkish screen light from the laptop. He was living elsewhere, as usual. I turned back and stared at the ceiling. For the first time in quite some time I wanted to go home. Just throw everything and go home. I was tired of going through the whole cycle of buying Wai Wai everyday and filling myself with junk, whether it was in the canteen or the spiced up Biriyani. It all seemed unnecessary for me to go through all of this. For a split second I wondered if I should book a ticket and head home in May. Screw the internship and everything else; sometimes home food is all that matters. This was happening after a long time as I do not feel homesick every now and then. Perhaps, it was because life wasn’t hectic for a few days now. The mind wasn’t preoccupied with things to do and so it was occupying itself with things like this, which you thought about only when you’re staring at the ceiling without the lights.

As I felt my stomach grumbling, the thoughts shifted away and realization dawned upon me. I had to get food and that meant I had to go out and feed myself some junk, obviously. I decided to think practically, like we are always taught, and dismiss everything by repeating to myself that this is all part of the struggle. That, skipping a visit to home for a month will be fruitful in the long run, and that sometimes you have to just eat Wai Wai for days on end because we all compromise on things and prioritise accordingly. I decided to not think about it again and felt that getting some fresh air would help. I got up, dressed and went out to get some breakfast for the next day.

Mother called after an hour but everything was soon forgotten by then.

Family anecdotes (Pt. I)

I feel that I should write about my paternal grandmother. She is around 72 years old. Both me and my sister aren’t emotionally attached to her in any way. She is not like the grandmother that you hear stories about from your classmates. I somehow refuse to believe that she was emotionally connected to her children, to say the least. She is one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered within my family, a person who is undecipherable. Whenever we used to go to Jorhat, where our grandparents used to live, we rarely used to spend time with her. My grandfather was a jolly and cheerful person while she was always a hazy being who managed her time between the kitchen, doing chores and looking after the cows with whom she used to talk a lot. Human interaction was somewhat a rarity for her. Somehow, I feel that the cows understood her as well. She used to milk them and take care of their food. We never heard any stories from her nor any lullabies. She was a lady who always had a serious look on her face as she passed her days, rarely smiled or looked amused by anything. She was always old, as long as I can remember. She rarely went out of her house to go anywhere until and unless it was absolutely necessary.  She is a woman who never mingled with anyone in particular. I once asked my mother if she ever had any friends in her life and to my utter surprise she said yes. She told me of the time when she had a friend who was the polar opposite to her, who used to talk a lot with everyone while my grandmother used to stay quiet most of the time. It is a mystery to me as to how they got along with each other but I guess the friendship didn’t last long because we don’t know that friend’s whereabouts and nor has my grandma mentioned anything about her. This wasn’t surprising to me. My mom got to know this story from my father apparently.

My grandmother was superstitious and believed in magic and voodoo that other people could apparently do to harm someone. I am not sure how she feels about it now. My mother told me about this one time when someone got a dress for my sister when she was very young. At that time, my parents used to live in Jorhat. This relative got a red dress for my sister. After the relative left, my grandmother took the dress from my mom, poured some kerosene and turned it into ashes saying that it had black magic in it. No further explanation was given. I remember my mother saying to me that it was a very beautiful dress, something which caught her eye on the first sight. Many such instances have happened. She has ended up blaming the maid countless times for indigestion that occurs after eating something too spicy. All this sounds too bizarre for us but we cannot do much about it. She belongs from a different era and we can only nod in disdain.

Her life revolved in a monotonous cycle which she followed ever day. She never read anything, never sang, never went out, never showed excitement  over anything, and never showed happiness or any kind of expression of love towards anyone. She is cold and somewhat devoid of emotions. I do not know if she has the characteristics of an introvert. Maybe she has. But it became more profound after my grandfather died. She somehow made up her mind that she won’t do anything for the rest of her life except the basic human processes. She gave up cooking, interaction with people unless it is absolutely necessary and important or if someone is willing to interact with her. She left her home where she lived for around 60 years, left her cows without thinking twice, forever.

An impetus for change

Yesterday, I witnessed a very interesting public event. I haven’t been to many political events or gatherings in my life; I have rarely attended political talks by ministers, student leaders and activists. But yesterday was different. My friend B told me a few days back that he would be coming to Bengaluru but he was unsure as to where the event would be held. We knew that he was coming yesterday though. Three people in class were quite excited about it. The rest of them had no idea that he was coming.

I forgot that the event was happening yesterday. Classes ended and I was walking towards the auditorium while reading Animal Farm. I was down to the last 20 pages and was impatient to finish it off for good. The day had already been filled with frenzy and I just wanted to sit somewhere and read until my friend’s classes ended. The phone buzzed and I heard my name being called at the same time. I turned around and saw B speed walking towards me, his phone on his ears. I checked the phone and saw him calling me. “Kanhaiya is giving a speech at Ulsoor. You wanna come?” “Really? Where?”  I asked back. “St. Aloysius College” he said. S was walking a few steps ahead of us and I thought I should ask her if she would want to tag along. She might be interested, I thought. “Wait, I will ask S and come back” I said to him and jogged towards S. S declined the invitation as she had to meet someone at 5, she said with a shy grin. The talk had already started at 3 and now it was close to 3.40PM. Without wasting another moment, we hopped on an auto, gave directions with the help of Google Maps and were on our way to see Kanhaiya Kumar.

Both of us were sure that this chance shouldn’t be missed. I was quite dejected when he didn’t show up for Bangalore Literature Fest last year, for which me and my friends waited the whole day till 5PM, hoping that he would show up. But he didn’t. Also, B told me that this event would be a good chance to get close to him and invite him for META 2017. I, for one, was quote charmed by Kanhaiya’s charisma and his oratory skills. It took me some time to understand what he was actually trying to do with the current political scenario in this country, what his point was and how he was trying to put sense into our minds; especially the youth. And, it was fascinating. Both of us were quite pumped up and B told me that AM asked him why he didn’t go for the event. It was almost evening and the streets were full of traffic. After encountering multiple red lights, we reached Ulsoor. I had never seen the Ulsoor Lake up close and it seemed like any other lake. The waters seemed clean and devoid of garbage. I didn’t pay much attention though. We stopped near the back gate of the college, adjacent to the playground. I saw a police bus and a few cops roaming nearby. They told us to go to the front gate, the one we had crossed seconds ago. We started jogging towards the gate which was a few yards away. We encountered more cops and they told us to go to the ‘front-front gate’. We decided to run this time because it was really getting late. Me and B laughed while we ran, our excitement running wild. We reached the front-front gate and I saw more cops and NCC cadets. We should our IDs and asked for directions. “3rd floor. Hurry up, it’s ending soon!” the guy at the gate said. We ran three flights of stairs and my legs were numb from running all that distance. I hadn’t run for around six months and my lungs were answering. We entered the auditorium huffing and puffing and there he was, standing on the podium, giving his speech. The place was filled with people, all of them seated on benches, a few cameras hovering around here and there. The first thing I heard him saying was how communism has been maligned by people in this country. “They think the communists are a nasty bunch. That they indulge in all kinds of bad activities, have group sex, and propagate antisocial views. This is a grave misunderstanding and it needs to change.” Me and B shared a quick smile at each other as people clapped and cheered along. I started looking around for familiar faces but I couldn’t find any. Spotting an empty bench instead, I went forward and sat down. I could feel my heart pounding from all that reckless running. My mother’s advices related to physical exercise started ringing on my mind. I realized that I should run more every now and then. I stared hard at the floor.

Kanhaiya went on talking about how the youth play a crucial role in changing the political structure of a country. How the youth has to take action instead of just being vote banks for the country. He talked about the skewed ideology of the RSS and how it has been metamorphosising this country based on nationalistic ideals.  “Nau jawan ko sarak pe utarna parega (The youth has to come out to the streets)” More cheering and applause followed. Someone from the audience raised a question, “Will Kanhaiya Kumar be the next Prime Minister?” More cheering and applause. “I don’t know that, I have no idea” was his reply with a smile. He was speaking in Hindi as well as in English. I had never seen him speak in English before on TV. He spoke slowly and composed himself well, that made you want to listen to him because it felt like he was directly speaking with you. The session was coming to an end when a guy much like me stood up and asked Kanhaiya to chant his ‘infamous’ anthem of Azadi. A sudden uproar emerged, a few people stood up, Kanhaiya slowly moved towards the mic. “Aap sabko bhi bhaag lena parega isme ab toh (Everyone has to take part in this with me)” More people stood up, including me. The guy sitting next to me continued to stare at his phone. I tried to lean and check out what he was doing but I was unable to figure it out. There was a lot of murmuring in the room by now. The chants of “Azadi!” boomed across the room as Kanhaiya went on, fist pumping high. All dynamic. All energetic.

It was motivating. I won’t deny that. The event ended and his personal group of bodyguards from AISF barricaded him as he came down from the dais and smiled and clicked photos with the crowd that was by now throwing themselves over him. Some shook hands and talked for a few seconds. The red t-shirt clad AISF men cleared the way as the pushed through. My friend B managed to get in and told him about our purpose and took a few selfies. I refrained from taking selfies as it’s not my thing, although I took a few pictures while he was speaking. People were waiting outside with motives of their own. I saw a few reporters as well. Kanhaiya was ushered inside a room with the college officials and a few special people who sat down and drank tea and took even more pictures and gifted him an executive diary with a calendar from the college. We meanwhile patiently waited outside. A guy poked me from behind and asked, “Which one of them is Kanhaiya?” “Uh, the one drinking tea. See! He just stood up” I said. “Oh! That’s him? Okay, thanks” He went off without saying anything more.

I counted two more police buses after we came out, along with three police jeeps. There were approximately one hundred policemen outside for his security. As he whizzed away in a grey Swift Dzire followed by his platoon of bodyguards, it didn’t take me long to realize how important this guy, who faced jail time for reasons everyone knows about, is and the impact he has managed to create among the masses. He is an impetus for change.

A universally acknowledged truth

It’s a truth, universally acknowledged that rains make us feel melancholic and oh so gloomy. There is something about the rains which take us back down the memory lane, maybe think about the times that passed by or the ones we loved and perhaps lost. It makes you pick up that pen and brush the dust off that cheap leather diary you got from your father four months ago. It makes you want to write poetry, to pour yourself out in the form of words so that you cease to drown under the ramblings that recuperate inside your mind. It makes you want to share all those feelings with someone, anyone, a piece of paper or with your laptop. I get the feeling to write about things when it rains, the memories of old become somehow fresh like the vibrant green and brown of the soil and the foliage. Inhaling the petrichor gives you a feeling of reliving those moments again. Looking up at the slow pace of those dark clouds remind you how all of it was temporary, and wasn’t actually meant to last forever. Why do I feel like this? I do not know but I am sure that I am not the only one.

It is another truth that rains bring along with them the feeling of lethargy. What wouldn’t I give to just lie under those sheets all day, with a mug of coffee and perhaps some good music or a book and think about life in general, until your mother’s voice reverberates through the entire house, reminding you that it is almost lunchtime and that your father is vehemently pissed off at you. Somehow, you begin to question about life right from the bed itself, why should I get up at all? Until your mother gives you another warning. My parents have always been early risers and thus they expect their children to do the same and both of us (me and my sister) have left no stone unturned to make them feel disappointed regarding this.

Sometimes I think about why the rains make us feel gloomy and lethargic, why this particular weather? Is it because of the tendency in us to have a negative affinity to things that are grey i.e. the clouds and the atmosphere or is it because everything seems unreasonably calm on a rainy day which is somehow in contrast to the chaos we are so used to? Is it because we long for that chaos so much that its absence becomes difficult to accept? A lot of questions but very few answers.

Rainy days are also about samosas and pakoras! Evening tea with pakoras that my father gets from that shop bearing my mother’s name at Tribeni Circle is something that makes that evening special. On other days, my mom detests the samosas and it’s me who usually ends up eating her part. I can safely conclude that rainy days create a certain affinity between my mother and the samosa on the plate. And because of that, on rainy days, father smiles a little more.

Rainy days are also about muddy roads, spoiled sneakers, wet clothes, splashes from potholes as a vehicle passes by, tea from a roadside shop mixed with rainwater, clothes on the clothesline hanging for days, misty windows, cool breezes, that cat who is nowhere to be seen, empty park benches and colourful raincoats. Rainy days are a mixed bag, sometimes a joy for many and sometimes a hopeless despair.

I, for one, always waited in vain to see a rainbow.

 

 

 

 

 

The day everyone forgets traffic rules

The fireworks started off well before it was the 1st of January. My cellphone flashed 11:56PM but I could already hear people screaming and the streets embroiling up with energy. Almost two minutes later I saw fireworks all around myself followed by an increase in honking on the streets below me. I peered down and saw this dramatic change but couldn’t give my complete attention because it was time for us to release the sky lanterns. I was in a small café in Kormangala and we were lighting up lanterns to mark the onset of the new year. My lantern was pink in colour on which we were asked to write a message or a wish. I couldn’t come up with a wish and instead settled for a quote by Dream Theater instead. My lantern struggled for a brief period of time before deciding to ascend into the Prussian blue sky. The four of us released our lanterns and we gazed until they disappeared into the night sky, travelling to places unknown. I remember telling my friend M, “Do you think anyone would find them and read our messages?” I hope someone did.

M’s father had decided to pick us up from Kormangala. We left the café and walked towards where the car was parked. After talking to her father, M said that the car was parked almost 1.5 kilometers away because the traffic was already bad and there was no way one could reach Sony Signal. By now, the city had a different life altogether. I saw scores of people walking down the road, most of them swaying like pendulums. A few scooty and bike riders passed us while wishing us a happy new year on the top of their lungs. There was hooting and whistling in all the directions followed by peppy, EDM music from the pubs and hotels nearby. M asked a bystander for directions because we didn’t know where Udupi Upahar was. M’s father was tensed as we were taking time to reach and he was already witnessing the chaos ensuing on the streets. We decided to book a cab after figuring out that walking won’t be feasible. The fireworks and the hooting continued. People riding bikes at unusual speeds continued to pass by, a lot of those pillion riders waved and continued to scream. I saw red and blue lights flashing on the distance.

The cab arrived and we got on board. M’s father had already called her around 5 times by now. The area near Forum Mall was jam packed. What made things worse were the people who were crossing the roads, the bikes which were maneuvering into every small gap possible, the hands flashed by almost every auto driver indicating that he would like to go first and the constant honking that blared from everywhere. Somehow, it seemed as if everyone forgot what traffic rules were. As we crawled through the crowd, our cab driver cautious enough to not make any mistakes, I saw the city coming to life in a way that I had never seen before. The streets were filled with people, people sitting on the pavements, people holding hands and waiting to cross the road, people who didn’t give a damn and crossed the road as cars braked rashly in front of them, people who were puking on the pavements, people inside cars bobbing their heads to loud music, people who looked tired and drunk and were trying their best to have a good time nevertheless. M’s dad called again and I was pretty sure that he was quite tensed because M’s vocal tone was increasing with each consecutive call. I was able to figure out that she was telling her dad to calm down and that we were on our way. By now, there were traffic policemen on the road and I saw a few more blue and red flashing lights.

We took a left from Sony Signal towards our destination and yet again the road was full of traffic. I saw a jeep in front of us with a few guys in it bobbing their heads to Cheap Thrills. It was evident that all of them were intoxicated as their faces and their driving displayed. One of them was fisting his hand on the air while whistling. Perhaps they were having a good time; perhaps this was their definition of fun and this was how they chose to express it. I looked at the phone of our cab driver and it showed that we were 900m away from our destination. M was still confused as to where her dad actually was. She was talking to him until a few seconds ago. I heard a crashing sound; the sound produced when a car hits another car and I saw that a white Swift Dzire had collided with a red Swift. The right sided back door which was facing the incoming traffic was dented. There was a sudden uproar from the people nearby. I was getting tensed when I heard M saying “Is that my dad’s car? Can you read the plate?” Her voice was a bit shaky. I read the plate aloud and she told me that maybe it was their car. We were still moving in a tortoise pace and I was able to see that nobody was there on the driver’s seat. I told M the same as she dialed her dad’s number. The white Swift Dzire meanwhile managed to get away although we got the license plate. Her dad confirmed that it was their car. People were hovering near the vehicle but nobody tried to stop the fleeing car. We decided to leave the cab and crossed the road. Another duo on a bike crossed our faces wishing us a happy new year while I was panicking because I so didn’t want the night to end up in a negative case. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too much and a few bystanders informed us the car’s license plate number. Nobody talked for the first ten minutes on our way to Basavangudi until M said to her father that it was okay and that we have the registration number of the car, putting a hand on his shoulders. I felt dismal; somehow I felt that we were to blame for all that happened. On our way back, I saw the same unorganised traffic, the same drunk citizens crossing roads, the same honking and hooting and whistling.

I thought about the jeep and the white Swift Dzire. Maybe, it was drunk driving. Maybe, it’s not a way to have fun after all.