Dreams and demons

It is not just the physical mass a Mumbai local carries, but also, and more importantly, the emotions. Take a look around in a local compartment, you will see every person engrossed in their emotions, be it despair, disappointment or dreams. You can see it in their eyes, hint of the story rolling behind. One such story is of Priya.

Wearing a red jersey, red shorts, white shoes and hair neatly tied in a ponytail, Priya sat gorging on the pulao made by her mom and chatting with her as if they hadn’t talked for ages.

Priya: “Then I will be as famous as Sania Mirza”

Mom: “Of course beta, for representing India like her, you need to clear district, state and national level matches”

Priya nodded and said, “After that I will be a superstar!”

Mom gave another smile and continued. It struck me, I haven’t dreamed so innocently and fearlessly since forever. Priya and I could have been nine years apart. For me dreams are no longer just those pure thread of thoughts. They are much more refined and at the mercy of three demons. Demons of practicality, logistics and capability.

A dream is crushed if these demons are not satisfied. Many a times the three demons choke a delicate dream even before it has a chance to bud. Priya, unaware of these demons, boldly declared her dream leaving the demons to be tackled later. This made demons inside me uncomfortable as it made them realize that they really are not superior to a dream. That they had to mould themselves for the dream.

Priya loved playing handball. Her team had lost that day and was out of the tournament. But this fact didn’t allow the demons to slay her dreams. She let her dream fly, like a free butterfly. And the butterfly although innocuously fluttering its wings, was bolting at the speed of a train.

Home is where the heart is

‘And this room is where my children grew up. It also has a backdoor from where I used to go and check on them.’ ‘This house was built by the pleasures of my fathers pension. He is no more.’ ‘I am going to open a boutique on the ground floor, we can chat when you are home.’ ‘In this same home, in fifteen years my kids grew up and got married. Two daughters and two sons’ – Proceeds to show their photographs. ‘Will you have juice?’, ‘Yes if it is not much trouble’ – opens rasna packet and makes a drink. ‘You think Bangalore seems dull after Mumbai? I was in Mumbai for 16 years, in Bombay Scottish school. After marriage moved to Kanjivaram!’ ‘My son is a doctor at Hebbal, we are shifting there so that we can stay together. He has to go and attend emergencies there.’ ‘We are giving this house on rent because we have to pay a loan.’ ‘Tell me some good deals on Flipkart right now.’ ‘I am leaving the sofas and cupboard behind because I like you.’ ‘I have to attend my nieces wedding on Monday. She is very close to me. I was the first to get her weddings invitation.’ ‘Let me note down your number’- opens diary, locates A on the right edge, writes down.

 

JANUARY 20, 2015

Grace

 

Why I noticed her. I don’t know. Glancing through the usual crowd, my eyes made a reverse at her. Why? She had something about her. Grace I think. Grace is so easy to notice yet so difficult to understand. It lies behind your lashes, behind the rhythm of your hand, behind your spine. It hides there, never to come out in the limelight. As subtle as it could mean. But oh so visible. She had grace. Grace of a dancer. She was bargaining with a lady over ten rupees, doing the calculations in her head, doubtful, gaining confidence only when another passenger nodded. Her eyes, her hands, her chin had that rhythm. Hope etched in her innocent eyes. Which she wouldn’t talk about. But it spilled, through her. Seeped in her every action and every gesture. Beauty doesn’t escape a mind, it shows itself, hope shows itself and grace, grace is so hard not to catch an eye.

 

DECEMBER 17, 2015

The first step

I dug my past
Found no gold
Peered in my soul
It was ice cold

The answer doesnt concern
My present
Tis about future
Past weighing on it

So why should I answer?
To appease the clamour
Pretence of a plan
Of a clear path

All I have is a drive, a gut
A desire to learn what I love
Abstract enough to fall face down
Concrete enough to need no reason

Luna

Silent spectator of the night
What hopes you maketh and crush
What belongingness you stir
In the washed away eyes
Looking at you in their gloomy lives,
Where the night is all they got
All they got to escape
Into their dreams
Far away from the suns harsh beams,
You see the toiling hand
You see the burning sand
And hope dwells in thy breast
Churning up the unrest
in the souls dormant ocean

 

FEBRUARY 5, 2015

Gossamer

The thin ice
between doubt and certainty
between the gossamer web
and the lack of it,
presence of clarity
and the diaphanous lie.

And oh the ice never melts!
It thickens as you wish
And wanes as you think
Nothing keeps it alive
Nor anything strangles it to die
Other than your meticulous lies.
FEBRUARY 16, 2015

Come back

I want to make shiny frizzy pet shoes, thousands join hands to make shiny frizzy pet shoes. I want to make ginger-garlic flavoured coffee, thousands line up to make ginger-garlic flavoured coffee. The ones who couldnt find amusing ideas to declare I am aggregating; food, clothes, taxis, makeup, humour, souls. I am a B2B, selling nothings to big companies making it sound so big. I am a retailer, selling stuff that has no value, so I create value and I sell. I thrust it down their throats, making it feel so vital as a medicine. I am a clown. I feel good as I dont sell anything to my audience. I rear them to fork out money from somewhere else. I keep my audience entertained, they are valuable. They are the happy bait. I provide service in whatever leg you want doing your laundry to wiping your ass to avoiding existential questions. I will do it. I am a specialist, so special is my field. And the team is so passionate. So very passionate. Arguing on cost, plans, customers. Making big flowcharts on whiteboards. Their passion spills out. I never understood why students take up roles such as Mess secy or Maint. secy (secretary). What is so exciting about it? But suddenly your cross wingies have lend their lives to the mess. Their life-goal is to include Paneer in the menu. How did they become so passionate? A PhD scholar working relentlessly on a bio-chip for detecting Cancer has a WhatsApp status now We deliver vegetables at your doorstep. Another wants to be an artist, forever regrets doing engineering and then goes and joins a startup making PPTs and pitching.

And the whole world is on Facebook. But how did we suppose that everyone will like to be on it. To know what is up with so many people and to play games/read articles. Spoonfeeding of useless information. There must be few who dont fit and still are straining their eyes over Instagram, WhatsApp. Still selling groceries with the bio-chip puzzle stuck in their heads. Managing a bunch of goo-eyed freshers on operations, screaming inside to run out and then what? Join another startup?

Are we creating opportunities, are we creating freedom? Or are we creating moulds, new ones which the top manipulates and the undecided novice are pressed against. Where is the non-startup crowd? Where are people who are not business minded? I dont believe being an entrepreneur in on everybodys mind, or it is the perfect job, perfect dream. It is just another safe comfort spot, isnt it? Another way to fit in.

 

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JUNE 22, 2016

The Payphone

I was sitting in those red and yellow counters where police generally sits on a railway platform, sandwiched between an out of breath lady and a swarm of kids on the other side. Waiting for my train.

There was the usual mid-day lull. Clusters of people beneath every ceiling fan. Two girls chatting over something on their phone. Sunlight flushed through the right side.

A boy came out of it, his pace visibly off from the crowd. He was wearing a dull orange t-shirt with polo neck and brown pants folded over ankles. Dust settled on his face, slippers in feet. Around twelve years old. He picked up the receiver from the shining payphone. Held it to his ears in curiosity, dialed some random numbers. Saw the screen display but he couldnt understand it. So he kept it back and was on his way again.

Few minutes later he was back and happy. He tilted to one side and scraped out a coin from his pocket. Now more attentive to the whole process, he put the coin into the payphone and dialed. Waiting in half hope. He put down the receiver, coin clunked out. He tried again this time dialing the number first and then inserting the coin, no luck. The smile of anticipation had long given way to a natural curiosity on how would this payphone work. He tried couple of times again.

There was another spectator standing around three feet behind the boy. None of us knew when he entered and had been there. He had long hair tucked at the back of his ears, around 24 years old, wearing black shirt, collared up, gray jeans and a backpack with an expression of being flabbergasted. Probably new in the city. He was waiting for the boy to figure out the payphone. The boy gave up and began walking away, and the guy stepped ahead to try his luck. Seeing this the boy hopped back and observing the guy he realised the futility of his action. The boy took charge and dialed the number as the guy read it out of this hand. Clunk! The coin flung out. Both of them tried few more times, switching techniques but the payphone just wouldnt relent.

Finally they gave up and walked away smiling and talking about the phone. The guy put a brotherly hand on the boys shoulder and off they went with brighter smiles.

 

MARCH 16, 2016

Mickey Mouse

Huddled together in their crisp frocks, they sat munching and gossiping. Gossiping about Mickey Mouse coming to the party. Little Annie didnt understand how Mickey Mouse could come to this party. Just as she never understood how her class teacher could go shopping or the garden aunty could be her moms patient. She felt very nervous to talk to her class teacher at the shop.  She kept staring at the aunty in the dispensary. The teacher was no longer herself. She had a different smile, different eyes, different everything, which made Annie pretty nervous. The strict eyes, the downward frown, everything had vanished. She felt weird that the garden aunty was not in her garden. She was rather uneasy about Mickey Mouse being at this party if that would ever happen that is.

Annie picked the cherry on her pastry and plopped it into her mouth. She was extra careful not to spoil her frock- laced, light pink, gifted by her Grandpa. The birthday girl came out all dolled up. They chirped, cheered and cut the cake. Each making her own wish. TADA! A giant Mickey Mouse jumped near the cake. Everyone gasped but in a moment rushed towards him. Annie stood back, rolling the cherry in her mouth. Mickey Mouse is so huge. He doesnt blink at all. Why is he like a giant teddy bear. Not like the one on TV. This is not Mickey Mouse. He doesnt blink. As nervous she was, she had to stand beside him for a group photograph. As he stretched his arm around them, she looked up at him, gazing keenly, at his nose, his sewed up eyes, silent as rock. A surge of uneasiness crept through her, which did get frozen in the photograph.

After all the games, gifts and goodbyes, the party ended. Annies house was in the next building. Inquisitive as she was, she followed Mickey Mouse down the street. Few minutes passed when he started twisting his head. Annie gasped in horror. He pulled out his head and a small human head popped out. He went and sat at the bus stop bench. Annie was approaching him very stealthily. Then she saw him clear. An uncle, with gray hair, sulky cheeks, wrinkles piling under his eyes. Blinking eyes. Some of her uneasiness had gone, she went and sat beside him. Spanning her eyes through his face. He turned to face her, looking straight into her eyes. She felt a sudden spike, then a sinking feeling, a vacuum expanding in her chest. He blurted, I am no Mickey Mouse. Just an old man, in need of money.

And wrinkles appeared around his lips as they stretched into a rusted smile, while eyes narrowed and drooped on the edge. Annie reflected that smile, without her knowing it. A smile that appreciated the answer of a question never asked. He climbed into the bus with Mickey Mouses head dangling in his hand. Annie sat there gazing at the bus till it disappeared.

 

1 Comment

  1. VijayaOCTOBER 30, 2015 AT 12:28 AM

    Good

A cobbler

I used to see him from an auto on the road between my home and railway station. The same stall, same man with a pointy nose and chin. Adorning a gandhi topi, white dhoti on a blue sleeveless jacket, mending an umbrella or a sandal. Always in the same position. Towards the right corner of the hutch he had made. And he looked the same. Twenty years of sitting in the same spot. I bet he doesnt remember me. Why would he. It was when I was a little kid. I used to sit on his makeshift seat waiting for my bus to home after school. I dont remember talking to him ever. There are many could-have-beens. He could have repaired my sandal. I could have talked to him. But I have no solid memory. Just a smudge. Just a smudge where I remember sitting with a waterbottle on my lap. Looking at him work so skillfully. Applying a sticky paste, stitching in such adeptness. Fancy shoes decked his back wall, the kolhapuri ones. I dont remember passing a word.

Everytime I passed on that road, I looked at him. Two feet of distance extending to six feet in a span of twenty years, but he never knew me. I used to wonder how many times I would see him more. He seemed ageless and had the same vigour and the same shine in his eyes.

I was back in my hometown after couple of years. Few visits on that road and he was not seen. That place seemed incomplete. Like when a vital part in an environment goes missing. The cabin still stood, with all its tools and fancy sandals, the old man had gone. I saw a young man in his place, in his thirties probably, all lost. Lacking that shine in his eyes. All the tools had rejected him, he just sat there like an alien. That hole was gaping back at both of us.

Few days went by and even the cabin had disappeared. There was a new milk shop, a new cabin, new faces of which I can read nothing. Feel nothing.

 

JULY 8, 2015