Saturday, September 30, 2006

In all these years, you’ve never told me this before, and I haven’t asked, it worries me a little you are sharing this now. I haven’t asked, skirting memories, like old sepia-tint photos with scuffed edges and patterned butterpaper covers, that rest snug in old tin trunks never opened. “Dr Roger insisted she stay in hospital from the 7th month itself, so they could control insulin before every meal. We were willing to try anything” Yes, I recall silently, remembering that this pregnancy, her seventh, was the only one to last full term, after fourteen years of being married, and after several rounds of doctors, saints and temples. “Wasn’t it a general hospital?” I ask, trying to visualize the dirt, chaos and bustling so very unlike her cosseted routine “Yes, a general hospital, but it had the best doctors in town. There was no space in the general ward so she slept on a mattress in the common corridor”. “oh…tough.” “But no complaints! They were strict about visiting hours so we were made to wait outside. She cheerily waved from the wheelchair when she was taken to the OT at about ten”
Under a tree in the dusty compound? With a cycle stand in a corner? A tea stall? Was it very hot? Was the hospital regulation-yellow painted, with rusted windows? Did S kaka sweat a lot, since he had just returned from London? So many questions, but I keep quiet. “We didn’t tell Dadaji. He was furious when he found out later that day. But he would have raised the roof, fretting, pushing his doctor privileges and interfering with everyone” “then?” “ By afternoon, he cooled down. Suddenly declared at tea, that you would be named ***, and that was that. Of course, he was adamant about holding you and they wouldn’t let you out of the incubator”.

Suddenly I’m proud of my snub nose.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Remember when you make marble paper? You take a sheet of plain white paper, not too thick that it’d never fold, nor too thin that it would crumple crease. Not coarse- the colors would run or get washed out like misshapen blobs, but paper that’s just right.
Then you pick the colors, rich colors, maybe pastels- one or two, not too many. And you put the colors together in a waterfilled tub or something, with just a hint of oil, and wait for the colors to mix magically and separate, fine lines and whorls and swoops and swirls and lines you don’t have the names for, and layer the sheet just so, so that it floats.
And a fraction of a minute before you remove the sheet, you wait with excitement and nervousness and just a hint of unease, you don’t really know what you’ll find, it could be a masterpiece or runny colors, smudged, voila!
Which is how I feel today, Rich colors. Some black, maybe a hint , maybe more.
Swirls, swoops, a dash and a splash. Impressions with a personal flourish on a plain sheet of paper, who knows what is around the corner.A whole year of fresh new days.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

As I stood there at the reception, wishing you, you know what I saw? That air conditioned room, bejeweled women in gracious silks, the hum of conversation and plush carpet underfoot – all of this fell away to an image of a lush field, past it the chimneys and sheds of that other factory beyond the concrete wall, but yes, lush green dotted with a placid cow or two and generous with sunshine to hurt the eyes. You were seated in that cubbyhole of an office on the mezzanine with the low roof and bay window overlooking the green, a somnolent drone of a wall-mounted fan that barely made a difference in that nasty heat. Fitting in somehow and scraping together the time for your studies along with your work as steno. The workload was horrible, but you managed, taking paper after paper as an external student. First graduation, and then that MBA. Of course I did cajole and wheedle, boss and tease, heckle you several zillion times. And despite the rather long hours that each promotion brought you, your smile remained as calm. Today, your bride wears a radiant smile, you are beaming, all dazzling sunshine. I hold back from breaking into a Cliff Richards number and hold in that catch in my throat as I realize I want you both to be as happy as happy, always.
But of course I didn’t say this, hitting you hard on the shoulder instead.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Midnight sounds. A train, dusty and weather-beaten, disgorges its passengers to the metallic clang of a tea vendor on a sleepy platform. Shouts of recognition, running feet, metal on metal doors slammed shut. The whoosh of airbrakes before the wheels take up their song. The scrolling neon on black signage with tempting names, hints of long distance journeys that stir the blood- Gauhati-Bhuj. Chandigarh- Kochi. Red and blue lines crisscrossing the country. Dust . sweat. Boredome. A promise. Blurred voices over the announcement system, at an everyday job. You shake someone awake and claim your berth as the train ambles out. It’s twelve minutes past midnight.

Red eye. Suddenly it’s not something that happens when fist connects with said eye. DSCW 30, basic basic but oh so beautiful. One flounders, an edgy all thumbs, marvels at the ingenuity and frets about being able to do some sort of justice.

Virii mutate. That’s basic science. Overflowing private hospitals, temperatures readings that start at a hundred three, symptomatic treatment for the want of anything better to do, patients four to a room, crowded beds in corridors and too early discharges to accommodate the rush of new patients. Is C’gunia an epidemic yet? Not so, according to the powers that rule. Let them eat cake.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


An orange streak ~fluorescent extravagant breaks free past the heavy gray of dawn, a wavy sharp line past the white hum of the plane window

The swoosh of takeoff, the ferris wheel-like thrill of disconnect, gravity defiant

A many-striped (but mainly carrot) cat- non-disdainful, non-feline; mews joyfully, rubs and stretches in delight when you coddle her with precocious cat-talk. Proudly leads you to a tiny pink white bundle of fur cowering in a corner

Hibiscus and clemantis border a lush green lawn, a classical masterpiece sets the background score to a morning of small talk and tea by the porch swing

A street side stall – skirts and odhnis, colors sequins mirrors aglitter in the bright afternoon sunshine past a white colonial bungalow

Nudging open a gate on its last hinges, a cow ambles to a moss lined corner under the badaam tree to birth, a good luck sign, so I’m told

Roughpad updated- grist to the mill.

Monday, September 18, 2006


She looked into the mirror speculatively, past the reflection of the peeling green wall. Standard Indian features, nothing spectacular, “Nothing that a tint wont improve !” she mocked. Thank God she’d been spared her mother’s snub nose. From the shop a glossy pout, for sure, and long curving eyelashes. The forehead was a tad too broad, but now she’d stop hiding it behind a jaunty cut, instead let her tresses ripple down her back, medusa-like. A determined chin that firmed when she was defiant or angry- she must stop being so transparent. “This will have to go” she said, pulling the demure neckline of the cheap cotton print a good inch below the v of cleavage, tugging the dress so tight she could hardly breathe. “Not bad”, she admitted, clinically examining first one angle, then another. Arms next. Tinkling bangles. Or chunky silver, like in those tattered Vogue backissues she’d hoarded off wayside secondhand bookstalls. No more full or three quarter sleeves. Slender limbs she had, slender limbs she’d show. Minis, or micro micro minis, just the minimum.She had replaced her rather pedestrian name with something that sounded musical and soft. Her laugh now pealed prettily just with a hint of promise. Blahniks, or till she got there pointy tender toed heels from the street that went tick tack toe, turned heads.For that was the entire point. “Play it again, Sam, she said softly with a smile.