March 26, 2006

On a sunny afternoon

He walks up to a stall and looks at the drinks on offer. Drinks of all sorts – green drinks, pink drinks, yellow drinks; milky drinks, watery drinks, pulpy drinks – look back languidly through those plastic vats. He can see himself, reflected in a different colour in each one.

He asks for teh tarik, a frothy condensed-milk version of his usual chai, and is asked to wait. He chooses a table and takes a stool, setting his rucksack down on the stool opposite. He unfolds a map of the city and tries to figure out where he has ended up. He often gets lost.

He hears voices nearby. A Chinese family – grandma and kids – have taken the next table. The table is meant for four, and since there are five of them, the grandmother chooses to stand while the little children establish themselves and clamour for food.

He takes his bag and places it on the floor, and asks the old woman to sit at his table. She is pleased. She thanks him, her wizened features crinkling into a delightful smile. He nods (he's not a very expressive sort, you understand) and returns to his map.

His tea arrives presently. “Teh tarik”, the woman smiles. He smiles back this time, and sips the happy liquid, and loses himself in thought. Tea always does that to him.

He feels a tug at his sleeve. The woman is saying something, and she is holding a small polythene bag. It contains bread-and-butter sandwiches. She points to her grandchildren, indicating that they have already helped themselves and that he should, too. He refuses, placing his palm on his tummy to indicate that he is full, and then wonders if it might be inappropriate by Chinese custom to decline an offer of food. He hopes that they make allowances for foreigners. But the woman does not seem offended, merely amused. He is relieved.

He presently finishes his teh tarik and leaves the foodcourt. He waves goodbye. She waves back.

“Aate jaate khoobsurat awara sadkon pe, kabhi kabhi, ittefaq se, kitne anjaan log mil jaate hain ..” Kishoreda tells him via the iPod. He agrees.

March 18, 2006

In which the One Solves a Problem

Its habit of getting up late you'll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o'clock tea,
And dines on the following day.

- Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark

It has come to one’s attention that one requires considerably more sleep than the average person. Ten-hour stretches, for the One, are practically de rigueur. The occasional eleven-hour marathon is savoured, and filed away in the memory for reminiscence purposes. Twelve is heaven.

The problem, actually, is not that one sleeps so much. The problem is when. The lateness of the hour that one goes to sleep, people, is surpassed only by the lateness of the hour that one wakes up.

But there was this brief period when one became an Early Riser, yes, a fugitive glimmer of Hope in the drowsy blur that this life has been. That was when one went to the Netherlands a while ago. For a week, everything was wonderful. One would wake up at hours of the extremely wee kind, gaze at the rising sun, think all sorts of profound sunrise-related thoughts, and then set off on a Brisk Morning Walk. And then one would return, positively wallowing in inspiration, bright-eyed, and raring, yes, raring to face the day. And, in the evening, one would be fast asleep by eight or nine. The folks back home began to believe that there was some hope yet for the One.

But they, in their usual optimism, had not bargained for the superbly adaptive nature of one’s body clock. A fortnight, and one was sleeping at Dutch hours that were, if anything, even unearthlier than the ol’ Singaporean ones.

Nevertheless, the experience helped one find a Solution. Yes. The Solution is to keep travelling westwards, moving on when the body clock adjusts. So from Singapore one flies to, say, Bombay where 3 am is only 12:30 am*, which is an entirely okay sort of time to crash. After a week or so (as the bedtime gradually approaches 3 am IST), one proceeds to Dubai, and a week after that to London, and then New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu. Then we cross the date line to find ourselves in Sydney, and then we’re back in Singapore. And then we start all over again, perhaps along different latitudes this time round. We lose days somewhere, of course **, but then we always did have too much time on our hands.

And if anybody is wondering how one plans perpetually to fund such Foggean travel one shall subject them to the Withering Look, for one does not like practical details getting in the way of Great Plans.

* One accepts, of course, that Indian Standard Time is the One True Time and that one is being rather pretentious hurrying along a couple of hours ahead.

** That’s one aspect of the time-difference thing that one cannot quite comprehend, but one is assured that it happens.

March 11, 2006


You make your way to the university library after a harrying day at the office**. You find the book you want after a prolonged and difficult search. (Libraries these days have computerized catalogue searches, but that is exactly the point.) Then, and only then, do you realise that you’ve forgotten your library card. You return to the Abode*** at an unearthly hour and in some dismay, and crash without even checking on the Blog.

And you make your way to the library again the next evening, library card securely in wallet, and search for the book again, and try to check it out, only to find that your membership has expired. At any other time this discovery would be heartening, for it means that the university finally (finally) admits that you’ve completed your course, but at this particular moment it is rather unwelcome. You are told that books cannot be borrowed by an Ex-Member (the very lowest form of library-life, if the look on the matron’s face is anything to go by), and then you are given several important-looking forms that you shall have to fill out if you wish to climb the evolutionary ladder and become a Regular Member (as opposed to a Student Member, which you proudly were until the dawn of that fateful day). You return to the Abode at an unearthly hour and in some dismay, and steel yourself for the form-filling activities that are undoubtedly going to take up most of the weekend.

And then, out of sheer spite, you choose to blog about it.

* this title is, of course, incomprehensible to the reader. Said reader may take solace in the fact that it is equally incomprehensible to the One.

** the library and the office, naturally, are at opposite ends of the city. Country, even.

*** the Abode and the library, naturally, are also at opposite ends of the city.


And then the blog goes missing. Again. Bad, bad bloggy.

This has been a most trying week. One is not amused at all.

March 02, 2006

Learning to text

Lend thy ears, for matters now
Of much importance we address.
Yes, this fine evening we’ll see how
One learned to send an SMS.

The day was dull, the skies were grey
And it was hot, to some degree.
One's walking down from point A (say)
To a place that we shall call point B.

There was a tea-place on the way
(On Ashram Road, one does recall)
And standing there, like every day,
Was Rameshbhai, who owned the stall.

As one waited for a cup
Of steaming hot masala chai,
One thought one might call Mom up
One thought of giving it a try.

(For one possessed in days of yore
A gadget one could call one’s own.
One carried and one did adore
One’s old and trusty mobile phone.)

One undertook this complex feat
Sweat pouring down this furrowed brow.
For (it must've been the heat)
One could not quite remember how.

How on earth was one to type
Numbers that made her cellphone ring?
(And thus began one’s general gripe
With every freaking gadget-thing.)

One was now in much dismay,
One had no further wish to live.
One’s expression, you might say
Was sufficiently expressive.

One was truly at a loss
A nervous breakdown had begun
But Rameshbhai, he walked across
And sat down right beside the One.

"You need to learn these things", he said
"Your skills we shall proceed to hone
But wait, before we go ahead,
How long have you, boy, had this phone?"

"Oh, maybe a year", one told him,
"Fourteen months, to be exact.
One called a friend once, on a whim.
(And yes, one does have friends, in fact.)"

"Learn to text, boy, helps a lot
It costs less than a call would, too."
(He was, as you might have thought,
A fine and businesslike Gujju.)

"Technology is vast, my boy,
But I shall be your trusty guide.
(Without intending to annoy - )
You can read, right?" he verified.

"Press this button, and you’ll see
A blank screen and a cursor too
That much I can guarantee;
But thereafter it’s up to you."

"Think of what you want to say
And write it out nice and concise.
Say what you wish to convey
And if you can’t, just write it twice."

He spoke (one thanked the Gods above)
On various relevant techniques.
Then he lent one his copy of
'SMSese in Seven Weeks'.

And tears of unbridled joy,
They freely flowed down from one’s eyes.
The Almighty, he doth deploy
A worthy angel in disguise.

"Ah, marvellous! Callooh! Callay!
‘Tis magical!" One cried out loud;
"One learnt something new today
The folks are gonna be so proud!"

That glorious evening did the trick.
One’s resumé now does profess,
"Well- travelled, and dynamic,
And conversant with SMS.