Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As light wanes, the heart searches for love

I love nights. I love the shroud of silence and contemplation nights throw on my mind. There is an involuntary stillness that enters my heart, as I find nature tucking in for the day despite human beings’ frenzied activity around them. Crows start turning to their nests at the stroke of sunset, trees fold up for the day and draw their leaves tighter around themselves like shawls, self-respecting insects (unlike mosquitoes) disappear for the day. A while later children’s eyelids start getting heavier despite the TV and homework. As the night bleeds and spreads its black fingers over lamp shades, the mist of sleep overpowers thoughtful minds and restless hearts. It is time to draw the curtains, not just on the day but on the rerun of events of the day in our minds. Nights are for rejuvenation, reconsideration and revival. In simpler terms, when the moon appears at your window it is time to hibernate, shut down or do an Alt+Ctrl+del.

For me, the beauty of nights has much to do with the colour black — the hue of absorption, mystery, seduction and death. As I look up at the fickle moon bobbing like a ball in the dark November sky with stars flitting around like fireflies I wonder which ignoramus labelled nights as the hour of the demons. What can match the cool beauty, subtle fragrance and deep sexuality of the night? Mornings and noon explode with activity and shake you up for necessary and unnecessary actions. The nature of light is such. It demands movement. Aristotle hypothesised on the nature of light as “a disturbance in the element air”. But as light wanes and movements subside, mind and body seeks its nest and the heart searches for love. If day is a factory to feed your body, night is the spa for pampering your self.

When I was breaking into my teens, I used to feel a ravenous hunger in the pit of my stomach at exactly the stroke of sunset and I would gorge. Noticing my habit, my mother’s music teacher mentioned in passing, “only rakshashis eat at sunset.” What was stated intentionally to shame me out of the habit in fact had the opposite effect. I fell in love with idea of being a rakshashi and “fuelling myself for the night” at sunset, which I supposed was dawn for rakshashis. In fact as days passed I not only had “breakfast” at 6 pm but also “lunch” at the stroke of midnight. Amma shaking her head would leave rasam and rice for me. At midnight, while the house was dunked in dark slumber, I would toss the food, top it with pickle and pappad shreds and go into the balcony.

We lived in government quarters then, on the seventh floor and the dining table was in that open balcony of sorts. I would sit, not at the table but on it. As the wind whooshed through my hair, as I watched the distant city lights and supped on the delicious gruel, I used to feel an incredible high, an insatiable thirst to “create”, throughout the night. On those special nights when I wrote particularly well, I understood it as a “female night”, a Rajni, a Nisha and not just another ratri.

I heard this lovely story about Adam and his first experience of night. It is Adam’s first day of being born. He feels comfortable in the light but fearfully anticipates the sunset as that would mean he is left in the dark. But

as night approaches Adam sees the moon emerge with her stars, the evening flowers bloom exuding their fragrance and the creatures of the night materialise to sing their nightly songs, Adam discovers life in the dark and falls in love with night too.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A sucker of blood Vs the monger of fear

I still can’t decide whether my vote for the-most-obnoxious-God-made-creature should go to the cockroach or the mosquito. Indeed as creations go, they may actually make me look good in comparison, but that is still no excuse to be so loathsome. One sucks blood for a living while the other distributes free scares and screams.

Look at the cockroach. It seems like God was halfway through making a brown six wheeled limousine when some jerk from earth SOSed him for an adrenalin hike and God immediately minimised the limousine and sent it down to the jerk’s kitchen to make the floor under him a trampoline.

“Well, your adrenalin is up now!” laughed God and when Mrs God got curious he simply replied, “Honey I shrunk the limo I meant to give you for our anniversary,” and Mrs God sensing the sarcasm immediately sent out an addendum that the “limousine” would be anything but exclusive and should remain the cheapest thing made by God (because it was made for the wife) and it would always make every wife pause and contemplate, broom-in-hand, about what kind of life she is leading with her husband. The wife feels maximum hatred when these creatures suddenly fly thereby demolishing all logical and lateral correlations she had previously made between flying and liberation.

When I see a cockroach fly, I feel it is some neglected stooge of Satan with a flying license that lapses every five seconds. Yet, cockroaches, poor creatures are still very kitchen things who take the brunt of your hatred for your husband for putting you in the kitchen in the first place. They even inspired me to attempt a comic strip titled Roach and Encroach involving highly philosophical (hence funny) debates between a cockroach and a pesticide called ‘encroach’.

But the mosquitoes, their very name evocative of sting operations and war aircrafts, invade your bedrooms, prick, draw blood (like marital arguments), make you lunge for things with names such as nets, repellents, coils and N N-diethyl meta-toluamide potions. What are we doing here, warfare or what? But the recent “bat” which is a kind of an “electric chair” for the mosquitoes, which I call Vettayadu Vilayadu (“hunt and play”), after the Tamil film has actually taken insect-killing to the level of pleasurable sport!

If the cockroach transforms you into an encounter specialist-cum-sadist, the mosquito makes you feel like a pincushion-cum-masochist each time it stings. You slap yourself all over your body to catch the elusive winged thief and on that rare occasion when you manage to smash the insect against your flesh, you feel a remorse that is quickly expunged when you justify that the blood shed is your own, after all.

Between the cockroach and the mosquito I vacillate between the oppressor and the oppressed. Both feelings are pejorative. The two creatures are icons of people in real life who bring out the perpetrator and the victim in me. The symbolism is hardly flattering but it largely explains my hatred for these two creatures. What do you make of creatures which make you want to kill them at first sight? And what does it tell of you?

I hate those creatures precisely because they highlight the fact that I have these

reserves of hatred in me, which prompts me to even kill, if provoked sufficiently! And the murderous rage that I build up while I kill a cockroach is terrifying. My heart pounds, my eyes roll, I breathe with my mouth and with broom in hand I am a picture of Kali.

Indeed! Kali is the true pictorial representation of a goddess after a bloody kill and not the sweet smiling goddesses wielding unsullied weapons like ornaments. Try smiling with a golden crown above you and a lotus below after a kill, albeit the slain being a roach or a mosquito!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Breathless at an Indian wedding

I love the colourful chaos that blooms from source to periphery like a ripple in a house preparing for a big fat Indian wedding. My sister got married recently. Five days before the marriage, an incredible fun and activity continuum sprang into action with rooms full of people going gekka-bekka-gekka-bekka with gossip and laughter, with corridors wafting the ‘sweatyscenty’ smell and kssksskss rustle of silks, mobile phones ringing in varied and similar tunes causing people to spring up unnecessarily from their warm seats, diabetics requesting in low yet firm tones for sugarless but really hot coffee, pockets of gamblers quarrelling over queen of hearts, aces, five rupee coins and making hopeless plans on sneaking to a nearby pub, grandmothers calling out for ‘a’ particular “Visalam” but some 10 women responding to the call as every branch of the family had at least one Visalam named after the chief matriarch, platefuls of sweets and savouries (with small ants also partaking of the feast) spread in the middle of dusty dhurries, queues forming for the overused toilet which stank over and above the Odonils and dozens of soaps and shampoos lined in there, anxious geeks impatiently waiting to have a go at the only laptop of the host household and small children crying in corners for their busy parents’ attention, wet towels drying on window grills as the crisscross of clothesline were already houseful and hanging low like fruit-laden tree branches, mischievous kids sliding off stacks of hired pillows, first cousins covertly flirting with second cousins, women squabbling and weeping over a random anonymous statement like, “she is so bitchy” and everyone assuming that the “she” referred to was herself, girls crowding around an elder cousin offering to apply mehendi patterns for “free” only to be spirited away by another rival mehendi group promising to inscribe the bride’s and groom’s names like tattoos using the very same mehendi cones, small children waiting tearfully for parents to arrive and wash their bottoms, some 50 hands searching for Ambassador car keys that everyone saw lying next to a green jockey underwear “just now”, small kids playing “wedding-wedding” with previous day’s drying flowers from women’s hair, someone from different time zone frantically hollering out for IST and someone responding saying it was “80 minutes past seven”, newly befriended youngsters exchanging blouses, shirts and tips for shorter SMSes, people going hoarse shouting for misplaced combs, safety pins and bindis, groups of daredevils agreeing to try out the revolutionary homemade face pack made with turmeric, asafoetida and mild detergent guaranteed to cure pimples, college going boys slyly holding hands of sisters’ friends in the pretext of reading palms, aunts yelling at uncles for intermittently disappearing to smoke their infernal cigarettes even when a wedding was in the offing, sisters weeping on the shoulder of the bride who would be leaving them soon, one or two responsible members counting wedding money and inspecting credits and debits running into lakhs with a pencil stub and a Rs 5 double- lined notebook, cousins from US scandalising local Mannargudi mamas with their noodle straps and skimpy skirts setting off commentaries on how yesteryear actress T R Rajakumari could titillate from under even three layers of clothing, aging siblings displaying and comparing notes on their swollen knees that dangerously resembled their own dead mother’s and discussing the pros and cons of knee replacement that was not available for their mother even while worrying about their brother’s “hiranya” (hernia), summons for lunches being ignored until mothers and wives threatened to close the kitchen for the day, complaints bursting in return on how the quantity of coffee served was so small that it didn’t even “wet their chest” leave alone the stomach, all this and much more from hearts brimming over and pouring out its contents like the open suitcases that will eventually zip up and depart but that were now bursting and spilling old and new gaudy clothes, memoirs, jewelry, make up kits, perfumes and those inevitable lacy bras…