Saturday, March 24, 2012

Delayed Friday Fiction: Get Well Soon

You're always in control of fiction...or are you?

She lay in bed staring out the window to her left. It was a rather nice day to be outside. But she felt too weak to even step out of her room much less outside and consoled herself with only the vision of sunny blue skies. She then noticed the bunch of Gerbera flowers on the side table. Her best friend had brought them to cheer her up. They were a day old but still looked fresh, a nice healthy pink colour. She looked at them absentmindedly for a while. Then she slowly picked a Gerbera from the vase and started thinking of him. As if she had stopped thinking of him at all.

She plucked a petal…he loves me.
Of course he does! Last time I was sick he had come by and sat for so long, fussing over me and straightening the pillow and asking if I needed anything. He’d been really sweet.
He loves me not.
So why hasn’t he even called this time then? We have never not spoken for so long!
He loves me.
Maybe he is busy. I’m sure he’s busy. Why else would he not even so much as ask why I hadn’t called in two days?
He loves me not.
Does he not know I am sick? How can he not sense these things after we have been together for so many days?
He loves me.
But just the last time we met everything was fine. We sat on the pavement talking after the movie for so long. And he had said I looked very pretty too. And he had held my hand. Why would he do that if he didn’t love me?
He loves me not.
Maybe he holds everybody’s hands like that. What’s the big deal about holding hands anyway? That isn’t proof that he loves me.
He loves me.
But I know he does! I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. It is impossible to miss these things! I know he loves me.
He loves me not.
Maybe he doesn’t. If he loves me, he should also care for me. Ask how I am and call if I haven’t called. Is love only about watching movies together and roaming about town aimlessly? What about care? Does he even think about me when I am not around?
He loves me.
I do remember he said he missed me when we hadn’t seen each other for long the last time. Wasn’t that when he had gone on a week-long trip? Surely that means something when he says things like that? Surely it means he loves me?
He loves me not.
But I miss my friends when they are not around. That is in no way proof that he loves me. Does he miss me more than everybody else? If he misses me equally and not more, there is no way he loves me.
He loves me.
It’s hard to tell anymore.
He loves me not.
I can’t believe that.

As she plucked the last petal, her fever soared and she fell back into her pillow resignedly. Why couldn’t he just call and end her misery? She wasn’t going to call; it was she who was unwell. If only he would call and she could hear his voice. But he hadn’t. In two days.

So thinking she picked up another pink Gerbera from the vase and started the game all over again.

He loves me…

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paging Joe Fox

Some days I miss Joe Fox. Correction, I miss MY Joe Fox. Like today for instance. When I need him to make me some tea with honey in it even if I am in this low mood with my gunk-filled and bleeding nose. Maybe get me a bunch of bright yellow flowers just to brighten me up. And then when my head feels fuzzy and my legs are wobbly, wrap a comforter around me and let me blabber some more. And oh yes, hand me a box of tissues when I have exhausted the current one with the incessant emptying of the nose.

But I am sitting in this sub-zero temperature of the office and sniffling no end, trying to get better asap and discreetly so that the parent does not have a mini panic attack hearing of nose bleeds. Not that they’re uncommon, just that they’ve not happened in the last 5 years. Bangalore is that hot right now people. It’s causing bloody noses to bleed.

And that’s why it’s worse to have a cold right now. One that I have to get through myself. Parents, as much as they care for you, can never objectively listen to your health concerns without thinking somehow your life is in danger. Siblings are really your own little ones that you don’t want to bother. And that is exactly why one misses Joe Fox on such days. A peer who has willingly agreed to be around on your bad days as much as on your good days. Someone who likes you just the same when you are wearing your pyjamas and blowing your nose as when you are all dressed up and sitting in a cafĂ© somewhere looking charming (to Joe Fox anyway). Really someone to rightfully bother with all that’s on your mind.

Right this moment though, I don’t need him to do any of those big things. I just want to bury my miserable head into his side and be told it is going to be ok. Mostly one deals just fine with the bigger struggles of life but it’s the little things that make life difficult, when one really needs someone around. One has the ability to weather most anything alone but that doesn’t mean one wants to. After a point, one wants to be with Joe Fox.

And I want to watch this film today evening with a bowl of soup in my hand (made by Joe Fox of course, duh!) after having watched this scene on repeat all morning. If nothing else, the least he can do is to bring me a copy to make me feel better.

Paging Joe Fox. It’s about time already.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Magician And The Prestige

“Watch!” he says…a magician who is going to show his audience a trick. He doesn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat or pop flowers out of the end of his wand. It’s usually much simpler than that. And yet, it’s no less fascinating…maybe BECAUSE it’s much simpler.

He takes the stage animatedly, his face beaming with a secret he can barely hold any longer. But there’s got to be a flourish, the essential three acts. And so he proceeds to The Pledge. Quite the storyteller, he builds the anticipation well, with expressions and gesticulations. The audience is already leaning forward by the end of it. And he really calls them tricks, what he is going to show them. That's when he says, “Watch!”…once the stage is set.

Then he takes a mechanical contraption from the good old days, a technique if you may. And he proposes a harmless looking idea. He gives the contraption to the audience to work with while he takes the simpler tool. And as both work the tools simultaneously in The Turn, he suddenly jumps to The Prestige leaving the audience in wonder. It’s true that the idea is intuitive, simple beyond belief. But there still is a priceless look on their smiling faces.

Even if a felt-tip marker and a white board are the only props he will ever use on stage, he's probably one of the few who have understood that

the audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It's miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you...then you got to see something really really don't know? was the look on their faces…

And that it applies to classrooms as much as to magic shows.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Fiction: On The Edge

You're always in control of fiction...or are you?

He sat at the edge of the cliff and his legs dangled from the ledge. It had been so long his feet had worn anything but symbols of corporate citizenship and been in anything but stale conditioned air. Today the open wind tickled his sole and there was a sense of freedom in the air. He looked at the valley below and saw a steadily flowing stream in the deep distance. He looked up and saw the space between him and the sunset in the horizon covered by the forest. He had forgotten what colour sunsets were in his part of the world. And so he gazed intently and took in the many hues in the sky. He took in a deep breath and it felt like it was the first time. 

How many times had he ever caught his breath in the mad rush of routine in the last few years? Those automatic mornings that started with the shrill alarm and a race…to get out of the house on time, to get out of traffic on time, to get out of the elevator on time. He was always chasing something…a deadline, numbers or people. Today it felt like he had been running after something elusive all this while. Was it money? He had enough of it and more. Was it success? In his place in the hierarchy of things he could hardly say that. Was it happiness? If he had the money and the success, happiness should have followed by itself. Wasn’t that what he had told himself the day he started work? A greenhorn out to conquer the world. He must be happy. He should be happy.

But then why did his world suddenly feel empty? Why did it feel like he didn’t know the people he shared a roof with? Or that they didn’t know him? Why did a beautiful sunset and open air suddenly seem to bring him more joy than all those perks and promotions? And why was he alone in this moment of serenity? Where were the people who cared for him? The people he cared for?

It was then that he remembered he had never cared for anybody but himself. He saw the pieces fall in place…and his life fall apart, a self-sabotage. It was now too late to go back and change anything. And where would he even begin?

The sun was now lower than before, almost taking on a crimson hue. The birds were returning home, a term he had forgotten the meaning of. The wind was picking up. He wished it would take him away with it, that he could fly home too. 

Just then he heard what sounded like the shrill call of a bird and he looked downward in the direction where it came from. In the deep distance, the building watchman was frantically blowing the whistle and flailing his hands in the air. There was a fire truck standing and firemen were running towards the building. A crowd had gathered and the steady stream of traffic had now come to a halt. While he had been reflecting on the very meaning of his existence and his family sat completely unaware in one of those matchboxes, the preservation of his life seemed to have become important to a bunch of complete strangers…the irony. He stood up on the ledge and had a headrush…of thoughts and emotions. He was still stuck…the call, concern and consolation of nameless strangers still carrying its daily and dangerous appeal…would they applaud his decisions now, the way they did in the board room? He spread his hands but even with the emptiness inside he found it impossible to be lifted by the wind to freedom. And he finally started to laugh…at the joke his life had become.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Pit Stop Dreams

On summer nights like these, I dream of 3 am pit stops by the roadside. 

Dead wind and the Doppler sound of trucks rolling by...I love that sound. A small tea shop by a yellow and white milestone and a dose of stimulant for the next leg of the journey. Cramped legs relishing a chance to stretch. Sodium vapour glow, the headlights of the occasional truck, a small oil lamp in the shop and the orange flickering on a set of wheels. And a one way conversation…only the highway talking.

I dream of an aimless trip around the country. The direction set by instinct and intuition. A trip on which to know oneself, the other and the land all at once. A light backpack with some clothes, books, a notebook and pen and a camera…and oh, a map. A lighter heart with spare space…for each other and for experience. A rightful place for silence as much as conversation. A perfect journey on divergent paths but where two lives converge. 

The set of wheels can vary…two or four. The more wind in the face, the better. As long as we are moving it doesn’t matter where. We’ll eat in obscure places and stay in some too. We’ll meet no name faces that we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives. In the process, hopefully, we’ll meet each other too. We’ll collect souvenirs for the walls and corners. And we’ll collect memories too.

And when we come back home, we’ll dust our clothes and bags and settle down in the sunlit corner sipping on some coffee to recount tales from the trip…or talk about the next one.

Someday I’ll embark on that journey…an exploration of uncharted territory…within and without.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Oh Deer!

It was almost 4 pm on a Saturday. Daddy would be home soon from the bank; they closed early on Saturdays. He would very likely bring hot samosas with him and the whole family would eat the early- evening snack together. It was special but that’s not why we looked forward to Saturdays. 

When we were growing up and I was about 8 years old, Saturdays were for visiting the Deer Park. In a children’s park spread atop Seminary Hills in Nagpur was a small zoo with just a few varieties of deer and a leopard I think…oh yes, a bear too. But the most numerous were the Chital Deer. They had a huge enclosure too and they rarely came close to the fence. One could see them graze away in their sanctuary. And it was better that way since if they came close to the fence people would feed them popcorn and what not. But not my father. 

On Saturdays, after the snack, Daddy would get his daughters dressed up and head out to the Deer Park in Seminary Hills. We would always stop by this one vegetable vendor on the way and pick up spinach…lots of it. And then we’d be off to feed spinach to the deer.

The first few times it took a while before the deer even came to eat and we had to wait quite a bit but after a while, they would almost instantaneously come close to the fence when we landed with the bunches of spinach. I didn’t know for long that my father had taken permission from the zoo authorities so that we could feed the animals. Even today I remember how beautiful the whole experience was…deer clambering for the fresh spinach, small ones and big, and us hurrying up to pluck from our bunches and feeding them through the wire mesh. The crowds wouldn’t arrive until almost 6 so we got some good time with the deer. Easily an hour or more would pass without any of us saying too much and just feeding the deer. It was satiating and always left us happy when we were done. And we would always be more eager than before to come back.

After the deer-feeding Daddy would sometimes buy us juice, sometimes popcorn and sometimes we would get a horse ride in the play area. But by far the most special part of our Saturdays was feeding the deer.

Looking back, it wasn’t all about fun, feeding the deer. In his own way, Daddy showed us the importance of small personal rituals, ceremonies and traditions. He showed us the importance of giving each other the gift of time; even if we were not talking to each other while feeding the deer (my father was a man of few words anyway), it was one of the most meaningful interactions I had with my father. Most of all, my father taught me early on about being kind to animals. And to this day, our ritual of visiting the Deer Park and feeding the deer is etched in my memory as one of the most real experiences ever.


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