Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reduce your resistance slowly...

... make it zero.

The year is 2013 and I'm waiting at the Örs vezér tere bus-stand for the 276E. The 44 or the 45 would do too, but they have three stops and I'm looking at reaching my room faster. A brown girl dragging a Spar plastic bag full of groceries, and without galoshes in this weather is commonplace, but my monthly pass has expired and I don't get my stipend until the 3rd so I absolutely have to avoid the ticket-lady. The 276E is definitely faster... the November chill cuts through my cotton shoes.

Who wears cotton in this weather, S asks me later. I smile, and get back to Einaudi and writing. Later it rains furiously.

November 2014 I'm in and around Bandipora, and we've just passed the Wular, when I realise that I have the wrong shoes on. Useless, cotton shoes. But they lasted me during the floods - how can I question their tenacity?

Parzana Begum* has come all the way from Srinagar to return the money I had given her. In September, I had withdrawn cash from an almost-floating atm near Bemina bypass. Bemina is no more, Parzana tells me. The flood has washed away our homes, she says - but do you want to interview me? I am not a half-widow but I can be, if you want.

I don't accept the money. I interview her anyway, I tell her real story is important to me - she does not have to be a half-widow. Later I call VS and cry. What am I even doing here, I ask her.

If the science of qualitative analysis is keeping score, Parzana was not a part of the sample population.

November 2005 is about subtext, subtext, subtext. The curling of my hair at my clavicles, the alcove where I spent many months tasting an unfamiliar tongue would begin at this November, the finality of cleavages, N's left-handed letters where grammatical mnemonics died.

I took to Sylvia Plath - je suis, je suis, je suis. N was an ephemeral Ted Hughes, I discovered many moons later.
My jagged, complicated edges have smoothed out, Novembers are no longer maudlin, and my poetry has dwindled...
November 2016 is like no other. My calves are stretched out, my hamstrings tight, this is a Friday - it's a high intensity spin. Deafening music, cadence, and synchronised forgetting. I'm asked to do sprints, but I'm running with resistance. Every November is flashing before my eyes...

Suddenly my flywheel is adjusted.
It's time for recovery, says V. Recovery, he cheers... breathe in, breathe out. Hydrate...

Reduce your resistance slowly, make it zero. 

(P.S. - I threw away my grubby cotton shoes in January, 2016)

Saturday, June 4, 2016


I distance myself
from the psychedelia
that comes
guitar strings,
neon lights; I sit
in a corner, unfazed by your
new religion. My
rebellion is not in ink, body,
It is in my anthology of unwillingness.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ramblings about dying cities

News of current city's potential demise reminded me of cityscapes. And how you and I on a wintry morning in another city, colder than this and much more treacherous, discussed cityscapes in literature. I have passed through cities like a ghost, abandoned them when memories flooded into buildings, alleyways and staircases. I have loved some cities, but promised myself that I'd never go back. But the prospect of a dying city is exhilarating. In the passport of life, for the first time in history, this city will outlive me before I would it.

Data analyses scares us in such strange ways. We are not talking of the cities in Syria. Hollow and dead Aleppo. Nothing remains. Lolab valley --- a town left dead because of erstwhile terrorist activities, nature is intact, but human trust isn't. The gujjar towns in various districts of Kashmir --- completely cut off from modernity, and invisible to laymen, journalists and politicians. A flurry of articles chant the same routine about current city --- "xx will be unliveable in five years... xx will be a dead city by 2023..." --- my world spins; didn't I JUST settle down? Didn't I just blow past every uncertainty that this city had to offer? Didn't my anxiety-ridden mind just organise every bit of my panic-stricken life into neat boxes? 

.... well, while the city dies, I get a little more entangled in public health (sheesh!), violence and numbers! Did I imagine this a year ago? I REALLY did not. My life of conflict/peace has been boxed and on a shelf, kept safely for composting while I run from pillar (ha!) to post in a humdrum, uncomfortable but hectic life. Within five years, our lives might change. We might be packing a bit of this city, with ourselves wherever we go. Like refugees, we would slip away; the city dwindling behind us, buildings crumbling, concrete confetti, the city's lakes frothing feverishly to see us leave.   

We are a tragedy waiting to happen, we are waves waiting to break and crash at the shore. And every cityscape starts along the same lines ---- "Didn't we just settle down...?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Shifting Gears?

Last month, I devoured Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones like my life depended on it. I read the book like I was gulping down strong, potent alcohol - like I had to have it! I read on Ola shared rides, on buses, during chores in the kitchen. Goldberg's words were slowly taming the writer in me - that creature I'm so ashamed of, yet cannot do without. Goldberg seemed to make writing easy, like it's an everyday thing like food or sleep. I began a journal after this, which I promised to fill every few days, if not everyday. As you can expect, this did not happen. That journal now lies on the floor as I write this blogpost.

Recently, I started working with some people - very humble, immensely amazing, and so inspiring - but the cause has not yet become a part of me. And I am afraid I won't have as much passion for it as I do for conflict, peace-building and gender. Along with this, comes the idea of shifting gears - I want to be a part of big causes; I want to do my part. But I also want to free the writer that lives inside me. That horrendous creature that consumes the world and spews intelligible words once every fifteen days. That creature needs to be disciplined. I also want to travel the world in pursuit of research. I want to be a Victoria Fontan or a Fionnuala Ni Aolain. And perhaps somewhere down the line, I also want to teach.

So clearly, I want to do a lot. And perform many roles.

I cannot do one role, leave and then, do another - that just doesn't cut it. I won't live that long anyway. So the next best thing to that is to shift gears - writer for three hours on sunday, research for eight hours, thirteen minutes on tuesday, become a coordinator on mondays... and so on.

But how does one do that?

Several people I know have their lives figured out and I am still grappling with the fundamental question: what do I want to become?  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Research Methodology

You'd think that
I drank poetry like wine
in the past few months, or
smoked up words in billowy
cigarette rings. That
all my sentences will be uncomplicated,
that all those months of research
and objectivity
have made me responsible.

Your large bevy of data
is now smoothening out my jagged edges.
My storyteller instincts so removed from
your pivot-tables, your bar graphs, your multi-coloured columns;
my anecdata under your scalpel, everyday,
between 10 to 5
mondays through saturdays.

I take two portions of triangulation
with my afternoon coffee; I eat numbers for breakfast.
I drape dependent variables like a shawl to keep warm.

Your baseline cuts through me like a knife,
sharp, quick,
like the cold November rain.

After dinner, however,
the numbers begin to dwindle.
Poetry - untested, unexplored, uncharted -
comes in waves, it does not stop.

I won't sleep tonight.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thing Theory

A friend, I've never met, told me, a few days ago, that he delved through the archives of my blog because he wanted some inspiration. While this was genuinely sweet, I had very little heart to tell him that I might stop blogging altogether. As you can see, dear reader (whoever you are), my posts are dwindling --- words come and go, and like an impatient haggler, sometimes, I negotiate with myself to put down sentences one after the other, but sometimes it does not feel simple and effortless, as it used to.

I began blogging in 2005 --- my brother-in-law, a little estranged now because of life's myriad crossroads, encouraged me to take up journaling online. I wrote poetry often, which was mostly spewing teenage angst, and I will not deny the cathartic effect it had on me. Over the years, I travelled from blog to blog. Then I settled on this address; but truth to told, there are several fragments of me curated on several websites, some I've forgotten, some I've abandoned. It's unbelievable that I have been blogging for a decade now, and most "blog pandits" will agree that it is not a blog people would probably want to read (and I say this with a vengeance of a former law student, who hated law school and blawgging) because I did not venture into the blogosphere to get recognized or hired. I wrote here because sometimes you just throw things into the void, hoping against hope that someone out there is also feeling the same thing. And there will be people I met --- I've stayed with a blogger on her beautiful barsati apartment in Dilli for a week during a very crazy time in my life; another blogger, also a lawyer, took me out for dinner and drinks and who, I know, is also going through immense emotional upheaval; another takes me out for coffee and conversation everytime he is in my city; another has just moved to my city; another is going off to pursue her dreams in new york city; another writes sci-fi and slept on a wobbly floor-bed in my room in budapest before going off to meet Jeet Thayil in another city... see, there are just so many friends I have made in the past ten years?

I have been reading Bill Brown's Thing Theory for some recreational reading (so pretentious!) and he quotes Arjun Appadurai --- "... even though from a theoretical point of view human actors encode things with significance, from a methodological point of view it is the things-in-motion that illuminate their human and social context" Is this true then? Is my blog, my writing, then, losing significance because it has stopped being a thing-in-motion? People who know me, speak with me everyday and are subject to my general whining know how much things have changed for me since 2014, especially after the floods. Writing, frankly, has not helped to make me feel better. In only a decade, writing, specially, personal writing/poetry, has begun to feel less and less cathartic. You know the feeling you get when you write about something dear to your heart --- that inexplicable feeling of lightness; how it carries you through a momentary lapse of reason, a rough patch, a heartbreak --- well, I've stopped feeling that lightness for a long time now.

I could try and keep writing --- generally, I power through these times and I don't give up hope. But I am so close to losing my mind at this point that this blog only seems to be an additional burden. Again, there is no saying --- I might come back here, or write somewhere else, or write in a journal or on a wall in Kolkata under the 'stick no bills here' signs, but if I get back to writing, and by writing, I mean the kind that you makes you feel pounds lighter, I will send you a link and let you know.

Until then, arrivederci

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Too close for comfort

Koramangala is beginning to fascinate me, with its feverishly proximate houses, its meandering alleyways --- always leading up to newer, undiscovered parts of the neighbourhood, its like a marauder's map of Narnia. Koramangala's residents remind me of Behala --- inquisitive, but well-meaning. The shopkeeper on the corner keeps an account of how many men have come upto your house in a given week, how many ola drivers, how many delivery boys; the neighbourhood aunties know that you and the boy, you're living with, are not married, and yet search for a tinge of sindoor in your forehead when you're out grocery-shopping. The people here are mostly forgettable, like their big concrete houses so close to each other, all looking the same.

If you listen closely, you can hear conversations. In the evenings, in Koramangala, you can hear other people's lives happening as you walk by. Sometimes when A and I are in the middle of an argument, I wonder how many people can hear our half-stories. When we play the same song over and over again, does it irritate them? Can they hear us shout about who should do the dishes, and why the dal is burnt this time? These houses are so close, it nauseates me. From the corner of my study, I can often see entwined bodies in the next house and I feel like a voyeur. Sometimes my neighbour watches me cook from behind his moss-green curtains, his face behind that bitten fruit, eye-brows tensing as he sees me obsess about clean countertops, impeccably diced carrots, the consistency of smoothies.

But Koramangala really fascinates me, I am not joking. Its alleyways eating into the lush greenery like distributaries is beautiful. The fact that I haven't lived next to a grimy, noisy flyover in the middle of this concrete city in months is comforting. This city has not taken me in, just like no other city has. But a tiny part of Koramangala, its several mains and crosses intact, breathe me in every evening --- me in my shocking pink shoes, armed with headphones and podcasts, trying to fit in with other runners, when all I am trying to do is discover its cracks and patches.