Progress Report: Staring At My Laptop

The first week of January. What a promising ring it has. A full year of possibilities laid out before it. For me, it was Week one of taking initiative. Of me being in the driver’s seat of my life. Mindfully.

Week one has been good. I have written everyday of the week. I have read everyday of the week. I have put more thought into what I cook, I have begun reviving my garden and I have complained only about my Maxmaxmaximax and how adorable he is. Complaining has been such a massive part of my life up until now that it feels unnatural not to do it anymore.

There are two things I really appreciate about my decision.

1) I appreciate my privilege to afford this time away from a day job.

2) I am grateful to be this peaceful and happy.

In my head, lives chaos. I have had zero strategic thinking in me. Even if I plan my day and list out the activities, I’ve never had the focus to work my way down the list. A classic scatterbrain. I have always felt the need to know why I am doing what I am doing but there has never been a convincing answer. Now it feels like I know exactly what I have to do. I’ve got a “I’ve got this” feeling. I have become so much more organised in thought and action. As always, I have a list of things to be done but the difference is, I follow it everyday.

For the first time in my life I feel like this is what I am meant to do and not I can do this. The plan for now is to have a collection of short stories ready by the end of March. And that means, the focus is on me to deliver those stories by then. I have no KPIs, no meetings, no politics, no people. It’s just me staring at my laptop. And this is exactly where I want to be right now.

Goals for 2017

Looking Ahead

Autumn in Korea
Autumn in Korea

Every year I make grand goals for the next year. Reading-wise I mostly stick to the script. But as a general rule, I usually forget about them 5 minutes after writing them down. However, since I am a lover of compulsive behaviour, I never stopped making these lists. I love everything about lists except following them.

  1. Publish a book: I want to write. It’s taken me years to say it with such confidence. In 2017, I want to wake up every morning and write. And I want to publish a book of short stories. I might have the beginnings of a novel lurking around my mind too.
  2. Read 52 books: My big focus is going to be reading a book every week. Considering that I quit my job to pursue writing, the least I can do is read a lot! The caveat here is that I am not going to be buying any books this year. I plan to complete unfinished books (there are many), borrow from friends and join a library.
  3. Spend less: A natural fallout of not having a salary is to spend less. I just put a bow on it and called it a goal. #howtofoolyourselfintospendingless
  4. Gardening: I love growing my own vegetables. I currently grow spinach, mint and curry leaves. In the new year I will attempt carrots, beets, moringa, chillies, tomato and pumpkin.
  5. Meet people: Not with the intention to network but not without it either, I would like to meet people and step out of the house more. These could be people I used to work with or friends from college.
    Octopus seller
    Octopus seller

    I am notorious for not leaving home for days on end so this is not going to be an easy-peasy one. I am almost always inclined to make an excuse and get out of social commitments.

  6. Lose weight: I cannot think of a year when I have not had this one on my list. It’s such a staple that it’s become tradition. However, the only difference is that I began Crossfitting in Sept. It changed my life. Though I’ve been on a break since Nov, I am restarting from Tuesday, 3 Jan 2017. (They have stair climbing on Mondays and I hate it!)
  7. Volunteer time: This year I want to volunteer time. Looks like it’s going to start with CUPA’s Second Chance Adoption Centre. Since getting a pet, I’ve realised how animals bring out the best in me. I am more generous and mindful with Max and also more grateful for all that I have.
  8. Plan for Africa: My friend Sanju lives in South Africa now. There isn’t a better time to visit Africa than 2017. I still regret the opportunity I missed to visit her in South Korea. Though I visited SK years later, I knew that it would have been even better with Sanju. Step 1 is to save up money. It’s going to be a long and fun trip. And I am going to need upwards of 1.5 lakhs.
  9. Get a portrait done: For my next birthday I am going to get a photographer to take pictures of me. I am so uncomfortable with the idea that it makes me squirm just writing it down. And that’s the point.
  10. Blog more: I want to blog once a week through 2017. Let’s hope that’s enough writing practice.

Looking Back

Pelicans of Ranganathittu
Pelicans of Ranganathittu

When looking ahead into the unknown future I like to also look back into the lived past to draw inspiration from some of the  accomplishments of 2016.

 

  1. My body image and body weight issues not withstanding, I joined Crossfit to great benefit. It taught me that though I am superbly unfit I am not going to die from trying too hard. I hiked up four mountains in Korea and even when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, I had the will to give it my maximum effort. I remembered that the same me had done 200 pushups!
  2. Putting years of indecision aside, I finally went to Korea and it was the best. It was better than everything I had imagined. I was blown away by their technical advancement, their cleanliness, their beaches, their fashion and their food.
  3. I found a way to stop getting sick in winter. Oilpulling (gargling with oil). Call it a fad or question its effectiveness, but it’s still an accomplishment for me because I taught myself a habit.
  4. I quit my job. That’s something I didn’t think I would have the guts to do.
  5. I got Max home before Christmas. Though it’s only been a week I am overwhelmed by how much I love him. All old people deserve a decent life and I am glad I made that happen for my grandfather lab.
  6. Hiking in Korea, stairclimbing at Crossfit
    Hiking in Korea, stairclimbing at Crossfit

    Hiking was one of my 2016 goals. And though I didn’t hike in India, I did 4 hikes in Korea in 20 days. And they all but killed me but it was one of the highlights of the year.

  7. I began cutting my own hair. I’ve been meaning to do this for years. Going to a salon only sets me back by a thousand rupees. Most stylists are clueless what to do with curly hair and I always end up getting layers. And I’ve been bored of layers for years now. Since I am no style diva, I choose to cut my own hair.
  8. Before my friend Durka left India, we took weekend day trips in and around Bangalore. We drove to see dancers of Nrityagram, sat on the steps of the famous step wells of Melkote and watched Pelicans at Ranganathittu sanctuary. It’s an accomplishment because we talk about these weekend getaways but that was the one time we diligently took action.
Looks like 2017 is the year I have everything going for me. I am wishing myself a productive year and all of you a year full of love, happiness and good cheer!
Happy New Year.

 

Limited By Our Imagination

Amy Adams starrer Arrival gets ahead of Interstellar as my film of choice because it’s complex without being confusing. An adaptation of Ted Chiang’s sci-fi short story, Story of Your Life, the only element holding the movie back is Johann Johannsson’s rather disruptive soundtrack. Louise Banks, played by Amy, is a linguist called upon to communicate with the beings in one of the 12 spacecrafts that descends across the world. The big question is “What is your purpose on Earth?”. Will she be able to decode their language before one of the other world powers take offensive action? Time has the answer.

Amy Adams is the force that holds this movie together. The casting is spot on. But sadly, there is not another woman of import in the cast. And all I could think of was how the outcome of the situation would have been different if it were being handled by more women. Why is combat our first response? Why are we hostile with the other? Why can’t there be a narrative where the resolution is complex but without violence? Considering the times we live in, Arrival comes as a reminder of human ability for destruction — of self and others.

Arrival poster
Their vehicles are to die for!

The aliens in the spacecraft are seven-limbed “heptapods” that communicate in a circular language across a glass-like surface. They look like their parents were a giant octopus and an elephant. Why should more intelligent life forms have appendages or vaguely identifiable human/animal forms? Why should they have a written language? Why should they use their “arms” to write? Especially with science fiction, we are limited by our imagination. We need to imagine what life forms are out there but also present them in a form that the audience understands. Especially in a medium like flim, communication is restricted by the audience’s shared perception of imagery. If indeed aliens communicated via echolocation or ultrasonic sound, it wouldn’t make for an entertaining movie.

It’s interesting that it blows our mind that time is not linear. One of the alternatives is that it’s spherical. Meaning that though time has dimension, all time is accounted for. Which is why one of the most common sci-fi narratives is around the inability to change the past or how changing the future would change the past. And because time is already accounted for, this is not considered possible. If time were a line, it would be interspersed with situations and options. For every situation we make a decision to choose an option. Dinner or movie; water, wine or whisky; white, red, blue or yellow. Based on what we choose Time changes course. Don’t we all often think about the What Ifs? What if I had chosen dinner over the movie? I wouldn’t be writing this blogpost. Now imagine, what if you could see into future consequences of all your decisions before making each choice? You could build your future, quite literally. Today we make decisions blindly and call it fate or luck depending on how it turns out. If we were evolved enough to see Time as a whole, we would see that time is not linear or spherical but infinite.

If there are more intelligent life forms outside our planet, they ought to believe in the power of community. They are only a part of the whole. And the whole is always better than the sum of its parts. Why else would they need to get in touch with humans? I think greed is the hubris that makes humans territorial. We want to own more, control more without realising that we are an inconsequential part of a whole. We become significant only when we act in tandem with the whole. The sooner we recognise our place in the universe, the faster we will grow as a species.

 

Take A Ride

Domlur?” she said, hailing down a rather new looking auto. As the automan slowed down and came to halt in front of her, he asked, “Route gotha, madam?” “Yes, yes, I know the route”, she said. It was Thursday and they were in no hurry to get to work. She sent up a thankyou! to the upstairs person for letting her off easy in this May morning sun. Finding an auto at 9 am had the reputation of teaching one patience.

As they got in, the automan was clarifying why he didn’t know the route; he wasn’t from Bangalore. He was from Hassan. His mother had met with an accident and he didn’t have enough money for her treatment. He had rushed to Bangalore and he was now working day and night to save enough to pay for her surgery. They weren’t very talkative but he didn’t seem to pick up on that.
Without a sense of where he was going, he continuously asked her for directions at every turn off the road they were on. He sounded nervous and behaved so too. Time and again, at traffic lights, he would take out an image of Jesus and stare at it. She looked around for the driver’s ID card that’s usually stuck behind the front seat. She found it inserted horizontally on the handlebar– how useless. She tried to remember the details of his face. He had tired sickly eyes, worry lines that sagged his forehead and an unsure gaze. Perhaps unsure of what he was doing in this big city. Or unsure of what the future held.
Soon, he got a call. She found herself hoping it wasn’t some bad news. She was in the habit of expecting the worst so as to be prepared for all eventuality. Once, a long time ago, she had missed a phone call and a friend of hers had turned up dead. When he hung up and turned around to face her, she braced herself for the unthinkable. “My owner”, he said, smiling. The owner of the auto he had hired was calling to check on him and his whereabouts. The hire cost the automan Rs 1000 a day. How much did he have to make a day for this arrangement to make sense, she wondered. Her ride was worth Rs 100 and would take 45 minutes. Damn, how many hours did he work in a day? She quietened down to think it through.
Just before they got to MG road, she was jolted out of her thoughts when the automan tried the latest trend on the roads these days. As vehicles piled up at a red light, he got on to the wrong side of a two-way street via the break in the median in order to get ahead of the line. When she protested, he casually dismissed her, “Thumba jam ithe, madam. You will never get to work”. “Get back in line, now!” she said, dusting off her stern voice. When he obeyed her without question, she made a mental note to use it more often.
As if to clear the air, he told her about the time a man rode with him all the way to Koramangala only to say at the end of the journey that he had no money. “Come home,” he had told the automan as he left. She didn’t ask him why he hadn’t fought for his money. She wouldn’t have either. When they got to Domlur, he wanted to know where to find a ride back to Banaswadi. “If you don’t find one on Old Airport Road go to Indiranagar”, she pointed.
As she paid him and got off, he asked, “Could you please help me out? You know I don’t have any…” She wasn’t listening because a realisation was dawning on her. She was realising that the minute he told her about his mother, she had known that the ride would end with this question. She had done a mental tally of the notes in her purse. In between, when he broke the traffic rules, she had even toyed with the idea of taking the moral high ground. Before he could finish his plea, she gave him a five hundred rupee note and a smile.
Throughout this exchange she could feel a pair of incredulous eyes on her. As the auto drove away, the tirade began. “Was that a 500 you gave him? Are you mad? He told you that entire story because he wanted to dupe you. And you walked right into it. 500 bucks. You’ve never had any value for money. This is how he makes money, I am sure. He must be spinning these stories. Different stories for different people. How fun! He must have taken one look at your face and thought, this one? This one will fall for my sick-mother story. You saw him drive on the wrong side, didn’t you? If he was as scared as he claimed to be, don’t you think he would have stuck to the rules? And did you see how he made a show of taking out a picture of Jesus and staring at it? I am sure you will find him acting in plays by night. He must be duping people for practice. And he must think of this as payment for his acting chops.”
She thought to herself, “All I know is, when you need money, you need money; nothing else will do. If he was lying to me, that’s entirely on him. If he can lie about his mother being sick to make a quick buck, then he surely has bigger problems! I took a ride with him but I’ll never know if he took me for a ride!”

Spicing It Up With Religion

Recently, my car witnessed a discussion about religious beliefs in a marriage. I am no expert because I am no longer religious and I doubt the boy I live with ever was.

So her question was, is it possible to co-exist and make decisions beyond the standpoint of religion if one spouse is religious and the other is not? Though I didn’t have an answer then, I figured out one thing right away–I can’t think while I am driving!

Though this comes a fortnight later, I hope it’s better than never. Most religious people tend to be mindless in their faith. I guess faith works best when it’s blind. Here I speak of the temple-going, pooja-doing regularly faithful and not the veda-master, vasudeva kutumbakam-spewer. I grew up in a very religious household set in its way of doing things. A long time before I came about, these activities had moved from the realm of religion to culture or a halfway home thereof. It was the culture of our family to make offerings to the temple, to be frugal during Ekadashi and to show people where they belong. There were rules about what could be eaten, who could be seen and where not to go. When you call it family culture, you don’t come off as a hardliner, do you? I suspect many people grew up like I did. I could very well have turned out to be a 30-year-old who doesn’t think much of any of these things. 30 years is long enough to be set in one’s ways if you are mindless.
To answer your question, I think anything is possible in a marriage. In an ideal state, marriage can be a union of two people who respect each other and their life together. And this respect spills into every aspect of their life, including faith. It’s important that you have faith in your marriage but any other kind of faith should be optional. In a not-so perfect world, religion manifests itself in many ways. It could be in not cooking non-veg in your kitchen, never inviting over friends of a lower caste or having separate vessels for your maid. And I wouldn’t be surprised when these are justified using reasons of taste, convenience and hygiene. And I genuinely believe that many don’t see these remotely as religious activity. Because this is how we grew up. Unless you consciously stop to think about it, it’s as ingrained in you as brushing your teeth every morning.
There is no space in faith. Which is why the dictionary defines it as the complete trust in something. Faith grows when you are fully surrendered to the idea and blind to perspectives. I have a lot of respect for people of faith. They have in them the absolute strength that absolute faith offers. And little else can replace that in our transient lives. Religion is not a hat you wear when you go out. Religion is skin, you are in it or you are dead. This is perhaps why it’s difficult to be a moderate. Of course, this is different from being spiritual or believing in an invisible power.
Let’s take abortion for instance or gender equality. I consider these examples because they are themes of interest to you. Both these as options are systemically written out of religion. Women don’t have the right to choose not only because they belong to men but they also embody sin, have impure bodies and are objects of lust. Of course God is a man. Do religious women even think of abortion as an option? Maybe if they have an atheist for a husband.
I agree that personal should be political. As women, each of us should strive to find and keep our place in our marriages, our belief systems and our society. And this has to be a personal journey where agency is demanded where none exists. But when this ideology meets the religious spouse, I fear the answers to all the tough questions are already written.

Drink Tea And Empathy

Empathy, that’s the buzzword in my life these days. Without incriminating myself too much, let me just say that Empathy pays my bills.

Bear with me as I take you through empathy in action in my life. I like my mid-morning tea. Instead of getting off my chair and making it, I get into a consensus-building meeting where opinions fly about the sense of agency and comaraderie that tea-drinking provides. By the time we get into what brand of organic fairtrade local tea must be consumed, half a day is up. So we put those questions in a parking lot and decide to reconvene the meeting a month later because we need to be considerate about everyone’s schedules.

Meanwhile, over this month my productivity at work dips to 10% because

  1. tea fuels my empathy towards organisational goals and
  2. there is excitement in the team about this move to revolutionise tea-making.

Of course, I go home and power work through the evening.

A month later, when we reconvene, the better part of an hour is spent on what the parking lot questions were and if the agenda could be altered to include the burning question–‘Who shall be accountable for tea making and delivery?’. Just when we think Consensus has left the building, in the last fifteen minutes before lunch, the team agrees!

  1. Yes, tea should be made and
  2. Yes, someone should be accountable.

Could we have an action item and a timeline, please?

Someone, mostly the idiot who raised this issue (that would be me) gets ‘volunteered’ to draft a policy on what it looks like to consume tea as a team both empathetically and sustainably while forwarding the vision of our organisation in the spirit of bringing change, keeping in mind our resource constraints.

Two weeks later…

The draft gets circulated on email where everyone responds REPLY ALL of course, saying

  1. Thank you for awesome work!
  2. You are a genius!
  3. This is epic!
  4. Congrats on exceeding expectations!
  5. Success tastes sweet like ginger tea!

without actually having read the policy. This draft (=final) policy gets uploaded to the cloud where only the person who wrote it knows how to find it.

The next day, when mid-morning lethargy catches up with me,

  1. I sulk
  2. Distract the person closest to me
  3. and Facebook,

before a brainwave hits me. OMG, I have an idea!

I am going to boil some water, pour it into a mug with a ginger teabag and add a ton of sugar and milk!

But let me first email the team,

Sub: Empathy in Action Workshop–Revolutionising mid-morning tea making by enabling everyone to make their own tea!

Dear Team

As discussed in the last team meeting, I am passionate about revolutionising the tea-making culture in our office. I would like to thank everyone present for pushing me to think beyond our daily tea-drinking regimes and to consider the power of revolutionising the process sustainably in keeping with the spirit of change our org embodies.

To further our cause, I would like to invite you to a tea-making workshop to be conducted on 1 Apr, 2016. This is of course a full-day event where you will learn the nuances of our tea revolution and the history of colonial oppression through tea cultivation. This workshop will include but will not be limited to giving yourself permission to make your own tea! I request all of you to prioritise this activity and be present.

Within five minutes, a deluge of REPLY ALLs

1. Thank you for awesome work!
2. You are a genius!
3. This is epic!
4. Congrats on exceeding expectations!
5. Success tastes sweet like ginger tea!

And I get all of 2 sign ups for my workshop which gets moved to an improv meeting at the kitchen counter during tea break.

You know what happens next…life and this post!

Nice Guys Finish Last Because They Are Cheering You On

There are so many Women’s Day posts doing the rounds today. I know I’ll just be adding to the numbers. But I am going to do it anyway.

Julie & Julia–What I love about that movie are the regular husband characters who are super crazy nice. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about such regular men in our lives.

Being nice is a value I have come to regard highly. I don’t see many women giving nice, decent men the credit due to them. Young or old, tall or short, handsome or not, these are everyday men who treat you with respect, thanking you for offering food, lending a ear when you crib, holding the baby while you eat, driving around or waiting in peak traffic while you make a quick pit-stop at your tailor’s on commercial street, worrying about you when you are traveling in our unsafe country. They don’t have to do any of these things in our society. A self-indulgent asshole masquerading as a man is still perfectly normal. All women know this but I never hear of anyone sending up a prayer for our nice men.

My day job isn’t groundbreaking. But I have never worked with nice people and my team is brimming with nice people all the way to the top. And they are mostly men–nice men who listen to my challenges and in situations where they have no solutions to offer, crack a joke and laugh along. I don’t worry about semantics in mails I send my super boss, I don’t have to be tactful when asking for a raise and I definitely don’t have to think twice before disagreeing. I would go out of my way for them because I know they’ve got my back. And it’s a beautiful feeling. One that I cherish.

When you break up with nice men, here’s something to think about. Of course, it’s your decision and there is nothing I can do about it. But in my experience, relationships are not about common goals or personalities or interests. Relationships are about space. It’s about respecting each other’s space and then doing whatever the fuck you want with it. And only nice guys can give you that space. Only nice guys can see that you need to read or not talk or hang out or sleep in without judging you. That is to say, a nice guy will sit through a movie that you like but a person who shares your interest in movies need not be a nice guy. Nice guys learn to live with and love your craziness. And you need to respect that.

No one credits these nice guys. When the world throws tricky situations, stress and tragedies at you, if you have a decent man beside you, you can trust him to give you perspective and tell you that it’s all going to be alright. When it’s not your day in the sun, he will tell you that you are the best. When you get dramatic, he will be there with a Keep Calm sign. And that constancy cannot be replaced. Nice guys finish last. Ans that’s only because they were cheering you on!

Thank you to all the nice men in my life.

Long Before There Were Names

1997 was not a particularly memorable year of what was my awkward childhood. However, a single memory stands out in all its pre-teen awkwardness. It was November, my birthday month. Being 11 still felt new against my skin.

It was a Children’s Day like none other. That year, 14 November fell on a Friday. And our Principal had had an English-medium brainwave!  What does one bunk school and do best on a Friday? Watch a movie, of course. And it was decided that the entire school would watch, not just any movie, but Star Wars Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, which had just been rereleased. In our small town, as an upper primary kid, no one asked me for my opinion or interest. Things were decided, we were told and obeying came naturally to us.

That’s how the entire school landed up at Jos Theatre that Friday morning at 9:00 am. We were sorted into batches and filed into the huge standalone theatre, which little me thought seated well over a ‘thou—uuu—sand’ people because that was a huge number back then.

Days leading to this momentous event buzzed with excitement. S-E-X! That was the word my classroom was channeling. An English movie—most of us hadn’t watched one. The ones who had were all sniggering, chuckling, whispering or acting important. Of course you were a lost cause if you didn’t know English movies were all about sex. Thank god I knew that much! The collective intelligence of 11 year olds wondered what had gotten into the adults to take us to an English movie!

I wasn’t entirely sure what everyone was excited about. Of course it was uncool to admit that. Back then, I didn’t know what sex was. There, I said it! I believed that when men and women reached a certain age, they got married and babies were born as a result of them sleeping beside each other on the same bed. Years later, when I was told the unique fitting required to make a baby (why else would you have sex? We are Indians!), I was sure I was being misinformed. Goes without saying that it took me a lot more years to QED why sex is awesome.

Anyway, when Children’s Day finally dawned and I wore my brown box skirt, I had no idea this movie was going to change my life. Once we fell in line, began a long wait—of standing, shuffling, staring and inching to get all ‘1000’ of us, some too young to understand anything useful in English, seated. Two hours later, we were finally in the cool darkness of wilful suspension.

By then I was bored to tears. And then the movie began. I wasn’t sure I understood anything. I strained to catch all the accented English floating around, but to no avail. The most disturbing question for me was—what is sex in this? I was sure I understood all the actions the actors were performing. I was equally sure that I hadn’t missed anything. If I understood all the actions, it automatically meant that none of that was sex. So if all English movies were about sex, I had understood all actions and hadn’t missed anything then…things weren’t quite matching up. Asking my classmates for confirmation was out of the question. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ kid. I was beginning to get anxious.

The movie was over 2 hours of concentration, frustration, disappointment and confusion. Then it was over as abruptly as it started, and we were waiting for our journey back into the real world to begin. When we escaped that air-conditioned cocoon, I was supposed to become a butterfly, colourful in my knowledge of what sex was. But my mind was still racing to find the answer.

And I did. In the 25 steps of madness from the theatre to its gate, where our school uniforms ran into the ocean of movie-goers, I became a woman; in the most practical sense of the word.

A hand broke the cover of my skirt and reached firmly into me. That unfaltering finger knew where it was going and what it was doing, though I didn’t. It was crowded. Anyway, why would anyone want to touch where I pee?

I turned around to look behind me. I expected someone to be smiling or waving or looking embarrassed — basically acknowledging the act. Well, that’s how young I was. When nobody owned up, I went back to wading through the humanity.

There it was – the hand … in and out and … again.

This time I was sure someone I knew was playing with me. So I didn’t react immediately. I waited for it to happen again. There …  and … just missed. I couldn’t place the prankster.

I tried that stunt twice more. There … again.

By now we were in the middle of this quicksand of people. I was a child who happened to be a girl and not a girl who happened to be a child. And that’s when innocence left me. I didn’t know what ‘this’ was called but I knew ‘this’ was intentional.

Should I call out to Amma to check what ‘this’ is? In that rush … can’t it wait? I can see that she is trying her best to get me out of here. Shouldn’t I behave and tell her once we are back home? There it was again.

In those 7 minutes it took us to get to the front gate, everything changed. I, who knew nothing about sex a couple of minutes back — even after watching an “English” movie — suddenly knew what violation felt like, long before that word joined my vocabulary. Long before there were names, I knew who and what to protect my sex-less body from, but not why. I knew I didn’t want anyone making me feel as confused as I felt that day.

Those minutes slowed into hours over the years, as I began processing that event. All the way into my late 20s, I continued to ask myself — what should I have done that day? Deep in my consciousness, I know the answer; no 11 year old should have to know.

A Wishful Thought

A long time ago, a man named Tee lived in New York City. He was like every other man in the whole world except that a forest grew on his face. Living in temperate America, the trees in his forest were all conifers. They were thin, tall coniferous trees that grew down his face towards the Adam’s apple forming an incredible upside down valley.

Unlike tropical trees that spread their gregarious, friendly arms wide, conifers grow single-mindedly tall as if to meet the sun. From a distance, all the trees in Tee’s forest gave the impression of a velvety beard. But when you took a closer look, you would see that all the trees with their prickly leaves believed strongly in choice and grew in all directions you could imagine- North South East West and more!

The velvet forest wasn’t clean either. Since Tee ate at least three times a day, the forest was littered with breadcrumb rocks, spinach graffitti, rice twigs and chip shrubs. And since he drank coffee at least twice a day, it rained black drops of strong coffee on the unsuspecting terrain. Such were the days and nights in Tee’s forest.

Every other month or so, a razor-sharp plague would come to haunt. A plague so sudden and deadly that the next morning Tee would wake up to a cleared forest, only stumps reminding him of the marvel that grew on his face the night before. Tee always took consolation in the fact that the forest would grow back. It was the law of nature. With every passing day the stubs would grow a teeny-weeny bit and before you knew it, the forest would be a menacing presence again.

Always a stickler for decorum, Nature had other plans, this time around.
So the next time the plague shaved the forest clean, it did not grow back. Tee waited—confidently for the first week, optimistically for the next and hopefully for a third. When the forest showed no signs of growing back, he began to worry. As he wondered what could have gone wrong he looked around him to take in the plight of the forests on other faces. Wait a minute!

Those were not forests. Other faces had gardens—trimmed and groomed gardens where not a single tree grew out of line. There was no coffee rain or other garbage on the garden floor. Some faces grew grass into manicured lawns. Others grew raised beds of uniform plants. The swankier ones had fences with identical sycamore twins on either side. The spiritual ones groomed their garden into ethereal cascades.

The air of grace around the gardens had taught him the folly of his forest. When he woke up the next day, he was in for a surprise! The stubs had grown a teeny-weeny bit. Tee jumped with joy and promised to groom himself every week. The next Monday, true to his promise, Tee stood before his bathroom mirror, talking dearly to his erstwhile forest and trimming them down beautifully.

Bangalore Monsoon

In the time it took me 
to set the table 
and sit down to lunch-
They tell me it rained on Bangalore.
 
All morning sky matched swatches
to the exact shade of a thunderstorm.
Wind scared the trees
and leaves made a production 
of chasing flowers down the road.
 
And then it’s said to have poured 
straight out of a bottle!
While I set the table- 
plates, glasses, rice and curry-
 
Ghost droplets are said to have fallen
On a tree, on a building, 
on a flying bird, on a speeding car
though none made it to the ground.
 
With the first mouthful I looked around 
eager to enjoy the rains, 
but the road was dry and
the sky was clear
And they told me it had rained on Bangalore.