Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Big Window

(An old Wordpress post republished, slightly modified)

She always awoke with the dawn. That dark hour before the first light appeared, before the dew evaporated and the dust got unsettled.  Lie in bed for a few seconds until the moment of full awakening. Get up, don’t make any noise, open the bedroom door as noiselessly as possible, but most importantly, don’t wake him. Slow and careful steps, tiptoe, close the door gently behind you.  

“Out for a walk”, she wrote on an old phone bill. Then she tore up the paper and scattered the pieces inside her pocket.

Many summers ago when she lived near the sea, she would take her dogs out in the morning, letting them run on the beach, unleashed.  Her face always turned towards the sun, towards the light, to what she called freedom.  Running along with the dogs gave her a sense of nonexistence, as if there was only her shadow, and she was an invisible weightless body floating very close to the ground.

The city was big, and it blinded her at night, crowding her, making her feel trapped in a jungle of lights. Sometimes the noise of the cars honking on the street below their apartment left her disoriented.

“Is it always like this? Always this raucous?”

“Most of the time. It will get quieter at Christmas, when the students go home.” He did not look up from his book, something about space explorers getting lost in another universe. He had probably borrowed it from his students.

And there were the voices inside her head.  Who were they? A long forgotten lover? That lost tourist she sheltered for a week? Or could it be her father, lost at sea, his body never found. The voices had come on and off, sometimes mocking her, sometimes laughing maniacally, sometimes a low murmur. She restrained herself from replying, from screaming at them, telling them to shut up and go away.   
 
I am not crazy. I am not crazy. I am not crazy.

I am not.

There were good days and bad days. Sometimes, on the bad mornings, he would hear her stifle a cry when she thought he was asleep. He’d lie there, not daring to breathe or move, not wanting to embarrass her.  He knew her eyes were red, her lips swollen from biting, and could almost feel the hot tears that bathed her face.The crying sessions were always followed by a deep sleep, as if she had exhausted the supply of tears and had to recharge the batteries.

Summer mornings were her favourite time of the year. His too. Some mornings she would wake him, and together they would watch the sky change colour, from a nightly black to a metallic grey, then to beautiful pinks and oranges, until the sun turns a hot yellow, burning everything in sight.

They had not watched the sunrise together in two years. He loved the mornings as much as she did, but something held him back, something about her demanded solitude, and most of the time he was simply too tired.

That summer was cruel. At nights when it got too hot he dragged the mattress down from the bed and slept on the floor near the big window. The first night was wonderful, but in the morning he was woken by the sun coming through the window, hitting him right on the eyes. From the next night he slept facing the other way round, and a small problem solved.

She was not the type to cuddle, hugging her folded knees, rolling herself up embryonic ally. But her physical presence made him happy, happy that she was there, in person, that she chose to be with him.

He vividly remembered the night he felt the heat coming through her thin cotton shirt. There was a wide gap between them in the bed, yet he could feel the heat rising from her back. He got up, soaked a towel in cold water and wiped her neck and chest. That look on her face, that half asleep half smile was something  he captured and locked away in his memory, like all the other good things he stored deep in his private happiness box, somewhere deep in his brain, which nobody else could access.

In the morning she was gone.

It was true, he never expected her to stay, but he couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed to wake up to find all her belongings gone, including the Shrek ashtray she liked so much. He would have loved to keep that, clean it and keep it on top of the TV. Then he could look at it from time to time when the TV programs get too boring.

“Ogres are like onions”, was always her favourite movie line. He finally understood what that line meant. There were parts of her, layers which he would never unravel, mysteries he would never solve. And she made him cry. Yes, he cried. But he was not ashamed.  For the first time in 15 years he let the tears slide down his cheeks and watched the world turn hazy.

He lifted the mattress and placed it back on the bed. The big window was open, and the smell of the wet earth floated in.  A comforting, earthy smell. The rains had come. He smiled; life would go on.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Of chai and pakodas


Today I happened to watch an advertisement on TV. Which is a very rare event because 1) I usually change the channel as soon as an ad comes on, and 2) I rarely watch TV. So this ad comes on, about Splendor bike, and it went something like:  a guy sends a text that says “Chai in the Misty Mountains.” Then three of his friends, happy to receive that text, drop whatever they are doing, and ride on their bikes towards the Misty Mountains. Somewhere on the way our four friends meet up, and they ride happily together until the Misty Mountain is reached and the chai is drunk.

It left me thinking, “Wow these guys are something else, not only do they want to go to the same place, but get ready immediately and reach the meeting point all at the same time,” and wished meeting up with friends was as easy as that.

Flash back a couple of years ago. Hyderabad, when it still was the capital of united Andhra Pradesh. Me and a bunch of friends from work often meet up on holidays and weekends and do something, go somewhere. Our plans were never plans, more like a puzzle where you don’t know where you’re headed until the last minute. Someone would have the grand idea that we should do something, and call everyone. Plans, or something similar to that would be made. Fellow with the car would pick up everyone and then the discussion on where to go would begin, and the actual plan would emerge.

 AR was always late. Since he was the guy with the wheels, we could never go anywhere without him, and he knew we would wait for him, which makes him even more late. Oh how we cursed him and bitched about him and called him and texted him, only to hear “I’m almost ready”.  Of course almost could mean anything from five minutes to two hours. Sometimes we would all go to his place and while he ran around getting ready his family was forced to feed us and be nice to us.

And then there was the “invite someone along without my friends’ approval” which always ruined the day/evening/night because we then had to be extra polite and use nice words to each other.  There was that one time AJ decided to invite one girl, who declined the invitation and then once we had started off changed her mind and had to be waited for an hour. I remember that day, we waited for her on a petrol bunk, and just opposite the road was a bar-cum-restaurant. We had waited for almost an hour, and everyone was low on patience.  We were so tired of sitting in a car, on a hot sunny day, waiting for someone who might or might not show up, that when someone suggested we all go into the bar and get drunk and go home we almost said yes.

However, time delays never dampened our spirits. There was that one time we decided to go to Medak and see the church and maybe visit a nearby waterfall on the way home.  Medak is about two hours’ drive from Hyderabad. AR was late again (no surprise there), and when we left the city it was almost 3 PM. A few photo shoots  on the way, a tyre puncture, and by the time we reached Medak it was after 5 PM and the church was about to be closed to visitors. We managed to get inside, did a quick tour, and left when it was dark. We then visited nearby old buildings and drove back to the city, and on the way had the best dal pakodas with coconut chutney.

Incomplete research on a place you intended to visit (visiting a beautiful lake, except it was the middle of the June and the lake was completely dry)? Breakdowns at night in the middle of the forest with no equipment or spare parts? Police patrols asking you to show your ID because you are in the middle of a Naxalite-infested area? Wondering what the living arrangements are between two women and a man who sheltered you while your car is being fixed? Check all that. Having a good time in spite of all that? Check!!

Life’s changed.  Now everything has a timestamp. Go to that place at that time, do that thing and go home. If you’re going to be late be sure to call home and relay the news.  No more long rides and going out whenever and wherever just because you can. No more touristy and sightseeing trips. No more being free.  All I wish for now is Gandalf to show up when I'm 50 and take me on the adventure of a lifetime.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Love of God


It was a Saturday evening. I was busy with the after-dinner cleanup and listening to music on my phone which I kept nearby. Suddenly out came this beautiful song (probably received via the many Whatsapp groups), which I instantly recognized as a song we often sang in church. I was surprised, not because there exists an English version of a Mizo hymn, but because it was so easily available, and in such a modern version too! I grabbed the phone with my dirty hands, and after fumbling with the buttons for a while found that the song was called Love of God, performed by Mercyme.

Later I opened the Kristian Hla Bu and found the song at No. 43 – Pathian hmangaihna ropuizia, written by one Frederick M. Lehman.  Then came a flurry of Googling and Youtube-ing and discovering that the song was written by Lehman in 1917; and that the third and last stanza was inspired by a poem written nearly 200 years ago by an insane man on the walls of an asylum, which was in turn originally composed by a Jewish Rabbi around the year 1050!

It is a beautiful song, simple yet profound. I cannot decide which lyrics I love more, the Mizo or the English version.

KHB #43

Pathian hmangaihna ropuizia,
Thu leh hlain a hril seng lo;
Van aia sang, aw a zauzia,
Sual hmun thim ber pawh a thleng zo.
Sual bawiha tang, lungngai, mangang,
A Fapa a pe a;
Boral fate muanna a pe,
An sual a ngaidam ta.

A va thuk em, a va na em,
Pathian hmangaihna chu!
Chatuan pawhin a chuai dawn nem,
Angel varte hla chu.

Ram ropui leh lei lalthutthleng,
An tlawm vek ang, hun a ral ang;
Tu pawh tawngtai duh lova ngeng
Chuan tlang leh lung an la phen ang.
A chuai lo vang, a lang zel ang,
Pathian hmangaihna chu;
Adama thlah tlanna a fah,
Angel varte hla chu.

Tuifinriat zawng hlotui chang se,
Ziakna atan thingzar tinreng;      
Lehkha phekan van khi chang se,
Ziaktu atan chuan mi tinreng.
A hmangaihna puang dawn ila,
A kang zo ngei ange;
A leng dawn lo, a hlai tawk lo,
A hril seng chuang lo’ng e.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.




Thursday, September 4, 2014

excusez-moi

oh my god i've lost it. i cannot write anymore. this is maybe the fourth or fifth try (or maybe more) and i will not delete this no matter what. see, i've stopped using capital letters and typing directly on blogger.com, that's how far gone i am (but i still use my apostrophes at the right place so i guess i am still redeemable).

blame facebook. blame whatsapp and those messaging apps. blame free wifi. blame too much to do everywhere i look. blame life for changing its course. blame all those people who surge into my life. blame torrent downloads and quiet nights.

blame all those people who stopped blogging. blame those beautiful songs on repeat. blame all those online shopping sites that let me window-shop without lifting a foot. blame those cute nieces who are still hyper-active at ten in the night. blame those social events that are compulsory. blame these eyes that close too early at night and open too early in the morning.

see it's only three paras gone and already i'm looking for people to text and friends to annoy and movie spoilers to reveal.

sometimes you have to stop worrying and do what feels right. yeah i know easier said than done.

i take back my words. i don't blame any of the aforementioned things/people. it's all me, me, me. 

lazy

do scars bleed, ed sheeran?