Thursday, September 29, 2011

What colour is October?

What colour is October, asked the child today. These are the parts I am unprepared for. I am used to the other part, specially since I mentally gave up on ever getting eight straight hours of sleep in my life. I think I also understand food and its importance as an essential weapon in any child's armour. I get the 'I am bored' too and normally address it as any self-respecting mother should, which is with complete empathy and zero activity. What? Boredom fosters creativity, don't you know. At least my parents broadly held that view and we turned out to be....well, boring.

But what colour is October? Is this my cue to break out some hackneyed prose? October is the colour of festivals, my love, I could answer, fighting hard to keep a straight face. It is the orange of the marigold and the white of the jasmine. It is the red of the flame that lights the diyas, the red of the Pujo pandal next door and the red of the gerbera that will soon float in the brass urli that I will pull out for Diwali. It is the colour of good over evil, son and of unity in diversity. I could say all this and it would sound most evocative, wah wah but it would mean nothing.

So what is the colour of October? I could dive into memories I suppose and call to mind the Octobers gone by and try very hard to remember what colour they were. Misty white, with that famous nip in the air heralding the arrival of winters in right earnest? All the colours of the rainbow drizzled onto razais that were being brought out to see the sun before they could be pressed into service? Oranges and peanuts, perhaps. Or the murky brown of tea, endless cups of it.

I could delve into synesthetics too, substituting one sense for another and ask myself how Octobers smell. Wood-smoky, isn't it, brown and autumnal.

What colour is October, he asks again. I flip the calendar to the next month. He looks at it, understands and smiles. October is purple, he says.

Now you know.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mausam and many other things

I sometimes get crushes over cities. We all do. Books have got a lot to do with it. Some authors have the talent to transport us to the towns they write about and once we turn the last page, we find ourselves missing the streets and cafes and people of these places that we have never visited. It was Marrakesh some time back. Now it is Edinburgh. And Varanasi. I have never been to either. Edinburgh is of course due to the deluge of Alexander McCall Smith novels. I find myself fantasizing about buying sun-dried tomatoes from Valvona and Crolla and drinking espresso at Big Lou's cafe (unlikely as in real life I am a Mocha kind of person, not to mention the fictional nature of the cafe) and walking down Princes Street. You know how newly-learnt words keep popping up from everywhere, it seems that cities that we would like to know better do the same. And so, when we sat down to watch the not-so-awesome Mausam yesterday (more on that later), I was quite excited to note that parts of it were shot in Edinburgh. Beautiful, beautiful Edinburgh. Any readers there? Hello, I say. Let's have an Irn-Bru sometime, yes? (Note to self: Don't go reading Trainspotting now.)

My other love-interest is Varanasi. Benaras. Yes, of the pan and saris and the ghats and the aartis and the colourful language and the food. This one is obviously within reach and I was exploring flight and hotel options before sitting down to writing this post. I finished the first draft of that novel, you know and I am letting it stew for a week before sitting down with it again and figuring out the glaring anomalies and the unforgiveable errors, all this while the dreams of Benaras running at the back of the mind. I don't even know if I should just let this day-dream be, having spent enough time in UP to know that the reality will be nowhere near what I imagine it to be. And yet....

Also, while the novel stews, I can pay some long-due attention to my poor, neglected little blog.

The children. The boy is in Singapore with his father. The house is quieter, emptier, lacking an essential ingredient let's say. Maybe next year, M can take both of them for a vacation and then, well, I don't know what I would do. Something fun, I suppose though you would be correct in betting on moping. And consuming junk food.

So anyway, what was wrong with Mausam? *SPOILER ALERT*

I love Pankaj Kapur. His turn as Jehangir Khan or Abbaji in Maqbool is probably one of the finest acts in Indian cinema. (I know I am sounding like a pundit here but indulge me, won't you?) And so, when he takes on the mantle of director, we - perhaps unfairly - automatically expect great things. The problem with Mausam is that it's set between 1992 and 2000's but it's released in the time of Facebook where finding someone, anyone takes only minutes. I think the audience of Mausam will be polarised basis their willingness to suspend disbelief. We love love stories, we do and it's pretty enough a film I suppose with even our jaded Punjab da pind looking fresher than they have in the longest time. But how many times can two people miss each other? Why is it so difficult to track down a squadron leader of our air-force specially when he has not gone missing behind enemy lines? Why is there no forwarding address left? What is the point of Harry's damaged hand in the story? The problem is not that there should be answers to these questions, the problem in fact is that we are asking these questions in the first place. The film doesn't lift you and make you an invisible participant in the goings-on. Comparisons are odious but I will still stick my neck out and say that the acting gene got mutated from the senior Kapur to the junior. (I of course, am talking about Shahid, not Sonam, whose primary task is to look pretty and wraith-like.) The high point of the film for me was the fine rendition of Abhi Na Jaao Chhor Kar from Hum Dono. I really just hope Pankaj Kapur acts a lot more, directing be damned.

It was not a day for the arts. After the debacle of Mausam in the morning, my mum still had a Jagjit Singh concert to look forward to last evening. A bit of  a fan, she had prepared her requests for the ghazal-maestro and was sent off in the evening by Raagu and her amma. As it happened. Mr Singh suffered a brain haemorrhage yesterday and has been admitted to Lilavati Hospital. Hope he feels better soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The street - II

I stood by the street again and looked around nosily, hoping for bits and pieces of people’s life-stories to spill out of them as they walked by, pieces that they reveal in their clothes and their shoes and their conversations on their cell-phones. There is a temple next to the bus-stop and as is probably quotidian, a boy walked out of the gates carrying a pot of water, flowers floating on the top, probably the remains of the morning aarti. He walked over to the tree next to me and poured the whole thing, water, flowers, prasaad et al into the roots and walked away. A couple of men walked over and one of them sat down on the small boundary that the government has built around the tree. One of them took out a box of matches and I assumed he would light a diya right there, probably recite a mantra. After all, it is not unusual to see men offering water to the sun in the morning, holding their hands up and pouring the water down as the morning rays catch the water and wink at us. And then there are the barefoot pious who walk to Siddhi Vinayak. Prayers and rituals are all around us.
This tree too had been claimed by the temple. There were threads around it and red sindoor on its brown bark and flowers strewn all around. Hark back to the Aryan ages, really. But the men were not there to say their prayers. The one with the matchbox struck a match and held it out to the other, to light his cigarette. They settled down to enjoy their nicotine break. Right on cue, a homeless woman, fat, dirty with matted hair that has probably never been washed appeared on the scene. She started mucking about in the soil of the tree and uncovered two bananas. Then she spotted the men and started bristling. Hey you, she started off, what do you think you are doing. Smoking next to the holy tree? Is that done? Wrong, wrong, wrong!
 I have seen this woman about. She is always pregnant. Where does she have her babies, I once asked my mother because mothers, as you know have all the answers. By the roadside, said my mother with supreme confidence. I was haunted by that response for sometime.  
And there she was now, giving quite an earful to the two men. It was rather enjoyable to see this reversal in the power-equation. The two discomfited men now rose to their feet. They would have probably shooed this woman off on any other day, turning up their nose at her bedraggled state. They looked awfully guilty now though. Caught on the wrong foot! Sitting and smoking near a holy tree! What has the world come to? Finally, the homeless woman had her fill of scolding the two office-goers. Scratching her head and clutching her bananas, she walked off, still muttering under her breath. The school-bus arrived and I walked home too wondering about socio-economic classes and religion and propriety.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We meet again, dear reader

Bit of a break there. There could be many reasons for the absence. I have been falling asleep at nine, eight-thirty, hell even eight, basically thirty seconds after the children go to bed.  Right party animal I am turning out to be. I look back sometimes, at my own (mercifully) brief periods of wild partying and find myself tiring even at the memory so perhaps it is just as well.
It goes without saying that I am exhausted by the end of each day.
The writing goes well and I hope there is a bunch of readers out there who are waiting for the next novel, that I am not doing all this in vain though after five years of absence from real office environment, I don’t think I have any options left.
It’s Ganpati Visarjan today and the drums –dhols, actually - are resounding all over the city. I find myself a little removed from the whole thing, as I am perhaps from pretty much any festival. M is flying out tonight to London and is wondering how early he ought to leave for the airport to make it for the two o’clock flight. He looks so distressed at all the travel he has been doing. Except Hong Kong, which was really rather nice. It’s a great city to live in and like always, I found myself comparing Mumbai unfavourably with it upon my return. I bet Mumbai wasn’t too happy to find me back either. If you don’t like it, move – like unimaginative people who don’t appreciate such sentiments like to say.
Hong Kong is not like Singapore, I thought. Or like Bangkok. It’s tres international in look and feel and vibe. We stayed at my sister’s for a couple of days, in an absolutely ravishing apartment with the sea splashing down a few feet away from the building, before moving to Disneyland. I buy into the whole Disney thing completely. I have no reservations in hanging my cynical hat at one of the Mickey-shaped hat-stands at the entrance  - only metaphorical, though the rivets in the pavement really are Mickey-shaped, you know. The rides were pretty average and I left my beautiful new sunglasses behind at the Space Mountain ride. Steep price to pay for a below-desired adrenaline level ride really but I was more absent-minded than usual. The Lion King show was pretty astounding though. We went back for the parade the next day and it is a bit of a shock to see the Cinderella and Snow White of our childhood suddenly assume an Asian persona and identity. Complicated, these things.
And then there was Macau which would be a nice place for a bit of debauchery I suppose for two young people but when you are traveling with two small children, the highlight of the trip becomes the ferry ride, the rocking movement of which manages to put the baby to sleep. The Venetian is a pretty nice hotel, plush and large and quite golden really but when M went to the casino after putting the two kids (and me) to bed, he found it all not really to his taste and he came back via a trip to Starbucks. I had to let him in, some problem with the key and we stayed up for a while, eating the potato pie that he had brought and looking out at the lights of that strange city-country, full of casinos and not much else. The world is such an intoxicating place and one can get addicted to travel, the more you see, the more you want to see.
Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. Pure candy floss of course but nicely flavoured. Not unputdownable, unlike Bodyguard which was eminently putdownable and never to be picked up again.
Anyway, so a short, rambling post just to write something in the blog. It’s been more than a month since I last wrote. Well, you do know I wouldn’t go away without saying a proper goodbye and this isn’t it.