Tuntuni pakhi and jet sprays

My favourite dress was a hand me down from my sister. It was sleeveless and had blue cars drawn on it. I could sit any way I wanted wearing it (not that I would have followed any propriety as a child) and there would be air coming in through all sides.

One of my many nannies was a young girl named Sonia. She was only one feet taller than me and wore her hair in a high pony that resembled a palm tree. She used to take me out to the lake in front of my house and we would throw stones into the water. Hers would always go farther than mine.

Kanta Singh owned a lot of bulls. His hut was a short walk from home. He was quite fond of me and would let me get on his bulls. They didn’t seem to mind either. Quite on the contrary, one of them (named Kalu) licked me across the face once.

I never liked Barbies much. The only thing they seemed to be fit for was to be chewed on. My first act of violence would be to cut their hair, then remove their clothes and head simultaneously. Then, I would spend a good half of my afternoons lying in bed, chewing their limbs till you could make out the fingers from the hand no more.

Dadan was my favourite white haired adult. He used to take me on his lap and feed me rice while my eyes remained stuck to the TV screen. It was Sunday and Tintin was chasing some bad guy across a little island.

Ma had to always run behind me to get my homework done. Being the defiant kid that I was, I had once shoved an eraser into my right ear so deep that the doctor had to jet spray my left ear.

I could never get the tables right. Why did five have to multiply with five at all? I didn’t see any use.

Baba would put me to sleep by running his hands through my hair. He would sing the same song every time. That was oddly comforting. Ma would come next and tell me the story of Tuntuni pakhi. Everyday.

Once I got hit on by a cricket ball because I had dared to play with the boys. Never again did I go near another.

Between the once and the now, many years have passed; years I don’t really remember. Some I choose to forget too. But today when I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered when was the time I started taking my own decisions and deciding what to wear to school myself?

The answer left me feeling lost!

The girl who worked in a bar

“I dropped out of a college, changed my stream, started over and worked in a bar.”

-Words I need to say in order to repel people or to get them to judge me. The aunty in the bus with her kid on her side becomes the cat on high alert. Her ears perk up and her hands cover her daughter’s ears. But she can’t contain herself. She has to go on and ask me; or atleast try to figure out why a girl from a ‘good family’ worked in a bar or dropped two years.

“Umm…but beta why?”

None of the explanations I give satisfy her. In her mind, I have already failed in more exams than I can count, got rusticated for rowdy behaviour and conducted myself in a shameful manner (slutty too).

“But all those men in the bar…was it safe?”

She might as well have asked me how many times I was raped or did something that would elicit the response ‘shame shame’ from her friend group.

The uncle I tell these words to looks at me like I am a piece of meat. Suddenly the wisdom in his eyes is replaced by lust. He is licking his lips mentally. Yum!

What I am doing now doesn’t matter. What matters is what I did. And what I did defines who I am right?

The girls my age run away from me. They have their morality to protect. Their mothers would disapprove. The guy I give my resume to is confused. A 8.0 gpa and then a dropout. Why?

Choice is not something I am allowed to have.

A girl from a good family cannot work in a bar because ‘those places are dangerous for women…’ As if only men drink. And a woman doesn’t have a voice, lest hands and legs.

Our girls should be kept in parda at home; should not have relationships of any kind before marriage; should not go out of home after 5 pm; should not have opinions; should not disobey- says the regime.

Marriage is the only solution for women. Once married, they are the property of their husbands and the slaves to their children. Marital rape is normal. There is consent of course- hey lady, you signed a social contract. Remember always,- the regime continues.

Why blame the regime. My gynecologist told me to not have premarital sex. ‘It can lead to all sorts of problems,’ she said with a wink.

Let’s not come to sexuality. I don’t have one. I can’t have one. The only desire I am permitted to have is that of wanting a kid. Where do kids come from? The angel plants it in my belly. In my case, the angel is my husband offcourse.

I am not allowed to be a single mother. “Shame shame,” Pammy aunty says.

Now our union minister has said surrogacy is not an option for homosexuls, single mothers and partners in a live in.

There goes my chances. After all, who will marry me? I am the girl who worked in a bar remember?

Damn I am doomed. And I am so bloody happy being doomed!

Between the worlds

Between mind throbs and heart aches, there is a world where sanity prevails.

Between the small cats and large dogs, there is a world dominated by affection.

Between the muddy muck and the grey sky, there is a world where the lotus blooms.

Between sky jumps and scuba dives, there is a world of hikes and cycles.

Between your ego and my indifference, there is a world where our heart strings are attached.

Key lesson learnt: find the middle path; the world between the worlds.

Farewell childhood

Disclaimer: Being a writer is terribly hard. I suggest the reader to take my criticism in a comic light. Don’t listen to me. Read the play for what it is. I am just overwhelmed at the moment. Happy reading!

 

Summer of 2007 was memorable. That summer was dedicated to JK Rowling and her magical world. There was no end to the discussions. I was reduced to tears when the otherwise cruel Snape’s secret was out. His patronus was the same as Lily’s. ‘After all this time?’ was answered by ‘Always.’ That’s all it took to melt my stone like heart.

Harry Potter had defeated the Dark Lord and there was finally a happily ever after. The wizarding world and the muggle community could rest in peace. Good had triumphed on evil. We could all sleep well. Harry had grown up and now it was my turn.

Fast forward to 2016.

I don’t really know how to be an adult. All I know is that I am one. Young adult fiction is out of bounds for me now. It’s time to read the grown-up books. But I couldn’t contain myself when Rowling released her Cursed Child.

Childhood was back. Comfort was back in life. Harry had grown up and he could give me pointers on how to do it. I started reading the book as soon as I laid my hands on it. The black hardcover felt like home.

I had been warned previously that the book was a disappointment. But how can Rowling go wrong, right? It took me just 4 hours to get done with the play. The fifth hour saw me pondering.

I was definitely going to the wrong person for advice on how to be an adult. I didn’t recognise Harry. Hermione is a person easily swayed by a kiss. And Ron…well poor Ron has no part but to crack jokes here and there. Rowling did you happen to forget that there is no Harry and Hermione without Ron? Or did you just make up their friendship to make us kids feel good about our peers.

Sibling love doesn’t exist in the story. Where are James and Lily Potter when their brother needs them the most? It’s not like they are sitting in a boarding school in Hawaii? They are both in Hogwarts for God’s sake.

Since when did Dumbledore become such a weepy person? His portrait seems to pour out more tears than the Niagara falls in one day.

Let me not come to the racism in the play. I might just punch the playwrights. Since Panju is a proper noun, the next possible names of people from around the region should be Gujju and Mallu. Lesson to aspiring writers- you don’t need to research anymore, as long as there is a diversity factor in the story.

Rowling doesn’t seem to remember her characters. If she had, the story would be utterly different. The book is a recap of what happened in the past 7 books and then some.

Oh and Voldemort is a joke (the man without a nose), as is his lineage.

Why Rowling? Why did you do this to my childhood and to the way I look at the wizarding world?

Sigh. Looks like the grown up books are what I need to turn to now.

Oh Kolkata!

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Oh Kolkata, oh Kolkata!

How I sigh every time I think of your lanes, of your various moods, of the ‘aste ladij‘ of the bus conductors, of the kakimas and the didimas, the smell of cha on hot coal mingled with the smell of burnt tobacco. How you have been and will always remain a mystery to me. This is an ode to you- the only subject I can write a novel on:

I started off in Kolkata- my local Amsterdam, as a white blob called Diya. A few years later, I came back as Radhika- only to leave it again as a strange amalgamation of the two. My two year stay in this city might seem to all as ant years in a human’s lifespan- but to me it feels as a lifetime. The drastic change I underwent while here cannot be described in words- at least my vocabulary is insufficient to do so.

After a lot of brain wracking on my part; cups and cups of coffee; walking down the memory lane; I finally found a metaphor for this city—truth be told, I found plenty of them. The first thing that came to my mind was- a black hole- an oddity that sucks in every bit of a person, rips apart all of their ideals and give back pure bits and pieces of the soul. But this seemed very negative. Further down the road- I thought of it as a rehab center—people come in for a while; undergo agony and excruciating pain and leave a better person. This too was black. Then I thought of Kolkata as an oxymoron—a city which wants to progress yet is stuck in the past. Too clichéd? I know.

Finally the romantic in me came up with another metaphor which, I thought, fit best—my first love. Very like the first lover one has ever had, this city comes across as a much needed break in a person’s life. It is simply different- its many facets, one can never understand fully; its vibrance is blinding; the twist and turns of the its lanes- a labyrinth in a sane mind; its heat and humidity- suffocating and its mentality- claustrophobic.

My initial feeling towards my new love was one of hatred. But as days went by, I just got used to its vices and its way of life. The city moves at a caterpillar’s pace—viscous and slow. It took me some time to realize that this fact will never change and in trying to change it- I changed as a person. Here every day is a continuation of the previous- there is no new day.

Hence my hatred gave rise to resignation. This is how it is; no point trying to change it—I said to myself. I had come into the city as a ‘know it all’; I left it, a humbled soul. Every step of the way, my lover challenged me—it gave me a hard time; kicked me in the ass and helped me back on my feet. In short it gave me room to grow. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly face of the city. I will not try to fool anyone by saying that I take back only the good. Quite on the contrary, I take back the whole experience.

Kolkata taught me the value of hard work and humility. In the multitude of people, I found certain strange faces which later became family in the true sense. The city, I later found, has numerous layers to it—it starts with being cold and harsh and proceeds by giving you the warmth you have never felt before. It never gave up on me- yes, I personify the city. Why I do so, you will only be able to understand if you have lived here. It has a bit of everything to offer- art and culture for the intellectual; music for the harmonist; lights and glamour for the party freak; money for the businessman; solitude for the loner; bad habits for the indulgent and religion for the believer.

Kolkata is life personified. I might never go back to stay; but I know for a fact that the umbilical connection is there to stay for life. Like the tough school master, Kolkata has made me able enough to face the world. 20 years down the line, I will still sigh with wonder whenever I hear this name. I am mesmerized and yes, I am finally in love with it- the purest of the loves- the ones which survive years of separation.

To the vitruvian woman

Your lips the color of my womb

bleed words that take me to the moon.

The look in your eyes set fire to my tomb

while your touch comes to me as a boon.

 

Bukowski, you say, is your lover,

you claim to be his bread and butter.

Gertrude has your heart in a cover,

your beauty, if shunned, can lead her to a gutter.

 

Life ‘came a full circle when I first saw your face,

your fire burnt my soul to the depth of my grave.

A Madonna on earth, you weren’t from my race,

had a halo around you, I could see you brave.

 

Your memories taunt me like something I haven’t got,

How I worship your feet and I can help it not.