My three wives

I am a married woman with three wives and many more to come. These wives of mine give me a very hard time whenever I touch them or even hold them. On pressing their neck for too long, my fingers are blistered. They hurt me. I struggle with them every time I hold them. I press their necks harder and strum their body louder till they finally give in. Then when we become one, we create beauty.

In case you still haven’t understood, my wives are my three guitars in three different cities where I live- Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. It was on a whim, as majority of the things in my life are, that I decided to learn music. I chose the guitar as it was deemed to be cool—not glamourous mind you (that would be the cello or the piano) –just cool. It was the summer of 2008 when my dad took me to a shady looking instrument shop and said, “today I am gifting you your life. Handle it with care.” I did not understand a word of what he had said to me. Nonetheless, I pretended to be wise and thanked him; promised to handle ‘my life’ with the utmost care.

My first love-turned-wife was a wood coloured gb&a with nylon strings and a great gloss finish. I loved the look of her. I had huge plans of taking her to school and flaunting her beauty in front of my peers; carrying her on my back as if I knew everything about her. It would surely make people jealous. My musical education started soon after this and I had high hopes from my first class. I had expected that I would pick up hotel California within days of joining these classes because after all it is supposed to be a classic, is it not? What kind of a guitarist would I be if I didn’t know how to play Hotel California?

This hope was busted in my first class when my teacher gave me something called ‘finger building exercise’. Basically these build strength in ones fingers and ensure that a first timer is actually able to produce a clear note from the guitar. They were excruciatingly painful. The speed, the right amount of pressure on the fret board, the strumming- all had to be mastered. That took time and immense patience. Now I understood what the line ‘played it till my fingers bled’ meant.

Not a very patient person by nature, there were many instances where I almost threw my newlywed wife out of the balcony or smashed her on the floor. But my dad kept urging me to go on. A tabla player, he knew exactly how I was feeling. The thought that he had gone through the same torture, was soothing. On one of my reluctant practice sessions, I managed to get one single note right. I will never forget how I felt that day. I was literally on Cloud 9.

Slowly and not so steadily, I finally mastered those exercises. It took me 4 months. Then came playing nursery rhymes on the guitar which was a little humiliating for a 8th grader. Telling my classmates that I was learning London Bridge was a sure shot ticket to getting raged and being laughed at.

There were six months to go before I got my first chord song—Zombie by cranberries. I can’t explain the joy I felt when I got that sheet of music in my hands. I picked it up within days and played it everywhere— to every family get together, every school function, to my sister, to my maid, to the dog, to reluctant neighbours, even to the milkman—I had it all covered.

By the time I learnt the basic chords, I thought I knew everything that there was to know about my now not-so-newlywed wife. Then, to burst my bubble came my first guitar exam. It was an eye opener. I knew nothing at all. I had not even gone to the stage where I could write the A, B, C’s of music. I still had to perfect writing A. That was surely a disappointment.

Over a period of 5 years of cribbing that I wanted to divorce her and yet for some unknown reason, forcing myself to be with her, I fell in love. Within those 5 years I grew with her. She got to know me and vice versa. Now I knew what she felt like. She got familiar with my touch, my moods, and my every emotion, I could channel through her.

I used to cuddle with her when I was sad, sing with her when I was happy and strum her hard when I was angry. I slowly found myself content with just being with her in my room; holding her and delicately strumming her with no particular tune in mind. We made music together and laughed together when I played a note that was oddly out of place in a scale.

Change-

Summer of 2013 I graduated from high school and came to Kolkata for college. Here in this city, I got myself a new wife from one of the most famous music stores in the city—Braganza and Sons. These people knew their music. I got to this shop and asked to buy a guitar. The man across the counter- Braganza uncle, as I would later come to call him, asked me what kind of guitar I wanted.

I had no clue, yet again. I told him what I had back home and confessed that I was feeling guilty of betraying my first wife. He smiled and said, “I know how you feel. First love is special but you have to make room for others or you would never know how special the first one is.” Saying this he handed me a black Granada. She was a looker. She fitted my arms perfectly and our pitch matched beautifully. Over a year and a half, I have come to know her. In the beginning she was difficult; she was different like my environment. But thank god she was consistent. This time the fighting was less, atleast.

My third wife resides in Bangalore. She is a black gb&a with a slightly low pitch. I have a weird relationship with her. We rarely meet but the funny thing is, each time we meet as strangers to each other. Each time I go back home, I am a different person and it takes her time to understand me but when she does, all is well.

Today I sit writing this piece at 1:30 am for just one reason- the reason might seem odd to you- but these three understand me like no other. They are not mere instruments for me; they are entities whom I communicate with. I don’t have to tell them how I feel. They know. It is so true when they say that music heals. I can say it with confidence because I have felt it. I promise to never let them go.

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Late night swim– relaxing or not?

I wish i could say that a late night swim is relaxing…but i will say something quite on the contrary. When i was doing my laps, a man deliberately kept coming in my way (he did it 5 times and yes i counted). When i would stop and look at him, he would give me a sheepish smile and would keep standing there, not bothering to move his huge self. Meanwhile, his wife, who was waiting for him on one of those pool chairs, kept smiling at him although she saw exactly what was happening.

What did I do? On his sixth attempt to interrupt me, he got a real bad kick on his face. I drew blood and call me a sadist, but I have never been so proud of myself before. What surprised me the most about that incident was the wife’s behaviour. I wanted to hold her by the shoulders, shake her and ask her why she kept numb when she could see her man behaving like an animal right in front of her.

We as women blame rape, harassment, molestation completely on the man but what we forget is that the man was raised by a woman. If mothers don’t teach their sons how to treat a fellow female, if wives don’t stop their husbands from treating another woman as a piece of meat, who will?

This is my humble request to all women reading this- SPEAK UP…your silence is capable of causing havoc in another woman’s life. You, like your male counterparts, have a choice. For God’s sake and for your own-exercise it. You are no different from men- you have the same 2 legs, 2 hands, a mouth, a voice and a brain to think- so please use it or else it will rot.

One more thing. If anyone asks me what I was wearing in the pool because, they think, it could be a probable cause for the man’s behaviour- I am well capable of punching you to death.

eve teasing

Aleph

“The Aleph was about two or three centimeters in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no diminution in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point in the universe.”
– Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Aleph’

This is my attempt at reproducing the cover of “Aleph” by Paulo Coelho. Done with a mix of wax and oil pastels on paper.

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The Lady

There she was in my dream,
A canvas- a canvas done by me,
She was as ‘normal’ as any of mine can be.

Her auburn hair in a severe bun,
The black button up,
a- turtle neck,
a dog’s leash lovingly pressing
her delicate neck.
Yet she smiled- smiled through all that pain.

The old and the wise had once told me-
leave the eyes for the last,
The window to the soul,
Delicate creatures they are,
Tread lightly around them
For they- those unexplained beauties,
can well show you heaven in hell.

Kohl lined they were,
A strange hazel hue in them,
Big and bold- fearless they were
Stood out in her cold face.
Glowing like the star just before death

But wait- the emotions,
The emotions in their depths.
Something bordering between
Stubborn bliss and cynical defiance,
they haunt my dreams.
What is it about them?
I understand not.

My own creation so painfully crass.
What is she?
Why is she what she is?
I long for the day
I can conceive her with the stroke of a brush.
I long for the day
I can give her a house, a frame,
I long for that day,
I do.

I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.
I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.

The muse to her man

Only 19 I was when I met you;

That fateful day in spring;

When brother Andre unknowingly;

Seized my heart from me and gave you.

That day I lost all that was dear-

My sanity, my pride, my family

And most of all myself.

Yes, I lost myself to you.

Shy, petite, obedient, I was.

You charmed me by your darkness.

Your handsome face was my mirror;

And you were my God.

Ill-reputed you were;

They named you a lothario,

A womanizer, a vagabond,

The moody prince of Paris.

Yet I ignored all;

I heard not the pleas of my loved ones.

They cried out-

Dear Jeannette, to your doom you go.

But me,

I, who was in love;

Heard not the cries of sanity.

Followed my childish heart,

And came to you faithfully.

Forever yours.

Promises you made me;

Said you’d give me your name,

Your love, yourself.

Dear Modi, where did they go?

When my Jeanne was born,

All she had was an unknown father.

An alcoholic,

An artist living in denial of the world.

Yet I loved you despite all.

Sat through all your dark moods;

All your whimsical acts I bore;

All your violent rages I took to my skin.

Yes I loved you.

I was your ‘jeannette’,

Your wife, your muse.

Despite all, possess you I could not.

After all you were the artist and I your muse.

When all friends deserted you,

I was there was I not?

When the world spit on you,

You found comfort in the warmth of my bosom did you not?

Oh my Modi, my sweet love,

The web of sensual darkness

That you wove around me was now my home,

My reason to live.

And when you left this cruel world,

I left with you.

I was yours till my last moments.

Your ‘Jeanette’,

Your unacknowledged wife,

Your muse.

mid week gibberish

Go fishing with no knowledge of where
the fish and the hook should be.
Go bungee jumping with fear of height
in your heart.
Mix irish cream with black coffee
and drink it as a shot.
Wear polka dots to a cocktail party.
Listen to the radio and sing along loud
even though you can hardly get any note right.
Fall in love with some random stranger on the street
just because his eyes are like a dream.
Pack your bag on a Monday morning
and leave town for the whole week.
Switch off your phone
and speak to the person sitting beside you on the train.
Go to a circus and eat cotton candy
just because it is the thing to do.
Hug the lady who sits on the street
with her dog and bag as company.
You never know that might be the only hug
she has got in a very long time.
Call up those who really matter
and spend ages talking to them about absolute nothing;
because sometime nothing is everything.
Don’t be afraid to talk non sense;
it sometimes makes sense.
Smile freely,
Laugh loudly,
Cry passionately,
Love effortlessly,
Live like there is no tomorrow.

Romancing the city of joy

This is the fifth time I am coming back to writing this article. Every time I write one paragraph and read through it, I hate myself for such a creation and end up deleting the whole thing. I don’t know why it is so difficult to talk about this city. The city of joy- it is called, but I feel differently about it.
Originally from Kolkata, I am what Bengalis call ‘probashi bangali’- a Bengali who has barely lived in Bengal. My earliest memories of this city are those of my childhood—of a joint family in a huge house; of laughter, of innocence, of joy and of simplicity. But those memories are very few- the reason being that I left this city at the age of six to go to Hyderabad- a city I like to call my own. Having stayed there for 5 years and having become half a rasam loving and Telegu speaking south indian, I moved to Delhi—a south to north transition. I am proud to say I did not handle it too badly, despite changing genders of other people and my own while speaking in Hindi- a language completely foreign to me. Never the less, I managed to learn a concoction of Punjabi-Hindi, Lucknowi-Hindi, and Haryanvi-Hindi and also managed to pick up the swag of a typical Delhite. The transition was so drastic that instead of talking in Bangla at home with my parents, I switched to Hindi.

By the time I completed my school life, someone sitting upstairs pulling the strings of my life decided that it was high time I trace back my roots and see the place I was born in. Getting to know it and experience its way of life was the agenda. I was apprehensive about this city—it had too many memories and too many people I knew (I always wanted college life to be an experience in a completely new city). I decided that I will stay away from my many homes in this city and explore it in my stride.

In the beginning, nothing seemed to work out—the heat was killing, the humidity was frustrating, the rains were irritating- there was mud all over and the city seemed to stop when it rained. The people were very different from my loud and bubbly Delhi friends, the academic system- a lot more serious, the roads -narrower and the public transport- stuffy and crass. For a Hyderabad- Delhi hybrid, it was too much to take.

I complained to dad; asked him how he ever loved this strange city and why it was even called ‘the city of joy’. He told me to give it time, said- ‘your life has just begun in that city; a lot of memories will be made and you need time to fall in love with it. Love doesn’t happen very easily….it is aided by habit, monotony and familiarity.’ I scoffed and cribbed, but consoled myself at the end of the day.

Someone had told me to explore the city on foot; said- ‘kolkata is a walking city, take an umbrella, a hundred rupee note, your walking shoes and start walking without any sense of direction. I’m sure you won’t regret it.’
‘Let’s try this too’- I told myself. Getting over my laziness was the first, very difficult challenge. Once that was accomplished, I took to the road and experienced a mixture of things. The architecture of the city was breath-taking and diverse.

North Calcutta, famous for its historical buildings, which are now falling apart; has an old world charm to it. You can imagine a bunch of young freedom fighters rushing out of one of the narrow, badly lit passages during the freedom struggle. Coming to Central Kolkata, you have the cleaner and more happening part of the city- a strange mix of the old British style of architecture and the modern glass buildings. Places like Park Street and Dalhousie square fall in this category. It can be called the cosmopolitan part of this city. For photography lovers, a rain washed Dalhousie square, Victoria Memorial, Maidan and the race course is a treat for their shutters. Going further south, you find the modern part of this diverse city—high rises, huge malls and relatively wider roads. Moving towards the east, you reach the river bank. This is best enjoyed during the sunset, on a boat listening to ‘bhatiali’ songs (music of the fishermen).

Gradually, even the crassness of the public transport started fascinating me and I discovered the different types of people dwelling here- all had their shells around them in the beginning but with time, trusted me enough to show me their core.
It is in this city- one which is obsessed with politics, Marxism, chai, Rabindranath Tagore, literature; one which is stuck in the past, but wants to step into the future, that I discovered myself. It is here that I understood the value of simplicity.
My relationship with this city is a complicated one—it irritates me, fascinates me and we fight almost every day. I fall for its charms every other day. I want to leave it and yet come back to it. All symptoms suggest that I might be finally falling in love with it. It looks like you were right dad!

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