Mitthi Roti

As Ma cleaned up Dadi’s cupboard at our house in Delhi, she found a little bag. It contained three loaves of the “mitthi rotis” that were my Dadi’s signature creations. The ones that my Dadi made were always hard – a consistency closer to a cookie than a normal roti- with a softish centre underneath the crust, they are thick and my Dadi always took care to flavour them with just the right amount of sweetness. Never too sweet, never too bland.

-It had happened a month ago-

Right now, the family was in Vrindavan, spending time with my grandfather who has no desire of moving from our house there to live with either us in Delhi or with my uncle in our ancestral village in Punjab. I,working from home in Delhi ( the office was closed due to the holidays), sauntered into the kitchen to fix myself a snack close to dinner time. Hours of staring at the monitor had given me a headache and I needed to eat something to silence the growling of my hungry belly. I opened the kitchen shelf and there it was.

I still remember that day, I was sitting at the breakfast table with dad, who had to take her to get a PET test done. She was perfectly fine; in great health after her chemo, recovering well and gaining weight. Her Hair was fast growing back to the way it used to be before.

Everything was on track.

Dadi came upstairs to join us for breakfast but instead of taking a seat at the table she ventured into the kitchen and ordered everyone out. She then proceeded to make paranthas for everyone.

Except me, I didn’t eat her paranthas, because I was controlling my fucking carb intake.  I didn’t eat them.

I heard her voice last at around 2 or 3 ( I cant recollect) when I called home to discuss some papers with my dad, they then left for the hospital to get the test done. Some two – three  hours later, at 6, my sister called “Call dad and check, Dadi is not well”

My dad didn’t say much…

As I took one of the rotis out of the Tupperware box, I thought about those paranthas, about Dadi. The silent string of joy at finding something made by Dadi was quickly broken by then sharp blades of reality as seemingly infinite waves of sadness drowned out the light. It’s Diwali, but there are no lights lighting up the house where I sit alone, in silence. As I gobble down the last piece of the Mitthi Roti, knowing I will never feel the caress of the hands that made it again, tears surge, and I remember what dad said.

“Dadi has left”

P.S. : Originally written on Diwali, 2011. In another 9 days it will be a full year, without her presence. Love You Dadi.

Wreck-less

The days, they might be hot and dreary but tonight is a lovely night to be out. I am driving at a fast clip, with the windows down, the cool Delhi breeze, hastened by my rapid onslaught ruffling my hair, Carrying with it the wonderful smells of the more earthy aspects of the city, the green lungs, the trees that the british so wisely planted.

I love this city

This beautiful city, lit with streetlights that adorn it like jewels on a necklace. This city my home, these undulating roads, so familiar, a blur as I hurtle along at roughly 36 meters for every passing second.

I find gaps in the traffic and floor the pedal, passing through tiny spaces. I am being a little reckless, my heartbeat stays level as I move further along. Leaving perhaps some surprised drivers behind.

Once you have decided to make a move, you have no option but to stick to it. Hesitate or brake and you will end up a wreck.

The reason I drive fast is not because I need to be somewhere fast, the reason I push myself to the limit is not because I need to show off, the reason why I am doing 130 kms per hour at 10:30 is because I can. The reason I am driving with the wind is because with the world reduced to a blur, the music playing in the background and my feet on the gas in my lovely car, I am free.

So here I am, a blur, taking my chances, rolling headfirst into the future, nary a worry on my mind. For I know, there will be bumps on the road, an occasional traffic check and the odd roadblock but I am in the driver’s seat and I am going to see all of this through with the mindless determination of an oaf, the resolute desire of a man on the run, the focus of a man who knows no other way….

The Ride

Fresh from the train ride, I checked into my home for the next week or so. A dark rundown guesthouse. For want of better facilities, this was going to be it. Our hoard was not very enthusiastic, and voices of dissent could be heard. There were no powers to hold them down yet they got lost in their own echoes, everyone was too tired to care.

I did, I hated this place.

I was shown my room, a tiny room with a big bathroom, and roughly half the size of the room itself. The room had an iron grille door, covered with a steel mesh to keep the insects outside; it was also an open window to my world. There was supposed to be a curtain to provide me a little more privacy but it had probably lost in a scuffle to a previous occupant.

The walls were windowless, and of an even, dirty, yellow colour. They had been painted with the wonderful material we Indians call “Choona” that leaves its mark on your clothes, hands, faces, souls…

Some marks are easier to erase than others.

The bathroom too had a public access view hole, a large window which opened up into a service alley between the hotel building and a run down, brick building behind it. The building looked like it was abandoned mid construction, the real estate bust of our times. Developers borrowed money to build buildings that were now worth less than 1/5th of the land they were built on, there was no way to recoup money and no point spending more to build more.

There they lay then, memoirs to capitalist greed.

My bed was a red coloured abomination, covered with a think, hard mattress which could not redder if it tried. I imagined the room as some sort of honeymoon retreat, ugh….

I was meant to sleep here tonight.

Or maybe this was a love motel like situation…

Dis.fucking.gusting

I think I needed a shower; I did not want to discover the bathroom yet. But, I needed to get away from this room, only for a little while.

“I hope they have another room, like I requested them” I hoped, imagining the manager handing me the keys to a room right out of my home for 6 months, the Birmingham Hyatt or the Umaid Bhavan. Fuck, if I was going to imagine this, I want the sports suite in the frikking Bellagio!

Reality is a bitch.

Green, the filling up my bucket in the bathroom was green. A light, particle infused green.

Dirty bucket, maybe, I thought. Maybe the previous occupant was playing holi, which must have been awful time back.  There are times, when your city demeanour, your disgust, your repulsion is all replaced by fatigue.

All I wanted to do was to take a shower in this dirty bathroom and then go to sleep on the dirty bed, in my dirty room. In this dirty city. I could already hear the voices of my friends, loud dirty cackles of rich, spoiled kids, laughing along as they discussed their dirty deeds. Maybe I could join then, maybe they had cleaner rooms.

I had enough; I needed to take a bath now that I was standing naked in my bathroom with the open window, with the door that would not close properly in the room with the steel grille door.

This was like a voluntary prison, pay to stay. Pay to leave.

I threw the water in the buckets at the walls, in disgust. They changed colour not just the way choona walls do when wet; they changed from their drab yellow to reds and greens in a pattern in the top corner of the bathroom where I had aimed the dirty water.

Curiosity killed the cat they say, I filled in more buckets and doused the walls with water, revealing a spectacular pattern on all the four walls and the roof.

Spectacular fucking shit

A sun drawn in the thickest yellow brush, tears pouring out of its eye. Random numbers and messages scrawled on all the other walls, this wasn’t fun anymore. The bathroom looked more like an Inca execution pedestal than the place to cleanse yourself…

I could still hear the bodiless laughter of my friends, in their rooms. Except my voice was choked, I could neither cry for help or laugh at what I had just discovered, if only I knew…

(this is the extract of a half forgotten dream,, 19th February 2011)

Soar high and fly into the sun

 

 


I want to fly a plane

a single engined turboprop fighter

like a spitfire, or a mustang

I want to fly it high

I want to fly it deep, into enemy territory

the roaring hum of the giant engine, at my command

I want to swoop low

spray the scum with bullets

I want to rev up the engine

loop the loop as I knock them out

destroy them from the skies

I want to fly my single-seater

into a torrent of bullets

a hail of gunfire

a storm of fire

I don’t want to sit here

and waste away

I want to live

and by living

Is how I want

to die

 

 

The Ambush

The beginnings of the day were ordinary, forgettable, the median between pleasant and unpleasant that the brain does not register because of its sheer frequency.
The visitors charged their cameras and dressed up in their pseudo ethnic clothes, The kinds that locals have never worn, the kinds that only the easily excitable and impressioned firang would wear. Moleskines were stuffed into hip messenger bags, librarian glasses perched on sculpted noses and much moaning done about the lack of a Starbucks in the city of New Delhi.

Seelampur, one of the vast tracts of land that the city of Delhi swallowed as it grew and then forgot about. Its only seeming purpose was to house the poor working classes of Delhi. The rest of Delhi would rarely, if ever, hear the name leave alone being able to place it on a map.

7 excited New Yorkers, In the city of New Delhi. Barring the New in the name there was little common in the place where they came from and the place where they now stood. No one had ever used the words Williamsburg and seelampur in the same breath, ever before. They were interviewing people, for a state sponsored project. Apparently the easiest way of making the american populace feel better about their own pathetic conditions post the financial apocalypse was to highlight how badly people lived on the other side of the world, in particular. They were the ones who stole all the jobs from america, didn’t they?

The case in point today was a small locality on the outer extremities of Seelampur, a group of people who had never heard of america, or seen a white man, the gaggle of visitors was almost like a traveling circus, with their colorful clothing, far removed from the traditional indian attire.

Little did they know

The poor milkman talked, as they huddled around him. Some taking notes, recording audio, snapping up pieces of his life and trying to reason with fate. They could have been in his place, it was only a matter of some thousand miles, they wondered, sitting in the warm winter sun on his rooftop. Separated from the cows below by 2 stories.

It was an unfamiliar sound, the movies have nothing like it. No amount of Jurassic park will prepare one for the pissing the pants feeling brought upon when one hears it. The fear, some say, is built in. Its logical, it is warranted, it is very, very, real.

their hearts weighed down by this unfamiliar sound they all turned to find its source, they did not know what it was but what it brought out was sheer, primeval fear! The cows bellowed and the birds beat a quick escape.

Those stripes

The tiger lunged at one of the cows, bringing it down with a mixture of strength and fear. It uttered deep,frequent sounds as it held the neck of the cow in its jaws. Almost re-assuring the cow. The everlasting stillness of death was here.

Time stood at a standstill for the feral beast,the locals hid inside their houses and the visitors watched from their perch, in fear, in awe, as the tiger feasted on his prey.

He turned his head around, the last of his kinds, the king of the kings, and made eye contact with the visitors. A deep voiced roar announced that they were in his territory. As the rest of his body followed suit to re-orient itself with the head, he made his presence known. And then he disappeared from the scene, with the grace and urgency of royalty, disappearing like a shadow on a moon less night.

They had just met, the tiger of Seelampur

(To be continued)

The death

Mrs Ranade sauntered into the clinic, it was a regular check up. The nurse greeted her with a wide smile of familiarity and told her to proceed up the long flight of stairs, the doctor, was waiting.

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The Duplicator

 

I wanted the duplicator, maybe I really needed it..

The duplicator was going to be the big thing, to propel me forward, the business idea I had been looking for.
It was a large machine, with hundreds of thousands of metal plates inside that created a sound which could only be called instant headache.
To cut a long story short, I gathered a bunch of these machines from the length and breadth of the country, mostly through means outside the purview of the law of the land. I assembled a team of skilled workers and scientists, whether they liked it or not, To run these machines, understand them and then build me the ultimate duplicator,
my gateway to success.

After much toil ,coercion and the passing what seemed like an eternity I was called to the workshop, the duplicator, they said, was ready.I arrived with much expectation and soon enough the machine was fired. The sound of a million call bells, a million steel dishes falling from a height ,  a million nails on a blackboard,  a million gongs being rang, a million car horns, the irritating kind and then some more, in  the most random order, the staccato sound of your head exploding , this was it.
I fumbled for the kill switch and pressed it, much to my relief but before I could even take a breath it started again, this time it rang with such severity that my soul was woken up and it knew…

 

this was the stupid 6:30 am alarm on my cellphone!

Flirting with Disaster

 

A bump in the road, woke me up

Just the right time.

I looked at the open, two lane, undivided highway

I looked at the speedometer, 90 kph, reasonably fast for Indian roads

I looked at the driver, he nodded.

He wasnt looking at me.

His eyes were half closed, he nodded again.

I said, nothing. I just watched.

He clumsily tried to adjust the neck rest, like a sleeping man would adjust his pillow

I watched, In rapt attention.

He leaned over and placed his elbow on the passenger seat and rested his head on his hand.

I waited for him to close his eyes and sleep.

I did not want to die. I dont want to die. But, this could be interesting.

90 kilometers per hour, he veered towards the other lane

Then back, again.

Anytime now, I thought.

“How long will it take, brother”

My colleague asked.

I looked at him, kill-joy, I muttered under my breath and went off to sleep.

Funny thing is..

He, Did not know.

 

The strangers

The strangers

Your eyes meet as you prepare yourself for the trek across the road, there is a sense of surprise in her eyes, and they scream the question who is he? while you are busy sinking into those vivid pools that imagination conjures when face to face with a true beauty.
You hold yourself together and embrace a stance that screams casual nonchalance, you are used to such beauty you indicate as you cross the road, letting the woman know of your pride. It is a lie, you know because your eyes keep flirting back in her direction, begging her for a glimmer, a glance, a smile..

But they only find disdain, reserved for pompous men such as yourself, not even a second glance, so you pick up the pieces of heart,once again, and try to escape the scene of this injustice as soon as you can wishing, that she does think about you…

The Blur

The samurai

He was clad in spotless whites, His actions were graceful but visceral, the entire village swore they barely saw him move, it was over before it began,  in one lightening swift  movement he withdrew his shining double blade katana and swung it with the careless precision and effortless strength that comes naturally to such masters of the art as him. The sword mercifully rid the bounty hunter of his head which bore an expression of disbelief as it looked at the body gush blood and slowly collapse. It felt no pain, just the stillness of death as it arrived in the form of a cold, savage, darkness.