Saturday, May 31, 2008


[Rewritten to eschew obfuscation]

Where does time go?

Ancient walls whitewashed to hurt the eyes. Smell of fresh paint moistens the imagination. The mind is visited by visions of time serving detention between layers of fossilized alabaster, by the feeble shapes of stairway conversations snatched during recess.

The weight of a century bears down on the cross-beams. The heaviness of routine, like a stubborn odour, hangs everywhere: of 45-minute periods and weekly time-tables; of monthly tests and quarterly exams; of annual fests and summer vacations ... generations of rebellion disciplined around a time-regimented education.

Cool hard benches, languid yet orderly; ebony and varnish. The familiar comforts of butt on academic wood and desktop graffiti. 'Suneetha'. 'Crazy bitch'. A mean bolt of lightning in fashionable Powerpuff pink -- someone with a sense of humour.


The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

-- Lines from 'But I can't', A villanelle by W. H. Auden


Tension ticks in the air. Twenty minutes left.

Tall Jesuit windows paired with ventilators above; three spare pairs to a wall.

Wind hustles the broad corridors outside. Neem trees sway religiously in the morning sun. The 9.17 rolls into the station in the distance, slows downs, breathes itself to a stop.

A small steel stool stands outside the doorway, shining in the sun; a green plastic pot sits on top, filled neck deep with water; uncouth aluminium tumbler lolls from a blue nylon cord tied around the mouth of the pot.

The train booms, leaves.

Pitted blackboard sprawls across the wall up front; poster of the Virgin Mother overhead. Chalk-white-dust nostalgia. 'Class Strength: 40'. 'Boys: 23'. Boys ... 'Girls: 17'. Girls ... 'Present: 37'. 'Absent: 3'. The luxury of redundant information.

The 9.27 rumbles in punctually. Pencil points are poked against trembling fingertips. Three minutes left. Prayers push past pursed lips.


Time doesn't go anywhere.

Time comes here to file her nails sitting in the library, to dry her long white hair while she waits reading a book in the cafeteria, to lie under the trees in the campus and balance her soulsheets.

Time comes here when she's tired of herself.

Time comes here when she wants to grow old.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


ANNABEL: What is that?

KATHLEEN: A handkerchief. Oh my, do children not even know what handkerchiefs are? A handkerchief is a Kleenex you don't throw away.

-- You've Got Mail, 1998
I have this little ritual I go through whenever I leave home. I feel myself up in the following order: right back pocket: wallet - check; left front pocket: mobile phone - check; right front pocket: handkerchief - check. The last part of the ritual's been the same for the last 12-13 years, ever since I started wearing "full pants", before I started carrying a wallet and before a mobile phone became a "necessity". And prior to "full pants" I didn't bother about sweat or snoot. A sleeve was always handy.

Now imagine me walking around with a box of Kleenex in my pocket. I might as well carry a wad of toilet paper around too. Just in case.

I don't understand this Kleenex fascination at various levels.

It's not economically viable. A kerchief is a one-time investment. Kleenex is just recurring cost.

The logistics are horrible. You can flirt with Kleenex but you can never bring it home. But a handkerchief's like that boyfriend who's always around. And when you want to dump the Kleenex, you need to find a dust-bin because oh-the-horror of being seen with a used Kleenex! A self-effacing handkerchief, on the other hand, can be neatly folded and tucked back into your pocket or a hand-bag, as the case may be.

I used to think it had something to do with sophistication but what could be more sophisticated than the elegant tip of a double-folded silk handkerchief sticking out of the top of a breast pocket?

Besides, I haven't heard of people gifting Kleenex at weddings.

Point is: One handkerchief is worth a thousand kleenex.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Every evening, the sunset fills up my room.

No, make that: Every evening, I let the sunset fill my room up. It's a very deliberate act, delusive, egocentric and narcissistic.

Tchaikovsky starts to play on my Nokia at 3 'o' clock. I switch off the fan, reach for my mobile phone -- a little amused at the thought of the eternal inside a box, switch it off, reset the alarm from 1500 to 0700. I walk over to the windows on the western wall, pull aside the curtains thereby diluting the darkness, unlatch the panes, swing them open and stand back.

I watch how sunlight instantly floods the room, how its fingers seem to intimately know every nook and corner of my room. Like the caresses of an old lover. Well, almost.

I then plod back to mulling over information asymmetry and the marriage market; or plunge right back into a conversation about Chitrangda Singh on GTalk; or come back to a high-pitched argument with Mr. Schopenhauer about women ... sometimes I just listen to Atif Aslam and sit in my chair, doing nothing.

Self-improvement is masturbation.

Sometimes I talk with a certain Tyler Durden.

Self-destruction is the answer.

Presently, the superstar in the sky dips below the sunshade, swinging down his chosen longitude for the day.

Sometimes I wonder how it must feel to stand somewhere on that precise geographical minute, in the full glare of the setting sun, at that confabulation of space and time.

Sometimes I think about a ball of sunlight, bursting out of the sun's core, unravelling untrammelled through millions and millions of miles of nothing, the photons then tumbling through the atmosphere and a convenient hole in the ozone, thrashing through all that smog, past the grill on my window, all that distance, only to be stopped flat by a puny plank of wardrobe wood. Sometimes I think about how it's happening all the time and I'm depressed. Sometimes I think it must be lousy being a sun. Who'd want to be a sun? Not me. A meteor shower -- now that would be cool.

Dad comes in to ask me something and starts clamouring about how hot it is in here. I tell him I'm meditating and silence his protests. Sometimes I think parental salvation lies in being outsmarted by one's kids.

The room is turning a shade of ripe summer yellow. The marble flooring starts to heat up. My skin feels like a flame has been drawn across its surface. Naturally enough, I'm sweating now. Trickles start to crawl down my forehead and my temples.

Sometimes, I think of sweat and the travesty of its colourlessness. Would sweat be any precious if it was the colour of blood? Or would blood be any trivial if it looked and smelt like sweat? Sometimes I remember asking my sister if sweat evaporated and became rain. Sometimes I can recall the look of disgust she shot me across the dining table.

The window panes gradually blush a flaming orange, and I think of the rasna kid. Sometimes I wonder what happened to her. Sometimes I wonder if executives at Coke and Pepsi are involved in efforts to accelerate global warming. Sometimes I think of frisbees on the beach, of budding biceps and capri calves. Sometimes I think of our dog, Tiger. Sometimes I think of coming back home after kindergarten and tumbling with him in the yard. Sometimes I think of how he died in a pool of his own blood. Sometimes I don't think at all.

A twilight purple on the walls announces the arrival of a violet dusk. I'm drenched now. Hair roots, arm-pits, t-shirt, shorts ... I get up, shut the windows, flick on the compact fluorescent lamp, grab a towel and head for a shower, gently closing the door behind me, a little satisfied at having boxed the eternal. For today.