River

They tittered away, thick as thieves, both being drawn to the chasms of vices, without them knowing of it. They had managed to pilfer two packs of cigarettes from the convenience store. Rinsed with a new-found caffeine rush, the two set out on foot to smoke their first cigarette, then the next, and then, maybe one more. One, armed with her writing pad and blunt pencil, the other her sketching book and a small chunk of charcoal.

They reached the banks of the hushed, deep river, the sun upon them. One was an expert with matches, so she lit the cigarette and dragged in her first tobacco-laced puff. The other watched on with curiosity. She struggled with matches, but was finally able to light hers. The wind over the water, brought in a mixture of smells; dead fish, putrid faeces, lifeless crushed grass. Their olfactory senses did not make anything of this foulness and instead concentrated on the burning tobacco. She was smoothly able to draw the smoke in and out of her lungs, the other grappled with the power she wielded between her fingers. She kept toying with the butt of the cigarette, watching the water slowly glide under the bridge. In between a hacking cough, she uttered, “This isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.” The other, nonchalant, blew something that came close to a smoke ring, and laughed, “You’re not doing it right.”

They went through one whole pack between the two of them, one getting a heady tobacco rush, the other hacking and cackling like she had slugged a bag of glass marbles. The nicotine in their blood streams now, they drew out their notebooks. One drew the other, with a piece of charcoal. The other, wrote the other, with her blunt pencil. They looked at each other’s work and guffawed at their tomfoolery. They ripped out pages from their notebooks and tore them into little pieces, littering all around them, laughing wildly all the while. As the clouds gathered over the blue river, greyness took over. “It may rain”, said one to the other. It was nearing evening, and evening meant darkness. One pulled out a little yellow plastic jar, which she had sneaked out of her father’s medicine cabinet. Both opened their mouths wide and carefully placed the pea-sized white pill on their tongues. They let the warmth of their tongues melt away the chemicals into their bodies. They waited. To be swayed, to fly, to float, to wing away like butterflies.

The pregnant clouds above them burgeoned the sky and down came the pitter-patter drops of water. They decided to stay put, watching the bits of paper around them getting muddy wet. With the continued onslaught of the rain, evening turned to early night. The city lights came on. Wet and cold, they felt no magic of the tobacco or the chemicals. They were disappointed. They walked back through the muddy puddles, under the swaying trees. They both grumbled, splashed, and howled at the rain. They struggled to roll up their jeans, way up to the knees. Their canvas sneakers were already indelible and they liked them that way. Deep inside, they felt a tinge of happiness, but none spoke of it. They decided to call it a wasted day and parted ways.

The next day, they again met at the river, with the leftover pack of cigarettes. They first popped open the yellow jar that contained the pearly white that would set them swaying and dancing and floating and gulped down the entire contents of it. Then, without waiting for the fog to clear from their minds, they lit a cigarette each and puffed away. They did not want to write or draw or rip paper today. They only wanted to float. One cigarette gave way to the next and then the next and before the sun had reached its peak, the whole pack was done with. They felt like they could climb a mountain, they felt like they could swim the entire stretch of the river, they felt they could cry, they felt they could laugh, they felt. Wading in the cold water, they both felt like everything was being washed away; they forgot that night of being violated, they forgot the running, they forgot the shivering, they forgot the fear. They let the water take over, until their lips turned blue. And then they floated, like they wanted to.

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The Black Panther – A no Review

There’s Coca Cola or Pepsi, there’s Apple or whatever else, there’s cats or dogs, there’s mountain or beaches. And there’s Marvel or DC. I’m Coca Cola, whatever, cats and dogs, beaches and MARVEL. I follow Marvel like a religion. Captain America is God. Spider-Man, junior God. And Black Widow, well, she doesn’t matter, but she’s okay, now that she has kids.

The latest instalment in the MCU is the Black Panther. That Wakandan prince who superhumanizes into a parkouring panther, to avenge his father’s death in a bombing. (You have to know the earlier movies to know what I am talking about) I wasn’t so eager to watch The Black Panther because, honestly, Spider-Man-Homecoming was a bit of a let-down. Maybe Spidey needed to evolve from a schoolboy to a full-time crime-fighting superhero. And that post-credits quip by Captain America about the virtues of patience, I actually laughed at that, when most groaned. And the real reason I didn’t want to watch Black Panther was because there was no oomph for me in it. But having given Thor-Rognarok also a miss, on account of baby-sitting, I decided I must watch TBP.

A month has passed since the release, spoiler alerts are already out, and I gather from all reviews and naysayers that it is a great film, and I still haven’t watched it. WHY, you ask? Because I cannot step out on school-days to watch a movie and on weekends, my family guilts me into spending time with them. I hear remarks like, “Oh, she wants to go for a movie rather than spend this precious weekend with us!” There, guilt trip! So I just roll my eyes, dig into ice cream and binge watch “Malcolm in the Middle”.

So, there’s no review for the movie, because I haven’t seen it yet. I watched Dr. Strange though, and while I cannot say I loved it, I did like it-mostly because of Benedict Cumberbatch. The movie, as such, was strange.

Until next cup of coffee, where I will lament about why Malcolm in the Middle ended!

Birthday Party

Have you ever had the privilege of attending a 4 year old’s birthday party? I have. MANY TIMES. Magic shows, clowns, bouncy castle, face painting, pottery corner(no, no, I mean pottery with clay, not pot), popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, balloons, screaming, squealing, shouting, and of course cake. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Well, it is. I don’t remember a single instance when I haven’t dealt with an itchy, tired, irritated child after coming home from the party. It just so happens, just like with many children I am sure, that mine can’t handle sugar. There’s the sugar high, then there’s the itchiness, then there’s the sugar low, then there’s the running around and pretend-play and the final crash and burn. By this time, it’s midnight and any plans of watching an episode of Downton Abbey while munching popcorn go out the window. Instead, a Valium or swigs of vodka are needed.

What happens when the party is in your backyard? You’re going to have a whole bunch of sugar-raged monsters, you’re going to need a whole bottle of vodka and it’s still going to be a circus after all. Why do we need these birthday parties? The parents are always seen running like a volcano is about to erupt, with plastic smiles and the uproariously fake “Hahaha”, the birthday boy/girl is always left in the lurch, pouting, crying and whining because other children are in his/her backyard playing with his/her things, the meticulous cake is always smashed to an unrecognizable mass and the other parents are always heard bitc**** about how they would’ve done so much better. (Just for record, I don’t indulge in the bitch****, I just eat).

Then there’s the gift-giving gambit. It has to be bought in advance, carefully wrapped and shouldn’t be a re-gift or exceed the value of the relationship of your child with theirs. I still don’t understand what is an appropriate value. So I pretty much give away goodie baskets with whatever I can lay my hands on. It usually looks like a very last-minute, futile effort, compared to the gargantuan colorfully wrapped boxes that people bring, but I’m happy the hosts are polite enough to not smirk. Then there’s the party-favours that the children go wild over. A Made-in-China Rubik’s cube, a Made-in-China Kaleidoscope, a Made-in-China smiley ball or if it’s a big-ticket party, there’s something worthwhile like a huge case of Hot Wheels. Add to that the sugar-rush and the bedtime is moved to midnight. Oh what a joyous occasion!

Each year has to be better than the previous year, not just that; each child’s party has to be better than the others’. If he’s got a clown, she’s to have a princess castle; if he’s got pony rides. he’s got to have a magician, if she’s giving away trips to Disneyland, he’s got to give away helicopters, it only gets bigger and bigger. Meanwhile, the bankrupt parents dread as soon as there is a colourful invite proclaiming their child is INVITED TO A BIRTHDAY PARTY!! There’s different themes children want nowadays. Some want princes and princesses, some want dragons and dinosaurs, some want witches and wizards and some very creative ones want pink and blue hair-do rainbow parties. Extravagance? I think not; we are only watering the child’s creativity!

My child, finally, has got the hang of birthday parties. He’s asked for a cake entirely made of cherries, everyone sings for him and claps and gives him one car (Hot Wheels) each. He is not going to give the cherry cake to anyone who doesn’t sing. Car is not mandatory. And he wants to give away money as party favours. Because money buys cars and you can give to the doctor as well. And everyone has to wear red, because that’s his favourite colour at the moment. He doesn’t want any face-painters, because it itches after. He doesn’t want any magicians, because they pull his nose while conjuring a coin from there, he doesn’t want a bouncy castle, he knows kids throw up while bouncing, he doesn’t want a pool-party, because he knows not everyone can swim. He doesn’t want to celebrate in a restaurant because “How will the children get there?”. Obviously, my genes didn’t do a lot of passing on. 🙂

Without going into the philosophical bend of things, I’m going to keep it simple. Birthday parties are fun, no, really, they are. Even for the hosts. I like them for the food. I wish I could just sit next to the food-laden tables and eat, without being frowned upon. I hear as the children get older, they want to spend their birthdays alone, with their friends, or boyfriends and girlfriends. As parents, are we to fund those too? I hope not. Who knows what kind of party favours and party drinks they’d enjoy in the future. By the looks of things, it could very well be a marijuana+kale+spinach punch, a chia+wild beet+avocado chip and red ants+horseradish+truffle dip. Oxygen Bars, Flying Limousines, partying with the Martians. The world changes, and we change with it. Birthday parties are no longer what they used to be, said our old folks, we say the same and the children would say the same. In the words of a wise man,

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
– Bob Dylan, who else!

While listening to Buckley Sr..

Upon reflecting back, I despise myself, for overcommitting. I wish the phone was just a black box, like it used to be. I wish there were no cobwebs of the internet that existed on the phone. I wish the computer was only for computing. I wish calling people was difficult. I wish, I wait, I wonder..

This morning, Matchbox 20’s “If you’re gone”, kept on doing the rounds in my head, like an old record. I quickly got the contraption out that plays music out loud, not just in your head. This included a phone, a Bluetooth connection, a Bluetooth speaker and of course Wi Fi. I wondered what Wi Fi was short for. Hail Google! Wireless Fidelity?! I’m sure I don’t have the right answer. I’m not much for the electronic, electrical or any frim-fram devices or things. So I left it at that. My dyspepsia piqued, when Rob Thomas’ silky enunciations were interrupted numerous times by the hyena-meets-Skrillex ringtones of the phone, that were amplified by the little amplification device. I tried silencing the many demons on the telephone, but in vain. They kept hounding me. I finally gave in and cast a spell to exorcise them, at least till the time Rob Thomas convinced me to come back.

After a few peaceful moments, the electronic postman chimed, bringing mundane tidings. I had won a gargantuan sum of money in an unknown part of the world. And it was confirmed and reconfirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, no less. For a fleeting minute, I dreamt of what I would do with the money. Build a cottage in the snowy woods, hire help to help me live off-grid, buy a snow-mobile, maybe even buy the entirety of the woods, be the protector of the huskies and the penguins. I understand, geographically and virtually, the plans make no sense, but money talks, doesn’t it? I only had to get back to the electronic mail and let them know my details and such. Even to my undoubting mind, this seemed quite peculiar. So I left it at that.

After a while, someone knocked on the door. I had moved on to Tim Buckley by now. Who else could it be, but Amazon?! They had sent me that golden jar of honey I so loved. I put away the jar and safely saved the corrugated box for an impending diorama. What happens with those in the end, I wondered. There must be so many by the end of a school year. Anyway, I remember clearing cobwebs from mine after decades and finally throwing them away muttering all the while, “Stupid, stupid, tremendously stupid!”

I looked at both the Buckleys and realized how similar the father and son looked. How strange to share a face, and music flowing through the veins, but not knowing the person at all? My mind hopelessly wandered to musicians. And painters. The entire multitude of them fought with demons, and the pain brought about beautiful work. Not to mention writers. What demons? I don’t know. They are there. I know some demons. And I fight with them, sometimes using humour, sometimes using a bottle. Speaking of fighting with demons, why is Eminem so angry, all the time? I can understand anger pouring in one album, maybe two, but in the subsequent ones, shouldn’t he resort to anger management? I don’t know much about him or his music, mostly because he always sounds so angry. I like Adele. She first sang about meeting a dude, then breaking up, then meeting again. She progressed at a normal pace. So, getting back to Tim and Jeff, such pretty faces and such lovely voices, am I right?

I realise now that I’m coffee-drunk typing and should probably stop before I’m banned from the computer-world. My neighbour’s dog peed on my radish-patch yesterday. Thought I’d write about that. But oh well. I like the dog anyway. I’m friends with him. I’m friends with a lot of dogs, both dogs and human-dawgs. And now it is time to turn off the music, because as one can tell, it takes me to strange hinterlands and there is no flight back home!

The Story of Y

Last evening, Y flipped. Stuck somewhere between elated and morose, Y didn’t know what to do. Y did what she did best, popped a couple of pills and washed them down with a bottle of wine. After that, not much was remembered, except that there was toast with a chocolate spread. Miraculously, Y woke up without a headache, only in need of lot of fluids. A walk through the early morning fog helped immensely, and the proverbial mist was lifted. A friend had uttered, very casually, a few reassuring words, which made Y smile, albeit pensively. Those simple words fortified her faith in herself, made her look around and smell the coffee. Y thanked the friend.

Now Y was left wondering. Why? The rocking chair basking in the mid-morning sun seemed to hold all the answers. Y was afraid of the chair. Y was unusually preoccupied with something that had left her occupation a long time ago; a pair of eyes watching her. But did they, ever? The human psyche is a strange self, thought Y. Hallucinations and inventions, all spring from the psyche. Nothing big had emerged from Y’s psyche, except spurts of creativity, that were splattered across the canvass, so far apart, it was hard for anyone to piece it together. Getting back to the big question, Y’s preoccupied mind now wandered into the realms of the other-world, that defined by Area 51 and ghosts and telepathy. Suddenly, the shrill cry of the phone woke Y up from her reverie. There lay all the answers; all she had to do was talk on the phone. But did she? She decided not to. You see, Y had decided, against all odds, it was better to leave the psyche wondering rather than facing the truth. Y was not scared of the truth, she simply did not want to know anymore. Knowing never did anyone any good. Endless cups of coffee coupled with an endless stream of Muzak, gave Y the assurance that each day would be brighter than the previous, especially now that spring was slowly setting in. Y’s sense of humour returned back to the bones, as the drugs started to wear off.

Y looked at the time, sensed her cold limbs and decided to nip, tuck and move on with the day. Let bygones be bygones, Y said. Unabashedly, Y closed her eyes, lay her tired head back and waited for the “sweet sleep” to take over. Wallowing was an addiction, and Y was all but consumed. Y thought of all the moments that had made her smile and slept with a smile on her face.

Prince

A mangled, half eaten frog,

It’s mouth and eyes open,

Ready to leap and killed.

By the bark of the tree,

In the mangy grass,

Stood the shadow,

In the pouring rain,

Shielding it’s eyes,

From the brightly shining sun.

Cymbals and tambourines,

Knocked heavily above,

As the ant-troops marched.

Dotted with water,

Bathed with light,

Specks of blood,

Shards of bone,

Splat! on the dirt.

Food Talks and BS walks

The other day I was watching Anna Faris getting all riled up about a plate of risotto. She said, not verbatim, that it was a pile of gooey rice and the “Food Nazis” are going to judge that glop. In another show, I saw Aziz Ansari Instagramming pictures of food while Adam Scott, Nick Offerman and Robe Lowe ate on. In yet another show, I heard Kaitlin Olson say, “I am just going to be one of those douches who takes food pictures”

Rings a bell, anyone? I am one of those incessant food picture taker. In my defense, I have taken other kinda pictures too. Food pictures started happening as this whole brigade of Food Nazis and critiques and Masterchef and Facebook and Instagram phenomenon happened. My family still gets irked by the picture taking. Why, just today, a Peking Duck sat on the plate and I was taking pictures. My husband asked, “What do you get out of this?” And I had a very dumb, unprofound answer to that, “Instant gratification”. What am I going to do with instant gratification? Stew it and eat it?

Seriously, what is the need of being a Food Nazi? It’s food. Everyone eats. It’s as banal as breathing. Is there a “Scrumptious Air Buffet” available? (Although I am sure it will be in the future) Chefs are tarnished, restaurants are blamed, there’s name calling over paltry reasons like why your hash browns are not as good as mine. Then there’s the wizardry of weaving words about food. “Holy Basil from the Indian subcontinent infused in free range, locally sourced lamb, which was carved by our master knife-ninja, and cooked for 38 hours on a low flame, lightly basting with zatar and matcha extracts and virgin peanut oil with a side of organic plum tomatoes injected with wild jalapeños and stuffed with shredded mozzarella made from a farm grazing buffalo milk which was milked after the calf was full” That’s just one dish. The critics on Yelp and Facebook and wherever would elaborate it even further by dragging back two generations of the buffalo and lamb and the earthworms that fertilised the tomatoes. Admittedly, some describe food in a most tantalising way, and if you notice, these are the ones that put it simply.

The two most memorable food writings for me have to be Enid Blyton’s and Yann Martel’s. Enid describes toffees and tarts, just like they should be described: sweetly and with a childish delight. Yann Martel, on the other hand, talks about Idli: the South Indian steamed rice and lentil cake. A very simple food that is made almost every morning by the protagonist’s mother who has just tragically died. There is no nonsense around these writings and yet they live on.

My finest dining experience of all the multitude of meals I have had are easily boiled down to two. One, back in 2008, on my birthday, I decided to trek the Himalayas. After eight gruelling hours of witnessing an avalanche unfold, getting stung by unknown thorns and crossing rivers without help, I was so tired, I could’ve just slept on the ground. A local mountain lady, who did not even have a bathroom in her house, cooked me a cauliflower and pierogi stew, and hands down, that is the best food I have eaten till date.

The other one was in 2013, when I was pregnant and could not eat anything except ice cubes. 🙄 I was prescribed medication to keep food down and something that would stimulate appetite. I was at work and we ordered takeaway. And by jove, when the food arrived, I was on it, like a vicious scavenger. It was just a bunch of sandwiches and some Indian fare, but I remember having tears in my eyes while eating, I was so happy.

Both these instances simply point to one theory: When you are hungry, EVERYTHING tastes good. It’s a plain and simple truth. All these “foodies” (don’t get me started on that term) mushrooming up everywhere claiming their unparalleled love for food.. well, let’s just say, I need a baseball bat to deal with them. The constant Instagramming and Snapchatting and Facebooking and Yelping and the orgasmic ooooohs and aaaaahs; bulimic baboons, really. “Eat with your eyes”, they say. What the fudge! “Presentation is important”. I say, “What for?”. It’s food, take it or stay hungry. And those super-effing-annoying minuscule portions in oversized plates. I absolutely detest that. The goop in there looks so delicate and photoshopped, you wouldn’t want to disturb it. You can gobble it in one go and that’s it, meal over! The next day, it’s going to turn to poop and smell like poop.

The whole molecular gastronomy has left me speechless. There’s liquid Nitrogen and deconstruction and reconstruction and flames and smoke and mist and magic. Its like the Cirque du Soleil of food. Honestly, I get lost in that Tantric deviation. It’s okay to do it for TV, but do we really need the theatrics when we are hungry? All celebrity chefs, big or small, will tell you at the end of the day, that their favourite dish is something their moms or wives or grandmas or dads cooked on Sundays. Why? Because, in the end, food is as pedestrian and as essential as sleeping. A bed and a pillow is all you need.

By the by, I am also guilty of embellishing my food stories and constantly taking pictures of what I ate. Yes, I am one of those. And let me tell you, it’s stupid, fucking, daft. I mean, just eat, man!

Like a pillar,

That can blink.

But cannot move.

Goes around the focus,

But never in focus.

Take me over,

Guitars and cymbals.

I have love to give.

I know not where.

My head spins,

I jive.

The mother and children,

They wait.

To sleep and forget.

The agony.

Clouds in sky,

Clouds in mind,

Rain in blue.

Thirty four years,

And four years.

Intertwined.

The love, for two men.

Dotted by tears and smiles.

Happy and sad,

Part of life.

If death comes by,

I am camera ready.

Red

On choppy waters,

Rain came down.

The sea gargled,

The boat broke down.

Swam to the coast,

Sandy and rocky.

The shipwreck floated,

Away with the bloated.

Deserted fort, tall and grand,

Shelter and sustenance,

Were hunted and found.

A pinch of magic,

And a feast laid out.

Warm candles and smiles,

And blankets went around.

The wind blew hard,

The sea turned red.

A boatload of folks,

Walked in with a shard.

Share, they said,

We are ravaged too.

The water was so murky,

Everything turned blue.

Breaking bread together,

The young and the old.

Watched through the window,

As the ghosts turned cold.