If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Feb 28, 2008

Red light !

In front of me is a taxi. Usual Bombay yellow and black. Held together with rust a hope and a prayer. There’s a tin trunk on the roof. In the front passenger seat sits a man. On the edge of the seat. He doesn’t seem comfortable in the taxi. In the back seat sits his wife and two children. One of them is standing up and looking out thru the rear window. Suddenly right below her on that panel between back seat headrest and rear window lights up the brake light. It confuses her for a moment. She blows hard at it ,and in a second it’s off, as the driver takes his foot off the brake. And so it goes on. Every time the light comes on, she blows hard at it until it goes off.
The only light she’s ever interacted with on a personal level has been fire light. She’s never thrown a switch to see a distant bulb spring to life. On construction sites and road widening projects food still gets cooked over a wood fire or a kerosene stove. They’re probably headed to VT. To catch a train to those places where the poverty line is more than just a statistic. Far away from this place where if she didn’t blow the fire out her whole family would go up in flames.

Feb 27, 2008

Elvis has left the building.

A low twang. Bits of cotton fluff left over from the last commision fly into the air. He walks down the road with his oversized guitar. That he uses to fluff out cotton. You give him a flattened down cotton mattress. He carefully opens out the seam. Gets the cotton out onto a widespread sheet. He airs the cotton . Catching sunbeams. And then gets his string twanging. There's a rhythm he builds up. Pluck string throw cotton onto string. Pluck string, throw cotton onto string. And soon he's lost in a haze of lightly fluffed cotton. That gets fluffier and fluffier and takes longer and longer to float back to the ground. He tensions the string as the cotton gets looser. The pitch of his instrument goes higher. Till the cotton is lighter than air. He stuffs the cotton back into the mattress. Collects his money and leaves the building.
And that night even if there was a pea under the mattress you'd never have felt it. Ever.

The dice was loaded from the start...

Once upon a time there lived a boy. And a girl. They fell in love. They wanted to be together forever. Married ? Said the boys mother. But she's a Goan. Married ? Said the girls mother. But he's an East Indian. Wasters ,said both the mothers. You know how that community is, all they do is party and drink. Said both mothers. They dont even know how to make sorpotel. Said both mothers. They work as clerks and secretaries said both mothers. Might as well be a Hindu or a Muslim or even a Mangalorean said both mothers.
So the boy and the girl listened to their mothers. They went their seperate ways. And one day they each got married. And they both lived unhappily ever after.

Feb 17, 2008

I'm leaning on a lamp post...

We have roads. Our roads need light when the sun sets . So we have lamposts. The salubrious air of Bombay corrodes said lamposts. Said lamposts need painting. Along comes a silver man. Silver from head to toe. Literally. Because shoes do not for a successful shimmy up a lampost make. His barefootedness exposes his silver toes. He has a once brown rope thrown in a coil over one shoulder. A bucket of paint hanging from the other. He,s up the lampost in less time than it takes for the dog at its base to state its territorial claim. He hauls his bucket up and loops the rope at the top. A dip of the brush' a dab of silver on the post and a few drops drawn by gravity to right below the brush begin giving his coat a new coat of silver. He works his way down , a stroke of paint at a time. All that stops him from being monochromatic are his eyes. He's run out of post. His feet are back on the ground .He coils his rope, picks up his bucket of paint and moves on to the next lamp post. A tin man with twinkling silver toes moving along his own yellow brick road .

Feb 10, 2008

Even a stone wants to be more than just a stone !

In the movie As good as it gets Jack NIcholson has this phobia about stepping onto cracks in the side walk. Ha ! Here we have a phobia about stepping INTO the cracks in the sidewalk. When there is a sidewalk. But on the way to school with a heavy bag and a heavier heart we always sought to make light of the journey. Knowing that there was only enforced confinement at journeys end. So how do you make a ten minute walk to Dachau fun. You emerge from your gate and look for a stone. Smoothly rounded off. Not so large that it wont roll when you kick it. Not so small that you scrape your shoes when you kick it. And you then give it a little kick. To roll it ahead of you. It has to stay out of the gutter. It has to stay away from parked cars. At least not go so far under them that your leg cant reach to kick the stone out. You get onto a roll. Kick walk ten paces kick. Kick walk ten paces kick. Oh if life was so smooth. But then comes the crossing. you have to navigate across Turner road. Past the wheel of the bus that go round and round and cars and motorcycles and scooters and cycles. With a kick to your stone that will take it past this obstacle course to a spot on the other side where you wont lose it amongst other stones that wait to grab your special stone into their cloak of anonymity. If you dont kick it hard enough it halts midway and then you got to try and get it moving again with a kick on the run while car drivers question your anatomical make up with regards to your butt and your brains. From there its smooth sailing down Pali road . Until you reach Hill road and the portals of the Jesuits loom large before you. Traffic to the right of you, traffic to the left of you. But into that valley of death rolls your little stone. You mistime the kick and a bus crushes your stone returning it to the dust it came from like a good Catholic. And while you look for it in vain the driver, in the car following the bus, yells bad things about your mother and sister . And you know that many years in the future Mrs. Chawla would feel as desolate for her daughter Kalpana as you do for your stone who wanted to be more than just a stone.