31.1.13

fresh lime soda

When life gives me lemons, they often come in sacks, fresh from the farm, filling my house with the sharp smell of citrus and the promise of pickle. There is no metaphor to that sentence. When life gives me lemons, it also gives me the task of squeezing them into bottles that will eventually become lemonade (sometimes salted, sometimes sweetened, sometimes both and sometimes soda). That sentence is also meant literally.

It was on one such day, while I was busy looking for something innovative to do with a few of three hundred lemons in the house (lemon curd pie) that I got a paper cut. The culprit was a very beautiful recipe book, glossy paper with artful photographs, written by one very pretty chef who also has her own television show. It was only when I began to cut the lemons that the paper cut very suddenly started to sting. I ran my finger under a tap and then looked in nearly every drawer in the house for a band-aid.

I was desperately looking for something to put on my lemon-stung paper cut when a remarkable thing happened. I suppose a better word for it is ‘strange’, but that would assume a certain lucidity to my universe, which may not necessarily always be the case. It lasted all of a moment, but I cannot be too sure of this either, for the same reason. Lucidity is not my forte. But in that lemon-stung paper-cut moment, I realized, visibility isn’t, either.

Of course, by ‘visibility’ in this context, I don’t mean my own. My own ability to see is slightly suspect. I have used devices to correct my vision since I was six years old. I was informed, at the age of twenty-two, at the peak of my own voracity and conviction, that the green quotient of what I see is not entirely complete. In other words, some shades of what you see as green, I often see as yellow or blue and so on. So it was as early as the age of twenty-two that I began to question reality as merely a version. A perspective, so to speak.

This lemon-stung paper cut afternoon, in that most critical sense, was a masterstroke.

It was the day I turned invisible.

Invisible, actually, is the dramatic way to put it. I did that merely to have you read this more attentively. I am not the most compelling of storytellers, so often I stoop to tricks like that to make you want to listen to the rest of what I have to say. I tend to wander much when I write, and this can be most distracting for someone who is trying to put her finger on what ought to be a story of some sort. To summarize what happened thus far: I had a paper cut on my finger, which I inadvertently squeezed some lemon juice on; I was looking for a band-aid when I disappeared.

I could see, of course. And I could hear. I tested my voice, and that worked too. Light seemed to not be passing through anything else that was solid, but light seemed to be passing through me. Perhaps it wasn’t passing through my face – That was one aspect of me that I couldn’t see for myself. (Would that not have been a sight! A headless human being with a bleeding, lemon-stung finger. Not one I would have liked to see, to be honest.) But I couldn’t see my hands, and I couldn’t see my clothes, and I tried to look to see where my stomach ought to have been, and I couldn’t see that either.

I blinked a couple of times. I took off my spectacles (if I may pun here, it would have been quite a spectacle if you could have seen it!). I put them back on. I still couldn’t see myself at all! So in a final act of desperation, I pretended to be wearing ruby slippers (I was quite invisible, so it wasn’t hard to do), I clicked my heels together, closed my eyes tight and with all the conviction I could muster, I said “There’s no place like home” three times.

That didn’t work either.

With nothing I could do, and a stinging paper cut to tend to, I put that finger in my mouth to suck on the wound till it stopped hurting. I could do this regardless of the fact that I could see neither my mouth nor my finger. (This is possible through a sense called ‘proprioception’, in the interest of lucidity, one I was not lacking at the time). Eventually, the stinging subsided and I colored.

I say ‘colored’ because I assume that is what happened. If I were to be dramatic again, I would simply say “I appeared”. Quite like Houdini at the end of his disappearing act. Or at the beginning or his appearing act. And unless it has happened again while I was sleeping (in which case, I could tell a story about how I may have simply slipped into a dream), I have never turned invisible since that day. It has been thirty years since.

Obviously I have consulted several doctors about this phenomenon, who have all referred me to different psychologists around the world. None of them have helped me explain either to them or to myself this phenomenon. With nothing but respect for their belief and conviction in their science, I spent years trying to find an explanation within these realms. My conviction in science and fact eventually crumbled away, giving way to my foray into philosophy and consequently spirituality.

Eventually, my conviction itself crumbled away, and my hold on what you may understand as reality culminated at the single focal point of that one lemon-stung paper cut afternoon. I found my visible bodily self anything but explanatory. I don’t mean this in some out-of-body experience sort of way, as many have claimed to have experienced (without, of course, questioning their own lucidity in the most existential sort of way). It is exactly this: That I now assume that everything around me has had or will have or is having its invisible moment.

And only one thought gives me something to float on: Sacks of lemons, fresh from the farm. The smell of citrus, the promise of pickle. Tasks. Squeezing lemonade. Making preserve. Sweet. Salty. Both. Neither.

When life gives me lemons, I often have no choice but to make lemonade.

30.1.13

February

freeze-dried asked me to Blogathon allmonthnextmonth and I said yes!

I promise you no more posts about talking to tomatoes (plum or otherwise, cherry) but can't promise you some of them won't just be rants about things (potatoes, for instance. I have been known to rant about those pretty prolifically).

WHEEEEE!

29.1.13

fit for public consumption

I was talking to some tomatoes the other day.

That's really the whole story.

18.1.13

all i want is

red velvet cake from elma's. cream cheese frosting.
a comfort book.
fresh orange juice. chat masala.
the temperature to drop by around two more degrees.

17.1.13

leave behind a whisper

She is sitting across me on a blue couch, cushion across her lap and remote in her hand. She is watching television with no apparent concentration, flipping channels when one bores her enough. She pulls her hair back with her hand, and finally switches off the television. She looks to me and says “Let’s have sex.” She says it with her eyebrows raised and a small shrug, as if it were the logical alternative to nothing on television. I shrug back and begin to kiss her. She tastes of apples and cigarettes and smells like my shampoo. There is no other conversation.

An hour and sixteen minutes later, she walks to the window in her college t-shirt and my blue size ten kitten heels. She lights a cigarette but doesn’t smoke any of it. I watch her for some time, staring into the world outside as if trying to piece some puzzle together. She has a slight frown on her brow, like a child with a new game.

“There is a Japanese word to describe the moment of falling in love,” she says, almost as if she is talking to herself. She turns to me and she asks, “Can you imagine it? A word. As if everybody can feel the same way when they fall in love.”

“I can’t,” I say to her in a whisper.

If everyone could feel the same way, everyone would have to be in love with her. They’d have to have been there, when it was happening to me. They’d have to have been drawn into our first conversation, both of us nervous and fidgeting and eager. They’d have to have listened to our first phone conversation, all fourteen hours of it. They’d have to have kissed our first kiss, felt the sun on their toes and the fear in their stomachs. They’d have to have seen her try to put a fork through a pea, and watch her wait till a piece of chocolate melt on her tongue before she ate it all. They’d have to have seen her dance, drunk by the sea, or sing, with a toothbrush in her mouth just before a shower. How can a word tell you all that in just a word?  

Her cigarette burns out, and she flops herself back on the couch. She is restless, I can tell. In fact, I know what she wants to talk about. I have known since I kissed her an hour and twenty three minutes ago. It’s not something I don’t know has been coming. I wait for her to bring it up anyway.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” she says eventually.

“I know,” I want to say, as if I understand. But I don’t. My eyes tear up even though I am willing them not to. I don’t understand. I hold her hand hoping she doesn’t let me let go. I say it, even though I don’t believe it. Even though everything is telling me not to. “I know.”

“We can still be friends,” she says. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe it either.

“We can’t,” I say. I don’t want to be friends. Not with her.

I remember an argument I had with her a while ago. We had just watched a romantic film. We kissed every time the couple on screen kissed. We ate lots of popcorn and laughed at the people sitting next to us. (Discretely). When we came out, she said with a similar intensity, “When lovers aren’t fun, they shouldn’t be lovers anymore.” I disagreed. Love isn’t just fun, I argued then. We had shawarma for dinner and philosophy for dessert. Our argument spanned the entirety of greek to post-modern love. It ended abruptly when we saw a poster for a kung fu movie. “Kung fu trumps romance,” she said, so we quickly bought cheap tickets for the late night show, went in and kissed some more.

“Don’t call me,” I tell her. When lovers aren’t fun, they shouldn’t be lovers anymore.

I want to hurt her, but if she is hurt, I can’t tell.

There isn’t anything else for us to say.

I take my toothbrush, pack my underwear and leave.

On my way home, I try to imagine what the word must feel like. The moment of falling in love.

It must sound like two trains passing, must feel like butterflies in the stomach, like jumping off a cliff and like warm cup of cocoa, like the quiet of home and the song you’d like to hum; all at once. This word is probably a quiet word, like laughter or cheer, a frizzy word, a word that will make you want to hold someone’s hand and share someone’s blanket. It must sound like her and me on a sunny morning, reading opposite pages of the same newspaper, eating from the same bowl of cereal, leaving the marshmallows for each other.

All moments pass, some in such a rush that they leave you with your ears ringing and spots in your eyes; disoriented and stranded. If there were words for everything, there would be a word for this too.

All moments end. 

16.1.13

sometimes some songs make me cry

and i haven't even listened to the words yet.

13.1.13

noon, winter.

Her knees creak loudly in protest. She uses her hands to push herself up, straightens her back for only a second before she has to bend to pick up everything else. In that second, she breathes deeply. She picks up fifteen rupees’ worth of spinach, a knife, a cutting board and a bowl. She totters out the back door to her six feet by four feet back yard. She looks up and smiles briefly at the sun. It had been two weeks since the sun has bothered to peek out into the world. She sits down on a cushion, stretches her legs out (her knees creak audibly again) and cutting board on her lap, she starts to cut spinach. 

It is a job that doesn’t require any skill whatsoever. She picks up a large clump of spinach and holds it together on the board with her left hand. With her right, she chops and shreds with all the might her blunt knife can offer her. She’s done in around three minutes. She puts all the cut spinach in the bowl next to her and calls out loudly. A young boy puts his head out into the back yard, takes the bowl from off the floor and disappears. She has a smug smile on her face. She goes back inside when the wind starts to blow the warmth of the sun out. Soon, her bones have forgotten warmth.

10.1.13

closure

thy name is bloody mat cauthon.

:D

4.1.13

others

I know I normally don't put up this kind of thing on this blog, but this is a part of something I wrote to a friend about the gang rape that took place in Delhi. 

Obviously, my first reaction was that’s my bus stop. My best friend used to live there. I could almost picture it. A white bus with purple, tinted windows. I could see the men peeking out the window calling a stream of names of the places they could take me to. MunirkaDhaulaKuanGurgaon, they’re calling. I’ve even been tempted, several times, to take those buses. 

But after many re-drafts of that thought, I have some confusing, contradicting, gnawing thoughts questions. 

The first of those, surprisingly enough, is about class. How much of this protest has been made possible because of who these men are? Is it because of the ease with which the middle class can separate these men from themselves? Sleazy looking, late-night bus-driving men in spaces that are dark, confined and completely alone; Stuff that mothers have warned their daughters against for generations. How much of this outrage is against them, and how much of it is against the assault? 

The second is about the nature of punishment. This is a more complex question, one that I don’t think I comprehend enough to frame. There’s so many people convinced that there is a need for them to be punished, a need for retribution, a need for some odd and obscure Justice. That locking them up or cutting off their penis or killing them off will bring about a sense of order restored; because you see, these men are abnormalities. 

These men are the things that make our lives unsafe and these men are the people who roam about freely among our women molesting them and making passes at them and going ahead and raping them. Only these men, and no others. Because you see, they don’t realize how wrong they are, and how much indignity they have caused and how inhumane they are. Because their actions, their actions aren’t the actions of men. They’re the actions of people removed from us. And so, they need to be taught a lesson. Specifically, they need to be taught the lesson of what happens to their penis and their regular lives when they go ahead and rape our women. 

Which brings me to the third question, the question that I should probably be asking first, but the question that I want to put off because it’s mostly an exercise in angst, the question of gender. 

Will punishing them make me feel safer if I stand at that bus stop at night, waiting for a bus to go home? Will hanging these men or cutting their penis off make the possibility of the man on the motorcycle blowing kisses at me or the man on the metro pinching my breasts less likely? Will it make me feel safer leaving my children at home with child-care? Will I be able to trust my neighbours, household help better? Will the husband raping his wife every night not do it anymore because some bus driver got hanged? There is a series of things that has begun to happen in the country. Behind curtains, in second and third pages of newspapers, in homes, in colleges, in hostels, there is a series of things happening. 

I know how it works because it happened to your and me and our female colleagues when we were in Mumbai and one of our classmates was gang raped. It begins with the words safety and protection. On our college campus, they did a series of things. They put up surveillance cameras. They set up a curfew. They told us they were going to call our parents if we came late more than three times. We were hauled up to the office every single time we came later than the time they set for us, and asked to explain what the hell we had the audacity to do out in the city out there unprotected so late in the night. At night, they set up patrols on campus telling us not to walk around with our male friends. It’s happening again, but this time it’s country-wide. The UGC has issued guidelines to universities asking them to make campuses safe for women. This means, mostly, all those things that they had us do at our institute. 

We’re crying our throats hoarse, trying to Take Back The Night, trying to make the streets of Delhi safe for women. Instead, they’re going to make the women of Delhi safe of the streets. They’re going to protect us and keep us safe. They’re going to ask us to wear more Modest Clothing and not take icky looking buses at night. They’re going to tell us that we need to carry pepper spray and learn how to karate. 

Because these abnormal men, they can be anywhere. They hide in their abnormal bubbles of society, eat abnormal food, do abnormal jobs and live abnormally. They’re not a part of you and I, they’re Someone Else, Someone Other, and we have to root them out if we have to keep Our Women safe. And when we find them, we will punish them. We will cut their balls off, but until then, we have to make sure the women behave properly and don’t do anything that will invite rape. 

And we have to bear it, because we have to stay safe. Because nobody is going to tell the men not to rape. 

1.1.13

2013

"obviously we're getting old."

"because we're sitting in and watching a movie?"

"because our new year resolution is 'no more coffee'."

**

happy new year!