Kya bolti tu?

Sometimes, one gets the weirdest feedback. The one I shall quote does not deserve to be reproduced, but I feel like a bit of pop psychology right now.

"You're a total pseudo intellectual who knows some english, that is all.Sheesh! Just three words can describe you completely---'obsessed with sex'."

I don't know when it started, but the term pseudo intellectual has gained more currency than the euro.

People who are called pseudo intellectuals...

Pop proponents, classical divas, liberals, secularists, mavericks, communists, old hippies, new punks, protestors, abdicators, sitting-on-their-ass-and smoking-hashers...

Funny thing is, almost all these categories of people do not give a damn about labels. And to fake intellectualism is like so duh...especially if you rock as just what you are.

This brings me to the three words that are supposed to describe me: Obsessed with sex. What I find intriguing is that someone says "sheesh" to that. It means that the person is...

a. Averse to sex
b. Thinks a lot about it
c. Guilty about thinking a lot
d. Does a lot of it and projects shame on others
e. Is obsessive about other things
f. Is afraid of women who speak their minds
g. Is afraid of women and their needs
h. Is afraid of not being able to meet those needs
i. Is afraid of himself, and so calls her names

More importantly, the person does not know me and has not read enough of my work.

Perhaps, the person just had to say something that would make me feel horrible. Sorry, I feel nothing of the kind. To me the human body and intimacy are Nature's gift to humankind.

And I love gifts!

PS: I love the picture I have posted...says a lot, does it not?


Another cartoon controversy

Wah, bhai, wah...

Another cartoon controversy.

The cartoon depicts US President George Bush in the form of Natraj (Lord Shiva in his dance muse). While he holds two placards, titled ‘Stop Iran Nukes’ and ‘India Nuke Deals’ with the help of three hands, the remaining two hands hold a club and a ticking nuclear bomb. It first appeared in the International Herald Tribune on March 3.

Raj Thackeray's new party burned effigies. But, the highlight, apparently, is that the protests were led by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena worker, Dr Shami Ahmed.

Be impressed, folks. He is a Muslim!

“We will see to it that at least 500 workers join us today,” said Dr Ahmed. A former Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena activist, Dr Ahmed voiced his party’s ire when he said, “Koi baaharwala hamare bhagwan ko Bush ka darja de, toh hum kaise chup reh sakte hain?”

Fine, theek hai, bohat khoob.

So, if it is a good thing that a member of the minority community objects to an insult to "hamare bhagwan", then why did the majority community make such a noise about the other protests over his other "hamare bhagwan"?

In fact, how many members of the majority community voiced similar protests then? All they did was poke fun at those bearded guys making asses of themselves.

I have stated this several times, I personally do not want these protests to protect gods who are supposed to protect themselves, at the very least, but let us have some uniform standards in a society that claims to be a secular democracy.


In my kitty...

I had to get rid of the white fluffy cat. I had placed it on the arm-rest of the sofa and I would run my hand over it, often absent-mindedly. It was a soft toy and it played its role well. I had not felt like discarding it despite having outgrown its reason for being with me.

Why was it with me? It was given with generosity and accepted with grace.

I respected that.

It did not obsess over me. After all, it had been a long time. I wonder why people don't get on with life and move on.

That cat seemed to possess the maturity. It would of course sometimes not stay in place, and that was fine.

That day, however, as I lay my arm on it I felt itchy. I moved it away to see that my skin had pink lines, almost like claw marks. It was eerie. Then I saw a few black-brown dots in the fur. I pulled them apart and there were more...they were moving. Some creepy-crawlies had managed to get in there, perhaps during some fumigation that had been going on.

I pulled out a big garbage bag and dumped the cat in. And just to keep things equal, I dumped all the soft toys. Yes, all. There was one old pathetic little monkey in a corner that I had forgotten about, so next day that one went too.

I usually feel a deep sense of loss and remorse over losing anything. This time, for some reason, there was the sense of having got rid of excess baggage. Some of those fluffy ones I had bought, some were given. I chose some, some chose me...

They stayed as long as they had to; they went when they had to. The thought of insects destroying both them and me was far more worrying.

No one saw those crawlies; I did. No one was bitten by them; I was. No one came out with marks on their skin; I did.

My truth is my story. For some people their stories become their truth.

Fiction based on experience and a touch of imagination is a wonderful thing...that which is propped up on a foundation of hallucinations can only make you build a world of mazes and dark alleys where you choose to walk in the hope of finding a lost cause.

A cat that was never alive cannot be killed...


Mumbai - Sin City?

Is Mumbai safe? The recent rape cases have once again highlighted the issue. But, how can you call it sin city?

I have trolled through those very lanes they are now talking about. The article I reproduce below based on one such encounter still makes me shudder. What if I had not been cocooned? What if I were in those very streets?

Trading places

I don't know if Mona is a prostitute but I do know she has not forgiven me. Every time I think of her, and it is often, I feel guilty about having a bank account, of doing things that others cannot do. But while these are dull aches, with Mona it's different. There is a stinging slap.

Mona came into my life with a loud curse. In the dead of a summer night, I spotted her in a by-lane of Colaba (a hub of Bombay), hurling abuses into the uncaring darkness. I was scouting around for interesting people for a night story. She was looking for some food.

We seemed made-for-each-other. I bought her a meal and we got talking. It hadn't been an easy life. Childhood lasted till the age of 10. After that, she was physically abused by her brother and brother-in-law. She was from a well-placed family. Soon, her soul was torn to shreds. She lost faith. She lost sight of where she was going, and found her way into the streets.

When I met her, she was angry; there were needle marks on her hands. Then she took me further into the lane, muttering all the while, "I have a baby." There, lying on the footpath was a black child. "Yes, the man was a nigger." She said she was not a prostitute. "Look, if I were a whore, do you think I would be dressed like this? Do you think my breasts would sag?"

In less than an hour, I had tried to capture eternity. In a fraction of this time, she had gobbled up her meal. Before I left, she asked me my address. I scrawled it on a piece of paper. She kissed my hand, "You are my friend," she said.

The story was published, with Mona as the grand finale. Two days later, she tuned up at the office, sozzled, screaming, "I'll kill her!" I wasn't there. The next day, I made it a point to be around. It's not everyday that people want to kill you. When she arrived, I took her to an inside room and asked her what the problem was. I got her a cup of coffee. She was misled by someone who couldn't read straight who said that I was out to get her. I brought out a copy and read out every word, explained what it meant. I repeated her quotes to her, including this one: "I don't sleep around with men. I don't need sex. I only need to feed my baby and myself." And she had spoken all this in perfectly intelligible English. Now she merely nodded and again took my hand, Though she refused to admit she was on drugs, she agreed to get herself cleaned out.

I called up a friend who was working at the rehab centre. But Mona was no more interested. She started giving me stories about the terrible times at such places. She started coming when I was away, barging into cabins. She had only to walk towards the washroom and there would be a fright. What if she had AIDS? What if she was diseased? Almost everyday, I'd get a report of her goings-on.

I wanted to give her clothes and my colleagues warned me that this would become a habit. The only thing I could do and she wouldn't let me, was to get her into a centre. "It's boring," she said. Her manner became difficult. Once she interrupted my conversation with the production manager with an arrogant wave of her hand. He just had to stop. Another time she insisted I take her into another room. She was in pain. She took off her clothes and showed me all the bruises, "They beat me up, they do it all the time." We were almost friends and it wasn't even fair weather. I had never felt so helpless before.

While everybody around was aware of the embarrassment she was causing me, few knew about the agony. Till date, I don't know where I went wrong, if at all I did. But somewhere along, work and concerns got mixed up. She became another woman. She could have been in my place, I in hers.

How would I have responded? What could my expectations have been? Isn't it possible that all she wanted was someone to talk to, and her aggressiveness was merely a means of getting my initial attention, accustomed as she was to being ignored as any other drunken hussy? How could I put myself in her shoes?



Mujhe rang de...

Last night there was the sound of dholaks. The preparations for Holi were on. I have not played Holi for years now.

My first memory is of filling a condom with water. My friend's parents were doctors so there was a huge stock of Nirodh, and when both were out we would take a few, go to the bathroom and sneak it up the tap to fill it. We did not know it had 'negative' connotations.

Then of course the night prior to the occasion we would all fill colour balloons and keep them ready in buckets.

Sattar was Mrs. M's driver, and he did everything but drive. He was the odd-job man for almost everyone in the building. He would sit with this Punjabi family, mostly the women, and chat for hours. And he doted on all kids.

There was no way I would have ever gone to the Mahim urs had it not been for Sattar. The Mahim urs was considered pretty downmarket and too miya type for the family. I went once and we did the joy rides and instead of candyfloss, here we got to eat the famed Mahim ka halwa that looks like ice cubes (not the club variety, the old barafwalla sort transported in gunny bags!).

For Holi, it was mandatory to pretend that we were afraid/shy. And then the others would knock at the door and throw gulal -- it just seemed a better idea to get out of the house and join in.

Of course, the elders in the family kept a watch from the balcony to see just how wet was okay. It is another matter that one was fortified with a few layers of clothing...

I am not sure when I decided to stop. Was it the loss of innocence that forced such a decision?

Once Sheila and I were taking our usual stroll through one of the lanes. A balloon filled with water and some dry cement shavings hit me real hard on the chest. That memory is so indelible because I clearly recall what I was wearing -- a peach-coloured cheese cotton blouse with embroidery near the neck.

I had lost my balance and Sheila had grasped me by the arm while looking up towards the buildings flanking the street to see who the culprit was.

We were in our teens and although we had tremendous lung power, I just felt ashamed. ashamed at the blotch that clung to the contours of parts of me I had then wanted to deny having. Like all 13-14-year-olds, the budding body brought with it a bit of trepidation. One would be entering a new world, but...

It was the 'buts' that ruled.

It was probably then that I started romanticising about most things, and Holi was no exception.

I read an article recently about the festival celebrated in Hindi films and how the mandatory scene often included a widow being besmirched. Such deja vu!

This was my fantasy. To be some woe-begone widow with a knight throwing red gulal that strategically landed in the parting of my hair. The only thing that kept this fantasy short-lived was that these widows were invariably 'pure'. In my mind, despite the knight, they seemed to choose to live alone and die alone.

What would happen to my other fantasy of not dying a virgin?
- - -
After the stunning appeal of black and white, as I talk about colours today, I am suitably amused when I read about the influence of these shades on us.

I do like certain things more in some colours...

I like yellow roses (only yellow roses), very light blue walls, dark blue curtains, mahogany panels, fawn-coloured work area, brown/tan shoes and bags, pink dupattas (very flattering to certain skin types), olive green beads to complement a lemon green dress, red semi-precious stones set in silver...and I have a red laptop case too (!), lavendar nail-polish and wine-coloured lipstick (not together, of course).

And I often choose the colours of my rainbow. It depends on whether I look at it in a sky that is clear or crowded with clouds or if I see its reflection in the water, or a mirror held against the light.

It is possible to see what one wishes to...

"Teri aankhoun ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai
Yeh uthey subah chaley, yeh jhukey shaam dhaley
Mera jeena, mera marna, inheen palkon ke taley"


Blighted light

It is getting too sunny for me. Even at 6 pm the room is brightly lit. There is a strange tango as my lips, hot and baked by the rays, touch the rim of the glass with frost on it. The drink is cool, a lime or rose sherbet.

My eyes blink against the sun…I like staring at it directly as I do almost anything that I am communicating with or confronting.

I can sense a film of water. These aren’t tears. But to anyone who might walk in at that moment, it would seem so. I wonder what sorrow is. Just too much sun being looked deep into and probed?

I am a moon person. Isn’t today full moon night? Hmmm…I know I will behave unusually. I do on full moon nights. I do on most nights. And days.

“Am I mad?”

“No, perhaps neurotic.”

Disturbed, irrational, phobic, hung-up, fixated. These are the meanings.

I know even conjecturing these ‘negatives’ about oneself mean being easy game; I know it can well be used against me, have been…

I do not want to be in denial. The person I had the conversation with is completely removed from my work.

As we went deeper into this dialogue, he said, “It is surprising that you at least know yourself. Not many people do.”

"Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." Albert Camus

I channelise my energies in other areas. And those areas need not be accessible to people.

I do not strive to be normal.

It is not my nirvana.

I shall stare at the moon tonight, and as the clouds gather to seek union with it from afar, it will seem like they are so close together.

I shall then touch the moon -- a stretched out hand in the air pointing at the sky will feel the sullen breeze flap around it, knock on palm's door.

Can you get closer than this to anything without being hurt?