Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tribute to the Professor

He struggled to sit down, and with a groan of pain, managed to finally do so, his slumped shoulders, shrunken with age and resignation, settling into the back cushion of the couch. He stretched out his aching long legs, indicative of the tall, broad-set man he once used to be. A man of the frontier, defeated by more than half a century of betrayal and shattered feelings, but too proud, like his ancestors, to admit it, he loved to reminisce about the brighter days. His still-twinkly eyes lit up with memories of the formidable Professor the world once knew, of the brother who swung a bat or two alongside his brothers in defense of honor, of the son who defied his family of businessmen and brought forth knowledge, protection and love to hundreds of students. As quickly as they lit up, however, his eyes would lower in the heaviness of debt he felt he owed the world with the slightest mention of his son. And then the sunken man was quiet, seeking temporary relief in the comfort of the couch, repenting silently on his own.


Ram pulled up his rickety scooter alongside the comparatively enormous Tata Safari and I got off. I loved the bustling market area of the Cantt. As I took in the familiar cosmetic shops, chaatwalas and the oddly placed Levis showroom, I followed my wobbly nanaji through the narrow streets he knew blindfolded to the small photo studio where we had been earlier in the day to get a passport photo of me done. He walked in and was attended to without having said a word. I mistook it for the lovable small-town hospitality I adored. He received the tiny envelope from the owner and handed it to me without a second glance. I looked at the neat hand-writing on the envelope. "Professor Bhatia", it read. I smiled. Decades later, this humble old man was still the grand Professor to the Cantt.

Fan Fiction

As I trot unsteadily alongside the very familiar brown pants here, I can't help but wonder how it is that we manage to consistently and periodically get ourselves trapped in insane situations such as these. If it weren't for the Captain's leaky backpack again, I might have been distracted by that alley cat whose flashing tail has been appearing and disappearing on us since the second we got off the docks and entered this musty Arabian market on another wild-goose-chase. But instead, I find myself pondering the meaningless tiresome escapades that my human never ceases to dig his nose into. Sigh. Mark my words, I will be found at the end of teh day rescuing him yet again from the dungeons of whichever diabolical villain Tintin has been chasing this time. As for now, thank dog for heavenly drops of this Haddock whiskey.

The Crossing

Standing at the border, I glance back at all there was, and forward at all there would be. And I find myself at the stage at which I am ready to step over the line. But not alone; not this time. I couldn’t imagine the future without the one thing that got me where I stand today. 

This is no drug, though I am thoroughly addicted. It does not destroy me – rather, it redefines me. It breaks me down into my essence, my very atom, and rebuilds me up as a part of a woven matrix of two entangled journeys. It reinvents me as a part of a new combined entity rather than an individual. 

And what use is a new rediscovered happier life if it cannot be led? When every morsel of experience I uncover is further evidence of my incompletion without the missing part of me? Our paths did not cross; they united into one. And now I am forced to stand at this crossroads and wait to continue down this conjoined journey.

Lend me a hand, for I am crippled into dependence that I couldn’t live without anymore.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To Sir, With Love.

In a time when appreciating any piece of work that is not deliberately practical, colloquially accurate and cruelly devoid of innocence, is considered amateur, you may find momentary relief in relishing a short novel that maintains the wide-eyed teen feeling in the context of harsh social realities of racism. Innocent, yet certainly not naive, To Sir With Love is precisely the kind of novel you should come across on the reading list of a high-school student. It preaches unconditional acceptance of mankind in the face of the hypocritical racism that was, and perhaps still is, rampant in London and elsewhere. Yet it manages to escape the common depiction of a spotless savior-like figure, and instead helps the reader understand the workings of society through both the efforts and the mistakes of Mr. Braithwaite. An educated black man, both unemployed and a misfit in society due to his accolades, Ricardo Braithwaite seeks solace in becoming the teacher of the top-class of a school filled with notorious children in London's blue-collar East End, and ends up changing the lives of his students, and in the process, his own. It is a refreshing piece of work with plenty of underlying messages, and is ideal for the young reader of timeless generations.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Devil That Was The Truth

Slumped in the chair, a bag of bones,
He sits with prosecution, a misfit with a tie.
His forlorn eyes scan the blur of the crowd.
They stare back at his vicious lie.

The proceedings have not begun, and yet
The jury may already have made up their minds.
His posture lacks guilt, yes, but also courage 
That he may never have the time to find.

Was exposing the devil that was the truth
The sin that they have made it seem?
Would his testament captivate their interests,
And light them fiery red in its righteous gleam?

Valor is such that one may choose to avoid,
But alighted, it will surely set you free.
While they continue to ignore the stench in the air,
He meekly dreams of the man he hopes to be.

Fatal Flaw

She closed her eyes and leaned her weary head on the door, her back up against it, seeking the little support she could get from the inanimate barrier between her and her vulnerability. He had given up the incessant knocking and apologizing, and she didn't know if he still stood there, waiting for her to give in as usual. This wasn't the first time, and she knew it won't be the last. She knew she deserved better. 

But was she to kill the dream that kept her going? The canvas of the perfect future she had painted him into along with herself haunted her the second she rested her swollen eyelids. To be disappointed was a daily routine of her life now, to the extent that she wondered if she should perhaps abandon expectation altogether and let herself believe that it couldn't possibly get better. Contrary to what her loved ones believed, it took not guts but suicide to take a knife to that precious canvas of hers. They wanted her not to give up hope, but to give up on it. And what would life mean without hope?

Perhaps she would wield that knife one day. But for now, she rubbed her eyes, smearing the last of the obstinate kohl that had not left her side yet, and reached for the knob.


He opened his eyes and found himself in the arms of his mother, except that she looked different. Her blue sari was drenched in red, even though she didn't look wounded. Her eyes were swollen and red. The road he was lying on had, amongst broken glass, puddles of red. When he put his hands to his face, they came back to his lap red. Sirens were heard in the background, and as he craned his neck towards the sound, he saw a man, also covered in red, immobile, face down on the road. Men climbed out of the now-silent van and hurried to him, their white clothes getting stained in all the red. He finally spoke. "Mommy, where are they taking daddy?" The mother wiped her eyes and hugged her child, sobbing.

The Hypocrisy of Indian Food-Loving

'Anybody know of a good Italian place near Brigade, preferably pizza?' I'm not sure this guy even knew what he wanted. Pizza is a broad term that in this country usually has nothing to do with Italian cuisine. And I won't complain; have you ever tried the local ketchup version? Anyway, I didn't have a suggestion for him. Looking for something specific in India in terms of dining out, unless you're not broke, is literally rocket science. I mean, have you been to the food courts in our malls? You think for a second that you've finally found a cheap quesadilla stall, when boom! Out pops a paneer tikka-naan combo. You know, for the faint-hearted. You could even have fries with that. The point is, our restaurants refuse to commit to a specialty. In fact we will go far enough to Indianize the few dishes we do attempt. Ketchup pizzas ain't got nothing on tandoori sauce in a burger drowning in God knows what they put in that white thing they call mayo. Or tartar or ranch.
And that's perfectly okay. Unless you try to make it work the other way around. Take a deprived-of-Calcutta-rolls Bengali to the Kaati Zone here and watch with diabolical glee as he spits out his first bite while he yells 'Jogonno!' Observe the aunty at a kitty party recounting the horrors of her last night's dinner invitation nightmare at a south Indian home as she swears she tasted tamarind in the dal makhani. All this while they enjoy a bowl of chips and, oh wait, that's not salsa, is it?
We are very traditional people, okay, we take our cuisines seriously. Unless, you know, it's a cuisine we know nothing about. In that case, what the hell, throw in a little garam masala. I think it's just that we try too hard to please. Well, at least we're overt hypocrites about all of it. Now shut up and try this homemade cake already. It's eggless.