Tuesday, May 31, 2005


What is your earliest memory of pain? This is a blog I've been wanting to write for ages, but somehow the right moment didn't chance upon me. Today, somehow, I felt the inclination to write it. I don't know about most people, but I can't remember my earliest 'pleasure'. My moment of pure fun, unadulterated pleasure. Was it playing with my dog, or running around after my pets, or watching a movie, or going for long drives, since in the tea gardens everywhere to everywhere was a long drive.
But through all the highs and lows, through all the nearly 28 years of my march towards death (what is life but a journey that leads to a destination marked DEATH), the one memory that has stayed with me is my worst and first memory of pain. I remember it clearly, and painfully. I was about seven, and in the hostel in DPS, RK Puram, one of India's premier schools. Yes it is cruel to be in boarding that early in life but sometimes you don't have a choice. So I was here, in a boarding which had no matrons but only ayahs to take care of you, where rats constantly dug into your Chyawanprash, where red gel toothpaste was squeezed and found plastered all over, literally painting the walls red, where you were greeted in the loo by a pot that was clean but a floor which had turd all over it.... of all that, another blog.
One particular day, in this premier school in the capital of India, I remember screaming with the worst pain of my life. It was in my ear. I cried for over an hour, and no this wasn't the silent crying, it was mad wailing and shrieking, it was pure pain, unadulterated pain. And the fact that it has transcended all these years, all these pains, all the accidents, the bruises, the scratches, the stitches, indicates to me that it was a pain I will never forget. It was, so to speak, etched in my ear. I remember thinking that this must be death. This deafening, numbing pain that seemed to contract and shrink every muscle in your body, that made you want to curl up in a foetal position with your hand pressed against your ear as if even the passing of air would bring a fresh spasm. That pain, to get rid of which you would agree to do anything, amputate your ear even. When not a soothing word, nor a calm touch helps, when it's just you against the pain. No one else matters, because it's such a personal fight, such an intense dialogue that nobody can be included. Childbirth must be like that. How much ever you try, the father of the child can be included only so much. The doctor can empathise only so much. I don't know...
My pain that day was caused by some stupid fool who had put a bob pin (remember those ridiculous, thin hair holders) into my ear, I can't remember for what. Maybe they were trying to substitute an ear bud. But they or he or she had managed to touch my ear drum and scratch it inside.
Years later, when I was 20 and just out of college, I met with a serious accident. We were in a Maruti van and we hit a tree. The car caved in, into my knee. My knee cap was smashed. My mother, who was driving, was hsyterical. I have never been so patient in my life. There wasn't a tear. I was in control of the situation. I did cry, much later, when the antibiotic injections were being administered through the intra venous into my veins, every six hours. It was those silent tears. They would just come, slowly but steadily. But it wasn't crazy, hysterical crying. Right up to the time of the operation on the first day there were no tears. I think I made peace with my pain very early on. Pain can affect you only how much you let it. I know I probably sound 88 and dying, having lived an entire life in pain, but no, I am serious. Just try it. The physical is very easy to control, be it pleasure or pain. It's the mind that you have to have the dialogue with. And once you've done that, neither pain nor hunger nor cold can touch you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I feel vindicated. I met Ram Gopal Varma. And I had decided that I would discuss my blog on his film Naach and share what I thought about the film with him. I especially carried a print out of the blog, and then, at the last minute changed notepads, leaving the print out at home. Taking it to be an omen, I ditched the idea, but somehow the thought nagged me. It's not like I'm one of those journalists who uses the access to constantly criticise and offer feedback to filmmakers and TV directors and producers, knowing they have to politely listen to it, though I know of people who do, but this time was different. Maybe because my point of view was just so different from what I'd read in any of the reviews or maybe because no one else seemed to think in that direction and maybe because in some of RGV's interviews I got the feeling that he was hinting towards something which I had understood in his film. Almost everyone hated the film. It was a miserable flop and Antara Mali's contorted body positions inspired several spoofs on TV. There were a few who liked it but I could never figure if they said that only because they felt it would differentiate them from the collective opinion and make the person listening to them cock an eyebrow and think 'ok, how could s/he like the film? They must be thinking something else'. I even told RGV this, that his film had somehow become one of those benchmarks to separate the smarties or pretending smarties from the rest. I have had two people ask me 'what movies have you seen recently?'. Fairly innocuous question. And then, 'Did you like Naach?'
So while we were talking and I found him to be pretty intelligent and open to discussion, I brought it up. And guess, what? He said I was bang on. Except I thought he was Antara Mali, as in, she represented his struggles, his turmoils and his passions. But RGV told me that if he had remained like Mali, stubborn, he wouldn't have reached where he has today. So he is actually Abhishek Bachchan's character and trying to be Mali's. He said Mali was his take on the central character in The Fountainhead, Howard Rock. Someone who doesn't want to change anything about himself and is not apologetic about him. The day he starts to feel bad, he's a hero no more.
It was really exciting and gratifying. He even told me how he shouldn't have added a few elements and how he would like to remake it at some point and where he possibly went wrong. He then asked me what I thought of Kaal, and I could have kicked myself for not having seen it. The reason he asked me, I thought, was because he obviously felt I had understood something of his work (I have seen almost all his films) and also he asked about Kaal because Soham, who has directed the film, was once his assistant. And because the film is supposed to ba tribute to RGV's style of filmmaking by both Soham and the produer of the film, Karan Johar.
I walked out of there with a smile so broad, my dentists would have been proud.

bombay & I

i know i know, i've died on you. it's been strange. the transition. and i'm giving up on the caps on purpose, just too tired. sitting in office waiting for the final, edited version of my story. I haven't been in office this late for months, i haven't stayed up till 3.30 a.m. writing a story but you know what? it feels great. sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when i decided to quit journalism. feel stupid for not realising that i wouldn't manage to live without it for too long anyway. But just as well...
anyway back to this city. I came, I looked around, I decided I'm going to hate. but hate degenerates, it makes good tissues rotten, it makes your body shrink with pettiness, it makes you screw your nose up at people, it makes you look at someone's livelihood, someone's daily ride, someone's life and get all snobbish about your own. instead, reverse the hate. i did. I looked instead at what i had and how thankful i was. someone told me the other day that 56 per cent of this city lives in the slums, so i realised that i should be thankful for not being one of those statistics. I have now ventured out more. you cannot live in the south mumbai to bandra closeted world and feel the real bombay. actually several bombays live in mumbai. the fun is to enjoy them all, not to roll your jeans up and start living each of them but to effortlessly meander into them and out of them. so instead of prefering to do a telephonic interview and squirming at the thought of going to chakala or mulund or jogeshwari i've bothered to get up and get out. take cabs, take trains, take autos. i've been to jogeshwari to kamalistan studio, opposite matoshri, to andheri east to saki naka, to all those dirty, dusty places which make bombay, where life carries on with or without your prejudices. i've extended my train pass till andheri because i've realised that i will no longer be just a random visitor once in a while to 'those' parts and i can buy an extension ticket. i have realised that i will regularly go and meet people in their part of the world.
and now i realise, i quite like bombay. no, i still hate the dust and the traffic but i don't face it much since the train is also another bombay in itself. and i love the bindaas attitude. go anywhere wearing anything, even a dirty ol' pair of jeans will do. no one's watching no one's commenting no one's looking. just be.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Wire free? an ode to my cell, obit rather

I lost my cellphone two weeks ago. Left it in a cab. It was depressing. I was joking about selling it, in a friend's drawing room, when I realised I hadn't heard its reassuring ringtone in a while. Neither had it beeped a message. Tried calling, it rang initially, then became unavailable, I wonder what the kidnapper did to the poor thing, it was just four months old.
I went into a state of mourning. Why is mourning only expressed for humans? Everyone urged me to buy a new phone, immediately. I couldn't. I honestly couldn't. Can you break up, that too abruptly, and jump into a new relationship in a day? Especially when it's something that's so close to you? It's practically the only thing that remains with you 24x7, you change your clothes your shoes your bag mayb even your watch but you don't change your phone every other day.
It means so much. It's the repository of relationships in today's wolrd. After Prasoon Joshi articulated in his Nokia radio ad years ago that the cellphone is the means to keep in touch with those you love, the cell has really become the only way to say you care. People propose, dispose and do evwrything over it. It is a mental diary. I don't even bother to register numbers in my head anymore. It's actually cleared space in my head by taking care of remembering what I don't need to clutter my brain with. It's also privy to almost everything important or significant in my life. From a simple 'I love you' to negotiating a job offer to counselling someone on a bad relationship, no one apart from me and my cell are in on it. So how can I replace it in half a day, especially when I haven't had closure in the relationship? I just left it in a cab, it's gnawing at me, the guilt, how could I forget my precious phone?
Am I losing it, you're wondering? I wondered too, so I went out and bought myself a new one.
But honestly, it's amazing and ironical, that technology, which was really a means to get poeple closer is now very successful in doing just the opposite. I'm sitting alone in the drawing room, at 1 am writing on the laptop. Shouldn't I be tucked away in bed, maybe holding his hand, having real conversation, or sleeping? The cellphone, the precise instrument that is supposed to erase geograpohical boundaries and rid you of the bondage of wires has become precisely that. A bondage. It won't let you enjoy a dinner in peace, it can't let you lose yoursef without being traced. And when you're in a crowded room and the insecurity of saying hi to a stranger eats away, it lets you stare into its lit screen and pretend you've got a life, a life that's more interesting than the place you're in. It lets you cut off from the real world.
Wired, that's what we are, not wi-fi. And never wireless.

Bombay - Instant city

Maximum city. That's what Suketu Mehta called Bombay. Instant city is what I'd like to call it. Instant city. That's what Bombay is. Instant karma, instant gratification, instant sex, instant coffee. Time and tide (and the metaphor fits really well I must say) wait for no man. It's a new morning. I'm on my way to work. Every day, each and every day, I see the two cows, tied to the tree. Not just plain grazing cows. These are instant karma cows. There's a woman too. She sits with them, hell, she's their caretaker. Next to her, as she sits on a low-lying stool, her Maharashtrian sari tucked between her legs, is a basket of grass. Yes grass. I see a middle-gaed man give her some money and buy the grass she's flogging. His scooter is parked as he attempts to erase his karma, bad karma, and turn it into good karma. Some effing pandit somewhere -- in turn trying to change his own karma -- must have told him go feed the cows, grass, change your karma. So he's here. Scooter and all. On his way to work, he innocently parks by the side, pays some money and changes his karma. The f***** will still go back home, drink, abuse his wife, or maybe not even abuse her, but just be his regular boorish self, while she cleans and sweeps and swabs and plays mother and father to the children, he'll just go on wearing his chauvinism on his sleeve. But he'll feed the cows. Every Monday or Tuesday, he'll change his karma.
Instant gratification. Whichever way you want it. They're sitting in the fifth floor of her new flat. The containers haven't even been opened. The heat of the summer afternoon is filtering in through the windows, and the palm wilts in the sun. They feel like a Marlboro. Instant gratification. She picks up the mobile and presses the button. Home delivery. Five minutes later, he's there at the doorstep with their nicotine fix. Instant gratification. Better than a prolonged... well, never mind.
Instant everything, that's Bombay. Whatever your class, whatever your drug, this city has it. Just dial, or just call, or just look, or just ask, or just pay. And it's there. No one asks why, no one wants to know how and no one cares. As long as their salvation is instant.