Mazhaikaadhali!

It is one of those days when you had an avalanche of emotions and feel drained even before the workday ends. From happiness to pride, satisfaction, love, freedom, revenge, anger, disgust, pain, insult, you’ve experienced a range of emotions that half the human population hasn’t even begun to feel. At 6 PM, you grab your handbag and leave for the day. You find that one colleague you don’t mind spending time with at the end of such a day and go for coffee to a comforting café. Sipping (a rather strong) coffee, through some nice conversations and comfortable silences, you see a strange calm dawning on you when it starts drizzling outside and you decide to walk home.

You zip up your overcoat and start walking in the drizzle (secretly thanking that colleague of yours who didn’t insist on being chivalrous and drop you home). It is still drizzling. You plug your earphones and switch on a playlist of melancholy love songs on shuffle (to be surprised) and start walking – a smile intact on your lips.

You walk a few steps and the auto rickshaws start slowing down near you (the helpful Bangalorean gentlemen that they are). You give them a condescending smile and look away with a heightened sense of self. The mighty rain washes Indiranagar down and you see people slowly move to the sides of the road. The world opens up for you and you feel like the brave one surviving the vengeful rain. When the first drop of rain reaches your lips and you slowly swallow that drop, the sense of bravery vanishes and all you feel is noble love for the rain that has now enveloped you – in your entirety, just the way you are, the shape, the size and the personality. The rain envelopes the car that just passed by, the buffalo that refuses to move, the umbrella that the school girl is hiding under and every person else – the same way it embraces you. You can’t resist being jealous – jealous of all the other people it is raining on – even worse when they don’t even love it back like you do. You smile knowing yourself all too well.

You’ve walked quite a distance and you want to know what time it is but the smartphone you trust for everything is not rainproof. You look up the night sky and continue walking. The stupid shuffle on your android phone plays Adhiradi Kaaran after Anal mela paniththuli – you can’t resist singing ‘jakkal jackal dammaal dummeel’ and admiring the genius that is vaali!

While passing through that one-way street that has colourful shops lining up either side, there is a power cut. That sense of divine reassurance that (you are the only one walking on the road while everyone else is waiting for the rain to stop) you will not get groped in the dark. That sense of fear that you might fall into a ditch and therefore move to the middle of the road. That joy of walking in the middle of the road in Bangalore and not get yelled at.

You don’t feel thirsty because you know you’ve been drinking rainwater. But you are finding it increasingly difficult to walk. You look down to see dripping wet pants and you thank rain gods that it isn’t Friday else you’ll be in jeans and it would have been heavier.

You wait to cross the road and a gentleman in a black VW Polo stops and waves for you to go. You give him a thumbs-up and thank him. You climb on to the footpath (you finally find after several minutes of walking) and a van splashes muddy water on you. You smile back at him thinking ‘this too shall get rain-washed’. Nothing really seems like a problem anymore. Not the pair of earphones that are also drenching in the rain, not the handbag that has a kindle that is getting wet, not the cold and a fever you may catch tomorrow, not all the worldly problems that bothered you during the day.

You know you will write this post and publish it. You think about calling it ‘a walk to remember’ and then think about how inappropriate it would be in an otherwise film-review blog. You decide to call it ‘mazhai kaadhali’ and you take mental note of giving title-credit to @codenameashtray.

You get home and open the door. The power is still *cut*. You light a small candle lying on the teapoy and inhale the smell of home. Nothing seems like a problem anymore. This too shall be washed.

I’ve given money to the State’s exchequer! Have you?

This post is long overdue. Really long! So long that the proof of this incident has lost its colour.

Anyway, it was a Saturday morning when a friend and I went out to do some shopping. We were somewhere in the Malleswaram/ Seshadripuram area and we were obviously lost. Asked an auto-driver for directions and he asked us to go straight down a road to reach Cauvery theatre. Perfect, zoom we went. Hidden behind branches was a no-entry board. I saw the board but before I could stop my friend who was driving (and didn’t notice), we were in front of Cauvery theatre.

This was one of those roads where just a small bit is a one way. If you are not from Bangalore, you wouldn’t understand what I mean. But in Bangalore, there are so many smaller roads (leading to main roads) only a part of which is a one-way. Strange, but true. By saying this, however, I am only establishing context.

We slowly parked the bike and were about to leave when we bumped into a police officer. He stopped us and took down details of my vehicle. My friend who was driving was still puzzled about what hit him!

The police officer took my friend’s licence and keyed in the details into his blackberry. He noted down my vehicle’s number and printed out a small receipt and handed it to me. I paid the Rs. 100 fine and walked away. The only thought in my mind – ‘so much for my paranoia about following rules’!

We went to the shop we had come to and did not find what we wanted. While I came out, I saw the police officer standing and I decided to take his autograph in my first ever ‘fine receipt’ (if it is called that). He took it back from me and smiled at me for the first time. He signed it and apologised for not signing it the first time.

He said, “I am sorry. I should have signed it. I was in a hurry. My sign is mandatory. Yours is not. You see this transaction is all online and your money goes directly to the exchequer.”

Well, what can I say to that! I just made Karnataka richer by 100 bucks and it isn’t a great feeling!

The thing around your neck

Published earlier on www.ingoodbooks.com at http://www.ingoodbooks.com/125/the-thing-around-your-neck/

Courtesy: http://www.tipperarylibrarynews.ie/

A collection of melancholy instances in the lives of Africans, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘The thing around your neck’ is most definitely not a joy-read. Written very succinctly with a short story not longer than 5-6 pages, each story is a tightly packed firecracker of emotions that bursts with a thud in the readers’ mind.

Issues ranging from terrorism, regionalism, rioting, theft, discipline, premarital sex, polygamy and arranged marriages among others, are all treated as cultural influences in the lives of Nigerians (at home and in the States). Immigration is treated very tactfully without shifting the blame on to any side, yet poignantly laying out the emotional trauma that goes through people who choose to leave home.

The title story ‘The thing around your neck’ stands out among all of them for me, though there is a long list of near bests. The two stories that are written in second person narrative (The thing around your neck and Tomorrow is not too far) where Adichie takes the reader through the journey of the protagonist as if he/ she were the person in the story. The story that begins, “You thought everybody in America had a car and a gun” takes you through a young girl’s life in America as if you were her. When that thing around her neck tightens, the reader is most likely to try and loosen it around his/ her neck.

‘The arrangers of marriage’ is one other story that took me by a trip of sorrow just by empathising with the mere helplessness of the girl who married a man her uncle (who brought her up) chose just so she wouldn’t be called ungrateful. ‘The headstrong historian’ is the story of a woman who loses her son to the aspiration for him to learn English and fight for their lost land. ‘A private experience’ is not really one as it is the gory experiences of most Africans who lose property and beloved people to religious fanaticism.

Without fancy lines, without being a tear-jerker, without even trying hard to make the reader sympathise with the characters, this book comes across as a near-real representations of lives in contemporary Africa. The book is filled with professors, policemen, writers, grandmothers, mothers, fathers, uncles, husbands, wives, Igbos, Hausas, Christians, Muslims, who come across as genuine real people you would have seen, met or heard about in your life.

I’d say, it’s a great read. I did surely not cry out loud at the end of each story. But I spend hours of the day thinking about the book and feeling heavy about the unfair distribution of happiness to people.

Yatha Praja, Thatha Raaja!

When I woke up this morning and realised that I am so ill that I can’t get out of my bed, I decided to do all the writing that I had postponed for so long only because I could get out of my bed and do other work. The first of a marathon of blog posts (that I dream to finish by tonight) is about a Gentleman I met a couple (when I say couple, I mean two. Isn’t that what everybody should mean?) of days ago.

16 Nov 2010

Just at the end of a long day at work, Poornima (a wonderful colleague) and I left for Hanumanthnagar, where Mr. Suresh Moona resides. After a slightly claustrophobic drive, we finally stepped out of the car and met Mr. Moona. He was a simple man standing outside his gate waiting for us to arrive. Before I met him, I had known nothing about him (a terrible act considering I was meeting a man of such stature). So, I expected it to be a drab session where Poornima interviews him and I sit there giving unnecessary company.

He walked us into his house and gave us a seat. He sat on a diwan right under the window getting ready to share his thoughts with us (There was a tube of Volini and a bottle of Vicks on the window sill, only a reassurance that he was only a ‘distinguished’ common man). Initially, I was reluctant to even take out a book and write notes (such was my expectation from the interview). But the moment he started talking, I knew I was terribly wrong all the way. I pulled out my little book and a pen and started taking notes frantically. Every word was so meaningful individually and in context. Then began one of the most interesting evenings of my life. A few excerpts here! 🙂

There are so many wonderful lessons of Bangalore history that he gave us. I am consciously abstaining from writing them here as I believe it would be best for one to know it from him. He has written close to 1500 articles for Deccan Herald, TOI and Udayavani in Bangalore. He is also authoring a book presently and I can already vouch for it’s magnificence and relevance. But what I am going to write about are the few notes of culture, faith and humanity he gave us. I am going to write about the additions to my value system that I got from him.

While he was talking (of course in a tangent off the issue we had scheduled the meeting for) about the current state of politics and governance in Karnataka, he said “kaarana naavene” (we are the reason). Recollecting his experiences as a Polling Officer during elections he said “The people who come at 7 in the morning and wait in the queue to cast their votes are people from the nearby slums. The educated middle class casually walks in at 11 and almost never are ready to fight against voter list discrepancies. Parties like Lok Satta could have at least raised their voice, if not win the elections. We deserve what we get”.

Isn’t that so true? We did nothing for the Govt. Not even vote. I am sure there is a (valid) reason why we chose not to vote. Perhaps, no one was worth the vote? Fair enough! But our abstinence did not stop corruption, bad governance, consistently bad infrastructure or anything that we chose to sit at home and fight against. So, abstinence is very evidently not working. (For all those who are pouncing on me to say that you voted and yet nothing changed, all I can say is, keep at it. Take friends along. Democracy works on collective spirit!)

While I am writing down that thought, I recall Mr. Moona saying something similar. He said “In days of Monarchy, it was said ‘yatha raja, thatha praja’ (Like king, like citizen). But in a a democracy, it is always ‘yatha praja, thatha raja’ (vice versa). If people are responsible, the Government will be.” Even after saying this, he does not blame the public for the sorry state of affairs in the country. On the contrary, he believes in the power of democracy. He says informed and participative citizenry is the only means to a powerful democracy. He says research and information should always be disseminated all the way to the last common man. This is the only way we can educate and inspire the general public. As an educated, inspired common man himself, he is determined to take upon him the duty to empower as many people as he can.

In this context, he gives the example of Inayathullah Mekhri who told the Govt of his day that “every citizen has a right (and duty, as a corollary) to contribute to civic amenities as much as he/ she has a right to use it”. This is why Mr. Moona says “Naan Vidhansoudha, Corporation yaar hathrakku hogalla (I don’t go to Vidhansoudha, corporation or anybody else). I see what I can do”.

It was quite late in the evening and almost end of the interview. We decided to take leave and walked out of his house. He came along to see us off. We exchanged thank-yous and bye-byes and got into Poornima’s car. It was an enlightening chat with a man who has seen the sea of change that Bangalore has gone though and remained loving and proud all along. After years of meeting Bangaloreans who crib about Bangalore, this was a fresh perspective. In a world of cynics, the perspective of the hopeful!