Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And you blog again

You go to the Commercial street auto stand after stocking up a war’s supply of patience. You take your auto and drop your friend at Basvangudi as always. Then it is time to be vulnerable because you are alone at it is 10 PM , late where I live.

The lechometer comes into action – the mirror inside the auto that shows not a trace of the road behind or anything else that might be of value to a driver except perhaps wank off material.
Wank off material is the woman behind , who in this case is wearing a blue shirt , grey jeans and a long black sweater.

You wonder if you should move out of his sight. Then you will be too close to the edge of the auto and stray flying hands from passing bikes can access your mammary glands. (This has happened before).
The same goes for the other side. In the centre, you are in perfect view for him to see.

The auto seat becomes your world. The world is a war zone.
You rationalize it. What if this had been a hot man at Zenzi. Maybe you wouldn’t have minded.
You wonder where the auto driver’s left hand is. It’s not on the autos steering thingie.

Maybe you are a classist bitch. Why should a man staring at you bother you ?
Why should it threaten you?
Just earlier in the day, a man follows you just outside that gated apartment complex , that haven of safety- home. He keeps saying ‘’ Nice bums’’. You turn around to face him with the angriest expression you can manage. He continues telling you he wants to fuck you . You slap him. Instinctively. You are not a violent person. You get so scared at your own reaction. You quickly walk away and slip into a cyber cafe.
You worry that he is humiliated and he will gather four to five of his friends to attack you later. After all, you live in this area.
That was in the morning. It is night now. You are back home.
And by the time you are home , you think it’s pointless to blog about it because you’ve done so in, 2006,2006,2006,2006,2006 and feel this way every other day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not this , Not this

It’s always been difficult for me to find the geography of my own life in literature. Urban, upper middle class , mostly Bangalorean . Anjum Hasan’s Neti Neti captures the city that is in a maddening flux in some parts ,stagnant and seething in some parts and in some parts traditional as it would have been fifty years ago with sensitivity and a nuance I haven’t read in writing about Bangalore before.

Sophie Das is 25, has moved from the quiet hill town of Shillong to transcribe Hollywood movie subtitles by day and have moral tussles with her land lord about hanging underwear, spend time in pubs with her boyfriend Swami and navigate the weed bed of wealth in the malls, streets and homes of the city’s privileged.
Then there are her friends. The dubious Ringo Saar whose job is to bash up people defaulting on loans, Anu who gets through life doing nothing and keeping a boyfriend and convincing him to move to Australia where the roads are clean.
Shiva, who could be those few people we know who keeps tipping the parallel narative that connects the lives of urban youth into conversations. The South Bangalore gang that hacked a 21 year old man of a rival gang to death, a man who forced his wife to drink acid, how the shit of the rich determinedly travel to the open sewers of the poor.

Her colleague Shanti Gouda lives on the metaphoric other side of the city – lower middle class and working her way up , subtitling English shows for money but refusing to enjoy their vulgarity.
We meet the police men who tell the city’s migrants only half jokingly that in Karnataka they must speak kannada. And the rich Punjabi father and son duo who get out of their air-conditioned car to bet up a local auto driver in their perceived right to exert their masculinity.
Sophie is a witness to other people’s tragedies, forced to make a comment or two. A child dies in a mall, but when a brutal and unexpected murder ends it all for Sophie she imagines finding peace in her mountain home away from what she calls India . It is at this stage in the novel where it feels like Hasan clumsily put together news reports from Bangalore’s recent past and used these events as a backdrop for Sophie’s angst.

And yet, her dull and cold family home which she believed could never change has its own share of , if placid, fissures. Her sister is on a teenage trip towards boys and gold earring gifts while her parents’ relationship is not what she imagined it to be.

The elections are on , their politics suddenly revolving around a visit by Bob Dylan with every party wanting to capitalize on it in a rock loving town. Sophie chases her ideas of a man she has been fascinated by, if not in love with for a while . Nothing however is yielding enough for her to stay.

I can feel Bangalore in Hassan’s’s fissured class dynamics, , its confused youth , its gourmet shops , its butter and ghee shops , its migrants and its malls.
It’s not Amitav Ghosh’s Sunderbans or Arundhati Roys river polluted with world bank loans or Rushdie’s magic realism. Its most of our lives..

Those of us who went to college here know pretty well how to irritate sales girls by making them help us test lots of expensive perfumes that would cost 1/5th of our first salaries, walk into expensive branded stores and try on purple dresses just because our Tibetan market skinny jeans and what could be easily from Mango t shirt, coupled with our ‘’neutral’’ accents made us pass off for those who could afford such shit..
''She squinted at cubbon park (on a map) and tried to picture them separated by it- Sophie and her friends on the right half of this centre drinking coffee in Styrofoam cups, and Shanti’s mother and great grandmother on the left half , selling breakfast to lewd lorry drivers.’

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tonight I could write the saddest lines ( with apologies to Pablo Neruda, the great poet)

Tonight I could write the saddest lines

Write for instance that

‘’The smog is shattered and the orange haze hangs heavily above

the hoardings selling insurance’’

The beedi smoke spreads , the autos cough out

some soot

Tonight , I can write the saddest lines.

Through nights like this , I held him in my palms,

Pressing his many buttons, feeling every romance

he held , every new acquaintance that was pregnant with a impending friendship

I dialled 100. The Bangalore police cannot find him,

My Bombay boy.

He loved me, Sometimes I loved him too

I broke him, I repaired him too

How could one not love his great wealth of

Sentiments, of his contacts to reach ceos

Within seconds

To hear the distant wind in a now hostile city

And to know that in him he carried Bombay,

Its dirt , its trains , the goat cheese tarts at terror struck hotels

And to know that he is gone now,

He is another’s, perhaps a driver of an auto,

A college student.

What does it matter that my care could not keep him.

My memories have been dismantled and he is not with me.

In the distance, coolies are banging and a few birds left in Banashankari

sing . My soul is not satisfied that he is gone

Maybe he was meant to go, dismantle a metropolis,

Stray fucks, strayer press conferences on what the rich hold dear

The same asthmatic smog molesting the same green city

I of that time no longer am burdened.

It is good that he is gone, that is certain

But maybe, I want him.

He will be another’s. His teenage poetry sms,

The invitations to coffees , the chatter with prs in high heels

Phones last so short, forgetting is so long

Though this is the last pain my phone makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for him

I am sorry for the drama, though. I found him in my drawer..eventually....

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


On a train from Bangalore to Pune I find myself in an compartment with three men constantly on the phone as if bounded by duty, hmming and occassionally smiling slightly BUT NEVER saying anything . They talk for more than an hour..if I can use the word talk at all.

They are all talking to women ..I can hear the giggles and the enthusiastic narrating of stories.

In other news, man oppossite me, old, wobbly, beaten and yet not well over 50 or anything brags about having shot tigers in Thane when it was still a forest and says that he shot a python in the head and saved its fat because it heals wounds.