Story of a lost journalist

October 15, 2021

Wish I pestered Job Kurian for Nedumudi

Filed under: People — Cris @ 13:04
Tags: ,

Why didn’t I try harder to meet him, take a nice long interview by the sea and write it with blocks for each of his arts. Block one could be the mystery, describing him in pronouns as the wonder of wonders who could create magic with just about anything he did. Block two could be the revealer, that I am talking about a man called Nedumudi Venu who lived for seven decades and three years in Kerala, my home. Block three could be about his childhood, discovering his love for the stage. Next block for his theatre days with Kavalam. One block, a miniscule one, for his journalism days, although I am really curious about this one – this is the part where we collide, he and I. A block for his drumming and another for his folk songs. Three blocks will not be enough for his movies – 500 plus said Wikipedia, and so wrote all the media when he died last Monday, I did too.

(Deep sigh). And finally, a block for the person he was although the above paras would have covered that in many different ways. Art has a way of exposing the artist doesn’t it, I always think so.

I can’t remember when I first learnt his name. I might have pointed at the man drumming alongside Mohanlal in Chithram and asked who he was. Or I probably just picked up the name from adults blabbering around me, the way children pick up words and names. One just somehow always knew the name of Nedumudi. Poor man and his parcel of talents was always a part of the package. Expected. Taken for granted. “Of course it was good, it was Nedumudi” – like it needs no further explanation. True, but he missed paragraphs of detailing that’s more the norm now.

I mentioned Chithram possibly because I could remember Amma mentioning his minute expressions in a goosebumpy scene in the movie. Mohanlal and he have a row over money and the hero walks away disgruntled. It was funny bickering but the music grows mellow when Lal leaves. When he comes back after a grand peck from the heroine, Nedumudi stands with a knowing expression on his face. It’s priceless. You have to see it.

The next thing I noticed was his voice. It was very timid, I don’t know if you can call a voice that. But it came with an undertone of pleading, like the sweet whining of a puppy. You heard it and you had to give in. Movies in reference – His Highness Abdullah, Ente Mohangal Poovaninju, Aaranyakam. You can’t say no to it, can you. Oh yes you can, he has just been taking you for a ride there in that one movie (meaning many such). For in the next one, the same sweet voice freezes, like it just turned into ice beneath, and he will be a mean man you clench your teeth watching. He is horrible in Chembakulam Thachan and Thakara, turns vicious with time in Vandanam and Ee Thanutha Veluppankalathu. He remains adorable in Aaranyakam (yes I am repeating) and Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam, funny in Chithram and Midhunam, cool in Orkapurathu, mystic in Sarvakalasala and pathetic in Bharatham. Rasas probably don’t end with nine for Nedumudi.

Next to the sound of waves in Kovalam, he could tell me like he told Parvathy in Swagatham, about his past. I am still talking about that interview that didn’t happen despite a few futile attempts over the phone. The last time it was on a train journey, when I shuttled every weekend between Kochi and Trivandrum. He returned a call I made just when the train was passing through a bad network area. I took the call to the door side thinking somehow the open air will bring in some waves. “We can do it some other time, I am a little busy now,” he said the same answer he has been telling me every time I rang. The only time he spoke a few words was when Kavalam died and I asked for his quote. “I wouldn’t normally want to speak about this on the phone but you need this urgently so I will tell you.” That must have been the quaint memories of once being a journalist simmering him.

I wonder if he didn’t like being photographed too. Once, much earlier, when I began as a reporter for a web portal, I went to take his photo. My colleague had done his interview and he asked me to get the photo at the Arts College where Nedumudi was shooting. I took him out of a classroom he was resting at between work, brought out my basic digital camera and made him stand against a wall. It was really bad light, and I was horrible with pictures. I asked him for a few more, making him stand a little further there, or here. He was losing his patience. “Mathi” he said. Enough. “I have shooting.” Jagadish, another actor I had to photograph, came to the rescue. He got Nedumudi to pose in fancy ways, ways that will suit an interview and they promptly went up on our portal.

But he was grandeous in his speech the very first time I saw him. It was not just for me, of course. It was a big hall full of noisy teenagers. A school fest was on and scores of uniformed girls and boys from city schools got packed into a large hall, hooting and whistling and cheering all the wrong people. Nedumudi was the chief guest and he came with that default friendly face, looked at us and said we were the age of his child. He patted us with his words, I thought then.

Once, when Job Kurian told me during an interview that he lived next door to Nedumudi, I had made a note in my mind to later pester Job to help me reach him. I let the note slip away and forgot to pester. I wish I did. I really do. 

September 21, 2021

A busy lizard’s night thoughts

Filed under: Being another,humor — Cris @ 19:42
Tags: ,

Before, it used to be half past one. Dead of the night as other humans liked to call it. But not my humans. They are so lively at 1. It is endearing to watch them make unfunny jokes and laugh at it till tears rolled out. But after a point, it gets on your nerves. Sure, I need my nightly entertainment. And the boy and the girl give it for free. But I also need time for my own activities, viz., thudding along the window panes, making musical sounds, dancing on the dark walls and jumping from one human property to another with my mates. A very busy time I have in the night.

Only, to do any of this, the humans should switch off their beastly lights and go to sleep. Unlike them, I don’t prefer having an audience for my performances. I need perfect calm around me. The only chaos that occurs will be what I create. That’s the rule. That’s the only rule. But do the humans pay any heed to it? No. They put off their bedtime further and further away, and I have to wait, tapping my tail on idiot spiders’ web. Oh yeah, this house is full of them. I suspected if the boy and the girl were raising them. You hear about pet parents on the radio – or whatever the medium they use today. I am only a year old and already in the prime of my life; so the radio should be ancient to me.

But we live by history passed on from generation to generation. And some time in the mid 1900s a lazy ancestor stopped taking notes. We stopped finding out what’s new with the world. I do hear dull-sounding words like internet and smartphones (even with smart in it, that’s one dumb coinage). But they don’t interest me. I’d rather the humans bought a radio, if those things still exist.

But these two do carry with them some oldfashioned habits more to my taste, like reading books. From books. Not those unsmart phones. I told you my humans were a precious lot. Only thing I disapprove is their late hours. Because it makes the important being here –ME – wait. And I don’t like waiting. I figure I told you that before. But that’s how much it affects me.

And now the girl has taken to keeping awake for long, long minutes after lights off. The boy’s no trouble, drifts off easily and makes funny sounds. I do like funny sounds in the background. But the girl’s turning this side and that for hour after hour (my indignation allows for minor exaggerations) and what’s more, she’s taken to watching me!

That’s right. She’d suddenly open her eyes at 3 in the night and look at me, amused. As if my acrobatics are anything to laugh at. But these two make and laugh at the poorest of jokes. So laughing for them must be like breathing for the others – totally involuntary. Now I have to wait for the lights to go off and for this insomniac to go to sleep. I’ve actually taken to chirping lullabies for her without making it too obvious. I don’t suddenly want the radio people to poke their mics at me and ask me how I feel about being a singing lizard. I hear media today don’t need your answers. They poke the mics and supply your answers too. Very kind of them, I think, doing your work for you. I wonder why my humans don’t like them.

Just as I finish this thought, I find the girl has finally gone to sleep. I can say when she really sleeps and is not awake with a thousand thoughts popping in and out of her head. It suddenly becomes very peaceful – her face and mine. Well, for different reasons. For her, it really must be peace, and for me… freedom. But at times that she’s awake, I do like that she looks at my eyes and talks to me when there’s no one else around. She must fear the radio people so. It’s nice to have these conversations. Though I am pretty sure she doesn’t listen to a word I chirp. And I do not like it that she’s now taken to calling me Lizzie. Not only is it very unoriginal (duh, a lizard called Lizzie) but it sounds like I am my five year old grandma, who is dead!

Oh would you look at the time! Right, I gotta go now. My playmate’s come. From the other room. We neighbours are very chatty in the night, another quality my humans lack. I think with the radio, the neighbours too went away from this world. People have strangers living next to them, not neighbours.

Oh, didn’t I say I was going? Hard to stop a busy mind like mine at 3 in the night. Must be the same for my sleepless girl.

May 27, 2020

That bad day in the future

Filed under: Conversation,Fiction — Cris @ 19:25

It was a moment after she said she loved him that she realised she said it. She spoke again before he could.

“I honestly, honestly, do not need you to respond. It’s funny I said it now the way I did. The plan was not to, never to. I was quite happy just loving, that was wholly enough. It is now too. But if a person loves you so much, I think you deserve to know it. Yes.”

He opened his mouth to say something but she spoke again.

“Cause one day when you are feeling really low you can think about this, you can think there is someone who loves you. And you can feel good about it.”

“Well, that’s very carefully thought. That’s a lot of thought there. You sure you don’t want a response?”

“Yeah, no I mean, I don’t need one. You don’t have to say another word about this unless you want to. There shall be no question or mention about this from me after today.”

“Right. Hey one thing, before you go.”

“Yea?”

“That day that I will feel low some time in the future… how do I know if you will still love me. You might have stopped. People change. Humans, you know, change feeling the way they do.”

“You will have to believe I still love you cause last heard, I did.”

“I am glad you said that. I am glad you didn’t say something like it’s forever. Cause that would have worried me.”

“Why would I say that knowing it’d worry you.”

“Great. Someone who loves me and knows me. That’s going to cheer me up that bad day in the future that we both seem so sure is coming.”

“Yeah, there’s no stopping it.”

December 30, 2018

My (blog) baby is turning a teenager soon

Filed under: Daily Rot — Cris @ 20:58

For the longest time, I had written at least one post every month. This should be the leanest year for Journalost. Nothing after Jan. Chupree and I did start another blog this year – to write about the books we read. jabreads.wordpress.com. But I shouldn’t have ignored the about-to-be-a-teen blog!

I can actually remember sitting and typing the first blog post. It was my brother Nish’s computer and I began dominating it when he left for the US only months before. I also remember a bet with my friend Qwerty who said that I won’t take the blog to more than ten posts. He was one of the first to say I could write, when we used to exchange long emails – or I sent long emails and he replied in one-liners. He probably brought on the bet so the long outpourings will go to a blog and not on his inbox.

Then was the time to make blogger friends. There were a few regulars in Kerala then – if you visited one, you ended up visiting all the others. Silverine, Mathew, Kochuthresiamma (RIP KT :(), Philip, Dhanya, Usha… There would be comments, discussions, debates. And then Facebook came and destroyed it all. Everyone wrote their blog entries as Facebook posts. People liked opening Facebook but not taking the pains to go open blogs and read boring long posts, much like this one. So we suffered, we lost our readers. We are nearly extinct. Of course, you don’t count the popular celebrity blogs. They are just lucky and talented. No big deal. Non-talent is the new cool. Some day, it would be recognized and then it would be too late. You watch.

There was a time I tried to make an income out of blogs. On the advise of a friend and entrepreneur Anoop John, I began multiple blogs, tried varied topics that would be searched on google and bring me new readers who would then click the google ads I put on my pages and help me make millions. It stopped at 75 dollars which I didn’t get, ‘cause Google back then said you need to make at least a 100 dollars to get it in your address. I fell into journalism and forgot about money making through blogs. It was good while the idle dream lasted – that writing could make me rich.

But I continued writing the blog through the journalism days. It meant something.

A recurring character, imaginary pal Jim, had fans! (Well two fans but someone had famously said number is just an age). I tried to claim I am funny, that I am one of those rare women who could write humour. (Lots of women write humour but claims, like dreams, have no limits).

I also had some recurring themes like trains, narrating in another voice (that of a baby once, and a stomach, and a cockroach too I think). Boy, it was a fun ride. Is, not was. I don’t plan to stop. I just need to remember.

Sigh, my baby is going to be a teenager in February. I can cry.

January 17, 2018

Wake up, don’t wake up

Filed under: Daily Rot — Cris @ 00:38

So there is this family moving to a house that has a tiger living in a hole in front of it. What were they thinking? Of course the tiger straightway kills the dad and the kid. And the mom is left. But the mom appears to forget that she is a widow and should be grieving. Or even that she shouldn’t be living in that house for another second. Instead, she goes ahead and invites her girl gang home. The tiger comes out of the hole again and the women disperse, jumping fences and onto the road. The tiger is behind them too. And when it reaches the city streets, it changes form. It looks human. And when it is human, it can only identify the women of the house through smell. So the women rush to hide in weird places, like refrigerators where they lose the smell. And when they come out, the tiger-man can’t identify them.

Then they all go happily back to the same house. The next time this happens it is only the first woman – that strange widow we spoke of. But there is also a child with her. Together they slip off into the next compound and find a well with magical water. If you immerse yourself in that, the tiger-man would lose your smell again.

Yea, it gets real interesting. But, yeah, I either woke up then or I forgot the rest.

Today’s dream had been about an elevator, that instead of going up and down, moves through the side of the floors that slowly slope up or down when you stand at one end. So you move, watching the entire floor, revolving around it and slowly sloping your way through the upper or lower floors.

December 31, 2017

Writing badly about bad cooking

Filed under: Diary — Cris @ 17:52

Not exactly a year-ender kind of story. But I was thinking yesterday I should write about cooking and I haven’t written anything in the blog or a diary for a long time. All the writing has been for work that I forgot how I wrote like without a word limit or newspaper guidelines. Not that I am a strict follower of either. See, how I talk about writing on something and then goes on about something entirely different. Yeah, newspapers don’t really like that.

Good thing about blog is you can abruptly come back to topics. You don’t need to find that sentence that would connect two entirely stranger lines. You know, for the flow. So I am going to jump into cooking. Though again I am going to slightly divert by saying I have just discovered Nick Brake and listening to his words, I feel I should be writing like that, words that crawl over from the screen to all your senses.

I bet Nick would have written so neatly about cooking. My version is only about the change in the way I look at it. Today, I watch a video with yummy food and I want to create it, and have it. As a child I wouldn’t go anywhere near a kitchen for fear that I will forever be stranded there because I was a girl and that’s where all girls were supposed to end up in. I am now curious to know how that struck me so young, how I got it in me to question why my dad or Nish, my brother, were not cooking and mom did everything. No one answered it’s because mom liked cooking. “It’s because she was a woman”. But what I didn’t realise then is mom also liked cooking. She is an artist. She draws, paints beautiful pictures. And she cooks, creates beautiful dishes. Why didn’t I connect it like that? This was all way before I knew anything about feminism or equality. My simplistic solution was to be a boy and then not have to do anything. Not because I was lazy, I just couldn’t stand the injustice that I had to do something only because I was a girl.

I regret now that I delayed trying cooking so much. If I had started early, I might have got good at it. By the time I realised I like it, I was mad that such an old me had to find out all about it from scratch. I am thanking four people here – my mom, Kutty Pillai, Chacko and the internet (yes, people). Creating something that I like, that people I like will like. How can it be demeaning? It is much of art, it is entirely art. Like a palate of colours you have little dishes with beautiful ingredients. No one looks at a painting and says, bah that’s lowly work, it’s for women. Only problem is if cooking is forced on someone because that someone is a woman. You do something because you like to do it. When it is because you have to do it, it stops being art. It is forced, it is unpleasurable, it is unfair, it is not even paid like a job you are stuck at.

See, how I messed all that up. Help me, Nick. But then writing is an art too. And I enjoy writing – which doesn’t mean I am good at it. I enjoy cooking, again, not at all because I am good at it. I barely know to put things together – like I said I started late. But when those things I put together make sss-ing sounds and melt in the mouth and squeeze shut the eyes in pure enjoyment, all’s so well. Who cares if I am a woman or a witch?

July 3, 2017

Tummy talks

Filed under: Conversation — Cris @ 02:24

One of those common conversations that you have with your tummy, if you have got one that talks back (T is tummy, C is me).

T: Brr grr mrr
C: Forget it, you are not getting anything more today
T: What!
C: I thought you had enough
T: Did you even consider consulting me?
C: You seemed full after the chicken puffs
T: We tummies, dear lass, are never full. We hate that word. I don’t want to hear it.
C: But I fed you milk after that
T: What is milk? It flows away
C: Well I have got some biscuits
T: Give that to your dog
C: Hey!
T: I wouldn’t mind some noodles
C: No way, I am not cooking now
T: It could even be those readymade cup noodles, you just need hot water
C: We don’t have it
T: How about a nice juicy chicken leg out of the fridge
C: There’s nothing here!
T: You are so selfish!
C: Yea I only think of myself, not my tummy
T: Hmm…
C: Hmm-er
T: Alright, give me those biscusits then
C: I gave it to the dog

July 1, 2017

Five children

Filed under: Books — Cris @ 23:07

The last few books I read, really coincidentally, have been of child narrators or protagonists. First in the list was Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Hahaha, then my dear pen pal Khyrunnisa’s Run! It’s Butterfingers Again, after that everyone’s recent favourite Anees Salim’s Small Town Sea. There’s two more, I thought there should be a gap or a list would get boring. So after that was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and now, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. I should have gotten here sooner, only the last read is always fresh in my mind, so it is now difficult to draw parallels.

Let me try, though. I need these books to stay in my head, or be at a place I could come and restore. Cause I enjoyed all of them. I have always been fond of children’s books and movies. I still can’t get enough of them. But these were not the typical made-for-children types, except dear Butterfingers. He had always been endearing and this time, like Khyrunnisa’s last book, it came as a collection of stories. I laughed aloud many times imagining the helpless and troubled expressions of those around Butterfingers. You can’t get annoyed with him cause he always means good. He is not trying pranks, he is not being ‘naughty’ like some horrible child characters in some horrible movies which I will not name. If I had written this sooner, I could have recalled the exact moments I laughed aloud and the names of those stories. But I recounted one to the dear author when she called once. It’s when Jagmohan, the poor school principal who has to deal with this bunch of troublemakers every day, says grandfather for grandmaster. Hahahaha, hahaha. Well, you had to be there to know.

Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke and Anees Salim’s boy narrator (who remains unnamed) seemed to know each other. I should probably write ‘similar’ but I don’t wish to. I really wish I wrote of Paddy sooner, he has now faded a little with all the other books after him. I remember really loving him. There is none of the forced childhood material that makes you cringe. None of his pain described in mushy detail, no self-pitying lines. Though he could have used a lot of it. He suffers, even without telling us so. The words he uses are instead of the random and quick-changing thoughts of a child as he sleeps in a room with his little brother Sinbad, listening to the exchanges between his mother and dad. And tries to stay awake because like a child, like all of us when we were children, he believes in changing things just by being awake. If he won’t sleep, they won’t fight. I used to think that if I would go everywhere my mother did, then nothing could happen to her when she has to go away. I still do. So I loved Paddy. He doesn’t say how sad he is. That’s not how children work. I know from once being a child. So I loved Roddy for Paddy.

Anees’s boy is not really similar to Paddy. There’s only one incident they both share, one night when they didn’t sleep. Paddy for the reason I just wrote above. And Anees’s boy to listen to the midnight chat between his mom and grandmom. The next day one faints and the other falls asleep. Boy (I will call him that) comes to his dad’s old town, it is actually Varkala but Anees wouldn’t name it, reluctantly from the port city of Kochi, Anees wouldn’t name that either. He makes a friend in Bilal. His dad is ill, his mom quiet. His dad’s old friends from his old life come to the new. But they are not really important, they are just there. What’s important is after all that, when his mother has to choose between Boy and another life. I forgot, there is adorable Little, Boy’s younger sister. There are many sad bits to pick from Boy’s life but what made me most sad is the Bilal part of it. Like Paddy, Boy doesn’t really talk about his miseries, but sometimes you could catch his tears passing by casually.

With Jean Brodie, we cross to another gender. Girls, mostly Sandy, remembering the days when they were 10 and 11 and 12, sitting with a teacher who calls those days her prime. She is unconventional, talks not of the lessons in the syllabus, but her own life and its romances and many things else. There are six girls called the Brodie gang, girls of different beauties and intellect but the focus is on Sandy. I don’t like Sandy. Or Jean Brodie. But I like the book. I can’t explain why. It’s different but you don’t have to like everything that’s different. It’s different in an admirable way, even without giving you a favourite character to think of the book by.

After all that detachment, I came very close with Matilda, the girl who narrates the story of Mister Pip. More than her, she endears her Mister Watts to you. He is the sole white man in an island of blacks, choosing to stay behind when the ‘others’ went away. He becomes the teacher the children do not have. And most importantly he becomes the man who introduces them to Great Expectations. Charles Dickens’ greatest work is not a book anymore, it is a world to a bunch of children who have no other place to escape to. Matilda’s relationship with the Pip in the book and the Pip outside of it, gives you a heaviness you carry with you for a long time. If I had power I would go back to that page when, well to avoid spoilers, when it all goes wrong. That is actually being unjust to the beautiful book, full of pretty lines, to write it so plain. But I want the world inside the book to end there, to the last day when hopes were all high and all would end well. I know, that would be fairytalish and not expected of a real book. It was so real I turned to look at the author, expecting a black smart woman called Matilda and seeing instead a white Lloyd. So you are Watts, then. No problem. No. No. You are not. Watts is on a higher level, bigger to me than the author who created him. How’s that?

January 27, 2017

Short Story: Ten Years

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 01:48

“You are really going?” she asks.

I nod. I feel calmer than ever. But she doesn’t know that. “You don’t really believe… after all these years?”

I don’t nod this time. I arrange the last of the Sari pletes and look at the tiny gray patch on the side of my ears. He’d like that.

“Will he remember the exact date?” she is restless. It’s not that I didn’t ask these questions. I did – had, every day, every year. But after ten years, I am dried up and this day, like I said, I feel calm. It’s somehow become the most ordinary day of my life.

“Am I annoying you?” she asks. I look at her and shake my head. It’s ok, I mouth. I don’t want to utter any words. I want to keep them all.

“Is that the same Sari? It looks so different.” It does not, really. It hasn’t been washed, touched. It has stayed at the same corner of my wardrobe for ten years. Dark yellow cotton with think black borders. He had said nothing when he put it on my table.

“You look good in yellow.” Now I know she’s jut speaking to ease the tension. She won’t believe I’m not tense. She has seen me go through the worst anxiety attacks, murmuring my fears of this day.

“I can’t believe it’s 10 years. I can’t.”
I can. I went and drew the last tally mark on the wall. I thought she’ll say something but she just watched sadly. She had seen me draw most of these lines and crosses, counting days over and over like an obsession.

“Are you sure you want to go alone?”

“You know I should.” I answer this time. She deserves my words more than anyone else. She had stood with me. She had always come back to me after every fight – fights when she tried to talk sense into me and I would not listen and shouted like a child. Finally she smiles today. “Are you taking the letters?”

“That’s for later.”

She puts a hand on my shoulder. “What if?” the question she has been dreading to ask.

“Then I will come to you and shout at you and tell you it is all your fault,” I say. Cause I don’t want to say “He will” and jinx it. I don’t believe in anything anymore. I honestly have no idea if he will or will not come.

Crossroads. The place has changed a lot in ten years. He had seen it as a deserted little spot, like a secret only he knew of. He had been so possessive of the place he took me there blindfolded the first time. I saw him wince when he saw another biker pass one day. “It’s gone,” he whimpered. He could be like that one day and be gone the next.

“I do that on purpose,” he admitted once.

I asked why though I knew the answer.

“To be unpredictable,” he said happily. But that I knew it would make him the opposite.

I knew it when that last day came too.

“I know this would shock you, upset you, but I think this is the best way to do it,” he said.

Crossroads looked dustier that day. I tried to concentrate on the dust to stop myself guessing – reading – his mind.

“I am going today.” He is surprised when I nod.

“You knew?” he asks. I shrug.

“You understand? This is that journey I told you about. Where I just go, without an idea of a return.” I think nodding will annoy him so I look away.

“I have to do this,” he says and it sounds like an unnatural line. So I look at him questioningly. He doesn’t know what to say. “I am not good at this.”

“Neither am I,” I tell quickly. So we shake hands and try to smile.

“You know our deal,” he winks.

That doesn’t suit him either so I play along. “Yea, ten years.”

“Ten years. But no guarantee. Neither from me, nor from you.”

“Of course.”

“No phone, no mail, no letters.”

Suddenly I get tired. I hadn’t pictured the last day like this. I thought it’d be full of meaningful silences. Not bland words.

He seems to have understood. “Right, I just wanted to make sure, you know.”

That I have a choice. To get a life. Funny part is I thought I only had that choice. He had never seemed a choice for me. ‘Closed door’, I dared to say once and he had nodded. But when he nodded, when he stressed on it, I felt something like hope. That’s when he first said that ten-year line.

“After my journey is over, after 10 years, I might just decide to start a life you know.”

I say nothing, thinking of the many meanings that line might have.

“I know just where to come back to,” he says, looking at me, half-smile, half-dreamy. And I drop all the other lines he said at different times – ‘No hope’, ‘Never’, ‘It’s not for me’. And I grab this one line I knew I would play in my head over and over again. I cry then. He doesn’t expect that. He touches my head – first and only touch, before that final day handshake.

That line stays as the last line for me. I wrote it on my wall and drew the first tally mark that day. Silly really, for a 30-year-old to draw lines on a wall and countdown like a schoolgirl. Many came with gentle suggestions at first, and then blunt curses – fool, idiot, selfish.

“Who would waste the best 10 years waiting like that, without even knowing where that man is, what he’s doing?”

I believed them sometimes. That I was a fool. But I had no doubts what I’d do.

“With or without him,” I sang to her one day. She laughed with me. Drank with me. And read my unsent letters for him. “You really wrote one everyday?” she asks today. I nod proudly. Not cause it was an achievement. I just liked the feeling of owning those letters.

“But they are for later,” I repeat, telling her it’s time to go.

She walks out with me. “Is he going to come in that lorry?” her final question, I take, cause she’s started her car before I answer. She puts a hand next to her ear and mouths, “Phone me.”

I walk, thinking of the lorry. I had told him that just once. We were on the beach and for some reason watching one of his favourite movies, Namukku Paarkam Munthiri Thoppukal. When the movie ended, I said, “That’s how I want to be picked up.” He doesn’t ask by whom or when.

“Yea,” he smiles, surprising me. He can really be unpredictable sometimes, when he doesn’t try. “I loved it too. The way he lifts her up into the lorry, and that horn too.”

“And the music,” I add, now confident.

But at Crossroads today, it’s all silence. It’s not the deserted stretch he left it as. It’s become a bike path. Luckily our people are still lazy to ride bicycles and ignore this path entirely. And fitting it all is a clock tower opposite where I stand. It was 10 when he had left, it is 10 now.

There’s a cool November breeze and I imagine my hair flying gently behind me, like the slow-moving heroines have them on TV. The Sari leaves only one hand free. And then I do hear music. Not the music from Namukku Paarkam. This is a new AR Rahman track. The beginning of ‘Thallipokathe’. It comes from a bad sounding speaker that I can’t yet spot. And I think of cursing the irresponsible youth when I see a lorry turn to the bike path.

He has sunglasses, and a spot of a beard. He is in black. That’s all I can make out. Rest is blurred in tears. Mine. And shock. Mine again. The pretty-girl picture in my head is gone. Here’s a 40-year-old woman sticking to an old word said on an old day and a 40-year-old man keeping that word. If this were a movie, there would be a flash of all the past scenes in that ten-second drive it takes him to reach me – how we met, became friends, didn’t care for each other for long till somehow we connected through long letters and songs, barely even seeing each other. He had been a declared bachelor for life, me, a hopeless romantic. We had changed in the five years we knew each other, and the two we really knew each other. We left no promises, except the vague mention of a ten-year wait. And now the ten seconds are over and he is in front of me, showing off muscles I dislike. Yea, he could lift me. I feel funny raising my hands, like I am on stage, doing an act I rehearsed many times. But he lifts me easily, slowly, and the bad speaker kept singing. We fall when I am finally up and inside. He places me on my seat and drives without taking off his shades. I am glad. I couldn’t emote. I have frozen. In joy, disbelief, but mostly in embarrassment.

He stops again in ten seconds. And I see a few men waiting, smiling. “It is theirs, I borrowed for a minute. Erm, the speaker is theirs too, they didn’t have Namukku Paarkam.” His first words in ten years. Really? It could have been anything, but I love it. I love it so much I laugh and cry at the same time. And then I see the bike. The one he rode away in.

Now he says, “That is ours.” There, that’s my line to grab all over again. My word. ‘Ours’.

This time he doesn’t lift me. I climb pillion and think of the times I had wished to get on that bike and hold him but faked I didn’t care. The lorry men have not switched off their bad speaker. I hear a female hum in the song and touch him. I can sense a smile from behind. I bet he still thinks he is unpredictable.

And I wish someone was shooting this – us – from behind, we are riding away. With dust in our hair, bad music in the air, and wrinkles on our face.

January 21, 2017

What a wonderful world

Filed under: life,People — Cris @ 20:12

All the badness in the world has done this – it lets you appreciate the rare bits of niceness. I saw it in plenty last two days. My two-wheeler had a puncture yesterday and I had to leave it in the road. A mobile puncture man came and tried to help twice. But after everything he said nothing works, I should try someone else. He wouldn’t let me pay him. I had to push 50 bucks into his pocket.

Today I think of somehow getting it fixed, after other mobile puncture men couldn’t help. A rickshaw man nearby told me about the nearest workshop. So I got in and asked him to take me there. We tried three places before one fellow agreed to even look at the puncture. The rick man waited everywhere patiently, explaining to all of them with me, and giving me tips on how to present my case. “Don’t tell them the other guys said no, then he won’t come either. Hush!”

Then there’s the final guy who did agree. He came, realised this is not the regular tyre and then began rolling my two-wheeler to the workshop. He sat on it for an hour, trying everything he could before finally giving up. “The tyre’s gone. And I don’t know any shop that could replace such a tyre. You will have to call the company,” he said regretfully. For all that work he would take only 100 bucks. When I took his number, he joked: “Don’t ever bring this bike here.” While there I also saw the simple friendships of the shops next door, everyone trying their own bits to help this man.

When everyone does everything for money and even a few seconds of one kind of work could cost you thousands, I am amazed there is this other side in the world, where service comes first and money second, where concern for a total stranger comes easily. I am sad for my bike, but I am glad it brought me in touch with so many kind people that I could start assuming again that everyone I see is nice until proven otherwise. And if someone seems otherwise, you got to give them a chance, maybe they just had a bad day, or many bad days in a row.

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