Story of a lost journalist

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.

January 13, 2017

Every step she takes

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 02:46

“Shh, I think she’s up”

“The second call came?”

“No but I heard the bed sheets swish”

“Well, there’s nothing”

“Yea, she hates waking up before 10”

“Ah, here comes the second call”

“If only she spoke a little louder”

“It’s a wakeup call. What would she say anyway?”

“It could be a boyfriend”

“Or a boss”

“Why can’t we just go in and see?”

“We talked about this. She needs her privacy.”

“And the routine begins. The bathroom door opens”

“The tap water flows”

“Hey, she’s humming Hallelujah”

“Cohen? Must be still missing him. She really liked him.”

“Wonder if she liked George Michael”

“She hums through brushing her teeth. That’s gross!”

“Must be a happy day. The wakeup call must’ve brought good news”

“Ok, the bathroom door shuts. The front door opens.”

“It’s my turn to take a peek”

“Fine. Tell me what she’s wearing.”

“Navy blue shorts, a white tee and unkempt hair. Messy girl.”

“Let me take a look too.”

“Keep it down. She’ll hear us.”

“Fat chance. 6 months and she doesn’t know we exist.”

“Alright. She’s gone in.”

“Is she going to read the paper or do her workout?”

“My guess is workout. Yep, the music is on.”

“More Cohen. She likes him so much?”

“Women are emotional like that. A guy dies and she’s all over him.”

“Yea, pity.”

“Hey the next is a Tamil song. ARR”

“Must be random playlist.”

“Aww, she is singing along. I love that voice.”

“I think she’s dancing too.”

“Stupid girl. She’ll be late for work again.”

“Ah, she’s headed to the kitchen.”

“Is it coffee or tea?”

“Coffee. I saw Nescafe tins on her trash”

“Gross, man! You went through her trash?”

“It’s love, concern.”

“The girl is mine.”

“No she is mine.”

“She hasn’t played MJ for a while.”

“The girl’s got seasons. I think she’s done with the newspaper and coffee ritual.”

“What’d she have with it? Cereal or fruit?”

“Bread”

“You saw that in the trash too?”

“No, that’s my guess. It’s what I like.”

“Oh the shower is running. Guessing time. What colour will she wear?”

“Blue”

“Gray”

“Shh. She’s ready to go.”

“Hey it’s grey. My girl.”

“Hah.”

“Sigh. Nine hours. Nine long hours now.”

“Where do you think she works?”

“I don’t know. Look at her walk on the road. She’s like a walking fragrance.”

“Cheesy.”

“Don’t care.”

“Finally, I hear footsteps.”

“She’s back? It’s too early.”

“Oh darn. She’s crying.”

“What happened?”

“Hush, she’s on the phone.”

“Did she say ‘Don’t wanna do this anymore’?”

“Her job? Her boyfriend? Breakup?”

“It’s just a tiff. My girl never lets go of love so easily.”

“I suppose there won’t be TV or computer today.”

“Hope she has her dinner.”

“She’s sleeping early.”

“Wish I could be there.”

“She’ll be fine.”

“Do you think she knows we still care so much?”

“We are just dead, not absent. Did you hear that mumble?”

“ ‘Dad, mom, I miss you so much’.”

“Yep, she knows we care.”

 

December 3, 2016

Darling Details

Filed under: Daily Rot — Cris @ 02:25

Watching the bits of his hair below the helmet, she thought, I am watching this now. Like the back bencher watching the front row head, and the details of it – the worn out ribbons and the threads hanging lose, the number of locks on the plaits, the curvy parting. But this was a bike, and there was a helmet. So it was pretty much that little tuft left to watch. There was once a different tuft, tied into a little pony tail that she was afraid would disappear any minute. And then she wanted to show off that pony tail. She wanted an ex to pass them by and watch her watching the pony tail. She didn’t understand why it was something to show off, but she was sure it would work. It would make the ex regret. Regret what, she didn’t think. Thoughts were halted like that. Where it is comforting. After that it was not fun. Why would people need realities when they had the power to think, to imagine however they wanted things to be. Men to be. They could be there, passing you by, regretting. They could be here, in front of you, wearing ponytails below helmets.

Stepping down, she forgot all she thought. It was now another place, another time. A hand was moving across a table and forgotten coffees. Two last fingers waving two silver rings. Big ones like the ones on a sitcom she watched. There was talking but the fingers and their rings just wouldn’t stop moving. It was beautiful, it was like dancing without having to know the mudras. Details can be so beautiful sometimes. Like that tuft of hair, here was a ring on a finger lifting her spirits downed by grave reasons. Reasons like lost time and wasted life. It was sad she wouldn’t remember the pony tail or the ringed finger when she went to sleep. If only someone could leave a light on and show her a detail in the night. One that wouldn’t scare her. And then the clock ticked and the fan hissed. And she could sleep.

November 24, 2016

Understanding women

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 01:25

It is true what they say. What men say. Women are hard to understand. I know cause I am one and if I stepped out of me and tried to look at me and understand me, I wouldn’t.

I will tell you why.

Women find it easier to be indirect in their ways somehow. It is not a ploy. It is not deliberate. It is somehow the natural course. So when we want something, we don’t think of saying we want something. Especially if there is a man, we think they should get it on their own that we want something. They should understand it because of something we said about in the distant past, should remember it and do the needful. I know.

Ok, this becomes easier to tell with solid examples. I once fought with a fellow cause he didn’t call me to watch a movie with him – even though it was a movie I didn’t want to see. My argument was that he had to still call and see if I wanted to come. Here, if I step out like I said before and looked at my reasoning, I won’t get it.

In a conversation we may go on saying things that are not real and the poor men will go on thinking we mean all that and the poor us will go on hoping they get what we are not saying. (Classic example was shown in a movie when the girlfriend declares she doesn’t want a birthday gift, the boyfriend believes her and gets none, and she is hurt he didn’t get it that because of her being so nice as to not want a gift he should have gotten something really special. He gets dumped of course.)

Now I am finding it hard to understand why we do this. Why should we constantly want us to worry about things that aren’t even real. Creating issues, imagining them – all of that, I repeat, without the least bit of intention. Subconsciously I wonder if deep down we like trouble. Maybe we don’t like peace. We want disturbances. Turbulence. Shakiness. So if we can’t find them today, we will dig up the past and find an old forgotten day when something was wrong. And fight about it all over again like it’s new.

I envy men. How nice it must be to be so simple all the time. “I want tea” means I want tea. Not “I actually want coffee but I am testing to see if you remember that”. Or any such complicated thought.

I believe I am lucky to have got a little bit of a man in me after all. Cause I have found myself not understanding women and even men friends sometimes when they are not direct. I don’t get clues. Things have to be stated to me, plainly. Or can never imagine double/ hidden meanings for any words or actions of anyone. But then, they say there is a fine line between being a man and being stupid. I mean being simple and being stupid.

Disclaimer: By women, I don’t mean all women. By men, I do mean all men.

October 20, 2016

Being an idealist

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 02:32

When arguments break out at the office – as offices are supposed to function – I end up getting this one label at the end of it all – idealist. The world I talk of and the arguments I make are too idealistic, not real. The stuff I don’t want, do exist, they say. I still shake my head vehemently – is that the right word? – as if that would make it unreal. Because when you have no more words to make your point, you shake your head. You will not give in.

And then yesterday came and I read this article. It was about a Muslim and a Hindu sharing this apartment together as a kind of social experiment. I read how they were both coming from conventional households, how they are strong believers, and how they had always lived in neighbourhoods where everyone belonged to the same religion. So it took a lot out of them to decide to do this, and it worked. It’s been three years now, says the article. It is on The Wire, if anyone wants to read it.

The point is, I read it and I had to agree here was reality. I couldn’t shake my head at it anymore. At the office when I fight for ‘all is one’, and there shouldn’t be anything separating man from man, I get “but it is there. It is actually there.” My wanting it is not going to make it happen. So, very reluctantly, I am trying to see religion as a reality. Even as I type this, I have a finger twitching towards the backspace button. Maybe if I just pressed harder, it can still go away. I really don’t want it to enter my mind, my thoughts. But then idealism is only so good, it can’t make things happen. It’s just a happy belief that will make you feel good. Or is it?

I am trying to picture religion as a philosophy. People could have different philosophies. Or ideas. Or opinions. Say, take a movie. I could believe it is good, my neighbour could believe it is not. So this is about people liking different things. Some like one religion, some like another. That could happen. People are not the same, they are equal. Problem is the other differences do not separate them. They don’t turn people into “you” and “us”. Those differences come only in a few conversations, forgotten about at the end of it. But differences of faith linger. Putting people into brackets, as soon as a name is heard. And my mind will not allow that. I refuse to agree they exist. Because if I could shove those away, so can everyone. If I don’t think of a person by person’s religion or caste, it means that it’s possible to do that. You can just think of the person for what person is, without brackets. Out in the air, out in the open, free.

And if it is possible for one, it is possible for all. One day the brackets may stop to exist only because we refused to accept they are real. Idealism may still have a chance.

July 7, 2016

Just another train entry

Filed under: Diary,Train — Cris @ 03:15

July 5, 2016. 18:00 or thereabouts

In the evening Jan Shatabdi to Trivandrum. A trip that’s now routine, more than the wake-up-go-to-work-come-home routine. Well there is the come-home ending here. I’m going home, the thrills of it temporarily marred by the fact that I am on an aisle seat today. That’s right. I, Cris who doesn’t like her last name, am on an aisle seat, after specifically booking a window seat (or probably having messed it up).

What do people on aisle seats do? There is music, there’s a book to read. But none of it seems to mean anything on an aisle seat. It’s really like detention. You are forced to sit in your seat and do nothing. You can always observe, be a happy voyeur of other people’s lives. Like that woman in green blouse is reading a magazine and now opening a box of sweet snacks that look yum from here. There’s the man in the parallel aisle seat grabbing these snacks and disturbing her happy moments with the banana fry – that’s the snack. One I normally dislike but now that I can’t have, feel fondly about. It would be impolite to grab a fry, I suppose. The aisle man seems to get away with it, though.

Would it also be impolite – or considered bad manners – to borrow someone’s pen. I love pencils for daily work but this here goes on record. Of great writings by Cris to be discovered on a future date. That’s another thing I want to write about. How everyone is so obsessed with greatness. I want to write about the ungreats. Yes, I shall be doing that.

But not now, not with this half-eaten chewed-up yellow and black pencil, the kind I wrote with in first grade and have fond memories of. Of writing Thiruvananthapuram on a notebook, and thinking how one word took up an entire line.

Now the song is Tharum Thalirum. I might change it. But it’s an effort to remove this book, dig out the MP3 player from the crowded bag and press Next. So I’ll just think about the Friends episode that I saw yesterday and that comes to mind now ‘cause it has music in it – a mixed tape that Chandler gives Monica. A fake gift that becomes funny with Janice’s voice in it. What was the song now? The way you look tonight. That’s Frank Sinatra, right? I could google, but it involves the same tiresome procedure I mentioned before.

Ok. Next song came. It’s still the background score. Mm mm. ‘I wanna live, I wanna give’. Sounds like Neil Young. Ah ‘Heart of Gold’. These old men singers are really the best. With their deep and moving voice. The other day I was listening to Leonard Cohen sing ‘My oh my’. That begins ‘Wasn’t hard to love you. Didn’t have to try’. You have to know Cohen’s voice to imagine how good that’d sound. And don’t even worry about being cheesy. There’s no cheesy in Cohen’s music. There’s just music. That sounds lame. But let it be till I think of another word. Uh that reminds me of David Walliams. He would write as the writer in between his fiction. I think I want to read that now. So I am going to do that. Song when I leave – ‘Guess I’ll always be a soldier of fortune’.

PS: I might come back

PS2: So that’s the good thing about aisle seats. You write and you write and you write. In really crammed space, the way you’ve not written on a clean desk back home.

June 17, 2016

Finding her

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 02:59

“That was the last you spoke to her?” she asked the mother. Mother could barely talk, she looked numb. The dad nudges her. She could hear him murmur, “Please talk to her, dear. This is going to help us find our girl sooner.” He is not as shaken as the mother. The more practical kind, the easily accepting kind. Or perhaps they weren’t close, the dad and the daughter, she found herself judging and quickly stopped. There’s time for that, time for all the introspection and crossing out of probabilities. Now wasn’t it. She had to know everything, hear every last detail. The mother, after more nudges, manages to form bits of words at first. “Ye-yes. Alappuzha. Train… pa-passed.” You can see the pain in her face as she remembers the daughter’s voice. The way she had last heard it. “She sounded sleepy but told me she wasn’t sleeping,” the mother was now talking without being asked. Words came out faster, she was reliving it, perhaps finding some joy to be in a time when nothing had gone wrong. When she still knew where her daughter was, on a train to Ernakulam, going back to work after a weekend. “She was excited about taking my special pickles to her colleagues.” That was last night, she thought, as the mother’s eyes wandered to her daughter’s belongings, packed meticulously a night before the journey. “There, I had put it in that rack,” she passed on useless information. Pieces of the recent past would keep falling out of her like that.

The dad had nothing much to add. He had driven her to the station, but didn’t notice anything different. He doesn’t remember anything spoken during those few minutes. She seemed preoccupied, he said when she pressed him. Would not make a good witness, this one, she thought.

The next one to talk to was her boyfriend. He looked nearly the same as the mother but more restless than broken. He was in that boyish hurry to set everything right. He wanted everyone to be on their toes, going out there, searching, not standing here. “We never talk on the phone unless it is for a quick minute to convey something that should be faster than a message. Otherwise it is all messages,” he said after a lot of persuasion. He was the kind who liked his privacy and seemed quite guarded about hers too. She liked that. “What was her last message?” It was obvious he had already read it dozens of times but he still pulls his phone out from the shirt pocket, taps his fingers on it and turns his face away. His voice sounds far. “She said she was in my favourite seat, the side sleeper.”

Was that genuine? She had no doubts it was. She didn’t like to hurt this boy more. Others would have pressed him to tell more, just to make it juicier and give eye-catching headlines in the newspapers. But that wasn’t her purpose. Her purpose was to know. Know everything. Only then she could find her.

The best friend came along looking puffy eyed. They haven’t seen in a week. She had messaged a day earlier, they planned to meet but couldn’t. Perhaps if they met, she would have told her something. Or more likely not. She wasn’t the opening up type. “I have to push stuff out of her sometimes. She doesn’t talk like girls do about boyfriend stuff.” It was almost a complaint, forgetting for a moment her best friend was missing. It seemed she would not mind the missing so much as not being informed of her decision to disappear. She could have been a conspirator in all this, her face seemed to tell.

Next in line was the boss. Apparently he was the last to talk to her before she was gone. “She had reached Cherthala. I had asked her,” he seemed worried and quite anxious to help. Like a sensible man, he decided to keep his worries for later and help with as much information. “So she must have been in the train till then. And then the next stop was Ernakulam where she’d get down.” She knew that was true. There were co passengers who saw her staring out of the window with music in her ears at Cherthala, like a typical train traveller. That was the problem. Because this was typical, no one would have noticed her much. Ear phones and window seats are the most sought after and most obvious perks of a train journey. Deadly combination, she let herself digress for a second, before coming back to the boss. “So what did you talk about?” He didn’t even pause to think, he had already done his thinking, it seemed to her. “Work. We had some urgent crisis to take care of and I was discussing it with her.”

There was hardly half an hour from Cherthala to Ernakulam. Where could she have gone in this time? She looked at her watch. It was enough. She had what she wanted. She would go home and think about all she heard and add what she didn’t. She would have a complete picture. Of what she was. She waved away the characters she had conjured up in front of her, the real life characters who had last spoken to her before she decided to become missing. Once she knew what they had to say about her when she was no longer there, she would know where to find herself. She would not feel so lost. She could come back. Be found again.

March 25, 2016

My Train People

Filed under: People — Cris @ 03:12

Train travelling almost always leaves you with a story to write about. I have been missing these because I take the Jan Shatabdi every week and this sort of corners you into your seat especially if it is a window one, what with the one-way seats and the partitions in between, which actually makes it a comfy ride. But you miss the people stories. You don’t have to be the social kind, or the small talk kind. You just have to be the curious or the observant, the one that enjoys it all.

I had taken the Ernad Express grumpily, because the Shatabdi was already full and Ernad took two hours more than Shatabadi, and was more crowded. I felt guilty about claiming my seat which was taken by someone else and guiltier later for not sharing half of my seat as so many were standing. But then no one seemed to be complaining, the standers or the sitters. There was a certain happiness in here, in this really crowded coach that I took, that was somehow catching. And within an hour or so, you sort of establish a connection with your neighbours, without actually exchanging a word with them. It’s suddenly people you know, people with you.

On my right was a teenage couple, speaking what I suppose was Hindi, I have no idea of what. Opposite me, it’s a married couple with their toddler son, and one chubby fellow with a beard and a gigantic set of earphones. Standing to my left was a girl, who had to lose her seat to another claimer like me (the bad us), and uncomplainingly moved hither and thither with her earphones, one tenth the size of what Chubby had. There are more, the green shirt who took her seat, another green shirt who read a Sidney Sheldon and whom I might have had a crush on two years ago, an older woman who woke me up to ask about my seat and the hundreds (no exaggeration) of sellers who’d pass by.

But my forte had been established. It was the young couple, the married couple and kid, Chubby and Standing Girl. The family opposite me was like the happy families you watch in movies – laughing, loving, eating. This I believe was genuine, because if it weren’t, they couldn’t have made it last all five hours in the train. But there was not one annoyed gesture as the patient parents took turns to look after the little one, who hasn’t been still for one second, and kept insisting to eat the biscuits that fell on the floor, throwing an empty bottle at the opposite seat (which meant my feet and my hands and luckily not my face), and jumping up on their laps. The dad had been the bigger surprise, I never see fathers so patient, not only sharing the chores but doing it so happily. And unlike the typical Kerala families, this one was expressive. They look the typical Malayali trio but they don’t behave so. It was actually a happy sight to watch the mom put her hands affectionately on the dad every time she laughed or rested. I am not being a voyeur, this is hard to miss when you are seated in a crowded train and not sleeping.

I suppose the teen couple next to me was expressive too but they are on the same line as me so I couldn’t see and their language was alien. But what touched me was when the girl stopped her chatter and offered a candy bar to our Restless Kiddo who took it happily and gave her a baby-teeth smile. Later the young man would keep petting the child. He was irresistible that way, the kid, for all his restlessness, you could easily make a pet out of him. Love needed no language really. So good to be a kid, I thought, anyone could love you and also express it freely, no moral policing there. Yet.

Chubby in the meanwhile had brought out his gigantic earphones and plugged it to his mobile phone. He had not stopped laughing since. I imagined he is watching a Jagathy movie. But I also imagined, meanly, that there was nothing funny at all, he was just pretending to laugh to show he wasn’t lonely and bored. Poor Chubs. And then there was Standing Girl. I kept looking at her wondering if I should offer half my seat. I don’t know why I didn’t proceed. It’s simply one of those things you think and do nothing about. It’s when she stepped down at Haripad and walked away I felt so absolutely guilty. Why don’t we do the things we know we should – if it is for some temporary comfort, trust me it is no good at all compared to the later guilt you will feel. Quite for selfish reasons, I have decided to act as soon as I have such thoughts again, if only to save me from the torturous guilt.

So there, those were my people for the journey. I realized this when at some stop, the teens had stepped out and a suitcase man who boarded the train came to sit in their place. I said protectively, that seat’s taken.

February 12, 2016

Sabarimala, a fight for no one

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 22:39

Questions of equality struck me later. At first it was accepted, the inequality – I mean of the genders – and frowned upon like a bad fact of life. That it can be questioned didn’t occur to me. It’s the same with faith. At first you accept it, like the sights you see and the sounds you hear, you think of it as a belief to believe in. That it could be questioned, again comes later. Now I put the latter under the category of feelings. Faith is a feeling, like love, like hatred. You can’t choose what to believe in, you have to feel it. Nobody can make you.

And here at Sabarimala, both these questions come together. That of equality and that of faith. It just became one of those things I wasn’t concerned about. And that’s strange, that I wasn’t. Now I have mentioned my problems of being identified a feminist, if only for the strong reason that the word is highly misconstrued. But fact is I boil every time I hear about some kind of inequality – big or small. I don’t believe you have to be the one discriminated against to feel the injustice. But when it is a woman we are talking about, I can’t help it. I would have liked it if I were a man when I boiled. But never mind that. Point is I can’t take it. And that’s earned me the feminist tag that I am not fond of. The cause of equality is lost if you add a fem to it. It can’t be fem, it can’t be masculine either. It should just be.

So that’s why it’s strange I didn’t boil for Sabarimala’s women. When I heard words like tradition, I may have twitched an eyebrow but that’s about it. It is somehow not my area of concern. And I could brush it off as my agnosticism coming into the picture. Perhaps that’s why I am not boiling. And then again I hear it is the atheists that are actually “causing trouble”, raising voices for the women. I can see where that thought comes from. Women of faith – of the extreme kind who want to go through the pain of climbing the sloppiest slopes of Sabarimala – possibly also believe in the traditions handed down. Which is to say Ayyappan, the lord worshipped here, doesn’t wish for their presence. So then they make that sacrifice of not making that sacrifice they so want to make.

The atheists now are mostly rationalists, strong believers of equality and boil like I said I do. It’s plain discrimination, they feel, even though they probably have little wish to go themselves. They are fighting for the women believers who do not want to go against Ayyappan’s wishes. It’s not irony, it is not catch-22. It is just a fight for no one.

Fundamentally, I should be against it. And my question to those raising the argument of tradition is, if that were so, the temple entry proclamation could not have happened, and people of lower castes would still be standing outside, untouched. If traditions had not changed, there’d be sati still, child marriages, education a taboo for the antharjanams, and on and on and on goes the list.

That said, I somehow still feel we are fighting a non-issue here, despite my strong feelings for equality. Because those who care for rights, do not wish to go, and those who wish to go, do not wish to go.

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