Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Silver Lining

Every cloud has a silver lining. A saving grace of the debacle was that he now had more data about the person that reminded him about love. At least she no longer was confined to a vision distorted by desire and worn by repetition. He had seen her, heard her voice.
The most striking thing about her was her ordinariness. There was nothing specific in her that made her stand out. If he had to describe her to anyone, there was no way he could do that with some unique identifying feature. In fact, he could not describe her. He tried, nevertheless. Caucasian, could be Middle Eastern too. Aged between twenty and thirty, closer to thirty maybe. Nice eyes. Not black. Not grey. Brown? Maybe blue. Tall enough not to be overlooked. Intelligent lips. Girlish voice with a tinge of authority. Sat, stood and walked straight, very straight. There was very little else he could verbalise. Now that he thought of it, there was little else that he remembered. Even of whatever of her he remembered, it kept disintegrating into fragments, shifting, dancing, transient pieces of her. Every time he gathered the pieces into a whole, he ended up with a new persona who he was sure he did not know. His first vision of her was still fresher than his second. After a while, he stopped trying to put the pieces together, and clung to the fragments – an embarrassed smile here, a proud step there.

Poor, poor man. The carefully built mental image is at loggerheads with the visual image of the same woman – and he doesn’t know whose side to take.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Moments, moments, moments. They come unannounced, they leave without saying goodbye. They test you in a brief flash. You cannot run or hide. You are defined by how you receive the moment that visits you, how you take it in your arms, how you respond to its call. You don’t get a second chance.

And he let his moment go. He had been praying for it, with all his being. But when it came, it blinded him with its flash. He was overpowered, inadequate. It slipped by.

Am I not strong enough for love?

The word. Love. It almost jumped out of the context and hit him. It occurred to him that he had not thought of the word in a very, very long time – it had reached out to him from the abyss of oblivion. Strange is the power of moments.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The conversation

The moment hung still, like a summer noon in a blind alley. He felt trapped in a time warp, where all that existed was the aroma of coffee and the dark odour of tobacoo wrapped around a tilted head with hair cascading across piercing eyes, and all that moved was wave after wave of doomed desire.

He would probably have been asphyxiated, when he was brought back to the familiar world by her voice: is it…about…me? Spoken with disbelief, confusion, hesitation, diffidence.

It was then that he realised that he has been caught in the act. His laptop screen was right in front, there for all to see.

Angry that his fantasy had lost its virginity, confused that his many realities were suddenly forced stand face to face without knowing what to say or do, he blurted out: NO.

She seemed relieved: Sorry, I was…getting ideas. She got up, took her things, and left, evidently
quite embarrassed.

Every tragedy has its comic moments. By the time he had rushed to the door mumbling yeses and no’s and buts, she was already on the other side of the street, and a gulf of speeding cars separated the two.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Happenstance 2

The café looked quite the same, with the hum, aroma, and haze in its three chambers. The outside chamber, the façade, was the place where coffee-lovers came, sat, read, drank their cups and left. Then there was the lounge, with its sofas and board games. People came there to have a nice time. It had to be there because the inner “real room” was so different a world from the outer façade, there had to be a buffer – you could not just walk from the north pole, cross a door, and enter the south. The third, core chamber, was the frequented by people addicted to the bitter, tangy taste of life. This was the only smoking chamber. He had seen a wide range of people there – half-mad men from a mental home in the neighbourhood, bikers from faraway places, foreign students who had not been home in six years, couples that liked to bite each other, normal looking people with destabilised insides like him, and a woman lighting a cigarette, whose face he did not remember.

Now he realised that all he had noticed about her was the tilt of her head, the shade of her hair that fell across her face, the shape of her fingers and nothing else. The café owner would really know her better than he would.

So he sat in a daze, his infusion getting cold, scanning the faces around in search of the face he thought he knew by heart but in reality had no clue of.

Then the girl, right next to him, took out a cigarette from her packet, put it to her lips, searched her bag, tilted her head to him with her hair falling across, held out a hand with the fingers he knew so well and asked whether he had a lighter.

He took out his lighter, flicked it on, and as he was reaching towards her with the little flame – unable to believe what he saw or did – a mad desire swept across his whole being: he wanted to put fire to her hair that fell across her face, to her face that held her firefly eyes, to her eyes that pierced his being and knew his secret instantly. He wanted this moment to go up in flames, so that there is nothing after it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Timeout : Bookwarmth

He is happy indeed. Some friends seem to take notice in him, his thoughts, his quirks. Ani and Runglee want to know what he reads.

Born in non-America, most of his friends still belong to worlds elsewhere. They often eat with hands, and speak non-English. What befuddles him is that they all seem to read only English! That cannot be! Probably character strings mentioning French or Bengali or Tamil or Swahili books are auto-deleted by Blogspot.

Total Number of Books he owns:
Books cannot be owned. They choose who they want to spend their day with. They are fireflies. They flit from reader to reader, giving them warm moments as they pass by. They are gypsies – they tell you faraway stories and take you along. There are some people who try to cage up books in shelves by writing their names on them – but should you force gypsies to settle down and become, say clerks or shoemakers?

So, a few books are living with him now – some of them belong to others, and some of them are waiting to belong to others.

Last Book he Bought:
Suhasini’r Pometom, by Kamalkumar Majumdar. He has not finished reading it. Still in the midst of the first sentence – just that the first sentence is the only sentence and is 150 pages long. The only word he can use about this book is unique – he has not read any such writing before, and in any language.

Last Book he Read:
The crisis of Global Capitalism, by George Soros. This book is neither about finance nor about Marx. It is a re-reading of Karl Popper’s Open Society. Here Soros makes some beautiful points about the social scientific enquiry and its differences with natural scientific thought. Often the best ideas in economics have come from men who were involved with the discipline not through the academic vocation but through hands-on practice – Keynes and Maurice Allais are two classic examples. Soros has hit the nail on the head in his interpretation of how academic thinking shapes and distorts the subject of thought - the economic actions of human beings.

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Him:

· Sanchayita (The definitive collection of Tagore poems) – He grew up with it. It has been there with him since his dim infanthood – and every time he goes back to it there is a feeling of homecoming. Even today he is discovering his own private Rabindranath – shade by shade of feeling.

· Pather Panchali: He discovered the faraway with Bibhutibhushan. It was such a delight – he can still touch many moments (with all the colours, smells, sounds, feelings and images still fresh) of his first reading of this book, which happened when he was fourteen.

· A Hundred Years of Solitude: Pure magic. It is like the entire spectrum of human imagination and the entire range of human history all collapsed into a few hundred pages. Reality and fantasy, life and love dance away into each other.

· Laughable Loves / The book of Laughter and Forgetting – He always feels naked in front of Kundera. Funny how this guy, with his deep dark humour, takes him to parts of his own being which he had often been hiding from himself. Enlightening, embarrassing.

· The Outsider: It’s a chilling book. More so, because he realises that he has a Mersault in him. He knows that being Mersault is dangerous, but he enjoys watching the world like in a movie screen, he enjoys watching himself walking, running, loving and hating by being a third person. He thanks Camus for giving such a heroic, tragic face to rationality.

· Firey Esho chaka: This is a thin book of poems, published in two other editions under two other names, by the most powerful Bengali poet of his time – Binoy Majumdar. Like a true intellectual, Binoy has loved and lost, published only one book, gone mad and has been spending time doing Mathematics. Or so the legend goes. There is a story to a copy of this book that came into his hands. He got it from his library (yes, American libraries do keep single publications of lesser known Bengali poets) – and then found that that particular copy was personally signed by Binoy and gifted to Clinton Sealy, the noted Bengali scholar in the University of Chicago. He had a strong craving to claim to the library that he had lost the book, but finally did not do so.

He looks back and discovers that not one of these books was originally written in English.

Since all his other friends have been taken by Ani, he tags Priya and Vishnupriya, and hurries back to the cafe' looking for his muse.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The decision

He mulls over it for a long long time. Cannot decide. Paces across. Does so for an hour. Wife notices. Doesn’t say anything - used to it. He reaches for a coin in his pocket. Mumbles his call. About to toss, but stops on the way. Brings out a pad. To commit to the call, scribbles: Heads – go for it. Tails - lucky, safe.

Then tosses the coin. It’s a tail. Relief, indeed.

He looks back, hesitates – then with slow, doubtful, slouch-shouldered paces, walks toward the café. Somehow he knows she is there today.