Friday, August 16, 2013

On a beach

I spent a couple of months in the latter half of 2011 living in a shack in a beach town called Puri. It was an interesting time. Living alone, working half the day and having the rest of the time to myself to swim if I wanted to, watch groups of tourists, pilgrims, locals, resident fishermen. I noticed the flow of tourists - seeing a group for a few days and then not seeing them anymore. And then another group on a different weekend and so on. I also noticed the presence of the local vendors. The regular sellers of badaam and tea and cutlets, the familiar voices carried by the breeze. Constant in their presence. I read occasionally, sometimes I stared out into the sea at the lights on ships far off the coast and tracked their movement across the horizon. I was lucky to have that chance. I found something I had written during that time. To me it is a great indication of what moved me the most amongst all the things I saw and experienced there.

As the afternoon disappears into evening I decide to walk off to the beach. The wind has turned chillier by a few degrees than when I’d first gotten here; about a month ago. I put on a light sweatshirt and flip flopped onto the sand past through the gate that opens onto the beach from my hotel. My aim is to see the day turn to night on the beach, to see how the colours drain from the sky, the sea, the tiny thatched roofed stalls selling tea and biscuits and the boats lined up on the sand. I’ve missed sitting out on on the beach these past few evenings and I feel like I need a refresher on the transition of afternoon to dusk to night.

Usually I head out every day to my chosen tea stall for a few cups of tea. I prefer it for its isolated location away from the other stalls with fluorescent tube lights that jar the darkness on the beach as night falls. The stall owner, an old man, who knows my routine rather well now, prefers kerosene lamps and I find the orange glow from the naked flames a more preferable a punctuation to the evening darkness as the sun sets far on the horizon.

Today though, I do not head to the tea stall right away. It still is light and I prefer to sit on the sand a few meters from where the surf dies, peters out into a thin film and the residual water recedes into the sea only to break a swell into a wave tumbling over itself roaring and splashing its way towards the beach, towards me. There has been a steely winter haze blurring the view out from the beach. It forms a solid mass of grey melting boundaries of sea and sky making either indistinguishable from the other - surprisingly, the haze is absent today. In fact the air is crisp and the horizon is clearly marked out.  From where I sit on the sand, I see the swells rise slowly and gradually roll towards the shore – they seem bottle green in colour as they rise. Further in the distance the sea swells gently, the water assumes a deeper blue colour. The wind buzzes past my ear, a sound constant in its presence but variable in its intensity. It’s like having an open window in a car speeding on a highway. I look searchingly for the sun light as it gradually dims and steals away from the sand, from the darker deeper waters far in the distance and the boats that are lined up next to where I’m sitting. But, the surf, the milky white frothing surf, captures tiny minute shades of orange as the waves tumble and roar eventually dying out on reaching the shore. For a minute I think I’ve imagined up the colour, the almost imperceptible traces of orange on the white froth. And yet again the next minute it seems very tangibly real. My eyes deceive me. The sun has disappeared off the horizon and there are little flecks of orange still lingering around as if fighting the arrival of night.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unable to find any song to explain my predicament, I sit up at night staring at the city lights from my terrace. My cigarettes have all but run out and the smoke from the one lit in my hands is barely visible in the darkness. In this part of the country, the days are blazing hot and there's no subtlety involved in its expression. Being an admirer of the understated I don't know what to do with this full blooded rawness of the day. Which is why the warm waves of night air that rub off my shoulders and body feel comforting and familiar.

The night here is thick and heavy. Unlike a big city, the few city lights punctuating the darkness seem frail and burdened by the huge dark night. A certain restlessness is all about me. I shake my legs... tap my cigarette incessantly; anyone seeing me would think I'm eagerly waiting for something very significant to happen. But I'm not. I'm just inexplicably restless. I want to run away. I have this crazy urge, where I imagine myself running into the darkness and after a point the sound of my steps fade and so does the vision of my body that's running into the darkness. And after a considerable amount of time. A considerable amount of silence... on the other side a sunny beach emerges from the fringes of the dark shadow. And there're these eccentric characters from the French movies I've seen (as a wannabe appreciator of art movies in my younger days), who smoke and giggle and go running into the water while I lie on the sand with a huge dog running itself in a frenzy from the waters edge to my feet. There's a stranger whose guitar strums I can hear as and when the wind blows my way. I catch the tune to be Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat". The foreigner has a perfect gravelly voice and I can't help but moving up to him and asking him for a few more songs. He says he's forgotten the notes and proceeds to play a song I can't identify and therefore remains incapable of evoking any reaction unlike the Famous Blue Raincoat.

Many hours later sitting in my office I think of the same thing. Of the beach. Goa isn't too far. I could take a train from here to Bombay and then one from there on. I begin contemplating the steps realistically. I'd put in a mail with my resignation. I have some money in the bank. I owe that money to my employers if I quit before the stipulated period, but that's all the money I have so I can't give that up. But if I run away unannounced then they don't give me my documents, my relieving letters, my provident fund money etc. etc. Could I just do without all of that? What is that fund providing for? World Peace? Does it give me the warmth of the sun after a swim in the ocean? Does it it give me the sea breeze to calm my tired muscles after an entire afternoon of swimming in the sea, sitting on the rocks watching the local fisher men try their luck as the sun turns the corner around the horizon?

Maybe if I were a kid I could? Just run away? And then people would worry and bring me back home and cook my favourite dishes. If I were a kid this wouldn't be something that would seem preposterous. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life has a funny way of coming round in circles. Some parts go missing inevitably. And some new pieces take their place. But the more the circle completes itself, one can only sit back and admire how things seem to find their place in the puzzle. Recently I read a book that movingly talked of retrospection, what the memory chooses to remember and the feelings that they evoke. Today the topic seems relevant.
Looking back at the year I can pick out more incidents that underscore this theme and why I have a weak spot for it. I remember flying into Delhi late one October night as the city prepared for Diwali. As I peered out of my cab speeding through the deserted streets and the winter tinted breeze gave me goose bumps, being accustomed to the temperate climes of the beach I had been living by, my thoughts settled on how with each passing year my life seemed to have progressed. To have moved from where it was and found a new spot to settle down in. Nudged forward by some inevitable force. I was happy to be in Delhi. And not Calcutta or Bombay or Bangalore, the other cities I know relatively well. My heart warmed on seeing houses decked up in lights in the dark night as I could almost feel the warmth inside the houses I saw. A new home awaited me.
Reminiscence once again broke the familiar pattern of life; old friend and I met up as the year drew to a close. College days and other insanities were relived over a few happy hours our money paid for in a mall. And today, again, I look ahead anxiously wondering where I’m headed (quite literally). There is absolutely no certainty to gather comfort from. And despite the reassuring circles completing themselves and familiar pieces coming back to fill in the gaps, there still is unrest in my head. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Bum bum bum bum

I’m worried that being the bum suits me very cosily. Imagine now- B-school grad turned beach bum who feeds dogs and drinks tea in shacks. Whereas fellow graduates are investment bankers who write books on the greater meaning of life and make the world spin on its axis.

Oh, the shame!

To save face and sound wise I shall quote Stephen Fry on his school "The best thing about having gone to Cambridge University was never having to deal with not going there".

Was having a very meaningful and important discussion with a friend a few days back. The kind of stuff b-school grads normally talk about y’know. Earth shattering things like the depreciating rupee and the euro zone crisis and the general economic outlook when I suddenly decided that there should be an annual prize for being lazy. Businessweek’s list of The Most Promising Bums of 2011.  (They have a list of “hot” growth companies. HOT growth? Reaaally now? I think I want some hawt growth company myself.) And no, if you think just sitting there and doing nothing would qualify you to be a contender, hate to break it to you, being a bum is no easy job. You got to be one mean ass deep thinking bum.

Life has the weird quality to wear you out with too much activity and with no activity. I have friends (actually, make that “friends”) who are either working way too much or are losing it watching the paint dry. I belong to the latter group. It’s something I do really well. Grumble. Grumble about sitting on my bum all day staring at the crab hole in the sand next to my table at lunch and throwing little morsels of food at its inhabitant who scampers in and out to pick up my generous offerings to eat in the cool confines of his crab home.

Sunday night: I get a drunk call from friend2 who quit his job thinking he’d start something by himself. Fountain of sympathy that I am I send all sorts of jealousy vibes. Biyatch! Drinking on a Sunday night! Do you know how much we gotta work to earn our money; you think am just sitting by the beach and doing nothing, eh? Friend2: Dude, I just realized that I’m way too lazy to do anything by myself. Big mistake. Quitting job. Awkward silence.

Quick thinker that I am, I immediately change tracks to plan on become successful bums. Yeah, you need a plan for this kinda thing. You think making that Businessweek list is easy? So then we get to discussing a post he made on a blog we had going a few years back. And I ask him why he suddenly made a new post 3 years after we got forgot the blog. Response: I was dead bored. Me: So that’s the way you took revenge on the world for boring you? Take that! Bitch! Does it hurt now? Huh? Huh? How’s THAT for boring the shit out of me. You wrote a blogpost? Response: Yeah, felt way better.

So here I thought, maybe I’ll do the same. Take revenge. You just read complete crap for about three minutes. Three minutes of your life lost irreversibly. You’d probably regret that missed orgasm (pity, pity) on your deathbed cause of this post you just read. Now doesn’t that feel nice?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Been living by the beach for about a month and half now. Being a bum is the true calling. B-school grad turned beach bum. Bravo!

Dug up this song from a cavernous 20 GB folder titled "Music" from my computer. Absolutely love the man and his lyrics. They have nothing but the plain quality of being true.

"Now I leave the party early at least with no regrets,
 I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets
 Yeah, this is as good as it gets"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Beachin' it

Am back on the road again. No not homeless. Umm... well yes, homeless but not literally “on the road” in rags etc. I realise I love being by the beach. Every beach town I’ve been to has a similar flavour, colour and smell. Afternoons are awash in relentless sunshine that’ll scald bare feet if you attempt the daring walk on sand routine. Even the most crowded of places - abuzz in the evenings; stalls lit with hissing gas lights selling everything from shells and hangings made of shells that make clacking noises in the wind to fried fish, balloon wallahs playing flutes to draw attention, toy parachuted figurines shot up into the sky which float down amidst crowd catching the fancy of kids- are absolutely deserted. Instead you’d have a few makeshift sheds made of dried coconut branches bending over in the breeze and a couple of cows grimly chewing regurgitated food on infinite loop. The colours would be the beautifullest blue contrasted with the brilliantest yellow. And from far it’d be like a picture in bright sunshine; a battalion of  puffy white clouds stretching into a brilliant blue sky, the sea glinting below and the surf breaking into white foamy borders.
I have a secret superpower. I can talk to the sea... sush now!

I have full conversations every time I swim. Mostly chest thumping bravado before a wave comes and drowns me out. But I love the sea. Today we had a nice battle going. Initially she was all welcoming and let me in rather warmly. But as the sun begun plumetting down the sky, hiding behind dark rain clouds in the horizon far away, the sea got temperamental and began rolling sideways. And I hate that. I hate it absolutely! Especially since I’m alone and my bag with my change, towel, slippers etc. is lying on the beach and I need to keep an eye on it. And the bloody sea will keep pushing me away further from the spot. Damn you sea!

Naa... still love you baby. Tomorrow I shall get the bike and ride off 20 kms, 30, 40 kms southwards. There’s a forest and the road goes by the sea with Casuarina forests lining the road. And there’re a couple of rivers where bike and I can rest. And I’ll take my book along and a little rum. And I shall roast myself up in the sun. Nice and brown. And swim in at least 3 different points. Damn! Now is when the forgotten plans of cycling down the coast resurface. It’s been sitting in the head for too long. And after the little mountain cycling done in Himachal a few months this plan was supposed to have neared execution stage. Corporate slavery be damned. 

Reading has returned in spurts. Ian McEwan is new brilliantness. Thanks to girl who referred him. The man depresses the shit out of me with his complete supremacy over the language. It’s his superpower, to unearth unexpressed thoughts, feelings and put them into words. The stories maybe plain and simple, but the feelings running every character dips in, are spelt out with an incredible ease. Also, I just finished Curious Incident of Dog In The Night-Time after years of being asked to read it by dear fraands. Depressed me again. I tend to get quite affected by anything that comes across that innocently. I remember being rather tender after reading To Kill A Mocking Bird when I was 12 and Jem was 10. And I loved football too and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to break a hand and not be able to play. I can’t imagine that even now, I mean I played with a broken hand early this year in Lucknow. Full covert operation to cut cast since doc refused to remove it before big game. Just. not. possible.

And it’s been about 3 months since I’ve kicked a ball. The last time I did, the knee ligaments gave way. Year of no-football it has been. Must be one of the rarest years in the Chinese calendars.  

Am currently returning to my unfinished stash of Saramago books bought on an inebriated afternoon from a Bandra book store. I always write the month and place I purchased a book from in the top right corner of the first page of every book. It captures a memory for me. Every time I open any book of mine (30 degrees maximum allowed; it’s a quirk I shall explain later), the top right corner tells me where the book was brought from, if the day was cloudy or sunny, who I had met earlier in the day and where I went after I bought the book. All from the place and date.

Have also pre-ordered my Murakami. Am a little miffed about the popularity he’s generated now. Where’s the charm in discussing him any more playing truant from work sipping coffee at the office vending machine? Where?

The blog turns out to be a little inconvenient for me, with sudden spurts of disconnected paragraphs. I wish I had a long log book to write in continuously without bothering about any flow, any connection.
This post is futile. All 896 words of it. Doesn’t help with the distraction. And I keep hoping that Diwali comes and time stops. That firecracker would always light the sky. And we’d be frozen, caught in a moment forever.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sea ya.

I never thought that I'd have excess of travelling. And I'm rather unprepared for this minor mutiny within the head each time I think of packing my bags again and moving tomorrow. A few weeks back, while in Guwahati, after dinner and an extremely tiring day as I was walking around in my hotel room searching for my tickets out of Guwahati the following day, I was accosted by a thought that struck me harder than I'd expected: I hadn't lived in a house for over 3 months. That every where I went was a place I paid daily rent to live in. For 3 months I'd been living in hotels and guesthouses. And it made me feel like a privileged homeless person. Maybe I was extremely eager by then of the week ahead. The week that was to be spent in D city. And now that the week is past, it's incomprehensible to me how in a quiet unsuspecting sort of way it has grown on me and taken me prisoner.

And now, knowing what it'd be like, and not day dreaming of what it maybe like, it's even harder to accept this constant "git your ass moving" routine. I long to be 'home' soon.


I'm done packing. I have songs in my head. A shower, fresh change of clothes and off to the station. By night I'm by the sea. Again, I have it built to be something in my head. I recall the last time I took I solo trip to the sea. Somnath temple by the Arabian Sea. It turned out to be a trip of exceedingly violent images in my head. The furious sea and the temple on the beach. My imagination was bettered by reality then. That was the other end of the country. Westernmost almost. Tonight I'll be on the eastern coast of the country. And I can swim in the sea, and turn all black, roasted by the sun, and body surf. Blues be off now!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where I'm in place A, but baggage handling misplaced my thoughts and they're still in place B

So I've been traveling in excess of late. And there couldn't be worse things than early morning/late night flights. (Yeah, you maybe thinking this to be a subtle way of trying to hint at my jet setting lifestyle; It's not a hint, it' s been spelt out to help you with your supreme ability of picking up hints. You're welcome to keep your thoughts. And it's my blog.).

Am currently in Guwahati. I walked out to get cigarettes in the morning. The Brahmaputra is across the road from my hotel and the mobile trolleyman with cigarettes was parked under a tree on the banks of the river. In an instant, the view flushed my mind clean of the sediment of thoughts settling in from last night. I'm given to over thinking. Anyone who's known me intimately would know of that. I'm superbly adept at building complex thought architectures with the intricate construction that requires one to assess the need to have an ice-cream. Wow, I do sound like a plastic mba overselling himself.

Guwahati's a pretty city. Me thinks 2 months in R has prepped me to find any city beautiful. But Guwahati is truly blessed. The mighty Brahmaputra and tiny forested hills dotting the fringes of the city could bless any city. There is something about names and dialects that when encountered by the ear whip up old memories resident in deep recesses of the brain. Stirred up from a foggily remembered childhood, the memories flavour the experience and change it from a novel one to one with a background.

Tomorrow I fly back to home base. Day after morning to another town by the river and by night into the capital. Puja's will be spent in the capital and it'll be a first. It's good to have firsts, especially good when age slowly makes tiny etches on you and youth slowly walks to the back of the room. And yes, it'll be like being home. For the first time in 4/5 years.


I'm terrified. Of scaring you away with these scars I've picked up along the way. Paranoid Android.