Of Cabbages and Kings

March 29, 2011

Voyeurism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 1:49 pm

Ever wondered about personal blogs? All my blogs seem to turn personal at some point. And I ask myself – what sort of idiot would write this stuff and put in on the internet for the world to see? You write the same stuff in your diary and have a mini meltdown if anyone so much as glanced at it. But the same stuff on the internet is worse perhaps than bathing in a room with a large bare window.

And then there is the reading of personal blogs. Who would? Why? Why why would you want to know about the lives of strangers? Why would you read a friend’s blog rather than ask the said friend about anything/ everything you want to know. Why the voyeurism?

I’ve been living alone of late. It is nice for a large part. Plenty of time to be me. No compromises, no letting my future self down. But sometimes, some rare times, it is difficult to process the world all on my own. And then it helps to read about someone else’s world. And I’ll take anything I get. Literature, if it is honest. Friends, if they are honest. And blogs, because they are the most honest.

See here’s the thing. The author may filter her innermost thoughts so that you like her, you bend to her wisdom. The friend may edit what she tells you rather heavily because she is afraid that you will judge her. But the blogger doesn’t know you, and doesn’t have a clear agenda. She just comes home and writes a little about her day and sends it flying out to the internet. She may edit what she says a little, but she doesn’t a whole lot. She can’t. She doesn’t know whose benefit she’d be editing it for. And since the act of writing is cathartic for her, she isn’t going to muzzle herself completely.

And hence the voyeurism. Here is someone who isn’t a friend, who isn’t going to be a friend. You may know her casually, and then again, you may never have seen her. But she’s living a little like you are. She is happy sometimes and sad sometimes. She has triumphs and tragedies, fulfillment and disappointment. And like you, she looks for ways to understand it and move on. And reading about her conversations with herself, sometimes helps you with your conversations with yourself. But mostly, it tells you that you are not alone, and that the world is full of people, ordinary little ants-in-a-hill people who know what it is like and who find a way to move forward and find a way to be true to themselves.

And so you write – to talk to yourself and that blur of a person who is reading what you write. And you read about strangers because sometimes they tell you more about yourself than people you have known all your life.

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February 6, 2011

Growing up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 11:26 am

I’m trying to catch up with my age, an inch a year. It helps sometimes to be an adult in a room full of kids. To look at some of them and see your younger self, and to wonder where that self-possession and generosity vanished to…and to reach within yourself to find it again.

There is really something very special about teenagers – the hopes and dreams of children and their journey into the adult world. Some of them shy away. Some step in steadily, looking straight ahead. Others run in so fast, that you feel a deep sadness for their suddenly stifled childhood.

Endlessly fascinating. Sometimes it makes me determined never to have kids of my own, and at other times, it makes me want my own little person to watch over, love, protect and teach through her journey to adulthood. Then again, it is too much work!

November 17, 2010

Oh happy day!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 5:03 pm

Today I have tons and tons of work. My work is going to help many people.

Today, I conquered my temper. And realised that I have been doing this rather more often than I have in the past.

Today, everything looks wonderful and rosy. My lovely home. My wonderful career (and my show of courage in going for it despite everyone’s best effort to frighten me into the rat race). My healthy relationship with the ex (which both he and I deserve credit for this) which has been hard won and has the ancillary  benefit of teaching how truly wonderful it is to learn to forgive (while at the same time not deliberately putting oneself in the way of hurt).

I feel stretched. And I know that I will feel even more stretched in the years to come.

I feel in control. I know that there will be problems but after so long, so very long, I know that I’ll be able to handle them.

Happy happy day!

The Elephant in the Room

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 4:36 pm

I was never really good at ignoring the elephant or hell, even the kitten, in the room. My very sensible and very feminine friend has advised me to do it this time. I wish I knew whether the advice was coming from the sensible aspect or the feminine aspect of her persona. I don’t do feminine. Yes, even my flirtations have an underpinning of very male cynicism and acquisitiveness to them.

You see the trouble with ignoring the Elephant, is that it gets in the way all the time. It is this big invisible communication gap that colours everything but you are not permitted to talk about it. So what if you get sick of it all and yell, ‘But there’s a bloody big elephant in this room!’? Well I’ve done it in the past. And to be fair, it hasn’t worked out so well in the past. But this is my first time tiptoeing around the elephant. And that isn’t really working out so much better anyway. A old and very very dear friend is drifting out of the door.

I’ve noticed recently that one tends to have exactly the same kind of fight with particular people over and over. Yes, the context can vary vastly but bring the fight down to its bare bones and it is about the same things. Mostly about things that we don’t say to eachother. ‘You lied to me’; ‘I don’t like your smugness’; ‘I don’t think you really like me’; ‘I think you are stupid’; ‘I think you think I am stupid’; ‘you don’t really love me’; ‘you love someone else more’; ‘you don’t trust me’; ‘I don’t trust you’…and so on and so forth. Silly things. Often unfounded. Often so insignificant compared to all the other big things that bind people and make them love each other. But ignoring them seems to mean that they wriggle into tiny regular disagreements, and inflate them into large, ugly and insurmountable problems. And then these problem stand between us along with that good old Elephant and we can’t reach each other any more.

What if one day – one special day – we were all made to say exactly what we thought to each other? What would happen?

I’d love one Brutal Honesty day. It’d drive out all the elephants and leave my friendships to stand or fall as they would naturally.

July 17, 2010

Restlessness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 6:44 am

This isn’t a diary, it is a blog. So many blogs are an exercise in self-aggrandising narcissism that I have come to fear them. Although it feels like typing and releasing something into a large void, it isn’t really. We’re writing for a tiny audience. One that would barely fill a room, let alone a city. We’re giving each other attention and importance, much like friends do in the ‘normal’ world. Sometime we aren’t interested in the audience and have chosen for some reason to do our private scribbling on the web. I don’t know why. I’ve never thought about it. I treat it like some sort of sophisticated back up system for the writing that I do because I feel that I should write. That I must write. It is like a gigantic exercise book. An extension of the little ruled ‘English Language’ notebook in which I wrote essays and stories on assigned topics.

How do people’s personal diaries read? I’m curious. Seriously. We must all write for different reasons…so it follows that our diaries must be different. Is it true that a woman’s diary would stick religiously to inter-personal relationships as her thoughts are imprisoned in that little world that she is taught is her highest priority? Would the stereotypical male diary be all about sex and money/ power? Would this change as we grow up? Are their people who think all day about how they can make the world a better place? How they can grow plants better or cure cancer or make sure nobody goes hungry…

Or would these people not have the time for a diary? I wonder sometimes – is the internet really a big waste of time? Instead of expanding our horizons, do we chop up our thoughts into tiny inconsequential pieces and scatter them around where they would make the least difference? Like a giant supermarket full of some things we need but a hundreds of shiny things that distract us and drag us to places that we don’t really want to go to.

May 2, 2010

Drinks on my balcony

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 2:46 am

Five colleagues: One legendary, one brilliant, one rich. one sweet and one well…me. Old friends and new ones. Old ambitions and new ones.

Free flowing alcohol. Momos. Kebabs. Yellow light. Evening breeze. Talk of dinners in Park Street and of omelettes cooked in lamp-lit hostel rooms a decade ago.

🙂

April 21, 2010

Gigi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 3:52 pm

I’ve been reading old European fiction again. The trouble with doing this sort of thing (and I do this a lot) is that one’s imagination is populated almost entirely with people from different lands and different times.

You live in a place where the sun burns holes in your feet and dream of silk stockings. You learn that you are supposed to help the elderly, but you have to pass them sleeping on the street everyday and look on helplessly.

Going to Europe was like a homecoming. Things are somehow right there. You don’t raise your voice. Men tell you that you are beautiful if they think so and it doesn’t mean that they are being creepy. There are flowers growing everywhere. Everybody seems to love wine, music and dark chocolate. There is poetry plastered all over trains and a musician in every corner.

Aggression and pushiness are frowned upon. And people are direct but very pleasantly so. There’s no syrupy exaggeration or stupid wide-eyed naivete. Just a down-to-earth practicality. Everybody reads at least a little. The television is much too expensive to be a national pass-time.

I know that it must take young countries many years to catch up with ancient undisturbed civilisations. And that some amount of shouting and elbowing must happen before we settle down. But I do miss the peace and quiet sometimes.

April 14, 2010

Cavafy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 6:44 pm

You tell yourself: I’ll be gone
To some other land, some other sea,
to a city lovelier far than this
Could ever have been or hoped to be—
Where every step now tightens the noose:
A heart in a body buried and out of use;
How long, how long must I be here
Confined among these dreary purlieus
Of the common mind? Wherever now I look
Black ruins of my life rise into view.
So many years have I been here
Spending and squandering and nothing gained.

Aside from being shatteringly beautiful, this verse brought home to me exactly how much is lost in translation. Lawrence Durrell was responsible for this particular formulation. If you see the other versions here, they will make you want to weep for their frustrating inability to capture its elusive beauty.

April 11, 2010

Atonement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 5:15 pm

The film was moving and disturbing. Told from the perspective of a little girl who kept walking into other people’s secrets, as I used to.

She tried hard to understand the adult world, and got it all wrong, like I did. And she made a terrible terrible mistake, like I very nearly did. Her whole life was atonement for that mistake. And her book, an attempt to make the past whole again.

I simply must have the book. It can only be better than the film. The idea smells like one that must have been difficult to translate into film. Fleeting passion, understated class issues, morality, legal loopholes, shades of grey, a poetic subtext.

Yes, I simply must have it.

October 16, 2009

Death of a watchman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 8:41 pm

It has long been the great Indian tradition to break rules. The more flagrant the violation, the greater one’s consequence. Queue jumping, commandeering of regulated items like LPG (or ‘cooking gas’ as we called it when we were seven), refusing to be frisked at airports, illegal pollution and cutting down of trees…you name it and people fall over eachother to do it.

Several proud upholders of this tradition live on the same quiet tree-lined street as my mother. In keeping with its spirit, their children are happy to regale the neighbourhood with their startlingly loud firecrackers late into the night. They have been at it for almost a week.

Among their rather impressive range of loud nerve-wracking sounds are the ‘atom bombs’ that I particularly loathed as a child (they make all the windows in the vicinity vibrate), which I am informed are banned these days. But India being the way it is,  prohibition make the celebrations particularly enjoyable.

My mother and I are almost accustomed to jumping out of our skin every now and then, and we take care to sit on well cushioned surfaces to ensure that our landings are comfortable. I imagine that the rest of the neighbourhood has also decided to grin and bear it. And so we went on.

This morning, the elderly gentleman who is the building’s security system, gardener and odd-job man rolled into one, returned from his long visit to his village. This evening, after completing his chores and locking the building gate, he dropped dead.

I was told that he has had a hole in his heart for years. Perfectly healthy people complain of minor palpitations after each rude blast from the neighbourhood brats’ illegal bombs. I can only imagine what effect the sudden explosions may have had on a man with a heart problem.

As his heart started to seize and flicker, his teenage daughters ran out on to the road to see whether they could get him to a hospital on time.  There is an excellent hospital 2 minutes away, but fate and the Indian disregard for rules intervened. Another neighbour bent on upholding the great Indian tradition had constructed a gate on the road to the hospital, and locked it up for the night. So the car rushing the dying man to the hospital took a long diversion and ten unnecessary minutes to get there. He gasped his dying gasp just as they were carrying him out of the vehicle into the hospital.

Until he died, it had never occurred to me that amidst all this (illegal) racket created in quiet places during festivals, there live several indigent and powerless people that cannot handle the shock. Even if K had known that the explosions were bad for his heart, there is very little he could have done to stop the rich kids that were making all the noise. Even if his wife knew that he might need to be rushed to the hospital from time to time, she could have done very little to ensure that the gate blocking the road to the hospital was kept open. A rich man would have has the operations necessary to fix his heart. A rich man would call the neighbour and threaten to report him to the police.

And so it happens that on a day that a bunch of rich children decide to break rules and have fun, a poor man dies. A vigilant watchman, an excellent gardner and above all one of the best fathers that ever was, he will be missed. His wife was in hysterics and his young daughters were looking after her. My mother’s landlady was close to tears.

And I sit here wondering – if we followed rules…if we thought about the elderly before breaking regulations about noise, if we thought about the desperately ill before blocking the road to the hospital, if a poor man and his family were allowed a voice, would this man be alive?

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