Saturday, September 16, 2006

Requiem for a Cookie

It was chocolate.
To be more precise, it was a chocolate chip cookie at Barista. A big, crumbly, gooey, melt in your mouth type cookie. I stuck my hand in the glass jar and took one out. Shall I take another one? Ah, no, I will have just the one. I will savour this one like it was the last cookie on earth. I will break it into bits and I will eat it slowly, relishing the taste. I will feel the intoxicating swirl of biscuit-crumble and chocolate melt on my tongue. I will squeak with delight when I bite down on an unexpected chocolate lump warmly nestled in a secure cushion of crumbly sugary flour; like nuggets of gold hidden by a mischievous imp and intended to be found by me and me alone. When I am reaching the end, I will take longer and longer to eat it, slowly savouring each piece and breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces till they turn into the thick, sticky, dark chocolate that coats my fingers. Then I will slide my chocolate-dripping fingers into my mouth and I will run my tongue all around them and lick them clean.

It was nine pm on a Friday night and I was with a friend at the coffee pub on beach road. We met up over coffee and conversation and well, yes, chocolate. She wasn’t in the mood for a full-fledged dinner. I was famished. But ah, I could hear the sea roar from over here and we both only really wanted to be out of the door and by the shore as soon as we could. Takeaway please! It had to be chocolate. Dark as hell and sweet as sin. It may not fill your stomach, but it can at least engulf your soul.

We settle down just a few feet from the sea and nuzzle our feet into the sand. Bag? Check. Phone? Check. Biscuit and Coffee? Check. Let’s move the shoes here, a little away from the playful waves and we’re set! We’re talking about life, we’re talking about people, we’re talking about sparkling orange lights that float in a distance over the sea, which just might be ships that are docked for the night or more likely, mischievous little night-goblins that blow salty breeze into people’s faces and bubbles into the ocean to make it froth and foam. I cast furtive glances at my biscuit. Ah, it is safe. I will save it for the end.

Enter beggar woman. She is, like any ordinary beggar, scruffy and unkempt. She sticks out a withered limb from underneath the layers of dirty smelly torn rags and asks if you could spare some change. Anything. Fifty paise maybe. May you be blessed with a good husband.

You turn your head and wrinkle your nose. Maybe she will go away. Maybe she’ll understand that we are not interested. You purse your lips and gaze glass-eyed at the orange lights in the distant. You clutch your bag closer to your body. Why doesn’t this old hag just leave us alone? How she ruins the evening! You wait stony-faced and silent till she leaves so you may resume your conversation.

‘I haven’t had anything to eat in two days’

You frown. Two days? Well, that’s very tragic indeed but as a general policy I don’t condone begging for alms you see. You don’t say anything to her though. You pretend you don’t hear.
‘Please. I haven’t eaten in such a long time. Spare a thought’

You look at your friend. You look at the bag sitting innocently between you. Your beloved cookie lies inside it, fate unknown. You think, she’s only going to harass me anyway if I don’t give her something and get rid of her. You think of black and white images and Phil Collins singing Another Day in Paradise. You think of your one cookie, your highlight of the evening, the one cookie that you chose, the one cookie that was singled out among all the other cookies in the jar to be consumed by you. You think of what high aspirations you had for your cookie. You think of how you would have eaten it the way it deserves to be eaten. You would’ve relished it, you would’ve devoured it, you would’ve loved it, you would’ve consumed it, you would’ve engulfed it and made it part of your very being. You look at it with pain and longing. She hasn’t eaten in two days.

You whip it out of the paper bag with a flourish. You hold it out like a large, gold coin and drop it into her cupped hands with a clink of satisfaction. You turn back to the sea with a look of serene benevolence. She would have rarely tasted anything quite so decadent. She probably never had such rich chocolate in her life. She will guard it zealously, hiding it between her clothing, breaking it off into small pieces and chewing on it with her hardened gums. You held the dials of her happiness and sadness in your hands and in one deft move, you decided what you shall enable her to feel. You decided to end her hunger. You decided she will long no more. You feel like God.

‘Could you open this packet? I can’t get it to open’

You take the plastic-wrapped biscuit from her pruned fingers with a look of infinite patience. You grab the wrap on either side and tug lightly. It rips open in one sharp move. You drop the opened packet in her hands and dismiss her with a slight wave of the fingers. Do not bother me with your trivialities; I have more important things to discuss.

‘One biscuit?! I stood here for so long and you give me this one measly biscuit?! Haven’t you any money?! BAH!’

She totters off, muttering and cursing under her breath while you look at her rapidly-receding silhouette in wide-eyed disbelief.
I should have thrown it into the sea. At least the night-goblins would have liked that.

I mourn.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Note to self

Don’t fall for a man like your f. They are not the marrying kind.

If you can help it, don’t fall at all.

Seek. Live. Love. Let go. Do not hope to possess. Certain things cannot be possessed. Like water, the tighter you grip it the more that spills out through the gaps between your fingers.

Do not fall for someone innocent and pure. You will destroy him. People like that, we must gently sun ourselves in their warmth. We cannot take them home with us, to our tarnished surroundings and our sullied thoughts. We must watch them quietly from a distance or we will deform them. They are happy because they do not know any better. Do not push your fears unto them. They will listen, they will comfort, they will support, they will lift the burden gently from your shoulders, but your fears and your hate are ugly and contagious.

Do not fall for someone hoping he will change. He will not. They never do.

Be wary of the magickal ones. They will make you laugh, they will make you feel good about yourself, they will gently nudge you out of your cocoon; you will blossom and come into your own under their quiet encouragement. They will stand behind you and hold your hand as you slowly, shyly, hesitantly stick out your foot and dip your big toe into the cold dark waters. You will turn back and see the quiet approval in their eyes. They are the worst.

Do not fall for those.

Do not ever fall for those.

Do not let yourself be possessed. Do not speak, when you don’t wish to. Do not answer, if you don’t want to. Do not stay, if you want to go.

Know the difference between a keeper and a fun ride. Do not mistake one for the other.

Do not mistake the heady sensation of meeting someone for the first time for something more than what it is. The first days are always that way. You will be giddy, you will laugh, you will glow, you will bloom, you will shed your inhibitions, you will become intoxicated with life. It is not him, it is you. This will not last. It is transitory. Make the most of it because it will fade. There will soon be others and you will do it again. Such is life and thank god for that.

Hold them lightly, by just the tips of your fingers. If you can, don’t hold them at all. Turn around and look with surprise when you find they are still there.

There are those that will hurt you. Stay. Allow yourself to feel pain. Leave when you feel you cannot. But don’t hope. They do not mean it. They just do not know that they trample on everything that is sacred and pure to you. They are not bad; it is just the way they are. They will never learn. Do not try.

Segregate. Know what you like and know what you don’t want. Keep the one and throw the other. Do not engulf the whole. It will make you sick. Understand that these are things in and of and by themselves. These are not the people themselves; no more than brown is a unique, inherent quality of a dog. When you decide to engulf the whole, do not pick out the parts and examine them too closely. Close your eyes and plunge right in. Try to enjoy the journey. Do not be scared.
Above all, have fun.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Alphabet Soup

I cheat. This isn't a bona fide blog post, it's my exercise for a writing group I joined. The rule was that the first line should begin with 'A' and every subsequent sentence should begin with the other alphabets in order, thus ending the story with a sentence starting with 'Z'. I didn't strictly follow the rule for this one, so sent in another, and putting this up on my blog. Read it and weep.

- Aren’t you ready yet?!
- Besides, this dress makes me look fat. I’ll wear the black one then. Tell me, which shoes do you like better?
- Christ! I really couldn’t care less. We should have been there by now! Will you please hurry up?
- Don’t use that tone of voice with me! You were the one who insisted I dress ‘traditional’.
- Esther darling, much as I love that sexy strapless wonder, I don’t think it would be wise for you to flaunt your ample décolleté the very first time you meet my parents. They’re very conservative, not used to this sort of thing at all. We’ll have to break it to them slowly, dear; they wouldn’t be able to…
- Fine! I’ll go wear a saree then. There, are you happy? Although it would be fun to see the looks on their faces when you come waltzing in with me, the bouncing braless wonder. I say, we could…
- God help me! Look, could you just wear something appropriate! We’re already ten minutes late and you’re not even dressed!
- Hang on, hang on! My, you do fly into a tizzy. It’ll only take a minute. Ah, there we are. Perfect for the occasion, don’t you think? Oh shoot, it’s all crumpled! Five minutes, love, let me just iron this out and then we’ll leave.
- Iron this out!? It’s a quarter past eight. We’re already late. Traffic is shit. I’ve been waiting here since god knows when watching you put a load of muck on your face, taking hours to pick something to wear, deciding whether those stupid bloody shoes that you just spent half my money on are quite the right shade and now you want to go and iron your outfit!
- Just spent half your money on?! Since when did this become your money? And what do I do all day? Swat flies, I suppose! I can’t believe that you of all people would say something like that! Go on then, get out! Go stuff your face with your mother’s fantastic cooking! Tell her your Christian ‘lady friend’ was indisposed. I think they’ll only be too happy. Who’s that woman they’re so keen to see you marry? She’s probably there right now, smirking to herself! God knows she’s forever at your parents’ house. Your second cousin, whatshername, Kavita or Kalpana or some such rot.
- Kanchana. And she’s not even in the city, she’s gone to Calcutta. Look, I know my folks are a little old-fashioned…
- Little?! That’s like saying Hitler was a tad racist! You told me, the last girl you brought home to meet your parents; you mother nearly made her cry because she had the audacity to add salt to her food.
- Mom can be a bit overbearing. But Esther darling, that’s why I really want this evening to go off well.
- No Rahul, that’s not it. What you want is for me to adopt some completely new persona and morph into this traditional Indian belle so that your mother will accept me! Well guess what, I am NOT going to wear this stupid sari. I’ve been listening to you obsessing over this stupid dinner for over a month now – Esther, have you got something nice to wear! Esther, remember to fold your hands when you greet her! Esther, don’t criticize the food! Well darling, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m not going.
- Oh come come, be reasonable darling. I’m only trying to…
- Please stop doing that. I’ve made up my mind and I’m not going.
- Quarrelling like this isn’t going to help. Lets not bicker, come now, be reasonable, just get your shawl, you look fine. We can still make it if we leave right now.
- Rahul! For the last time, I’m not going!
- Shush… don’t be this way. Here, what are you doing now! Put that suitcase away, don’t be silly. Look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled. You look fine. The shoes are perfect. Mom is going to love you, let’s just leave ok?
- That’s not the point. I don’t care if your mom is going to love me or not. Do you love me enough to tell her that I’m not your ‘lady friend’ and that I am in fact your girlfriend, I’ve been your girlfriend for a year now and I might just be your wife very soon.
- Understand, Esther! You’re putting me in a tight spot! You can’t just spring news like that on them. They’re old; they need time to get used to new ideas.
- Very well then, take all the time you need. In fact, I won’t even get in your way.
- Where are you going at this hour? Ok look, I’ll just cancel dinner tonight and we’ll meet them some other day. You can wear whatever you like; I promise I won’t breathe over your shoulder. Just leave that suitcase Esther, this really is childish behaviour.
- Xavier will take me in. I’m going to stay with my brother till I find a decent apartment and then I’m going to move out and into my own place.
- You don’t want to do this. Come, Esther, you are being unreasonable. You must accommodate a little darling. They’re old and set in their ways; we have to break it to them gently. Esther, set that suitcase down. Esther, come back here! Esther!
- Zandra Rhodes. 27000 rupees. Black patent leather slingback with peep toe and hanging heart diamante. Well, it wasn’t a total waste of two years. At least I have the shoes.