Went to campus after aeons. Actually, the visits started last weekend and shall continue for a while. Back in the not-so-long-ago (last year summer), a few of us in class had decided to stage a play for our Post-Colonial paper. Weaving together texts by Indian playwrights like Girish Karnad, Mohan Rakesh, Badal Sarkar and Manjula Padmanabhan, we had taken on an ambitious task- presenting the dilemma of language and the fragmentation of identity in the post-colonial subject. The subaltern had to speak. It was good fun. Frantic translations of existing texts from English to Bangla, from Hindi to English (which was undoubtedly tragi-comic), impromptu rehearsals, hours and hours put in to close loopholes and find a semblance of unity among drama stalwarts who have very distinctive styles of writing.

The final show had been quite a success. After much blood, sweat and tears and a whole night rehearsal at my place. Which is probably why our professor contacted us to stage the show one more time.

So our motley crew has congregated once again. One member has dropped out due to time constraints, a new one (a close friend of mine) has joined in. Anyhow, what I am most happy about is that it is giving me the chance to visit my beloved campus once again. 5 years is a long time in the life of a 23 year old. And those 5 years have been the best so far in my life. *wipes away nostalgic tear*

Honestly, Jadavpur University is not very far from my house but the precious weekends i get, indolence sets in and the time goes by in such a rushed blur that I never seem to get the time to visit campus. Now that I have some sense of purpose in making the visit, I am. And I am glad.

Winters in JU have always been magical. The hazy skies wrapped in a gray fog. The panic of impending semester exams, alleviated by endless cigarettes and bad coffee from Milan da’s canteen, usually on the Comparative Literature ledge. Lazy afternoons rolling into bustling evenings. I always, always liked being on my own in campus. Always enjoyed my solitude. Observing, taking meaningless little notes in my head. Unintentionally eavesdropping on conversations. Watching an energetic game of corridor cricket or badminton near the parking lot. Quietly plugging in my iPod but never really listening to it. Or maybe reading a book. Or preparing for some exam or the other. And then of course, the dogs. The dear, dear, dogs, with ever-wagging tails and smiles. Leaning in for a head-pat, demanding biscuits, demanding all your love. Life was good, very good. Where the only trials were exams, the only grievance was probably the lack of a good canteen in the Arts Faculty or the pathetic coffee at Milan da. It was nice.

Then of course, Greenzone (with an ungodly, murky water body with dodgy yellow-blue-green slime bang in the middle). Where hours flew by as Aveek and I sat. And plotted and planned and etched out the canvas of an imaginary future. Tea and cigarettes. Holding hands and stolen kisses. Yelling and making up.

So it feels good to make these visits back to campus. The same dusty entrance at Gate 4. UG Arts building and the jheelpar opposite it. The same parking lot. The erstwhile lobby. Shyamal da’s “rocking” tea stall outside the gate. I am sure he still plays Himesh Reshammiya full blast. Or maybe he has progressed to Honey Singh, Yo Yo. Ah. It still quite doesn’t feel like I am no longer a student here. As I ambled along the stretches that are so very familiar to me, I didn’t really feel like an apparition. Maybe because it has not been that long. It still felt very intimate, the way it has always been. Intimate in a passive way.
Places change, because the people you associate them with change, or disappear or get replaced. But JU will remain the same for me because of my impersonal way of being attached to it I guess. Maybe it’s not that bad then, being detached, I mean. Bhodu is still there. So are Jocasta and Bagha. It’s all good, very good.

Waiting

Waiting is probably the most difficult thing to come to terms with.

 Waiting for your order to arrive at a cafe, as you cast furtive glances as the table next to you. The occasional glare at the waiter. Waiting for a friend who, for some reason, is always fashionably late. For everything. Waiting for those damn relatives to vacate your house. Waiting, waiting. Waiting for your lover to call you back as you wonder if you had slammed the phone one too many times. Waiting for your evening tea. Waiting for the rainclouds, and then, rain. Waiting indefinitely.

 Waiting for something s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r to happen. Something that will rattle your otherwise nondescript life, break the gargantuan monotony that’s been building up bit by bit, fed on your reluctance or complacency.

 Waiting for metaphysical uncertainties, such as Godot. Or, waiting for the women.

 Waiting for answers to be granted to your prayers.

 Hurry up please it’s time…

Coca Cola Life

Gone are the days when viral was a term we associated normally with fever. The internet is a foot-tapping shark that waits to be fed. An fed it is by virulent content at a frenzied speed. And not just by nacho chomping, pot bellied, bespectacled, funny smelling blokes. Everyone is competing for webspace these days. Internet flora and fauna. Myriad in its diversity, from being overwhelmingly new to humiliatingly cliched (like comparing it to the rainforest. #lol). Anyway, so things get very easily viral these days. Usually cats and naked celebrities in compromising positions top the list. Love the former, don’t know about the latter. But thankfully, once in a while, you come across absolute wonders. And I am eternally grateful to whoever it is that created this magical portal of awesomeness.

I have always, always loved Coca Cola advertisements and I have no shame admitting that it’s my preferred brand of soft drinks perhaps only because of their ad campaigns. Otherwise I’d opt for a Thums Up any day. Absolute pioneers in terms of branding and marketing, with or without celebrities. Right since the Victorian age, through the gaudy early 20th century of bootlegging and Prohibition down to Beatnik times and the booming 80’s when they introduced Diet Coke “just for the taste of it” to the 90’s when they launched the “Always Coca Cola” campaign and gave us the dear, dear, dear polar bears in the Northern Lightsy afterglow sharing Coke down to present times where it has successfully continued to associate the brand image with a sense of joy, optimism and togetherness. It has always been so much more than just a beverage. It taps in, and beautifully so, into human emotions and triggers something our subconscious mind perhaps, something warm and nice, which stays. Positive impressions, or whathaveyou. It works. Coca Cola for me is about polar bears frolicking in the snow. It is about Aamir Khan saying “Thanda Matlab Coca Cola” in that inimitably cheeky way. It is about “Umeedo waali Dhoop” and “Sunshine waali Asha”. It’s about a fire breathing dragon that breathes out pretty fireworks after a drink of Coke. It’s about breaking borders and crossing barriers as two perennially bickering nations reach out in an intensely human fashion, a “Small World Exchange”. That, for me, is Coca Cola.

Why these random exaltations? Because I chanced upon another lovely Coke ad. About parenthood and the anxieties faced by new parents. Starting with the initial thrill of finding out about the pregnancy to the challenges they face in their every day lives after the baby arrives, envying  care free couples around them. The ad concludes with the exasperated father screaming when they find out the mother is expecting their second child. Beautifully executed, wonderfully touching ad. One thing I truly don’t mind going viral on the net.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRqUTA6AegA

‘Unreal City, Under the brown fog of a winter dawn’

Winter afternoons can be mellow. They can be pensive. At times, downright melancholic. They are sepia tinted when wrapped in memories. They are kaleidoscopic in vibrant hues, at times. They are winding and lethargic, slowly ambling their way across the cityscape, flooding the streets in a blur of sunshine and smoke. They can be joyous, sure, with just the right amount of chill in the air that makes you want to get up and out on the road. Makes you want to be a traveler and a lover. A gypsy, a vagabond. It makes you want to be a voyeur. As you make your way, merging in the crowd. Unseen, unknown. A voyeur in love with love itself.

Winter afternoons are about being a recluse. Where you just want to shut yourself in.

Winter afternoons are about coffee. Or tea. Or wine. Cheap whiskey, if you will. About your favourite nook and curling up with that book you have been meaning to read. They are about soft caresses and endless laughter sweeping through the sanctity of your bedroom. Your sanctuary. Your own little space that is tucked away from the world and which is bathed in the glorious sunlight that filters through the window, creeping past the curtains, nestling against your skin. Skin so warm and eager for love. Sunlight that stretches and curls. Sunlight that offers and denies. Desire.

tea

A Cloud in Trousers

vladimir mayakovsky
“Your thoughts,

dreaming on a softened brain,

like an over-fed lackey on a greasy settee,

with my heart’s bloody tatters I’ll mock again;

impudent and caustic, I’ll jeer to superfluity.

Of Grandfatherly gentleness I’m devoid,
 
there’s not a single grey hair in my soul!

Thundering the world with the might of my voice,

I go by – handsome,

twenty-two-year-old.”
 

– Vladimir Mayakovsky

To Schedule or Not to Schedule

There have been many times when I have tried to convince myself, rather strictly, to maintain a schedule. I have sat with a calendar and a host of sketch pens, ready to attack and block the dates. Write little scribbles. Make it look fancy. Needless to say, it never worked out. I was in school back then.

Later, my friend had given me something that quite honestly gave me eye cancer. It was a Microsoft Word doc made in the form of a table composed of heinous neon blocks. I never used it. Though studies have proven (citation required) that it works wonders for you and managing your time. We just were not meant for each other. Sigh.

My prehistoric iPhone also has a timer, a calendar, a notes section, but that too is usually of no use- maybe rarely to write down addresses or some such.

The point I am trying to make is, being meticulous might not always be the best thing ever. In fact, it’s quite nice to take each day as it comes. Sure you tend to forget things- lunch dates, article deadlines, visiting an ailing someone. But at times, it just feels liberating to not have a clockwork existence. Schedules make me feel persecuted. And that’s odd because I am not a very random person when it comes to planning things. I love plans and plots but the thought of an alarm or a multicoloured date blocker freaks me out. I am not schizophrenic enough yet to not have an indication of what’s going on. I am functional yet.

I like taking time to grasp and take in all that’s going on around me. I like observing without meaningless rushing. Sure I panic when it comes to deadlines. I go ballistic and teary eyed. But I manage. And  if I don’t, I have an alarming amount of beer and everything gets better.

Truth be told, I am probably pitifully scatterbrained. I have the attention span of an incorrigible 5 year old, and I space out more than I bother to keep track of. I am not even sure I like it much. A To-Do List is what I need. It is what I deserve. But it is what I DETEST as well. Maybe that is why I react more to my environment than influence it. Heck, even blogs can be scheduled. What happened to spontaneity?!

But you know what the most satisfying thing is? That at the end of the day, I feel happy, because though I might not have been the most proactive person alive, but the day felt like my own. The decisions my own. Not a pre-made schedule.

Book Wishlist

I just ordered Bitter Fruit, a collection of short stories by Saadat Hasan Manto. Had greatly loved his writing during my Narratives of Nation Formation and Rupture course, last year. A couple of weeks back I bought Shonku Samagra  and Chander Pahar, two childhood favourites that I had unfortunately misplaced. I always note down books that I want to get, but in my head. And inevitably forget. So it’s best I note them down here. Here’s a tentative list, in no particular order. There’ll be more of these:

  • Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
  • Ice Candy Man, Bapsi Sidhwa
  • The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
  • Lifting the Veil, Ismat Chughtai
  • An Equal Music, Vikram Seth
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
  • Tales of the Jazz Age, Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinback
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonder, Daniyal Mueenuddin

The Lord of the Rings (the trilogy, together, in a set), JRR Tolkien

Many, many more on the list. But these, for now. The ones marked in red are the ones I want maybe before my birthday. Which happens to be next month. I need a compassionate and large hearted patron.

Maximum City

“ALL GREAT CITIES ARE SCHIZOPHRENIC”, said Victor Hugo. Bombay has multiple personality disorder. During the riots, the printing presses were running overtime. They were printing visiting cards, two sets for each person, one with a Muslim name and one with a Hindu name. When you were out in the city, if you got stopped your life depended on whether you answered to Ram or Rahim.

Schizophrenia became a survival tactic.

(Reading Maximum City)

God is just a shout in the street

“What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?”

Maybe not a slob, but just an every day bloke like you and me. Reluctantly waking up to face another day. Pass another judgment. Get another cup of coffee and just try to come to terms…with life? What if he was just weary and looking for inspiration? Making ends meet. Making mistakes. Trapped in a self sustaining quagmire. Cogitating over decisions taken and decisions not taken. Someone with a conscience, but  one that’s carefully and sparsely used.

What if God, indeed, was just a slob like one of us? Dumped with responsibilities that he does not really want or care about? Like Lucifer, the wanton child. Would God ever cry for all the Lucifers around? All his children who rebelled against his paternal care, got stifled, escaped, died, faded, got crippled, vindicated, forgotten. Is his grief quantifiable? Is it tangible or as esoteric as he is? Does he grudge us our mortality?

Is God as lonely as we are? Maybe not. Maybe he chuckles at our little victories, our crushing defeats, our mundane, self-containedness and complacency. Does he smoke a pipe as he pull the strings of his infernally stupid and smug creations? Is he, too, eternally damned?

Maybe God’s just a shout in the street.  Maybe we are all damned and happy about it.

flaneur