Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Whimsical Tale

The Qutub Minar is a silent spectator to a different world. As it towers above the green carpet of foliage in Mehrauli, it watches sightseers scattered among the architectural ruins of its facade. It shudders, as the Metro whizzes past it every couple of minutes. Aeroplanes salute the Minar, as they descend towards the airport. A little after noon, the shadow of the Minar slowly begins to inch towards the old bus stop, where buses are parked for a brief respite from the harsh sun, and drivers tuck into delicious food at the adjoining dhabas.

Behind this bus stop, lies a place. Dismissed as a huge ground with a rusty gate, people often miss seeing the cleanly swept little buildings, the colourful walls and the constant chatter from beyond the gate. A car stops in front of this gate, hesitantly, almost ready to reverse and go back on the main road. But as the rusty gate creaks open, a warmth seems to spread around the car. The buildings look brighter and the walls more colourful. As the car manoeuvres around the gate to park in the grounds, the watchman and several boys run to direct it correctly.

I step out of the car. A small boy, barely two feet tall, runs up to me, fashions a camera with his hands and goes 'Click!'. Three others watch this and begin to giggle. Before I know it, I'm dragged into a room where they're all playing. Hours go by, and we exhaust ourselves by playing every conceivable version of running and catching games. Finally, an older boy walks into the room and announces that it is lunch time. Bone-tired, we troop into the lunch room and grab plates.

Two ladies stand by the food, smiling at every child they serve, as they dole out generous portions of chawal and kadi. The little ones look eagerly into the huge vessel in search of pakodas and they are usually rewarded with a stern look that yields to a reluctant second serving of pakodas. The boys then look pointedly at my plate, so I'm served with extra pakodas as well. When everyone is served, we find a corner in the crowded room and tuck in.

I sit among the slightly older boys now, as they tell me about their schoolwork, talk shyly about their girl classmates and discuss what they'd like to do when they grow old enough to live independently. Before we know it, lunch time ends and we all scatter. The boys go into their respective classes and as I look around wondering what to do next, the little ones come back running and demand a story.

We find a shaded corner on the rooftop and settle down as the winter sun smiles benevolently on us. I begin telling them the story of Hansel and Gretel....but they children start pitching in their suggestions. The witch in the story develops fangs and becomes a ghost at midnight. The children get superpowers as they escape from the witch. The story begins to turn wild and grows completely out of a 'fairytale' proportion, but the kids enjoy weaving this tale so much, I don't have the heart to bring them back to the actual story. We get carried away, involving Harry Potter in the rescue mission as well. By now, the group of five little kids has turned into almost eleven kids of all ages, two puppies that alternate between whining and snoring, and the watchman, who comes to check the commotion. As the clock inches towards four, I reluctantly wrap the story up with a Happily Ever After. The kids let me go only on the condition that I return the next week with another story like this.

As the car slowly manoeuvres its way out of the boundaries, I glance at the rear view mirror. The kids are waving merrily for about two seconds, before they disappear into the rooms, eager to continue playing. On the entire journey home, I try combining my imagination and knowledge of fairy tales to come up with another bizarre story for our next meeting.

There is a change in the way I look at life. For those four hours, I'm treated with unconditional affection. The kids don't care if my hindi has an accent, if I can't really match their speed in running, or if I'm wearing my oldest and most threadbare sweatshirt. I'm there, we play, and that's enough. There are few places in this world, that welcomes you with such a bright atmosphere, brushing all your blues away. Some day, I'd love to go back, stand on the rooftop of the building and watch as the Qutub Minar salutes this unnoticed, quaint place every noon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Glove Story

I love reading the acknowledgement page of every book. It gives me a wonderfully voyeuristic peek into the author’s life, and the people she has been influenced by. In fact, I began my Master’s thesis with the acknowledgement page! It was the one page where my fingers flew flawlessly across the keyboard. So today, I write an acknowledgement post. (Just in case, you know, my book does get published and I have *no* time for writing this because I'd be jet-setting on book tours).

This is an acknowledgement to the gal-pal-gang that has undoubtedly influenced my life in so many ways. Initially, we were seven girls, most of us out-of-towners, a little lost in a huge city. We met each other in class, went on a couple of completely crazy trips (that have all been recorded faithfully here) and became friends for life.

So this post is dedicated to them. I warn you, it is a long, somewhat narcissistic (what isn’t?) and definitely an indulgent post on a group of seven people, fondly (and otherwise) referred to as The Glove.

Why, Glove, you ask? It's simple, really. Initially, we started off as a group of seven *single* girls out to explore the country's most romantic spot, The Taj Mahal, on Valentine's day. We believed in the theory of No Love, Only Glove.

But today, as I write this, I see each of the Glove slowly biting the dust (all in good ways, so no complaints). Honestly, I assumed that when the glove would find love, the whole BFF theory would fizzle out....but it hasn't, and that's what makes us what we are. So here are some quirks about the Glove, and what makes us the wacky group that we are.

I'll start alphabetically (because that way, like how it has been *all my life*, I can ensure I leave the best for the last. Which would, uh, be me. This would be the time when I'm glad I'm isolated in a city faaaar from the rest of you.)

The Fiery Nair, Aishwarya : I've tagged her blog for a reason. A couple of lines is simply not enough to describe her. Currently suffering from a major bout of Birthday Bipolar Disorder where she is showing Manic episodes of 'YEEEAYYYY MERA BUDDAY AANE WAALA HAI' all over facebook...to Depressive episodes where she's re-watching a million photographs and tagging us in emo posts about how we won't be in Delhi for the birthday, she is a total patakha. Aish is someone who can give Diwali an inferiority complex. My encyclopedia of rare and extremely cheapad songs. If a Glove version of Kolaveri Di ever turns viral on Facebook, we'll know who's responsible.

Al the Maal: (even though Al is phonetically supposed to rhyme with Fal of Falcon) Maal, she is. The face that has inspired random canteen boys at DU south to fraandship her on facebook, giving us so much fodder for gossip. Alika, or Potate, would cease to function without the internet. In fact, she'd be forced to invent her own browsing device - an ALternet. :P Nonetheless, thanks to you, we have Muttley, the official Glove pet! And yes, your stalking abilities know no bounds. I'm still very grateful for that long 479 bus ride where you answered almost every arbitrary query I had about the origin of life. Go figure!

Indu, the Blue Moon: When she first told me her name meant the moon, I didn't realize how true she lives up to the phrase - a blue moon. Her appearance on cyberspace is really a celestial miracle. But all said and done, she's an extremely witty and hilarious person to be around. From that moonlight excursion at JNU (and yes, I did think there were kidnappers lurking in all those secluded forests inside.) to long long walks in Dortmund, Indu's presence in the Glove is no less than 4 Daler Mehendis in Tunak Tunak Tun (which we will *definitely* rework on.)

Mash, The Subtle Bihari Vajpayee: Mahashweta is what we call, the anticlimax of subtlety. We've been caught like deer in headlights SO many times by her blatant observations, but her winning smile has always gotten us through the embarrassments!

A small example of this would be:
Al: Psst. Don't look now, but that creepy dude in the library is watching us here again.

Mash: Really? *Lights up* Where? Where? *Looks everywhere, making sure even non-creepy dudes look at us now* I can't see him ya!

Mash, we love you for those priceless gems in the canteen! And the maggi cravings. And the salient, but strong stability you bring to us insane ones.

Mizaj, the Photu-Behen: Words can't describe her, because she will hand you 15 GB worth of pictures that can! She has, in her own inimitable style, captured every emotion, every moment and every thread of the fabric that makes the Glove. But behind the lens, lies a very special person. (who *just* cannot pick up the phone, damn it.) Again, my encyclopedia for a *million* odd doubts about everything. Also, the reason for Glove opening its arms to a new member, Butter-in-Law. :) (You *do* know that our presence may somewhat turn the wedding into a bollywood masala movie, right?)

Goswami, the Mommy: Sneha (sometimes, I forget that's what your parents named you!) is the Mommy of the Glove. In fact, she's The Mommy. Period. Be it making us reach college on time, or settling the constant random squabbles, mommy's presence is impossible to miss. Those Janpath raids for earrings and Sarojini raids for Gladiators, I love watching mommy bargain with all the bhaiyas. Of course, her most precious dialogue is only meted out to us: Chappal Marungi tere ko! And of course, we never take her threats seriously. No one can, when it is meted with that electrocuting smile!

Aaaand Me: Haha. So I figured I'd write a long glowing list about my awesomeness, and then realized, this blog does that anyway. :P I shall spare the readers. This. One.Time.

So this makes up the seven rare species that make the Glove. We redefine 'Fraandship'. 'Nuf said.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Of Love and Leptospirosis

I can think of no other 'young adult' who would use Love and Leptospirosis in the same phrase. But then again, what's the point of a blogpost if the title doesn't catch your attention. It's monsoon time (okay, meteorologically speaking it may not be. But where I come from, it rains perpetually.) Time for two conditions, both equally debilitating and capable of losing your sanity over. If you clicked on this post because of the title, then you would belong to either of the given two categories.

a) Love - Ah, so you're a sucker for the 'Happily-Ever-After' *Heart-Heart* type stories, aren't you? I don't mean to sound like a cynic, but they only exist in Mills and Boon. If those books weren't so darned unputdownable during turbulent flights, I would've been the first person to diss them. But they really cure me of aerophobia and I have nothing against them. It's just the illusion that they create about eternal love, which makes me cynical. And I hate that. I want to be able to believe in things like 'Love at First Sight', bumping into Prince Charming at a completely random place, reunions with old friends - the fodder for all these books. But reality steps in and takes over my hyperactive imagination.

Actually, reality steps in a little too hard.

Now when I see the rains, I don't worry about not having someone to dance around the trees with. I worry about...

b) Leptospirosis -- In case you haven't heard of it, it is a rare case of rat-fever that occurs most commonly during monsoons because of rats and waterlogging. If there is such a thing as a perfect couple, its rats and sewer water. (You must be thinking what on earth has happened to this person, jumping from love to sewers in a single page!!). But its true. A disease that is rampantly gaining awareness (if not patients), due to the ideal conditions this city presents.

Sigh. I want to go back to being the old me. Seeing rains and running out to the terrace. Seeing kochhe (kichad, for the non-kannada colloquial connoisseurs) and jumping in it with full force so I can get my friends' shoes all icky. (if you haven't already concluded I'm weird from the title, then this should clinch it.) Walking in a drizzle to eat ice cream with hot chocolate sauce. Just staring at the pearly downpour.

For love, I'd trade my Prince Charming for Pied Pieper anyday.