Friday, November 23, 2007

Meet Charlie Brown

"Charlie Brown wins your heart with his losing ways. It always rains on his parade, his baseball game, and his life. He's an inveterate worrier who frets over trifles (but who's to say they're trifles?). Although he is concerned with the true meaning of life, his friends sometimes call him "blockhead." Other than his knack for putting himself down, there are few sharp edges of wit in his repertoire; usually he's the butt of the joke, not the joker. He can be spotted a mile away in his sweater with the zig zag trim, head down, hands in pocket, headed for Lucy's psychiatric booth. He is considerate, friendly and polite and we love him knowing that he'll never win a baseball game or the heart of the little red-haired girl, kick the football Lucy is holding or fly a kite successfully. His friends call him "wishy-washy," but his spirit will never give up in his quest to triumph over adversity."

From Peanuts.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I'm told that lack of social interaction has brought about telltale signs of a chronic loner in me -- I'm terribly tongue-tied when small talk is in progress, I goof up even when I have to say 'hi' or 'bye' to people, I make excuses to avoid crowded celebrations, I sleep away my weekend, etcetera, etcetera.

In short, I'm told that I should get a life.

Well, I don't tell them that I'm actually having the best time of my life. It will kill the fun, you see, if I reveal it. So, I carry a rather helpless/glum/morose expression on my face and enjoy all the 'oh-you-pathetic-soul' look from others.

It's good fun, I tell you!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


We used to laugh at his stories; sometimes, even at his face while he was still narrating them. "Why do you have to keep telling these made up stories?" we used to tease him, "We don't even find them funny." But he never seemed to mind our sarcasm. A queer fellow he was.

Years later, we heard that he did manage to write a book or something, and also got it published. A strange book he wrote -- about talking animals, walking trees, humans with horns and tails, and all such bizarre things. We wonder how he got a publisher.

I saw him in the market the other day while he was buying tomatoes. "Hey," I said to him, "Why did you bother to write that book of yours? It's total trash." Hearing this, he paused upon the pile of tomatoes, picked up one and hurled it at my face. Then he chased me all through the market. It's only because I regularly go to the gym that I could outrun him.

Well, you tell me, how am I supposed to know that when you become a writer (an established writer, with your books published and all), you get the creative license to throw tantrums, and tomatoes as well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recent read (and watch)

Etgar Keret is my latest find. Keret's collection of short stories One Last Story and That's It, which I read during the Diwali holidays, contains some very clever, bizarre, and arresting short stories. As the title of the book suggests, the stories are indeed extremely short (on an average, running at 2-3 pages each). But within that short span, Keret is able to create and evoke moods -- often with a unique style laced with humor, fantasy, and unusual insights -- that remains with us even after the story ends (or, rather, the way it does not end). Keret's voice is urbane, his descriptions are sharp but detached, his characters are fantastically imagined, and his stories are full of craziness. Dark and disturbing at times, his tragicomic characters and plots are so terse and taut -- you end up finishing the stories even before you grasp it, and then you keep wondering about what it all was.

If Keret's book is slim, A Suitable Boy, which I'm reading for the last six months or so, is mindbogglingly voluminous, full of numerous characters, elaborate descriptions, countless plots and sub-plots. with 1349 pages, it is also the biggest book I've ever read. But the size, surprisingly, isn't a deterrent; rather, one almost feels that it shouldn't have been told in any lesser pages. Vikram Seth, the author, weaves a sprawling tale, set in a nascent, independent India, describing not only the people and places associated with the four main families in the novel, but also goes on to describe, perhaps in immaculate details, the traditions and festivals, the nitty-gritties of law and political undercurrents, the customs of courtesans and common man, the caste equations, the conficts within universities and boardrooms, the characteristics of urbane and rustic milieu -- in short, he writes about a whole way of life, with a pace that's unhurried, and with a style that's pleasingly old-fashioned. The book is easy on the reader; it almost turns into a companion, humoring and entertaining you, when you need a respite from your own boring life.

Now, as for watching, besides the junk I watched on TV, I watched Majid Majidi's Baran. Iranian films, of late, seems to have captured everyone's attention, with their flair for saying complex things simply. Baran is also a simple story; a simple love story. An Iranian boy Latif, who works at a construction site, resents the intrusion of Afgan refugees who, he thinks, are a threat to his own job. So, when a young worker Rahmat, who comes to work as a replacement for his injured father, eventually takes over his tea-serving job, he is furious. He makes every effort to thwart his opponent. Until, one day, he finds that Rahmat is actually a young girl in the guise of a boy. Suddenly, Latif is filled with tenderness for this girl, whom he now wants to guard and protect in every way. The film ends with Latif watching the girl's family moving away to Afghanistan on a cold rainy morning. As the car moves away, Latif stands watching the footprint of the girl, which is now getting drowned in the falling raindrops.

Monday, November 05, 2007

On a Sunday

It's a bright sunny day of November -- a brilliant blue sky; fluffy white clouds; pleasant breeze; fluttering trees. You open the windows wide, sunshine streams in, and you break into a happy chuckle.

It's a day you want to spend alone. Lying on your back, with a book in your hand, occasionally looking out of the window. You don't have anything particular to do today; you can spend your time as you wish.

Lying still on the bed, you let your mind wander. You can also take a nap, by the way, probably hoping that you'll be taken over by a pleasant day-dream. But even if you have to keep awake, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear -- a few twittering birds from somewhere on the trees, a rhythmic hammering sound coming from a distance, the diffused sound of vehicles coming from the road outside, the faint shout of children playing somewhere, the hiss of a pressure cooker from a neighboring house, and many other indistinguishable sound -- a lot of which you do not catch on a busy day. You feel happy this way -- lying down, doing nothing, while the world passes you by.

There are a bunch of people who are compulsively active. Their calendars are always packed, they always have to rush somewhere, and they always need to keep doing something. To be idle, for them, is the most difficult thing to do.

And then, as if to balance things out, like all laws of nature, there's an exact opposite bunch of people -- those who can lie on their back for hours, simply do nothing, and still enjoy it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

On the road

The bus I'm travelling on comes to a halt amongst the din. The roads are blocked due to a strike, we're informed. No buses are going farther.

It's always horrible to get stuck up midway. More so if it's a obscure place and you don't know what to do. The crowds thronging outside the buses were of no help. They only added to the confusion and frustration.

Amidst all the suggestions that were flying around, I found two worth consideration. One: We cross the river by boat and try catching a bus from the other bank, where the strike is not effective. Two: We hire a cycle rickshaw at an exorbitant price and go cross the river by the bridge, which is a few kilometers away.

I decided for the second option. To cross the river Brahmaputra on a boat is not for the faint-hearted.

The cycle rickshaw takes us on a bumpy ride, through lonely winding roads along the bank of the river. We also traverse a few hillocks on our way and at times, when we're going up a particularly steep slope, we get down and push the rickshaw uphill. Needless to say, I curse the whole world and am angry like hell.

Finally, when we're up on the two-kilometer-long bridge (Naranarayan Setu), it's almost dusk. The setting sun is reflected on the flowing water below and the darkening hills on either bank looks eerily quiet. The river breeze, damp and heavy, touches us stealthily.

All these, to me, seem grotesquely fairytale-ish. The setting, although indescribably beautiful, invokes in me a feeling of gloom and fear.

To ease myself, I try to strike up a conversation with the rickshawallah.