Thursday, May 24, 2007


I don't remember who it was, maybe Mahesh Bhatt, who was once asked what it meant to him to be rich and he replied: "To walk into a bookstore and be able to buy any book I want."

Today I bought a book, two pairs of trousers, a necktie, some kiwifruit, some corn nuts, a bag of figs, some chocolate, a big bottle of red grape juice, a big bottle of red orange juice (yes!) , a small bottle of kiwi lime juice (toothpaste aftertaste) and a small bottle of strawberry juice.

And then I went home to have lunch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Saw Volver this morning. Of all the Almodovar films I've seen this is probably the one with the most restraint, with none of the false ambience, the shrill splashes of color that characterize his style. Volver has a quiet radiance that stays with you after the movie's ended. I liked the characters, especially Sole, the lonely, naive sister who sincerely believes she's living with a ghost and Agustina, the wonderful, big-hearted neighbour who fills the screen with strength and grace whenever she comes on. Even Penelope Cruz doesn't manage to chafe as much as she usually does. Although too glamorous and not quite adept at filling the smaller nuances of a character like Raimunda, she does a decent job of making us feel for her character's life. Of course, this being an Almodovar movie, all the women have to be looking gorgeous, even if they're mopping blood off the floor after a hard day at work. Still, it's a pleasant diversion from the usual conceits. Watch it if you get a chance.

PS. Apparently they have a Carrefour in Spain as well.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yesterday when I was young

My uncle was visiting from Pakistan over the weekend. There was a conference in Dubai he has to attend tomorrow and he flew in a little earlier to spend some days with us. It was a good weekend. My uncle's a well-travelled, very articulate person and it's a pleasure to sit down and listen in on the conversations he and my parents have. It's an old habit with us children, sitting on the periphery of adult conversation and quietly imbibing the details. Of course, my cousins and I are no longer children - some actually have children of their own - but whenever we're home, we defer the pleasures of talking to the adults and recede into our childhood roles, living vicariously through the experiences of our parents. It sounds a little regressive as I write about it now but some of the most important, most durable things I know I've learnt from the nuances of these conversations, through the wisdom distilled around kitchen tables and living room clutter. When you're with family, everything is simple and easy.

Before my uncle left, he called me to him and discreetly pressed some money into my hand. I tried to protest but he wouldn't listen. Buy something for yourself, he said and turned around, dismissing all resistance. It was a typical gesture with him, familiar to all of us from our childhood. Of course back then we were greedy and would look forward to his generosity, making plans in anticipation of the event for what we do with the money once we received it. Now, though, it came as a complete surprise. I'm an adult myself and the idea of spending money, of purchase as adventure, doesn't quite carry the thrill it used to when I was younger. And yet, I found that his small gesture had brightened my day. For the rest of the evening I walked around with a glow in my pocket. It wasn't the money - I have enough to meet both my needs and my indulgences. It was, I think, the pleasure of receiving a gift. As we grow older the occurrence of gifts, the kind given with genuine affection not bound up in habit or artifice, tends to diminish considerably. Most of us, when we want something, just go out and buy it. The slow agony of waiting, the long hours spent in pleasurable anticipation, the rush of delight upon actually finding ourselves in possession of the beloved object - all these things are absent from our lives. And so, when a gift, a surprise given with love and untainted by avarice, is suddenly presented to us, it tends to unravel all those childhood emotions we thought we'd lost. For a few brief moments, the years fall away and we are children again. And that is the real gift, that luxury of being loved.

May it happen for you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Titli and Raincoat

Abbu and I saw Titli this weekend. It's an indie by Rituporno Ghosh, one of his earlier works before he became known to the Hindi speaking world for Raincoat. The story is about a teenage girl who has a raging crush on a popular film star and how a chance encounter with him goes on to reveal the relationship he shared with her mother many years ago. Implausible, of course, but beautifully done and with stellar performances from everyone, including Mithun Chakraborty who I've never before seen in a role where he didn't feel compelled to scream out his dialogue. It's almost possible now to believe that this is a National Award winning actor and not some abysmal passing craze.

I think I'll watch Raincoat now. Meanwhile watch Titli if you get the chance.

Postscript: Saw Raincoat. It's alright, nothing to write home about, partly because Ghosh was working with non-actors and partly because, well, unrequited love's lost its appeal. It's exhausting to watch people trapped in a wilful refusal to move on, to get ahead with life. Did like the short role of the best friend's wife, the small gestures of kindness she brings into the doom and gloom. Overall, not such a great movie which was a shame because it's based on one of my favorite short stories and has that killer song from Anubhav, Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan, which like O Henry's story, loses its charm when grafted on to such melancholic circumstances.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


So apparently I have bruxism.

And the treatment? Just rillaaaaax, advises the dentist. Also liberal use of this medication.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


The first time I read it I couldn't figure it out. PBJ? Is that really the name of a sandwich? It sounded too clunky, too intense to be a sandwich - a law firm, maybe, or a corporate merger, crunched together for distinction. Not a sandwich. And then someone explained it to me. PBJ is peanut butter and jelly. That gooey, sticky indispensable meal of childhood. And strangely enough, the acronym made sense. The clunk, the intensity, the cramped splendor. The roof of your mouth wedded to bread.

PBJ. It's not just a sandwich. It's an institution.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Any excuse will do

I remember the poet Gulzar once saying that when his work was translated into English he felt he was reading something written by a stranger. Going through my archives I have a similar sense of dissociation from my work. Of course I'm not a poet and my maudlin posts are seldom vulnerable to the sensitivities of interpretation. Nor do I write in multiple languages - going by the tattered shape of this blog, I can barely manage just one. Nevertheless, I feel a sense of displacement from what I'd written before. The person reflected in those posts is different from the person reading them and a translation has been enacted between the two personalities, a change of currency from past to present and one self extracting out of another. It is interesting to note the changes, the private arcs of metamorphosis along which the transition took place, and, in a way, a small history is contained in these modest pages. When I started the blog, I never imagined it would be this way, that three years down the line enough material would accumulate for a person to actually emerge from that motley assembly of observations, an individual dressed in the banal and the quotidian, earnest, naive, riddled with mistake and energy and enjoying his own unmistakable voice. But he has stepped out, thew and sinew my ink-and-paper twin, and through him, the blog now enjoys the weight of a past and, what's worse, the dubious merits of character. I'm not sure what to make of this. I suppose I should be proud of this achievement, of having stuck around long enough to gestate an identity. But part of me also feels a little anxious, a little deprived by the loss of anonymous privilege. It's a petty little dilemma. Not amenable to any reasonable conclusion except to thrash around and write about. And so I have.

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