Monday, December 29, 2008

My Window


Beside this window I spent nine years of my waking hours. Or minutes - being a last-minute-you-really-can't-afford-to-sleep-anymore kind of late riser I've never really got the time to enjoy a beautiful morning.

Every weekday at 5:45 my dad would wake me up when he left for work. Amma is probably the most optimistic person on the planet - all through these nine years I've asked her everyday to wake me up at 6 am. And she's done it whenever I asked her to - and continued it every 15 minutes till I finally wake up at half past seven, twenty minutes before the school bus is scheduled to pick me up at my doorstep. Most mornings are a blur to me. Three minutes dashing in and out of the shower, five minutes searching desparately for ironed clothes, twenty seconds in front of the dressing table trying to look presentable, one minute gulping down breakfast with no respect for what was served. To this day I consider it among my top achievements that in nine years, I can still count with one finger the number of times I've missed the school bus.

But the window is special. On those lazy mornings on the weekend when I'd just woken up, I'd prop my pillow against the head of the bed and stare for hours at the backyard. Somewhere along that timeframe there was a mulberry tree that grew just next to the wall. I remember the excitement when one day, after having learnt metamorphosis in biology, I saw among the deep red and the green of the tree, a fat green caterpillar. This was my obsession for weeks, till it finally disappeared leaving the thin shell of its cocoon behind.

On the days India played cricket and I got to stay home and watch, I always watched it by the window. The window was my little lucky charm for the Indian cricket team. The match would start off with the windows closed, and the room in darkness. And then it all depended on how we played. If we kept losing wickets or were getting trashed on the field, the two panels of the window would open by varying amounts - casting those "lucky shadows" about the room. The challenge was to get the shadows just right - like the stars being in place or something.

There are other memories. On the road behind our backyard, the neighbour taking his two cows out to the field. Somedays, a battered white Ambassador car visiting our backies. Other days, the crows pecking at all the ripe mangoes that always made Ammachy so angry. In the evenings, Amma watering her precious cinammon plants.

I no longer live or sleep by my window of nine years. The house has undergone a massive refurnishing since then, making it lots more beautiful and almost unrecognizable to someone seeing it after a while. But when I go visiting, this is my favourite room of all. The room with my window - because when I look out through it I can almost see the mulberry tree with its green and deep red mulberries, leaves half gnawed through by the caterpillar infestation. I guess that sometimes, all of us wish we can go back to a simpler time.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

About Love

Never heard it said better.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

From 1 Corinthians 13

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rain and Shine

It's strange that when time moves so quickly, you look back at it and feel you've learnt a lot more than what those four months could have taught you. In fact most of them are not lessons, they're just realizations. And these realizations help you to deal with yourself more than any effort to set things right.

Somewhere along the way, we all see - that it's not the world that is unfair to you, it's not people, it's not yourself - that's just how it is. No one's life is perfect. That trying to feel happier is not the answer sometimes - it is to be happy with the way you feel. That friends you're hardly in touch with are as much a part of your life as those you always talk to. And that when you learn to let go of the past, the future looks a lot more peaceful.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What a girl can't do

Tagged by Pareltank

DB, Tunisian - My kid's six months old now. No, my husband doesn't work - my job's enough for the both of us now. Someone has to stay home and take care of our baby.

AE, Saudi - You're not getting married for another two years? That's too long, man! I'm getting married in two months - can't wait! No more cleaning rooms, ironing clothes, cooking meals - you get someone to do it all for you!

AR, Indian - Oh well, it's one thing whether your husband says it up to you whether you still want to work after getting married. I wouldn't want to get married to someone who feels its OK to give up my job and relocate where he is if it's OK with me. Doesn't that mean he pretty much doesn't care?

MB, Sudanese - It's really tough to manage women, my friend! Before they get married they seem accomodating and understanding. And then once you're married, suddenly there's this big career complex - about who's working and why there should be any sacrifice on either side. And then a kid comes along - and complicates matters even more!

FF, Omani - Nah, it's really not fair to ask her to quit her job and come here to Saudi. What's she going to do here? If I don't get a transfer out of here I'll probably just quit this job and take up a peaceful government job somewhere in my little town.

Notes:

1. I made this post the way it is to bring out one thing I realized - people's views on feminism are part of the life they've seen growing up, part of their culture and tradition. As cultures and traditions change, so do these views. However, I can never claim that one person's view is the entire country's view - they're not even a sample space. And while you have your own view, to some extent all of us are influenced by what people who are part of this sample space think.

2. All these lines are from real-life conversations - none of them are made up. :)

3. FF is now happily married and settled in Oman, running a private business with a few of his pals. His wife is a computer engineer.

Signs

I love the safety signs on a rigsite. It's also kind of impressive to visitors who think rigs don't really give a damn about safety. All that has changed.

This one at the safety induction tells you that time is important, but more important than time is safety:

There is no work so urgent or important that we can't take the time to do it safely.

I saw this one on a rig floor - encouraging you never to be shy when you have a question:

When in doubt - ASK. The only wrong question is the one you did not ask.

Of course some are great sources of entertainment - like this one which tells you to smoke only in designated areas.

Please do not smoke in here. Smoke is the waste left behind from your cigarette. You know what I leave behind after I drink water? How would you like it if I stood on top of you and pissed all over you? Respect my preference like I respect yours.

Of course no one really cares about swearing or cursing here. Why else would you see this in the main office?

How about a nice big cup of Shut the F*** Up? THINK before you say something stupid.

And then finally there is that sign which makes you think that inspite of all the safety they're promoting, there's always one sign too many. One that makes it seem like you're three years old and/or retarded. Like this one posted 35 feet above the ground on the rig floor:

Do not jump. Use stairs.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Starboard Sunrise


The golden yellow on the horizon
We spend a lifetime trying to get there
But why is it we fail to see
That it's everywhere on the ocean?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A little bit of green

Money is not everything in life. But it is most things. I remember telling A - The only people who say money is not important are the ones who have enough of it. Or the ones who've always had enough. For everyone else, we choose to believe it doesn't matter - because it is the right thing to believe. No one likes to sound materialistic.

But the truth is that in the satisfaction of being able to afford - your dream car, a birthday gift, an expensive dinner - you find your happiness.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dreams

video

What you decide to do with your life doesn't have to be anyone else's business.

(Scene taken from The Pursuit of Happyness)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lifesparks

Smile - even if it doesn't make you happy.
Weep - it's because you care so much.
Dream - it keeps your world alive.
Share - two hearts are stronger than one.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lunar Depression

Eight days in Shaybah - tiring. Ten hours of sleep in the last four days, food eaten out of a paper plate in the middle of a million dirty tools, a rig floor covered in drilling mud. My clothes still smell a little like hydraulic oil. At least now I'm back at the airport and waiting for a flight back to town. Mujeeb and I are talking about the peace we're hoping to have over the next couple of days - "They're having Eid holidays in town man - peaceful. No waking up at 6 am, no sleepy morning meetings, no job preparations. Office opens only on Sunday." That's three days away.

On the taxi back home I have pleasant thoughts - wake up really late, a visit to town, a little pending shopping, cooking the next evening. Office - well, maybe for a couple of hours in between.

Life's different at 7 am the next morning. I wake up red-eyed to a ringing cell phone. Ali H. I curse loudly. I'm pretty sure I know why I've been woken up so early. And sure enough - another job, and leaving in a couple of hours. I'm PISSED. All in caps. Pissed through getting ready, through the short trip to office, through the three hour taxi ride to the heliport, through the half hour chopper ride offshore.

But then it ends there. Going down after checking in at the radio room, I join Thamer and Hussain who got there four days ago - guys who've been fasting almost fourteen hours a day, every day for the past one month, in preparation of their biggest festival of the year. Fasting - without food or water - when back in town, when at office, or when working on the rig floor in the middle of summer. And at the end the only thing they really want is to celebrate Eid with their families. They're not complaining though.

I don't prepare a tenth as much for Christmas. And yet I never learn to shut up. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Days Apart

Sometime in 1986

We're both at our grandparents place, digging tunnels in the pile of sand that's in the backyard. We started at opposite ends of the pile, and the objective is to make the tunnel pass across the pile so we can reach through it and shake hands with each other. "Oh mom was telling me that to be twins, you've got to be born on the same day." "What! That means we're not - " "Yeah! Can you believe that! She says you have to have the same parents also!" After a moment's disappointed silence, we get back to digging our cave.

Summer of 1989

"Yuck, throw properly for once! Look at where the ball has gone - go get it!" I pause at the edge of the stone steps, looking at the mess of mud, twigs, fallen leaves and fruits that lie heavily on the path ahead. I gingerly take a step forward and jump back with an Ouch! "I've got nothing on my feet!"

"Oh come on already!" In half a minute Matt has sprinted across the path and back in his bare feet, and we're playing Catch again.

Christmas Holidays 1994

"Hah! Gotcha!" Matt holds up the ball triumphantly. I'm as usual the horrible sportsman. "No! Didn't it bounce off the wall? I saw it!" Matt looks at me in disbelief. "You're joking, right?" He throws the ball up and catches it in his other hand. "No! You caught it off the first bounce!" (shamelessly persistent). Matt smiles. "Right." He shakes his head disapprovingly as he goes back to bowl.

April 2001

Both of us are sitting across a table in the hostel common room. "I hate this section in Math! How the hell do you find the distance of this line from the z-axis!" "Oh I can tell you that! But you tell me how to integrate this thing first."

As we're working on our sums, our friend walks in. "Hey, Nitin and I were thinking about starting another round of 28. You guys want to join us?" We look at each other and drop our pens.

So much for 3-D geometry.

Dec 31, 2007

"I'm thinking I should give the ticket checker guy some money. I need an AC seat!" "Dude, it's like a three hour ride - and it's not that hot!" We hug goodbye. Towards midnight Matt calls to tell me he's got back safely. "Oh and hey I got that AC seat halfway through the trip!" I shake my head and smile.

***

Given how infrequently we talk to each other, with Matt, I never really feel out of touch.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our Space

video

You know, I believe if there's any kind of God, it wouldn't be in any of us. Not you, or me... but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed, but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.


- Céline in Before Sunrise

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olive Green

On my first day of every trip back home, I pick up a dusty pair of green suede shoes from under the stairs. Inspite of efforts to keep them in good shape, time has worn them out. The little label that says POWER is still there on the sides. But the soles are coming off, the olive green has gone to a dust-mixed-with-green colour, and they can be worn only in dry weather. I still use them on every one of my random daily walks though.

It's surprising how attached you can get to some things, and how much you end up loving them even though they are long past throw-away time. This one for me is a reminder of a wonderful year. Of running behind crowded Bangalore buses to make it in time for those weekend meetups. Of standing outside a theater on MG for a Rs. 50 front-stall ticket. Of Chinese food at a little restaurant on the first floor. Of aimless walks down the main roads. Of getting wet in the rain. Of daily trips to the office holding a newspaper in one hand and a water bottle in the other. Of strawberry smoothies and chocolate fantasies in the cafe below. Of walking through malls buying nothing, eating something, talking everything. Of sitting on bikes that don't belong to you. Of rickshaw rides that cost the earth. Of one-day trips that never cost the earth. Of early mornings at the bus station. Of ice creams and milkshakes.

And among all this, of someone who taught me that no matter how you felt yesterday, or how you will feel tomorrow, all that's important in your life is the way you're feeling - right now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vandana

Vandana joined classes two days after I did. Standing at one corner of the 4-feet deep pool, I smile seeing Aravind bring her along. Pink flowers on her swimsuit, pink goggles, pink shower cap, pink wristwatch strapped on to her little hand. I always like pink on a girl, but this blast of pink makes me smile again.

Aravind picks her up and dips her into the pool. "Close your mouth. Close your mouth!" That's his I'm-going-to-dip-you-into-the-pool line. Vandana resurfaces gasping for breath. "I got water in my nose!" she whines a little. She runs up the pool steps and stands on the shore. "Enough for today sir!" She whines again. "No problem... no problem Vandana!" Aravind assures her.

Yesterday, ten days from when she first joined, Vandana is bursting with love for water. Aravind holds her high above the water at the 6-feet edge of the pool and throws her in. "Swim Vandana, swim!" he shouts from the edge. Vandana is off like a bullet. Five seconds later she's covered the breadth of the pool. "Let me jump again sir!" she screams, her eyes twinkling with excitement.

For me, who still needs every muscle working to death to swim three-quarters the length of the pool, 3-year old Vandana is my superhero.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Moment's Silence

(Some of these thoughts have been borrowed)

"Rads! Guess who's calling?"

For a few seconds he hears nothing on the other end. "O my God! Roy?" Rads was almost screaming "I don't even remember when I talked to you last, it's been so long! When did you get back from Singapore?"

"Back home on a short break now. Thought I'd give you a call... remember how inseparable we used to be?"

"Mm." Rads is thoughtful "That was a long time ago."

"I guess. So what have you been up to? Weren't you trying for that job in Singapore? You should absolutely come there. We can have so much fun."

"Yea... I'm not too sure though... getting kind of cozily comfortable in Mumbai. You got something for me?" Rads laughs weakly. Suddenly the conversation feels a little heavy. She rests her forhead in the palm of her hand.

"Is something wrong Rads? You sound a little tired"

What makes your closest friends fade out with time? Why do they always say a long-distance relationship is so difficult to survive? Is it that love fades out with time? Or is it that people change with time and you feel uncomfortable with this change? Probably the two of you haven't changed at all. Maybe some of us find it easier to "move on", find closer friends and learn to relate to them better. While for some others, those closest to us are those relationships we made three years ago. Is it that in all the closeness we share, we don't understand this about each other?

"I'm all right Roy. Can we catch up over lunch someday?"

Rads's lips broaden in a faint smile. Sometimes in failing to understand others, you understand yourself so much better.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Evening in Nuayyim

On a hot summer evening, Ady and I were tidying up our container before doing our pre-job checks. Ady gave me a "I'll go call the electrician, mate!" holler before walking up to the rig offices. He got back around ten minutes later with a medium-built man with a moustache and a toolbox in his hand. "Anil" he said, shaking my hand. His face and the name put together were pretty much a giveaway. "Malayali aano?" - Are you a Malayali? - I asked. My guess was right. And then there was a lot of talking - talking before work, talking while dragging our 480 volt cable up to the mud tanks, talking while checking our circuit breakers. Work done, he left, and Ady and I continued what we had got there to do.

About half an hour later, Anil returned. "Joseph Chettan is here. He's from your same place, he said he'd like to meet you." I wasn't in much of a tearing hurry anyway. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked about things I now associate with every Malayali acquaintance - Where in Kerala are you from?, How many siblings do you have?, When did you last visit home?, Do you plan to get married soon?, Politics there are a bitch, eh? - among tons of others.

Joseph is in his early forties, he is the man in charge of bringing food supplies to the rig. He would drive his pickup three hundred kilometers, bringing in fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and poultry for those three-course meals everyday. Anil, in his mid-thirties, is the chief electrician at the rig, had what is to me one of the most dangerous everyday jobs - everything concerning power, high voltage, anything that could go Boom! in your face the next minute. I was the youngest of the three, pretty much a rookie at my work on the rig floor compared to the other two.

In those twenty minutes no one talked to me like I was a kid, and I didn't think much about how old they were either. We were among those million other Mallus in the "Gulf", talking and laughing and glad to have met each other at one of life's crossroads. "I get off next week. Back home for five weeks!" Anil says with a broad smile, "Excited to be seeing my family again. They're the ones who you work so much for, right?"

"They're the ones." Joseph and I agree, and the three of us smile faintly at each other. In the middle of the Nuayyim desert under the moonlit sky, we share a brief moment of brotherhood - separated miles in the work we do but united by that common purpose.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This Side of Paradise

Somewhere within each of us, we have the desire to spill our thoughts, share our feelings, speak our mind. Not just to anyone around, because we know most of them don't care. Or even if they do, it just doesn't feel right talking about everything with the guy sitting next to you. In life, we all try to find someone who can relate to and understand our words the same way we feel it, with the same intensity and passion that we first thought them. It could be your sibling, your friend, someone you're in love with. Or who knows, maybe the guy sitting next to you after all.

It's a tough search. One that involves disappointments, expectations, dependence, misunderstandings and miscalculations. The answers to many questions in your life are not that difficult. When you tell someone your problem, you don't expect them to provide a solution. You can usually do that yourself. No, you expect them to share the way you feel. When you cry, you want them to cry with you. When you think, you want them to think with you. You're not trying to set everything right, you're only trying to share everything that's wrong.

It can surprise you where you find that answer. Maybe in a dusty old photo album under your stairs. Maybe in the squeaky red sandals your roomate wore to school. Maybe in a land far far away. Maybe in turning the pages of your favourite book for the hundredth time.

Some friends can never really be described. Simply because everytime you try to, you can't believe how lucky you got.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting Back

54 degrees and sand in your ears.
Cracked lips despite a ton of lip balm.
Smelling diesel and drilling mud.
Drinking like a million soft drinks a day.
June wasn't exactly peaceful.

Home has never felt better. * sigh *

Monday, March 03, 2008

Formas de Amor

In taking your parents for granted.
In the tears and smiles that your memories bring.
In the support you've got when you never expected it.
In the understanding you hope for when you're in love.
In the happiness you share just knowing friends.

Forms of love that we understand. Only you and I.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Written in Pink

Loud music played at the open-air cafe. Walking out of the 13-floored building, we took a look around us to take in the essence of the cold Bangalore night. A 40-something man in a T-Shirt that had a caricature of Lennon with "Imagine" scrolled under it, reading a book, sipping coffee. A couple holding hands, sharing a single large cup of cappuccino and a sandwich between them. Bigger groups sitting around tables talking, laughing loudly, some throwing straws around the table.

And then a little girl, four feet tall, hair plaited, nail colour cracked, with a thin and inadequate-looking brown sweater wrapped around her, standing at the gates. In her hands she held a bunch of roses and a faded white plastic cover with something-TEXTILES printed on it. Under the bright streetlight, the weight of the building in front of her made her seem smaller than the little thing she was, the darkness of the evening making it way past the bedtime of any other child her age.

"Bhaiyya, buy a rose please." We looked at each other and then at her. "How much for one?" I asked. She streched out the bunch to me. "Buy them all no bhaiyya, then I can go home also." There was something in her voice that melted our hearts. "OK, how much for all of them?" We smiled at her. Her eyes suddenly lit up, the prospect of an early trip back home and the warmth and joy of sleep suddenly in front of her.

"One, two, three..." we watched her count every rose to the end "... eighteen. One rose is ten rupees... so eighteen... umm... (frantic calculation with her fingers lest us prospective customers lose interest and walk away)... 180 rupees bhaiyya." She thrust them out to us as we handed her the money. "Thank you bhaiyya!" There was no scream of joy in her voice, no childish reaction of having finished the day early, but we sensed the gratitude. In that one impulsive moment I wanted to lift her up and swirl her above the top of my head, and hear her laugh out loud with nothing holding back her five or six years.

I didn't do that, but in the next half an hour of a rickshaw ride back home, with the eighteen pink roses clutched in one of our hands, we both knew it was the perfect end to the best day we'd had in almost two years.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Without You

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again
I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Forgiveness,
Even if, even if there's no reason anymore.

Saturday, January 26, 2008