Monday, July 28, 2008


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.