June 30, 2011

The Silence Is Rest

We lived in a busy lane just a few months ago. Cars, motorcycles, and even buses and trucks used to pass right under our home in a honking hurry to reach their destination. The half-dozen children in the building, whose parents had bought peaceful homes and not anticipated the traffic diversions that Bangalore would collapse without, would scream their lungs out in the stairwell, forced to exhaust their bountiful supply of childhood energy without stepping out the building. In this cacophonous neighborhood pressure cookers would whistle, music wafted in through the window, and the neighborhood alcoholic and his wife would have a screaming match with dogs barking to egg them on.

And now:
The calluses on my feet beat a hollow rhythm as I walk barefoot on the floors of my home. Their sound is deafening. Through the double-glazed, weather-proof windows, not a whisper can pass. When the windows are opened to let it fresh air, one only catches the polite whoosh of cars going swiftly and silently by. Even the construction of the large complex across the road is progressing without much smash-clatter-bang.

They who can be calm in a storm are admirable. I cannot claim membership to their club. For me, my new-found silence is precious. Long days that go by without uttering a word, long naps that end only because I want to wake up, long periods of quiet that let you reflect without having to resist the constant assault of new stimuli…I am addicted to them all.

Some would say the din I’ve left behind is life-affirming: a heady cocktail of sound gushing through the labyrinth of existence. For me, there is too much life in that noise, and too much noise in that life.

June 23, 2011

Train Fan

What I love most about Europe is the trains. Clean, spacious, fast and comfortable. With huge windows that show you some of the best sights you’re likely to come across in life. Just settle in, put your coffee cup on the little table, and, if you’re feeling cheeky, lay a newspaper on the seat opposite you and put your feet up, and as the train pulls out of your pretty station, get set for a ride like none other.
Don’t look at anything that’s too close to you, or your head will spin! Focus on the distant horizon instead. It’s the best policy for life and for train rides. Take breaks from the view, else you’ll be possessed by a demonic urge to crash through the panes and go walking in that green field or the patch of woods you just passed by. Look at your fellow passengers intermittently: smile at the old ladies and get smiled back at (the sister recommends this highly), assure the two Italian hooligans that they did NOT need to punch their tickets at the station, smile pleadingly at the British girl to dissuade her from spending the next two hours talking on the phone about a party she’s planning.
If you have a long day ahead of or behind you, try a nap. Be prepared for the finger of authority poking your sleepy shoulder and demanding to see your ticket, though. Scores of fake sleepyheads have obviously tried to snooze their way out of buying a ticket, and your snores are falling on deaf and cutely suspicious ears.
The train is also a great place to catch up with work, because your real life partner, the Internet, is not there to distract you. Read a book, complete an assignment, or dream up the emails you need to send out. The next stop is: Workstation!
I just love the trains. Grumpy office-goers complain that the trains always run late (which they actually do, in the mornings), but what do grumpy office-goers know about trains running late? Yaatrigan kripaya dhyaan dein: Hyderabad ko jaaney waali AP Express samay se 12 ghantey deri se ravaana hogi….
I’ve been looking for an adventure, a sanctuary, a bedazzling, shifting panorama, and a long journey. For me, the trains of Europe are running right on time. Goede Reis!

June 19, 2011

Dutch Gotilla :(

Being in a writing profession and moving temporarily to a non-English-speaking country (at least as far as the job market is concerned) brings with it a dilemma: should I learn a new language and maybe not stay long enough to use it? Even if I study it for two years, there's no way I can be "writing" in it with any level of confidence. If I join day classes and get one of the two jobs in the country that I am qualified for?
So I've just been learning Dutch off the signboards, and having fun with it. Apologies if someone is hurt, but I just have to mix up everything I see!

Today's multilingual atyachar: "I am a flower-arranger lady" in Dutch + Hindi/Urdu + Japanese + Gujarati = "Ik ben ik ikebana ben"

June 14, 2011


Yesterday the last long weekend before Christmas came to an end (for the husband of course; my life is the longest weekend in the universe as of now). We spent the cloudy afternoon enjoying the curtailed train services, browsing through a sports goods store for cheap shoes, and finally buying an extra set of bed linen from Ikea.

As we walked back from Ikea with our precious cargo (the store started out as Wonderland for me, and now sucks happiness out of every pore of my large surface area body for some reason), we saw a sea… no… an ocean of humanity spill out towards the ArenA station. Old elderly white-haired couples hand in hand….roughly 34,000 of them, Wikipedia tells me, were exiting the ArenA after a concert. Many of them were aiming for the same train as we were, and after fortifying ourselves with a sandwich and lemonade (how quaint!) we got to the platform.

People “crowded” the platform in three lines parallel to the train tracks, they barely whispered as the train rumbled in, “jostled” in neat queues to get in first, 60-year-olds gallantly gave up their seats to 80-year-olds, and by the time the doors closed, hardly anyone was standing! We tried to entertain the venerable music lovers with a pole dance, of course, but nobody seemed interested.

I hope never to lose the feeling of joyful wonder at how well-behaved people can be. And how lovely Dutch trains are!

P.S. Stopped by at Pathe to pick up tickets for Kung Fu Panda 2 in IMAX 3D for next weekend! My first IMAX! Der aaye, durust aaye!

June 07, 2011


De Heer Gulati's camera lies on the coffee table at all times, to be put to use at a moment's notice when interesting action is spotted outside the window. He's finally put it all together in a post on his blog, thereby saving me tonnes of trouble. Take a look!

P.S. If he's De Heer, you'd guess I'm De Ranjha? Nope, I'm Mevrow (meefrow) and am called that by burly security guards in pleading voices as I walk into exit doors, carry big shoplifter bags into stores etc....

Talkin' Trash

Our neighbourhood has lovely garbage disposal points within 50 metres of any gate, and ever so often there’s something that’s too big for the bin, like a sofa, that someone just HAS to get rid of and there’s nothing to be done except to leave the sofa next to the bin! Till the garbage crew comes along, passers by are welcome to sit on the sofa and enjoy the view of the bin, or to even carry it home with them if they need it! (Sofa, not bin. You Guys!!!)

When our landlord gallantly came over with a cart to take away all the unwanted stuff from the apartment’s storeroom, he left quite a few nice things, like a beautiful mirror, next to the garbage area. On our post-landlord-inspection victory walk that evening, we saw a rather nice lady pick up the mirror, examine it, and walk away with it. It was heartening to see that the mirror was not going to lie around waiting for the trash lorry, shatter due to the crazy river breeze in the meantime, and hurt someone.

It also made me bold enough to prod about in collections of stuff people leave there. Once someone left a darling green ceramic pot that was crying out to be taken home and have a plant installed in, but the husband looked at me with a look that I don’t fancy being looked at with, and I put the pot back. And did what any sensible woman would do. I went alone the next time. But the pot was gone. Never mind.

Meanwhile, my oh-so-white and proper kitchen had been looking like a mess because of all the oil and spice bottles I want at hand while cooking, and with no way to keep them neatly, I’ve been arranging them the way I have arranged my whole life… in a mess mostly. But a visit to the garbage bin has changed everything! Some kind soul cleared his or her storeroom and threw away a drawer-separator that had obviously been purchased but never used. After a minute’s hesitation, I picked it up and triumphantly brought it home. The husband initially suffered a combined attack of shock and disgust, but was so amazed at what I did with it, that this post is being made on his special request!

P.S.: I think I'll paint it white

P.P.S.: I was warned I’d become a junkie in Amsterdam, and seems like it’s happening.

P.P.P.S.: Of course I cleaned it. You Guys!!!

June 04, 2011

Bag Bag Decay Boss!

After a day of housework (it DOES consume every single second of your waking life if you let it) I went for a walk last evening. It was like any other one-hour excursion into the city, with one difference. I carried no handbag. Nothing on my shoulder, nothing in my hands. Just the keys, wallet and cellphone in my pockets, and NO BAG. You know how unusual that is for a woman? VERY. How can I be so sure? I came across a good 4-5000 women in that hour…tourists, officegoers, general chill-outers and unemployed women who had had enough of housework for one day, and NOT A SINGLE ONE of them was without a bag of some sort. Some were carrying their houses on their shoulders, which is normal for people landing at Amsterdam Centraal Station, and a couple of them were carrying just a tiny sling bag, but unlike roughly half the men I encountered, no woman was bag-free.

It was a lovely feeling to be able to walk without something pressing down upon your shoulder, threatening to slip off at any moment, or bumping against you with each step you took. Why can’t we do this more often. Unless there’s a porta-loo in that bag, why do women think they need to carry that bag and men don’t? Is the need to carry a water bottle, an umbrella, or a book exclusively feminine? When was the last time you stepped out of the house without a bag, ladies?

It might be a fun experiment. No bag for a week, no matter what. Must try! Water can be bought at a grocery store. Rain can be hidden from under an awning. Faces can be read instead of books. (Baazigar has ruined the poetry of that statement forever, hasn’t it?)