Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Profound observations that amount to scintillating social commentary

Traffic in Bangalore, while hideous, offers opportunities for observation and judgment on a daily basis. (Mostly judgment, because that's so much more fun.) A few things that I've put on a mini-list, forthwith.

The Sidewalk as an Alternative Road: You mean you thought the sidewalks were solely for walking? (The term sidewalk may be alternated with the term footpath here. I use 'sidewalk' because I'm so used to it because it's J's influence, etc., but I digress.) Our city planners (devious witches) actually came up with this crafty plan when they looked into their crystal ball and saw the future of traffic in 2013. Thus, all those boys on their bikes who aggressively swerve on the sidewalks are merely following the fate written in the stars. If you happen to be standing on said sidewalk waiting for your cab and one of these helmeted hellions drives straight into you, why it's your fault, you worthless bystander! And be prepared for the honking, too. 

The Hairy Eyeball: This is observed when one vehicle is being driven by a maniac and comes too close to another vehicle, which may or may not be driven by a maniac. If not, then this second driver gives the first driver a long, mean, earth-shatteringly evil look. The first driver merely drives on, untouched by this brush with death. The Hairy Eyeball may also be accompanied by the One-handed Gesture Meant to be an Insult, which consists of the driver raising his hand, stretching out his palm and pointing it in the general direction of the insultee. What it means, I have deduced, is a sort of half-hearted insult: "Why are you driving like a maniac, but I'm too busy to really stop and fight, besides I myself drive like you half the time, har har...." (Of course the Hairy Eyeball and its accompaniment are infinitely better than the drivers actually getting out and taking the trouble to fight.)

Honking at Nothing: I like to think that this is a way for Bangalore drivers to connect with the vast reaches of outer space, trying to establish a link with any living thing out there. You know how lonely Bangalore roads can be in off-peak hours, right? So to counter this soul-crushing sense of alienation, our vulnerable drivers have come up with this idea. To honk at nothing. Of course many times it is actually honking at what's right in front of them: a puddle, a stray plastic bag, a pothole, or a speed bump. It's all just an attempt to connect with the pitiless expanse of the universe and feel a sense of belonging and awe. No need to get all up in arms. What is a mere honk in the face of existential loneliness?

Perhaps I should add to this list passengers who simply get out of their cars and run away when stuck in the same endless gridlock day after day? Oh, wait. There's only one person who does that- me. Ha. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rainy days and Thursdays

It never rains in the morning here. Today however, it came down: first in a sly mist, then in an earnest downpour. It kept raining gleefully all the way to work. A strange experience, one I cannot recall having before. It usually rains whenever I decide to step out of the office to head home.
Rainy days. Coffee mugs and blankets. Good books. A window seat. The rest of the day just passing outside the window.
Alas, the only window seat  is in the cab taking me to work. The only mug is the institutional mug carrying substandard coffee they give you free. Books, no, only Word documents.
Lest the universe think I am complaining, I am not. At least I am not moaning about my future apartment in Buenos Aires, the one with the hanky-sized balcony and french windows and the orange tree in a tub. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The return

Reading Janet Fitch's Paint it Black (a somewhat depressing saga of a young art model named Josie and her struggles after her boyfriend's suicide), I became nostalgic for L.A. again. The names of streets and places echoed around the book with rose-tinted familiarity: Los Feliz, Griffith Park, Silverlake...the few months I spent there have become a romanticized idyll, forever surrounded by a soft golden glow. 
It feels like we owe ourselves a visit there. We will drive past J's dad's old house (who lives there now?), look for that jacaranda tree on Hatteras St. Of course I will be driving: I now regret  not driving while we were there. 
California appealed to me in a way I never thought it would. The dry, crisp air, the hills, the long palm trees with sunlight laced through just so. I felt like I was returning. (Maybe my soul had been there not so long ago.) J and I were then a pair of recently reunited lovers, and would spend our weekends on little discovery trips. Picnics in Griffith Park. The book festival at UCLA. That strange cafe in Melrose and the one on Ventura which we began frequenting. Always in that California light that made the whole time there seem like a golden dream. 
There is really no point to this post...I am getting so sentimental because I read a novel with a few familiar place names. 
But love has many forms. One of them is memory.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What will happen then?

Walking to the gym today, adopting my usual 'look at no-one' policy and focusing full attention on the wonderfully uneven sidewalks, I still noticed a  man. Just a man standing by the wayside among others. But what I noticed was his stare, directed at my body. He touched himself while he stared, and his head turned as I walked past. 

Now this is more than what is to be permitted in civil society. I turned back, throwing up my hands and asking, "what? WHAT?" 

He was startled. This is what gets me every time. That look of bafflement, as though a woman should have no earthly reason to react adversely to his visual stripping. The sheer incomprehension of being questioned by a woman, the bafflement at her attempting to take back a small piece of her rights as an ordinary citizen to walk or stand on the streets of this country without being subjected to sexually blatant leers. 

I wonder if the day will soon arrive when I snap. When I hit the man in front of me with the full force of my fury. What will happen then? Will the crowds gather in my defense? I don't know. But sometimes the answer, the clear deterrent, seems right within the power of my own two hands. If enough men faced the sudden rage of a woman they have pushed too far, perhaps the scourge will lessen. 

But that is not what women want to happen. This urge to violence cannot be the answer. 'Don't treat me like a woman', is the simple message, 'treat me like a PERSON'. Why is the categorization of women as the 'other' so perpetuated to this day? I could go into lengthy reams with my own rambling theories. But I do not have the time: it should be an unnecessary topic of discussion. 

Meanwhile I find that each time I am sexually harassed, even if not in a physically harmful way, my tolerance crashes and I have to make a real attempt not to shove the offender's teeth down his throat. Does this mean then that the city is teeming with women who feel just like me? All that smoldering rage just waiting to break free? Does this mean that the dam will burst and then who's to say what will happen? 

But women's hands are too busy cooking, washing, mending, writing, inventing, expressing, soothing, and holding. Women's hands are minding their own business, running their own lives and those of their families. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

This is why

One afternoon in Barcelona, J and I decided to rent bicycles. The light was like topaz as it slanted onto the smooth stone of the park we chose to ride them in, the breezy Mediterranean on the other side. J and I went on separate routes. Pretty soon I became aware, as I careened along, that these were among the happiest moments of my entire life. 

This is why I travel. To go in search of times when you step outside, not only of place, but of self. An ordinary day is lit with wonder when you simply ride a bicycle, because you have traveled so far to come to this very place, at this very time, to have this very experience. 

Later, it felt like poetic justice when we absurdly lost our cameras and never again saw any of the hundred photographs J had taken as I sailed heedlessly down those avenues. An afternoon like that can never be imprisoned in a 5"X 7" frame. Whoever stole that camera I hope recognizes what they have in their hands: a stranger's happiness, for eternity.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Readings: The Cuckoo's Calling

JK Rowling has a nice problem. She is so famous, she decided to change her name and write another book, completely different from the series that made her one of the richest people in the world. Well, then. How is this other book? I read her The Cuckoo's Calling (written by Robert Galbraith) recently and was quite pleased.

The main character, one Cormoran Strike, is an unlikely private eye whose life is falling apart. He somehow gets himself a brilliant secretary called Robin just as he also gets his first real client in ages: a rich man who comes to Strike to solve what he is convinced is the murder of his super-model sister, Lula Landry. From here on, the book goes about taking you on Strike's methodical, dogged path as a diligent detective: lots of note-taking, attention-paying, and legwork.

The characters are all well drawn out. There is a fair sprinkling of London's super-rich as well as its unfortunates. Strike's own history is interesting and unusual: he actually straddles both these categories by virtue of his birth and current life. The dialog is engaging and convincing. And the conclusion of the book is satisfying, even if I didn't figure anything out at all and chose to go along on the ride with the rather likable Strike and the heaven-sent Robin. 

As to the big question: What does this story have in common with the Harry Potter series?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The hopeful habit

Image from wikipedia
That crafty Nigella has done it again. Just when I had stopped thinking about her spotless white kitchen and fairy lights altogether, she caught me flipping channels at the moment she chose to talk about liqueurs. And she involved a bunch of luscious blackberries, proceeded to mash those up, and added meringues and cream to the mix! To quote Sheldon Cooper, "oh what fresh hell is this?"

As to why poor Nigella should conjure up images of hell, it is the rather grumpy mood I've been in since yesterday. I am facing countless obstacles in almost everything I do. And I don't have any blessed blackberries to mash now, do I, so how would I achieve anything to do with them like Nigella would have me believe it is so easy to do? And besides, the imbibing of a good glug of liqueur is something I fully intend to take up when I'm old, along with teetering red heels.

Well, perhaps this little tv segment I came across is actually a sign: the liqueur habit should probably be put off no longer. I can certainly foresee how a shot of something fruity and rich will soothe the frayed edges of a tiresome day. Hic!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Full reasoning

J has always had an astonishing collection of quotable quotes from our dear auto-drivers. However, the latest one tops them all.

He was recently stuck outside his office on a warm evening. Bear in mind, the sun was shining after many days, this is important. Finally after a long wait he spotted one guy who deigned to then stop.

When told of J's destination, he asked for Rs.20 extra. "Why?" asked J, dogged as usual. The answer? "Full hot!"

Now I wonder if this guy hasn't just struck the jackpot here in terms of homegrown wisdom and plain reasoning: I'm thinking I won't go to work tomorrow; if anyone asks why I can simply say, "Full early!"

And I can live happily ever after. Thank you, philosopher-auto-guy. You may also be the most optimistic man who ever lived.
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