September 24, 2008

On Turning 23

I look over
The dregs in the shot glass
Another round for the children please
This wild child has left the building

Ideology once set in metal casts
Slurry as rain on old newspaper
Only guileless imprints refuse eviction
Respect, mercy and belief in the Maker

I trace tortuous trails over bloodied footsteps
Feeling their intricate pain as my own
I'm not ashamed of understanding
I will for a lifetime shed these tears

Tantrums moulted and passions few
A performing tigress quelled and broken
Bewildered sometimes but never very lost
Peregrine at best and so aware

September 18, 2008

Clashes in Mangalore

"Lathi-charge" is definitely a term that only Indian people use, and only Indian people want to understand. "Lathi-charge" means that a puffing, overweight policeman comes running at you with an ugly fat long stick that reminds you unpleasantly of other things, obviously circumcised. You either run away with great dignity making howling noises of outrage, or you stay put and get beaten to a pulp by this unsightly object. A lot of this happened in Mangalore for about four days last week. Some strongly-religious Hindus accused some strongly-religious Christians of trying to convert some strongly-religious Hindus to Christianity. I hesitate to use the word "fanatics" because these are obviously mentally unbalanced people who just wanted some love and attention, attention being the principle thing. As part of the process, they decided to attack some Catholic worship-places. The Catholics got really angry, because they were not connected to the conversion thing at all. Apparently the strongly-religious Christians who got accused were actually not connected to the conversion thing either, but then the riots would be completely pointless and no Indian ever condones pointlessness now do they? The police said ah, chance to do something worthwhile and joined in gloriously with their "lathis" swinging, and beer bellies bouncing. It was kind of shocking that they hit women and children (yeah, like, kids) but again, you always have some people trying to be important by shocking means when all the good ways fail. Then various political people got involved and said stupid things that didn't mean anything except "Don't not vote for me please". The whole thing seemed to be getting rather out of hand, till all the angry people ran out of angriness, got bored and went home. Apparently this is how most riots function. Luckily, apart for one stabbing incident and some nasty bruises (some on nuns, quite disgusting), everything got over without loss of life. The incident made front page news of course. Such an enormous amount of nothingness obviously made it very important. Peace.

September 15, 2008

Wandering Lover

For Marvin the Paranoid Android.. I would have cared.

Come with me to see the Universe
Take a ride on a shooting star
Watch the Earth blow up in pieces
On front-row seats eating Snickers on Mars

Let's cruise on Pluto's waterless oceans
Wearing shoes made of velvet cheese
We'll make fierce love under silken covers
On branches of ugly Venusian tress

I'll tell you tales of my thousand lives
As we down blue whiskey from Saturn's breweries
We'll get wasted on the second biggest asteroid
And feed each other Neptune Blackberries

We'll smoke some of that fine Io weed
Listening to Bob Dylan screw with our brains
I'll twirl a mile into the dense lithium
Landing high on the Great Phobos Plain

Over our planet remains we'll hover
Blowing brick bubbles about the place
There's you and me and all other matter
Only thing I see is your care-worn face

September 13, 2008

I Danced

All my life I have openly, obviously and persistently wanted to dance. I joined a classical dance class when I was about six and it was all good for a while. Just when I was sure I was the next whoever, Beyonce or someone, the dance teacher, this moldy ole man who moved like a girl, told me I needed extra classes to catch up with the rest. Lots of extra classes. I quit. To save my self-respect. We all need to selectively ignore feminine men sometimes. In school I took part in "The Tiger Dance", was the guy in "The Ballroom Dance" and some poor misguided friends made me part of "The Celebrity Dance" out of pity and regretted it forever. I took ballets lessons for a week too. There. Now you know my entire history in the world of graceful movements.

Well, our college competitions started last week and I had "The Whim" again. The last time I had "The Whim" was seven years back and everyone thought it was over with "The Celebrity Dance" but no, it was back. It's a different year, different place and a different set of friends. So they agreed. I practiced very, very hard. And I sucked even more. All the guys would stand around and laugh and laugh as i tried so unsuccessfully to look sexy on the chair step. According to one bystander, my face always had the expression of "someone confused, horrified, wondering why she was torturing herself".

The day of the competition arrived. Nothing much had changed of course. It never does. We wore waistcoats, super-cool harem pants, cat-eye masks and had chairs, pompoms and cowboy hats as props. Ready as we ever would me. I took my poor, frightened and extremely made-up face backstage. Our team was on towards the end so I watched the various others go in and out. It got worse and worse as everyone tried to console me. They said things like, "We're dancing just for fun, not for the prize" and "Just go and do whatever you can. It's ok". Yeah, WRONG thing to say. I felt horrible. Then, just like that, we were on. I blanked. The lights were ditzy and I couldn't see anything. The smoke billowing from the floor was drying out my throat. Before I knew it I was sitting back in the audience rubbing off the rouge from my face. "You were really good", said this mousy girl next to me. Yeah right. Ok. But someone else said it. Then someone else. Then someone else. Then a lot of other people. And I was glad. And my dream had come true, however cheesy it sounds.

More than anything else, I realized that I define my limitations, not some pansy dance teacher. This is not a fairy tale, and we didn't win, but I was good. And that's all that mattered to me. Peace.

September 09, 2008

Sphincterin' It

Today the class was on some part of the GIT. "Which is the most sophisticated, wonderful sphincter in the body?", asked the balding, enthusiastic professor. Everyone fell silent, minds working furiously. If you answer right, you get to be cool n shit. Med college is very nerdy. I was bored. Extremely. And kinda depressed. "ANAL sphincter" I yelled. It became even more silent in the oppressing heat. Every pimply face was turned towards mine in extreme horror and repulsion. "What is wrong with you???" screamed every disgusted face. "Nothing. I wanna skip class and watch a movie but I'm broke hence I'm here. So fuck you", I replied in the same eye language. The balding professor stopped and peered through his ancient bifocals at me. Time stood still.

The boy in front stopped picking his nose. Serious trouble.

"Very good. You are absolutely correct! It IS the anal sphincter! What is your name young lady?... Now class, do you know WHY it's the anal sphinter? Because it works against gravity, can hold water, air, all kinds of............." His voice trailed off into the cosmos as I stopped listening. I eye-middle-fingered all the prissy people in the front rows and let my psyche take off into the unknown. It was going to be a good day, son.

Ode to Pediatric Ward

(Dedicated to Rhea, on account of her misfortunes)

This kid has a bandage on his head
All covered up but nowhere to hide
Spittle's on his hand and his upper lip is two
His kidney's missing some parts too
They broke his skull with a drill
And said they're making it better
But he'll not what you call normal
And he isn't going to be

This baby has Down's Syndrome
Quite a common occurence, they say
Her I.Q is way below
And she'll never be a surgeon
Like you or me or her brother
These children are happy children
"Life is not as complex"
No it's sure not, see her smiling so
And two and twenty make five

Look at this newborn baby
His body is all blue
His stomach's completely out
As he has no abdominal wall
They're looking at the clock
And waiting for the stork to come back
To carry him and stuff him into the mud
He's taking up too much space
The senior resident shakes his head
It's all too much

There's a mother crying
It's her third child and he's emerged
From the innermost part of her
More precious than any heart
A womb, a tiny Big Bang
He slid down her bloody canal
And entered the first Hell he'll know
She smiles as she holds him close
Let's all just live for now

Searching for Peace

Respite in a busy month. One long weekend, the only one for many weeks arrived. I went with my friend to her grandma's place in a tiny, tiny village in the mountains. The house was small but filled with a lot of love. The place has all these people who work in coffee estates and tea plantations. A simple and happy life. Not famous. Nor rich. Nor beautiful. Not even very intelligent. But happy. How I wish I had that. One sad thing we found out was that Vasanthamma was dead. Who was she? A maid who worked in the house of this rich man who owned huge amounts of land. She grew old in his house and fell sick. He put her in a stuffy small room a little distance from his mansion and left her to die. I went to this village a few months ago with my friend during another long weekend, and her granddad took us to see Vasanthamma. The room stank from about ten feet away. She lay on her bed at a weird angle, covered by a skimpy blanket even though there was no fan to cool her. Her daughter whispered that no one could move her as her bones were broken in several places. No one? Oh please. They have stretchers these days and ambulances and things. I remained silent. I was just a stranger her with no connection to this dying woman and no rights. Her eyes were cloudy, filled with muted pain. They expressed intense gratitude as she answered in gasping breaths questions about how well she was feeling. Even though she knew saying she was ok was a lie. We all knew it. Mercifully she died a few weeks after we saw her. When I looked at everything around me in that humble place, I felt the simplicity so much I choked. Birth and death. Work and weariness. Festivals and gaiety. I want the peace that comes from the routine, everyday mundane things. I want that peace so badly.