The Story So Far

Much has happened since I last posted. I don’t even know where to start. There was is a lot of instability and uncertainty in my life right now.  It’s that time of my life now. Though I definitely know myself much better than I did back when I faced a similar situation. I also know it’s alright. Things are already getting better.

So, basically the company I used to work for has gone and downed its shutters. In retrospect there were warning signs and I didn’t heed them because I was too busy living my life.

At about the same time, we (mom, dad and I) went on a trip to visit my brother who lives in the US. I love travelling but have never traveled that far. I got to discover so many things about myself literally en route.

Usually, I am the stationary nomad having been to only a few places in India – Calcutta (familial duty), Shantiniketan (fun + duty), Pondicherry (learning Spanish, with friends, with family) and Mumbai (work), Goa (academic conference*) and the Andamans (sudden and short weekend getaway). I am so hoping that maybe this trip breaks the travel jinx and who knows probably soon I will be off again! Let me write about the travels in a different post. Rita has been asking me for pics. I have been so jet lagged and generally tired that I haven’t uploaded any yet. You can consider the new header image of New York from the air as a sneak peek. 🙂

The sudden departure of my regular job is I am quite convinced not a bad thing because it gives me a chance to step away and examine what I am doing with my life.  I have decided on a direction but after 14 years of working in a structured environment, this freedom is unsettling. I am the bird outside the cage wondering what I should do with my wings. It’s simple, right? Fly. However the wings are a bit rusty and flying seems a bit alien to me at the moment. My good friend A says out of uncertainty comes creativity and all artists face this uncertainty. I don’t know if I am an artist but it’s good to know I am getting the training for it.

So I am both scared and excited about what happens next. Wish me luck!

 

* I did not present a paper. I just tagged along with M, who presented a paper.

Cumberdream

I have been registering my weird dreams on this blog for a while. So here’s another one that I had. I don’t ever have normal dreams, do I? I think this dream was around April 26th or 27th.

I dreamt that Benedict Cumberbatch and I went to save his baby (please note: not mine, neither his and mine) from the clutches of a gang. We are walking hand in hand to a building. It’s night and I am palpably afraid. There is a guard who blocks our way at the bottom of the building. Benedict is talking to him. But then the guard is called away for something. I just realise we don’t have backup nor have we informed anyone and we don’t have any means of contacting other people either. Our cellphones are not with us. I spot the guard’s dirty and bulky cellphone and swipe it so that when we are done rescuing we can contact the other people. Who they are, I don’t remember. 

We cross some hurdles: I don’t remember the exact details. There are lots of dark corridors like in an office building but at night. The only light is from the yellow street lights that filter in. The walls look dirty green in that light. 

I remember waiting for some kind of physical violence but that doesn’t happen. It’s more a sense of debilitating fear. We move up all the dark levels to the top of the building. We reach the top floor; the mastermind appears to have been waiting for us. I get the feeling he is the one behind it all. He talks and scowls a lot. There is hardly any light and he keeps referring to my crime of swiping the cellphone like it’s something unforgivable. He gives me a dirty stare and I am left feeling very bad about the cellphone.

I remember waking up with the lines ringing in my head, ‘But I intended to return it!’ and ‘I had only borrowed it for a short while!’ 

Usually known people appear in my dreams. This is the first appearance of a celebrity that I remember. Oh, Benedict Cumberbatch was appearing as himself here not as Sherlock. (I thought I should make that clear.) I think it is related to my high stress levels! Maybe the levels in the building are indicative of that.

Crocodile Dreams

Sometime mid last month, I had yet another weird dream. I don’t know anyone who has dreams like I do. I must be a psychologist’s delight! Then of course people don’t really share their dreams so I really don’t know. Again, I was puzzled by the end of it.  This is the dream.

A friend or neighbour of mine (not anyone I know in real life) has given me some food in a tiffin box. I am supposed to take it home. I get curious and open it and am shocked. It contains four baby albino crocodiles stuffed with something else. The crocodiles are floating in some yellow-ish white gravy. The neighbour also gives us a laddoo, the only vegetarian item and I cannot help eating it. I go home. My mom asks what did the neighbour give, and I reply, you won’t like it. Then I show her. I don’t remember my mom’s reaction but I am not interested in eating them. My brother says he will try and proceeds to take one.

What on earth does this dream mean? I do have a real-life neighbour who keeps sending food over. But they are snacks and sweets so nothing to be traumatised by. Also, I googled for baby albino crocodiles just to see if I have the description right. Finally, apologies to animal lovers who might be reading this.

A Stack of Post-its and Cats*

I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread. That’s because I had yet another weird dream.

I had been kidnapped in my dream. The kidnapper was a man. There are other people in the house where I have been taken but I get the feeling they are scared of him too. I certainly was scared. I was shown into a room which already had things in it -a bed, an almirah, a table: I realise it is someone’s home. Probably the kidnapper’s. The door to the room is never locked. I am so afraid that I don’t move from the room. He expected a ransom but none was forthcoming. (Seriously, who would pay ransom for me?) I looked around – there was a single bed with a filthy mattress. I was so scared I didn’t notice. No one spoke in the dream. Not the kidnapper or his women. At right angles to the bed is a long window.

A bit later, my mom joined me in the room. She too I think had been kidnapped but she adjusted quite easily. She touched the kidnapper’s feet which made him gloat. I was so zoned out I followed suit not knowing what was expected of me and I was scared.

Sometime later I find my brother too in the same room. He looks carefree like it’s a holiday. He walks in and sits down on a chair. I feel bad about this kidnapping situation so I try to find some reading material for my brother. I looked under the beds and tables and find cats! Yes cats which are stacked on top of each other like a brick wall or clothes in a closet. They look neat and like they are sleeping. I leave the cats alone. I do manage to find some comics for my brother to read.

I know I have to escape so I want to write a note. (When I think about this, I don’t know why I wanted paper. My post-dream analysis is that I wanted to drop it out of the window so that people can find it and read and rescue us.) So I look high and low in the same dark and dirty room. The next thing I know I am sitting on the grubby bed and a cork writing pad like the kind I used back in school for exams is in front of me and some comics too. But no paper. Suddenly I realise someone is peeping from the door held ajar. It’s a woman. She is silent and expressionless and wearing a grimy sari. She holds out a stack of opened post-its – a thin stack and narrow yellow post-its – like the ones I use to mark pages and quotes in books. I accept it gratefully. I was looking for a bigger piece of paper but this is still paper. So I take it and try to hide it under the cork writing pad. When I look up, she is shaking her head: no. It hits me that it will be found and I’d be in trouble. She is warning me. I take it out and tuck it into my bra. (In hindsight, so close to my heart.) She nods her head: yes, that is a safe place. I wonder how much I would sweat into the post-its and then wouldn’t be able to write on them.

That’s all I remember of the dream. I wake up full of dread.

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*Note for grammar Nazis: The title is not a misplaced modifier as you will know after reading the post.

Notes to self

I tend to write in whatever piece of paper or notebook I find and then forget all about it.  The other day I opened a tiny notebook with a kantha-stitched cover, where I note down the bills I have to pay and then score them out once I have paid them, and found written in pencil these lines:

The short story demands to be understood while the novel demands to be embraced. In all these years of back-breaking familiarity with the novel, I have stepped out to make a shy acquaintance with the short story. Hence these enthusiastic dates with the lean, mean and demanding form of fiction.

I thought, not bad! The lines are pretty good. But what was I writing about? A book of short stories yes but which one? Obviously I was reading something inspiring and these lines were meant to start the post for this blog but for the life of me I don’t remember what that book was. I didn’t date the note so I don’t know when it was either! I got the notebook in Shantiniketan so this much I know, the note was written after 2010. I don’t have much of clue beyond this.

Note to self: I must be more organised and at least keep all incomplete notes in one place.

Does this sound familiar? Do you also write anywhere and everywhere and then forget about it?

That reminds me, I think I found an old poem that I wrote in an old bag. I must go retrieve it before someone throws it out.

Upma and upma*

When working with some people from Delhi I had a linguistic revelation. My Delhi born and educated colleague R’s eye would light up whenever I mentioned ‘upma’. She complimented my eloquent Hindi. I was so flattered. She asked where I learnt it since I have lived all my life down South. I replied it was first in college and then through television. The television remark seemed to startle her a bit. It turns out we were talking about different things. She thought the ‘upma’ I referred to was the Hindi word for simile. And all I was talking about was the South Indian snack made from dry roasted semolina. There was an aha moment on both sides and then we had a good laugh.

 

*Any resemblance to legal firms is coincidental.

Tea, walks and conversations

Recently D, the same old college friend from the previous post, was in town and we met up before she left again. Her idea was to go for tea and then a walk and completely avoid the usual hangouts. I agreed. After receiving some lovely gifts (craft shop and antique shop finds – how well D knows me!), we headed for tea.

I chose Lloyd’s Tea House because of its variety of teas and regretted it as soon as we set foot in it. It was so noisy that I was feeling stressed within a few seconds. That was probably the only jarring note that evening. Lloyds Tea House is the latest pretentious experiment to dot the café landscape of this city. I say pretentious because the décor tries hard to appear hipster-ish but somehow the whole thing doesn’t come together. Typewriters fastened to walls do not help if the place is so noisy that I had shout to be heard. It was very far from the quiet conversation with a friend that I wanted.

While we sipped on flavoured teas, D read out her poem-in-progress which I loved. The first cuppa was all novelty what with mini hourglasses and coloured sand to measure the exact soaking time for the tea leaves (thank god it was not tea bags) and other new things. It was fun but the taste of the tea was nothing above ordinary. The second cuppa was very soothing.

We stepped out with relief to take a Jane Austen-ish ‘turn’ through the not-so-posh lanes of Alwarpet (yes, they do exist). As soon as we turned into the interior roads, the silence was exquisite. It felt so wonderful to hear birdsong as we talked about PhD topics, Shashi Tharoor, books, poetry and an old aunt of hers who owns a beautiful but dilapidated bungalow right there on the main road. I wouldn’t be able to recall the exact conversation we had but it was such fun.

I came away with a sense of calm that carried me through over the next several days.