Saturday, November 21, 2009

Talking of Michelangelo


Then she saw it.

"Chicken Teriyaki and one Chicken and Turkey Ham, please."



The man took a foot-long sub and placed it on the counter. The knife sliced it open from one end to the other and exposed the insides of the wheat bread. Ham slices on the left and a cupful of teriyaki chicken on the other.

"Extra meat?"

"No. And no cheese for the teriyaki."

Next, the olives and gherkins. Mayo? Check. Barbecue Sauce? For the ham, please. Mustard Sauce for the teriyaki. And some Thousand Island Dressing to finish it.

"Takeaway, ma'am?"

"Yes, thank you."

Deft fingers tucked in the extra lettuce and neatly folded the corners of the paper wrap.


"Talk to me, baby. I've missed you."

"Sleep," she placed her hand over his eyes.

But he pulled her close to him and kissed her on the mouth.

"I've missed you," she whispered. She could hear his heartbeat as her fingers traced patterns on his chest. Smooth and brown, it glowed softly in the tawny light inside the room.

"I'll never leave you, baby," he promised.


On the stark white sheet.

"I'll spill on the sheets," he threatened her.

She ignored him.


"You went to Barista?"

"Uh-huh, picked up a coffee for myself." Iced Latte. She'd liked the way the bitter coffee had hit her throat. Still felt it there.

"Got us subs like you wanted." She handed him the carry bag. "Sorry, but I think I forgot to get tissues."

"No worries." He was back with the last bits of the toilet paper. Housekeeping had not given them a fresh roll in the morning. There probably was no housekeeping. 'Our hole in the wall' he liked to call it.

She didn't mind. In fact she loved how he never fussed about things. She loved him.

"Is it the same?"

"No. The guy wrote something on yours." She checked and gave him the one with 'Turkey' scrawled on the paper wrap.

"Spot on!" he finished his sub and smiled.


"I'm waiting," says Alice.
"For what?" Dan asks.
"For you to leave me."

"Hey, is that Natalie Portman?" he asked.


"Good cast. What movie is this?"


He turned and pulled the blanket up to his chin. She reached over and kissed him.

"Good night, baby."

"But I want to watch the movie. It's interesting." He curled his lip.

"But you're dozing off," she laughed.


It scuttled across from his side of the bed.

She lay on her back and looked up at the ceiling. A light grey; and a patch that was disintegrating in delicate flakes. Her eyes took in the rest of the room, as they already had a hundred times that day. Yellow walls, which gleamed in the amber light. They had not been able to find a switch to turn off that light. It had stayed on all through the day. It would stay on till they left in the wee hours of the morning, when it would be switched off by the man at the reception.

A small cabinet for the telly and her bag. A chair. A tiny refrigerator that she hadn't dared to open. A jug of water and a thick, short glass. A mirror reflecting them. He was asleep. She was waiting.

I'm waiting for you to leave me.

She look at the bed. They were twin beds, in fact. The man at the reception had joined the beds in the morning for them. She slipped her fingers into the crevice between the beds. She could drop her phone in there and lose it forever. She could even get rid of the thick, ugly tv remote. Her pack of cigarettes; his lighter. Her book. The hotel staff would find a booty next morning. Just that they wouldn't really care for a half empty pack of lights and a dog-eared Murakami, she thought. The phone? Probably.

"Five years," she said to herself.


It seemed like forever.

"I'll turn mad if I stay inside this room any longer," she sighed. "Can we go out for a walk?"

"Sure. We can pick up something to eat."

"You don't have to come." She knew he didn't want to.

"I think I'll stay in then. Get back something to eat. Subs. Or, fried noodles."

Two minutes later she was gone.


The smell of burning gas hit her nose. She felt the grime in her hands. Took it all in greedily. Savoured it.

Crowds thronged the streets. The weekend would be over in a few hours and everyone was out shopping, eating, chatting with family and friends. Soon they'd be home and in their beds.

The air was cooler than usual. But as she walked down the road she could feel the tiny beads of sweat on her face. Every where she looked she saw people, and cars, and people in cars.

She spotted the familiar neon sign and crossed the road. A million cars honked. A million pair of eyes stared at her from inside the cars, from inside the store. She pushed the glass door and walked in to wait in the queue.

"Chicken Teriyaki and one Chicken and Turkey Ham, please."


She picked up her phone and set the alarm for 3.30 am. That would give them an hour before they left for the airport. She had a 6.00 am flight.

Then she saw it. On the stark white sheet. It scuttled across from his side of the bed. It had thin strands for legs. And a fat belly. Ugly as hell. Tiny, like a drop of ink on blotting paper. It was hurrying to hide inside the hollow edge of the mattress. She wanted to hide from it. She picked up the adapter that was plugged into the socket inside the wall over the bed. The adapter felt small and hard in her palm. She brought her hand down.

She looked across the bed at him. She stretched her arm to touch his face.

I'll never leave you, baby.
I am waiting for you to leave me.
Five years.

And killed it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

- W.H. Auden

Thursday, July 23, 2009

misty morning and waterfalls

and, yes, there were waterfalls. thankyou R, for sharing your view.
p.s. not bad, for a low res cell phone, hunh?

Monday, May 25, 2009

It rained last night. And all day.

Tracing unknown patterns on cold, hard glass. Watching them melt at my finger tips as the streetlights hurry by.

Sweet smell of smoke.
The rain.

And I found this.
Two years ago. Another rainy evening. You wrote...

rainy weather
tibetan honey bread
walk in the hills
mulled wine

Friday, January 23, 2009

Over the last few months I’ve had this great desire to slap – real hard. Some obvious slapworthy souls at work. Simi Garewal. The Booker jury (or whatever they are called). Aamir Khan (no, not for Ghajini – haven’t watched it – but for saying he did not “understand” Memento).

But all these fade in comparison to my violent urge to slap, while watching Barkha Dutt interview the Slumdog guys. Rocking in her chair in glee (you wonder why) she asks Danny Boyle why he made this film.

Bombay (he probably said Mumbai), the energy of the city, blah and blah…

(Now I like Danny Boyle, don’t get me wrong. Years ago he made this really cool film named Trainspotting. So it’s not Boyle I wanted to slap.)

Blah and blah. And it’s not really the money…after his win he’s alone, at this station…

Wrong word there, Danny boy. You shouldn’t have mentioned “station”. But how would you know! How would any of us know! Except, of course, Ms Dutt.

From sheer glee to the deepest pensive look I’ve seen her wear in recent times (usually she’s always frothing at the mouth), she adds: Ironic isn’t it (or, strange isn’t it)…how a few months ago, it was this same station that witnessed the terrorist attack…


You could almost see her hoping to conjure up this little inset on the screen, showing her brave coverage of the attack at VT. Poor dear, how was she to know back then that VT featured in Slumdog. Or that Slumdog would be where it is now. Or else, she would've definitely taken a 10-minute break from the Gateway to drop in at the station and drool over the blood-stained platforms.

Small mercies.

P.S. I do think the Taj at Apollo Bunder is an icon and this post is not about 26/11.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Others (4)

OK, here's something from Srijit. He's been promising this post for ages; then I've been promising to post it for ages. Finally, it's up. Phew! And I got him to post it directly here because I wasn't able to upload the pics (don't ask me why - some darned security measure at work - bleagh). But here it is - and Yay! - there's more to come (or so he says). I can be lazy yet!

Thanks, Srijit. And come back soon - with Obama toys in tow :)

Srijit's Post

Order and Chaos in The Dark Knight

What does a man dressed as a nocturnal marsupial signify?

To turn back a little, the bat, with its leathery wings, strange shrieks, and sharp fangs have always been thought of as heralds of darkness; manifesting them-selves out of the gathering gloom. At this point I am forced to recall a line from one of Joseph Conrad’s Malaysian stories (probably Karain: A Memory) where he talks about the evening bats gathering about as “flakes of darkness”. The im-agery in those few words is fantastic and effectively refers to a snowfall of dark-ness. The color imagery is quite important as well with the juxtaposition of the whiteness of the snow with darkness.

Cultures throughout the world have worshipped animals, and within their mytho-logical corpus they have also associated certain creatures with darkness, death, and fear. Creatures like the jackal, wolf, owl, raven, crow, toad, cat, and the bat have been thus associated with the darker elements of human thought. It is quite well known that Anubis was the jackal-headed god of the Egyptian under-world. Similarly, the bat-like god Camazotsz was such an agent in Incan mythology.

Though there is little proof that Bob Kane ever knew about the gods of the In-cas; in retrospect the roots of Batman’s creation can be easily traced to the Mid-European legends about vampires. There’s no denying Bob Kane had a lot influ-ence from literature and folklore. Novels like Carmilla, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a quite a few Gothic stories must have held their influence on young Kane’s mind. But, now there is an interesting twist to this. The Batman, like a shaman, is a conscious bearer of ‘darkness’, a man who wears a mask. The Batman’s pur-pose, after the brutal murder of his parents, is quite consciously to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. They are according to him, or rather Bob Kane, “a superstitious and cowardly lot” who need to be beaten, broken, and intimidated into submission. The Batman’s purpose is this is quite sinister. With his strict pol-icy of not to kill, the Batman on the other hand generates fear, and therefore de-sires in a rather twisted way—control. Writers of Batman stories have repeatedly made Batman refer to Gotham as “my city”. This is definitely not your average cheerleading for your hometown. How different does this make Batman from the evil of the Joker? There is a very thin line that the writers have made themselves walk in the Batman stories. Writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore have stretched these limits of Batman’s character. In stories like “The Dark Knight Re-turns” and “Batman: The Killing Joke”, the Batman is slightly schizophrenic and not quite sane. There is a controversial piece of dialog that Batman utters in an-other one of Frank Miller’s storylines:

But even then, the Batman has been a symbol of good, of heroism against insurmountable odds, of righteous vengeance against criminals. So, does this make the Batman a hero or, just a man with a lot of time and money on his hands with the desire to run a dictatorship? A man who is, in fact, sub-consciously using the murder of his parents to run an autocracy in Gotham? I am almost tempted to think what Bruce Wayne would have become had his parents been alive and well. If we allow ourselves to stretch our imagination a little, in DC Elseworld fashion, then I would say that he would have become a ruthless businessman, a commercial dictator like Lex Luthor. But in this world, in our timeline, Bruce Wayne has become the Batman; the Batman has not become Bruce Wayne.

The writers have also conveniently created masked criminals for the Batman to fight, for the Batman’s trouncing of petty criminals, rapists, and thieves on a daily basis would only highlight a single-minded sadistic desire of bullying and intimidation. Social service groups might say that it’s better if the Batman fo-cused on the poverty and lack of education among the poorer sections of soci-ety. After all, poverty breeds discontent and leads to breaks in the social order. Writers have quite consciously and cleverly dealt with this. They have projected the criminals as an insane and irredeemable lot, with the Batman as an extreme sanction against them. His existence is like that of Robespierre during the Reign of Terror; a necessary step to “guillotine” the criminal masses and purge the so-cial body of its evil. And even within this, the Batman upholds human life by not exterminating it, but by considering it for rehabilitation in Arkham Asylum. It’s a different thing that Arkham is a sort of Lovecraftian hell; but the Batman’s at-tempts are quite honest.


The Joker is a manifestation of our deepest, darkest moods; a projection of a chaotic psyche that is beyond human understanding. The manifestation of the Joker as a clown in the Batman comics was immediately targeted at a mockery of human emotions.

The Joker, created by Bob Kane, was supposed to have a little lived career as a petty criminal who was to meet his end in the second round of his introduction. Through some quirk, the character survived, in spite of the failing sales of DC Comics during the 50’ era. The DC writers had realized the potential of the char-acter, of the Joker’s ability cock a snook at the social order. Then, could the Joker have been just a nihilist? An anti-establishment renegade, who could have been a hero? But, this is apocrypha, and my mind is wandering upon the numer-ous possibilities that could have been.

The origins of the Joker have never been fully explored till Alan Moore’s rather shocking Batman title, “The Killing Joke”. In it, the Joker fatally wounds Barbara Gordon (the original Batgirl) and takes her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon as a prisoner. Strapped and naked in a rundown carnival, he is forced by the Joker through a tunnel of horrors populated by bloody images of his wounded daugh-ter. Alan Moore’s idea is simple, yet sheer genius. The Joker, by his capturing and psychological torturing of Jim Gordon, likes to show him that a single day out of the ordinary is enough to drive a man insane.

The story is cut with flashbacks where the Joker is shown as he once was: a failed stand-up comic artist burdened with an ailing and pregnant wife, and steeped in debt. It is a very sad and pessimistic picture that we get. And within this we see, that “evil” in its various forms of crooks and con-men soon track his helplessness down and give him false hopes for a new life. Through the insis-tence of some shady men, the comic-artist is told to dress up as a vigilante criminal mastermind called the Red Hood, and just generally act the boss while a robbery takes place. He is told that he would get his share, a hefty sum that would allow him out of penury.

The comic-artist agrees, though his wife is quite against the idea. She tells him that she is ill and that she needs him. But the man, shown the hope of a better world goes out to meet his fate. During the robbery that goes horribly wrong, and being chased by the Batman, the ‘Red Hood’ falls into a vat of chemicals. At the same time, some of the crooks, who suspect that the comic-artist is trying to con them, land up at his house. There is a short scuffle, in which the wife dies.

All of this happens in a single day. A life that is almost reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s, this one single tragedy is enough to confound the poor man’s head. The vat of chemicals does little to help him out of it. It bleaches his skin chalk white, and drives him mad. The madness that comes up brings up all the murderous instincts of a serial killer, a psychopath with a twisted logic of villainy that was never fully captured again till Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.

The Joker is a character who is integral to the development of the Batman char-acter. Just as Batman is a symbol of strict order, the Joker is the perfect antithe-sis, standing as a symbol of chaos, anarchy and disorder.

It is for this reason Christopher Nolan depicted Heath Ledger’s Joker as unkempt, idiosyncratic, and insane. The white leper-like patches of paint on the Joker’s face emphasize the filth and disease, not only of the perversions of the human mind, but signify the suppurating corruption of an entire society. The Joker thus provides Gotham with a “better class of criminal”.

The Joker is like Macbeth, spiraling down the path of evil and corruption, but a Macbeth who has passed over into the world of the witches. The Joker does not remain human; he has become an agent of destruction, of ultimate chaos. The character of the Joker bears a striking resemblance to another of Alan Moore’s earlier creations: V for Vendetta. A graphic novel classic, the character of V is a man with a smiling mask, a “frozen mask” that “just smiles”. The grand plans of V in breaking the stranglehold of a dystopian society bears fruit in his terrorism, and is justified in his extermination of the men in authority. The Joker, too, be-comes a terrorist in his battle for “Gotham’s soul”.

Even the earlier films and television series of Batman, the various portrayals of the Joker by Cesar Romero, and then Jack Nicholson have shown the character as insane, but limited in his scope. Heath Ledger’s Joker is out for blood to claim a whole city for him, and all that stands between him and his prize is the Dark Knight himself. The Joker does not see any opposition in him, but an opposite to his nature, so perfectly matched that he declares that the Batman makes him whole. The Joker’s evil is all-encompassing and absorbs the presence of the Batman. The Joker is the first to realize this, and to turn back a little, the Batman too agrees to this in a strange way in the final pages of “The Killing Joke”. As the Joker is captured, the two share a joke about two madmen, and that how one would try to reach the moon on a beam of torch-light and how the other would turn it off mid-way. These characters are not quite sane and share a very thin boundary between madness and sanity.

This boundary is manifested in Two-Face. My thoughts on him will appear at a later date.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The Others (3)

Ta-dah! Here's something from Rajasree. And here's that something on her. She's fun and pretty cool. And I'll miss her at work when she's gone (in two days, to be precise :( ).

Rajasree's Post


Chelebelar kotha bhebe, paalai ey mon jokhon…
Ma’er koley jao doure, bhoi peyo na tokhon…

Golpo shuune raashi-raashi….
Paabe tomar bejai haashi…

Jhhora paata chhoriye ghashe…
Orao ghuri nil akashe…

Khelte khelte hochhe boro, tomar chena kobi…
Likhbe jokhon dekhbe tumi bhubon jora chhobi...

Baadol dine jaabe chole kore obhimaan...
Thakbe smritir shonge shudhu jhhora paatar gaan...