Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Auto on a Rainy Day

Cool weather. Oh I see someone waving. Better bag the spot before the others do. Oo, careful-- that puddle looks deep.

Where does he want to go?
"Bandra chaliye."

Bandra it is. He puts on those dark glasses. These rich people, I don't understand why one needs to wear dark glasses at night. Bahh. Traffic traffic. 30 seconds to the signal and then a U turn.

It's drizzling. Where did I keep my cloth? I wonder if I can manage the U turn before I wipe the screen. Oh, the rainfall is getting heavier. How is my passenger doing, I wonder. Let me take a look. Wait, it's a girl. A girl with short hair. Modern girl it seems. Cannot see where she is looking. She is managing, I guess. Very little one can do. The covers were torn. I can't afford new ones.

Ahh, the U turn... Mohan had said he would return the money today. But he hasn't even called me or asked for me today. I will call him after this ride. Where is my wiping rag?

The girl looks unperturbed. I told Shaivanti that I would be late. I wonder what she has cooked today. I hope she doesn't complain as much today I have no energy to argue. What if the rain washed my problems away? Will I have to stand outside my vehicle for it to happen?

"Signal se right lena hai".

Why didn't she say so earlier? Now i'll have to change lanes. Agh, the exasperation.

turn. What was that song's name? Hummmm hmmmmhmmmm hmmmmmmmm hh-- OO !!!

" Ay Bhenchod! Ka kar raha hai, bhosadi kay? thokega ka?!"

Drive. I'll get that bastard later.

Dark lane. everything looks the same I must come here tomorrow and acquaint myself with the area. O, is that a whore? Ugly... could come cheap. Drive.

"Abhi left maro aur side pe roko"

Annnnnd we take a left.

"47 rupya". She takes her dark glasses off.

The Odyssey of Caver Nicholas

Chapter 1:

The sun beat down relentlessly on Caver Nicholas' long, thin back. Slowly, he trudged forward, his skin singed with desert heat. You could almost hear the sizzle of skin roast. Slowly, he moved on. Step by step, his hundred legs covered the expanse of arid land in front of him. 

The bright yellow desert blinded Caver. He had been traveling aimlessly for days. A land unknown that he was literally carried to by a gush of wind. It had been a lazy evening and he had been dozing on his green, leafy bed, when all of a sudden, he was rudely tousled about, and he found himself lying upturned in an unknown, barren land. Night had fallen so he huddled in a dark corner to avoid venturing out alone. Who knows what wild beasts lived there? At first light, he decided to explore his environs. And he had been walking ever since.

Loud, dulling roars surrounded him, only there was no form to pass off as a source. He could faintly see a mirage of huge black clouds moving past him on either side, in every direction. Gargantuan shapes whizzed past with unimaginable speed (considering their size). Wary of his new world, he trudged forward. Suddenly, a cool breeze brushed his sweaty cheeks. That snapped him out of his drowsiness, and his tired hooded eyes suddenly lit up, alarmed and alert. Cool breeze meant a cliff, or at least a distant rain cloud or storm. It could either be the end of him or exactly what he needed. He edged toward the source and stretched as far as he could. He craned his neck, narrowing his eyes in order to see in the distance. 

It was a cliff. He had no idea if this was a good thing or bad, but he knew that it would shield him from the sun for sometime, and probably protect him from sudden winds. All he had to do is stick to the wall of the cliff and remain there. Hopefully there would be some vegetation and he would be have something to eat. 

Nicholas hopefully crawled forward, suddenly having purpose. But no sooner had he felt the rush of hope, than he had an uneasy feeling he was being watched. You know, the feeling that you are not alone, yet you cannot see anyone around you. You feel a presence and you know it is aware of you too. He stopped. Turned his head around and surveyed the expanse of bright yellow. A gargantuan cloud had stopped in its tracks, among other moving clouds. And inside this cloud there was a strange figure. It had eyes. A face. It was abnormally long. Possible a being from another world. It had stuck its head out from the cloud and was peering down intently at Nicholas, watching his every move. This unsettled Nicholas, although he knew there was little he could do about it. So he turned back and continued with all his might toward the cliff. He turned his head once more, and caught the being dart back into the cloud as it slowly sped away. 

Chapter 2:


I was on my way to the station early morn. It was a bright, sunny morning with hint of fluffy gray-white clouds. I was as happy as a tree in rain and was listening to my usual radio stations and humming as my auto sped through the golden white roads. At a signal, which was a particularly long one, I peered out and gazed at the world outside. I was right next to the road divider and there was an opening to cross from a couple of feet ahead to my right. I locked in on that crossing. There was an open gutter, it's lid broken and partly inside, partly out. There was no stench but I imagined it had dynasties of mutated substances sitting at its pit. 

And then I saw it. A lone centipede crawling slowly toward the gutter. It was long and bulbous brown, with a line of sunshine slicking its back and making it glow. I stared at it-- trying to understand its movements, read its thoughts. All of a sudden it looked back at me! For a second I felt I been caught, and had the urge to look away. But I didn't and it turned its head back and crawled forward. I figured I could steal a few more glances so continued watching it trudge tirelessly ahead. And it looked back at me again! Haha, caught you, it scoffed at me. I jumped back into my seat! 

The signal went green.

Nutella Crepes for the Fractured Soul

Life comes around
And so do we.
Vamos viver

The Untuned String

Early morn, the little girl and her bespectacled friends waited outside a third's house, in their AC-ed, stereo surround sound Carpool Car. Bright and sunny, the roads shining brilliantly and the snobby snouts of South Bombay still slumbering in their silken beds, today was like any other. The air was still outside the cool car, as though the alarm bell still had a few minutes to go before it woke this side of town up.

That's exactly when it rang.


A shrill record pierced through the morning stillness. Like it was the only thing that didn't fit in the picture-perfect picture. It didn't fit because it was like an untuned string in a symphony orchestra. It didn't mesh well with the snooty Southern neighbourhood, where dulcet voices, nurtured with Jasmine tea and choir practice, and noses pulled high up in the air by imaginery fishing rods, set the standards for dignified behaviour. A broken voice cried. It wailed, sending tremors down the streets, rustling up polished tree leaves and breaking the harmony. The little children turned around to find the source of this cacophony. The little girl shivered in shock, as she found the alarm clock, whose low battery was causing such a painful attack on the ears.

It was a woman, tall, slender, brown as chocolate. Her curves and taut legs shone in the morning light. Her hair, wild and dirty, lived a life of its own. 

She was naked. And carrying a baby that was wailing just as shrilly, adding to this out-of-tune orchestra. "Ay bhai, mere bache ko samhalo," she sobbed. Tears made rivulets down her cheeks, droplets leaving her chin and splashing on her collarbone, breasts. She held the baby close to her bosom with one arm, and with the other called out to anyone who would listen. 

Ay, bhai. Mere bache ko samhalo.

She stood outside the house, quite close to the little car. The children shifted uncomfortably, but gradually went back to their morning banter, as though there was no sound, no sight, only the still morning. The driver didn't move a muscle and continued to stare into space, waiting for the last child to come into the car. The little girl, however, could not peel her eyes away, and continued to gawk at this wailing woman, feeling her unfathomable pain.

Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum, Whodare beat our slumbering 'drums? 

The neighbourhood in turn, awoke, groggy and disgruntled. Nostrils flared as the posh buildings found the cause of this abrupt awakening. They glared. She cried. They snarled. She cried louder. They threatened. But she went on. So they rolled over to the other side of their beds, stuffing their ears with their fluffy pillows, and went back to sleep. They hoped the sound would go away, like all unwelcome sounds do, that they would carry their woes elsewhere, or simply die down (or die, what does it matter?). 

The still morning pressed itself against the woman from all sides, as though it was trying to squash her into nothingness like a flea in a pedigreed dog. She did not care. 

Ay bhai. Mere bache ko samhalo, she croaked, hoarse with pain.

The little girl in the car watched amazed. Doesn't the woman know she cannot walk on the street without clothes? How can she be so heartless, wanting to leave her child with a stranger? What kind of a mother is she? Why is she crying for help? Has she no alternative? Why, oh why is she naked? Doesn't she know she should wear clothes else she may be attacked? Why won't anyone listen or at least drive her away? Can I help-- (the last question stopped short of completion for fear that her cage might rattle and her owners would hear). All these thoughts darted back and forth in the little girl's mind.

Looking back, I realise that I could never have understood. That I might possibly never understand, what it took for that woman to stand naked in broad daylight, begging anyone who'd listen to take her child away from her. Did she not love her child? Oh but she did, only too much. That is why she wanted it as far away from her as possible, so that it would not end up where she had: broken.

© Tulsi Kapoor

Yer money or yer life

X had been on the wait list for a kidney transplant since August, 2008. In the meantime, not only had his company funded for his treatment (including dialysis and other medication), but he has also had to shell out gargantuan amounts of money from his own pocket (only a part of which was remunerated by his medical insurance policy) to manage till the time they found a donor for him. When they did, he was expected to shell out even more money, which he had been steadily saving up for in the meantime, but the amount was so huge, it would wipe out his life savings. Even so, to take the plunge he has to now move to a cheaper home so that his children do not suffer the money crunch.

This is one in several cases where patients are left in the lurch smack in the middle of the tussle between hospitals and medical insurance companies. The problem?: Most of these companies have withdrawn their support for cashless transactions from several hospitals. The argument? There have been several cases where, knowing that the patient is insured, the hospitals charge exorbitant prices for treatment, when they actually cost a smaller amount. So in order to keep a check on these fraudulent claims, the companies have become more stringent (and stingy). The losers? The patients.

In this month alone, several cases of cancer patients have denied treatment from hospitals because they are unable to afford it and are not getting support from their insurance companies.

While most hospitals in metropolitan cities rank higher than others, mostly on the basis of facilities and quality of service offered, the treatment (including checkups, tests, surgeries or post-op treatment) should not vary in cost. There needs to be a standard or average rate that keeps these costs uniform. Of course, they will be expensive but that is based on the nature of the surgery or treatment and equipment required, nothing more nothing less. This cannot be based on the poshness of the medical institution or how many rooms it has. Those hoping to make an extra buck should put themselves in the place of the patient's and imagine what hell they would have gone through, faced with the same dilemma.

In the meantime, can we save a few lives?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Popcorn for the Intermissioned Soul

Follow the flow; don't wallow in woe.

Moving Stills

I like that I notice things that other people don't. At least, I think they don't. Maybe they do, but don't want to admit it. Or maybe they think they imagined it all. Anyway.

Slitherin' Sucotash!
The other day I saw a lizard-- a chameleon-- shift its head upon a random wall that I passed on Tulsi Pipe Road on the way to work. This wall separates the road from the railway track. I was smiling in glee that I spotted it, that too only because it moved ever so slightly to a position I assumed it would remain in for a long, long time. But as I moved ahead, my eyes fell on a crow perched up on a branch that was nearby on that wall. It, too, had caught the lizard's sudden movement. It watched intently for the lizard's guard to go off, for it to settle into its new position, feeling assured that noone had seen it move. I presumed that in about the next five minutes, that lizard would be sitting in the pit of the crow's tummy, mangled and chomped, in a position that would remain forever, moved about only by the crow's digestive juices.

Butters putter in the gutter
Then I've been noticing that in Mumbai, rather than fluttering about the 'verdant' environs of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (and any other scrap of flora in the city), butterflies frequent Mumbai traffic. I distinctly remember the prettiest of butterflies briefly gliding between the heated cars and auto-rickshaws, carelessly flittering along the wind currents, taking a peek inside some of the windows and then hurriedly flittering away. And I felt special because only I could see it, in the busied hustle bustle of people going to work, people walking from the grocers to their kitchens, preoccupied cab drivers worrying about their next meal, customers worried about the inability of their drivers to shift to third gear, women worrying about their looks and men worrying about their books (finances), children listening to Bollywood item numbers on radio channels, teens listening to blaring pop/rock/hip hop songs on their Mp3 players, fisher women yelling, salesmen whispering, beggars watching but not seeing, sympathisers hearing but not listening.. and everyone else. At that moment, the noise dulled, the surroundings blurred, time slowed down and my eyes were fixed on that beautiful creation of Nature—black with orange and white dots, fiery brilliance floating in oblivion.

O'er the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high
There's a band of cantodors
Who dance with the dragonflies.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dared to dream
Really do come true. 

Someday I'll wish upon a star, and fly with my guitar way o'er the sea.
Where maestros sing and pluck a string
And melodies are lingering 
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Violas cry,
Violas cry, over the rainbow,
Why then, Oh why can't I?

Foi na beira do mar

Eu estava sentado à beira-mar de hoje. As ondas eram ferozes e eles serão cobrados para mim, com jorra do vento.

À minha esquerda, o mar estava brilhante, com o branco das ondas espumantes. Para minha frente, estava escuro e tenebroso.

Estudei a cena por um tempo. O mar parecia escuro profundo e poderoso. O mar de luz parecia feliz.

Eu percebi que o mar escuro estava escuro devido a uma certa nuvem de chuva acima dele, que era faz o seu caminho em direção à terra.

O mar de duas cores tornou-se um uniforme cinza como gotas de chuva para me atiraram em rápida sucessão.

Vento fresco. Calmo, mas para o piti-pati na minha pele.

I was sitting by the sea today. The waves were fierce and they charged towards me with gushes of wind.

To my left, the sea was bright, with white frothy waves. To my front, it was dark and murky.

I studied the scene for a while. The dark sea looked deep and powerful. The light sea looked happy.

I realised that the dark sea was dark because of a rain cloud right above it, which was makes its way towards the land.

The two-coloured sea became a uniform gray as drops of rain pelted towards me in quick succession.

Cool wind. Quiet, but for the pit-pat on my skin.

Foi na beira do mar, foi na beira do mar,
Aprendi a joga capoeira de Angola na beira do mar.

 Aprender a falar Portugues Brasileira na beira do mar

Cursory Rhymes

[Imagine John Cleese voice]

Javorting kimbles 
Was ne'er quite so simble. 
If you'd had a thimble, 
No doubt you'd be nimble.

When I thunk it through, 
You fit like a glove. 
But, my dear, dear, kittenwhiskers, 
You suck at making love. 

The rain it bate down, 
Resembled a frown, 
Fliggerating a clown; 
That rain that bate down.


The fatual plinth of the matter be
Flomorganly speaking, an eloquent tree
Can perforade a gimlet and maspuelate a flea
To yake a yummy harmalade tea.

Tile on my bathroom floor.

I stare at the tile on my bathroom floor. Pale White as The Ghost of Christmas Past.. or Present.. or Future, even.
Hurried drops of shower-rain spatter on the tile, forming brief circles like feverish ringworms.
The haphazard mob of water molecules hustles and bustles toward the drain, chattering continuously, as though it's in a hurry to end up in the gutter.
My feet are dotted with transparent globules, warm at first and then very cold.

The light bulb bounces from corner to corner, fighting for space with the ring worm droplets, being pushed around like a vulnerable eaglet. Little do the ringworms know that when the eaglet is full-grown, it will walk on the ringworms as though they were its carpet, and will skhvishhhh them.

A fusion of yellow, off white, electric sky blue and transparent, with strobe lights. A chaotic dance of light and colour-- automatic and feverish. Feverish.

pitter patter. pitter patter. pitpapitpapatpapatpapittertapattertapitterapattertupittupatatipataputter whoooooooooooooooooooooooooshhh! gurgle gurgle gurgle


It ain't the white light at the end of the tunnel or the happy realisation you get sitting still in a grove for twenty years. It's the bulb you forget to switch on from time to time, happily in denial of its existence until you are surrounded by darkness, feeling your way around and wonder what this button would do.