Posts Tagged ‘everyday’

Travel and crossovers …

April 4th, 2008

“Don’t tie your hair up. You look older than your age. What work do you do?” Victory asked me.

“I go to the slums and travel around a lot,” I said.

“With kids you work huh?” Victory asked.

“No, I like to watch how cash circulation and rotation takes place among people in the slums,” I replied.

So here I was (or should I say ‘there I was’), in the saloon, with Victory who eventually, a few hours ago, cut my hair. Victory is neither male nor female. I don’t know what she is. And I cannot care because she is one of those few people who have crossed the biological boundary of male and female. The rest of us travel between these two boundaries psychologically, personally and spiritually.

This morning, as Victory was snipping away my hair, I asked her where she was from.

“Calcutta. Three of my brothers are married there.”

“Ah, my sister is married in Calcutta.”

“Yeah. I was working for 18 years in Bombay. But the problem is that if you do not have a place of your own in Bombay, then it is very difficult. My boss there had a maid. So my boss’s house was a few feet away from the sea and this maid had a little jhopda between my boss’s house and the sea. She told me, ‘pay 10,000 rupees and create a jhopda here, next to mine.’ I said I can’t live amidst these people and flatly refused. Then, a few years ago, I went to Bombay and saw that that jhopda was now a two storey building with proper electricity and water supply.” Victory started laughing as she said this.

“Now, only if you would have listened to her; you would have had become a real estate owner in Bombay. How we don’t take these pieces of advice!”

Victory laughed again. She started sprucing my hair and telling me how to style it and then look wild as I traveled through the slums.

“Yeah, I look wild there anyway. And the men are a tough cookie to talk to.”

“Yeah, they can eye you and you can have a tough time, like those American girls who would come down to Calcutta and join the Mother Teressa foundation to become nuns. They would dress in white sarees and look like satyam shivam sundaram. One of the girls was cornered by the men and my mother turned around to her and told her to go back to her country. We did not see her after a while.”

Victory told me that her home in Calcutta was at Bonga which is the border village between Bangladesh and India.

“At that time, there was no Bangladesh or East Pakistan. We would walk across freely.”

We talked all the while as she went snip-snip at my hair. We spoke of  saloons in Britain and according to her, the British, after the Egyptians, are the best hairdressers because they wear wigs.

“So do men make better hairdressers?” I asked.

“Why do you say so? People say men are better cooks but women are very good with their culinary skills too. There is nothing like men are better than women in certain skills. Both are good. It is like there is no Western or Indian hairstyle. Hairstyle is hairstyle. But you see all these make-up artists in the film industry, like Cory Walia. They are all gay. That is because you need to think in a feminine way to do make-up for women. Like Jackie Shroff can be the ultimate man but he cannot dress up a woman! But society does not accept gay people. There are laws against gay people. I think marriage and family are all personal issues and the government should not interfere in these matters.”

We talked for a while more about Europe being highly Christian and Hitler massacaring the homosexuals during the Holocaust. When she finished, she said it was nice talking to me.

So here I was, or there I was, or somewhere in between, in this city where I feel lost and found at various points in time. At one point in time, I was looking for those thrilling and exciting experiences in the city which would get me to write. In my mind, that distinction between the exciting everyday and the mundane everyday was clearly drawn up. But here I am, discovering people and drawing myself into encounters and interactions. Here I am, somewhere, traveling through people, their minds, my mind and myself. And there are crossovers, at each moment …

I am still finding myself …

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Strangers. Cacophony. Crowds. Making sense. Making space. Making place …

March 7th, 2008

Today started off as a mediocre day. But I have to post and therefore, here is the attempt (while listening to Art Company’s Suzanna, I’m crazy lovin’ you!).

So we were all waiting at the K. H. Road bus stop, waiting for our respective buses to arrive, so that we could reach our respective destinations. The 360 series buses were plenty. Two women at the bus stop were speaking in Kannada. Seemed like working women, belonging to middle working classes. I was watching them and assessing my own condition of immobility. These days, I have been largely at home, trying hopelessly to get somewhere with the Ph.D. The feeling of immobility strikes in these times when even with the desire of wanting to go out somewhere, I am unable to get myself to move. So here are these women, who are mobile everyday, who get out into the city to reach their places of work. Are they also immobile despite their ability and compulsion to move every single day? Are they mobile and simultaneously immobile, both conditions produced by routine? What kind of comforts does routine provide us? What securities does routine grant us? I found it interesting that I encounter these random strangers on the bus stop, for a few minutes, in that moment of all of us waiting for buses, and then I start trying to understand my situation vis-a-vis their situation. How often does that happen to all of us?

So here are these two women, waiting at the bus, for buses to arrive. They seem middle-class, workingwomen. Perhaps Bangloreans for a long time. And the buses that arrive are of the 360 series. All these buses are bound for Electronic City. One of the two of the women complains, “what is this? all these buses going to Electronics City? It is holiday season. Therefore there are fewer buses for our destination in the evenings.” Her irritation appeared as a matter of fact, as a matter of acceptance that work patterns and therefore routines in Bangalore have changed and some crowds will be serviced more than others owing to the economic changes in this city. I am entirely unsure if she was complaining of the distinction between IT and non-IT crowds, that distinction which is being emphasized off late in order to comprehend the pathologies of this city. Would it make a difference to our cognition of the city and its conditions if we view IT as just another economy? What is this IT imaginary? Why does it have to feature in our attempt to make sense of this city, its cacophony, its, spatiality and the place?

So here we are, the two workingwomen and myself (in addition to the others), waiting for our buses to arrive. Mine comes and I wonder if it is their’s too. But I could not bother to see. I got into number 13. I don’t know what became of those two women. But for that moment of waiting for the bus, I ended up entering their lives and achieving that moment of solidarity with them, sharing the same irritations (including the idiocy of a bus driver honking to glory at the bus before him, knowing fully well that there are passengers getting into that bus and there is no space on the road to maneuver).

Inside the bus was another world, another space. A woman conductor keen to ensure that all passengers had purchased tickets. The bus was jam packed. Two Muslim women were sitting in the absolute front seat. A blind man got into the bus and stood near the absolute front seat. The Muslim women were being persuaded to give up one of their seats for the blind man. The Muslim women fought back stating that the blind man should not have gotten into the ladies section. The blind man was blind to all this cacophony. He managed to make place to stand in a manner where he would face least hindrance and disturbance. The others continued the for and against argument for him. He had made his place.

After a point, I had also managed to make my place in the crowd. The bus got more crowded and then it became emptier. Women continued to stand at the door, out of a sense of insecurity that moving inside would mean locking themselves up with each other into a crowd and then making it impossible for themselves to get out when their stop arrives. That insecurity was also compelling me to stand near the door. But I could not afford to hold on there.

At Siddhapura, a woman entered the bus with her baby boy in one arm and her daughter by her side. The daughter must have been about 4 years old. The woman was trying to make her place. I felt very sorry for her, given the baby in her arms, the crowd in the bus and how was she managing to hold on despite all this madness? Her little girl stood in the middle. My stop was arriving. The conductor was right there. I asked the conductor to move so that I could get off. The conductor kept telling everyone, “swalpa jaaga kodi” but that was not making any difference. The crowds continued to stick there. I had to get off! I tried hard to manage my way without harming the little girl. Eventually, I had no choice but to crush her to make my way out. And then I had to shout at the women at the door to get off the bus so that I could get off.

I did not feel bad about crushing the girl after a point. This is not a survival in the city kind of narrative. It is just acknowledgment of the conditions that we live in from time to time. At some times, we enter into the lives of absolute strangers to feel some ground in the city. We enter their lives without their permission, through our minds and imaginations. And then, at some times, we navigate in aggressive and violent ways in order to make our own spaces. Sometimes we just end up making space, unknowingly

(And there is no end to this post)

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Nothing spectacular. Just ordinary.

January 30th, 2008

It was yet another day that began with depression and anger, that sense of not knowing what I am doing, why I am doing what I am doing and what I am going to do. Everything seemed like a burden when the day started off. And it got more and more burdensome by the middle of day until I felt like I would collapse under this burden.

Then V sent me a link to his blog post He had written about London and how he feels alive in London. It reminded me of my few days in London and how much I was in love with that city and how I longed to go back again … just to feel alive, just to sleep the nights off on the streets and beg by the days. V and I chatted about how stability was killing us and how I felt that everything that I did was pervaded with an increasing sense of nothingness, of meaninglessness. After talking to V, it felt like I had a goal in life – to get to London. For once, I could not care about money and how to get there. I just knew that I had to get there. That was the first kick of the day.

I decided to walk to the Center today, just for the heck of it. And it turned out to be some experience. Nothing spectacular, just ordinary, but a sense of revelation. The revelation was not about the city, as much as it was about me. For once I realized how I have to let go off time if I have to make something out of myself. Right now, my tightly holding on to time is murdering me, slowly and gradually. In the evening, when Jack and I reached late for our appointment, we felt such a sense of relief. We felt like we had done something for ourselves by being late. Just these simple things in life, such pleasure!

I have decided that I have to spend an hour writing every single day. Even if I write garbage. Sometimes, it does not work to wait on spontaneity to strike you. Like David would tell us during our photography lessons, sometimes you have to just practice, like a habit. Then it becomes habitus, a part of you, where you inhabit it as much as it inhabits you.

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Structure and Everyday Life

January 28th, 2008

This morning as I rode out towards Domlur, a sudden anxiety and fear gripped me. I do not have a daily routine in terms of “work”. Yes, I do the domestic work in the morning and in the evening. But I do not go to an office. I have to create my own deadlines for work and my own work routine. Since I work on a project basis, the moment one project gets over, I get gripped by a queasy, uncomfortable feeling in the neck – what next? now what do I have to look forward to? And then begins a desperate search for some more work. In the process, I don’t know where I am going. Just scrounging for more work, instead of trying to do what I really enjoy. But then, what do I really enjoy? (I don’t think I am even enjoying the act of writing now!)

So this morning, as I rode out to Domlur, I was gripped by that queasy, uncomfortable feeling of being out of “work”. What then is work, I ask myself? To me, it is what defines a structure. And the comfort is the structure, even when you are not actually doing the work. When that structure collapses, what do you do? It is discomfort. Every day has to be lived on a day to day basis. Now you are a master of your own time. But that mastery is itself unnerving because we are used to being slaves to time.

This morning, as I rode out to Domlur, I was gripped by that queasy, uncomfortable feeling of being out of “work”.  The structure has collapsed. Now will I build another one?

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