Posts Tagged ‘unknown’

City, Nights and Fear

June 30th, 2009

9 o’clock

10 o’clock

11 o’clock



inside their homes – the peoples

but, this is Mumbai, does not sleep – the city that does not sleep.

Someone asked me the other day – but you said that people do not sleep here in Mumbai. Look around, everyone seems to be asleep – and he smiled. I thought to myself, maybe it is the weekend and so everyone is sitting tight in their homes.

Then, returning back home at 11:15 PM at night, sitting in the cab, I looked around. A sense of fear had also gripped me – how will I return home? When will I return home? When will I snuggle up in my bed and feel safe. How can this happen to me in Mumbai – the city whose prodigy I am. Fear, that feeling of lack of safety, was creeping up my neck.

Sitting in the taxi, I asked the driver – no public on the streets?

He said – Sunday nah? Little public out at night.

But, I prodded further, even the bus services into the city have reduced at night. What is th deal?

The buses kya? They run empty at nights and so, the BEST has decided to reduce them. But yes, the streets are empty at nights these days, after the bamb-kaand.

Bamb-kaand? You mean 26/11?

Yes. After that, people have reduced going out at nights. A sense of fear has gripped people. We taxi drivers, our income was mainly from the fares we got at night. Now, that has reduced drastically. All the shareef, good character people don’t come out at nights. It is only the badmaash, the bad characters, that come out at night. Plus, so much naaka-bandi, police watch. Who will come out? Which shareef person will come out?

Just a while before the driver was drawing a distinction between the shareef and the badmaash, I had watched a bunch of well-dressed prostitutes and one of their clients in the classic white kurta and pyjama, laughing and making jokes around the corner of a hotel at Grant Road. And I had thought about respectability. Now, I think of the shareef, the badmaash, and the night and the city – transformation, perhaps it is happening at these subtle levels.

Then, I watched the city last night as we rode past one end to the other. Are the streets really silent? Is this what the bamb-kaand has done? Penetrated into the fabric of the city and spread fear …

We halted at a signal around the corner of one of the posh Western suburbs. There she was – no fear – just dexteriously weaving the flowers through the thread and making garlands, perhaps readying herself for the clientele in the morning who may want to offer the flowers to their gods and goddesses, allaying a fear of a different kind (that between the devotee and the devout). She weaved away quickly, without care. Is she afraid, I thought to myself?

Then we passed the roads. There they were, those people, those people we call slum dwellers. Three hutments jutting out from the walls, just onto to the streets. They had also called it a night, lying down in their beds, drawing their sheets onto themselves. There they were, stepping into the world of dreams and nightmares and desires and hopes and aspirations – some had their TV sets on, some just oblivious of the roadside traffic and preparing to go off to sleep. Are they afraid?

Then, we went pass the highway, those big roads that have been created to facilitate the movement of cars (and traffic). On the highway, covered under blue plastic sheets, supported by a few poles, they were also going off to sleep. Perhaps they were construction workers who had settled into a little space on the footpath and called it a night. Perhaps they were contract sweepers, spending their last few days in the city before the rain lashes vehemently. They were almost calling it a night, drifting off (or just about to …) … Are they afraid?

And then, just a little ahead, three-four men and women, playing hide-and-seek in the bushes by the side of the highway, perhaps some kind of a foreplay. They seemed happy, playful. Are they afraid?

Fear – what of?

Fear – of what?

Fear … and the city sleeps at night …

Fear … and we sleep to prepare for another day to come …

Fear …

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Of the adventures of the adventure called Life!

March 3rd, 2008

So it was just Saturday.

One of those Saturdays, when there was to be a party in the evening.

And it also happened to be one of those Saturdays when I peeked back into my past.

To come alive in the present …

M had come down from Bangladesh. Those times that I spent in Bangladesh, nearly 4 years ago, were the happiest times of my life. It was a life of risk, of fun, of cheap living, of enjoying each day that passed through as mundane an activity as cleaning the house!

I was living in Khulna, a small student town in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. It was a time of my life when I was beginning to make some firm decisions and life was also leading me in that kind of flow. It was also a moment of learning, of learning by making severe errors. And it was a time when words just flowed by me, as if they were me, as if I was them.

M was known as Captain because he was the captain of the university. He was Big Brother. His cockroach eyes would want to peer at everyone, through everyone. And he was an absolutely voracious eater. And he would make me laugh to the extent that onlookers would wonder if something were wrong with me! For M, I was an out of the world creature, different from other girls in the university, one adventure freak! I had been to the Bangladesh road border with a visa by air only to be returned back to India and condemned to flying the next day on a 20 minute flight from Kolkatta to Dhaka!

Those were the days of my life, my life which was rife with adventure. Each moment was beautifully, painfully and anxiously unsettling. Today, I find myself relatively settled, but this settlement is itself unsettling. Even when I am moving from home to other places, it is an unsettling feeling because a certain adventure, a certain joy, is missing. It seems that having become professional, I have lost the adventure of life. But then, have I? …

M also seems settled. I wonder whether he feels unsettled in his settled state. Or perhaps, he has no time to think about this. Sitting in the hotel lobby, we were inquiring about each other’s friends, where they were, how they were. M tells me, “why is it that all of did not keep in touch once we left university? Detachment … psychology of detachment! You should study it!” But then, whoever said that I was detached? I am still very attached with those memories, with those times. I loved them and I still love them. They give me hope, the hope that the adventure of life has not gone, that this is one more phase, one more adventure. So what if it does not appear thrilling, it is still an adventure. It is still a state that I have never experienced before and I will not experience the same things again.

I am ready to be unsettled …

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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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Writing by Footsteps …

January 28th, 2008

So what now? …

After one and a half years (or maybe more), I decided I had to write. Why did I decide I had to write? This decision goes back to a few years where the act of writing was an exercise in self-reflection. As I wrote, the reflections automatically appeared in the words. My vulnerabilities, my anxieties, my angst, my excitement, my passion, everything about me was reflected in the words. Writing was meditation, mediation and release.

I wrote about cities, about people. I was the observer and the observed. One and a half years ago, I moved to Bangalore. I lost touch with the city and with writing. Somebody once said that when you get more and more professional, you start reordering your priorities and you rarely go back to doing all the things you wanted to do. I wonder now whether with this initiative to write, I am getting back to home. Yeah, it is questionable as to where is home and what is home. For now, let me admit that my words are my home. In them I seek warmth and comfort. In them, I find myself. The act of writing then is the act of finding myself, of grounding myself, of placing myself.

I had exquisite stories to tell when I was writing about the city. When I decided to reopen writing, I wondered where the words would come from. Earlier, the words came from the act of walking through the city, traveling in myself and in the environment such that there was no difference. This time, where will the words come from? What will I write about? I don’t know … And this not knowing has been preventing me from writing. So let me step into the unknown for once and figure out things for myself anew.

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