Rant

Earlier today, I ran across a post that sort of questioned all the ‘controversy’ surrounding the #happytobleed, #righttopray, and #readytowait campaigns. That, and a few other blithering idiots with very skewed perception of the world and a woman’s life had absolutely ruined my morning. A girl on my list, who identifies as a ‘feminist’ thinks that it’s okay if women are not allowed inside the temple. Why? Because it’s an age old tradition and who are we to disturb this.

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A post that a friend of mine shared on a social neworking website and her response to it.

Firstly, if nobody had questioned the Sati system then it would be mindlessly followed by thousands of people all across the country. So in my knowledge, the Sati system only started because Rajput women believed that it was better to jump into their husband’s burning pyre rather than being raped by the Mughals. But to many who followed this system, in their opinion, women should jump into their husband’s burning pyre because they had no right to live or have no sexual desire, or just desires, for the rest of their lives.

And till date, I’m pretty sure that women would be jumping into pyres because women don’t have a life if her man is dead even if there is no war and foreign dynasty set out to capture her. But at the same time, if the woman was the one who was dead then the man marry over and over again till he would please. Like many movies portray what happens behind closed doors and goes unnoticed; 80 year old men would marry 8 year olds so they remained ‘youthful’. Yes, yes, keep screwing little virgin girls so satisfy your never ending need for sex. But then you let these mindless men into the temples, and not the woman who actually needs to calm her minds and raging thoughts just because she’s being human, aka bleeding from her vagina.

Why is a woman impure if she bleeds?

If she didn’t bleed then she couldn’t have you, if you weren’t there then this world wouldn’t exist, if this world didn’t exist then none of these rules would exist.

So if a woman is impure when she bleeds then each one of us thick-headed humans who came into this ‘polluted’ world through a bleeding woman’s vagina is ‘impure’. So yes, what I’m saying every man, woman, elephant shrew, and bats, that exist are ‘impure’. So in that sense none of us should have been allowed into a temple. Heck, we shouldn’t even have built a temple! Because ‘impure’ people have no right to do such things.

But, the campaign started because this man (who’s name is identity is of no interest to me) thinks that in future, some person would let women into the temples (thankfully, it’s being considered now). And if that successfully happens then they would introduce a machine that would scan you. Maybe they even come up with a hand held device that they’d shove between your legs and see you’re bleeding. But if the machine isn’t working, what would they do then? I’ll tell you, they’d strip you just to make sure that you’re not bleeding.

But then, why aren’t you screening men? Why aren’t you making sure that they don’t have a hard-on before entering the holy place? Why aren’t you checking to see if he’s just had sex or masturbated or some thing like that? Heck, why aren’t you checking if he’s a murderer or a rapist? Why only the women? Why? Did your god tell you to do that? Just curious.

But what is so wrong with bleeding? Would I bleed so much that I’d flood your city? Would my bleeding kill your precious men?

Next they’d say what’s wrong with a two-finger test? It’s been happening for years; let’s not question this. What if a woman is dying and her last wish is to see the temple but she’s bleeding? Let her die, meh, who cares about her, she deserves to die anyways, she’s BLEEDING!

Maybe you think that women shouldn’t be allowed in the temple. That’s okay. But by some miracle of your lord they are allowed inside after years and years of trying, what would happen then? Would you let random men check you to see if you’re bleeding? Now you’ll tell me that’s why women should stay out of it. But guess what, its high time that a few men learned to keep their eyes, mouths, hands, legs and penises to themselves.

Before I end, one kutti doubt. How exactly do you worship goddesses? Do you see when they’re not their period and worship them? Do they get a break from these devotees when they are on their period? Now don’t tell me they don’t have their period, these goddesses seem to be frozen in their youth, so by my logical calculation they have to have had their period. No?

If you don’t agree with that, then you tell me how exactly did this goddess give birth to some other god that you worship with menstruating? Now, don’t tell me that biology didn’t apply to the gods.

 

Zuber

I didn’t want to go today, it was so far; I could have skipped, I had attendance too. I was sleep deprived and an hour long ride on a crowded bus would just make the mood crabbier and the body tired-er.

After drowning myself in self pity and pointless ranting, I went anyway; I got off the bus and waited for someone to cross the road where the traffic never seemed to stop. A bunch of people from the railway station came and waited as well. I hid between them- their fruit and fish baskets, huge cloth bags, and the children most of them were dragging. They didn’t realize, and I crossed the road feeling proud of myself like I’d accomplished something on a miserable day after all.

Bangalore weather is a bitch; the sun shines as bright as it does on a summer noon. Correcting myself, Bangalore has only one season- summer. I walked to the up the path and I turned right, I saw the garage and a few chickens in front of it, grease and oil all over the road along with little pieces of rags.I was close to the school now, I couldn’t walk, I froze.

I felt someone nudge, I looked. A little boy stood next to me and smiled at me. “Hi putta! School-ge barthidiya?” I asked him, he nodded. Slipped his hand into mine and walked with me to the yellow building.

I racked my brains to remember his name. I couldn’t. I knew his brother Rashid. He was the kid who’d hit me the week before, I had a little bump on my lower back because of that. He was a little kid, maybe three, who ran around like a tornado. His voice was raspy when he spoke and he cursed, so much. And he climbed on everyone he saw, and he liked being carried and turned around till he got dizzy.

He would run up to me and climb and kiss me on my cheek, the snort on his nose would not be wiped and I would hope it didn’t get on my cheek. And then he would have a moment of great affection and he would hug me and almost choke me. He would make me carry him and walk around the huge playground. Once, twice, thrice.

But his brother was different. I was standing inside the dimly lit classroom, and I still felt the little sand-covered hand in mine. I wondered what he did to get his hands and legs that dirty. He was just standing next to me, not asking for a sheet to draw, not asking for a puzzle, not asking to go back into the ground and play. 20150131_150827

And then he said ‘draw’. He didn’t talk much at all, he didn’t run, he didn’t do anything. I got him paper and colours and sat next to him as he started to colour. He had big eyes, he didn’t wear any shoes, they were as dusty as his hand. I reminded myself to sanitize my hand before I ate anything. But then again, these kids didn’t even have water to wash their hands.

I sat next to him for two hours without speaking a word, I didn’t fall asleep. I sat there and watched him fill colors into the drawing in front of him. He occasionally looked up and smiled at me. Before I left for the day, he slipped his little hand into mine, told me he wanted to walk around the ground and I did that with him. And then I bent down and hugged him, I wasn’t much of a hugger, never was.

Something in me snapped and I hugged him tighter and kissed on his hair. His hair was soft and I tasted sand on my lips. I wondered what he’d climbed on or where he’d fallen that he was THIS covered in sand.

I slipped away, saw a flicker of sadness flash across his face. It went away the same way it came. And I left promising to come back next week.

I wondered through the week if he thought of me,or if I he would remember me at all. I missed a week and I went a week later.

He slipped his hand into mine and asked me why I hadn’t come the week before. I told him I was sick and he seemed concerned. He asked me to guess his name, I told him I didn’t know. And he asked me mine.

“Niveadha, but call me Nivi” I said.

“I want you to call me Vishal” he said.

His brother came running up and I felt his fingers dig into my palm for a second before his hands slipped away. Rashid climbed into my arms and abused him in Urdu and called him Zuber.

“Vishal kanno, Zuber alla”, I corrected him. He looked at me chocked me with a hug and ran away. I told him I’d call him Zuber too and he walked away.

He climbed on the compound surrounding the ground and walked to the far end of it. Stood on the far end of it, he walked faster on this compound than I could run on the sand. When I went he hid behind the concrete, at first I thought he was playing and then I told him it was too hot so I was going back inside; I thought he would follow but half way into the ground I realized he wasn’t.

He just hid behind the cement compound, I was scared to do to the other side. I was scared of the other side because it was almost 10 feet above the ground. These kids were used to it so they would sit there like they were sitting on a cliff. I waited he peeped once, saw me looking and hid again. I ran back and he ventured further onto the other side, I peeped from this side and apologized and asked him to come back. He wasn’t.

I went out of the gate on to the road and he got off and went into the other ground. I wasn’t suppose to leave school so I stayed and we just looked at each other for a long time. I gave up and I went in and he didn’t come back in that day.

The week after, he was alone. He had forgotten about me calling him Zuber, which was actually his name. He slipped his little palm, cleaner this time into mine and told me about him. I listened and we spent the rest of the afternoon putting together a Pinocchio puzzle someone had donated. He smiled often, lost in another universe. He wore the same orange shirt week after week.

He was from Bombay; he never wanted to go again to Bombay. He was in Bangalore; he didn’t want to stay in Bangalore. He was in 4th grade before, now he was in 2nd. Rashid didn’t come anymore. They’d left for Bombay to never come back, he said. He didn’t want to go, “Eshtailla” he said. I was surprised. He lived with his grandmother now, ate Kurkure and watched TV, and went to school. I was still shocked but this was still better than him being alone so I stayed quite. He never spoke to me again to this extent.20150131_151913

He loved getting pictures taken. He stood in front of a friend’s car and got a picture taken, then he asked me to wait till he got his orange shit off. “I look dirty with this shirt” he said and hid his shirt behind himself and posed for a picture in his ripped vest. My little Salman Khan, I had called him and he had blushed. Looking at this all the other kids came there removed their shirts and posed for a picture. Salman Khan-s I called them and they all giggled and ran away. I asked Zu if he had something to eat, “Kurkure, five rupees packet” he replied proudly.

I walked out of the gate with him, and gave him my lunch, unfortunately only a bar of Snickers. I told him to go home, run. I wasn’t allowed to do this, it would ‘spoil the kids’ but I did it and I didn’t want anyone to know. He beamed at me as he walked away.

It was nearing the end. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to go again. But I did. I crossed the road and walked till the yellow building came into view. I stood there realizing I wouldn’t come there again. I felt a nudge and a little hand covered in sand slip into mine. I looked and he smiled; his orange shirt was a little torn near the collar now. I squeezed his hand and he hugged me tight. I pulled away and we walked to the school together.

A District of Forgotten Marvels

Another one of the pieces I wrote while at Citizen Matters. Here.

I’d visited this place quite a few years back with the family; a little village close to this place is the grand mother’s home town.

She told me stories of how the girls back then would walk barefoot to school, and then walk to a temple that next to a river which was almost miles away so they could spend the evening looking at the fishes before they returned home and helped finish the house work.

What’s more fascinating is that Ajji thinks back on this as the best days of her life, without sulking one bit that she and the other women had to work at home while the boys would just play in the thottas and come back home to eat.

A District of Forgotten Marvels: Hassan

Celebrate being a Quitter!

An article of mine got published an year after it was written; it was edited and ready to be published the year before, but it didn’t happen because the editor wouldn’t do much of the publishing without us nagging her, reminding her thrice everyday that the articles were complete.

Nevertheless, do give it a read!

“What do you generally do when it rains? Curl up on a chair with your favourite book and watch the tiny droplets trickle down the window? Or are you fighting a battle to not reach into your pocket to find that lighter to light a cigarette?

Well, if you’re the second kind, we’re here to tell you why you should kick the butt for good this World No Tobacco Day.”

Celebrate being a Quitter

Le Stage

(Translation: The Internship)

Walking down the cement stairs which had an occasional crack or two, I realized it was the last time I would ever come here. Some sort of huge fan ran monotonously, and the place was as dirty as it was the first time I had entered it. It smelled slightly of sweat, and mostly of tobacco. The faint clank of metal from the gym two floors above stood out from all the other noises. I looked for the kitten, not finding it around I stepped out on to the crowded main road, avoiding the cows, cow shit and random men ready to touch you at the chance they got. I made my way to that the bus-stand one last time.

After almost two years of applying at various big-shot news houses and a few million phone calls later; an online news website internship finally came my way thanks to a friend who had worked there before. It was then that I realised that a decent academic record and a brilliant resume and other content writing jobs didn’t matter as much as a recommendation from someone who the editor knew or trusted. As far as the office was, I didn’t think twice before saying yes to the publication.

Waking up early I consoled myself that this wouldn’t be very different from college. Putting on a freshly pressed pair of clothes, I walked to the bus stand. I was ornithophobic, and this bus stand was right next to a chicken coop. Beady eyed, feather stuffed, clawed losers flapped around the stand like they owned the place. My worst nightmare had just begun. After an hour’s wait, no bus to Kormanagala appeared. Jakkasandra, seemed like a far away land, like it was in the next city.

The aunty, who’s saree matched the shady, soon to become someone’s lunch creatures, had entertained herself by watching me sweat profusely at the sight of these things, suggested that I go to Jaynagar 9th block and catch a bus. Desperate to be on time on my first day, I called an auto to take me to the same.

An auto, two wrong buses, a half hour walk, and another auto, later, I finally got off in front of DCB bank. Not finding any board that mentioned the name of the publication, I hung around outside the building till P walked down, assured me I was at the right place and walked me to the office on the first floor.

Entering, to the left was a metal book stand with books that everyone occasionally gazed at, and an old little forgotten lantern. Right, black chairs, light brown tables, and an occasional green glass bottle popping up here and there. Tucked into the chairs were people who typed away like clockwork. One looked up, smiled, I smiled back and settled myself into a chair too big for me and waited. I was an hour late, but the editor wasn’t around yet.

The office was one no-room house converted into a, well, office. There was still a kitchen, but the dining room was a conference room, and  there were two little cubicle washrooms which were very awkward to use.

Curly black hair, stained teeth, a pack of Kings in her left hand and her Moto G in the right, wearing a dark blue Kurta, G walked in screaming a ‘hi’ to everyone there. She was the loudest and liveliest person in this mechanical place, but she walked in late every day. After handing me my assignment, she found me a computer whose keys were faded, but worked fine.

The only entertainment here, I realised a few days later, was lunch. Everyone would open their dubbas, which were mostly packed from home, and everyone would share and eat. G would only order from Bhukkad when she didn’t bring lunch from home. G was also the only non-vegetarian in the office so she rarely bought non-vegetarian lunch.

We interns sat with the others at times, and sometimes by ourselves since T would always forget to order food on time. Though T wouldn’t admit it, he was super impressed with G on his first day, but began to dislike her the day she yelled at him for walking in later than she. None of them seemed to have anything to talk about other than work, which would mostly just be when the piece would come in to be uploaded.

After two days of sitting at the office I realized that, not everyone there worked for the news publication. Some of them just sat there typed away codes on their laptops, and not everyone came to work every day. A few days later, I realized again that they weren’t coding the news website, but it was something different altogether.

For the next month, except for occasional leg work, all I did was sit in front of the computer and prolong the assignments I was given, because they seemed annoyed to watch me work fast and sit idle, or browse Facebook.

The first two days, I walked in to the office at 10, no one seemed to have arrived at such early hours except for one guy who never failed to wish me good morning. He whispered on his phone all day long and giggled and blushed, he sat for long hours in the little cubicle toilet, the first time he did that I thought he must have suffocated to death and was contemplating how I should tell G that when he walked out proudly, still whispering into his handset. He never ate anything substantial, and always ate milk bikis or jam biscuits, along with Fanta or Miranda. He never spoke to anyone much, just typed away on his computer, was always there before anyone arrived and left after everyone left.

Work was highly monotonous. After two days of experimenting with bus routes I finally found the best one- a bus to Shantinagar and then to Jakkasandra. I didn’t want to walk in early as I never seemed to have anything to do. Since there was only one bus to Shantinagar to my place, I whiled away time sitting at the bus stand, thinking of random love notes I could write to imaginary people, or just stare at the chaotic vehicles, or smile at people I began to see there day after day, before I finally took an almost empty bus to work.The bus stand is the only place where you could see a melange of people.

Sitting here at the bus stand seemed far more interesting than getting on a bus and going to work. Sitting at the stand, I watched the rain drip from the plastic dome-like ceiling above and decided I didn’t want to go to work that day. Coincidentally, I had to work on a write-up about the day in the life of a bus conductor.

I could say his without thinking twice that this was the best day in my life. The conductor I met was inspiring. She had all the right things to say so inspire someone to get their lazy asses to work. I couldn’t have had a more meaningful conversation with even my parents. It was the day I realised that I didn’t have to look for inspiration in people in the lime light; everyone has something in them that the other lacks and this serves as the latter’s inspiration. Though the interview lasted for about two hours, I whiled away about three hours getting into random buses and getting off them at random places. This somehow added to the dose of inspiration and helped me write.

I could easily say this was the only article which I enjoyed writing during my time there. Everything else I wrote seemed forced or half hearted. Though I am a south Indian and have seen my mother and aunts wear silk sarees, I wasn’t much of a saree person. One of the editor’s seemed to be obsessed with the idea of doing a write up on the Kanchivaram industry and put me on to it. I discovered a part of Rajajinagar that day. Also, being a Bangalorean, I had never been to the part of town which goes the KR Market area. Some random short-cut by the bus driver, took us to the lane next to Tipu’s Summer Palace.

Within a few fleeting glimpses, I fell in love with the palace and its architecture and KR Market – Just not the gullies which sold electrical stuff- it was too modern in an old way. Except for days like these, I sat in the office and typed away at the computer, or at least pretended to.

Walking down to the office was always a nightmare; I had to pass two shops which sold chickens. Either the spot in front of these shops would be strewn with feathers or there would be blood-all over the road. Sometimes it gave me chills and when the feathers and blood was too much it made me dizzy. I had to walk to the bus stand about a kilometre away to catch my breath.

Little by little, Jakassandra seemed to become familiar. The Kormangala which everyone called the ‘hub’ of the city seemed so dull and similar to other parts of the city. Until one evening, when I missed the bus and had to go through the Kormanagala Park did I realise that this place was just over-enthusiastically buzzing with life. Chaatwalas, goolawalas, masala dosa-walas, momowalas were everywhere! Every little stall on the road was crowded with people!  But I preferred my area, any day, much less populated than this.

On days when T and I are bored, we sit and joke about the place, and how S, an editor, was always bullied by the other editors. Or, how the publication only published A’s articles and one else’s. We sit on the dusty media lab floor, sipping tea, and talk about how we never got the stipend we were promised, or how they queued all our articles to be published and forgot about them the moment we were out of sight. Or about how we ordered from Bhukkad and I hated the Hummus salad, but how he loved all their sandwiches and Dropkafe’s kappee.

Strangely, the tinted glass windows with pigeons making pigeon-sounds outside and the green-wine bottles which were used as drinking water bottles are the only things that I can associate with the workplace now. The last bus ride seems the same as the first, second or third. Rain pattered against the window like it had day after day just at the hour that I reached home, and I walked back home glad that I wouldn’t ever have to see the chickens or the blood ever again.

Reading Marquez

“When I first read 100 Years of Solitude”, V had begun, “I couldn’t go past the first few pages. Every time I read it, I had to begin again. And every time it ended, it ended at the same page. Until after a few years when I could finally go past these pages and then be amazed with the magic Marquez created”, she had said.

In the following class I attended, I went up to V and told I had no assignments to work on that day. She told me I could use the hour to read 100 Years of Solitude. She picked a book from her rack that looked like a planner and not the novel that I thought I would read, and it wasn’t; it was black and looked like it had no writing on it. Only after I picked it up did I realize that “Gabriel Garcia Marquez” and “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” was engraved on the spine of the book in little gold letters, that made the book look like a record from a bygone era.

The first and last page of the novel was a very pleasing shade of red; Google said this colour was ‘cherry red’. The pages felt crisp between my fingers but were still faded- the jet black cover and the cherry red leaf made the little book look like a relic.

“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”

I read the line twice or maybe thrice, to register what I had read. But I continued reading, and didn’t put the book down till I finished. I was blank at the end of it; when asked if I liked it or not, I nodded and smiled or started back and told the person what they wanted to hear so they’d leave me alone. Still, I change my mind about the peculiar love story of the old man and the virgin every ten minutes. At times I’m disgusted with the arrangement that the two have, at times I’m moved, at times I’m happy, and at times I feel all the emotions at once.

The original was called Memoria de Mes Putas Tristes. Somehow ‘putas’ didn’t seem like a word that would be used to describe a whore or even a grown woman (because ‘putta’ in Kanada stands for something you would call a child). I liked it better as the English translation. Alberto Manguel, in his review for The Guardian writes that Edith Grossman (the translator) has done more for the books than Marquez has- she adds more meaning to the words than Marquez intended to but nevertheless the only character who comes alive in the story is the old journalist.  “Even García Márquez’s writing, so colourful and inventive in the celebrated masterpieces for which he deservedly received the Nobel prize in 1982 – A Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera – is in these pages flat and conventional”, he says, similar to many others who believed that this wasn’t one of the best works of Marquez.

But this wasn’t the first novel that I’d read, I had read The Chronicles of a Death Foretold just a few days earlier. Much like the other book, I was fascinated and yet annoyed by the story.

It’s always the first sentence in his books that manages to take the reader by surprise. In this case it was, “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

At this point, if you’ve watched many saas-bahu Hindi soaps with your mom and grandma and aunt, you would begin to guess why someone wanted to kill him- an affair, a robbery, someone’s boyfriend, a drunken brawl, a property dispute, or something on those lines.

Marquez builds up half the novel to this moment where he reveals why Nasar died, but when he does reveal it- it’s rather flat. You can hear yourself go “Ayoooo! Why did this take a ‘Tulsi killed her son’ turn?” Just when Marquez senses this disappointment he gives you something else to keep guessing about; he plants a little seed in you that says that maybe they killed Nasar without a valid reason, and this little seed is what keeps you awake at night. It feeds on your amusement and frustration and grows into an immortal plant.

“Chronicle is speech after long silence. For a time Garcia Marquez abjured fiction: whatever the reasons for his return to the form, we can only be grateful that he is back, his genius unaffected by the lay-off” said Salman Rusdie in his review for London Review of Books. And boy, am I grateful- it helped me make my way through a rather monotonous film.

When I began to read short stories by Marquez it seemed to me that all his stories were all linked to one another. In the story Eva Is Inside Her Cat though Marquez doesn’t describe the house in this twelve-page story you begin to picture the story unfold inside the rotting colonial house that the journalist in Memories of my Melancholy Whores lives in. The Woman who Came at Six O’ Clock is story about what a little conversation the owner of the restaurant has with a woman who visits the restaurant at the same time every day, again he doesn’t describe the restaurant but you feel that it was the same one that was described time and again in The Chronicles of a Death Foretold.

Marquez manages to create a maze, if you start reading you get lost in this maze and you can’t leave the maze till you’ve managed to run into every nook and corner of the maze so much that the maze becomes familiar to you. The only way to leave this maze is to finish the book, but by the time you leave you begin to long for this maze that you were familiar with so you go back to it, but this time the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and it starts all over again.

But we were supposed to be perplexed by Marquez, we were supposed to be introduced to a new world, a magical world, but I was rather disappointed. V spoke of a Marquez whose grandmother gave the world a plumber who left a trail of yellow butterflies everywhere he went (or something like that- but right now, this plumber seems much like Winnie the Pooh carrying a jar of honey down the garden), the Marquez that I read introduced me a world far away from where I lived and still similar to that I lived in. And maybe I had found that Marquez but hadn’t realised it.

When I went to Blossom’s over the weekend, I picked up his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. The book sits on the top of my rack waiting to be read while The Short stories by Marquez is in second compartment of the grey backpack, along with a few half written assignments waiting to be written and submitted.

Memories of a French Town

The Pondicherry I had imagined was a French town. A little town with Narnia- like lampposts, bougainvillea trees flowing out of compounds, roads where one could only hear the tinkle of cycle bells, and trees that remain green all year long. I had stalked every friend who had been to Pondi in the past couple of months and concluded that Pondi was a posh sub-urban French town and that was it, nothing more to it.

When we got off the Bangalore- Pondicherry bus at the Pondi(as the locals called it too) bus station at 6am to be greeted with a strong smell of urine. I was scared that Pondicherry wouldn’t be the pretty little French town that everyone spoke of, the little town that I had imagined.

And it wasn’t; it was a lot more than just the French town.

x—x

It was the little huts which were on the far side of the beach, beyond the jet back boulders. The men had just returned from the sea when we reached, eager to show off the day’s exotic catch which included a starfish, a squid and other molluscs. It was their little straw huts which made Pondi. I always wanted to live in a straw hut; advertisements made them seem exotic. The straw huts were nothing like the one’s in the advertisements or the ones illustrated in The Three Little Pigs.

These were damp and cramped and could hardly fit in more than two; but an entire family would sleep in it. From the tar left outside these huts, it was evident that the women would cook outside the huts when he men were at the sea. The children catapulting into the sea made it rather evident that they really didn’t have to worry about going to the bathroom either. I stepped out of the beach; so much for falling in love with the waves.

x—x

It was the narrow road which was about 6 feet wide. Empty, clean and still untouched by vehicles. The morning sun still hadn’t set in on them. Women had washed the space in front of the little shops that they owned- just enough to draw a kollam. Towards the left there was a sweet shop. To the right, a fading pista green building. The places where the rain water had touched the building was now a darker shade of green. There was a small shop at the corner with a large copper vessel on the counter- the strong smell of tea wafted through the air as we passed it by.

The junction had the feel of a little junction back in Bangalore, somewhere in the narrow gullies of Ulsoor. It was in a crowded busy street- always noisy- vegetable and fruit vendors screamed at the top of their voices trying to attract customers; cobblers basked in the shade of this building, fixing a fancy shoe or two. A pista green building to the left and a row of shops to the right, maybe one of those was a sweet shop too. The faded green building looked like no one had lived there in a while- cobwebs curled around its monkey top windows which were painted green too. Perhaps it was once differently coloured, but it was all green now.

We would sit there later at night drinking tea from the small shop. He would serve us chai in fancy white cups with blue floral designs which was reserved for tourists. The local ones got chai served in old thick-glass glasses.

x—x

It was a bunch of not-so-old houses. A few single-storied houses had ‘jarli kattes’ which were lined by cylindrical pillars in front of them; it’s inhabitants would sit on the red-oxide kattes in the evenings when there was a power failure and enjoy socializing while the breeze from the sea would kiss their cheek. Maybe on nights which were silent, they could hear the waves meeting the shore, or so I imagined. They had the heavy wooden doors, the doors that seemed to need a huge metal bolt to lock it shut. You could easily imagine the courtyard there with a tulsi plant in the middle and rooms that lined it; maybe they had a backyard and a cow shed too. I would never know these little pleasures houses, or rather places, like these would offer.

x—x

It was a narrower road that made us feel like we had walked into its quietness and disturbed its sense of calm and balance. Its houses were stacked against one another- like a five year old had made houses out of Lego blocks- beautiful to look at but suffocating to live in. A few houses had plants with white little flowers sprouting from them. These looked like large rectangular flower pots- the ones you see at vintage stores that sell cracked ceramic flower pots. The houses were old and faded by what nature, and its inhabitants had made little effort to restore it.

x—x

It was the houses which were dark inside with little oil lamps that seemed like their only source of light. I peeped into one which had its door left open; the passage near the door couldn’t have been more than two-three feet wide. It had sun-kissed orange walls with a little stand on which a single diya could fit. The diya that they would place here had left black marks on that part of the wall. Under this peg was a little kollam someone had drawn. Some had colourful demon masks which according to Hindu myth would keep the bad omens and negativity at bay; and some masks had bodies to them as well.

x—x

It was the Pondi I had seen in the pictures. The one that had a bougainvillea tree sprouting from every nook and corner of the deserted roads which were heavily guarded from the sun by a cover of green. The one where buildings had yellow walls with large brown wooden windows and monkey tops. Some of these were government buildings, and some were cafes like that of Karen’s from One Tree Hill. And the others were either resorts or houses but were rather exotic.

They had spacious courtyards which were gardened with precision. The corridors that lined this courtyard had the vintage bronze- stained glass lanterns lighting the way. Some had the fancy sofas we’d associate with royalty. The walls were painted white and the pebbles were deliberately scattered in a careless way. Maybe some corner of this garden had a little blue pond as well. In all, the interiors were made to look like that of the Moroccan homes but without the hand-crafted tiles.

x—x

It was a tiny house which we had passed without giving it a second thought. It had little cart next to the gate with a huge glass ox in which the vadas were stored. The compound was broken- it served as a window for their little idly-vada business. If you wanted to parcel the idlies you could stand out, if you wanted to eat there you had to go inside the gate. She refused to serve food on the road. The house was small, but they had a television inside. The courtyard in front of the house had a bench, a few chairs, and a matka to wash our hands. It had a coconut tree and a shed for fire wood. If you were in Bangalore, you would have called this name-less vada seller’s space a garden cafe. But these vadas were so delicious that it seemed like the neighbourhood closely guarded this space so no one would take away their vada-maker.

x—x

It was the little cramped rooms at the Youth Hostel we stayed at. The one’s with the blue paint peeling off the walls. The one with eight bunk beds placed so close to each other that it was hard to move around. The windows were always open, except when the AC was on, then they would be shut from outside. The humid sea air made the place almost claustrophobic. It was the room with a single stand-fan which didn’t serve the purpose of its existence. The one in which the mirror was too high for anyone to look at themselves in.

Pondi was the corridor outside the room that seemed to smell like wish. It was the woman who made us wash our legs in a tap outside the hostel before we entered in. It was the boats which were lined up against the shore like cars would in the Commercial Street parking area.

Lastly, Pondi was its beaches- the one outside the hostel, the one near the brick buildings, the one near the shacks, and the ones that we didn’t go to.