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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wednesday, the 'hump' day

My friend Gina (and roommate from another age, another era) called Wednesday the 'hump' day of the week...the day that was right in the middle, the day when you were just over the weekend euphoria and not quite into the anticipatory haze of the approaching friday. The day when, perhaps, it hit you that you were already into the middle of the week and your "to do" list was not even halfway checked!

I think Wednesday could just as easily be designated 'slump' day...if you're the kind who comes back to work on Monday feeling all energized and motivated after a refreshing weekend ("What kind of strange species feels energetic on Monday?" I hear you mumble, through your own mid-week mind-haze. Monday, morning, you walk into your work space, and you look at all the bright little post-it notes on your desk top and in various strategic locations around your desk (if you're lucky enough to have one that doesn't get swept off every morning but an over-enthusiastic housekeeping lady with her extra long broom), feeling, "okay, now I am going to deal with those post it notes, one by one, systematically and ruthlessly". You sit down, turn on your computer, open your diary, and begin on "to do" note number 1. The phone rings and a colleague begins to drone about how his weekend just did not go as planned....before you know it that bright little post it note has joined a bunch of its companions in the trash can, crumpled by frustrated fingers that could not bang down the receiver to cut off that drone. And that was only resolution number one.

So the days progress, from the Motivated Monday to Try-to-keep-the-tempo Tuesday and before you know it, it's the middle of the week, and you're in the middle of a slump. It's Wednesday. Another two days to go before you can even begin to smell the distant dream of a weekend...

Of course, all that means is that the cycle will begin again...and again...

Moral of the story. Get rid of all those post-it notes Friday afternoon before you leave work. Better still, get rid of all those blocks of post-its that you bought from your last indulgent visit to a stationery store (where you had gone, in the first place, just looking for a card for a distant relative).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

old friends

There's something about the monsoon that triggers memories. As i was driving home yesterday trying to avoid the puddles on the road in case they were cover-ups for deep potholes, I passed by several carts of tender corn, makka buttas, and as the aroma of charcoal and slightly burning corn kernels followed me, i remembered....

Mahrookh and i used to walk along Parade Grounds on rainy afternoons, with fifty-paise coins given by indulgent mothers, fifty paise to buy whatever we wanted with. And what could fifty paise buy, in the mid 1970s? well, a lot, really. anything from ten sticks of vanilla ice cream to two 'rainbow' ice lollies to a few guavas sliced and peppered with chilli powder and salt, and, in season, tender light yellow buttas, the blonde strands of their fibrous coats still stuck to the cobs. "Kanvla wala dena," Mahrookh would insist. Until then, I had assumed that the darker the gold, the bigger the cob, the better the butta. But no, it was the lightest, smallest ones that were tender and almost juicy. And when roasted and smothered in lime and pepper and salt, they were the most delicious. And so, with our fifty-paise roasted buttas in hand, we would continue our walk, nodding at the old Parsi aunties who occasionally passed us by on their weekday promenade, chatting about this and that, complaining about our teachers and groaning and moaning about homework yet to be done. It was a great time to be fourteen. The world had not yet discovered the Internet or multiplexes. Television, if I remember right, had not yet made a space for itself in our living rooms, and of course, public spaces still belonged to the public at large. This meant that children could run and play in places like community gardens without fear of being 'scoped' by 'antisocial' elements, and teenagers could take long walks or ride their bicycles around town without fear of being knocked over by speeding lorries or MPVs.

I'm sure accounts of idyllic pasts before technology-as-we-know-it-now abound and I don't want to add to that, except to reiterate that things were simpler, joys were easier to discover, and parents had fewer fears about letting their children out to roam the streets!

But the rain tends to do that. It makes you wistful, nostalgic, and sometimes, just plain maudlin!

And as I write this, all traces of rain have vanished from the Hyderabad sky. Where has the monsoon disappeared? It continues to lash and nourish (depending on where you are placed and how you look at it) different parts of the country, but here, it has taken a temporary leave of absence.

Listen to the falling rain...

Listen to the falling rain, listen to it fall...

For those of us who grew up in the seventies, this song by the visually impaired singer Jose Feliciano may bring back many memories of monsoons past. Having just returned from rain-lashed Bhubaneswar, and inundated by reports of a rain-battered Mumbai, the sound of the rain brings a mixed bag of memories.

A good friend said that the sound of the rain is the same, no matter where you are, so it's hard to forget. But I wonder. The rain has a different rhythm at different times of year, when it falls on different surfaces, and when it curtains different landscapes. The rain on a beach in Goa is both poetic and devastating, coconut palms bending submissively to the force of the lashing sheets of water. The rain that washes the PVC hoardings that otherwise beam seductively at distracted drivers on the main roads of Hyderabad is a harsh reminder of the transcience of urban desire. And the rain on the slushy, potholed roads of Chennai's vegetable bazaar is messy and therapeutic, forcing us to drag our mud-soaked heels through waste of various kinds.

And of course, the rain in Mumbai will forever raise the ghost of July 2005, when children were held hostage in schools, when old people who had beds drew their tired and fragile feet up to their chins and hoped for a reprieve before the water reached the base of the mattress. And the old people who had no beds lay back and hoped for escape, or rescue. When mothers searched and fathers and brothers and sisters searched under the deluge for news of their loved ones; when people held hands to draw neighbours and strangers to safety, when memories were washed away, only to rise each year with the falling rain....