Tag Archives: Beach

Reverb 10.4: Wonderful Life

This Reverb 10 prompt seems rather similar to the previous one and it makes me wonder whether the exercise will continue to hold interest at all. Still, nothing ventured, so here goes.

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

Having left behind the rigid daily schedule (and more importantly), the utter joy-drain of the corporate world was like opening up the door to wonder. I’ve been moody at times, grumpy and even sad. But I’ve never been without that sense of wonder since I quit.

There are walks on the beach of course, which never fail to remind me of how much bigger then universe is, than my petty troubles, than the little cocoon that we Mumbaikers tend to think of as the world. And then there are visits to the bookshop. More and more I see familiar names pop up in the Indian Writing aisle. That makes my dream seem closer, much more reachable. And in the next lane, my favorite authors or genres jostle for my attention. I’m lost in the beauty of human imagination, in the glory of words and ideas that live on long after the minds and tongues they passed through, are gone. And finally, a sense of overwhelming awe that I am to be a part (however small) of this world. Wonder, indeed.

I’ve lost heart more than once. Last year, at six months from quitting, I expressed my frustration at being rudderless. It was my father who reminded me that the jobs that waited for me then would still be waiting a year later and that I shouldn’t give up so quickly on what I thought was my passion. Another six months later, another man I’ve come to love, reminded me of the same thing. A short three months later, I wrestled with self-doubt in my own head. As if in reply, within the space of a week, my mailbox was popping with opportunities to do what I love – write. One resulted in the BlogAdda column, the second was the JetLite article, then came Yahoo! Real Beauty and other things.

A few days ago, I met a placement agent to discuss a potential job, the kind that I had left behind over a year ago. For the first time in my career life, I said that my top priority was a good work-life balance. She frowned and said that the company would not want to meet someone with ‘such issues’. I tried to explain that I was not afraid of hard work but that I was making a decision to let other areas of my life be as important. She shrugged, already having lost interest and the interview should have ended there. But quite suddenly, she shot out,

“You know, most companies would not expect this from someone at your level. People with 10-12 years of experience can say these things. But someone who is just beginning their career should not have all these restrictions.”

I gaped and then quickly took my leave. For at least two days after that I agonized over what she had said, the old guilt creeping in. After 6 years, 3 companies and managing over 25 people, was I still ‘beginning my career’? Was I losing the strong work ethic I thought I had? Had I ever had it at all? Was I being unrealistically demanding, behaving in essence like the ‘pampered princesses’ I’ve loathed all these years?

But then, I remembered my many late nights at work. I remembered forfeiting weekends and holidays. I remembered struggling with a near-arthritic neck, to stare at the computer screen. I remembered forcing myself to not think about period pains and nausea while standing up to make presentations. I remembered skipping meals for meetings and stepping out of restaurants to take phone calls that just had to be answered. I remembered finishing a report or an important document at 11:30p.m., then getting myself a cup of tea and then sitting down to spend another hour poring over the whole thing all over again to make doubly-trebly-hundred times sure it was perfect. I remembered the harsh words of my seniors picking out my flaws but I also remembered the sense of injustice I felt. And finally I thought of the fact that I had missed the weddings of every single one of my close friends in the past five years because I just hadn’t had the time.

I realised I deserved to ask for what I wanted. With it came the crystallization of the thought that much of corporate ambition and success thrives on belittling people, on keeping people insecure and subservient. It survives by killing the sense of joy and wonder in people. And I’d be a fool to willingly let myself back into that, at least without a fight. Bring on more of the wonders, I’m waiting to be dazzled!

Hope

When you’re lost, how do you know you’re on the right track again?

You don’t.

You just keep walking and hope you’ll reach somewhere.
Sometimes you do.

From Ashes

This is for Dee, the editor I’d like to have, who quite literally showed me the way.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Where do stories come from? she wondered. Her editor had told her that her writing had a quality of finesse in it. But, he said, the spark was missing. She wanted to protest, it had been such an effort to get to here after all. But anticipating just that, he had moved his hand in a wiping gesture, as if trying to clear away a fog around her.

“It’s that madness, that raw energy that used to make one want to read. Bring that back. It’s you. Unleash it in your writing.”

She brooded over it for a long time, all through the book-browsing date and the high tea that followed. Then she decided to take a walk. Taking long walks and watching people and noting down what one saw seemed to be the right things for a writer to do. The sea had always held appeal. But somehow, the effort of crossing the road, dodging bratty rich kids in their oversized cars only to scrounge a garbage pile of people on the other side, for seating space…wasn’t an appealing thought at all.

The city is no place for an artist, she told herself. How was one supposed to be inspired by this relentless struggle? It didn’t even have the elements of drama like a war or a revolution or an uprising, a famine or a flood. It was just everyday, niggling grievances. Who would want to read about those? Who would want to write about those, she retorted inside her head. Then she shook herself. Arguing with oneself is the first step into insanity and she’d be damned if she was going to live up to that pathetic stereotype of a writer-gone-crazy before she was even published.

The girl hopped off the last bogey, the one that she had just managed to jump into as the train pulled out of the station. In one hand she clutched a little notepad and a magenta pen, her chosen colour for the day. She did have one thought that should be captured before it vanished into that abyss of forgotten inspiration. One hand holding down the page, she expertly popped off its lid with her mouth and twirled it around to cap its end with practiced efficiency.  Rapidly she wove a messy magenta web over the ideas that had caused her to almost miss her train.

Mumbai Metaphors

I stood on the opposite side of the road that runs along the seaface. It was the wrong side, not the one that had the seating parapet along its entire length but the junction of the seaface road and the arterial conduit to the station terminus.

I stood under the tree that has survived attempts to build bigger and more buildings, broader roads and wider pedestrian walks. The same gnarled tree that stands on the side of the road like a senior citizen with memories of a slower, more human-paced city but no energy to brave the pace of today.

The sky was just turning that indefinable shade of evening like the colour of the last dregs of black tea in a chipped white saucer. Sepia, the colour of nostalgia, that one extra element that changes the picture of a dirty, overcrowded metropolis to the magical visage of home.

A rare wind was blowing all around me. February in the city picks you up as gently and playfully as the waves and takes you to the edge of the shore of winter. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a swimming pool, only it was filled with moving, insistent air around me instead of water.

When she looked up, she was standing at the threshold of light, surrounded by darkness. The very edge of a station, flowing slowly into light at the other end. A rusty carriage sat on incomplete tracks, a long discarded project of the metropolitan train network and peered at her through unpainted metal bars. On the other side, across the tracks and the other well-lit platform, high over their roofs rose the skeletal inner beams of discarded mills. Like a will being contested over the rotting body of a dead person, the future of the land they stood on was being dueled over, with no thought to the buildings that still were.

Places have memories, don’t they? Memories of lives that have passed, of habits that were housed under these roofs, hidden behind these walls. The paan-stains, the half-buried cigarette butts, sneaky but woeful reminders of escapes, of stolen glee. And then the finality of ashes that came from burning who knows what? Paper? Cloth? Oil? Human beings? There were stories that led to the ashes but there was no way to trace them back. This place had its endings but not all it was in ashes. Everything else was memories that could be traced by anyone who cared to listen, to pick up those strands and imagine where they led. They were stories to be told.

She looked down at her book again, an abrupt swooshing action. The white pages even with their magenta words glared back at her in defiance. Those words meant nothing and in her mind’s eye, she imagined the magenta whorls and lines slide off the pages. Blood, the only thing that would stick. Hold a pen to a nerve and write, he had said. So she turned a page and begun,

Something was burning.

13 And 30 On The Beach

I’m back from my week-long break and I’ll write a more detailed post in due course of time. It’s been a week full of experiences (travelling to another place always is, isn’t it?). I still have to sort out my thoughts, shake the sand out of my shoes (yes, there was a beach too!), sift through the photographs (the camera gave way near mid-way but the trusty phone-cam backed me up) and put it all down. Still, I wanted to say hello and it’s good to be back and did you miss me?

Here’s one picture from the collection – from an evening spent on a sweeping vast beach aptly named ‘Lonely Beach’. That’s my 13-year-old cousin along with me, displaying the spoils of our visit. This is for Siddhu, the mischievous, lovable bundle of energy who shared his energy with me…for making my vacation so much fun and really completing the experience of visiting with cousins at the native place.

siddhu-and-i-shells

Whether you’re 13 or 30, a good old-fashioned summer vacation with the family will never lose its charm.

Juhu Beach

Last evening I was overcome by an urge to eat chana masala, the buttery over-spicy type, all covered with raw mango chunks and unidentified (but delicious) stuff on top. The Juhu beach variety. And while at it, bring on a naariyalpaani as well. Why not I asked myself (and oh forgive me for even having to ask in this day and age of the liberated woman et al but I did anyway).

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My first thought when I got into the auto was “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the beach by myself…well, not in ages anyway.” Oddly enough I’ve almost perfected the practice of shopping on my own, solitary book-browsing, sipping a glass of wine at a table for one and buying a single movie ticket. I do all of these by myself and even the pride and novelty have worn away and they’ve become routine leisure activities for holidays and weekends.

The beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Bangalore can keep its pubs and Delhi can flaunt its lavish lifestyle. But neither one has aamchi Mumbai’s beach. Yes, I know that Juhu and Chowpatty don’t boast miles and miles of sunbathing bikini-clad bodies reclining on golden sand. You don’t come to Juhu beach expecting Baywatch, you come because it’s a Mumbai beach.

For a crowded, overpopulated, dizzy-with-its-neon-lights city like Mumbai, the beach is about the only place for a lot of people. A refuge for those who crave proximity to nature. A haven for parents with restless kids and no open spaces. An oasis of relief for lovestruck couples with zero privacy and permission to love from their families. The only option for those who can’t afford to frequent malls and multiplexes (which is pretty much a major chunk of the city’s population).

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Many, many memories have I of this very beach.

Driving in a plastic spade to empty into a matching bucket (aged 6). An early morning visit with my childhood chums the day after our final exams, valiently ferried by my father. We built a castle with a moat around it, then waged a war over the moat, tried to destry our respective works and ended up with what we unanimously call a ‘swimming pool’. Flashback to the photographs (some black-and-white) taken on this beach, in the water, on the sands, with my family, with friends.

‘Hanging out’ at the beach with my newfound college gang. Eating panipuris and golas, and groaning at the mortification of spotting one’s crush a few feet away while clad in stained tee-shirt and involved in extremely uncool activity of gola-guzzling. Sucking on imli for comfort on the walk back to the main road. The one birthday celebration (eighteen) that ended on the beach because I insisted on it. Photographs with our wind-blown hair topping smart party clothes, a snazzy bag cradling a bhelpuri plate. A lot of laughter and fun.

The long walks and talks and much else with the ex-best friend/ex-boyfriend/ex-love of my life. Oasis for penniless students, isn’t it? Ask anyone who grew up in this city…you haven’t been a teenager in Mumbai unless you’ve kissed on the beach.

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More recently, another birthday celebrated with a solitary walk on this very beach. (So yes, it’s not my first time, just the first in a long time). I had had a very bad year and my birthday signalled a new start. As my spirits soared (as they do every single time I catch sight of the sea), I knew I’d be alright. I am a Cancerian through and through. A different person, a completely new being when near the water. Moonlight helps.

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Not much else have I to add here, except that visiting the beach always has the effect of cleaning away all my worries. Maybe it’s just the open air, maybe it is the proximity to the water. Perhaps it’s just that looking into a horizon unfettered by any manmade structure and a sky with stars visible in it reminds of how much bigger, more awesome and breath-taking is the universe than the tiny cocoon of daily annoyances and joys that I call my life. Maybe it is the thought that even in such a crowd, I have a place in this vast universe.

I had a lovely evening at the beach.

Dipping My Toes

On Facebook while I wait for E Vestigio to turn up for our Sunday evening catch-up/gripe/giggle dinner-date. Clearing out pending messages, updated status (blah, I’m running out of exciting things to claim I’m doing) and even looked into Twitter. And now this idle mind turns to mischief. So I use the Friend Finder to look up people I haven’t heard from in awhile (read: ex-crushes). 🙂

One I admit I’ve checked on earlier isn’t showing up anymore. Odd, did his wife realize he was hitting on his ex-girlfriends online? Muhahaha…I certainly hope the water was scalding hot.

The HUMONGOUS crush from school has turned humongous. No kidding, he looks like he’s pushing 50, not 30. Yeurrgh, the receding hairline does nothing for the rather sweet memories one has. Oh err, thank goodness for bad luck in romance back then.

I pause on one particular name, a common one coupled with a generic surname and imagine he’ll be lost in a flood of other namesakes. Oddly enough he’s the third one on the list, head-to-head with a girl in the profile pic. Wife. Smiling. Surprising myself, I smile back. He was nice. And I’m glad he’s happy.

Which made me think…how seriously we take life, the life of the moment only, little realizing how little it could matter a few months or years later. I don’t know if I’m getting mellower with age or whether my memories are just fading but somehow I don’t feel the same intensity for people who were supposed soulmates at one point of time. Hell, I don’t even know where some of them are, less care. Not in a bad way though. If I think about it, I generally hope they’re doing good and are happy.

Peace reigns over the past after time has passed its magic healing touch over everyone. And guess what? Another simile.

Falling in love is like getting into the water. Some people enjoy jumping in splash-dunk. Some have to be dragged in screaming and squirming. Sometimes you just slip or trip and fall in. But really, I think the best way is to just dip your feet in, let the water swirl around your edges and wade around a bit in it. What matter then if the water rises, bit by bit, without a splash, without a chill but in a smooth comforting blanket all around?

I’ve tipped my toes in and I think I’ll just walk about on the beach with wet feet for a bit.

Great Company

Good morning, my lovely readers! I was almost tempted to say ‘ my garam-samosas’ and then I realised I was just carrying the Honey-from-HT Cafe hangover too far. 😀

I had the most brilliant day yesterday! The morning rain ruined the grand plans of the day for me….grrr, if I could get my hands on that stoopid shower, I’d strangle it! An hour and a half on a journey that shouldn’t have taken more than half an hour, missed meetings, crunched deadlines, panic all over the place…don’t even ask. Then I stepped out on my own, realizing quite suddenly that I had half a day to myself with no meetings to attend, no appointments to keep up and actually – nothing to do!

So what did I do? Continue reading

Serene by the sea

My blog’s god-father tags me to post a photograph taken this year with the instructions that it be,

One photo that you have clicked this year that is special to you. Could be anything…aesthetic, technical or personal. Also, put in a short note why it is special.

So here is the memorable photograph of this year. Quite interestingly, it was probably being short at the same time that I was being tagged. Yes, this was shot yesterday on the beach.

sunset-on-the-beach-with-s.jpg

 

It has been an eventful, difficult year and I’m not sorry to bid it goodbye. On the other hand, among the much betrayal and viciousness I’ve encountered, there have been moments of solace, of rest, of peace. I’ve had things and people I’ve loved ripped away from me and at the end of it, I realise I’m left with the only thing that matters…which no one can steal away from me. I’m at peace with myself.

This is a photograph of a good friend, someone who makes me re-think my XXFactor-attitude of ‘men are such a-holes’. Yesterday while talking about a common friend and her ex-, I asked him,

What is it with men anyway? Why can’t they be more like you? You are so sorted out.

He just smiled in response.

We had a late, leisurely lunch and then strolled down to the beach. There we walked around, talking about nothing in particular. I was thinking of the first time I was at this beach, with my former best friend/love of my life. It is his birthday today and I won’t call him to wish him. In fact I thought of him yesterday at the beach but not remembering his birthday until I saw the reminder on my calendar. I’m at peace with my ghostly memories finally.

I took out the camera I bought earlier this year, dreaming of the wonderful photography that would follow. I didn’t use it, not enough. But it is never too late to start, I guess (and that’s duly noticed I suppose as per Arzan‘s comment!). It is a good camera and I’m very proud of it. My first real ‘big buy’ for myself that I bought on my own without anyone else looking over my shoulder.

My companion was walking along slowly near the water, calm and peaceful as always. Even while, being a good friend, I know the inner turmoil that churns inside him. My dear sensitive, serene friend. He was deeply patient as I fussed about with the zoom and the settings until I got an angle I liked. The photographs never turned out the way I wanted. Finally I sighed and just shot without thinking too much. And this is what turned out. The only real memory that I want to carry forward.

I’m very proud of the way this photograph turned out…proud of my camera, proud of my friend and proud of myself for finally capturing what I’ve been seeing inside my head for a long time. This picture stands for the elusive quality that has become most valuable of all..serenity. There is an unposed simplicity in his stance as well as the infinite, boundless promise of hope and potential that the open sea always holds. I can almost feel the sea breeze that is ruffling his hair and hear the subtle wash of waves on sand, rising above the din of voices around me. I particularly like the play of colours in the sky. That perfect twilight moment before the night turns black when the rest of the world looks dark in comparison and the sky holds center-stage. It seems to be asking us to slow down and not get so wrapped up in our little dramas that we lose on the most wonderful experience of all – just being ourselves. Every person is an island…an island of paradise. Why try and conquer another’s piece of land when Paradise itself belongs to you?

It was a memorable evening. And a memorable conversation. A memorable lesson in patience and serenity. A great friend. All worth carrying forward into 2008. Happy new year to all of you!

I tag the following people to pick out their favorite photograph of 2007 and tell me why it is special to them:

Neha Vishwanathan because I’m awestruck by her ability to tell a story from a fragment or a picture.

Akshay Mahajan because his pictures are not just snapshots but entire sagas of their own.

Tiny Tale: Sucker For Sob Stories

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

She was the kind that stopped to pet stray puppies. But food was only ever surreptitiously slipped to bit-bound horses ferrying kids on beaches and abandoned cows. Dogs and cats had their fans world-over but who thought of these forgotten ones? She did. Impartial with love, but she tried to distribute equally what she could and ended up caring for the underdogs (or horses). Fair share for everyone.

Saturday afternoon found her clutching an envelope, mixed excitement and resignation. She didn’t even really like shopping. But one did what one must. She thought of last week’s phone call, begging, pleading with her to do her part to make one life easier. She sighed and thought, no human being should have to beg that way. So she squared her shoulders and walked in. A new credit card gleamed in the darkness of her wallet. It wouldn’t be lonely for long. Not as long as she was around to see it got its fair share.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

For Ammani’s 24-hour challenge-4

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