Running on a Whim

The onset of November means that it’s running season of the marathon kind. The cool crisp air, moderate temperatures – the city has shed itself off all the heat and humidity and is in its accommodating phase of cordiality before the frigid winter takes over.

It welcomes the debutants with their mild morning practice, the motivated yet unfit lot who are on a spirited endeavour to complete 10 kms, the serious amateurs who are looking to beat their previous time in the half marathons and the seasoned lot that already have a few marathons under their belt. For the steely professionals, weather conditions matter little.    

With a couple of half-marathons under my belt, I form a part of the serious amateurs – or so I’d like to think. I’ve grudgingly half-followed the internet plans of early mornings, strict diets, progressive running strategies – an utterly disciplined lifestyle required to complete 21 full kilometres of road-running. That was for my first half-marathon and it was an amazing experience – a sentiment that will be echoed by other debutants. But it wasn’t a patch on the second one where I ran all of those 21 kilometres without training for a single day.


In fact, it was quite the opposite of training. During my lethargic stint as a Mumbai journalist, I was living the unhealthiest of all lifestyles. On a diet of cheap beer, rum and oily junk food and with no inclination to run whatsoever, I completed 21 kilometres in 2 hours and 53 minutes. That was rebellious, intense and hardcore.

It all started with this beautiful Bawi girl that I was in love with. She was incredibly sweet, smart and had this cute little British-Indian Parsi accent when she spoke. And I would melt every time I was in front of her. That particular time, she slayed me at the NGO that she worked for when she convinced me to buy a Marathon bib for a little more than half my monthly salary. I agreed with no hesitation or care in the world – nodding away to everything she said. I agreed to run for her smile, and for the children of course.

My boss was quite happy when I told her this. Not happy enough to reimburse me for my foolishly vulnerable innocence, but happy that I’d now be able to run the first five kilometres of the marathon to get a feel of the atmosphere and add a whole new dimension to my article about the potential Olympian – Ram Singh Yadav – provided he made the qualification time. Experiential writing she called it. Boy, was she in for an experience.

Yes, as the junior-most, I had to sacrifice my Sunday morning sleep and report on the Mumbai Marathon. As far as running five kilometres was concerned, I was sure that I would be reeling at the end of 2.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen 5 am on a Sunday morning sober. All I knew was that I was depressed waking up to darkness and sure as hell wasn’t looking forward to running pre sun-up. But I put on my marathon gear – my lucky tight red bikini briefs (my ‘Marathong’ I call it), Nike skins – which protruded pregnantly at the stomach, my short shorts and running shoes and set out to the Bandra side of the sea link – the starting line.

I couldn’t reach the sea-link, however, because of the thousand odd people that had turned up. Within minutes, there were a couple of hundred people gathered behind me and the feeling was not unlike being inside a weekday morning local. I went where the crowd took me and awaited the flagging off 500 yards behind the starting line. Wiser from experience, I stood at the side and watched while the foolhardy beginners sprinted like they were competing in a 100 meter race. I jogged slowly, then paused before I saw the huge expanse of the sea link in front of me. The Marathon gives you the privilege of running on roads most people don’t get the chance to walk on and then to stop and stare at some breath-taking views of the city of Mumbai. I took my chance to enjoy the scene. And then I saw the early sprinters peeing off the bridge. Each one has their own pleasures I guess. Some were getting pictures clicked; others were on the phone with their loved ones attempting to describe the magnitude of the moment. I was alone. I carried on.

 The legs that were stiff and high-strung on that torturous morning were slowly warming up as I reached the half-way point on the sea-link. I was able to enjoy the energy of a thousand people. Two kilometres down and I was surprisingly sprightly yet circumspect with my strides. I decided to walk half of the third kilometre just to ensure I would make it to five and avoid embarrassment and humiliation of my friends and colleagues. I increased the pace slowly after and joined the crowd in speeding through the open toll gates. Nothing was going to stop us then. The Gujaratis, Marwadis, old or young, male or female, all were of a free spirit that day. Maybe the sprinters weren’t foolhardy after all. Maybe they were just propelled by the release of all their inhibitions. I, however, was still running on a whim. I continued at jogging pace through the fourth kilometre. I was giving it a little extra as it was time to wind down at 5, like I had planned, like my boss had told me too.

I reached the end of the sea-link, the end of my little stint and I began to come to a slow halt. Except that I didn’t really want to stop. I saw this sweet little girl running with a big smile on her face. An old fit man was jog-walking bare feet. I might not have had the energy but I certainly hadn’t run out adrenalin. And I estimated it to be another couple of kilometres before I would run out of steam completely. I’d still be able to catch up with Ramsingh after quitting at 7 km, I thought. So I began running again.

The next two km were a bit of a drag. We were to take a left at Worli, run all the way up to INS Trata circle, take a u-ey, and come all the way back to the end of the sea-link. I wasn’t satisfied with that so I continued running. Just up until Atria mall, I thought. Then I would call it quits for sure. I would have to, no?

No. I alternated between swift walks and slow jogs as the notorious Bombay sun slowly started to make its presence felt. I managed to trudge up to Worli dairy with Atria mall in sight when I heard my name being shouted out loud. I looked swiftly to the right and saw an open top bus full of my fellow journalists covering the event. I was cheered on by them. Another shot of adrenalin. I ran past Atria and on to the bridge towards Haji Ali.

The sun was now taking prime position to drain. And I was slowly falling victim. The Adrenalin tank was running on empty again and reality hit me with its brute force. I started cramping in my stomach. I slowed down and walked slowly. My thighs started to pull a little. I came to a halt. I had completed 14 kilometres and was contemplating quitting. There was also the matter of Ramsingh – potentially only the second Indian to qualify for the Olympics – tomorrow’s front page news.

Then I saw the old man again, jog-walking away at his consistent pace with single-minded focus and I said F**k it! I’m running.

At that point in time, I didn’t want to be caged by responsibilities, I had no intention of being the diligent hard-worker I always had been, the teacher’s pet. I felt like doing something outrageously crazy. Carelessly rebellious. I lost the plot completely. It was the most amazing feeling. I decided to complete the 21 kilometers.

I had absolutely no energy but I was propelled by my own release. I smiled at the old man. He didn’t bother responding. I jogged passed Haji Ali to the right and then stopped to walk again.

The stretch between 15-17 kilometres is the toughest. It’s the loneliest stretch of the race. You have no water to quench your thirst. You’re stomach growls intensely – crying for some food. You have nothing but the clothes on your back. The sun is now prime position to take away your reserve of energy. You’re looking for some solace in the smallest of things. I was. And I found it on Peddar Road – where my 8-year-old nephew spotted me, shouted “Kabir Mama!!”and ran towards me. I had never been so happy to see anyone in my life. I was cheered on by his parents as well. They stayed right on Peddar Road but they woke up that Sunday morning and participated. They were part of that Mumbai spirit that is such a vital fuel for long-distance running.

I waved goodbye and walked up the slope. I grabbed 14 Parle-G biscuits from the other enthusiastic little kids on the sidelines and devoured them all at one go. That biscuit had never tasted as good as it did then. The salivating juices in my mouth dissolved the biscuits into a succulent gooey mush. I had a mouth-orgasm. With Parle-G.

When I turned right into Marine Drive, the sun was at its scorching worst. The legs were weary and heavy as concrete blocks. My back was stiff. I could barely move my hands. I felt like I was just a stride or two away from dehydration. But my mind was somewhere else. At 18 kilometres, you involuntarily let your guard down and become a little crazy. I felt intoxicated with exhaustion. Then I was distracted by some screams on sea-facing side of the road. I saw two beautiful figures with mikes in hand addressing the crowd on a stage.

Then I found myself stopping and shouting “MONICA! NANDITA! I LOVE YOU!” – exclaiming my feelings for Dogra and Das all at once.

Some laughed at me. Other fellow half marathoners were dancing to the music playing in the background. There was an old bald fat man who stopped and started singing “Tum Hi Ho” and doing a little Hritik Roshan dance. Everyone had gone mad. Everyone was happy.

I turned left at the Oberoi and passed my work place. I had just run all the way to work. That was quite cool. Now the journey to the finish line – the last lap of the race that inevitably is the longest. I had nothing to distract me. I couldn’t help but focus on the pain. My legs were red and now screaming with pain. I could barely lift them. My stomach was cramping up. I sucked it up and continued towards the finish line that refused to arrive. My thigh pulled up again and I just began to walk slowly, not allowing the twister of a cramp to take over. I finally reached CST and the finish line came in sight. I was elated. And then it hit me. I hadn’t covered the marathon. I didn’t have my phone with me. The office would be expecting news right about now. I was hoping against hope that Ram Singh didn’t qualify. But a journalist friend I met at the finish line informed me that he did.

I took an empty train home. I rushed to my cell phone and found 39 missed calls – 28 from my boss and 11 from my two colleagues. I had to change immediately and make my second trip that morning to Express Towers, Nariman Point. Needless to say, my boss blew her top. My colleagues were venting their transference of anger from her. Life was hell on steroids for that day and the next two week – because of my act of defiance.

But I honestly didn’t care. I was still high on running on a whim. I felt undefeatable. If I had to, I would do it all over again. I’ve made it a habit to do something spontaneously combustible every now and then. And I believe that everyone must do something radically crazy at least once a year to keep themselves sane.

This one’s dedicated to the Bawi girl, who just announced her engagement last week.

 Here’s wishing you all the best as you set out on a marathon of your own. 


Independence Day

In our 67th year of Independence, we are just about standing up straight as a nation despite the evils of deep-rooted corruption and backward thought pulling us down. We should be proud.

As a people, each one has his own definition of and perspective on independence that he strives for, to carve out an identity for himself in society. For the respect of society. In India, respect is the most powerful weapon and reverence – its favourite pastime.

As far as my own journey is concerned, this year has been crucial in terms of my independence. The experience of living in a strange city with few support systems has been enlightening to say the least. To venture away from the comfort of familiarity and be pushed towards the struggle of a new life alone has been tough yet illuminative. My battle with proud poverty has been constant. Pride, because you feel a sense of achievement for every month you survive with the money you earn. The initial jolt of having a three-digit bank account truly educates you about the value of earning a healthy amount of money. You need money to live. Otherwise, you just survive.

While managing a house, there is a constant outflow of money. You never really settle down. The bills just keep piling up. Rent keeps rearing its ugly mug every month, bleeding you dry.

The five odd months of this struggle has given me some sort of perspective with regards to the people in India – at least in the three metros – Pune, Mumbai and Delhi.

Delhi is innately aggressive in love and hatred. The people will either love you with all their heart or hate you with the same amount of malice. Much like the weather, the people oscillate between the extremities of hot and cold. They are an ambitious people and Delhi is extremely wealthy. It’s easier here if you have a lot of money.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is a land for every pocket. You can struggle comfortably there. Struggling is a given. You’re either a billionaire or part of the rest. And the rest have to take the impossibly crowded trains from the unbelievably filthy platforms. They have no choice but to wait patiently in the inescapable traffic jams. They have to wade through floods and fall prey to diseases and bear the incessantly scorching heat. There is no concept of winter. They must live far away from their work-place. They must shell out an exorbitant amount of money to live in a box. There are frustrations, but there are also avenues to vent. You have the Janta’s and the Gokul’s, where the atmosphere has the perfect mix of shady and safe. Dim lighting, ugly drunken brutes with an equal amount of respectable women. Everyone is accepted. This collusion of classes and cultures adds a certain amount of character to the city and makes it extremely accommodating.

Pune is getting there. It’s a baby Bombay. Pune is still a slow city, but has gotten and is getting progressively fast-paced over the years. It’s a city run by the teenagers and the orthodox settlers – a distinct point of difference from Delhi. In Pune, most women have to come out of the closet straight, while the boldness of the gay culture in Delhi is astounding. Certain cultures still have reservations about the openness of the Pune woman. But the teenagers are slowly rebelling. It is an exciting time to witness the result of this rebellion. This teenage struggle.

Struggle is a necessity. Struggle is your wisest teacher. The key is to learn to love struggle and all that comes with it. Take some risks. Strive to be the hero of your life at the risk of being a victim. Go for broke.      


Lord don’t move the mountain,
But give me strength to climb it
Please don’t move that stumbling block,
But lead me Lord around it

The way may not be easy,
You didn’t say that it would be
For when our tribulations get too light,
We tend to stray from Thee.

–          Mahalia Jackson

The Pursuit of Happyness –

Gin Soaked Girl

ImageAditi Mutatkar is a sea-snake. She’s venomous when agitated, determined to move ahead despite the overwhelming resistance of the waves and generates electric energy with every forward march.

So how do I define Aditi Mutatkar?

It’s really hard to say. She is a badminton player, with superlative skill – that’s for sure. But you can’t really categorise her definitely. She is not a failed hero – she’s still aggressively pursuing personal stardom. She isn’t a total failure – she has achieved far too much. The 25-year-old isn’t a has-been – she still plays competitively. She has had a complicated relationship with the sport she loves unconditionally. It has brought out every heart-rending emotion in her.

At best, one can call her the grittiest of all comeback queens, most familiar with the drawing board – having gone back to it no less than three times in five professional years.  During this tough time, she battled severe trauma stemming from a weak knee, operated upon repeatedly. She remained stubborn, however, and got back on her feet every single time. Her recent comeback being the open nationals – where she beat the current India no 1 en route to her third place finish.

I had promised her a blog post on the condition of her victory. But her semi-final finish after close to two years of inaction seemed to be a victory in its own right. She thought so too. She was amazed at herself, shocked with her performance and then she released her emotions through tears of joy. Image

 In a career marred with injuries, she has often been forced to search for her own bandwidth of success, her own separate formula for motivation and that has been far from easy.

She started like any other star. She started like Saina. Bursting on to the scene, winning everything there was to win, dominating her age-group and others as well. She won all the possible national level events in the junior category. Like Saina. And then she met Saina as competition. She was uttered in the same breath as the current world no 3 for the first and only time. It was during the under – 16’s that both shared a back and forth of victories. Aditi had the last laugh when she thrashed Saina in the under – 16 national final. She still remains the only player in the Indian circuit to have beaten her. But things changed drastically from that point on.

Saina won her first international tournament and was heavily publicised in the media. Aditi had no such support for her victories. Looking back, that was a pivotal moment for Aditi. Maybe she was under the wrong Godfather. Maybe luck wasn’t on her side.

Whatever the reason, Saina slowly started pulling away. When Aditi won the minors, Saina won the majors. When Aditi was sneaking her way into sports pages, Saina was flashing out of front page headlines. Aditi took one step forward and Saina took two. She was a Roddick to Federer; Qaresma to Ronaldo; Frazier to Ali. She was in that scary space between good and great – close enough to take in the sweet scent of international glory, yet far away from achievement. 

Hard as it was, Aditi tried not to let it bother her. She focused on her own success and it seemed to work for her. In 2009, she performed well in international tournaments. After, arguably, her career-best performance of reaching the Bitburger Open final in Germany, she climbed up to 27 in the world rankings – her personal best. That was when disaster struck. She suffered a debilitatingknee injury.

The rehabilitation was unplanned and misguided. She received no help from the Badminton federation. She was discarded as if she was nothing. When she required professional help, financial assistance, she got nothing. At the seemingly prestigious position of being India’s no 2 shuttler, she was in the loneliest place on earth.

Her knee was operated upon and was never really the same after that. She was immature at the time and didn’t really know how to handle the immense pressure. She did not have the insulation of a psychologist or a personal trainer. She received ordinary treatment when professional consultation was the need of the hour.  

She felt demoralised but was persistent in achieving her goal. She cried her tears and then came back with renewed vigour. Only to find herself climbing a hill of grease. Thus began her roller coaster journey – her twisted bond with the cruel sport.

She practiced with maniacal dedication. Her discipline was unmatched and work ethic was something to admire. She kept coming back. But so did her injuries.

In 2010, when she made her first comeback, she seemed fearless. She had a good stint in the Vietnam tournament where she reached the quarterfinals. She built on that success and went on to win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. She was selected for the Asian Games and reached the pre-quarterfinals when she injured her calf muscle. She had to be away from the sport again. She was angry, frustrated. She broke her rackets. She cried for days on end. She sought reassurance but only found pessimism. Then her coach told her to take a breath. Relax. Recover.

The injury healed as injuries do, but the scar still remained. She was tentative with her strokes and she favoured her knee every time she hit the shuttle. It took her time to get back to her aggressive intensity but once she did, she was unstoppable. She went on to miraculously win the senior open nationals, thus bagging every national title in each age-category. She is one of four women in the history of Indian badminton, who have managed to achieve this feat.

She was doing well – having reached semis and the quarterfinals of two international tournaments. After she came back, however, she suffered a triple blow when she injured her knee, twisted her ankle and tore her hamstring.

The doctor said that she didn’t have long to play. She was devastated. She contemplated retirement. She did nothing for two months, reached the limit of her frustration and then got a panic attack.

She decided to take a break. Get her mind away from badminton. A fresh start. She decided to travel. She revisited Germany without her rackets and found it to be a refreshing experience. She trekked across the hills of Kashmir, relaxed on the sandy beaches of Goa and spent fifteen full days bonding with her grandparents. She studied for the IAS, the GMAT and then worked in an NGO. Her mind was wandering, but wandering away from badminton.

ImageThen she started to the miss the sport again. But she wasn’t fully ready to get back on the court. So she took up tennis. She played for a week and then realised the sport was a poor substitute for her true love. She then got back on badminton court after a one and a half year hiatus. She took to the court like a fish to water. She was more relaxed. Her dreams had diluted into concrete practicality. Her expectations were minimal. She went back to the basics. She now played for the love of the game and nothing more. She surprised one and all with her third place finish in the nationals.

But Aditi knows better than most that third place finishes aren’t remembered for long. In India, after all, even second place counts for little in the long run. Aditi often looks back and wonders what would have happened if she received the same attention as Saina. But she also agrees that Saina is made of a different fibre. She is deserved of her Olympic bronze medal. She is envious, not malicious of her intentions towards Saina. When asked, however, if she ever wished she was in Saina’s shoes, she continues to say, “I’m still on my way there”.

Whenever the wave pushes her back, she sheds her skin, goes back to the drawing board and starts swimming again. The sea-snake.                  

“Scars are not injuries, Tanner Sack. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” 
― China MiévilleThe Scar

Of youth getting younger


We are growing old. 25 is the new 35. Receding hairlines, pre-mature wisdom, six figure salaries – we’re in too much of a hurry.

Some of us are married. Some even have little babies. In the age of progression, we are adhering to regressive societal pressures. We’re settling down and exorcising the wild child in amongst the mad rush of the notorious rat-race.

We have become stress-saturated, guilt-ridden machines of labour driven by the damagingly irresistible scent of money. The tenure of youth is shrinking by the minute. Time is money. But money is of no use whatsoever if we don’t have time to spend it. We never seem to get it.

In this fast-paced world, everyone is living in full speed. There is no time to sit down, take a breath, take it slow, rejuvenate, recuperate. We are constantly breaking the speed limit. Crash-courses are the new trend. We want instant success at the cost of vanity, dignity, integrity and health. We are killing ourselves when we sacrifice meals for work. Or the other end of the spectrum where obesity is the result of overwhelming pressure.

We have mobile phones at age 10. 12-year-olds smoke their first cigarette. At 14, we have already acquired the taste of our preferred malt. Dreams are squashed; hobbies are looked at with complete insolence. It’s all about the MBA. It’s all about the money. Money buys us a wife, nowadays, because  we just don’t  have any time for love. Marriage becomes a bad investment when money becomes power. Power is the catalyst of adultery and before long we are corrupt beyond belief with no hair on our head, no real teeth, a protruding stomach and a dozen nervous ticks. In our alcoholism, we suddenly become children again when we come back drunk at odd hours of the night, reeking of alcohol and shamefacedly lie to our loved ones. We will have suffered at least one heart-attack.

We are all dying, when now is the age to live. Now is the time to drink too much. We are supposed to experiment with drugs. We are supposed to screw each other,screw ‘randoms’, fall in love, cheat, break hearts, get our hearts broken. Let us live out our fantasy. Enjoy the journey of chasing our dream. Make mistakes and learn from them. It’s better to make mistakes than to lose the opportunity to make them at all. Let’s screw up and forget about the consequences. That’s youth.

Yes, some may overdose, over do, ruin their lives, ruin others, fall in the black pit of addiction. But you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette.        

‘This is a call of arms to live and love and sleep together
We could flood the streets with love or light or heat whatever
Lock the parents out, cut a rug, twist and shout
Wave your hands
Make it rain
For stars will rise again

The youth is starting to change
Are you starting to change?
Are you?

–          The Youth by MGMT

The Wife – Aniket Pol

The wife and I share an explosive relationship. And he irritated me like never before a few days ago. He still hadn’t unpacked his suitcase, he refused to stop digging his nose, he ‘forgot’ to buy milk for the umpteenth time and he called me fat.

I’m usually very patient. I handle my business in a calm manner, hardly ever getting angry.

When my ex-girlfriend told me she cheated on me, I said – Let’s figure this out together. When I found out she cheated on me for the second time while two-timing with the both me and the ‘cheatee’ for over a year, I just broke up with her without any fuss. I have never had much of a temper.

But when it comes to the wife, I just cannot hold back. And I didn’t. I exploded with anger. I shouted my lungs out at him. Till my voice became screechy. And then he made fun of my screechy voice.

Anger doesn’t make a damn difference to him. That’s what makes you angrier. It enraged me. But I held it in like Martin Lawrence – ‘woosa’. I ate some ‘bhel puri’ to take my mind off the anger. I worked out to channelize my aggression elsewhere. I ate some delicious ‘Chicken Kadhai Karahi’ at Qureshi’s. The food hit the spot, but I was still furious.

I collected myself. I slept through the rage. The fury, that finally came out at 6 ‘o’ clock in the morning in the form of some angry, red-hot flatulence. That Fartosaurus  Rex was a loud obnoxious ripper that made its way through my blanket, up his nose and straight into his brain. The most barbaric of all alarms. The ultimate retribution.

“SICK!”, he screamed and I just laughed aloud with evil pleasure.

He heard my fart in his sleep. The smell woke him up. That’s probably the only thing that will wake him up. He sleeps through alarms, doorbells, ringing phones and all other noisy devices. Which means I have to wake up early every morning to open the door to our agonisingly irritating maid.

She nags me constantly. About my lifestyle; my inability to hear the sound of the bell (She doesn’t get the fact that it’s broken). About her daughter getting bitten by a stray dog outside my building – anything under the sun. The irritation is not unlike someone constantly poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poking you with their pointy finger in your shoulder-flesh. It makes you want to scream. I scream. Random Hindi words sometimes, or I just shout at her in English, leaving her perplexed. I then end the random rant with a “JAO IDHAR SE!!!” (“GET AWAY FROM HERE”), while sleeping beauty snores away, obliviously.

I kick him out of frustration to wake him up but he never seems to retaliate. I’ll give credit where credit is due. He is quite tolerant of my moody ways. Whenever I, unfairly, take out my anger on him, he just burps in my face. He is also my clothes bank. I steal most of his T-shirts, much to his irritation. But he lets me use them. He never lets me forget though, with a “Nice Shirt Dude”, every time I wear one of them in public.

He is never far from a hilarious moment. My friends and I caught him being called ‘Honeycake’ by his father when he was 16 years old and we have never let him forget it to this day. He was once caught by his ex girlfriend’s mother when he tried to escape from her balcony. She called him in, fed him chai and biscuits and warned him never to see her daughter again. He complied. He wanted to commit suicide when he found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him, even asking me to “Tell my parents it was not their fault”. That story is legendary.

We keep laughing at his expense but he always takes it in his stride and more often than not, gives it back. His favourite counter-punch is showing me a photo of my ex-girlfriend. It never works.

He is one of the most reliable people I know. He will always help you out if you’re stranded. He will complain, he will irritate you, he will demand the earth for his good deed, but he’ll come through. He’s a good friend, that’s for sure. As a boyfriend, however, it’s a whole different story.

He is a compulsive cheater. He can’t have one-night-stands. He cheats. He gives a whole different meaning to ‘Keeping the girls off the Pol’. He will always date the wrong girl, cry to me about it and then cheat on her. It’s a cycle.

I have an incredible amount of dirt on him that I have been collecting over the years. With this post, I have only scratched the surface. I can’t obviously blog about it all, because he will reciprocate… with the dirt he has on me. But that’s what friendship is based on I think – mutual collection of dirt. And we’ve been doing it for 18 years now.  But as time goes by, I will collect more scandalous dirt, to allow the release for many more hilarious stories of the wife. For now, I’ll only say – The wife is a blogger too. His blog is legendary.

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The Crow that stood still in the rain


The crow that stood still in the rain

In the chaotic streets of Bombay, where the rain was pouring down in buckets, people were scampering for cover, where cars were screaming at vehicles stuck in the water-logged road, there was a crow that stood still in the rain.

I see crows every day. Some shit on my head. Some steal my food. Others caw from their homes in the trees. And this crow was like any other crow. He was black, twelve inches long with a long sharp beak and pointy talons. But he was different from every other crow.

Perched on one foot over a wooden hoarding, he seemed to feel a certain amount of comfort in adverse surroundings. Every stinging drop of rain hit his weak body, but he remained unflinched.

He was drenched. The water was dripping down his tail and beak; the chill of the monsoon wind slapped against his frail charcoal exterior; but he sat there with the tranquillity of a monk.

 He, who was once an enraged destroyer of beautiful gardens, farm crops and other nests. An eater of worms and the guts of rotten animals.

Impish at times, he would take sadistic pleasure in taking off clothespins to watch clean white sheets fall to the ground. He would pull the tails of those evil cats in retaliation to their cruelty to fellow crows.

The responsible one, he would always look out for his family of nine, while perched up on the tallest tree, making sure that no danger befalls them while they go about their crow business.

He suffered through the tough times of his roosts being blown-up, his home being cut down, the loss of a young one to a stray eagle. He picked himself up and got back on his feet.

He was the farmer’s enemy when he jumped on the ripening fruit and his best friend when he rid the farm of worm population.

He had many dimensions to his personality, yet he was regarded as a symbol of death. He was target practice for hunters.

He was resourceful and intelligent but misunderstood and underappreciated. But today, he seemed beyond those trivial issues.       

Maybe he was a brave crow. With a point to prove to other crows. Maybe he liked getting wet. Maybe he was dead.

Then blinked his eye, moved his head and resumed his quietude. He was at peace with himself. Nothing in the external world could affect him. He had nothing to lose. He was free.

The rain continued but he would not move. Through twilight and into the night, his silhouette drifted off. He disappeared. I fell asleep.

The next morning I found a corpse of the crow on my window-sill. 

Take a break


Banksy’s version of taking a break

Take a break. Interrupt your cycle of stress before it leads you to the point of overwhelm. I’ve always believed in this philosophy. This lesson was reiterated to me while I was waiting on a friend at a Delhi bus-stop.

In the honking madness of the peak hours at Nathupura road, three strangers – an auto driver, a cabbie and a trucker were having the time of their lives.

Neither the sweltering heat nor the dust of metro construction would seem to affect this affable lot. They parked their respective vehicles awkwardly in front of the Hauz Khas bus-stop, ordered a chai each, lit up a beedi and sat on a half-broken ‘khatiya’ right between the bus-stop and the subway. The auto driver crouched in squatting position and began regaling others with the amusing incidents of the day. The stories were filled with theatrical imitation, obscene gestures and an abundance of swear words. All were in raptures.

The Sardarji cab driver let out a sonorous laugh. He was quite easily the loudest of the lot. The trucker in contrast to his vehicle of transportation was rather meek in his emotional assertiveness but was enjoying himself nonetheless.

The auto-driver recounted his musings with the deadpan expression of a self-deprecating comedian, getting carried away with every giggle, guffaw and chortle of his captivated audience.

The passers-by stared in surprise, at this rowdy bunch of brutes. Some even laughed in amusement. But they couldn’t be less bothered.

The stench of ammonia from the subway toilet was fought off by the scent of the beedi; the sweat that was now pouring down was wiped off their forehead with complete disregard. They seemed utterly unaffected. They laughed on.

With each snigger, with every slap of the hand you could see their worries being shed away one by one. The frustrations of traffic jams, of abusive passengers, of the wealthy bullies of the road were all melting away.

Then the chai was over, the beedi on its last drag and the noise level was decreasing gradually in decibel. The narrator had finished his bit. There was at least ten seconds of silence – an unspoken indication of a conclusion. A conclusion to a well deserved break. A necessary one. To unload the stress that comes with this amazing city of Delhi.

They flicked their cups behind the bus-stop, stubbed their beedis below their feet and drove their vehicles back into the honking madness of Nathupura road, of Delhi.

So take a break, take a hike, go for a bike ride, play something, watch a movie, meditate, fornicate, have a drink, smoke a cigarette, release those endorphins, read… or better yet – write.      

‘The problem with the world today is that everyone is a few drinks behind’ – Humphrey Bogart