For the Actor Inside

Ominous music plays. The audience doesn’t know what to expect, but the sense of an experience that is soon to come is well-defined. That what will be soon seen, will be sinister. The mood and the stage is dark. Not completely. There’s some light, just enough to make out some form, if, it shows up. It has been a five minutes since the curtain was raised. The stage is empty. And dark. Even the ominous music has faded.

The tall man in the eleventh row, who is never affected by anything, knows what the director is trying to do. Silence is more ominous than ominous music. The director is too dramatic; he thinks to himself and smiles. The man in the middle of the fifth row is already disappointed. He has a very clear understanding of how things should be in the world. He can even convince you of how things should be (of course, if you aren’t convinced, then you aren’t as intelligent as he thought you to be). There are others in the audience. Each one telling themselves of the idea behind the empty stage. The stage has been empty for eight minutes now.

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Ominous music plays. It’s the 37th time he has heard the music. It has happened 36 times before, and today is no different. He is waiting in the wings, and is unable to walk onto the stage. Frozen stiff. He waits for the actor to step out and perform. Usually, as soon as the ominous music starts, he closes his eyes, and in less than a minute, the actor steps out. It has been three minutes since he closed his eyes. The actor is locked within; not frozen – like him, but unable to step out to the stage. He is concerned. He shuts his eyes tightly, as if the pressure will release the actor. Nothing changes. He senses the actor struggling to get out. His left toe, and his left index finger are numb. Also the last two toes of his right leg. The actor is anchored at these three places. As if, nailed. The ominous music fades.

2299: Masks

The actor is not on stage. This has never happened before. It is a new experience. A sense of dread creeps up on him. Go now, he says. I want to, says the actor, but I am unable. I am stuck. You have to find a way, he says, one last time – this is the last show. I want to, I want to, I am trying, cries the actor, but I cannot leave. Walk me to the stage, pleads the actor, perhaps I may get released centre stage.

What was only a slight quiver turns into a quake. You know I cannot to do that, he said, in a tone that was sheer anger or sheer fear. Perhaps both. The actor felt the fear that he felt, but he did not understand it. Just walk me to the stage, I’ll act, you don’t have to do anything. Just get me centre stage, pleaded the actor, again.

In that raging fear, he somehow managed to smile. If I take you centre stage, that will be the end of you. I will become the actor. I will become you, he said, to the actor.

And I will have no way of bring you back, even if I die.

And with the numbness, nine minutes later, he walks on to the stage, weighed down by an invisible carcass. In a thunderous voice he delivered the actor’s eulogy:

Forgive me
Oh my eunuch enemy
For I am the hero
and villain myself.

I am addicted to the stage.

I dread the day
My knees week and broken
Unable on stage; my death
Will be when I become audience.

Being Superstitious

There are many ways to be superstitious. Actually, there are many degrees to being superstitious. The lowest level of it, is trivial.

If you are a cricket fan, especially in India, you will know what I mean. Folks sit in a particular position for the entire duration of the match, lest we lose a wicket. Some of them only listen to the commentary, do not watch the match. There are a million more; all of them quirky.

Then comes the next degree, the personal. They aren’t trivial, but are rooted in long-term observation or experience. Empirical. These are the kind that tend to affect our lives (in a rather far-reaching way, than the result of a cricket match). These are personal, in the sense that these superstitions only affect us and the result is experienced in a very personal way.

Finally there are the global ones. Walking under the ladder, breaking of a mirror, and such. There is no value in the superstition, except that it has been handed down from generations and we accept them for their sake.

And that’s how superstition propagates. From the trivial, to the personal to the global. The trivial ones are easily discarded, for they are temporary. There is a comic element to them, and should be treated as such. The global ones, we just have to deny, for we can find no rational basis in them.

2726: Three Crows

The difficult ones to deal with, and the critical ones — are the personal superstitions. They hold within them the potential to become global, because we often tend to prove with “data” how real they are. Yet we cannot deny our own experience. Especially when it is repeated. The key, perhaps, is to not allow an experience (or experiences) to turn into belief. That’s where the rational mind shuts down.

And when we need its faculty the most, it may not be available to us.

Beauty: #Anthem 12

Every time I think of an Anthem post, I think of one thing only: How come I didn’t think of this song as an Anthem. Paul takes all the blame. Needless to say he takes all the credit, for these posts.

Madhubala, is the most beautiful woman ever. Feel free to send in other contestants, on this blog, they will rank later. We’ll of course make an exception for Charlize Theron, because she is alive and Madhubala is not. So, separate categories. The one advantage of having your own blog is that — you get to decide. So, Madhubala is the best of those who don’t exist, and Charlize is the best of those who do. At this time, you all should know that Charlize was one of protagonist in The Italian Job (2003). The primary protagonist was Mark Wahlberg, who BTW follows me on Twitter. (I am glad that we have that out-of-the-way)

I spent this evening with my uncle, and we sang some wonderful songs. We are separated by 25 years and we are together by the music of the 60s. Most of these songs were made before I was born. Yet, I relate to them. The presence of beautiful women is just one thing. The nature of two lovers, the stories of yore, and the way we relate to this music, all comes together to make meaning.

How could anyone not? In the video below, watch Madhubala at 1:45 and at 3:15.

It’s a love song; needs no translation. When you see it, you will know.

No More Waist-ful Expenses

I wanted to title this post as the name of a well-known Indian actor of English and Scottish ancestry. Good sense prevailed and I have given it a boring name. Humankind has survived the various ages: Ice Ages, Dark Ages, Iron Ages, etc (Don’t get technical on me and be pedantic of when humans existed and such; go with the flow). The one age, that I think we will not survive is Outr-age. Everybody gets upset about everything, nowadays. Fifty shades of grey, and every shade is outraged at the other 49. So, yeah, good sense has prevailed, and I am not going to mention the celebrity’s name.

I’ve lived at one place for 14 years. That’s about 32% of my life. Well, technically, 25%, because of those 14 years, I was living in London for 3 years. But, I had this place, even when I was living in London. So, your call @ 32% or 25%. London, plays an important part in this post. We’ll get to that soon enough. Of the rest of my 68% (or 75%, depending on how you have looked at it) I have changed homes at an average of 1 home per 3.33 years. Even when I was in London, for 3 years, I changed home twice. Perhaps the correct word would be house, but every place has been a home. So, again, #YouPrefer.

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There’s a shop that sells clothes, just below the building I have lived for 14 years. Outside that shop works a young man with a sewing machine. He is a tailor, but not really. He alters. (Perhaps, now you know of the celebrity that I didn’t mention). And he knows me. Way back, when I came and started living in this neighbourhood, he was just a kid, who couldn’t stitch in a straight line. I know, because once, my Mom, told him how he wasn’t managing the tension, or the pull of the cloth, on the sewing machine. Unfortunately, that’s also the reason he remembers me.

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Depending on whether I have taken care of myself, I have grown fat, and then, I have grown slim. (Well, not exactly slim but it sounds better than saying less-fat) Here’s the London context: I walked a lot in London, took the public transport, never owned a car. Which means that after I came back from London, all my trousers were loose. So a heap of trousers were laden on him: reduce by 1.5 inches, per trouser. Rs. 15 per trouser. I was back in India, slim and sexy. Even my once-upon-a-time double chin had merged and was a single chin. Good days. Then I bought a (lovely) car, didn’t walk, started eating junk food. Two years later, many trousers were heaped on his sewing machine again. Increase waist by 1.5 inches. Rs. 40 per trouser, this time. It’s been a while since that day. I am taking care of myself, eating well, doing some exercise (keyword being “some”) and am close to a waist like when I had returned from London. The trousers need some work again. Reduced waist, i.e. I am sure, he’ll say Rs. 100 per trouser. Inflation and all. I found a better way. It costs Rs. 5, to punch extra holes on your belt. There are more pleats on the trouser than I’d like, but hey, I saved Rs. 95 per trouser. I hardly tuck my shirt.

The guy from the pharmacy who’s been around before I came to live here, notices and asks if I am on a diet. The chai tapri fellow tells me I am looking good. The security guard at the ATM is concerned, asks me if I am well. I blushingly take all the compliments. They all have seen me for 14 years. The alter-fellow says not one word.

I was walking along the shops, the other day. I sensed he was looking at my waist, as I walked past the store.

Almost drooling.

Selfish Friends

If friends do things to keep their friends closer, are they selfish? Or are they just being friends?

Some questions arise after a conversation in a Chinese Restaurant overlooking a highway jammed with traffic full of vehicles nowhere to go. As regards us, we travelled, many places. Many places.

The Slash of a Broadsword

Something told us, we should occupy seats near the exit. We weren’t forced to attend the lecture in that hall, we went of our own volition. The subject was of interest to both of us — my niece, of 15 years, has a curious interest in history; so do I.

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We are great companions when we travel or visit museums. Her favourite reign in Indian history and my favourite reign in Indian history were enemies and were always at each others’ throats. Yet, we have a very interesting conversations. When she was younger I tried to bring her over to ‘my’ side to no avail. She liked them, and she liked them a lot. Her likeness for the enemy camp is further aggravated by the fact that she doesn’t particularly have respect for my side. We’ve been at various places of historical interest together and her innate curiosity of things has never ceased to amaze me. In fact, most of my reading is a result of her questions: answers for which, I did not have. I like her lens of looking at history — devoid of religion, politics, and social norms. Seeing it for what it was. For what it is. And while our favourite factions may have been sworn enemies once upon a time, there is one thing that brings us close, very close, together: medieval arms and armour. The same weapons that our favourite factions used against each other, and shed blood on both sides. We see the sword in absolute terms: it has no side. The beauty, the grace, and the sheer presence of a sword, a dagger, or a shield sucks us both in the same wormhole. (I think she is a dagger person and I am a sword person, but we haven’t established that yet.) Most of them are common (to the factions we support). And as these ronin blades hang in glass-cases in museums all over the world, both of us are filled with wonder. We appreciated the jade and ivory hilts. Engraved rock-crystal hilts, and beautifully damascened blades. Art of War can mean other things. Very few of the weapons were properly labelled, so we had to refer to our book to make sense of what was what, which period it belonged to, and such. The rest of the stuff in the museum didn’t seem to be as much of value and beauty. Also, it was time for us to get to the lecture.

*

It was a memorial lecture. In memory of a person who has contributed much to the museum. So we got to saw a short film on his life. It was fascinating. Then we heard a short lecture about his life. Not so fascinating. And just when sitting close to the exit was making sense, the main lecture started. We could not see the person who was lecturing. She sat and lectured. The first slide of the presentation was all that we could see. For a long time. We heard another long introduction of the person, in whose memory the lecture was being delivered. This time, the experiences of the lecturer with the memory-person. Of the 60-80 people attending the lecture at least 90% were senior citizens. I felt out-of-place. You can imagine my niece’s plight. An hour passed by. After multiple promises by the lecturer that she will show us pictures and talk about it, the first slide seemed determined to be in the spotlight; unmoving. We exchanged glances. She opened her fist: five more minutes. At the stroke of the end of the fourth minute, she poked me.

Like a swift slash of a broadsword, we were out of there.

We drove to the nearest cinema theatre and watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). In 3D. We both enjoyed it immensely!

7

My flight’s at 7pm. I am early at the airport. Really early. 4 hours early.

There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. Over the next 4 hours, flights will be announced and most of these occupants will leave the tables. When I came to this section of the airport, only two tables were as described above. I occupied the third table. I assume most of them are day-travellers: took the morning flight, attended a meeting; now returning. Somewhat like me. New table-occupiers come in — everyone is looking for an unoccupied table. Single-occupancy on a table, somehow signifies privacy. I take my place along the glass wall that allows me to see the comings and goings on the tarmac. This is the far-end of Hyderabad airport.

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The makers of these new OTT (over-the-top) private-sector airports are trying hard to make the journey seem like it is the grandest thing that you have ever done. Failing miserably. In the glitter of the unaffordable items displayed with focus-lights on products, and back-lit lights on brands and logos, the sullen faces on the uncomfortable chairs seem to ask of just one thing: get me home!

People aren’t hungry. They are eating either to regulate their blood sugar or to while away time. I can tell. The one who eats quickly is the former; the one who eats slowly is the latter. Yet, most of them are not eating. Anything. They are recharging their phones. They are making post-meeting phone calls to their home base, to tell the completion of paperwork for the deals they closed. Excel sheets open. Row 55 they say. Add a discount of 12%. Recalculate. Very methodical. These are employees. Then, there are business people. Do x and it’s all done. Employees usually speak in English. Business folks speak in a language I do not understand. Yet, I can sense they are closing deals.

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Modern airports are designed to serve two purposes: to make life miserable for travellers and for smokers. Almost always, however (and I am not doing any statistical magic show here) smokers are the smart people. Necessity, mother, invention and all that jazz.

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IMG_20150424_155241There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. No one is looking to make friends. Each person seeks an unoccupied table. [ProTip: This the left-most end of the airport as you walk in, after security] Four hours to kill. Most of the people at this end of the airport drink and smoke. This is the only place where you don’t have to trek to the other end of the airport to have a smoke and trek back to have your drink. The smoking booth is close by. A glass showcase, where everyone can see a dying species. But within that showcase there is camaraderie. Good conversation. Suddenly, people are leaving their tables and joining in groups. Having conversations. Not about smoking. About themselves.

It’s so much easier to be intimate with strangers; we discover. In a couple of hours I’ll take a flight south-bound, and you will take one west-bound. Chances are, we will never meet again. C’est la vie!

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There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. And this is how it will be. For our airports have brought us many expensive experiences, but they have utterly failed at bringing people together. More often than not, people end up spending more time at the airport than they want to. Airports, railway stations, and bus-stands are inherently depressing places. Primarily because no one wants to be there.

*

Seven thoughts in that small place. Seven characters. Seven humans with their personal fears and seven achievements. Seven senses of home. Perhaps these seven senses are not different. They are all the same.

They are human.