Monday, 29 June, 2009

Such is life

In a shelf not far from where I sit is a notebook. Its cover says Sketch Book 100 Pages.
In another shelf, not far from the shelf in which the notebook lies, is a box. The box contains pencils, six in total, of different graphite-to-clay ratios. A sharpener – Twin Sharpener, the box says – came free with the box of pencils. The Twin Sharpener is actually two sharpeners, of different diameters, in one.
I haven’t put the notebook, the pencils, or the sharpener to use, yet.
Someday I will.
Someday, I shall pick up a pencil, most likely the HB, and with its sharp end make a pattern, a rudimentary curve, upon a page of the Sketch Book. That curve may cause other curves to materialise, or it may not.
It may instead cause me to look around frantically for an eraser. An eraser may exist in this house, maybe in a shelf not far from the shelf the Sketch Book lies in. Or it may not.
On the day the HB pencil and the Sketch Book come in contact with each other, no eraser will be found. What will happen is this – in vain I will search for an eraser, and upon finding none attempt on a new page to create a satisfactory rudimentary curve, fail, and put the Sketch Book back in its shelf, after tearing out the pages with the unsatisfactory rudimentary curves on them, crumpling them, and tossing them in the bin.
The sharpener and the five other pencils in the box will have served no purpose.
All night the visions of a completed sketch will dance in my brain, teasing, tormenting.
The next day, I will find an eraser, in a shelf not far from the Sketch Book and the box of pencils, a shelf whose every inch I would have probed the previous day. Faber Castell, it will say, or maybe Natraj. Or it may say nothing, and look and smell like a slice of cartoon lemon instead.
By then, the visions that had swirled on the page the previous day, orbiting the unsatisfactory rudimentary curve, will have departed the retina of my mind’s eye, forever, or till the next time the eraser disappears.

Thursday, 4 June, 2009


"Join Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad" read the sign on the wall. I was in a bus; the bus was in Kodambakkam; we had just crossed Meenakshi College. Thankfully for the impressionable youth of the city, the chaps who had scrawled this on the wall had overlooked the fact that this wall wasn't perhaps the most ideal wall for the purpose. For the wall - only about two feet high - bounded a transformer with DANGER painted in red across the grey of its steel shell. A pat on the back for the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board for doing its bit in the fight against far-right political outfits and their youth wings.
This was among the various sensory stimuli I was treated to on my bus journey from Vadapalani bus stand to my office - a distance of about eight kilometers that lasted just over two hours on this day in history. Before that, the auto journey that took me three kilometers from my place to Vadapalani consumed 45 minutes.
The trip lasted as long as it did because Arcot Road was the only navigable stretch of arterial road in the western part of the city, and buses and other vehicles that usually don't use this road were diverted into it. Other roads to its north and south were knee-deep in water from four days of rain that came in the wake of Cyclone Nisha's retreat - or advance, I'm not sure which - while the water on Arcot Road was merely shin-deep.
Strangely, after crossing the Kodambakkam bridge, all the other vehicles that had clogged up road-space alongside the bus I was on for an hour and a half seemed to disappear, and the horizon became visible again, after which the bus began to discover velocities it had given up as impossible - speeds of 15 and 20 kilometers an hour. Each time we turned left or right, I was thrown back and forth, centrifugal - or is it centripetal? - force causing vertical grab-poles* to jam into my right elbow, while simultaneously elongating my left arm clawing desperately at the parallel bars* on the bus's ceiling, threatening two hyper-extended arms at the end of the ride.
*How I wish I knew the technical terms for MTC bus design elements.
At the beginning of my journey, it had looked like it was going to be a typical post-rain Chennai afternoon. Bright sunshine, an expanse of blue sky punctuated by the odd, low-slung grey-tending-to-white cloud, and humongous humidity. Despite perspiring slightly, I was feeling good, for I thought one day of sunshine would bring a semblance of normalcy to the roads, and allow me to bring my bike back from the office in the evening, with only my rolled-up jeans suggesting anything in the realm of the abnormal.
As I got off the bus, however, the blue had faded to a deepish grey, the light was low, and a drizzle had begun. Oh well.
If it will do any good, I introduce into this text these wonderful verses:
Rain rain go away, Come again another day. Little Johnny wants to play; Rain, rain, go to Spain, Never show your face again!
I was made to understand that it was Little Tommy who wanted to play, but in Wikipedia I trust. And the Spain bit I had no clue about whatsoever.
According to the people at Wikipedia,
"Rain Rain Go Away" is a short children's rhyme. As with many nursery rhymes the origin and meaning of this rhyme is open for debate, but one theory dates it back to the reign of Elizabeth I of England. The invasion of the Spanish Armada was, in part, defeated by the stormy weather (which scattered the Armada fleet). A song, based on the rhyme, was co-written by Gloria Shayne Baker and Noel Regney, who were married at the time. Baker wrote the lyrics to the song, while Regney composed the music. Rain Rain Go Away was initially recorded by Bobby Vinton.
Bet you didn't know that.
Another thing you didn't know: The bus I travelled on today was an M17, but an M17 that in the past had been a 12B. How do I know? Well, Sathish, Prabha, Mukilan, Pradeep, Kumaravel, Vinoth and Rajan told me. Their names were scrawled below the words '12B guys' behind the last row of seats on the bus. On a journey of such temporal length, you tend to memorise, in order, lists of names that are only seven long.
But wait. Does this automatically suggest that it was a 12B in which the 12B guys were travelling at the time they declared their allegiance to the 12B? Were they perhaps recording for posterity that the 12B guys were, due to unavoidable circumstances, travelling in an M17?
By the way, the M17 isn't the same as the 17M. A couple of dudes who got on, and were told by the conductor to get off at the next stop and get onto a 17M, seemed to have made that assumption.
I wrote this late last November, sitting at the office after my epic bus journey.