Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can I be a sparrow?

This has been with me for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would clamour for my grandmother to tell me stories. It could be a bedtime story, or a story after lunch when sleep came to me on jet plane or a story for Sunday when hours were leisurely and friends were away. My grandmother told me stories from her childhood, stories of her life as a young woman and a wife and a mother. She also told me stories of kings and queens and mendicants with magical powers. Each of these stories had a beautiful structure to it - a beginning, middle and an end, a plot that wove the story together. In that sense, as I grew up and read a lot of authors, I retained my love for the traditional way of story telling. I like clearly fleshed out characters, I want a strong narrative, I also wanted a beginning, a middle and end. It comes as no surprise to me then that though I waited eagerly to graduate to being taught Virginia Woolf during my graduation in English literature, I really didn't enjoy her. I loved Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence but I couldn't bring myself to appreciate the stream of consciousness technique that Virginia Woolf is so famous for.
Most of the stories that my grandmother told me had an element of magic in them. The mystic fakir she met as a young girl, the village (in a fictitious story) that had a well that spoke to women and so on. I can't really pin point when and how, but I started wishing for some magic that would change me into a sparrow. The ordinary, brown Indian sparrow that we see in most cities and more often and more in number in villages. I fancied my mother pulling off the chadar from my bed to reveal a small, sparrow! That sparrow is me. Overnight, by a magic charm, I have transformed into a sparrow.
I have always thought that sparrows live an extremely charmed, content and happy life. Since they are ordinary and so much in abundance, no body enslaves them in a cage or tries to keep them as a pet. Food is available in plenty: food grains scattered at a grocery story, leftover cooked rice grains on a vessel left out to be washed, bread crumbs from a picnic basket... Plus, sparrows don't need to go to school, get jobs, build a fancy bungalow or be drowned in the peer pressure that dictates so much of what we do as human beings. What are a sparrow's biggest fears? I guess, being eaten up by a cat. Or to get drenched in a sudden shower perhaps? To me, these fears seem far more tolerable than the ones that stalk us humans.
Is there a magic somewhere out there? Do you know a secret charm or a chant? Can I turn into a sparrow? I promise, you mum and dad, I will come every day in the evening to see you. I will sip a little tea from dad's cup (Do sparrows like tea?) and sit by mom's feet to nibble at the biscuit crumbs that fall as she eats. And ah, yes, please don't keep a cat as a pet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The professor and Cleopatra

Sometimes, everyday conversations or communications (mails, chats and the sorts) are so full of unexpected humour that you remember those conversations for long; they are stored in your memory for weeks and months and even years. And when you think of them, you smile to yourself or burst out in laughter. It happens to me all the time. I am driving my kinetic and I suddenly remember a funny episode and I am laughing while I am driving. I admit, I must look like a nut to those around me but I believe there will be some others who will think, 'She must have been reminded of something funny. It happens to me as well."
This week, I was chatting (gchat) with a colleague and to the utter bewilderment of those around me, I suddenly burst out laughing and all of them tried to have a look at my computer screen. My friend was to travel to Delhi and she asked her friend to book her tickets for Augustkranti Rajdhani Express. But, bless that sweet, forgetful professor, he instead booked her in a train called Sampoornakranti. Here's what she wrote to him and narrated and forwarded to me:
"Hi darling,
In which train you have booked my ticket to Delhi??????? It takes three hours more than Ashram and four hours more than Rajdhani..... I told you AUGUSTKRANTI RAJDHANI EXPRESS not some SAMPOORNAKRANTI EXPRESS (READ KHATARA EXPRESS) which your country cousin Laloo Yadav started on metregauge two years back ...... yeh kya kiya puchu aap ne... this khatara train reaches Nizamdduin at 10.35 whereas Ashram reaches at 7.30.....
Wait I will be a Krantikari when I reach Delhi through Sampoornakranti Express.... (Good that I checked otherwise I would have entered the Rajdhani.. ha ha and landed in jail without ticket)
(p s Now I realise certain people are not meant for certain things.. though I humbly appreciate your effort. HARD REALISATION THOUGH)
My colleague's absentminded friend reminded me of a professor who used to teach us English literature in university. He was, as can be assumed, very very fond of Shakespeare and one day, with his lovely cotton, weathered thela in hand, went off to a local theatre that screened English movies. He had, in great enthusiasm bought a ticket for Anthony and Cleopatra, having read in the newspapers an advertisement announcing the same. He did notice that an unusual number of boisterous, lanky, young men had turned up for the movie as he stood outside the theatre (back then, there were no multiplexes in Baroda), and he thought, a tad pleased: 'I didn't know so many young men read Shakespeare." He took his seat at the hall, and as the lights went off, catcalls rose from all over the hall. Again, our professor was surprised: a hall full of young men, but he thought, they somehow, if he could say so, didn't look like men who would have read anything, even a comic, or a label on a bottle, leave alone Shakespeare. Well, he was right. A blond, buxom woman came on the screen and when she started 'acting,' our sweet professor realised that this was no play of Shakespeare! It was a porn movie!
This incident still makes me laugh.

Now, here's another mail which again, for some reason makes me smile if not double me up with laughter. As I opened my gmail account one day, it was there, written to me by a friend from Mumbai :
"prerna........i think i have reached the peak of depression.!!!!!!!!!
i told u naa that maine shaadi.com me apna profile dala that.........i got 21 responses.....but itne GHATIYA ladke..........chi chi.........maine apni life me nahi dekhe...........

dekhna meri shaadi nahi hogi 35 saal tak.aur jab hogi tab kisi ghatiya se buddhe se hogi...aur mujhe koi naukri bhi nahi milege.......i think soon i ll turn to alchoholism or drugs...


love *****"

I quite like the mock melodramatic ending: "... will turn to alcoholism or drugs... alvida!' I also like the beginning and my friend's very colloquial, conversational 'chi, chi...'

Now here's a third one. A friend of mine, who was a research analyst, was chatting (gchat) with me. I made the emoticon B-) in the chat and he wanted to learn how to make that. It's really simple, one types a capital B, the small - and the ) and B-) is ready!
I asked my friend to guess how to make it, or do some R & D. When he couldn't, I typed "B=Buddhu. You are buddhu." My friend, started typing: "B=Buddhu, B=Buddhu all over the chat window" and then "Prerna, it doesn't appear. I typed B=Buddhu but the emoticon doesn't appear!" I have saved the chat. I often go back to it and I am reminded of the time when my otherwise intelligent friend really got 'intelligence ransacked' for a few, brief moments! He admitted as such and wrote "i mean i dont know (why I did that)
something must have taken over me to think that
B=Buddhu could lead to that
i mean i thought a while before that
windows wasnt designed in india
so how can they have a buddhu sort of word to mean anything
but i stil went ahead and tried that"

Of course you did! You are such a sweet<3. Now, try that!