Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Natural State

(Image: Taken at Elliot's Beach, Chennai, a few weekends ago)
When you sift the chaff off the air of sophistication you tend to often adopt, life isn’t that much complicated, I have come to realize. It isn’t difficult recognizing the simple things in life. It is holding on to them and making sure that you don’t morph into a complicated being that becomes, well, complicated. Like this pearl of wisdom I realized some time ago; that it isn’t hard knowing what you want in life; it is getting there that makes it a struggle.

This Sunday afternoon, I was reading old blog posts from a fellow journalist whose writing I used to greatly admire once. That is when it struck me, why I write, here and elsewhere. I write because, it is very simple now that I think of it, writing is more ‘me’ than anything else I do is. It is what comes most naturally to me. There isn’t a sophisticated reason why I write. If something comes out of the words I write, well that would be an additional blessing. But I cannot not be me for long. Take away the pretences, the masks that I, you could be forced to wear, take away the fragile walls around the life I, you have created and I will still have my writing. I shall always write, one way or the other.

And off late I am also in the position to thank a God for this.
On days when I believe enough to thank a God, I add on smaller joys to be thankful for. Like a sunrise on the Ganga. Like a sunset at my happy place somewhere in Kodagu. Like having been to Varanasi. Like the little grains of sand at the beach. Like love, even the lack of it sometimes. Like life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How I Got Another Tattoo and Other News

Above the River Ganga, the sky was hazy once. But after alighting from a very long train journey, feeling hot, sweaty and bothered, you don’t really care what colour the sky is. Then when I was all clean, scrubbed and ready, I noticed the sun out, by which time, it was too hot from even behind my huge sun glasses to mull over what shade the sky had decided to be. Later, over evenings spent on the balcony of a guest house in lovely Varanasi (which, if you care to know, I am still desperately missing) trying to not move and cheat the dreadful humidity into staying away, I ticked off several colours of the sky: grey, dark grey and its variants, an unpleasant black, mixed, with a full rainbow marking off a territory on the other bank, blue and spotless like a freshly swept boulevard after the winter breeze and other shades of blue.

And these shades of blue were what continued to affect me once I was back in crowded Bangalore. Varanasi blues had a nice ring to it, I thought, imagining a pair of bells ringing when I said the words aloud. Don’t ask why, I just imagined so. Some people would, sanely, look at pictures, change the wallpaper on the laptop or write a status message relevant to when you are missing something. I went and got a huge tattoo.

To be fair to myself, the idea for a second tattoo was making sporadic appearances in my mind on dull afternoons for a while. It wasn’t a mad impulsive decision, though my mother still believes the heat sparked a stroke of madness in me. I knew I had wanted one, though what it would be was something I hadn’t yet decided. I had made my uncle dictate me lines from old Kannada poems about birds. Birds being free to fly and my obsessions with similar ideas, I figured, would depict me. A mantra was too long; I wasn’t the angels and butterflies sorts (insert, “ugh”). I had ideas ranging from names to lines to half dreamt up designs that I could never recreate once the day was shining fully. When you aren’t perfectly sure, it isn’t a good idea to call the tattoo guys for an appointment.

And so the Varanasi trip happened and like the four and a half readers here (there are more, a tiny voice pipes up, carrying hope) know already, that place affected and moved and unhinged me, sort of. I was suddenly inspired to get a tattoo and get a tattoo right there, as the perfect souvenir. A Google search showed that there were many with similar bouts of inspiration. Many links later, I realized there were only quarter-baked, unreliable people posing to be tattooists. Like how every second house was a Yoga centre.

Being back in cooler climes did not drive away the idea of a tattoo, though I had prayed for it to. Thus it transpired that the appointment was made, ‘just to see’, I told myself. But the moment I walked into the very professional Dark Arts Studio, I knew that was to be the day. After much computer trickery and Photoshop, two images that I liked were cut and cropped and attached and blended into one. The stencil was ready and two full hours, some attempts at small talk, many sips of water, about three breaks and some teeth grinding later, I had that most gorgeous face of Shiva on my back!!! The nearly 4 inch tall guy is complete with a Trishula, a small drum (damaruga, we call it), a shiny snake around the neck and a flowing mane with the Ganga flowing out. But the face!! I still can’t stop gasping at how natural and handsome and dude-like the face looks! Super proud. You guys at Dark Arts, take a bow!

Ma screamed at me for a full five minutes and then refused to talk about it. Dad grunted. Friends were envious. Yes, the irony of a borderline agnostic getting a Shiva on the back did not and has not escaped me. But perhaps it is a testimony to a grand change, a homage to a life changing journey. Sounds lofty? When the bill makes you want to cry, these are words you sugar coat the credit statement with.
Tattoos are SO addictive!
* * *
In other news, I read Mohammed Hanif’s latest book, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, finishing it at a marathon speed. It has won a place on my all time favourite books list. There is something about Pakistani writers that I have always found immensely inspiring. Perhaps it is true that misery and conflict is the most conducive atmosphere for creativity to flourish. I loved his previous book A Case of Exploding Mangoes too. If there is one book that you should read in the next one month, pick this. I wished to note down some really great lines, but by page 50 realized there were just too many of them and abandoned typing hurriedly in the Notes section of my dying phone. Truly, truly fantastic book, funny, satirical and to me at least, inspiring. Here is a review from FT.

Then there was a little spot of trekking last week, with dear friends. A short but great fun trip to Chennai had happened. Then was Dasara in Madikeri, in keeping with my track record of never having missed a year (except in 2008 and once about 20 years ago). Short trips here and there. Since these feet have been on the move, I have been less fidgety. The skin has broken out in protest against the constant changes in weather, water and people though. Not that I could care. As long as I travel…
There has been some great music buzzing in my head, some pictures I am dying to share and little anecdotes from travels and people. That’s material for the next post, one of these days.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of my second tattoo: