Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Speaking of Soaked Beans and Summers

The other day, a friend from university had called up. He and I first bonded while swapping tales of the great loves of our life and the heartbreak that had ensued, back then. Years later, we agreed on how glad we were not to have ended up with those people. He and I continue to be close; I give him advice on his girl troubles often, and I can count on him for a good conversation any day!

So the other day, we were talking about things that people who have been friends for long talk about. Some nostalgia thrown in, some complaints, some gossip about mutual acquaintances later, S and I ended up talking about dinner. He said he had rice ready and just need to make some curry. I had soaked some lentils and peas for the next day. We each stopped for a few seconds then, realizing how much life and our conversations had changed.

My friend S later wrote about this somewhere, about friends and small conversations and how they are some of the lasting memories you make. To me, friendship remains a fascinating part of life. You meet someone, you might not really like them much at first, but then, you bond over something, you have several conversations, make memories, have fun, and there is a bond that you will never share with another person of the sorts you have with that one friend. Am I making any sense here?

Having grown up without brothers or sisters, I have always been a little bit of a loner. Several friends have come and gone, and I have had more than my share of having trusted the wrong people and having paid for it, more times than I want to remember. But I like to think that my memories of them are not tarnished by the way those relationships ended. I do not always succeed. Putting faith in friends is not something I want to give up though; that remains one of the last areas where I still retain some faith in humankind. You are right, I don’t make much sense here.

So this friend S, who I met at university, is one of the people I can depend on to pick up the call when I need to talk. There are a few others, people I have talked with about soaking beans, about distant dreams, about evening showers and flowing rivers, about the mountain air and the city traffic, about ideas and books and films, about dealing with the past and being open to the future, about healing and hurting, about their stories and mine. I wish I could find a word more effective than a mere thank you to express how special each of them have been, no matter how crazy they are or I am.

I didn’t mean this to be a soppy post. But fueled by some beautiful music by Yodhakaa, this new band I love, I slip into nostalgia. I am at home, in my room with the views and my chest feels tight against my throat, with memories of days and years and people gone by.

Minuguthare has a habit of overwhelming me sometimes, for very many reasons. Does everyone feel that way about home? Is the longing always so intense that I seem to miss home even when I am sitting there in the veranda, overlooking ma’s garden with the yellow ball-like flowers and the patch of kohlrabi? The very small all-brown birds have started coming in. They come every summer and leave after the monsoons with their babies in tow. They are all brown and contribute to the all day cacophony with the half dozen squirrels, the wood pigeons, some parrots and other beautiful birds whose name I must, must learn. The organic vegetable garden is growing. The other day, I plucked some deep red cherry tomatoes and popped them into my mouth in between digging up the mud to plant in spinach and fenugreek seeds.

The garden reminds me of summer. Summers are quite hot these years, even in these hills. I can’t bear the heat. Ma turns the garden hose towards me and douches me completely. The garden hose reminds me of how I squealed last time, even in summer, the water is rather cold. I would rush in to have a hot shower then.

Today though, it is still winter. It has been a very good winter this year. One night last week, the temperature was the coldest it had been in 135 years in Madikeri, 4.2 degrees. In the hills, it always feels like the temperature is much lower. It isn’t that cold today, but I spent the morning with coconut oil smeared all over and trying to get a little tan under the harsh winter sun. But I have skin that doesn’t tan very easily, so all that ensued was sleepy-headedness and the glorious lethargy that creeps in after an oil bath in winter. Ma and I walked to town this evening; we hadn’t done that in years. Somehow, the distance between my house and the town seemed much shorter than when I was younger.

I am here at home, longing for home. I can’t explain that, but if you have that one place where you are completely you, you will understand. I have meandered on over curves and many paths in this post. It is some nostalgia talking, some something else that I cannot name. I feel like Che Guevara and his friend when they are about to enter Argentina on a boat. There is a line in the movie about their trip, The Motorcycle Diaries, about how each moment is split into two, one is sadness for what you are leaving behind and the other is anticipation of the newness of the next moment. I feel like that, I shall tell you soon why. For now, leave me to my open skies and family and home and belonging and memories of summers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We Do an Awful Lot of Cafe Hopping in Bangalore, Don't We?

If someone asked me what is very quintessentially Bangalore, I would in an instant say the cafes here. I love the cafes here, from the CCDs with mucky coffee to my all time favourite Kalmane Koffees. I love how each café has its share of regulars and hang-ons that sit and let the mad world run by all day. I used to waste a lot of money in these, still do, but when (not if, note.) I move out, these cafes are what I will miss the most.
Read more here at The South Reports.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friends, Farms and New Writings

This is Kat, arguably one of the most helpful, one of the most kind-hearted soul I have ever met. German girl. Lightens her hair. She is arranging the salad basket we picked up fresh from the garden at John’s, a little outside Bangalore. That is what I did this New Year’s Eve. Fun was an understatement for how good it was. Met some amazing people, got my hands dirty, had terrible aching bones but loved every minute of it.
I wrote about it at The South Reports. The good people there invited me to blog for them. It is an honour, for there are some well known names who write there. So once in a while, hop over there too and read my blog posts. My page is at http://www.tsr.net.co/profile/DeepaBhasthi
So that about the new year was good. This year has started well. There are some changes in the offing too, on the professional front. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, cheers, dear, you all!

Monday, January 02, 2012

I Hear the Train Blow its Horn

Out of the blues, like the proverbial flash of a bright tungsten bulb above the head, I realized today that every house I have lived in in Bangalore has been close to a railway line. Not out of design, I must say. But nevertheless, I have loved listening to the train blow its horn, sometimes when the night’s not so young, sometimes when my evening’s just begun. Sometimes, when there is still some light left, the annoying horns from vehicles hurrying home drown the sounds of the train about three streets away. But if I close my eyes and strain my ears, I can still hear them. Strangely, the sound of the train has always been soothing for me, in all the houses I have lived in, here in the city.

Perhaps it reminds me of journeys; now I don’t have to write again how much I love those! Perhaps it reminds me of life itself, of how you are constantly meeting new people like when you step onto a train, like how you get along with some in your compartment while others annoy you, like how you cannot wish away the latter, like how some stay with you till the end of your journey while others get down after a few hours. Much like life, wouldn’t you say? Or perhaps it is to me one of the very, very few constants in the last five and odd years, given that the sound of the train is something I have waited for and listened to, even when I was caught in whirlpools of change in each of the houses I have lived in, here in the city.

As these thoughts drifted by my mind, I suddenly remembered one night somewhere in West Bengal about one and odd years ago. A mild kal baisakhi had scared the hell out of a bunch of us returning from a trek in the Himalayas. We were in a car, crushed together, highly uncomfortable, being driven to Kolkata by a mad driver who kept nodding off to sleep (gasp, now that I think of it!). At some point, I woke up with a catch in my neck and looked out of the window. Along side the highway, with few stars up above and village lights far, far behind, a train’s headlight, coming from the opposite direction, pierced the night. The driver blew the horn and our small car’s light lit up the night just enough for me to make out a little more of the train’s length. The light, and the sound of the chugging and the horn, out of the deep dark countryside night, remains my most favourite image of trains.

I did a story once, when I was working with The Times of India, about a bunch of people who were members of the Indian Railways Fan Club. I learnt then that there is actually a code for how the train drivers blow the horn, one that means the train is about to leave the station, one that means it is ready in the next few minutes. I no longer remember which kind of horn means what though.

Here is that story. Reading it, I felt like it was written by a different person! I can’t explain this, but often I read something I have written a long time ago and wonder if the words really came out of my head. I wonder whether this happens to others who write as well.

Ah, there it is, almost as if on cue. I hear the train again.