Monday, March 26, 2007

joan of the jhatre

mondays remind me of sundays. and these are from a jhatre (a local festival for the uninitiated) many a sunday ago. eunuchs have perenially fascinated me. from misplaced fear on a pune bound train many years ago to jocular conversations now, it has been quite a ride. i look around and wonder if the 'different' are our mutants? are they the new order? will she take over the world? and strike down upon us with the vengeance of the sidelined? more pertinently why do we frown upon deviants? do we really have pineapples for brains?

the feet fete. again from the jhatre. school girls in surprisingly well rehearsed moves drew imaginary triangles, circles, squares and octagons on the hard floor with arched feet fettered in rented anklets. any co-ordinated movement these days brings back stinging memories of drills from back in school. when an old balding p.t. teacher would bark out instructions at us - little kids under a telling sun - from the shade of a gulmohar. "baatchit karna", he'd yell. "mana hain", we'd yell back.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ze mall rats

all words as a rule are stimuli that trigger distinct responses. and for me, 'mall' is followed naturally by pavlovian thoughts of crowded escalators, neon lights, bright shop windows, sneakers squeeking on overpolished floors and the general din of humanity. in essence 'mall' for me has always meant - trauma. so why were we traveling some 6500kms across land, water and mountain to rendezvous with pearly j at a mall exactly?

my worst instincts were partially vindicated when at the appointed hour we arrived at the mall. some 8000 people were gyrating to the sounds of o-bey thy master! master! master! curious coincidence. but we'd just walked into the closing act and the ensuing brouhaha of the annual darjeeling carnival.

when the dust did settle a few hours and many misadventures later, i discovered 'mall' according to the dictionary alternatively means a public area set aside for pedestrian walks. in darjeeling they mean this and not that (forum, garuda, sigma, etc. on another note have you noticed the mall special BMTC bus?). here it's a biggish round clearing flanked on one end by a string of shops that show off overpriced trinkets and on the other by a deceptively gradual slope that disappears into the fog. trees poke out of the fog and red cheeked boys and girls run about when not giggling.

the mall is the best place to do the darjeeling do. that would be - nothing. sit around. sip on another cup of tea. hide from the world behind your newspaper. fight for more space on the standard government issue park bench. and think profound deep thoughts as you watch the cutest ever kid discover the simple joys of a skipping rope.

my first and last memory of darjeeling is of the mall. it will forever reside in a special place in my head. it's where you'd dig your hands deeper into your woolen gloves. contemplate another cup of tea in all earnestness. watch the horses trot across with another load of bong tourists. stretch your mountain weary limbs. yawn with the dogs.
you've arrived.

Monday, March 19, 2007


one more face from god's own country. it's a new day for me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

when in danger or in doubt...

make a face.

when joe sat

memories trigger memories. another concert tonight dug up old ochlophobia. from there a hop skip and jump till joe sat. and finally settling with a pleasant evening spent surfin with the alien. it will be ok.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

roadtrippers unlimited

pleasantly reminded of our first evening in bhutan
of a cheap imported heater that saw us through sub zero nights
and the thrills and spills
that go with being as disparate
a bunch of roadtrippers that we were

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

a weekend with the gods

pagan gods, fire, headless chickens, frentic drummers and more. coming soon.

Monday, March 05, 2007

a tiger tale

darjeeling is an old crossroad. for centuries its dark dank staircases have echoed with the footfalls of myriad people going up the mountains, running away from occupied tibet, coming down from the mountains and the odd nutjob just passing through. and if you ever sift through the primordial sea that flows in and out of darjeeling with every tourist season, you'll agree there is no lower more despicable form of life than the bong tourist.

bongs ask each other, bedecked in garish woolens - gloves, mufflers, sweaters and the ubiquitous monkey cap, "chowmein kaabe?" the locals scoff at the sheer crassness of the hordes, refering to them in a cheeky take as 'the tuurists'. bongs either don't care or they're too obtuse to care. so they plunder on, in their tour bus upwards to tiger hill, while the rest of the world chooses to take the picturesque walk.

every dawn atop tiger hill bongs live the maxim that they are generally obnoxious. while everybody else looks westwards in hushed wispers at dawn, waiting for the kanchenjunga to set itself ablaze in the first rays of the sun refracting through the earth's atmosphere much before the sun itself makes an appearance, the bong twats look eastward over stoves of boiling tea and to the accompaniment of raunchy bollywood hits belted out on the over bassed system of their tour bus. and even as on the western edge of tiger hill, seasoned travelers with their weather beaten faces watch awestruck as an entire mountain seemingly in midair turns an azure gold, the bongs choose to dance and whistle when the sun makes another routine appearance much later on in the east. it's a chasm that all bong pretensions to being cultured will never bridge.

fresh air among other things messes your noodles up. while the odd mountaineer is pushed to try and assail the unassailable, common tourists who've been breathing the air for a bit, show certain unmistakable signs of pleasant eccentricity too. one german took to climbing tiger hill day after day in a seemingly pointless routine. and when he tired of that, he took off to bangladesh. to catch the general elections and the ensuing chaos. the local folk smile wide toothy unaffected grins into cameras. the sun plays hide & seek all day plunging darjeeling into alternating cycles of pristine chill and sunny optimism.

everytime i've traveled, i'm met with the certainity that there is a simpler truth to life that still needs discovering. that afternoon in the one room eatery enroute to tiger hill, as i watched pearly stuff herself with another vegetable momo and browne make a finer point on ducks, swans and annoying birds in general, i knew i was one step closer.