Tails of a Sparrow : adventures of Lotus in the deep south : a serialised tale in many parts

“…birdlike, he perched in the corner, his head cocked to one side, his beady eyes shining bright. The Lotus regarded him impassively as he nervously twitched in his seat, his hands clasping and unclasping in his lap, his lips parted and moist, his gullet bobbing up and down in terrified confusion…..

The Lotus was unimpressed. He had seen much more in his time. Why, even Bee downstairs was a pretty amazing person, and he was not half this reticent.

Then the sparrow started talking. Contrary to what Lotus expected, it was not a chirrup, or even a tinny wheeze. It was a deep, throaty voice, somewhere between hoarse and sexy, with a potential to be either, (or neither, when stressed and angry)

“You see, its not like I really loved him. I hardly even saw his face you know? It was dark, and the consulting room smelt damp and musty, the bed was moist, and the pillow was covered in rexine. I remember the whiff of dettol from the tray next the head, and having to stand up on the steps kept by the side to get a leg up onto the bed. He was gentle, but very big….I really enjoy it when I’m in a dangerous place, I like to scream into the pillow…”

Sparrow’s voice trailed off, and Lotus sat forward, interested. This was heady stuff. The guys at Manoranjan Weekly were going to lap it up……”






Nagar Rode!

Last night, a friend invited me out to dinner. He and I go back a long way, to school, when we were close friends and fellow conspirators. Now he is older, sober, sedate, corporate head honcho-by-day, devoted dad by night…

I have changed too, radically, from the smug, sanctimonious officious little prick I was to a more cynical and introspective man.

At least, I like to think so.

So here I was, waiting for his phone call, from whichever part of the city he would be in after his work was done, ready to drive there and pick him up and go on for dinner. There was a great steak house nearby that part of town: succulent meat and tender sirloin- just the place for a great evening, if one were to overlook the slightly vinegary wine that was marked “100 rupees” and clinked on the table in front.

His call came, a little after eight-thirty. He was in Viman Nagar, waiting after finishing off some work that he had to get done. I was to pick him up from there, and go back to Koregaon Park, where the steak house was.

This is Pune, 2007. The road leading to Kalyani Nagar from Ghorpadi winds and twists- a hellish quarter-kilometre of asphalt strips separated by loose gravel and stones. Then you cross the river, and the roads are good once more. Beautiful people walk by in their swank cars, dressed smartly, with the neon lights of consumer India winking at you, the river a pathetic trickle of black smelly water somewhere in the background.

The road goes n straight, and leads on to Nagar road.

This is Pune, 2007. Speaking impartially, Nagar road has to be among the worst roads in the city. Of course, a lot of other roads vie for the uncomfortable epithet, but for sheer ball-crunching devastation, there are few roads that can match it in scale and scope.

The eponymous Nagar road leads from Pune to Ahmadnagar, snaking out at acute angles to the city towards the northeast, making its way through Yerwada, Ramwadi, Chandan nagar, shirur, to leave the district through Shikrapur towards Ahmadnagar, and thence on to Aurangabad. The road is busy and purposeful, a constant stream of traffic flowing along its dusty bed ensures no let up in action, a large concrete plateau rising in its centre, neatly (and in some parts, inequitably) bisecting the road into two flanks. The construction on either side of the road – swank new office buildings and apartment complexes reaching up to touch the sky – ensure that the road is never free from the presence of humongous land movers and bulldozers. Big is most certainly beautiful on Nagar road.

To either side of the concrete embankment stretches the rift valley of Nagar road, treacherous dust bowls of land with loose cobbles, itinerant pebbles, and gravel that rises to meet your eyes.

As I coughed and spluttered my way through the road, my nostrils inhaling a foul mixture of gases that was part carbon monoxide, part silica fumes, part soot and wholly noxious, I looked to my side to see that all the men around me had aged visibly in the traffic. Entering the road as black-haired young men with flashing dark eyes, they had now been reduced to gray or white haired wrecks, with the occasional wracking cough and the permanently rheumy eyes. Their faces were drawn and haggard, their jaws set, their postures tense, their demeanour snappy yet desperate.

Looking ahead, I saw a messiah emerge from the cloud in front of me: craggy face, long flowing hair and 200cc bike.

The effect was promptly broken as jesus opened his mouth and broke into a loud hacking cough. Red eyes streaming, he was suddenly just another accelerator-happy boy with a pulsar in between his legs. The dust cloud that had just spit him out was releasing a bevy of women, identically swathed in unflattering white (read dirty grey) coats with tacky pink daisies on them, their identities masked by dark brown face scarves.

My hands were tense, my oropharynx repulsed, my superciliary muscles were flexed in a violent reaction to the foreign bodies being thrown at them, narrowing my palpebral fissure into horizontal slits: the world suddenly thrown into a tapered screen, random dots floating about in the confusion between the meteor dust.

Up ahead, a bulldozer had stalled, and random men in their magnificent riding machines, were standing around it and shaking their fists at each other.

Of course, I inched forward, eased my shoulders, then twisted my body, and baby-like slipped out of the panting mother’s womb, into the cold and harsh world outside.

the ninth chiranjeevin

Hindu scripture talks of eight chiranjeevins, sprinkled across the olden times, when the average age span of men far exceeded that of this time, when ancient giants roamed the earth, cursed to terrorise a hapless populace by ageless hermits, nestled in some deep craggy crook of the himalayas, living on berries and meditation in the summer, and a berry-free diet in the winter….

the conditions were harsh, yet these men would prevail.

if u think that that is disturbingly patronising and is written in an attempt to invoke in the reader a sense of the frailty of himself, u are probably right, and the doctrine has succeded, so hallelujah!  so i suppose its always good t trust ure instincts.

yet these men also came with a date of expiry, a leaf on the calendar when a weather beaten and toughened hand would no longer reach out to tear away from the page in front.

criers would still be many, they would have joined the man in the 60th or seventieth decade.

but there was an end, nevertheless…

all? nay, not all.

one small band of men: indomitable? – doubtless, potioned? perhaps not.

so there they are: all eight of them: in order: parasuram, ashwatthama, kripacharya, vibheeshan, vyasa, hanuman, mahabali, markandaya. all immortal men, held aloft from the ebb and tide of death and the clutches of demise. calmly watching as humanity marched past, aloof in the surety of their indestructibility…..

well, not really destructibility, is it? just mortality. but to confuse that with the situation of being is presumptuous and characteristically self-obsessed. with the self-centerdness of mortals, and the arrogance of a long-lived thinking animal, we equate existence to living, of course.

yet, mythology seems to have something to say, rather gently, in this diresction, too.

in addition to the eight extraordinary gentlemen, there are the seven eternals: vishnu,shiva,the sheshnaag, and the four vedas. arreseted forever in time by their virtual indestructibility, their effortless fluidity beyond the limits of space.

neil gaiman also talks of the seven endless : siblings all: destiny,death,dream,destruction,desire and despair(twins) and delirium(formerly delight) 

Perhaps, it all began with the number seven.

eight chiranjeevins, seven eternals,

and seven of the endless.not gods, but lords of their realms, anthropomorphic personifications of the eventuality they represent.

will an age throw up a ninth? does she already walk among us, unnoticed, biding her time, waiting for the appropriate number of years before application forms can be filled? does she sigh impatiently, and wait for, wat is it? six, maybe eight hundred years to pass before turning in her papers, coming out of hiding and apply to be a chiranjeevin?

is she cher? or kylie? or the queen? or lata mangeshkar?

or is she mrs shukla/chawla/thompson/aseem/batliwala/smith/singh who sits in the office down the corridor, seemingly sprighty even at this age?

(what age is that?

oh, i don’t know, very old i’m sure. she’s the oldest person around here. i’ve heard they keep her around because she’s the only one who knows to type!