Food a day after

I thought about calling this entry “Wet Chapatti” until I realized how dirty that sounds.

I don’t eat meat, I don’t eat rice and I hate anything that has curds on it so my diet is rather limited.  Most of what I eat is wheat based. Chapattis are my main source of sustenance . My cook makes Chapatti when he tuns up at around 8 in the morning, earphone buried in his heads, in the middle of a loud never ending conversation with someone.  I eat yesterdays chapatis for breakfast before he takes off his ever present black cap, starts cooking and I pack yesterdays chapatis for lunch. The only time I eat what he makes on the day he makes it is during dinner. Sunday is miscellaneous food day.I have a system. A cycle which always feels weird when broken.

The chapatis taste good. But after eating them for so long, I’m more concerned with how normal they taste. Good stops being a relevant category when you get so familiar with some you eat. And I’ve eaten these Chapattis for years. Everyday 4 chapattis ,out of the 20 or so, aren’t normal. The one’s who stay at the top of the box and the one’s at the bottom always manage to get a little moist.  It’s evaporation that’s at fault here. They taste like wet atta and I try to get them out of the way before they make the rest of them taste terrible. It always looks like they start ruining the other chapattis they rest on the second I see them.

I hate how chapattis taste when they get wet. It’s odd I suppose since all my efforts at keeping them dry is futile. Everything you eat a chapatti with is going going to make it wet. Hell eating it makes it wet. But I still hate it. Occasionally I’ll notice if a curry doesn’t taste very good.  I usually read or watch something while I eat so it doesn’t bother me. After you spend so much eating the same thing over and over again, you need something to distract you.

I know the taste too well to care sometimes. If the cook makes something new I.E if there are ingredients in the fridge, I actually notice. He makes good food. always spicy. I wonder how he knows since I’ve never actually told him anything about food. He likes cricket and is from some northern part of the country. He speaks Hindi or something like it. His accent makes it hard to understand. A real nice guy.

So if there’s something news and the cook has enough oil. I’ll taste something spicy, something familiar. I’ll change the cycle a little bit and I’ll eat 8 instead of 5 chapattis.

Ko to tamo peva

I often likened the rocking of the bus to a broken cradle. I might as well have been asleep. But I saw everything. I stared and stared and tried to see anything but I saw all.

The bus and the two men who shepherded it through the plains that seemed to stretched out forever were my entire life. I never faced them, I was happy to look out the window. A few wisps of smoke drifted by the window as if they were curious, shy children eager to see what I was doing and maybe say hello. They were almost invisible but I could smell nothing but smoke. Even the few wisps who flirted in and out of my view comforted me. I almost smiled. A tire blew out.

We were late, a comforting reminder that the world still turned like it always did. I would keep my place on the bus come what may. No one else seemed to want it maybe they knew it was mine. Between those wisps of smoke I thought I saw messages. Maybe I had spent too much time in my spot, but those black curves and curls that were written on the green plains were like some exotic Arabic calligraphy. I stared and wondered what it meant.

They had a lot to say. Occasionally  Krstics screams would remind me that this was still the real world. That these weren’t characters in a fairly tale setting out on an adventure. They stopped many times. They would never make in time. another reminded that this was still the world I knew.

The normal road was blocked off by the military, Misco would be upset. He could drive blindfolded you know. I was there when he did it. I was always there. I might as well be part of the bus you know. From my invisible spot I saw everything. They petty banter, their little lives, Krstic’s little tricks. If anyone else was where I was they would never be able to keep quiet about Kristic’s  doubling of the toll. A smug smile might have spread across their lips and the bus would have erupted.

The pigs were brought in. I wondered if anyone would call me out into the farm. Maybe those screaming infants would see me. Or maybe they were too hungry, too scared, too worried about their pen and what was beyond it to see me. I knew they weren’t the only ones. If those wisps of smokes still floated by they would have seen a smile, smug like a man who had seen through Krstic’s mischief.

They set off again. Ready to play their part in making the adventure merry. Letting a tale be told. I wondered what that felt like. Few extra travelers got on and few left. A feast was had. Once gain they did not see. Maybe this was that wisps of smoke were try to tell me. They never saw the armed men.

Krstic’s son was told to drive away. The bus was used to his hands. No other had the hands that needed no sight behind her wheels. They never saw me, the armed men, I though I knew what was coming. War would not let the merry adventure we set off on to continue. Those wisps of smoke with their sly mischief, their playfulness were telling me of their curlers, more sinister cousins. Kistic said nothing when he learnt they would take his son away. Maybe he knew too. That no one would play his games any more.

No more games. They should have been happy. They should have taken advantage of their forced clossness. Held each other and learnt that the gypsies were just wisps of smoke. Who would float by, writing messages in strange exotic curls.

[Written from the perspective of the quiet old woman in Ko to tamo peva]

Goat Herder

the-young-goat-herder-of-shobrah-egypt-ludwig-deutsch

1)Look at the featured image.

Take a seat after propping it up against the table. Look and wonder.

2)If you know better than to waste money on a whim stop reading.

Ludwig Deutsch. Bit of a mouth full isn’t it? Why’d you decide to buy it? It’s not like you have the room to hang a painting. You really shouldn’t waste your money on this when your in such dire straits.

3)If you’d regret buying this painting stop reading.

You reach across and feel the frame. You should learn  more about it.

If you think you know who Ludwig Deutsch is stop lying to yourself. 4)If you know who orientalists are and the history of north Africa skip the next Paragraph.                                                   5)If you’d rather google it skip to entry 6.

To put it simply, orientalists studied the eastern world. They often held colonial and imperialist views, today we’d call them condescending racists. But they are not here today. They’re the only sources of information we have on many cultures [they are also often the reason they are the only source].

North Africa like Asia was almost always far richer than Europe and it was only in the late 17th century that it was truly surpassed by the Europeans. Carthage,Egypt,the Fatimid caliphate etc. all ruled North Africa and they were often the most powerful and wealthiest people around. This is to say nothing of Mali which was undeniably the richest place in the world for centuries. Climate change, raids by Italian states, conquests, shift towards nomadic life styles ended the period of power and splendor the North African states enjoyed. The Barbery pirates would still raid and collect tributes from European powers while the Beys and Deys under Ottoman rule bitterly resisted their irreversible decline. But Mediterranean trade was dead and world domination was off the table.

6)If you find that bit of history you just sad, keep reading. 

A google search tells you all about Ludwig Deutsch. Wikipedia only has 3 lines about. He isn’t a very famous artist. He was an Austrian Jew who died 6 years before world war 2. The painting suddenly seems a lot darker now.

7)If you think it was foolish of you not to learn about this before you bought the painting stop reading and go outside.

This is the only one of this paintings that isn’t stunningly realistic. You know that this is a deliberate stylistic choice. You lean closer to the painting. You can smell it. It is ancient and heavy. You lean closer, you almost believe that you can step in and speak to the girl. Maybe feels the fur on her companions.

8)If you’ve touched a goat before skip to entry 9.

You keep staring. The sun is setting and the light from the window fades. You don’t care. You wonder how the Egyptian sun would feel on your skin. You wonder if the wind was gentle and the heat tolerable. You see the greenery in the background and wonder if this really is Egypt.

9) If your done wondering about goats keep reading. 

You wonder if that’s a Graveyard she’s in. Why would she go to such a macabre place? You sit back, slipping further down your uncomfortable chair. No amount of contortion will make it better. If a cat eyed neighbor saw you, you would have probably have been asked if you were alright.

10) If you already know you won’t last that long stop reading.               11)If you still like the world you live in keep reading.

It must have been quite there in the grave yard. No one else was there clearly. Those goats would eat, bleat. nothing you can’t handle. Nothing you can’t deal with. It would be simpler. But you would be able to deal it, you’d never have to think in that world.

12) If you think it would be pleasant sitting next the graves keep reading.                                                                                                               13)If not go sit under the hot sun tomorrow while people remind you that you have obligations to fulfill.

In your now dark room, there isn’t much light save from the inescapable pollution from street lamps and urbanization. You try not to listen bu the city is never quite.

14)If you remember your dreams when you wake up and wish you could live in some of them keep reading.

You lean back. Your head is uncomfortable but nothing you do will change that. You eyes feels heavy and you want to continue your discourse with the girl.

15) If you wish your were a goat herd in a quite part of Egypt you can stop thinking now and look at the painting. If your lucky maybe you’ll dream about it.                                                                                                                    16)If you still like the place your in, look at the picture again and start over at entry 1.

Orange Men Like The Astrologer

“Duuude wake up”.

“Sorry…”

“Third time man. Like what the hell?”

“Don’t take it the wrong way. It’s been a weird day.”

“As in?”

“Umm… it feels surreal. And the story kinda makes me seem like an idiot.”

“That can’t be too hard”

“You were in ICSE right? Remember that short story the astrologer’s tale? R.K Lakshman.”

“Yeah.”

“Well you know the astrologer? Like how he’s smart and all and can see throw people? He can guess all people problems and he’s so good that he’s almost not a fraud.”

“Do you spend all your time reminiscing about your textbooks?”

“No… Ugh  I can’t think of a comeback now just let me tell you the story-“

“K”

“-I. Okay so this morning I was hanging around the back of my house, doing something on my laptop probably.”

“So intense man”

“I’d left the front door open, like it wasn’t fully open but you could see in. You’d know people were inside. I was the only person there but you’d know. I mean people don’t keep their door open and go out. So there was this priest guy outside. Like the proper orange-

“Saffron”

“- getup. He seemed unreal. When they come asking you for donations at your house they don’t look like priests. But this guy had ash on his head and all. Normally I’d just have sent him away but he didn’t start by asking me for donations or anything. Like he just stood there and started saying nice things.”

“Nice things?”

“Yeah like he was blessing stuff and people. Like I don’t believe in all that but I couldn’t just shut the door on him. I had no idea what he wanted. I actually though he was just going to stand there and be nice, for a second. I was like a little inside the door. He gave me this book and asked me to read it.”

“Wait, you can’t speak anything other than English.”

“Yeah I told him. But I understood a little Kannada. He asked me to forward a bit. I realised that I was now outside the door with his book and couldn’t just shut the door on his face anymore. Smart isn’t it?’’

“He seems like a good sales man.”

“Yeah just like the story remember?’’ Okay so he kept praising me, I couldn’t get a word in. Not that I wanted to. I don’t know Kannada and I didn’t want to look like an idiot. Don’t smile like that”

“Like what?”

“Never mind. Then he asks me to write a number and all. He said my mother had told him to perform something in my name and all.”

“Did you ask him for her name?”

“No but the way he said it made it seem like he knew that she was a single parent. I wrote  and only then realized the amount was supposed to be a donation. I wrote a random number instead of the specific amount written on the sheet. Like you had to give 101, 505, only certain numbers. I changed 101 to 500 when he asked for more-“

“Wait you actually paid him?!”

“I couldn’t just close the door on him. And no one lives without some cash at home, plus I had his book in my hand. So I gave him a 100 but he kept asking for more. See this is where he was like the astrologer in the story. He said didn’t you have a burn your arm? Or something like that, I was shocked he noticed ,he was so observant. It was a glass cut but a fire a good guess. It looks like that. See? So then I realized how carefully he was watching me.”

“You’re a moron for paying him.”

“No you don’t get it. It might not sound that impressive but the way he watched me and his friend who also entered the gate started trying to convince me. It was impressive. They asked about the money in my wallet, the money my mom had stored away. I didn’t have either but the way they said it was so sure. Like you would not doubt the fact that they knew everything about you. Then when I told him I had no cash, he asked for my old mobile phone. Then he asked for the emergency light that was almost impossible to see from his angle. Like anyone less intelligent or poor would believe everything he said. You could see they were sharp and cunning.”

“Why do you say less intelligent? It’s not like you didn’t give them any money yourself.”

“You have a point.”

Joulie Soulie

We were tasked with telling 5 people the Joulie Soulie story, so I choose some old friends from school I was meeting this Sunday.

We met at Truffles, a very nice place with very nice Burgers. They have another name called Ice and Spice. I don’t know why a restaurant needs two names, but it doesn’t affect the food so I don’t mind.

So the Joulie-Soulie story is kind of pointless, you go on and on and one just dragging it out and the punch line makes you want to kill the story teller. My friends from school aren’t really competent enough to get away with murder in my opinion so I felt safe in telling them the story, which was an OE assignment. There were six of them there, which is very good because I didn’t want to go around telling people the story over and over again. It’s annoying and a lot of work you see. More importantly I don’t speak Hindi very well [translation:at all] so I was very happy to see that I didn’t have to tell the story again and again. This doesn’t mean I did not work at all. They are hard people to tell stories to.

They would have rather talked about other things. What things? I don’t know boring things knowing them. They don’t read a very bad thing. It’s no fun telling people who don’t read stories. They don’t know enough stories to reply. I think. Anyway back to the story about me telling them the story. The topic of conversation turned to how other restaurants  have burgers the size of coconuts. A very silly comparison. Coconuts aren’t that big when you compare them to burgers. So why used such a inadequate unit for measurement?

Strange people they are. they decided we needed a name for the group, but we couldn’t think of anything so they asked me to tell the story which I had forgotten about. The Joulie-Soulie story needs to be stretched out as long as possible. The point is to get the listener interested and invested for as long as possible as you take them to a disappointing end. Unfortunately we kept getting distracted by food, forgetful waiters and a lizard that hid under a napkin. He was a very nice lizard and I wish they had left him alone. It was a warm day and the air conditioning must have been what brought him in. He was a brown lizard the ones you see on walls. I always wondered why lizards don’t frequent more restaurants. It was very suspicious. He was tiny, just a baby, his head still semi-transparent.

The food was great. I finished the story. I learnt they didn’t know Hindi. It was like the story quite disappointing.

The Banyan

Those moist marbles buried in that pale white head seemed very different that afternoon. They buzzed about as always, those delicate red branches on the polished white surface were more prominent than usual but there wasn’t much change. Its funny how different people look when you learn-

“You listening?”.  My voice seemed to cut through the air. There was one one else around. He stared and his mouth framed a miserable triangle but he didn’t say anything. I had learnt that the glazed look he wore and his unbroken stare meant he had stopped listening and had lost himself in thought. The more I learnt of him the more I regretted it. He was covered with sweat and the sunlight bounced of every part of him.

“I was, I just lost track Bashkar.” Red lines cut through his pale skin marking irritated scratches. He did that often, usually when his eyes began buzzing about more frequently. He didn’t say anything else and his words rung in my ears. I could tell he was frustrated, the hanging banyan roots swung about softly, as he got up in a hurry. I looked around and wondered where everyone else was. I might have bothered apologizing a few weeks ago.I noticed how much dust covered the leaves ,the new road was ruining the place just like I predicted but the sky was still the same white and blue, there wasn’t a way to dirty it yet. I though I heard him say “Wallow Nithin” but it was probably something else given Nithin’s smirk. I wondered where he came from.

“Well Nithin?”

They were an odd pair, I wasn’t sure if they were going to continue sitting down or go away. There was less shade around thanks to the road widening, so there wasn’t much point sitting there anymore. Suddenly it seemed funny, sitting under that dusty tree in the afternoon. Dust flew everywhere and sunlight made it hard to see anything. They were an odd pair. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said nothing. Bhaskar looked like a victim of a very hungry vampire and his wet eyes didn’t seem to know how to focus on anything. I didn’t know the other one’s name but I’d seen him around, staring at things. They were always by the banyan tree, the weirdos. The other one was cloud gazing.

“Caught Abdul’s madness I see. Well, I should stop spending so much time with him.”

Bhaskar laughed at what I think was supposed to be a joke and Abdul -so that was his name- stared. The whole thing felt forced.I didn’t know either of them. I didn’t like either of them. I regretted stumbling upon them.

“Lets head over to the ground man.”

“I’ll stay here only”

That was the only thing Abdul said before he started humming a tune and picked up a fallen leaf and began playing with it.I was glad to leave, everyone would be at the ground.

I saw them leave, the zipping cars, trucks and black fumes under the blazing sun made it impossible for me to think of anything. It felt weird not having a response but the leaf distracted me soon enough. So many shades of brown between those veins that resembled bones. If decay made things as pretty as a died up leaf people might not fear age,death and time so much.I wished I could have sat there like I used to but without the trees around you could see the sky, and the sky threw,light,heat and dust at you. I couldn’t decide if the sky was a light shade of blue, or white. Its surprising how different a place can look with a few things missing.

Morning

Open or closed those windows let in light that’s never quite enough.

The brighter, whiter light from my phone hurts my eyes while I contort irregularly trying to wake myself completely. 5:49, again I am awake minutes before the alarm that is supposed to wake me decides to bawl. A musky smell invades as I close my eyes again, proof of my regular inhabitancy. Maybe it would be harder to pursue the scent if the windows were open, but mosquitoes who emerge from some unknown nursery do not allow that and if it wasn’t for that dust covered fan their provocative hum would be more inescapable.

Grey is what the light seems to be, the meek purple on the walls seem determined to hide taking advantage of the almost non-existent light. A few bright bits of purple and yellowed double sided tape break the monotony of the wall, marking spot where posters were hung. The only poster of the 11 or so that went up ,an A4 sheet with Epicurus’s marble face and famous quote on it, has stayed up for two years while the rest lost a battle against gravity two days after they were pasted on the wall.

The narrow pathway to the washroom is still dark; the sun isn’t up in earnest yet. The rear end of my neighbor’s house blocks any view that the old pathway had. The delicate rusty grill that doesn’t really fence off anything still has the usual oxidized smell about it. If you look closely you can see flecks of black paint that still survive on the red and brown iron.

There are two rusty cockroaches here; they’ve been here for a few days. I did not want to disturbed their peace but I learnt yesterday that decomposing cockroaches are far more dangerous than what you might expect. So they were soon placed outside. The air is pleasantly thin; the large swaying trees seem to be waking up earlier than anyone else on the street. There isn’t much to see with the canine life yet to be awakened by rattling motors. The sky is an odd blue and yellow with shadows graying and seeking shelter. The red flowers and wet leaves grow brighter by the minute.

Inside I try to remember the dreams I dreamt, while a misplaced glowing red towel stands out like a indiscreet stranger at a funeral. The yellowed wrinkly old book I grapple with has three years worth of dreams in them, faithfully recorded with various pens- a different color, a different shade, a different ink in every entry creating a coil of vivid ideas and inscriptions with somber colors. A sleepy hand struggles to make those soothing curves and happy swishes form some coherent, legible alphabets and fails a little more than it succeeds.

The bath water smells like red rust, the water is cool, the food has been ready since yesterday, so are the books, so is lunch. Good mornings and hellos take a minute and I leave, down the brownish tar and grey footpaths to college.

The French Lieutenants woman

Reading John Fowles The French Lieutenants woman after George Elliots masterpiece was an excellent decision.

Its quite easy to see how they’re comparable- both take place during the same time period and in a way are quite similar in what they aim to do. Elliot and Fowles both have stories that take place in Victorian England and a ensemble of strong male and female characters. So what difference do you find between an 20th century American man and a 19th century woman who write on similar themes?

The obvious and cosmetic similarities first. Both use references/extracts from other authors/poets to give context to chapters. Elliot uses Classical literature apart from poets and authors from her time, Fowles uses scientists  apart from poets and authors from his time. Both involve love, marriage and ideas about righteousness. Both include slightly tasteless remarks about Jews and  seem a bit orientalist.

The most obvious differences are the ones that arise due to the fact that the author of the French Lieutenants woman is someone who is looking back on what is to him – history. He ,unlike Elliot, is able to look back without as much attachment or biases that arise from living during a particular age. So unlike Elliot he is not restricted to the niche that she is [That of the upper class]. This is not to say that Elliot is oblivious to the poorer sections of society, but she is more comfortable and concerned with the gentry,the clergy and merchants. Or maybe Fowles is just able to see things that would not have been though of being worth mentioning back then.  Fowles has the ability to look back, knowing what is going to happen and is aware of statistics and facts about the Victorian era that might have shocked most Victorians.

The most important tools he seems to have in his possession are his understanding of science and Marx. Science is used to address the way of life, religion, lifestyle and various Victorian habits. Since the novel is set in a time of change where technology was uprooting old styles of life, Fowles use of science is essential to let the reader know about the world the story revolves around. Fowles incorporates everything from evolution to psychology in a love story. A no mean feat.

Fowles is also able to sneak in some criticism of science, psychology in particular, arguing for the need to be more humane in its approach. He makes a good case for why not everything can be chalked up to insanity or hysteria.

There’s a lot of talk on morality and changing social hierarchy too. This is where Fowles seems to use Marxism the most. I think it was rather brave of Fowles to quote Marx and go about talking about class divisions during the era of McCarthyism. He uses it effectively adding his already excellent description of Victorian England. The differences between lower and upper class, the attitudes of the employers and social hierarchy are all elaborated on using Marxist critic.

Both authors are rebels- or nonconformists if your feeling really miserly. Elliot is breaking away from the expectations of the stories that women were supposed to write, from popular morality,happy endings, and criticized certain aspects of society. I’d say her novel is better because of characters and a story so intresting its almost hypnotic. However Fowles is clearing trying to do more with his novel. Elliot seems a softer rebel, she does break away but not radically.

Fowles regularly breaks the third wall, appears in the story [literately] and is at the mercy of where his characters want to go. Fowles is able to say a lot about the role of the novelist in a story, the way he/she plays god and what the novelist must do. The novel includes three very different endings.

The first is a very safe and Victorian one, the one you might have seen coming. The second is not as expected since it does involve quite a lot of moral decisions [and sex] Victorians disapprove of. It is still a very pleasant ending. The final ending is the one that seems to break from tradition the most. It isn’t a very happy one and you wonder if Sarah was crazy,Charles bitter or deluded etc. The last two endings are equally likely according to Fowles.

Offering the reader endings to choose from could be called lazy from any other author. Here it is done masterfully. You realize the book was only disguised as a Victorian novel. The author enters the story and explains his position, the traditional endings he is expected to write, the godlike role he occupies and he plays/ experiments with all these rules. Each ending throws up questions about authorship, traditional styles in writing.

Sex and women empowerment are the most important themes in the novel. Sarah is clearly struggling to cope with the rigid formality and repression in Victorian society. She longs for more freedom and her affair with the French lieutenant is an act of rebellion. Historical anecdotes repeatedly make it clear that few Victorians where as chaste as they claimed to be. Fowles at times seems to suggest that the Victorians had better sex than anyone in his century, I don’t think that’s really true. But it is interesting to see why he makes the argument. Sarah whatever her intentions is clearly a very strong woman who is an intellectual equal to Charles.

Watching Charles ,a Gentleman who exists in an age where Gentlemen are quickly dying out, deal with the rebellion against gender roles that Sarah causes is both an engrossing story and a very accurate description of the outlook towards changing Victorian morality during the time period.

The only real weakness I saw was his description of America. It seemed a little too idealistic and reeked of patriotism. It doesn’t really harm the novel it just makes you roll your eyes a little too often.

The French Lieutenants Woman is a fascinating read. It is a Victorian love story but more, it is a story about an Gentleman  in the 19th century but the story is driven by the strong female characters, its can be both a tragedy or a pleasant happy ending. Fowles has done quite a bit with a simple story and has done it masterfully.