Bus Trails

Trail after trail

The joy of ironing

Your own mind

 

Wake at a wrong bus station.

The price of

Sweet summer sleep

 

 

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Holy man

“Don’t you know holy men can live without food or water for days? They never need glasses or medicine. We never get sick!”

The doctor stared. The holy man urged, “I’ll need a few pills and a new pair of contacts to convince my followers- for a few days tops.”

Night by the sea

That summer we stayed with her aunt who smelt of cut grass and ghee. We walked the beaches, pretend nomads with face scarfs till a dog rushed out of a patch of wild flowers and begged for a game. Bored cattle strayed past, watching the sea while grazing. That night the sea’s breeze and scent carried through the window. The dog sat happy after the meal we gave him. She put on some music and the dog tried to bark in tune. She danced till her footsteps on the hardwood floor was all I could hear. When I woke up the french windows were open, she had a flower under her foot and a smile on her face.

Bootha Kola

A Bootha Kola is a sort of shamanistic ritual where you summon Bootha’s or Daivas- spirits neither malevolent or benevolent who reflect the relationship between the tangible and intangible world. Or the farmlands and the forests.

These pictures are from one where Kalurti was summoned. She’s mute and howls while she dances. I couldn’t take a video- it would have been blurry anyway- even though most people don’t care what you do at a Kola. People would text or greet relatives right when the Bootha was dancing away or proclaiming judgments in front of them. It’s not that they don’t care, they don’t think the spirits mind.

During intervals in the dance Kalurti would point to people and make hand gestures that indicated if she was happy with them or not. But while dancing her face was expressionless. She lept and howled, carrying a touch that she beat against her chest while she circled the people who’d gathered. My grandfather said in Tulu that she was just trying to throw away her legs and arms. The performer was who really interested me. Nobody spoke to him; he never said a word- before or after the performance. These pictures were my attempts to capture any emotions the silent shaman showed under all that makeup.

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Putting on the ornaments that are owned by the Bootha.
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I can’t place this expression.
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Before the performance.
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After the performance, with a fan aimed right at her face which was covered with sweat while she danced.
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He looks at the crowd but never seems interested in it.
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A smile for a friend but no words.

Ave

Hello distance,

You’ll always have me

Remember.

 

Your endless laughter,

Your skin like summer.

Why do you lament?

Just lend me your lips

So I can sweeten them.

 

Lift your head through storms

At least we’ll have those days

Which went on forever

Like your curls and the depth

Of your light brown eyes.

 

Tell me your dream again,

No tolls for the emperor of dread

No one has escaped yet.

 

Tears from Ceylon

Won’t cut through fate.

I’ll remember crimson grins

and flowers in your hair.

 

Write to me, dear friend.

We’ll see where we go.

Out of light

The smell of burning wax always takes me back. Somehow life isn’t the same without the weekly power cuts we had in Mangalore.

I remember conspiring about aliens with my cousins. We’d star watch but we were usually inside. In the bungalow’s indoor corridors people would walk with candles in hand, the shadows and light like slow cars on a highway. People would gather around the candles but stayed just out of its reach. Outlines and feet were all you could see. I guess every liked staying just out reach.

Everyone would stop what they were doing. I can’t say what because we all stuck to our own rooms and balcony spaces.Maybe it’s instinct when you live in huge joint family. But they were around, now and then they’d venture conversation never really leaving their bits of darkness. They’d smile when they knew their smiles were just out of sight. I’d sneak around them, behind sofas and conversations happy that’d I’d manage to sneak by unnoticed. You hear a lot you weren’t supposed to; I’d follow their lead and smile while I was out of sight, out of light.

For some reason we’d always gravitate towards the candle, no one went outside while the candles were lit. The long windows never figure in my memory; nothing of the city lights that night. A cousin would flick her fingers over the flame and say it never burned her nails.

Library cycle

Back in Mangalore the library came to us. Struggling against the heat and the uphill climb an old man cycled closer.

Every month or fortnight he’d arrive. His bycycle had a large open box attached at the back. He could have fit in it easily. The box was made of tin or some metal that was showing its age, but it was not rusted. 

Inside the box were comic books and magazines. Good literature too, maybe some religious works but I never bothered about them. The family would gather near the bycycle and pick up new material. The old man always stood bent over the box, watching what we’d pick up.

The material wasn’t actually new. They were just the latest things he got his hands on. Books from America libraries, books that said “remember me Jess”, book with random writing, folds and tears. The books were usually from the 70’s and 80’s with Americans having written in them. I have no idea how they got here.

I’d take copies of Archie’s comics and try to figure out the magazines. I must have been very young; I was very proud about having learnt how to spell “Zoo” from one of them. 

The cycle library seemed to disappear from my life after a while, just all those warm Mangalore afternoons when there was nothing to do.