Monday, 24 March 2008

The X chronicles

I don’t get how men can ride on animals, especially during war.

Why men stare at me even when I’m inside my car.

Algebra, trigonometry, compound interest, quadratic equations,

Advanced technology side by side with inane superstitions.

I don’t get why women are masochists,

And how they handle men without using their fists.

Plastic surgery and I-love-Justin blogs,

People who don’t like (and eat) dogs.

I don’t get why movies are re-made,

Why people would want to die by a blade.

Why some people love the rain,

When all it does is sedate my brain.

I don’t get why we lie so much,

Why some people always like to touch.

I don’t get why people like to smoke.

How they can inhale and not choke.

I don’t get,

Pink bows, lacey tops,

How men always call the shots.

Britney Spears or Paris Hilton,

Different men each week who are smitten.

Freud and dream analysis,

How I’m related to my sis.

People who are beautiful and smart,

People who are perfect and don’t fart.

I don’t get me.

How suspicious I can be.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Two peas in a pod

Sweltering heat and it was only the beginning of March. I didn’t know if it was better to sit by the window and get hit by the blazing sun or to sit by the aisle and have middle-aged women standing by my seat, shoving their sweaty paunches in my face. But since there weren’t many people on the bus that day and it was cloudy anyway, I sat by the window.

Lost in my thoughts as I travelled to godforsaken Red Hills, I didn’t see him till he cleared his throat loudly. I looked up. “May I sit?” with a gesture towards the empty seat next to me. I scanned the bus to see if all the men’s seats were full, and he must have guessed because he added, “There’s no other seat, Ma’am.” “Please don’t call me ma’am,” I mumbled and let him sit next to me. He was speaking pretty good English and was even reasonably attractive and well-dressed. It didn’t seem to me that he would charge up mid-journey and break into “Enna da, macha!” talk. “Then what do I call you?” Erm, scratch that, I thought. All men are the same. And I shot him a glare and looked away.

When I finally looked back I saw he was reading A Dog’s Life. I raised and eyebrow then returned to ignoring him. He must have noticed. “Have you read it?” I mumbled a yes. “Oh, isn’t it good? Never thought dogs could think like this. It’s quite nice.” “Nice? Right. And it wasn’t actually written by a dog you know. The author’s just made the dog the way he wants him to be.” “Are you always this uptight?” “Excuse me? What??” “Yeah. Are you always like this? Judging every person you meet, being negative about everything, looking down on everyone all the time?” “The adjective uptight means something entirely different,” idiot, I added under my breath. He threw his hands up in the air. “See! Ok, I’m sorry I’ve offended your Royal Fastidiousness. Geez.”

Loser, I fumed. Hitting on a random girl he meets in a bus and what does he expect in return, true love? I huffed and turned away from him, trying not to think about him or what he’d said. After a few minutes my emotional Punjabi genes got to me though and I let loose. “Who the hell are you to call me uptight and judgemental or whatever? Doesn’t that make you judgemental as well? Moron. In any case I just happen to have written a gigantic essay on that book and your amateur criticisms may have annoyed me. ‘Ooh, it’s such a nice, sweet book’” I imitated in my most annoying voice. And I turned away again. Me neck was beginning to protest a little. “Well I like it too. And I apologise if me and my MA in Literature and ‘amateur criticisms’ annoyed you, your Highness.” “MA in Literature huh. I wouldn’t have guessed. And stop calling me that. Idiot.” “Yes. From St Xaviers, Bombay. And you didn’t tell me your name so what am I supposed to call you. And, please stop calling me moron and idiot. I have a name. It’s Prakash Seth.” I was still trying to ignore him, till he mentioned my old college. “Xaviers? Oh. Which year?” “1999.” “Oh! I was in the 2002 MA batch!” “Happy for you.”

And he read further. A little sheepishly I added. “Our names are actually pretty similar. I’m Praveena Seth.” “Ok.” Right. Super. Just as I had begun to warm up, he decided to get monosyllabic. Men. “Alright, I’m sorry. You’re just a stranger on a bus, how am I supposed to react to you?” “So? Doesn’t mean all men on buses are murderers or rapists or psychopaths! And see the coincidence. Same course in the same place, just a few years apart. Similar names, and who knows what else we could have in common. Like two peas in a pod.” “That’s pushing it isn’t it. Maybe two apples in a very big barrel?” He gave me a strange look. “Ok strange analogy. Still.” “Fine. What’s your favourite colour?” he asked me. “White.” “Mine too. And black.” “Yeah, it’s a toss up between the two.” “Favourite book?” “Ah, that’s tough. You go first.” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Godfather, The Fountainhead… among others.” “Hmm. Hemingway is super. Puzo… well he’s a man’s man. Rand is a favourite too.” He grinned. “See. Two peas in a pod.”

I noticed it had begun to rain “Could you shut the window please. I don’t want the book to get wet.” Prakash said. “Sure.” MTC buses are old and creaky and I was worried I’d slice off a digit but after a bit of struggling the shut the rain out. As I turned, Prakash was tearing off a bit of paper from a notepad and handed it to me. “My number. This is my stop. See you.” And he was gone before I knew it.

I sighed and watched him step out, before I plugged my walkman phone in my ears. After a couple of songs I realised the paper was still scrunched up in my fist and thought I’d shove it into my wallet along with several other numbers and cards I’d stored. And I discovered it was missing. When I reared out of my seat, the conductor sneered in Tamil, “Wallet gone? About time. I thought you were friends with that guy but I guess he’s just another pickpocket. Why do you think he asked you to shut the window?” “Because it was raining!” But he wasn’t listening; he had already begun narrating the tale of the pickpocket to others in the bus.

I punched in the number he’d given me, on my phone. Sure enough, I heard Miss Vodafone’s sweet voice telling me the number I had dialled didn’t exist. And I slumped back to my seat. Mr Prakash Seth from Xaviers was just a smart-ass, well-dressed pickpocket, I though as chaos erupted around me. People were urging me to hunt him down in an auto and some guys even offered to come along with me to beat him up, but I knew he’d be long gone. All I could think of was his ‘two peas in a pod’ statement. Yeah, right.