Wednesday, 18 February 2009

cup of jealousy, anyone?

The green- eyed monster that lives in your brain now found (Mail Today)

It is a vice that few can avoid but that nobody craves. The area of the brain which controls jealousy has been found, scientists said. It is the same part which detects physical pain - perhaps explaining why feeling envious of your lover’s philandering ways hurts so much. The spot which makes people delight in others’ misfortune - called schadenfreude - was also located by the team. “ It’s interesting that the part of the brain which detects physical pain is also associated with mental pain,” said Hidehiko Takahashi, who led the research.

Copyright © Mail Today 2008.

Just an interesting thought. Since we all have philandering lovers at one point or another.

Friday, 13 February 2009

living in the past

Sandeep was playing cricket outside while I watched from the window. I was paranoid about a lot of things sometimes. Especially the safety of my children. Who knew if a rapist or serial killer was on the move in our neighbourhood. Who knew anything anymore. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that my father tried to abuse me as a child. There was no connection between that and my being paranoid. None at all, I told myself.

I returned to chopping carrots into tiny pieces for the stew I was making. The carrots were bad. Expensive, yet bad. Inflation maybe down but it didn’t seem to be when it came to household expenses. Raghav used to asked me why or how I spent so much money on food. Till I told him to go shop for vegetables himself one day. He didn’t take me seriously. So that day there was no food served at his table. Of course the kids didn’t starve. I took them out to dinner.

Everything seemed to be a game for him. Marriage was a sport. Maybe I should treat it like a sport then, I thought sometimes. It seemed to work for my husband after all. Ever since we were teenagers and madly in love, it was always one game after another. And he always won. When we got married, I thought I was the lucky one. I thought I had landed a great guy and we would live happily ever after. I’m not saying he’s terrible. I was just mislead. By him and my own naïveté. By and by I realised, it was he who had won. Finding himself a girl who was totally and utterly at his behest, completely in love with him… one who listened to everything he had to say. Well that didn’t last long. Neither did the love either.

By the time I realised that, it was too late. Realised I hadn’t done the smartest thing by marrying Raghav. Sandeep had already arrived, and my parents had already passed away. My brother and I were estranged and I had no one to help me. A few months later, another baby was on the way. Much to Raghav’s joy and my shock. One thing I still loved him for was the way he brought up our son. He adored Sandeep and the feeling was entirely mutual. Another child would have been a dream come true for them both. I miscarried though. And I didn’t want another child after that. Call me silly but I felt guilty. For not wanting the baby out of my own selfishness and greed for a personal life. And then the baby just went. Like a puff of smoke. One day she was there, growing inside of me. The next day she was just some skin and cells which had to be removed. A baby.

Raghav got over it. Wanted to try again. I put my foot down. Things went sour for a while after we stopped trying for a child. They never really went back to normal. Teenaged days in the throes of love and the first happily married days… it all ended. When you play a sport you lose yourself in it. you give your entire body and soul to it and before you know it you’re too tired, too old to play anymore. You have to retire. I wished I could retire from marriage. Not ask for a divorce. But just retire.

Sometimes I dreamt I had a daughter. Her name was Sameera. I spoke to her, sometimes she even spoke back. She would have looked like my mother. Button nose, slightly slanted eyes, long black hair, slightly wavy, and with a short voluptuous build. Maybe she would have followed my mother and become a dancer or singer as well. I didn’t think of Sameera too often anymore. For some reason the bad carrots were making me think back several years. To the days when I first started playing with Raghav. My first years as a mother and wife. Right upto today. Here I am, a middle-aged woman with a list of regrets she could not do anything about.

I sighed. At first I felt a deep pain which almost reverberated through my body. Then it became a little numb. Like I had become over the years. As if I was sitting on a block of ice and could not feel any pain anymore. It was when the blood began dripping on the carrots that I suddenly realised what I had done. I had sliced neatly through my ring finger. Not entirely, though I was tempted to do so.

I returned to the window to look at my twelve-year-old son running about, getting dirty and tanned under the harsh Noida sun. He was laughing, sweating, flailing his arms about, yelling and generally having the time of his life. I hoped he would never fall in love and treat his lover like I had been treated. Like I was an insignificant maid at times.

Raghav hadn’t even touched me for as long as I could remember. I tried to remember when we last made love.. no, I couldn’t even call it making love anymore. It was just sex. And he was probably getting it elsewhere I suppose. There was a time when I was so hungry for him. Just the feeling of his bare skin against my palms gave me such joy. It used to make me all warm inside and I would smile just thinking about it. I wondered sometimes whether I had changed too much. Maybe that’s why he didn’t love me anymore.

I looked at the hand towel I had wrapped around my finger. It was almost wet with blood now. I remember Raghav once used to kiss my bruises, cuts, stitches or even my heart, when he thought he had hurt me for whatever reason. He hadn’t done that since Sandeep was born.

I didn’t miss it. That’s why I thought I was numb. How could I not miss the love of my life? How could I not try to mend my marriage? How could I just continue comparing it to playing a sport?

My cell phone buzzed and Raghav’s name popped up. I checked the message with my free hand.

“Thanks for not answering any of my calls. Going to Agra for three days. Sudden work. Going straight to station now. Call me. Want to speak to S.”

I called Sandeep and told him. He looked at my hand and looked at me, aghast and petrified. I suddenly realised I still hadn’t cleaned up my finger.

“It’s fine, baba. I just cut it while chopping carrots. Now call your dad.”

He swallowed and came towards me. What he did was totally unexpected. He caught me around my waist and gave me a tight hug, so tight I was gasping for breath. Laughing, I told him not to worry. He could speak to Raghav, clean up and be ready for dinner in half an hour.

What he said next was equally unexpected.

“Ma. Show me your phone.” And I did. He did some technological trick with it and the message details popped up. He showed them to me.

“See. It’s an old message, Ma. You’ve forgotten again. Papa died four years ago. Train de-railed. Remember? You keep forgetting sometimes.”

24/12/2004. 2.46 PM.


The message details said.

I read it again.


The voice seemed to come from very far away. My son was holding me up now. I didn’t realise my legs had gone weak till I felt his firm hand around my elbow. I looked up at him and he seemed so tall, so grown up.

“You’ve gotten so big, babu. Don’t look twelve anymore,” I could hear myself muttering.

Pause. He helped me sit down.

“Ma, I’m turning 17 next week.”

I watched him in amazement as he turned the gas off and brought the medical kit, laying it at my feet. He blew gently on my finger.

He looked just like Raghav.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


I watch her writhe and struggle,

As she tries to pick up the shards of glass.

With nobody to help her,

But for Self-pity,

Kneeling beside her and weeping,

Holding shards,

Each with a little reflection of herself,

Each a piece of her own essence.

I watch him lying by the side of the road,

Naked and unconscious,

For all the world to see his Nothingness.

I watch them gaze shyly at each other,

Look away as I near them,

Revel in their newfound love,

As Time watches them from afar and sighs,

Staring at his nails,

Waiting for his time to come.

I watch him toil,

As Indifference stands beside him,

Helping him juggle his work,

And his people,

Like they are his toys.

I watch as he weaves a magic spell,

Charm oozes, deadly, smooth.

The spell works,

His invisible web has caught them.

He will fatten them up with

His Charm and illusions of Love,

Finish them off when he is bored.

I watch myself decide, then dissipate,

Un-decide, squander, wander.

I watch myself question, question again,

Till all I have are questions.

Indecision clawing at me,

Restlessness keeping me up at night.

I watch her bite, claw and lick her wounds,

As she tries getting rid

Of the Pain,

And what is sucking out her soul.

I watch him watch her,

Weaving a plan,

As Despair finishes off what’s left of him.

I watch as her daughter curses her,

Impulse gnawing at her,

As it gnaws at youth.

Then I watch as she cries,

Self-hatred and Regret speaking inside her head.

She knows her mother was trying to protect her.

The way her own mother did not.

I watch as her hands tremble

As she picks up the phone to call him.

Her heartbeat quickening,

Fear creeping up on her from behind,

A slow smile on his face,

And enveloping her in his bubble.

I watch myself smile,

And wonder who is watching me.

Is it Love?

Is it Peace?

Maybe Relief?

Or is it even me at all…

Friday, 6 February 2009

Chronicles of Bani - III

The art of smiling in front of the camera isn’t easy. I’ve often been told I look rude, snooty and extremely unapproachable. My interview with the South Indian doe-eyed actress went fine. Except for the fact that I looked like I had a tree-trunk up my.. well, you know.

I practised smiling in front of my mirror. Nah. Too fake. Too much teeth. Little less teeth, maybe that looked a bit more genuine. Sigh. Better but still forced. The eyes need to speak, I remember my drama teacher’s decade-old words echoing in my head. Does that mean I have to feel happy? Too much analysis. Just smile.

“That was XYZ speaking exclusively to us about her new film. With cameraperson Raj, this is Bani Jambulingam for Niyo News.” Grin.

Wait. No. Grin throughout, not suddenly at the end. My phone rang. Thank god. The art of fake smiling was obviously not too easy. My colleague’s faraway voice on the other end of my phone.

“What? No, I didn’t know….. When?..... Ok I’m going, I’m going. Gone! Bye!”

Nonsense. Controversial statement made by South Indian actor aired exclusively by rival news channel. What am I supposed to do now. And when did entertainment become my beat anyway, I wondered. Entertainment means more smiling on camera. I groaned. And ran.


That was a bad week for me. A friend fought with me because I looked “rude” at his play and did not speak to him properly. (the fact that I made time to see the play did not matter to him at the time) I got no stories apart from a couple of lousy entertainment ones. I was told I need to smile more and ask more relevant questions. Softer questions. And then I was told to be more aggressive at getting news. Soft aggression?

I was looking forward to my day off. Which unfortunately came on a day when aforementioned actor made another idiotic statement and I had to run to get it. 24-hour news channels suck. It was that day Sudhish suddenly called me. After so many months and when I had finally begun to move on, it was rather cruel. I, in my usual manner, let loose an expletive when I realised it really was him. And said I would call him back.

Meanwhile my mother’s friend’s son called me out of the blue. A boy I had met once when I was barely 3 feet tall. Amidst thoughts of Sudhish and the art of fake-smiling (which I managed rather well with the idiotic actor, or so I heard), I thought the poor boy was calling from a bank which had been harassing me to invest or take a loan. After I hung up on him and he called again, I listened in amazement.

“I saw you on television. Well my mother and I saw you actually. You managed the piece well, though I’m not too interested in cinema or what actors do and say. Mom said she knows you. I just thought I’d give you a call and er.. you know tell you that I liked your piece.”

I nearly groaned aloud. My mother had perfected the art of matchmaking. Or not rather, because it was still so obvious she was doing it! I sweetly replied to the boy (or maybe he was a man) and told him I would call him back.

I banged my head on the nearest wall before my boss called me and saved my life possibly.

Afterwards, while I was twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the head office to okay my script and send me home, I got bored. And wrote the following on a tissue I found on the floor.

A mosquito buzzed near my ear.

The fan worked in the distance.

Street lights out the window

And dogs lying on the road.

During the day I dream

But at night

I’m wide awake,

Dreams torn apart,

Hopes crashing down.

Disappointment after disappointment.

The night is empty.

Like my bed.

Pillows cannot make up

For where you once lay.

My chin on your shoulder,

Your arm on my waist.

I would listen to you snore gently,

Watch your chest rise in the dark.

I know.

Love doesn’t last forever.

But memories do.

Forgetting takes a lifetime.

The bee stings in a second.

But it takes days to heal.

Mosquitoes buzz around me.

My only companions tonight.

I wonder when I will forget.

Stop missing you.

When I can dream again.

I stopped before it got any worse. Obviously I needed to move on. I walked home that night, wondering when I would get over Sudhish. Maybe I’d call the other boy in a few days. I missed my mother’s cooking and nagging. I always miss her when she’s away visiting relatives in faraway lands. Even though she comes back laden with gifts and anecdotes for me.

I read through the poem before I went to sleep that night. Obviously I had to work on mastering my poetry as well, apart from the smiles. The art of writing poetry had always been a mystery to me. It was like the sun on a cloudy day. Sometimes it decided to come out and bless me with some warmth, but many times it remained hidden behind a layer of grey.

The art of poetry and the art of smiling. Among other things. I had miles to go before I slept.

I sighed, put off the light and fell asleep.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Chronicles of Bani - II

Regrets? Everyone has them. In the past five days though I’ve strangely not had too many of them. Well there’s always the ex-lover and messing up his marriage (I’m wondering when I will forgive myself for that), but generally, the last few days haven’t been so bad. Except for the fact that my parents have been asking me to find a boy and get married soon.

After they started nagging, ever so gently, I made a mental list of how many successful female journalists I know. And how many of them are married, with kids. Surprisingly many do get married, but after the baby comes along, they seem to vanish or stick to less aggressive journalism at least.

Hmm. As I'm wandering along the isles of Nilgiris looking for fruit, I find myself thinking, picking a man isn’t as easy as picking fruit. Looking for actual fruit, not men. Forget picking a man. Indian parents and in-laws will at some point harass you to have a child, which is what scares me more than the thought of marriage. After my I-hate-babies, fashion editor friend dropped the “I’m pregnant” bomb on me, I began worrying. Will all of us end up the same way, even if we don’t want to? If even an editor like Susan gives up her fitting black clothes, salad diet and pointy heels, we’re all doomed.

I sighed. Bad fruit. All of it. No salad leaves. I’d have to eat Maggi noodles while my mother was away. I was still reeling from Susan’s announcement though. The fact that a few months earlier she trod on a seven-year-old’s foot because he spilt milkshake on her Gucci shoes did nothing to ease my confusion. I still didn't have the guts to ask her if she really wanted a baby or not. I could be the next person she trod on. I could not help but wonder if she regretted getting married. Or if one day she would look back and regret having a baby because she missed her chance at being Vogue – India editor.

I had spoken to my friend Priya that morning. She was an aggressive, in-your-face news journalist who quit once she had a baby. Her secret confession was that she didn't want to be the pushy, aggressive reporter forever. “Most women are meant to have babies, Bani. And I got tired. Maybe old. Who knows. Believe me, even Barkha Dutt may want companionship or a child sometimes. Of course I loved running around, meeting top politicians, getting exclusives and breaking news, but I got tired after a while. And Naresh wanted to have a kid, while we were still in our 30s. It happened. And I was scared. But I love my son. And though I miss being a journo sometimes, I’ll survive.” My heart-to-heart with Susan was still due since I decided I’d speak to her once I recovered from my shock.

“Are you sure you want this ma’am?”

The cashier was pointing to a bunch of bananas which didn’t look too great.

“Yes, bill it.”

“Once you buy, you can’t take it back ma’am. Sure ah?”

Would I regret buying the bunch of bananas? For God’s sake, it’s only fruit. ‘Ah but it begins with fruit..’ my evil conscience said. I ignored it and bought the fruit, wondering if evil conscience was even a correct term. Men are not fruit. Babies definitely aren’t. And they could wait. At least a few more years, I thought, dumping my bags in the car.

I would have to practice a speech telling my parents they’d have to wait longer for Mr Bani… leave alone junior Bani. Sighing, I started the car and headed home.