Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The simple things

I've cautiously refrained from posting much this past month, because somehow my words have been spitting venom. Put me in vicinity of a keyboard and I fall easy prey to my new found cynicism. It is so easy to criticize, so hard to praise. Even now, at a time when many things are ending and new beginnings seem far away, I find myself announcing relief instead of reveling in the memories behind or grieving at the unavoidable partings ahead. Such a state of affairs can not continue, no matter how poetic and romantic it may seem. Indeed, I loathe people who sit and criticize the world around them, wrapped safely in their mantle of superior cynicism, yet I am in great peril of becoming one such myself.

So instead, let's return to the simple things. Today was lovely. After weeks of stifling heat, there's a light breeze. Not enough to dispel the humidity, but it does contain a whispery promise of things to come. I saw clouds in the sky yesterday, timid, translucent clouds. They tried vainly to shield me from the sun. I don't need them, I have my SPF 30 sunscreen. Still, where there are clouds, there will soon be rain, I hope.

I made yet another cheat sheet today. I've lost count of how many such sheets I've made. Certainly, I've developed a skill for them. My masterpiece was a sheet for Quantum Electronics in February, in which after filling both sides of an A4 sheet almost solidly with microscopic blue writing, I proceeded to write in the milimetres between the original blue lines, in black. More wonderfully, I deciphered it all in the exam. Sometimes I surprise myself. In any case, it's good to know my cheat sheet making days are numbered. I can't think of a real life application where the skill of fitting unlimited amounts of text onto limited paper could come in handy, yet it is one of the many things IIT has taught me.

Four more exams to go. Then it will be time for lab experiments, blisteringly hot days, new faces, beach trips, ice cream cones, goodbye hugs, project deadlines, torrential rains, computer screens and a lonesome room.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Preserving Illusions

Of late, all my nights have become a haze of jumbled voices, uttering every form of profanity, filled with uneasy, drunken laughter, as I watch through rising clouds of cigarette smoke.

I don't know how I could have been so naive. Till two weeks ago, I honestly believed that a valfi was a time for memories and laughter, for honesty and closure. But this year as I watched closely for the first time, all my little illusions shattered one by one. I watched as people brought out the character flaws of their friends -things they disliked about each other but never had the courage to point out- disguised them clumsily as jokes and read them out into a microphone, on a stage, for all the world to hear. I watched as they spoke disrespectfully of friends and used words I had never heard of before and wish I could never hear again. I sat through many readings trying hard not to listen, too cowardly, too unsure, to get up and leave.

I like my illusions, I don't want to lose them. I like to believe that I would never judge anyone on the basis of three pages written about them by their drunken friends, but sometimes, I can't help but wonder if there isn't a grain of truth behind some smutty tale. As I spend more time here, as I listen and observe, I'm frightened at my own growing cynicism.

Of course valfis like I always imagined exist too. I like to think my own was one such. It was 9:30 am on a weekday morning and we had all been in our chiffon sarees and heavy jewelery for over 12 hours. We had spent the night reading, reminiscing, laughing, blushing and crying. The morning was quiet, the sun shone, but the terrace hadn't yet turned uncomfortably warm. I was surrounded by people I loved and respected. I couldn't have asked for more.

So it is that I am able to fight off the romance of an overpowering cynicism and still preserve a shred of my old naivety. Some illusions must be preserved. I still need something to believe in.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


It is 3 am and I am still awake, thanks to an ill advised coffee. The heat is quite stifling. Every year I meet the Mumbai summer with fresh surprise. Every year, I can't recall it being quite this bad. I've never faced a summer quite as potent as Mumbai's before. I've seen warmer climates with higher temperatures, but what gets to me is this humidity, which makes every breath an effort and covers me in a sheen of perspiration half an hour after a bath. When you emerge from an air conditioned room, it slams you in the face like an unyielding wall.

Smells seem more intense in this dense, warm air. Yesterday A, G and I went for a walk. We saw a butta seller fanning the flames of his tiny coal stove, in the dusk. He stood in a circle of shimmering sparks as a most delicious smell spread around. Roasting corn on the cob is definitely another of my favourite smells.
A few days ago, Amma and I paused before a jasmine seller at a railway station. The buds were small and hard, but their fragrance spread around the station, almost intoxicatingly sweet.

The heat makes me languorous. Waking up in the mornings seems pointless, till the sticky warmth forces me to shift. Every movement is an effort, every thought a strain. I procrastinate and laze inexcusably and glibly blame it all on the heat. It is of course fitting that this is one of the busiest times of the year. April is here and the semester is wrapping up. Project deadlines loom, valfi profiles have to be written, exams have to be mugged for. My caffeine fix is perhaps a godsend, I can use the time to do something productive But I know I won't. Like Scarlett O'Hara I whisper to myself, "I'll think of it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day" and take myself off to bed.