Dumb Test
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Of hearsay and heartaches…

I do not know if he loved her. I do not know whether she loved him either. I’ve seen them talk and I have heard them shout, at each other. I am certain their daughter heard them too. It’s been quiet now for a while. All you hear are old Hindi and Bangla songs, mostly classics.

Jet-lagged my eyes strain to read the time – it’s 3 o’ clock in the morning. He plays ‘Saare rahain chalte chalte, yuhin koi mil gaya tha…’ I listen.

In their fights and shouts, they lived. The wife watered her plants and the husband took their daughter to the school. Like a child’s early crayon work – celebrated the first time, shown to the guests the second time and abandoned for the rest. Then one day, he saw her. In a family gathering. Her beauty enthralled him. His eyes followed her everywhere. He wanted to spend time with her and talk to her. She was his wife’s cousin. He asked his wife to invite her home.

‘Humein aur jeene ki chahat na hoti, agar tum na hote, agar tum na hote…,’ he changes the play list.

She came. To stay with them. He was happy. He took her out to the movies, to the restaurants, the zoo and to the shops. He talked to her, walked with her and spent time with her. He seemed to have forgotten his wife and daughter.

They did not.

Ten days later, she left. He was left alone in the house, with those whom he chose to forget.

The shouts resumed with more vigour. Birthdays were not spared either. The wife’s complaints and the husband’s crumbling justifications gnawed at each other. And then, they left too. The flower pots are gone. Empty parapet walls gather moss. The daughter, I hear, chooses to stay with the mother.

Kabhie alvida na kahena…kabhie alvida na kahena…’ now continues to break the silence of the night.

A long day at pujor bajar (shopping for Durga Puja) has left her exhausted. But her eyes glistened at the sight of her one-year-old. She emptied her bags and stared at the blue pujabi with white embroidery that she had got for her husband and smiled. He will like it, she thinks.

Married, “happily”, with a daughter, thoughts of the cousin, now separated from her husband, may cross her mind, every now and then. The songs, however, I am sure, escape her.
“It’s strange didibhai (sister). She is happily married with a daughter now and these two could not stay together!” lamented my ‘source’ today morning.

I wish, I only wish, things were so easy – that the cause if removed, erased all the pain, hurt, and gnawing.

Palkon ke jharokon mein tujhko bithakar…maat ho mere jaan udas…” the clock strikes 3:30. The dogs bark.
He sits there, in his room, in the big house playing songs as ode to someone who was never his. Sleep eludes him – probably life and love too, at this moment. But he will surely bounce back. Human spirit, I hear is indomitable.

He switches on the television. The bomb blasts continue. I must try and catch some sleep now. His collection is great. Tomorrow, I hope he plays, “Chokhe naamey brishti, bukey othe jhar je…” (aka: jaane keya baat hain, jaane keya baat hain…).

I can’t help if you find the songs too corny to be true. Believe me the songs played in this sequence as I kept on abusing the keyboard at the middle of the night. All characters are purely 100% unadulterated hearsay and are not at all figments of my imagination. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is probably not a mere coincidence.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Love for Broadway

They descended on the pavement from the designer stores – their gowns flowing, their fur loosely draped over their shoulders, their neckties in a perfect bow and their stilettos drumming the concrete in the late hours. They bowed their head in humble respect and they ‘excused’ their ways in polite elegance.

And then there were the faded jeans and Snoopy Dog sneakers. Chewing their gums while fiddling with their ear pierce they laughed and talked and they marched forward.

But they all stopped for a while and looked up in silent admiration – the stilettos and the sneakers at the proud neon lights. They traced the lighted words with their eyes, few read those aloud, few immortalized it in the form of a photograph. The flash lights blinked – the bow ties nodded at the faded jeans. They seemed comfortable for they just realized that they have one thing in common.

Inside, the long black coats guided them in. Their shoulders brushed against each other as some hurried. But no rude glances were exchanged. For, they were happy in anticipation of something beautiful. The majestic chandelier and the ornamental walls reminiscent of the Versaille’s art welcomed again the set of new faces as they stood in queues to deposit their coats or grab a coffee.

The men walked their ladies in. The chewing gums stayed back while the sneakers moved in. They all settled down. It was dark. But they were eager. For they are there bound by a ‘common’ love – their love for the Broadway. As the 30 piece orchestra seated below the stage tuned their strings to the hair-raising, heart thumping score of Andrew Webber and the audience sank to their seats, the curtains were raised to the longest running Broadway show – The Phantom of the Opera.

I sat there, mesmerized by the sheer presence of it, grasping the experience that was soon to overcome me. As the cursed chandelier swung from the stage to the audience amidst the gasps, the phantom rowed Christine on his boat crossing the river covered by smoke or descended from behind the opera statuette among the audience, I marveled at the engineering that makes such complex tricks possible, live, on stage and perfect. For two and a half hours they laughed, cried, acted and expressed themselves through their songs in front of a live audience, never missing a single note. I recognized their sheer talent and dedication as they perform before a live audience day after day singing their own songs and shedding their own tears.

All stood up as the cast bowed after an exhilarating two and a half hours. They walked out of the auditorium in revered silence, nodding their heads in appreciation and lost in the magic of the musical. And for me, my first Broadway experience made me feel for the first time in a foreign land that how inconsequential my skin color was amidst this 'sophisticated' Caucasian theatre crowd for we were all there for a common love – love for Broadway.

PS: Thanks Deeps for zee award...mighty pleased and award you the same - one of the most humorous takes on life that I have come across.

(Note: I wrote this long back and had forwarded this to my friends before. )

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chicago Summer

Here are some glimpses of the short-lived summer in Chicago. To begin with is the Blues Festival. People come from all parts of Chicago and subburban counties to enjoy the city relive their love for Blues music. It is a full day out for the music lovers.

Most are in their 40s and 50s....during the peak of Blues holding hands and swinging to the tunes that had probably brought them together.

And they will bring their chairs and barbeques, grill food, wash it down with a pint and have a day out. It is a festival on the park ground.

Next, is the sailing season. It kicks off with the summer and people bring out their boats and explore the downtown as they sail on the chicago river winding through the city. The innumerable bridges over the river open up to make space for the boats to sail through. Here are some glimpses of the same:

The bridge over Michigan Avenue is opening up.

The boat is sailing through.

And the vehicles wait...long live summer in chicago.

Then they have events in the Millenium park. Located at the heart of downtown, Millenium park hosts an array of events and performances. These images are from a group called Australian Passion Fruit. They enacted a short story for 30 minutes perched over a pole about 10 feet high - swinging, emoting and dancing as well.

And then the evenings in Millenium park, open-air theaters and people splashing on fountains. Human faces illuminating the night sky while Cloud Gate reflects Chicago skyline.

The Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor

The human face fountain in Millenium Park.

Next up is the Michigan Avenue - the shopping mecca-buzzing with people...

and make-shift sculptures...walking down the street makes you feel alive.

And the boat rides on Chicago river amidst the architectural splendour of the city.

The summer comes to an end with the Jazz festival. I was not in Chicago to experience that. But just prior to the Jazz festival is the Air & Water show. Will leave you with glimpses of that. The same drill - chairs, grills, food and lazing out.

Till the winter sets in...

(C) Durba Gupta