the year that was…

Funny thing about nostalgia. I’m finding it harder to be nostalgic about the current year. Can barely remember the events that transpired. Whereas events that happened at an obscure moment years ago, seem crystal clear and even more revealing now, than they used to be.  Is it something about time, mellowing things down, softening the perspective? Perhaps, like wine memories need time to age and become more palatable.

With that bit of wisdom in place, I proceed to look back on the year gone by. It seems, it has been a gamechanger of sorts. For one thing, I believe the worst that could ever happen to me, personally has happened and taken away my fear of anything in life. Is that good, bad? Will it make me careless? I don’t know. Those questions aren’t scary anymore, either. Time will reveal all. And I feel equipped to deal with whatever comes up.

It is abundantly evident to me now, that we are one’s own best friends or enemies. However, finding friends besides than the self is not only sensible, it is imperative. Friends are the mirror in which we see ourselves for who we truly are. That is one mirror that can’t and won’t lie. With that in mind, I responded to a call from an old school mate. Actually, my motives weren’t so clear to me back then. I was just following a whim which made me say yes to whatever was going to come my way.

And then it began. Getting back in the reconnecting game with a vengeance. I was consumed with the thought, albeit vague, that I would reconnect with all those who I had ever met in life and reclaim old friendships. Easier said than done. The flower of friendship requires constant attention and nurture and a long gap, as in my case, ensures that the bloom is gone and so is any tenuous hold it may have on someone’s memory.

So, after a year of meeting people after 20 years, talking to them, trying to set up meetings, which were often put off and if I am honest, will probably never happen, I am at a point where I am taking stock. Will those who met me, like me as I am now? Will I like who they think I am, now? Will my two identities as an individual and a friend find some kind of common ground that we can operate from? Sounds like a tough task, even to a foolishly optimistic person like me. Not because of anything else, it’s just timing. I am a woman with a 20 year old daughter, now. Most of my reclaimed friends are still nurturing children and leading fruitful lives to their proper destination.

I am thankful to the powers that be, but can’t be pinpointed for charting this course for my life this year. The good, the bad, the not so good, the utterly horrible has come up with a year which finds me in my most blissed out state of mind. When you know things can’t get any better, or any worse.

I am thankful for finally hitting the proverbial jackpot in terms of friends who want to be around. I am thankful for the hobbies which have stayed around and nourish my soul. And most of all I am thankful that I no longer have to face the burden of growing into myself. I am already the best and worst version of myself, I will ever be.

 

Deja vu.

As far as days went, he had been through better ones. It all started off with his more than usually vigorous sparring with his maid, Pushpatai. She had committed two cardinal sins at one go. She boiled his Brazilian coffee chicory mix, in a, get this, pot on the gas stove. Secondly, she had put his Egyptian cotton sheets, into the washer dryer.

Now, hours later in the train, he could still remember the tone of the conversation and how his blood had boiled at her cavalier attitude.

Him: Pushpatai, this is it. You have one last strike. Mess up once again and you’re taking your last salary from me. I don’t care what your circumstances are. I don’t need you messing up my coffee and my clothes.

Pushpatai: Really? And you really think I am hankering to work for someone like you, who cribs more than the standard issue mother-in-law? Get this straight. I work for you. I do stuff you can’t even visualize yourself doing, no matter how many scented candles you light up and frown at. Yes, I realize that is what you do. I asked my grandkid.  Secondly, you can’t give me notice! I am giving you notice. I won’t be dusting your bookshelves, until further notice. Or, until you show me some respect!

Him: What? God! You have had a raise just the last month! Wasn’t that respectful enough for you? Stop holding me to ransom, or…

Pushpatai: Or what? Will you call up your mom wherever she lives and complain about me? Oh, I know! I know, why don’t you do what all good little boys do and ask her to get you married off, so you can have a little wifey, to do all your chores for you? In fact, I would love to spar with an equal for a change. Now, get out of this room. I have to clean the fans.

And with that, she banished him from his bedroom with his cup of vile tasting coffee. He went through the motions of getting ready, hurt and bruised, since he knew, he was no match for her and no way was he going to call his mom to get him a wife.

So, it was back to the grind of the daily work day, which he loved otherwise. He loved being an associate architect with the new firm that had employed him. They were still at a nascent stage, business was still being developed and so was the company policy. He could see himself getting along and doing very well for himself. And making a few very personal dreams come true on the way.

When the call came, he knew who it was before even looking at the number. It had been an unspoken pact between the two of them since they met. They always spoke at night and before leaving for work during the day. R was the love of his life and they had met at a music concert in Pune, away from home, away from the city where he worked. It had been blissful and he never wanted it to end.

R: Hey, what’s up? I’m heading to the studio. And the ballet exercise workshops are going to start this weekend. So you have to be there for me, okay?

Him: You know I’ll be there. With packed lunch and coffee to go.

R: Um, not made by Pushpatai, I hope? The memory of the last cup she made me, still makes me scrunch up my face.

Him: Don’t do that to your lovely face. I like it just the way it is.

R (smugly): That I know. Sleepover at my place, tonight?

Him: There’s an office party for Christmas. I’m planning it so, probably will wind up late. But, you have me for the next three days.

R: Smart guys, giving you the job of planning. Seems like your personal fantasy come true. How many women did you beat down for the job?

Him: None, they were all too happy to delegate it to me. What is with women these days? They just don’t want to do anything mundane anymore.

R: Beats me. Though, knowing you, this party is going to be anything but mundane. Okay, pucker up. I just sent you a kiss on the phone. Love you, bye.

Him (smiling from ear to ear): Can’t pucker up. My lips are too busy smiling. Love you back.

 

So, that was it. The best way to make the world appear a better place for him. He waltzed in the golden glow of that conversation till the next station, where he got unceremoniously puked up by the train on to a platform seething with people. He stood for a moment, but remembered that the crowd would carry him along if he didn’t find his own way.

Twenty minutes later, the golden glow was all but gone when he was informed the petty cash wasn’t sufficient and he would have to get a contribution from the staff for the party. As easy as pulling teeth without anesthetic, if you didn’t know the correct pathway. Which in this case went directly from the admin, A, who was in her mid forties and a great fan of sex as a form of recreation. Rumor had it, almost all the young recruits had suffered a bout with her just because it made logistical sense.

However, when he approached A, he realized that although he had been around for almost a year, she had made no overtures to him at all. He frowned slightly at that. But, shrugged it off. She didn’t seem that discerning. But, you never knew. She welcomed him with a slightly wary glance.

Him: Okay, I needed to talk to you about the party fund. Are we sure, we can’t let petty cash take care of it? Maybe an advance from next month…

A: You know I can’t do that. I don’t have the authority.

Him: Oh, I don’t mean it that way. I just know that you are a hands on person, so I figured you could help…

A: Hmm, well. Okay, let’s see. Maybe I can figure something out. Just to be safe, I’m going to send out a mail to all to register with you, for a party and mention the fee. Will that help?

Him: See? I knew you could sort this out. Is there anything I can do for you? Any particular dish you like?

A (warily): No…

Him: Dessert, then?

A: I do like chocolate mousse.

A: I’ll get one, just for you.

He smiled genuinely warmly at her and was rewarded with one of her rare, non lecherous smiles. He chuckled as he walked away. It seemed her radar was pretty accurate.

The rest of it was pretty easy. The lists were drawn up, the goodies were chosen, cutlery, napkins, space, playlists for the music, the speakers, and so on. All he had to do was tell everyone to get their own booze, since that was not being provided. And then it happened. P, his partner on a fancy apartment hotel in the suburbs called in an absolute panic. Which was strange, since normally P was the calmest person he knew.   But right now, all P did on the phone was blubber incoherently for a good five minutes, before he could get a word in.

Him:  Okay, okay, P! Take a breath! I can’t understand you! Calm down.

P: I can’t! Oh, God! I’m having a heart attack, I think. My chest feels as if someone is sitting on it.

Him: That’s why I keep telling you not to eat chole bhature for lunch. All that gas has to find an outlet.

P: No, no! You can’t do this! You can’t tease me, now! In fact, you should be here, holding my hand and telling me it will be alright.

Him: P! You’re a veteran, my man! You don’t have a breakdown. You just keep going. Come on, now.

P: No! No, I can’t take it. It’s been done, you know. The master bath is done, as in done, every bloody bit of it is done. And now the guy’s wife is here, bitching about how it doesn’t look like something she saw in a washroom in Turkey. Blue and white handmade tiles! A fountain, for crying out loud! Just kill me, now.

Him: Okay, just relax. Just take it easy. This is going to get all better. I’m on my way there. Breathe and don’t pass out on me. Just focus and don’t say anything till I get there.

P: I can’t redo this! It’s under contract…

Him: Shh, I know, I know. We won’t redo anything, except her opinion of it. She will love it. Wait and see.

P: Okay, I’m going to eat a samosa to calm me down in the meantime. Please get here soon. Or you will be to blame for my calorie overload.

Him: Actually, that’s all coming back to haunt you. But, anyway, these are tough times. Go ahead. See you there.

Moving quickly, he organized his stuff to get to the other side of the city. He now had everything under control and just needed to pick up the cash which A would have collected from the staff.  But, she wasn’t there when he reached her cubicle. She messaged him saying, she had to go out for an official lunch with the boss, and could he take the cash from the petty cash register and sign an acknowledgment slip? Which he did, when he realized that there was no way he would be able to pay for the party since he wouldn’t be there. Thinking fast, he caught hold of G, a new intern on the job. G was always ready to please and run errands and go beyond the line of duty. He hadn’t interacted with G much and didn’t think of him at all, except as someone who was doing his time in the trenches. Once G had paid his dues, they would probably get to know each other better.

Him: Hey, G. Got a moment?

G: Yes, sir?

Him: Come on, you don’t have to call me sir. You know my name. Okay, listen. I need a huge favour. Can you hold on to this bundle of cash for me? It’s from the petty cash box and I have to organize the Christmas bash with it. So, just, give it to the guys who come along with the stuff. And get receipts, all around. Okay?

G: Sure.

Him: Appreciate it. Hey, we should have a drink, some time. Talk to you later, bye.

G: Actually, there was a call from S. His sister-in-law is coming into town today. He asked you to pick her up at the airport. Apparently, it’s a sudden trip and she’s got a kid with her.

Him: Oh, right. Okay. Listen, just send me the details and her number, too. Don’t call S for anything else after this. Just you and I are going to handle this, okay? Make us look good. Right? See ya.

G: The party, am I invited?

Him: Well, actually, it’s staff only, so…next time, maybe?

G : Oh, right.

As G walked away, he had the feeling the signoff was rather sullen. Strange. That seemed out of character. Anyway, since he had a load of work to do, he had to shut down the thoughts and get moving.

Three hours later, when he was done with the wife, the husband of said wife and P, all he wanted to do was go home, though he didn’t have that luxury yet. He had to call S’s sister-in-law. But, first, he had to check on the party planning. So, he called G.  It was almost 6 pm.

G: Yeah, hello?

Him: Oh, hi! Hey, listen, this is the third time I called. Anything wrong? I mean, I hope everything is in control?

G: Oh, yeah, sure. In control.

Him: Hm? Sorry, didn’t quite catch that. Is everything in place? Is A back?

G: No, A isn’t back, and I don’t care if everything is in place.

Him: What? G, I can’t seem to hear you right. Should I call you back? Or can you not speak, right now?

G: I am speaking. Don’t you get it? I told you, I don’t care! About the party, the money, anything!

Him: What are you saying? G, please focus, I can’t handle this on top of everything else, right now.

G: Oh, right! What exactly are you handling, mister? The careful cut of your suit? Nah! Armani is doing that. Or Ralph bloody Lauren, for all I know. I mean, I don’t know how to tell brands, I never will be able to. I’m just always going to be a grunt who was hired out of Dharavi to a firm where people don’t remember my last name.

Him: G, we are what we make of ourselves, okay? I think this conversation is totally irrelevant, but I am going to humour you, since I know you are a good man.

G: Really! Is that why? Or because you can see that unless you sweet talk me right now, there is no hope in hell of getting back your party cash? I know, I know!

Him: What? Enough of this. Listen to me, you loser. I want you to get that money on my desk right now. Stop being a fool. Or this is going to escalate and you’ll be out on your ear.

G: Escalate, it seems! Into what, may I ask? I won’t give you your money, I won’t even come to that smelly office and I certainly won’t let you have a party.

Him: Listen to me, you piece of dinosaur turd! If you don’t listen to me, I am getting the police to your place, right away!

G: Dinosaur turd! Huh! You listen. You can’t find me, since I gave a false address at the office. So, call the police, sms them, whatsapp them, google them or put up a youtube channel if you want! You can’t find me. And I don’t want to be found.

Him: You can’t do this! You…this is illegal!

G: Don’t talk to me about illegal! My grandma was a bootlegger, when your ancestors were sucking their thumbs. My dad himself worked in a morgue and charged rent for illegal storage of bodies, my mom made ends meet by selling coupons to a washroom facility on the railway station, which was actually free and…

Him: I get it! I get it. You’re not coming back. Okay, listen. You’ve shot yourself in the foot with this one. You’re never coming back to the office, as you know. I’ll handle this. I’ll make up the difference and you know, no one will be the wiser. Not even A. I know how to do that, within the system. But what about you? Are you going to end up being just another delinquent who your family will talk about? Okay, now I want you to think, really hard. I’m not calling anyone, I’m not following you. You call me back in five. Do you want to get anywhere at all? If you do, do yourself a favour and call me back. Am I clear?

He hung up, before G had a chance to respond. He didn’t know if it was right to do this, or not. But he had to try it. G was right. Rubbed the wrong way, there would be nothing to stop him from running off. But given the diatribe, it seemed G was suffering and needed something apart from money. He next called up S’s sister-in-law’s number. S was top boss and resident great white shark at the firm. S was the one who went in guns blazing at the ultimate meeting and sold the deals. S didn’t like excuses, he didn’t like people who were trying, he wanted results. In short, S wasn’t the sort of guy you wanted to know what went wrong. You either didn’t want him to know you at all, or if he did know you, it should be for the best possible thing you’d ever done.

The call went through. And he heard a sweet female voice. Somehow, he had a feeling of déjà vu, when he heard her. What is it about certain people? You feel you know them before you’ve met and just like them for no particular reason.

Him: Hi, my name is M. I’m S’s colleague. I need to speak to V. Is this her?

V: Yes, V speaking. I’m sorry to bother you with this, but S said it was okay to ask you for help. He’s out of town for today.

Him: Oh, he mentioned me, did he?

V: Yes, he specifically mentioned you. By name.

Him: Wow. Uh, I’m supposed to pick you up at the airport, right? Can I…

V: Actually, I’ve left the airport. I’m in a taxi. If you could give me directions to the office and be there when I get there, it would be great. I’m not alone, you see.

Him: Yes, I heard you’re travelling with a child. Can I get you anything? Or you’ll be fine till you get to the office?

V: I should be fine. Just be there for us.

Him: Yes, of course.

He hung up, an incongruous grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. But, he was happy in the most basic way. S knew his name! And then, another call. This time from G.

G: I’m sorry…I didn’t know what to do. I just…I just am invisible. No one sees me, they don’t like me. They don’t want me around, they hate me.

Him: Whoa, hold on there. Okay, first of all, if you imagine that anyone is wasting any time, energy or thought on anything but their own career at the office, you are mistaken. No one cares. Nobody. Not even me and I think, I’m a nicer person than most. Okay, now listen up. I won’t be repeating this. Golden words and all that. Most men, don’t know brands. Get it?

G: Most men…? Oh.

Him: Yes, you see it now. Secondly, it doesn’t matter what brand you wear, as long as you know you’re amazing and the brand is good enough to clothe you. Call it arrogance, call it being an ***hole, or whatever, but, that’s what it is. So, lose that chip on your shoulder about Dharavi. Just remember that you can get me a leather bomber jacket when the dust settles down from this and you can afford it.

G (silent now): Hmm.

Him: Here’s what we are going to do. You are going to take whatever you have left, of the cash and get to…how much do you have, anyway?

G: Four. I…I bought liquor and some weed with the rest.

Him: Wow! Well, I hope it’s worth it. Anyway…

G: No, I know a guy. I can sell it back, and recover…

Him: Don’t bother. That’s precisely what gets people into trouble. You’ll pay it back, gradually. For now, listen to me. Can we contact the party planner and get the stuff in?

G: I already called. They’ve given the stuff away, since there was no payment.

Him: Good boy!  Okay, what else did you find out?

G: I can’t get any caterer to help me out, because it’s way too last minute.

Him: Hmm, okay, so we have to do something else. Get a restaurant name, from the online food directories near our office and have them to deliver a set meal. I will send you the details of how many and so on, at once. And get back to office. You’re supervising this party, now. Arrange for the booze, by sending a message on the whatsapp group for the office.  We aren’t providing any drinks inhouse. Clear?

G: Yeah, okay. What about the difference?

Him: Let me know the restaurant details and I will pay online. Sorry, I can’t get screwed twice in the same day. You catch my drift, right?

G (chuckling): Yes. I will see you, after your holiday.

Him: Yes, please. I don’t want to hear from you except if someone dies and in that case, I think your dad would be a better person to call.

G(wryly): I’m never going to live that down, am I?

Him: Not with me! See you. Take care.

He hung up as the taxi pulled into the office lobby. He climbed out and saw a lady with a three or four year old getting out of a cool cab. He reached them and helped to unload the bags. There were only two, surprisingly light for a woman travelling. And then he turned to say hello to V.

Him: Hi, I’m M. We spoke on the phone.

V: Hi. I’m V and this is my daughter, B. Say hello, darling?

Him (quickly, since B seemed about to pout into tears): No, that’s okay! Give it some time. I guess, she’s tired.

V: That makes two of us.

Him: Let’s get you settled. This way.

He led V into the waiting room at the lobby. She was fussing around for the next few moments with the kid. And he idly noticed, the kid looked nothing like her. In fact, she… The moment the realization struck, he was nervous. He didn’t want to make any wrong moves and yet, the moment seemed ripe for a faux pas of the first order. V looked at him, perhaps sensing his change of mood. She smiled slightly and made a light comment about the weather. M excused himself and headed to the washroom. He was there for a while. Since by his own admission the day hadn’t begun so well, he wasn’t expecting it to get any easier, now. But, this was showing promise of turning into a giant mess.

He walked out. V was holding his phone. She handed it to him and said, a guy had called him. He dialed, at once.

R: Sweetie! I called, but some lady took the call and said you were away. What’s going on?

Him: Oh, not much, usual. Listen, what did you say to her?

R: To her? Nothing, just hi, can I speak to you and so on. Why?

Him: Well, it turns out, I may be in a bit of a situation here. I…any advice?

R: From me? No! I have no idea what it is and I trust you to figure it out. Okay? Love you. Call me when you get home.

Him: Yeah…ditto.

R: Ouch! Ditto? Bye.

M hung up, smiling and turned to see V looking at him, quite seriously. She seemed about to say something and M was glad when she didn’t. She looked at the picture her kid was drawing and was asking her questions. There were three figures on the page, a stick man, a stick woman with a bun at the back of her head and a stick kid, clinging to both their hands. The figures were labeled, S, V and B.

V: I guess, you can see, I’m not his sister-in-law.

M: You don’t have to explain that, not to me at least.

V: I know that. But, you know, I just have the feeling, we can talk.

M: Sure, sure. But, pardon my saying this, I’d rather not know the details.

V (laughing): I wasn’t about to provide them. But I am not worried, if S said you’re discreet it means you are.

M: He said that? Oh, God. I don’t know whether to be happy or horrified. Anyway, please don’t tell him I said that.

V: I won’t. You don’t tell sharks things like that.

Just then, G entered the lobby with a set meal for V and a dessert for the baby. M  watched, with a happy smile, as he took on the job of host with ease. He didn’t mind the deferential look G gave him. He knew it wouldn’t last too long. Eventually, G would forget and move on.

For the rest of the evening, V and M sat in a companionable silence. There was nothing to be said. At the end of their wait, S arrived in an impossibly shiny car, swept V up and directed a look at M which said, “Thanks for this.” M nodded graciously. When they had left, he walked out of the office into the now deeply dark night. He wasn’t going back to the place where he lived. He was going to go over to the place he and R called home.

  NOT  FOR  THE FAINT HEARTED.

 

 

                         

 

It is approximately that time of year, when we decided to spend time together. On the actual day we will forget  it’s significance, and  be reminded of it by our mothers. They will call and trill with delight that our “ forever” seems a distinct  reality. We will try  to explain why every day is special. But it will be  drowned out by their enthusiasm. And the call will end with a reassurance, that “the day “ will be treated with the special  consideration it deserves.

Which day, you might ask? Let me see, maybe the one, where I first cooked for your friends, took  the whole day to produce a meal and overcooked the rice. Or maybe we should think of the day, when you rushed home from a meeting to drive me to a hospital and see our baby born?  Or the day we realized that we could rely on each other to be around thru thick  or thin, and that would serve us better than any investment or fund  the world could come up with.

We should celebrate. How? By trying to learn the tango, which you thought was “very interesting” given the level of close proximity involved. Or maybe, my trying and finally succeeding in getting your socks organized. I’m still thinking of how to keep the handkerchiefs intact. Maybe that will take some more years to happen! I start a song  by Reshma and you join in. Is that celebration enough?

Special days calls for nostalgia, memories and looking back. Should we look back or should we look ahead? It seems there is a lot to look forward to. A child growing up, good work being done, interesting people to meet, and places to go. So I think, we will look ahead. There will be a time when your hair will be silvery white and you will smoke a pipe, instead of cigarettes. You will buy that guitar and play the heck out of it. I will trek to Harishchandragad and come back to tell you about it.

When we started out, we were amateurs at love and togetherness. “Being there” was a phrase. But over the years, we have seen it become part of our lives, in the way that our mothers instinctively knew it would. So, we celebrate for them, for their happiness and contentment, which is of a very different kind. The kind which can look at a loved one’s  pleasure and wish it could be much more. The kind which is naïve to us, but in truth is brave and courageous.

The place we are at is not for the faint hearted. It is the middle of the road, when anything can happen. If one fears it enough, the bad stuff definitely will. But every special day is one which calms those fears and tells us, this is it . One more day done and well lived.

To the man who swears by white shirts and blue denims. Have a great day, always.

 

TEMPO

 

A mermaid falls in love with a fisherman. She meets him daily and offers him a  pearl from the sea. The villagers get wind of it and  trap her. The fisherman tries to help her, but she has been on the  land too long. When the fisherman takes her to the deep sea  to revive her, he drowns. The tide brings them in the next day, legs entangled, arms entwined in death.

This fable is narrated in the movie Tempo, by a jewellery shop  assistant to a man buying jewelry. It is not real, she made it up to sell a brooch, but it provides the base note for a movie about love, loss and greed.

Sara and Jack Iove each other. She just happens to be older and a courier for an underworld don, Maldonado. Jack had come to France to deliver a stolen  car, but stayed on. He hopes to open a restaurant in the country.

Sara takes on a new assignment apart from her work for Maldonado. He gets wind of it and messes things up. Sara loses the item to be delivered and all her goodwill with the new customer. She now has to come with the value of the lost artifacts.

In  the meantime,  Jack has met Jenny, a perky young shop assistant,who works in a jewellery store.  She is young and makes him feel in control.

Jack, Sara and Jenny get caught in a vicious triangle.The end of that triangle is the death of Jack and Sara. Jenny in  a  surprising twist reveals a dark side. Jack wants to help Sara out of the financial mess she is in. So, he suggests a heist in the jewelry shop where Jenny works.

Jenny finds out about the plan, and exchanges the real gems for paste replicas. Jack and Sara are killed when the client discovers the fraud.

The love story or stories are the backbone of  the backbone of the film. Jack loves Sara, but hates being the “boy “ in the relationship. Yet, he can’t resist the lure of her fragile beauty, and tries to rescue her. Their connection cannot be denied.

Jack and Jenny share a bad streak. They are both very young, nonchalant about lying  or deception. They both are looking for something true to make their lives  feel  right. With Jenny, Jack feels equal, not superior though. She has the benefit of being female.  Their relationship can be summed up in Jenny’s last words to Jack, “ It was all for nothing”.

Melanie Griffith is exceptional as Sara. A  soft voiced woman who  has no “shoulds” in her life. With a resigned acceptance of her death, she fits the bill as the mermaid of the fable. Hugh Dancy is convincing as Jack, the man torn between two lives.  Rachel Leigh Cook is very good as Jenny. Beguiling, feisty, with an edge to her innocence, she makes the triangle real, not trite.

Fables tell a story with a message or moral in it. They talk of the triumph of  good over  bad. In a world tinged by grey, this particular fable conveys that some things don’t change. Love survives best in an atmosphere of truth  and the way one lives one’s life, is  often reflected in one’s death.

 

 

 

 KILL BILL VOLUME 1.

 

 

 

The 36th chamber of Shaolin was one of the first martial arts  movies I saw. It depicted a monk fighting for revenge, and defeating his enemies.  Kill  Bill  volume 1, depicts a pregnant bride, left for dead on her wedding day. She rises to avenge the  deaths of her prospective husband and her unborn child and to kill Bill.

Quentin Taranrtino’s influences are the Chinese martial arts movies, the Japanese “manga “ style of anime, and the films of Sergio Leone . He takes  them all and creates a stylish, female oriented film. The use of music is very original and like his other films, it is unconventional. Here, music played by the Mariachis, is used as background score .

Uma Thurman plays the bride. She is numero uno amongst the killers in Bill’s stable. After  her attempted killing, she is comatose, and in a hospital. Four years later, she wakes up enraged and willing to wreck havoc. But first , she has to move her big toe…

Thus , begins her killing spree. The Bride kills Black Mamba( Vivica Fox), and Oren Iishii ( Lucy Liu). The killings are stylish, and filled with a sense of fatalism. The background  score is Spanish guitars, palmeros and has  the feel of a desert, while the scene may feature a snowy landscape. This kind of contrast make Kill Bill 1 a very avant garde martial arts movie. At the same time, it lacks the slightly camp nature that most movies of the genre have.

At the heart of Kill Bill are issues of innocence killed, lives mutilated and the feeling of revenge  which seems the only way to forget. The old saying“ he who lives by the sword, can never escape it” is a recurring motif.

There is no lead actor in the movie, another unique feature. All the characters are treated with a sense of history, and impartiality. They are in a particular story due to their circumstances, and their choices. That their choices have brought them into contact with the Bride is a matter of coincidence. But their actions when they  meet the Bride are deliberate, and premeditated.

Stereotypes are broken. The Bride  wants revenge for the death of her child, but ends up depriving a child of her mother. The lackeys, such as the Go Go girl, have a more charishmatic appearance than the main leads. Darryl Hannah, is a bad ass character, a major digression from her usual choice of roles. Her voice sounds tougher, whereas in her other roles she has a whisper soft voice.  The man behind it all, Bill, is never seen. That  there is a lot of unfinished business is clear. Yet, Kill Bill 1 by itself is a complete movie .

 

TALK  TO HER . 

 

 

  Hable Con Ella or Talk To Her  is a movie that describes men , women and the stage of a human relationship . Beginning with curiosity, continuing with empathy, blossoming into love, and reaching it’s destiny, either bliss or a feeling of being walled out.

“Talk to her” begins with  a  performance, where women  throw themselves against a wall. Futilely,  insistently, flinging themselves, against  a wall. Perhaps they want to be heard, perhaps they want to be talked to. Their plight brings tears to the eyes of two members of the audience. Benigno and Marco have two silent women in their lives.  Alicia is a dancer , who is in the intensive care unit where Benigno works as a nurse. She is comatose, after a car accident. Benigno loves her, and takes care of her. He talks to her, and considers her his soul mate.

Marco , on the other hand, finds it difficult to relate to his lover Lydia . A professional bullfighter, Lydia works in  a fiercely chauvinistic world  battling bulls.  Her innermost fears include snakes, and she cannot bear to face them, preferring to run away instead. Marco helps her during one of her fleeing sprees and stays on to see her gored into a coma.

Benigno has an understanding of women and empathises with people. He sees things simply, clearly. He loves, he takes care of others, he lives his life. Others don’t understand and try to fit him into niches. Marco  understands him. He is  perhaps the only friend Benigno has ever had. Marco senses Beningo’s depth of feeling for Alicia. He  knows that these feelings would be incomprehensible to others. Benigno’s love eventually wakes Alicia from her coma.

The movie is full of  allegorical  events. Memories are treated as rites of passage. How much they move one, is an indication of the place at which one is emotionally. The movie ends with a dance performance, where couples move onto the stage in a careful , economically choreographed dance.  Marco and Alicia watch it , not yet together , but just about to start talking.

Pedro Almodvar believes in communication, relationships which cannot be slotted and that the spirit of a man, is female. He shows life as a Latin male, fatalistic, yet strong willed, compassionate,  yet harsh.

 

     ALL  ABOUT MY MOTHER.

 

Translation often loses  the essence of the original. It compromises on meaning, feeling and  intention. A concern that most writers would have. In  the film, “All about my mother”, a budding writer expresses it. He wishes to translate his mother’s life  into a  play . But first, he has to learn her reality.

For Esteban, Manuela  is a good mother and an enigma. She is a nurse, works with  an organ donation unit in a hospital, loves Bette Davis movies and  knows the lines  to Stella’s role in  “A streetcar named Desire”. During a performance of the same play, Manuela promises  to tell Esteban about the other part of her life. Esteban  pursues the star of the play Huma Rojo( Marisa Paredes) and dies in a car accident.

Manuela  decides to return to Barcelona to meet the other half of Esteban’s life, his father. She meets an old friend, the streetwalker Agrado and  becomes a mother of sorts to Huma, Agrado and a pregnant social worker (Penelope Cruz). Esteban’s father , a transvetite named Lola, is missing and an in absentia parent for the second time, to the social worker’s unborn child.

Like art, life evolves over time. But the intentions remain the same. The emotions remain universal. Manuela reprises her role of Stella , with more anguish this time since the loss of a child is very real to her. She reprises her role of mother to children who she did not give birth to, but who gravitate towards her warmth and security. The definition of family is not that of lifegivers but, sustainers of life.

Agrado, like all good mothers, incorporates the best of both male and female species. Like all good mothers she is giving and unintentionally funny. Things don’t faze her, and life has made no dent in her sense of humour.  She is in a demanding profession, that of servicing other’s needs. And she is a professional, always willing to please.

Huma  Rojo, is the star who needs to be nurtured, like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire”. All the important moments in her life are either on stage or in the dressing room. She does seek stability in her off stage life, with her lover Pena. But, it eludes her. Pena treats her as callously as Kowalski. Pena deserts her eventually  for a child, while Huma can only play the part of a mother in Lorca’s play. She plays the mother  resentfully,  needing to be solid and stable for the part, whereas  she is a creature of smoke and whimsy.

The  movie ends with the other half of Esteban’s life coming to the fore. His father, Lola returns to cradle another Esteban  in his arms. Manuela  accepts him into her adopted son’s life. A story about a mother is incomplete without  the father.

“All about my mother”, a film by Pedro Almodvar is about unconditional love, involvement, and the phenomenon of motherhood.

     ALONE  AT THE MOVIES.

 

The first  movie I saw alone, was Mrs. Doubtfire. In a way, it was a rite of passage. Going to the movies till then, had been a family production. The entire family dressed to the nines, descended on the theatre.The movies were usually Hindi, and fell into the category of “ family entertainment”.

While I loved the whole “event “ feeling of such  movie viewing, I rarely remembered details. Probably due to the fact, that  there was a great deal of vocal participation from all of us. Comments were passed, dialogues were repeated and retorts were sent up in smart alecky fashion. Result, one returned from a movie, after having a ball, but with no memory of the screen action.

Many years later, I was in a movie theatre, watching or rather trying to watch a movie by Mani Ratnam, called Roja.  Failing  to do so, since I was trying to answer the questions of an earnest young man. It was one of those college experiences, where one daringly went for a movie, and called it a “date”, later. Obviously, the young man had come for a date, while I was there for a movie! Result, I returned to the same theatre a week later, and watched the movie with my mother, who thankfully is not a big talker.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was in a theatre , with a large group of people and one special man, who loved movies and me, in that order. He also loved his friends, which was the reason, that they were accompanying us to watch  Forrest Gump.  I realised, that I was committing two movie watching mistakes, at the same time. But what the hell, the man made it worth it. Watching him watch the movie, was a pleasure, I would not have denied myself!  Predictable result, I watched said movie later on TV by myself.

Cut  to a few  years down the line. I was at the movies again. This time with a troop of mothers and little ones, for the movie Lagaan. The kids were there for the popcorn and the women , for the illusion of being at the movies. An illusion that was shattered by the interval. Requests for snacks and drinks, riddled the air.  At every crucial moment in the movie, a plaintive cry had to be  dealt with at the toilets. By the end of the movie, which was almost three and a half hours long, the children were asleep and the mothers were ready to drop dead. I never watched Lagaan again, on TV or in a theatre. Too many memories, of the strangest kind there!

Of course, besides these milestones, there have been many movies that I watched solo. Gradually, as I settled into a life, which included other people and their needs, I found much needed succour at the movies, alone. For though there may be other pastimes  or entertainments that can take one’s mind off  reality, nothing else provided an escape route and so artistically. I marveled at the craziness of Baz Luhrmann, while watching Moulin Rouge, laughed and sighed along with Bridget Jones, and fell in love with the character of Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

I’ve read in the papers, that it is “au courant” for women to go to the movies alone. Reasons are cited, which made a lot of sense. Time, availability of companions , tight schedules, spontaneity. For me watching a movie alone makes sense, too. Except that my reasons are simpler. I just like it like that.

folktale for an urban world.

                                                       A  HORSE  WITH  NO  NAME.  

Once upon a time, in a city by the sea, there lived a horse with no name. Now this is not unusual, for there are many horses, pulling carriages or carrying little ones on joyrides. Besides the generic “ Raju”, they seem to have no other name. They are distinguished by the colour of their coat and mane or by the names and  personalities  of their owners.

The owner of this particular horse, was striking in appearance, as was the horse. The owner was an old, old man  who always wore a white linen pathan suit. He had a long beard of  fine white hair. The horse, was an ivory coloured animal with a  snowy white mane and tail. They both stood out, amidst the colours of the city, and never seemed to gather any dust or grime.

In a time, when speed is of the essence, and metal rules, the old man and his horse, stuck to their occupation of ferrying people in a carriage .These days only the very young ,the very in love or the nostalgic tourist wanted to explore quieter lanes, seated in a rickety carriage, which still had vestiges of beauty.

In the same city, lived a young prince. He was not born a prince. He was raised to be one. His parents  used to sell snacks and fast foods, out of a stall, next to an educational institution. The fact that  children will always be around and they will always need to eat, for sustenance, and for fun, led to their prosperity.  By the time  the prince was born, the stall had metamorphosed into a swank eatery by the sea, and his parents were king and queen of their own, not so little, empire. The little prince grew up to be a fine young man, possessing his parents’ native wisdom, and a touch of arrogance, which seems to be the consequence of great and it must be said, untoiled for, wealth.

The horse and his owner, meanwhile, toiled for every meal they had, often missing a few. They did not seem to resent their life. They were at their station, in front of the young prince’s  eatery, every day, from morning to night.

Their paths rarely crossed that of the prince. The Prince drove a sleek sports car thru the busiest parts of the city, not the bylanes. His wooing activities  took  place in a pub, or lounge bar, rather than in the worn seat of a horse carriage.  He may have seen the duo, but would not remember them.  If asked about the prince, the old man would have shrugged , he did not talk much.  The horse would have had a lot to say, but who ever talks to a horse?

Which was a pity, since, this horse could talk, and very fluently. It was a fact, that the old man  discovered, many years ago. His wife of twenty years  passed away. She had been a dear friend, and the old man’s tears  knew no bounds. Who would he talk to, now?

The answer came from the horse. He offered to talk to the old man. After recovering from his astonishment, and the feeling of having lost his mind, the old man accepted his speaking horse, much as a modern day Alladin would accept a magic lamp. With reservations, and the need for secrecy.

So they conversed in secret, and the horse’s insights, into human life, taught the old man much. He learnt of dignity, pain and the power of endurance. In a way, being with the horse, made him older than his years, but it also made him wiser.

Whenever the horse and the old man talked about the prince, they might comment on the new car, the old one having been discarded a month ago. The horse would definitely comment on the new love of the prince’s life, who would be faithfully traded in for another, after a decent interval. They might sigh over his arrogant  handling of the parking attendant. They observed him, not missing  a thing, with an air of detached understanding.

The prince was now in his twentieth year. He would embark upon his twenty first in a few days. There were many activities planned for the momentous occasion, by a number of people. A lot of whom were not his personal friends, but they felt he impacted their lives.

This was the reason, that on the day of his twenty first birthday, the prince found himself cutting four different cakes, and being fed loving morsels from each, at different junctures in the day. The staff in his restaurant, sang a loud and slightly off key birthday song. As if that wasn’t enough, his aunts and uncles, both maternal and paternal, swooped down, loaded with gifts and blessings and stayed till the sunset hours.

By the time the moon made it’s appearance, the prince was too tired to celebrate his birthday with his peers and pals. He was between young ladies,  so didn’t need  to focus his energies on a romantic candlelight dinner. He stepped out into the now deserted parking lot, and prepared to leave.

A few minutes out of the parking lot, the prince was distracted by a loud screech of rubber tyres. He turned to look, and missed seeing the carriage appearing round a corner.  The horse’s loud, indignant neigh brought his attention back to the road. He swerved, only slightly bumping into the carriage.  He watched helplessly, as the old man toppled out of his seat, onto the asphalt.

The prince hesitated for an instant, before he got out of his car. He was not old enough to be blasé about death and another’s pain. Besides, he had a memory of seeing an old man  and a white horse, in a vague corner of his mind.

So it was, that the prince, found himself bending over a barely  breathing, wizened old man, checking for a pulse and broken bones. All the while, the horse was nervously prancing around him, trying to nudge him out of the way. It seemed safe to carry the old man, to the car. The prince got up to fetch the car.

Only to see a couple of young men getting into it, and whizzing off, into the night. The prince let out an exasperated sigh. He was sure, he would get it back, it was the timing that was inconvenient for him. He turned back to the carriage and eyed the horse, skeptically. He then scanned the road for a taxi.

“ It’s not too difficult, you know”. The voice came from behind him. It was deep, well modulated , ageless and male. The prince executed a slow turnabout, but could not find a single human being, who might have produced that voice.

“Here, it’s me, speaking”. The prince happened to be facing the horse directly, and saw the long lips move, and the voice emerge. He rubbed his eyes. He  had thought that it was a bad idea to eat so much birthday cake. Now, it seemed, the sugar had gone to his head. He was hallucinating that the horse was speaking to him! He smiled and decided to walk to the end of the road to hail a taxi.

However, the horse seemed determined that he get into the carriage. He tagged along, clopping noisily. The prince ignored him at first, but halfway across the road, he turned and did the unthinkable, at least for him. He spoke to the horse.

“I can’t ride a carriage, now leave me alone!” The horse shook his mane and looked at him . “ Stay  with your master, I’ll be back.” Warily, the prince started  walking backwards, and promptly fell over a sleeping figure on the pavement.

The  fluent expletives that came forth from the now awake figure , would have done a sailor justice.  The prince apologized, profusely, but the man continued to belt out a litany of swear words and part of his life story. He was a worker in a laundry and worked long hours. He had to clear off once the early morning traffic started and couldn’t people be considerate of a tired soul?!

The prince was tempted to smother the man, but he did the next best thing. He pulled out a note of  high denomination. He pressed it into the man’s  hands, and told him earnestly, that he understood .This offering was not a bribe, of any sort, it was merely a donation. The laundry worker could  use it to improve his waking hours with a movie or a good meal, or his sleeping conditions with a bottle of hooch, or a mat.

Edging away from the man, who turned over and promptly started snoring, the prince bumped into the horse.  He turned to look at the horse, and said “ What?” The horse replied, “ I think you should admit, there is a first time for everything. You did well, it is the first time you have spoken to a laundry worker. So, why not try riding a carriage, for the first time?”

Mumbling under his breath, about horses who spoke too much, the prince clambered on to the carriage. They or rather the horse manouvered the carriage back to the old man. He was settled into the back seat, and the prince was ready to ride, in earnest.

He caught hold of the reins, too tightly. “That leather strap, runs below my tongue, young man! Be a bit gentle!”  The prince left the reins slack. “Oh come on, give me some direction, tell me which way you want me to go!” The prince finally got the pressures right and achieved a kind yet firm grip. Satisfied, the horse set off.

Towards a hospital, as it turned out. The prince looked up at the nondescript façade.  He had not  been to a government hospital. The horse stamped impatiently, and the prince got his cue. He climbed down and went into the building.

After waking up an orderly , a watchman, and a  night nurse, the prince had the ardous task of explaining what he wanted. He  wanted  a doctor, he wanted the old man  to be settled in, promptly.

The nurse was kind enough to explain how things worked. There were formalities, and they could only be taken care of the next day. At the best of times, prompt action was riddled with red tape. At  twelve o’clock in the night,  it was a laughable notion. The old man would be bedded down on the floor of the reception area. If he was still breathing come the morning, he would be treated.

It was matter of fact. The prince realized he was talking to a veteran, one who tried to do her job, inspite of the system. He respectfully offered her a few notes of high denomination. He assured her that it was merely an advance on the hospital bill and left.

The prince  began to enjoy the ride this time round. He had no pressing duty to fulfill. It was pleasant to feel a fresh breeze, rather than an air conditioned blast of air on his face. There were no gears, and no plush upholstery, and certainly no shock absorbers!  It was a novel experience. Not one that he would be tempted to repeat, in the harsh light of day.

“ You both have been doing this for a long time?” he asked the horse. The horse kept walking, as he replied “ Doing what?”

“ Riding a carriage, thru the rain  and sun, even if you are not well.” The horse  chuckled “ What a cheerful picture!” The prince was irritated. He did not like the feeling of being laughed at. He said, “You see a better one?” This time he allowed his cynicism to show. The horse halted, right in the middle of the road.

“ I have seen this city change. It used to be beautiful. Now, it is beginning to lose it’s character. But there are some examples of beauty left. A man and a woman get into my seat. For a few moments, they can enjoy each other. He can forget the insulting way his boss talked to him or how he longs to leave his job, and write poetry. She can forget the fact that she has to get up at five in the morning, and travel two hours to scrape a living. He buys her a string of flowers, and she feeds him peanuts. They have to go home, eventually. But the memories they create here are precious to them and to us.”

The prince shifted uneasily in the seat. This talk reminded him of the photographs he had seen of his parents, in a different time. On the beach, clutching their footwear, smiling and squinting into the camera. They seemed a far cry from the sophisticated couple he lived with. But, he could see them, sitting in a horse carriage, and stealing a few moments for themselves.

A car horn blared. One of those obnoxious sounding horns, which have people jumping out of the way. A group of young boys and girls out for a night on the town. Music blared out of the car windows. The horn sounded again.  Perversely, the prince took his time in manouvering the carriage out of the way. The horse caught on. They succeeded in thoroughly riling the group in the car. As the car went by, a pretty young girl leaned out of the window and called out “Loser!”. It was a nice voice, and one that the prince recognized. He began to laugh.

“ Was it that amusing?” The horse sounded curious. The prince laughed a bit more, before he said, “ I know that girl. We met a few days ago. At my restaurant. She did not call me a loser, then.” The horse laughed too. “That is the miraculous effect of riding a carriage. No matter how personable one is, one is looked at derisively. It is rare to find a person who really sees you, carriage or no carriage.”

Wise words. The prince thought of how he felt a vague discomfort in each of his relationships. There was always a false note . He pretended to be someone else, and so did the girl.  The pretense worked for a short while. One day, it ended and both parties walked away. Nothing lost, nothing gained.

“ What a heartfelt sigh! Could it be that you want someone to see you as you are?” The horse tried sounding earnest, but the prince could detect the cheeky undertones.
“ If I did, I wouldn’t  tell you! You’re worse than my Ulka  Aunty.  You would feel obliged to let the world know a secret.” “Ah, but the trouble is, that the world has no time to listen to a horse. Most people have no time to listen to other humans.” The horse ambled on, turning into a narrow lane.

It was a lovely lane, with silk cotton trees growing along the sides. The moon light seemed more silvery here. The houses were quaint, old world. The lane was a throw back to the fifties, and it was blocked at present, by a double decker bus.

The horse was annoyed. “ How can a bus enter here? Heavy vehicles are not allowed.”  The prince  smiled. He knew there are ways of dealing with the forbidden. Most people figured them out to survive, his family had figured them out to succeed. He said nothing to the horse. Getting down from the carriage, he approached the bus.

The driver of the bus was sitting at the bus stop, smoking a beedi. He nodded, when the prince greeted him. “Do you know when you can move the bus?” The prince asked . The driver savoured the next drag before he answered,

“ Ask the conductor.”The conductor was stepping down from the bus. He was muttering to himself. He walked up to the driver and held out his hand. The driver handed him the smoke. The prince waited out the drag. Then he asked, “ When can we move the bus ?” The conductor bristled , “We cannot move the bus. Not right now. Maybe by tomorrow afternoon. “

The sole occupant of the bus  climbed down. She was young, trendily dressed. She wore a tiny T-shirt, which proclaimed, “No battle, no victory”. She asked the conductor, “ Where can I get  a taxi?” The conductor shrugged. He and the driver walked away.

The prince  said, “ Hi!” cheerily.  She hadn’t expected that, and said hi back, smiling in a surprisingly sweet way . There was a hint of a vernacular accent in her voice. He wondered if she would lose it, as she grew older. His mother had. She now had an accent, which was a mix of  British and unidentifiable .It  slipped whenever  she was tired or in an emotional state.

The prince introduced himself. “ Why don’t you come with me? I have a carriage waiting ”. The  girl blinked, he had said the word carriage as smoothly as he might have said, “Mercedes”.  She had an unselfconscious way about her. Her gaze did not waver or appear coy. It was direct, and full of a drive, that the prince usually did not see in his female companions.

“Could you take me to the train station? I need to catch the last local, it leaves in about twenty minutes.” The prince looked at his watch. It was almost 1:20  am . He asked “ Sure I can. Won’t your parents be worried?” His parents had carefully monitored his schedule when he was younger. Even as a grown up, he was accustomed to checking in with them. “ I normally reach home by one thirty. Today, I called them  and told them about the delay. My employer had to attend a play, and I had  to accompany him. “ The prince was curious, but  she  had  stopped talking. He figured she wanted to leave, so he turned to the carriage.

“ Come on, “ he said. No answer, so he turned to look at the girl.  She was looking up at the silk cotton trees. The silk cotton pods had popped open. White, silky puffs attached to dark brown seeds floated away on a light breeze. The prince found himself watching the expression on the girl’s face. A few minutes, later, the spell was broken by the horse. He whickered.  The prince spoke to the girl softly, “ Shall we go?”  She smiled again, “ Yes”. They climbed onto the carriage. The driver’s seat was narrow, but wide. They sat side by side, silently, not willing to talk yet.

“Where do you live, Miss?” the horse asked. The girl looked at the prince in astonishment. He  nodded  reassuringly. She answered, “ I live on the other side of the city. It takes an hour and a half to reach there. Where do you live?” She was asking the horse, the prince realized. Making conversation with a horse who talked did not seem to faze her.  She and the horse exchanged plesantaries.

Listening to them, the prince went over his standard opening lines. They all seemed inadequate in this scenario. How could he catch her attention? Usually, his car, his restaurant provided enough to talk about. Today he was on his own, and felt a bit vulnerable.

“So, do you always  ride this carriage?” She was talking to him. She was looking at his expensive faux leather jacket and boots. He said lightly, “No, I took over from the owner just for tonight. He needed to rest. You should see him, a white Pathan suit, white hair and beard, very cool.” The girl nodded, “ You can’t buy style like that.” The prince found himself agreeing. The girl had a style, which was all her own. It had a lot to do with what she thought, what she felt. From the t-shirt, it seemed she felt strongly about things.

“Do you have to do that often?” When she looked at him enquiringly, he explained. “Attend plays, with your employer?” As soon as he finished, he was appalled. This was rude! First date behaviour was supposed to make the girl feel at ease, not have her hackles rising. His question could be misunderstood, and he wouldn’t blame her!

Thankfully, she did not misunderstand. She smiled enigmatically, “Actually, that is all I do, go out to watch movies, for plays, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. That’s my job“, she ended on a gentle but arch note. There was a slightly awkward silence. She spoke,“ My employer is an old gentleman, almost eighty. His children live abroad. They hired me to keep him company, to keep his mind alive.”  The prince  relaxed,“ Do you spend the whole day there?”

She did not. In fact, she spent her day in a whirl of activity. College in the morning, commerce graduate studies. Afternoons, manning the coke and popcorn counter at a multiplex, and late evenings spent with the old ex-industrialist.

“Doesn’t it get too stressful, at times?” The prince could not recall having asked a girl  that question. “I am doing things I love and learn from, why should I get stressed?” The girl looked at him. She seemed to be teasing him, so he said, a bit testily, “I’m sure, if you had the choice you would like to be on a date, in the evenings with a younger man!” She laughed at that,”Which young man would take me to an art gallery, or explain the artists’ signature styles? Or tell me about life as it was, fifty years ago?”  The prince smiled, “ Not me, though I would like to take you to a movie, sometime.”  The horse said, “Here we are.” They had reached the train station. It was almost one forty. The girl looked at him, in that direct way of hers. “I would like that, too.”

They walked into the station, together. The prince had insisted. They waited. One fifty, and still no train. The platform was deserted. The prince  decided to enquire . He went looking for information.

The information counter was closed. But an ice cream shop was open next to it. The man sitting behind the counter was balding, middle aged and reading a book, raptly. The prince went up to him and said, “ Excuse me, do you know anything about the train? “ The man looked up from the book “ How can I? I  sell ice-creams.” He resumed reading. The prince tried again, “You might have heard something?” The man put his book away, reluctantly, as if it were painful to stop reading. “I heard that the  train  stopped at the last station. It has not moved since twelve thirty”. The prince thanked the man, and asked, “Why haven’t you gone home? Who would want an ice-cream at two am?” The man looked at him, long suffering, “ You wanted a train at ten minutes to two, right? Someone might want an ice cream.”

The prince responded to the hopeful note in the man’s voice, and purchased two ice creams. He chose vanilla. He walked to the bench, where the girl was sitting. He offered her an ice cream . She was delighted. The prince said, “ I hope you don’t mind vanilla, I didn’t know what you like.” She  stood up ice cream in hand, “ I like vanilla, it’s always a nice flavour to return to.”  They walked out to the horse, who complained loudly, about his neck, and the harness. The carriage was unhitched and the horse was offered half of the girl’s ice cream. The prince and the girl took the horse to the beach, where they sat down and watched for the sunrise.

The mundane must have been dealt with, for the girl’s parents slept soundly, though their daughter did not return home that night. The prince and the girl must have found a lot to talk about, for they stayed awake. The horse slept, though.  The sleep of the brave, or that of one who had accomplished his mission.

The next morning saw the old man and the horse at their station, as usual. Some things have changed. The prince stops by and talks to them, though he still does not know the horse’s name. He has not given up his sports cars, or his restaurant. But he has taken to meeting the girl, whenever their busy schedules allow it. He thinks of her, when he sees something touching, or sad, or wonderful. They often go for a ride in the carriage  after a late night movie.                                                                                                The horse would like to call it love, but the old man knows better. He says, it’s a friendship that will last forever. Maybe, both are right. Love is like a horse with no name, distinguished by the thoughts and feelings of those who accept  it as their own.

   The Babe.

                                            

 

 He calls her “babe”. Within five minutes of meeting her, everyone thinks the  same. She is older than him, her beauty is not perfect but is touched by life and  experience. She has a quality of warmth that comes thru in her smile, her gaze.   A quality that is difficult to define.

A babe is a woman who uses everything that happens to her in life, to  her advantage. She is not self destructive or self pitying.

She has never held a job in her life. Yet when her husband has a stroke, she sets up a tiffin service. She has a strong client base, all the young bachelors, working women, families where both  parents work. The older folk get a special subsidy on their food . She takes care that all their maladies or chronic ailments are taken into account by the menu.

The travails and problems that a babe experiences, don’t make her bitter, hard or unyielding. They make her self reliant, brave and resilient.

Her sorrows teach her empathy, so she can understand the tears of another, and her happy moments are always cherished as perfect.

Her son is going away to a boarding school. She does not want to send him, but that is the only way things will work out after the divorce. She cries, but carries on, getting up each day, and working. She keeps the broken relationship aside, and builds a bridge with her ex husband. One that has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with their son.

Babes deal with everything, right from heartbreak, to a child growing up, to bereavement, to financial loss to debilitating illness with grace and courage. They know that this life will teach each one of us lessons, it is upto each individual to learn them well.

Her portfolio is varied. She has created brochures for corporates, movie posters for publicity houses, jacket covers for music albums, logos for companies and stationary for individual clients. Her work reflects the spirit of the client and is something they would be proud to call their own.  Her kitchen is spotless, not because she personally cleans it, but because her maid has a cleaning schedule explained to her.  And even though  she has an early morning appointment, she stays up late to talk to her husband. Just like that…

A  babe multitasks, and does not make a song and dance about it. She takes love as a gift to be shared, adversity as a challenge.  No matter how old a babe is or how far gone up the hill, she shines, as someone unique and everyone is attracted to her.

How many babes do I know? Many, and I am glad I am still counting!