The drive

It was past 10 p.m. But it seemed like the city was not planning to sleep any time soon. Not in the too-high-to-rest kind of way, but more like suffering from an ailment. Continuous downpour had turned it blue in the face.


(Sourced from Industrytap.com)

I had covered less than three kilometers in the past three hours. My feet had turned sore, and so had my mind. I looked outside and it seemed like the road had been relaid — an uneven sheet of trucks, cars and motorbikes. If a neat layer of tar was placed above, it would make a nice sandwich with traffic jam oozing out from between.

I was bored. The speakers yelled How deep is your love by Calvin Harris & Disciples. I tried to recollect the scenes. I only remembered a blonde walking towards a disco club in a trance, and then there was a lot of blue. Diving and dolphins.

It began to pour hard, as if it was competing with its last performance. The drops looked stretched. Not the cute transparent blobs that you show your naked face to. These were needle-like. I laughed a little seeing my wiper go mad. It was moving left and right, as if disturbed by an annoying bee.

The traffic moved an inch. I tried seeing what the rest of them were doing inside the comfort of their warm cars. For some reason, every single car had just the driver; mine too. We were monumental contributors to the jam – each person taking triple the space on the road.

Anyway, the inches slowly spread into kilometers. Think evolution. That slow.

The traffic began to melt after what seemed like light years. I found myself alone on an interior road, with water bubbling its way inside the doors. The streetlights were off. I could see a spot of light getting fainter at a distance. A headlight of a motor vehicle! I realised I was murmuring stuff. I was praying. Praying hard. My car waded its way through the brown thick water. A branch bobbed on one side of the road, and a few plastic covers floated on the other. I felt like that boatman who came back to find those alive among the litter of dead bodies after the Titanic wrecked. Except I did not have a whistle to blow, and the idea of honking when in water somehow seemed scary. Like the water will roar back or something.

I increased the speaker volume. I was not listening, I was blocking the silence with some noise. The horror continued till I spotted a familiar gate — my home. I got down into calf-deep water, and opened the gate to park my car. Just when I was closing, a nervous passer-by from the opposite side, tugging his bike along, asked with his brows furrowing a little, “Is it bad down there?”

“A little,” I replied shakily, quickly turning to the stairs, shifting my thoughts to my warm cosy bed.






Finding Frida

Has it ever happened to you — the things that you just read about pop up more often than before you were aware of it? I experienced it the whole of last week. Frida Kahlo dived in and out of my days like a playful dolphin on a smooth bed of water.

See that rose bunch?

See that rose bunch?

I googled all about Frida when I came across a range of clothing inspired by her artworks, as part of an exhibition and sale in Chennai, and more recently, in a painting titled ‘Imagine Frida’ by contemporary artist Gayatri Gamuz at ArtWorld, Chennai. Apparently, the Mexican artist drew mostly self-portraits. See her works, and you will find a poker face with monobrows and a bunch of roses gathered right at the top of her head, like a well-arranged vase. As it turns out, the artist, who passed away a long time ago (in 1954) liked painting herself simply because “she knew herself the best.” Fair enough.

As far as the Frida-inspired clothes are concerned, they had large red roses spread across cute knee-length cotton dresses and kurtis. They looked much better in the canvas, hugging a thick black hair bun. More recently, a friend posted a status about seeing many women in Frida Kahlo look this Halloween (TV Presenter and model Kelly Brook was dressed so). Quite an easy look to emulate – smudge some kohl between your brows and a little rouge on your cheeks, pin a bouquet on your head and slip into a long colourful skirt. And you be the new Frida!

Just when I had finished stalking the Instagram pictures of the Frida-lookalikes, I struck another gold. Heard Museum in Arizona (US) is all set to exhibit over 200 vintage photographs of Frida, who was the wife of the popular Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

From frames to fabrics

“My artworks always spill outside the boundaries. They cannot be restricted within dainty frames,” says artist and designer Lakshmi Srinath with a laugh, pointing at a large wooden piece of work that hangs on the wall of her studio, Tvam, in Chennai. A black multi-headed serpent stares out of it at the visitors; there is a dab of turmeric smudged on it, and a dot of vermillion right on its forehead. Just beneath it is a small stretch of zebra crossing. She tells us that the wooden work titled Faith Immovable was inspired by a casual sight on a roadside — of a man worshipping a stone beneath a tree.

Just as we finish drinking in the painting, it’s hard not to notice the striking similarity of the painting and the black Kancheevaram silk saree that Lakshmi has draped. The pallu is alternate black and white, with a huge red dot weaved on its centre; a thick golden yellow line runs across the bottom of the drape.

For Lakshmi, art doesn’t just spill outside boundaries, it spills across mediums too.

“I translate the same artworks I do on wood, to fabrics (Kancheevaram silk, Chanderi and Tie and Dye) and to pieces of jewellery,” she says. Her works revolve around the theme of Sakthi. Red dot or Bindu, which symbolises a pool of energy from which everything originates, Sutra or long thread that symbolises continuity of life, and inverted triangle or yoni, an iconographic symbol of creation, are recurring elements across her collection. When it comes to colours, it is a creative play of yellow (denotes turmeric), red (vermillion) and white (ash). “I grew up in a conventional family, but the rituals and traditions that I have depicted through my works have nothing religious about them,” she says.

Instead, they convey the powerful emotion of faith. She sees millionnaires bow their heads before a piece of stone on the road side before wheeling away in their Mercedes, or a group worshipping an extended branch of a tree as lord Ganesha — and these take form in her works. “When I go to temples, I don’t see a Krishna with a flute, Siva or Vishnu, I see a stone that has been consecrated for years and years; a stone with reflects back all the positive energy which millions of people have infused in it. Just the sight of that black stone with a smear of sandalwood and a dot of red… I find that terribly powerful,” she adds.

Besides fabrics and wooden frames, the studio houses neat glass showcases filled with neckpieces and earrings made with small wooden pieces, frames of silver dipped in gold, lava beads, fired clay moulds, green turquoise, mother of pearl, agate and so on. A few are hung on the nails drilled into frames of painted wood. “It’s a complete package; those who want to buy the jewellery, get the wooden artwork on which it is hung,” she says.

But isn’t it tough — juggling three mediums? we ask. Challenges are aplenty. For example, in fabrics, the warp and wefts may not necessarily produce the same effect that you can produce with a heavy dip of paint, she explains. “But, it is all an extension of art. I don’t treat them (painting and designing) as separate,” she says.

Lakshmi is an art student, and has been painting ever since she was a kid. She graduated in Fine Arts, but soon got married and took a hiatus from the art world. However, she did start a children’s boutique in the early 1980s, and slowly ventured into designing for adults.

“That’s when I happened to meet artist A V Ilango, and he motivated me to get back into painting seriously,” she says, taking a moment to recall the exact year, “It was in 1995. Has it been 20 years?” she adds with a tinge of surprise. She showcased her works in London, France, Singapore, besides in India ever since.

She also started Tvam Art and Design Studio with her daughter Krithika Srinivasan in 2011. Meanwhile, a director with The Hindu, she got busy managing the events at the office, and art took a backseat. “But I was itching to paint, and somehow, I started making jewellery. I found that it was giving me some sort of expression to my art,” she says.

An edited version of the same appeared in The Hindu Bangalore edition of October 16. Here is the link http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/drape-an-artwork/article7762614.ece


It wasn’t a dream

Life is complicated. Generally. But it wasn’t then. We were under the stars, open shower, disco lightening and heavy rock inside our heads. Three drinks down, the rain drops seemed like one big blob hanging down heavily from the sky. Why can’t we just shoot up to the skies and remain there? Who wants to be on the earth anyway? I remember thinking then, trying to balance myself on my wobbly legs. My friends were at a distance. So insignificant. So earthly.


I wanted to distance away from them. The spirit in my belly nudged the spirit in me, and I climbed the last narrow rung to the water tank. There I was, so close to the sky, so far from the earth, so far from my family, so far from the insignificant others. Life was good, life was normal. I remember feeling the hardness of my phone in my pocket. For a second I remembered by girlfriend. But she was far away. Was she insignificant too? 

The drops pelted harder and I felt lighter. Like a baby in a crib. What will my mother be doing now? What about my sister? Does she have a boyfriend? Suddenly, like a defunct radio, my brain switched to Rod Stewart’s Love is. He was singing in front of a shop that sold bananas. So funny. I remember laughing loud. I wanted to slap someone on the shoulder and laugh. I wanted someone to see me laugh, see me so happy and carefree. “You bastards…!” I remember shouting. No one turned, the rain stole my voice. Funny thing, the rain is. 

That was the last I laughed like that for months to follow.


Now, the stars have been replaced by fat blinding bulbs, the dark sky has been covered by curd white sheets. The drops have stopped drumming, instead, there is a tensed mix of whispers and rhythmic beeps. My neck feels heavy, and limbs rusty. I can’t laugh, I am trying. I am sleeping.

The sheet of rain was to blame. I did not see the contours of the tank. I slid slowly to the edge, slapping my thighs, laughing, shouting at the boys, laughing again.

I can feel warm fingers on my cheek, what I can’t feel is my front tooth. My head is a ball of iron. I see a man in white coat and stethoscope.

I am in a hospital.

From the corner of my eye I can see familiar faces. That same red shirt. It looked darker last night. Now, it is a bright shade of yellow. What made him buy that? I drift again.

I hadn’t been hit that hard and that fast ever. ‘Thud’ now had a clear definition in my head. I landed on the sunshade on my side, and rolled down like a pebble on to another.

Thud! again. My muscles wailed. Only I could hear them. The sky was suddenly getting farther, the ground closer. At a dizzying speed that too. Thud!. This time I hung on. My right palm bore my weight and fear.

Skin on cement. Scrapes and scratches. It was time for the final fall. 

This can’t be. I have an MBA paper to write next week. And that mail. What will my manager say? Wait, I haven’t called my girl friend. She will be worried. SIT UP! I can’t. I am frozen inside an ice cube. It’s not that cold though.

It’s comfortably warm. Peaceful, and warm.

My nose was inches away from the very wet ground. I could smell the cement and blood. Slowly, pain shot through my nape, along my collarbones and down my shoulders. Tiny sharp arrows released from a bow.

I wanted to shout, but I also wanted to lay there for as long as possible. Be one with the cement. Could the earth just split a little and take me in?

I see tears. I smell family. I see my mother with pink nose and puffy eyes. She sees me, and her brows cringe, eyes fill, and a kerchief covers her mouth. My sister stands beside her, with pink nose and puffy eyes. It’s awkward. Dad’s nose is not pink thankfully, but he has a vein popping out on his forehead.

The dream will soon be over.

But I had already fallen, and not woken up. I was scooped up by a set of hands. Not strong enough to carry my frame. I felt like a slice of butter melting out of their hands. Stretcher was a blessing, a cushion of clouds.

Had I finally reached the sky?

(The story is a work of fiction and includes no autobiographical elements. Fortunately, none)

Love in the time of friendship

Ten Years On by Alice Peterson is a love story involving three friends — Joe, who is forced to pursue medicine by his folks, Olly, an average musician and a wannabe writer and Rebecca, an artist who dreams of making it big one day. Olly and Rebecca are a couple, and everything is hunky dory until Joe enters their lives with his handsome looks and striking personality. The three bond well, until Cupid looses focus and strikes arrows on wrong targets, and Joe quits college and leaves town without any notice.

Why does Joe leave? — the author tries building mystery with this, but really, it is no rocket science. A love triangle is not hard to decode. What keeps the pages turning is the back and forth narration that Alice adopts throughout. After Olly dies (no spoiler; the book begins with Olly’s funeral) Rebecca, unable to cope with the tragedy and the anxiety of bearing Olly’s kid without him to support her, heads to her hometown in Winchester.

Here, Alice gives a generous peek into Rebecca’s childhood, her baggage of disappointment about always being the second priority after her sister, an ace Tennis player, for her parents. But soon, we read about a very pregnant Rebecca assisting Joe in his work. Then, it’s back to her halcyon days with Olly in Bristol, before the pages turn to a tensed Rebecca talking to the spirit of Olly, asking him to come back to her (yes, Olly’s spirit keeps talking to her inside her head).

The parts about the carefree hostel life the three share, works the best for me. There are references to songs like Bob Dylan’s Make you feel my love, George Michael’s Wake me up before you go and Supergrass. A whole chapter is dedicated to an eighties night party where Rebecca dresses as Madonna in blond wig, tight black jeans and lace corset and Joe as George Michael, in a leather jacket and ripped jeans. Among their friends are those sporting looks of Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Blondie and Boy George.

It’s a breezy read. While what Rebecca goes through is quite tragic, it doesn’t pull down your spirit, or have you all tensed about her future without Olly. The narration struggles to keep pace with the reader, who can more or less predict the next scene.

That Which Cannot be Spoken

That electric tension. It intensified as she walked towards him. The feeling was raw and fresh. Like the biting cold of the first snow of the season. It pierced in as he stood with a gaze that he kept casual – an effort that used up his last of muscles.

She walked towards him. He looked at her. Inside her head she could hear the thud of heavy prison gates closing, and inside his, he saw himself getting swallowed into the eye of a very violent storm.

‘Hello,’ he said, blood rushing to his lips, forehead and tip of nose. ‘Hey,’ she replied, her lips quivering a little, and feet picking up pace faster than normal. Am imaginary thread wove them like two pieces of fabrics. The needle pulled one to the other, but in vain, thanks to the scouring eyes in the room.


A lazy-afternoon sketch

The last night’s conversations brewed and surfaced. It stayed over their heads like a gigantic cloud. Prick it with the smallest of pins and a million desires, feverish needs and unanswered questions would rain. No one dared to. The cloud remained, getting thicker and thicker with every gaze, voice and proximity.

He stole glances at her, from the narrow gap between two computers; never missed to look at her face as she passed by him; drank in her confusion and doubt as she spoke to her friends. He fantasised her in the well lit 10-people strong room on a Monday afternoon. Look or die. It came to that. He went inside a small dark room with transparent door, directed the seat aiming a full view of her, and continued watching, oblivious to the work stacking up on his table.

She smiled, more cautious than usual, stretched her neck longer than usual, popped her eyes out to suggest surprise, more than usual. She knew he was watching, and she was ready to play the game of Seek and Find. She saw him watching her from the dark room and felt a hundred spiders running up her legs. She saw him getting up from the chair and beginning to open the door.

The timing was perfect. He opened the door and walked in straight to her. There was a small halt. He took a generous look at her flushed face. She looked at him, put up a preoccupied face, and walked past him to her colleague.

The next day, the same continued. And the day after. And the one after that.

Why I wouldn’t go to Ega Theatre Again

It was 30 minutes past the movie had begun, when a usher shone the torch on our face. ‘G-19 and G-20, veliye vanga (come out)!) My friend and I were in the extreme corner, and couldn’t at first gauge what was up. Those in our row shifted in their seats, reassuring that they were not the ones pointed out. A few seconds later, even as the movie was going on, the usher shouted, ‘Madam, seekram vanga (come out fast)’. At this point, like a well-choreographed dance move, all heads bent to see who were the two culprits. The guy next to me whispered in a tensed tone, “They are calling you. There is some issue.”

Sure there was, just that none of us knew what it was.


My friend and I walked to the exit, where a young man asked us to show our online tickets downstairs, get the converted tickets and come back. “But we showed them the printout of our e-tickets, they accepted it and gave us these two, before entering,” said my friend, showing him two pink slips of paper. We could have as well showed him a chocolate wrapper, for he continued asking us to go downstairs and get the tickets. He reminded me of those auto-wallahs who refuse anything below an insane amount of Rs 100 for a three-km ride, with that very annoying negative nod.

We went downstairs, showed them the e-tickets on our mobiles, and got the ‘real’ ones. ‘So who is the manager here?’ my friend asked, after explaining to him what happened back inside. The reaction was instant. The guy at the ticket counter threw back a question at us. “How can they ask you to come in the middle of the movie for a ticket?” he asked, wearing a mask of concern. Soon there was a cluster of staffers, all eager to throw a rag on the fire.

They followed us like paparazzi until we reached the entrance of the screen. We showed them the usher who asked us to get the tickets, the usher got into an argument with us saying he did the right thing, and we asked him to at least Shut Up if he didn’t know to apologise. All this while, the cluster of men stood like witnesses to a road accident. Not a bit useful.

As we made our way to our seats, probably it was just my imagination, but I could see that you-guys-are-freeloaders?-kinda-look on faces. It wasn’t pretty, though the movie was.