Day 5: Tempest and Tranquillity

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“Sometimes I feel like my life is someone else’s dream”~ ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, Kate Tempest.

Last time, I told you about Nabokov, the man who squeezed the bottom of my lungs and forced a gasp out of my throat. This time, let me tell you about hypnotism.

It’s not of the slow you are getting sleeeeepy pendulum kind. I wasn’t sleepy. I was awake, alive, and frozen.

When Kate Tempest said Imagine, I did; when she said Jemma and Ester and Pete and Zoe, I saw them come closer and closer and melt into my limbs. I’ve no doubt that if she’d said we stand here and grow roots, I’d have stood up, grown roots, and become an amaltash tree.

Kate, do you realise that you gave us no choice?

I sat there, breathing only when I heard her breathe into the mike. That was the only chance I had to catch my breath, as she piloted us, brakeless, weightless, into a journey from which we all came back more than a little ragged. A little broken in the best possible way.

I come away from this year’s Jaipur Lit Fest with books, few photos, and other things more important- Lila Zanganeh’s happiness, Kate Tempest’s chaotic brilliance, Sholeh Wolpé’s sweetness, Rosalyn D’Mello’s courage, among others. I leave with more goals, a desire to build and grow, to engage in passion more. I leave with the idea of working at writing, of getting better by working harder and every day. A lesson at once simple and confusing.

I leave with a knowledge of living with people I don’t know, in an unfamiliar family scene. I came expecting a hotel, and when I found a family home, I was shaken and a little afraid. But somewhere in between my first makki ki roti and preparing the child for an upcoming test, I found comfort, and a space that I could, for five wonderful days, call my own.

I leave hoping to come back some day. Hopefully, soon.

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Lunchtime Rhapsody

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I smell it before I enter the room. Heck, I smell it before I leave my room. Truth is, I left my room because I smelt it.

We’re rice eaters most of the time, our sort of traditional South Indian Tamil Brahmin (this is where a select few of my friends scream ‘pseudo!!’), and I’ve been reared on rice. God, that makes me sound like livestock, but whatever.

My sight fixes on the fluffy white rice in the cooker, while my olfactory senses are preoccupied with the tangy smell of imli (tamarind) rising from a bowl whose lid is askew. So very deliberate, mom. You know I’m not going to come late with that smell soaking the air in the house. The vathakozhambu (think of it as a thick, spicy gravy with vegetables that we mix with rice) that my mother makes is, quite simply, the stuff of dreams. 

Another smell catches my attention and I lift the cover of the adjacent bowl. Baingan ka bhartha (smoked eggplant). If I wasn’t before, I must be drooling now. There are jackfruit chips too! I saw them! And the curd- thick and creamy and cold, like the true curd only North Indians can understand (even if I normally think of them as cuisine-challenged weirdos, I will always choose their curd over our Southern, very runny version). And my mother, who has lived in North India for fourteen years (and counting), understands both our food and their curd: a deadly combination which will probably result in my becoming unsexily fat, and disturbingly uncaring of the fact.

Hastily, I pile my plate with food, only shouting for my big, hungry brother to come for lunch after I’ve taken all I want. 

I wipe my chin, fully aware of the small grin on mama’s face. Oh god, I really am drooling. 

And with good reason too.