Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Grandmother

She held out her hand and asked for the cigarette I had just lit.

"So you mean to say," she took a long drag, "sex is always between the ears?"

"Very much. At least in my case," I replied.

She was about to tap the ash on the floor when I pointed to the ashtray next to me. She leaned sideways to reach the ashtray, in the process placing a warm pair of breasts on my thighs. The shampoo was unmistakably Clinic Plus.

"Why? What is so special about you?" she asked, taking another long drag with her eyes shut. I badly wanted my cigarette back, but she showed no signs of returning it anytime soon.

"It's not just about me. It's about any thinking man. If sex was to be just between the legs, then what's the difference me and, say, a truck driver who has been on the road for two weeks and for who any woman would do?"

"Ah ha, I see," she took another long drag and reached for the ashtray. I swiftly prepared my thighs for the weight of softness. "But the truck driver is also a human being. Maybe a more honest human being."

"But sex is not just about screwing anyone in sight. It's got to be meaningful. It is more about meeting of minds..."

"Oh, fuck the mind!"

"Why? It's all about the mind. Otherwise what's the difference between us and animals, or us and the truck driver?"

"Oh please, what is this truck driver business!" her irritation made her take even a longer drag. My cigarette was almost down to the filter.

"Well, I was just giving you an example, to distinguish between hardcore sex and sensitive lovemaking," I said.

"I'll tell you what," she took the final drag and reached for the ashtray again, this time to stub out the cigarette. "Sex can also be very good when it's just between the legs. At times that's all what one wants." She got up.

"Wait, where are you off to?"

"I think I told you, my grandmother doesn't like me to stay out too often."

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Middle Path And A Book Launch

Responsibility is the biggest enemy of a writer. It is like a strict parent who makes you sit at home to study even though you would like to go out and play, no matter how hot the sun or how chilling the cold.

For example, this very moment, I would like to shift base to Calcutta for an indefinite period of time and return to good, old Chennai (or maybe not return at all) only after I have sent in the manuscript for the Calcutta book. And after that, take off, without any worries, for the next project which would involve a great deal of travel in the northern half of India. The idea is to give 100 percent to what you are doing without having to worry about the next meal or paying the bills.

But then, a vast majority of us are born only to pay the bills. We study hard, we acquire degrees, we take up jobs, we slog to get promotions -- all to pay the bills. Since we have to pay the bills, we need the job; and since we need the job, we can't take off from work as and when we want to. How can you write when you are chained to the responsibility of paying the bills?

Life can be so much easier if you have a rich father who foots your bills. Imagine having a father who tells you: "Son, why have I accumulated all this money? It belongs to you. Go ahead, pursue your dreams." There is, however, another way of breaking the shackles of responsibility: acquiring courage.

Many of the writers literature worships today -- George Orwell, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, to name a few -- braved penury in order to be able to write. Graham Greene, for example, quit a secure job as a sub-editor of The Times to write novels that no publisher would accept (it was only his third novel that was published first), while the perennially poverty-stricken George Orwell died just when fame and money was finally about to kiss his feet.

I neither have a rich father nor the courage to brave difficult times without a steady job. And yet I dream to be a writer. Well, why not. I have learned, over the last few years, to traverse the middle path -- one eye on the books I want to write and another on the job that I want to do well so that it pays me enough to sustain my writing and my lifestyle.

Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began is a milestone on that middle path. It's a book I am rather proud of. It's being launched formally, in Chennai, on May 15, Tuesday, at Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, TTK Road. Those who read and love Ganga Mail, please be there.