Sunday, April 26, 2009

Change room

The pair of them walk into the men's change room. The father looks about 33-35 years old and the daughter looks about six. They step into the change room dripping after their swim. The father helps his daughter out of her wet suits and wraps a towel around her. He then takes out another towel and strips off and starts wiping himself clean. He stands there wiping himself in front of his daughter who looks around nonchalantly. She is completely oblivious to her father standing nude in front of her. Another man walks in- he looks to be in his late-twenties. She allows her gaze to follow the new-comer who walks upto a bench, places his bag and strips down. She looks at his naked back with a smile- she continues to stare at his crack and lets out a little giggle only in time to look around to see if anyone noticed it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Glimpses and glances

Its the sudden fatigue that he notices first- there was no sign of it as he was flying down the hill but as he looks to traverse this 500m incline, he begins to slow down half-way. He slows down and starts walking after a while- he keeps telling himself that he just wants a glimpse. Its been so long since he visited, there was a time when he would go at least once a week. He walks by the rows of seedy stores and reaches a row of apartments and wonders if he is lost and just as he is thinking that, he sees it. The expanding blue fogged up in the distance. He involuntarily breaks into a smile. He can walk quicker now. He finds a spot next to a rock on the beach and looks at the surfers on their boards in the water riding the waves and wonders about why we want to conquer everything we come across- waves, the space, the people. He digs in the sand distracted only to find a 20cent coin. His fingers twirl the coin as he walks absent-mindedly away from the water.

The boy steps into the bus- he is about 5 foot 4 inches. His face is pockmarked with pimples that are typical of his age. A virgin moustache completes his adolescent look. The middle-aged couple sitting in front of the bus stare at his skull-cap. Its an appraising stare that seems to indicate their disapproval with his expression of faith. The boy looks around casually at the back of the bus only to drag his eyes towards the middle where four teenage girls sit. There is a casual locking of glances with one of the girls and he looks back in the front. Suddenly his phone rings and the ring-tone sounds like a group of protesters- the girls break out in giggles and he stiffens up knowing he has their attention. The couple stare at the scene with a bemused expression imagining their good-old days.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reminiscing and strumming

They are so glad he came to visit- it took him 14 hours to get there to see them and he lies in bed exhausted. He wakes up to a warm heated floor with the tea boiling away and breakfast laid out. He tucks in with gusto while discussing everything from the diving share markets to news from back home. They look the same from what he remembers from last time- he has the same protruding stomach, sunken eyes and a hope of what lies ahead. Its good to eat home-cooked food again and be the kid again. They decide to go out for dinner and he watches his uncle pull out the car to clean it. As he starts to clean the car, his uncle starts talking about the life he built in a country town, about leaving his country and the road ahead. After a while it seems like his uncle stops talking to him and is actually carrying on a conversation with himself. He seems to be convincing himself of the decisions taken and of the sacrifices made. He suddenly stops and looks at the line of same-looking houses around him and carries on.

He has got a song on his head- it’s the one where the hat-clad male singer is on a jaunt and lazily strums away while the rest of the world swims by in a lazy stupor. He looks at the video and smiles to himself while peeling away at the mandarin. He gets his running gear and steps out into a sunny spring morning- he passes by the Saturday markets and backtracks suddenly to find an exhibition of photographs. He tells himself he will come and take a look at it after his run. He walks by the Army base and peers inside curiously to look at the sign Safe Base Bravo and wonders about the kind of life the defence personnel lead. No one in his family has ever served and he has always been curious about what it would be like. He walks by the liquor shop called “Lick-her” and shakes his head only to come across another store called “Shag” with an assortment of bawdy clothing. Wonders about the connection and finds none. The song is still in his head and he smiles and looks up to find a man dressed in a hat walking in the opposite direction who reaches out, pats him and walk by.

Update: Just found the song playing in my head- here it is

Sunday, May 25, 2008

21 kms- 131 minutes

Its a cold morning. He can hear the howling of the wind through the bathroom windows. He stands looking at himself in the mirror and notices the first wisps of white in his mop of hair. He grins toothily and completes his ablutions. He puts on his singlet and tapes his number to his singlet. Suddenly he realises that it might be hard to put the timing chip on his shoelaces. He struggles with it a bit before managing to fix it to his shoe. He puts on his hooded sweatshirt and heads out. Its dark and yet there is a sharpness in the air that instantly wakes him up. Its like a blast of cold water. The bus-ride to the starting point is uneventful. By 7:15am, there are about 6000 runners lined up. He looks around to see people of different shapes, sizes and fitness levels and realises how unprepared he is. He hopes he doesn't injure himself over the 21.1 km distance and can complete the race.

7:30 am and the race kicks off. He knows he is running faster than he should be and yet the momentum of the runners carries him for the first 10 kms which he completes in 58 minutes. He passes by the Harbour bridge and looks at the Sydney Theatre Company and momentarily thinks of a past life. The sun is just coming up over the Sydney harbour and he knows that the first lap will be the easy one. Lap one done he walks for a couple of minutes before kicking into the next 10kms. Its at the 15km mark that the first twinge sets in. His knees have never known this kind of distance. He asks himself why 7000 completely sane people decide to get up on a cold Sunday morning and decide to run 21 kms. Its the last 3 kms and he is struggling and suddenly its the last stretch. Its amazing what cheering people on the sidelines of the road do to a sore knee and ankles. He sprints towards the end and finishes in 131 minutes.

He stands there in pain and exhaustion- slightly disappointed that he did not achieve the time he had hoped for and yet ecstatic that he had stepped up a notch in his attempt at long-distance running. His legs are screaming and his thighs are chaffed and yet he runs his fingers along the medal feeling lighter and happier. He realises the answer to his question of why 7000 people would want to do this- fighting an opponent is easy as is done in other sports however running has probably more fighting oneself than any other sport. Its that battle that he wants to win and today- he did!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What a day!

The elderly gentleman is about 70 years old. He is dressed in a white T-shirt and white shorts with a white hat. A pair of glasses complete the picture for Mr. A. He lumbers around on the tennis court as he plays Mixed doubles with his daughter. The game over they walk out having been trounced 6-0 by the opposite side. He is not expecting too much and is out to have an outing on a beautiful sunny day. He looks onto the courts and sighs looking at some of the younger players hitting winners and coming up with some brilliant volleys. He has the next game with the latest youngster on the team. They introduce themselves to each other- their backgrounds are vastly diverse as they head onto the court.

Their opponents are a couple of 20 year-olds. The game starts and its a game of one set. In no time, Mr. A and the newbie find themselves down 4-0. Mr. A thinks its going to be like just another game of all the games he has been a part of. He moves slowly across the court and is now unable to cover his side of the court. The fifth game starts and the newbie serves at deuce and the deuce goes on to 9-8 before the he closes it out with an ace. They exchange a pleasantry and suddenly there is a different dynamic on the court. They win the next two games and suddenly they find themselves at 4-4. They look at each other with incredulity which defines the situation. Suddenly its like Mr. A feeds off the newbie's energy and keeps the ball in play. The newbie covers the courts from length-to-length protecting Mr. A's domain and eventually they are up 5-4 and looking to close the set out.

Their opponents are stunned by the turn the game takes and are now struggling to stay alive. The opponent commits a double-fault and suddenly its over. They win 6 games in a row and there is a child-like joy in the two. They shake hands and suddenly Mr. A has a smile that stretches a mile. The newbie walks out amazed at what happens when you refuse to give up.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Images from Vietnam

The boat ride

I like the name Saigon even though the city has been renamed to Ho Chi Minh City. Its like with Ho Chi Minh City some of the romanticism and mysticism of the city is lost. So all further references to the city will be Saigon. The traffic here needs to be seen to be believed. For a long time, I thought that the order in chaos concept was an Indian specialty until I came to Saigon. For a city of 8 million people, there are 3 million two-wheelers. We set off for a dinner-cum-boat cruise on the Saigon river. We are shown to our tables by waiters dressed in their navy best. We settle down and place our orders.

The boat sets off at 8:30pm for the cruise and we look around to see a scraggy coastline with cranes and loading docks. We look up to see a smog filled sky and one would be hard-pressed to find a starry sky. Suddenly there is an unusually loud rendition of Jingle bells which leaves half the crowd clapping and singing along with the other half bored out of their skins. On completion, they hurriedly clear the stage and a woman steps up. Her wardrobe did not leave too much to the imagination although I did think she was unusually well-endowed before my friend pointed out that they did not look real. I shrugged my shoulders thinking they look real enough to me and suddenly the sound-track of the first song started and I jumped out of my skin. All of a sudden, in Saigon, on a river boat cruise, to listen to the title song of Har dil jo pyaar karega. We were all thrown violently and burst out laughing. It was almost shocking to hear a bollywood song on a boat in Vietnam with an exotic dancer gyrating and thrusting to it. Life I tell you!

The bawdy cabbie

We hail the first cab we see at Tan Son Nhat International airport. We ask the cab driver as to how much will it cost us to Elios Hotel and he says- "Each person USD 3". We tell him that that is expensive and he conjures up a fake solemn face and says he is very poor and bursts into a chuckle. We decide on a price and set out for the hotel. He seems to be in an unusually chirpy mood and asks me if I am there on my honeymoon. I look at my traveling companions behind me and say sarcastically that yes I am on my honeymoon with two other women and as to how tiring this trip is going to be. He retorts as to how lucky I am and the ladies behind roll their eyes with a "You wish" expression. I decide to put a stop to this line of discussion when we start discussing basic Vietnamese words and I ask him as to what is it for I want to buy and he translates it into "I want to buy a woman" and guffaws loudly. It seems like a business model he has executed before and was hoping to replicate. All throught the trip references of buying and costs involved tapered into conversations that ended in bed. He points to a small girl and grins toothily saying "Poor people". Feels a little weird for 3 Indians to be shown poverty like it is some sort of novelty. We reach the hotel and he says to me that he might be interested in some 4-way action and I say thanks for the ride and Tam-be-eet!

Tam-be-eet- Vietnamese for Goodbye!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time to take off

I am off on my first substantial jaunt tomorrow. Over the next 17 days, I will be going to

Singapore -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Hanoi -> Singapore -> Chennai -> Singapore -> Sydney

Lets hope this is the start of many more such journeys. Next post about the travel!