Just another day...

by Sunil Vaidyanathan 16. June 2010 13:10

Just another day...


It is morning; at least I think it is. It is difficult to tell… The allegedly sagacious members of our building have illuminated the compound with a battery of floodlights, it may not keep thieves away, but it certainly keeps most families on the first floor awake. The alarm clock and the shuffling of my maid’s heavy feet confirm this; I greet the morning breeze with a long fart.

Ratan Bai is early today, which is annoying! I cannot sneak even a few minutes of sleep with her around. She sweeps everything off the floor. I would not want to be at the receiving end of her tongue or broom. She is noisy and nosy; imagine for one moment that you are in a temple getting married and suddenly a battle tank hurtles towards the altar! I have to bear this occurrence every morning. Despite her shortcomings, I expect she would have been a very attractive woman in her prime. I cannot help but stare at her oversized bottom. In any case, it cannot be ignored; like boulders hanging precariously from a precipice, it hangs from her hips and threatens to dislocate them!

I retire to the solitude of my throne. Without bothering to cover the two broken panes, I take my perch. If my neighbors want to stare at my dasypygal behind, they are welcome to. I always wanted to be a porn star. I try reading the morning papers; they all look the same and tell the same story. It is like an encyclopaedia to disaster tourism. Some innocent guy gets shot, some altar boy gets buggered by a priest, some mind-fucked guy blows himself up, Bombay reels under the onslaught of the monsoon, and a guy loses his manhood for demanding more sex. I laugh...I shall have to be careful!

I almost use Page Three instead of toilet paper in disgust, and plan my day. I am not in a mood to read or write, but am in a seeing mood; so I shall see… I turn to the exhibitions and entertainment page. After scanning through a long list of massage parlours, I find what I am looking for: ‘Art Exhibitions’ I shortlist three...

A shower is an unnecessary waste of time, water, and exertion. But my Brahmanical genes interfere and steer me into the shower. Thankfully, I don’t have a full-length mirror; I wouldn’t want to shame my reflection. I walk into the kitchen dripping wet. The many gods in the kitchen stare at my nude self. I stare back in disgust and turn them around so that they face the blank wall. They should be ashamed!

My maid has her own set of keys. Without bothering to speak to her, I close the door behind me and run down the stairs. The station is just a short walk away. I pick up a pack of cigarettes and a small bottle of rum. It is drizzling. I might just catch a chill. I pour a little rum down my throat. Now I am waterproof.  

As usual, the station is a muddy mess, iron lunged hawkers, the multitudinous throngs of the great urban middle class going to work, prostitutes and bar girls returning from work, beggars and mongrels of unknown parentage sharing breakfast...how considerate!

I try boarding the Churchgate Fast; almost board it thrice. Am compelled to cross over to the next platform, and manage to get a foothold on a slow train. The malodours emanating from the compartment cannot be neutralised even with my equally strong deodorant. It is a mixture of sweat, sewage, cheap perfume, rum and many more odours that are unidentifiable. An educated gentleman has the temerity to read the Times in the middle of this chaos; it flaps like a moth in other peoples’ faces, and he gets sworn at. (In any case, all those who profess their undying love for the Times deserve to be ridiculed.)

The train reaches Churchgate. A huge arched gate that provided access to the Fort and the many churches that it encompassed once, stood here – hence the name! I cross the lush carpet of the Oval Maidan and walk towards the art district of Kala Ghoda. The streets of Churchgate are a testimony to the imperialistic arrogance of the Raj. I cannot ignore the gothic bosoms and Venetian phalluses that crown Mumbai’s colonial heritage. The gargoyles keep a close watch.

A drizzle, another swig of rum, a pretty girl runs across the street in a thin transparent dress... The wet thin fabric attached itself to her like exploring fingers. I close my eyes and dream. Protrusions, snow capped peaks, the long ascent, gasping for breath, oxygen deprivation, the descent, the curve of the hips, lush moist fertile valleys... I break away from my dream and continue to walk.

The Jehangir art gallery is the ugliest heritage monument in Mumbai, it confirms to the (non-existent) aesthetics of the Indian middle class. Just close your eyes and try to imagine Pamela Anderson with one boob. Well that is precisely what the Jehangir art gallery looks like. I enter it suspiciously.

Out of the three galleries, I choose the one showcasing abstract art. A large ochre canvas with many dark lines intersect each other; it almost looks like the lines are raping the canvas. I close my eyes: Purgatorial labyrinths, overflowing gutters, sewage lines crisscrossing the city, roads, lanes, gas lines. The list is endless. I confront the artist with the meaning of the painting; he is a good artist, but is as clueless as I am. The diplomatic bastard should have been a bureaucrat. He tells me that he expects his audience to draw their own conclusions. Disappointed, I draw my own conclusions and conclude that those dark lines represent arrows piercing his arse. I move on to the next painting. Zebra sperms and elephant sperms are fighting over the right to impregnate a blue whale. How can I differentiate between the two? Well one group of blobs have stripes, and the other ‘trunks’. Happy with my conclusions, I decide to celebrate by finishing off the rum in a single gulp.

My education in art appreciation now complete, I emerge from its cavernous opening and stand near its gates, contemplating my next educational exercise. Just then, a young man emerges from the gallery. An artist I believe! He looks for an empty canvas, finds none, and chooses the blank outer wall to paint his masterpiece. Ah we have an artist who still follows the noble traditions of mural painters. He examines the wall, and when ready, spits a stream of red betel nut juice while simultaneously unzipping his fly. I do not understand this technique, but yeah he is good. He gives his creation one last look before moving on. Oh my god, we have another Hussain in the making.

 

Sunil Vaidyananathan

July 2005 

 

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A slice of life

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