The things we wear and the way they wear us

It was a little past three and like always I had come downstairs with a friend for coffee to the kiosk, adjoining the smoking zone. The beverage along with the condescension of the fashion faux pas of men and women gathered on the opposite, had grown into a sort of a little sport at this time of the day. There’s a faint line between being observational and judgmental and I was way past that. Now don’t ask me who made me this high priest of fashion in the ten kilometre radius, I can’t come up with anything better than “myself”.
He shouldn’t be wearing such shirts, with lungi checks. The heroes from that era are either worm chow or onscreen grandpas.”
“Unless he’s playing a school PT master in a play at workplace, he’s got no business wearing those thick white sports shoes with formals.”
“He’s wearing a black strap watch with tan brown leather shoes.”
 -the nuggets of thought just float around.

Coming to think if it, I’ve been doing this for a while now; playing this sport. But I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t come from a space of elitist entitlement as much as from one of cultivated awareness. Agreed I’m an extremely sarcastic creature by nature, but over the years I’ve come to respect and regard the clothes and accessories as being a representative extension of a state of mind. A navy blue for a sunny mood, robin blue for depth of character, floral patterns on a holiday mood,polka dots to party. Thick checks when chirpy, negligible ones to mean business and a sharp fit for a solid first impression. These are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years from people I looked  up to and the deeper end of my learning curve. It’s not robust rocket science perse, but colours, lights and predispositions interact in a predictable manner to create an impression or an illusion of it at the very least in a certain direction.

I’ve seen many turn up to an event in obnoxious clothes— even the ones who swear by the sanctity of forks and knives at dinner tables and the ones who wait for months together for a specific car color  —without an iota of understanding about the appropriateness. Picture this- a dark-thick guy in a wine red shirt with disco ball depictions and embellished cuffs at a brightly lit wedding gala. Or another one at the same event, in a half sleeve T shirt with multicoloured horizontal lines running across and sandals from village movies about misogyny. While the formers subtle as a sledge hammer, the latter’s a slacker with indifference to his image from a mental menopause. While the first guy should’ve toned it down a lot, the latter should’ve dialled up a lot. The former’s clothes belong in a tribal mating ceremony, the latter’s dressed up for a casual zoo visit with an utter lack of interest. The sad part is both are nice guys with a decent amount of self awareness. Both use overpriced grooming products and get haircuts, the price of a flight ticket. But they’re somehow utterly naive when it comes to the fact that their outfits talk for them and also about them. And so do their watches that resemble lunch boxes with a golden dial.

Clothes exhibit one’s age. personality, grace(or the lack of it).maturity.depth of character and artistic preferences. At times from the foreground and at times from the background, their role keeps changing from one phase of life to another. In our teens and early twenties, anything that was in vogue would’ve caught our attention. We were gullible clean slates who would dress up in a way to highlight our clothes to draw attention to ourselves. Our personalities were at a formative state and it was safe to tow the wagon. So anything that caught attention worked for us- from vibrant colours, loud checks, hooded shirts to even comic print T shirts. These things were making our identity and an easily digestible ersatz persona from the foreground, as the real us lurked back in the background.
But with time, as we age and the personality assumes a vivid shape and form, we pick clothes that would highlight us and remain an ambient amplifier in the background. Flamboyance paves way for laid back charm. Trends get replaced with personal statements. Aesthetics comes before appeal. The equation with the wardrobe changes from us being the soda to the single malt, over time.

Not just clothes, everything including accessories like watches go through a similar tangent. The toyish looking G shocks digitals pave way for Citizen metal straps, which wither away into Seiko leather straps with a minimalist old school appeal. Even the art one consumes changes. Character driven stories begin to appeal to the sensibility over plot driven ones. Rhythm and beats become incessant noise, the heart craves for soothing melodies with specific emphasis on lyrical value. Personal conversations become more and more precious as generic discussion become passe. The proverbial boy has become the man and these things punctuate his transition.

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Wonder Woman

I’m not sure, but I guess it was sometime in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century; feminism wasn’t a fad or even an afterthought for that matter. The country was preoccupied with a different ism.  It eventually went on to get its independence, but women like my grandmother didn’t get theirs from the excuse for farm animals that their husbands were. Irrespective of flags, their lives continued to be at half mast. Like a delicate doll dealt from one monkey to another, my grandma was short-sold in the marital market by her father(of sixteen children) to a man with an attention span of a three year old in a candy shop, who went on to give her four children. Those times, even if a marriage wasn’t made in the heaven exactly, it was meant to last for a lifetime. The painful idealization, vanilla mythology and the Chinese whispering septuagenarians, ensured that a woman endured,even if she didn’t enjoy. So even before my grandma could come to terms with her womanhood, motherhood had confronted her with a child per limb with a man who had abandoned boat.

Carrying way more than her shoulder could bear, with no real help in vicinity than concerned elders and ancient places of worship, anyone’s mind would’ve scurried to a drastic way out of the purgatory life had become. But not my grandma’s. Whatever doesn’t break one, makes them stronger. She became a stronger person who learnt to make lemonade out of the limes thrown at her. She singlehandedly went on to raise her boys into decent men, who would never be how her husband was to her and them, to their wives and children. Not a remarkable feat normally, but from where she got it done and how she did it, it’s an incredible journey of a single woman through an uphill path strewn with insult, taunt and chauvinism in every twist and turn. By the time my generation had begun, she had mentally turned into this zen like war veteran, wary of the crowd of ersatz relatives and acquaintances that had conspicuously bulged in size. Most of these anecdote sharing well wishers in attendance at the peak, were somehow coincidentally absent at the foothills. Her wounds had healed. But she had hardened from within. She could forgive, but never really get to forget.

Pride gushes through the nostalgic arteries every time I reminisce of my childhood that eventually became hers too- growing up to her gibberish, sleeping next to her, calling her fat, the jawarsi payasam, being fed while watching TV, those few fables that were on infinite loop, the solicitous commentary during movies, the hush hush manner in which she kept helping others. And almost forgot those clumsy diabetic break-ins to the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat sweets. My house might be under constant CCTV surveillance with a guard on the gate now, but somehow life felt the safest with a fat old woman overseeing it.

We see the sun rise from our sides of the sky, to kiss the morning sky saffron. Some of us from the sea, some from a sea of buildings and those with the jogging pants, through a bunch trees in a park. Although an epic event for a planet to find compassion in a distant star, the everydayness lets it remain slighted. All of us have such Suns in our lives, who shine on us while we continue to take them for granted, till an eclipse comes to wake us. My grandma was one such Sun from a early horizon. She will continue to be a part of my life as a deity. As a guardian angel. My family’s very own iron lady.

Families that stay together

As a loner, I’ve always reveled in the tranquility between the four walls of my bedroom- the smell of the convertible on the right corner that has almost been spiritual, Simba(the stuffed tiger) that has come to sort of become a muse and the creaking door that has shielded me from world outside. These are the insignificant scaffolding that’ve held my world together, for no matter how a day panned out, they’ve often than not tuned me back to equilibrium. To me this room had more memories than bricks behind it and I was dog territorial about this space. For this was the same room I used to sleep during the last days of my grandma. This is where I made love the first time. This was where I always came looking for solace, introspection; every time I burnt a bridge, felt lost or just needed perspective. In short, this dark of the house was the mirror to my soul.

My parents would occasionally ask to me sleep in their room along with them and like most grown men I would dole out these self righteous excuses involving “the want of privacy” or “I’m old to sleep with my parents” every time to just stay back at my room. It wasn’t just that I had outgrown the charm of snuggling in the mini-bed under my parent’s bed once in a while, with time I had somehow outgrown the experience of spending time with them.
I didn’t realize that every time I turned them down, I was taking their love for granted because it was available in such abundance at free of cost for me to overlook.

There was a time in my life, after a showdowns everytime,  dad would suggest that I got out of the house in a not so calm fashion. Truth be told, it took an asshole of my magnitude to bring that out of an otherwise peace loving man. I was never quite the model offspring and had dedicated a good amount of my post teen years to reminding my parents about the flip side to procreation. He obviously didn’t mean it— I hoped every time I was told to leave the house —for these were everyday occurrences under a roof housing an aging father, a son at the brink of his manhood and their combined egos, the size of a meteor. It’s not till when the frequency of these outbursts increased, that I began looking at these as more than just domestic outbursts. When the same words kept repeating, I could get a sense of where they were coming from. It was never a question of whether he loved me or not, he obviously did. But the fatigue of resigning to the fact that he couldn’t get me to do things differently was starting to show, along with his anxiety for my ability to take care of myself. The very everydayness that was supposed to cement most  families together, was forming fissures in between.

Our cat and mouse dynamic was fast turning into an uglier beast of indifference. We needed some sort of an intervention. Probably, separation. Some objective distance to stop taking each other for granted and cultivate some respect back. Obviously, the proximity wasn’t helping.

It was around this time that I was on my notice period and look out for my next job, when an exciting profile came my way from Bangalore. And it didn’t take me long to decide. And before my parents could come to terms, I had already relocated. And like that, I was in a new city for the first time away from home. And my parents were away from me for the first time . This was the reality check I needed. Privacy and “me time” were scattered at every step, every nook and every corner. It was like life decided to make a dear wish into a bad joke by giving it in abundance, till a point it almost became a curse. I learnt that charm of being alone was a thing of relative appeal. My “me time” worked only with togetherness, not in isolation. Without the togetherness, it just felt like a king in a marooned kingdom .

A few hours of shopping for home appliances did what a lifetime of delicious home made meals, ironed clothes, a comfortable home and selfless parenting couldn’t. It made me realize the value of my parents for the very first time in life. I knew what I had had. The cushions around me that had always protected me, were suddenly not there. There was no one to take for granted. Every phone call from home became important. Dad seemed to miss me and I could feel his respect. It was strange that my conversations with my mom over phone were longer now than the ones we had at home. My sister and I were the closest that we had been in a long time.

Maybe  every family is only a hiccup of a circumstance away from closeness.

This time when I was home, mom and dad’s faces lit up. It was late in the night when my bus had come. They were well past their bed time, but they were so overwhelmed.We spoke for a while before the two of them hit the bed. It’s not like I had energy to pull an all nighter either. I went to my room by instinct. I was in my sanctuary after a month. But it didn’t feel the same. On second thought, I went to my parent’s, pulled out the mini-bed from under theirs and assumed the “run over frog on a highway” pose to sleep. It felt peaceful. Being with them was positively better than “me time”.Those few minutes before sleep that day were among the most precious ones in my life. That moment life had come a full circle.I can’t make blanket statement on behalf of other families, but it looks like some some good old distance brought mine together, closer than before.

Visiting the tomb of erstwhile love

It was a damp night, mind you damp and not wet. Chennai’s weather of late has been blowing hot and cold; with almost hot afternoons packed in humid sweat and reluctant drizzles well shy of being holistic downpours in the nights. So it was one of those nights and I was coming from a night show, to find my bike seat gently kissed by several raindrops, that had deceived the sky’s vigil. One of the primary cons of riding a bike during such times is, you can’t wear your lighter trousers. One, the raindrops leave an impression, not a good one- a wet smudge on the sitting area. And two, even if you vigilantly wipe your way off the previous possibility to preserve tushy dignity, there’s no way you can go unscathed, as the several puddles and inconsiderate vehicles on the way would somehow come together to leave a graffiti on the trousers.
Anyways I was wearing a pair of black trousers that night and it held very little consequence to the other happening of the night, primarily about which this piece is .This one’s about the route I took on my way back and the the trip it took me down the memory lane.

While coming back from the theatre, there are two routes to my place. One that goes through a residential  area and the other one that comes a little ahead, connecting me to the main road.  Over the last few years I’ve consciously and later subconsciously been ignoring the former stretch to take the latter. Initially, it felt like a can filled with worms, waiting to be opened up. Worms waiting to feed on my peace of mind. Then with efflux of time, I had grown oblivious and numb to this stretch’s magnetic negativity. It had come to only be a detour and the route that led to the main road had become an obvious choice.
But today was different, I was itching to take the former route. Not to confront the can of worms, but to take stock of my quality of peace. Curiosity had the better of me and there I was in the stretch I had forbidden as a sort of reality check. This trip was straddling between literal and figurative, for so much in my life had transpired in this L shaped stretch, the gravitas of which was getting to me as I was rumbling through it, metre by metre.

A few hundred metres into this road- painted in shadows of the trees behind -came this compound wall on the left. There was nothing fancy about it, just another neglected-marshy structure raised to mark the periphery of the house. But to me, it marked a new beginning. Back then it was always enveloped from the road by a fleet of school vans parked in front of it. It was our second date, I had just kissed her for the first time inside a deserted Mcrennett a little ahead on the corner of the road. She was pink with amusement and I was a cat, who had had his first taste of meat. We soon left hand-in-hand to take a stroll, incidentally my first walk with someone from the fairer sex. She was a bundle of nerves, obviously given that her folks stayed not far away from there and she was walking with a person who had just earmarked her left cheek with his saliva. Fairly educated on each other’s favourites, we had run out of topics and were in a mood for something non-verbal. The secluded compound wall on the right, stood there with anticipation and we got the cue. I lifted and perched her on it facing me, as I placed my hands on either side of her on the wall. Before we realised, I was kissing all over her face like a caveman, rocking back and forth like doing push-ups in a near state of trance. Together we had debased base one here.

As I drove ahead, came the Mcrennett I had mentioned a little earlier on the corner of the road. Apart from being the unwilling witness and stage to our first sacrilege, it had seen a lot of us. It used to be a favourite hangout, for it didn’t pinch on my wallet hard and it served the best cheese puff known to humanity. We’ve spoken about movies, debated about choice of careers, stolen kisses when no one’s around and have even gone for each other’s necks when arguments turned futile.

We were sparrows constructing nests on unnoticed loft corners of houses with little information to its owners, raising our own little monuments in common places of others surreptitiously.

As I turned right came this place, preceded by a newly fitted majestic metal gate. Back then, there used to be no gate. It was just a long winding driveway that led to a nursery school. We fondly called it “nursery”. Only both of us knew what nursery meant, when among a group of friends. So why were two grown-ups frequenting a nursery? This under lit place became uninhabited in the evening and the unregulated driveway that preceded the nursery, with tall trees on either side, became a tantalising prospect for long walks and the accoutrements that ensued.

Here, we became night creatures that made merry after sunset. Unlike the owls, we couldn’t see too well, but we didn’t complain. We could feel and listen to each other like  in no other place with heightened awareness- finding rhythm in our heartbeats, warmth in our touches, wetness in our lips and dexterity in the fingers to render clothes vestigial. This is where we caught up every time before being away for a while and this is where we came together after being away for a while. This was our ersatz room, before we got a real one.

A few second later came this stretch inundated by tall walls that belonged in fortresses, baring faces of the neighbourhood politician and not so subtle slogans in fluorescent font. I could see a younger me going for the wall, as I discharged my bladder’s content in a blissful fountain. She used to be seated on the bike behind, embarrassed about my uncouth way of answering the nature’s call. As I got on the bike, proud and relieved, my comeuppance would come as she twisted my ear till I twirled along with it in tandem.

I pulled over my bike to take a leak. I was all alone by myself, with no one waiting behind to play mother as I sat to ride.

The L of the stretch was coming to an end as the subway in the end was becoming visible. She used to come out of this from the other side of the road, as I restlessly waited near it. I would check myself on the bike’s mirror a hundred times and would strike the best pose on , as she would pop out of the subway onto my bike in a hurry, to employ the harness on me. After dropping her back late in the evening, I would wait by it till she surfaced from the other side of the subway in one piece.In short, our days were bookbounded by this subway.

Over a decision, things that were very life itself had turned into distant memories I could only live vicariously. I  could revisit them, without craving to recreate. This stretch was like a black box that survived a crash. The drive was like going back to the place of accident after recovering- as a healed person – grateful about the second chance, stronger and peaceful. If I’ve learnt one thing over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as good or bad in life as every experience culminates systematically in a memory. Good and bad are transitory, a mere reflection of the state of the mind from the time of impact.

The L had come to an end. And it felt like a place I was leaving place from, not one I was coming into.As I turned left to climb the flyover, I felt like Superman  emerging out of Krypton stronger than before. Life was one fear short.

Teacher’s Day nostalgia

I’m three quarters short of stepping into the third decade in my life. My head is nothing but a cluttered space of learnings, lessons, predispositions, likes and stronger dislikes, tastes, preferences, habits and endless nostalgia. It wasn’t this way all the time. There was a time, when all it registered was the music of lullaby. It was a clean slate when I took my first baby step into PSBB, my first school.

My world was a place full of nameless objects without a curiosity to count and comfortable gibberish, before names and language dawned upon as necessary friction. It’s here I learnt to name call— for a syllabus —animate and inanimate things alphabetically. This is where my naive fingers became a counting apparatus, before algebra and logarithm came to break the cherry of numerical goodness.
Each little miscreant that steps into school is like a sown seed. Some turn out to be flower giving; some fruit bearing and others mere show pieces. But all of them, irrespective of their origin and purpose, need the dampness of soil and the warmth of the sun to become what they’re meant to be. Once they grow, so do their needs. While some grow up to be creepers, needing a scaffold to twirl around, some flourish autonomously with the occasional pruning on the rough edges. The garden metaphors- the soil, sunlight, scaffolding and the gardener are the teachers and mentors who curate the seed in each individual, till the blossom of self sustenance.

I’ve had many such wonderful teachers in my life. Some taught me maths; some accounts; some English; some science and some life itself. I remember one such person, my accounts sir- Mr.Devakumar. A stiff man in his late fifties, there was nothing conventional nor congenial about him. An air of mockery preceded him among the students. When the norm was for students to itch for a period to end, here was a man who had turned the cliche over its head. It could be a critical part of a crucial problem he would be solving on the board or a conversation he would be having with us, all it took was the ring of the school bell to bring him to a stand still. On the sound of it, the chalk would drop,mid air and the verbal exchange would halt mid syllable. You could pay him a crore, but you just couldn’t stop the man from evaporating  out of the class. We laughed at this demeanor. The nonchalant style of teaching accounts, where he would just teach the basics and expect everyone to figure things on their own. At least that’s what I thought. We would receive his assistance, but only when he saw desperation.

By the time I passed out of school I had become acquainted to the rhythm of debits and credits like a million other unimaginative dunces before me. But I had, that they didn’t was the street smartness I had picked from Devakumar in problem solving, inside and outside of books. This lighthearted approach to every situation in life.

And just like that this irreverent man who was supposed to teach me accounts had instead taught me to live life, I really don’t know, how much of this was intended by him, but the lessons from this phase of my life had left an indelible impression in my subconscious.  In a nation, that waits for an instance, any instance to worship certain designations; it is sometimes important to remember and respect the simple individuals behind these designations.

Death and funeral dignities

The last full stop to a passage marks the conclusion to what was merely a motley of sentences till then; demarcating thus a context to the flow of the same. What the full stop does by facilitating the end is it adds a dimension of unilateral meaning, putting to end any further accrual to the narrative’s course.
Whether it is a happy read or a sad one after the last full stop summarizes the quality of the passage.Death likewise is this impending last full stop to an individual’s course of life. Whether the world around him is bereaved or relieved, talks about the kind of life lead.

Death is the most intimidating phenomenon among nature’s quadruplet that also includes birth, disease and old age.
Birth brings, disease weakens, old age softens and Death dissolves.
Man over the years has learnt to tame birth, cure diseases and even cover up aging to significant extent. But what unsettles him is the enigma of death and its absoluteness. The only insurmountable peak, that hasn’t gone under his scissors of regulation or the comfort of understanding.
So what embarrasses at every step towards its mastery can only be embraced. Which exactly what constitutes the hallow around funerals and the rituals that come along. For they add a rhythm to an individual’s defeat to this unconquerable force called death, yet another time.

There are different nostalgias attached to different individuals post their death, depending on the impact they’ve left.
Most people have rudimentary or say epidermal level impacts after their times like he was cherubic, fat, thin, had silver grey hair, was bearded. They’re simple men whose recollection doesn’t percolate beyond the bodily remembrance.
Then we have the kind, who we remember for the traits they exhibited primarily like being short-tempered, humorous, sensible etc. People in this category manage to penetrate beyond the physical level, but stop just after.
Some are recalled by their accomplishments which could either be the position held, the qualification possessed and organization that they had been. These men were purposeful beings, who left an impact in our heads  beyond the personality level, but fell short of the heart; courtesy the materialistic nature of pursuit.
Last are the rare men who’ve left an indelible mark on our lives by their ideologies and school of thoughts. They generally are people we looked up to as being motivators, mentors, philosophers and guides.   We miss them the most because they occupied an eternal spot in the middle ground between our intellectual and emotional realms.

There was my dad’s uncle, a patriarch who was among the most forward thinking octogenarians that I know of; not that I know of a lot of octogenarians. He was a wonderful human, holistically loving without a trace of bias or an affiliation to preserve.
He had built a tap outside his house, built on the roads of an extremely humid temple town called Kanchipuram, primarily for travelers and nurtured a lot of stray animals with  fondness reserved to grandchildren.
He had single handedly championed a lot of causes, like planting several sapling across the town, founding a trust to oversee education and foster abandoned elders among many things. He had a liberal outlook about everything under the Sun despite being a deeply rooted practitioner of a faith.
So he had passed away one day. We are these intriguing creatures strung fascinatingly to our close ones by the undercurrent of telepathy. That morning when dad’s phone rang with his cousin’s number; I knew he was no more even before my dad picked up.
But to my shock I wasn’t a wee bit sad and was letting the entire news seep in an unfettered manner.  Here was someone I had really looked up to, whose ideals I revered and wanted to imbibe and yet I was unmoved.

I just didn’t feel like attending his funeral to see his mortal remains one last time. In my heart I knew what he meant.  There were things he stood for and propagated, which were pretty much the same things I had started taking baby steps towards.  He was a virtuous man who had left a legacy behind. Legacy that needed to be preserved in the actions of similar minded people who revered him. I didn’t want to relegate my relation with him to the familiar rigmarole of funeral mourning and emotional outbursts.

To me, he was a wonderful man, who lead an illustrious life and died when his body was about to invite quotations from prospective ailments.

As aware as I felt I was, I later tried smearing myself with guilt about not attending his funeral. Was it a blasphemy I had committed in the name of falling in line with a seemingly contrived ideology; for what is life but a generic iteration of cliches formed on conversations, alter egos, relationships and the accompanying trappings
It appeared to me after some serious musing that it was important to respect a person for what he stood for, than the functionalities of a funeral. For funerals are designed as religious merchandise to tug at one’s heart strings with notes of nostalgia. It is only when a deceased person’s line of thought is towed by his close ones, does he continue to live on in their actions. It is up to us to either eulogize comfortably over a dead person’s body or take the longer route to act upon preserving their legacy  later.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian woes on a Sunday morning

 

Peeeeee Peeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww, I was honking my presence felt, with the thumb on the shrill vocal button of my sister’s Activa— that was already kind enough to carry a person heavier than it — unempathetically navigating it on a particularly slushy stretch at northwards of 60kmph. Early morning winds blowing against one’s face, while uncombing his hair is only as pleasurable as one’s mind lets it be, which at times turns way too turn cynical to acknowledge anything other than deep slumber behind closed doors as being beautiful. At that moment I was hoping I had learnt to drive a car, my mind wasn’t exactly taking to nature’s expressions of sunshine and zephyrs with open arms.

It was five shy of six in the morning at the Anna Salai stretch. I was riding home from a sleepover at a friend’s. The roads are usually modestly occupied at this time, but it was a Sunday morning. Or the aftermath of a Saturday night to put things into context. Most people taking the road at this time aren’t going as much as returning home. And there were those commercial trucks plying to and from markets, to accommodate the spike in consumption that was typically anticipated from the day.

I was at midway point, a few hundred metres before Gemini flyover, when I saw this bike before me. It had a pillion space, wider than an average bike, covered with a green coir sheet that was wrapped over what appeared to be a sizable heap.
Sometimes the most affecting incidents in life unfurl in a languorous manner, like toothpaste emerging out of a squeezed tube. No dramatic contraptions, just impact enough to pierce the most naked part of the soul.

A leftward bound gust of strong wind, lifted the coir sheet along with the normalcy of the morning. Lying below the sheet were pale mammal carcasses— goats most likely —one above the other. Aghast with a lump in the throat, I had to pull over to avoid getting any closer to the bike. It’s not like I was seeing meat for the first time. I’ve been around meat eating people, without making faces about erstwhile living being floating in their gravy boats.

Just that I’ve  always been this frail-hearted person without an appetite for seeing, say mangled animal carcasses on a busy highway, run over by vehicles . Or a suspended headless corpse hanging on the entrance of a shawarma parlour. I tend to cringe, reimagining the pain the creature would’ve gone through under the tyres of a speeding heavy vehicle or a swinging butcher’s knife. It could’ve probably been easier I were a vegetarian alone, but I was a hopeless animal lover.

Over the years I’ve learnt to come to terms with the world around me, in which meat eating people comfortably outnumber the non-meat eaters. I’m no stranger to the killing and their place in a parallel food chain—  that lets cruelty and cooking coexist — I’m not a part of. Just that the sight of the absolute insensitivity with which it is carried about is deeply unsettling. Like the guy on the bike before, who was carrying them like a batch of gunny bags with absolute disdain. The dispassionate conditioning of his mind to see them as mere raw materials was a painful sight to witness.

I started several seconds after the morgue bike had disappeared over the flyover. I was trying to undo what I saw by focusing on things a tad more pleasant like the sight of crisp vadas blooming on a frying pan of a tea shop, a neurotic dog cleansing itself with it’s eager tongue and an elderly couple jogging together on the pavement. And just when the mood was starting to lighten up like that, a truck overtook me from the signal.

It was carrying cages— arranged in columns —with hundreds of hapless hens, suffocating against each other from within. Here was a colony of birds, most of them aware about their impending end. Some were screaming resiliently, some were protesting at the cage doors, while some were still, having given up already. If they thought the commute to the butcher’s was the painful part, they had no clue of what was coming their way. The eyes with which they saw their first sights after hatching out, would be plucked out as waste. The beaks with which they made conversation and consumption, would be no different. As if this wasn’t gruesome enough there were a few dead ones scattered across the floor, like rotten vegetables, next to the feet of the men overseeing the shindig.

History unforgivingly remembers the ones who oversaw the holocaust of thousands of their kind to upkeep the whim of their patriotism, ethnicity and creed. Yet the violence perpetrated to usher every Sunday, that too in a city alone is enough to pale every significant genocide to insignificance as a blob in history. “Livestock” to me is the worst euphemism that there is.The churn in the belly left a bigger ripple this time as the lorry went past. At the back of my mind I felt a guilt colored helplessness about not being able to do anything about all this, than just feel bad  But I was glad that home was only a minute away. Wish I could tell the same about humanity.