Friday, June 14, 2013

The Songstress

The way New Yorkers are in subways - reticent and distant like an island unto themselves - makes it difficult to see the next passenger sitting or standing beside you. Yet I noticed her. For, the invisible dot staring grim faces or the inclined heads, reading or the erect ear budded heads rarely move. But she was moving. After a few minutes I realized that there was a pattern in her movement, and eventually I looked up from my book and surreptitiously glanced at her. She was smiling to herself as if reminiscing some fond memories and, moving her neck and slightly gyrating her body while snapping her fingers and humming silently a song, of which, I only heard, 'Radio oh oh oh oh oh Radio'.

She wore a dirty green LL Bean fleece jacket zipped to the neck and a retro 70s flared grey cotton tartan plaid trousers and running shoes - her elegant height accentuated with the big top knot bun of auburn hair. 

Then she started fiddling with something and I realized that she was balancing a Multi Loader Amplifier Trolley with one feet. There were three boxes stacked on each other, one black with gauged front and knobs that looked like typical speaker or an amplifier and one opaque, may be a battery pack, and the third onewas open at the top to collect the donations. I thought she was waiting for something but no, she was warming up.

Coming across so many performers in the Metro, I am always amused as to how one starts a gig in the subway. There were Mexicans who always entered in full regalia; The Terylene studded shirts, the bell bottom trousers, the gold laced Mexican Sombero tied with a lace at chin and colorful pointy shoes also studded with silver nails and an inch of heel - as if the dress would make-up for the song that you will not understand. And of course what with the stone face immediately breaking in a shrill chorus of a Spanish song on tambourine while gazing in infinity! Then there were old black folks who traveled in group and would announce cheerfully how they are going to entertain people who are on their way to do important work. They would smile forcibly and deliberately greet anyone who accidentally looked at them. They would go ahead and start conversing with kids if there were any and make a jolly scene of a family get together. While other less confident meek solitary singers would quietly enter as if they have come to a funeral assembly and start playing their instrument or just sing. There were few hobos who mixed songs with bawdy jokes but they always entered with a bang.

But this woman was different.

She was warming up for something that she liked! She took it as one takes up a job; it had a method, a ceremony. She didn't look at anyone, she didn't need any approval or confirmatory gaze or smile from would be audiences. She believed in her work so much that she knew it will be liked, if not for its quality then for its sincerity. And I am sure the sincerity with which she was preparing herself to sing must have been noticed by most stern and inert subway rider of the City of New York. Were these commuters - who left home in leisure or in hurry, with a loving kisses or fight or just the blank walls of their apartments, passed empty lobby or the ones that are attended by a doormen, who were going either worried of happy about what they did for living, dreadful or expectant of their bosses and colleagues - who wanted just a peaceful ride are going to be assaulted by a singer or going to be lulled? Didn't MTA betray its customers by allowing nuisance to creep in and forced them to go through an act that was not sold with price of the ticket? No! I was sure they are going to be lulled, there is going to be an extension of the sweet sleep that they had left few hours before, and no, they are going to get more than what they paid.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Madmen of Kingsbridge

The story features only three visibly or clinically mad people and others normal people who can be called mad according to the mentality they were trapped in. But I saw at least 5 people who were mad. I mean these five I encountered frequently obviously there were more. One could see a dozen lying at underground 168th street.

Ronnie - The protagonist who lived in my building at 231st Broadway and always drank beer

Iris Drunkard - A burly handsome guy close to 60 who sat near 231st Metro station on Broadway below the staircase leading to Kingsbridge Avenue. He was perpetually drunk had bloods shot eyes, wore neat but dirty clothes never said anything but silently accosted people to throwing money in the Mc Donald soda glass he held.

Captain Haddock in Leather - This was a very thin emaciated guy, tall and lanky with sunken cheeks and wild eyes. He was a curious mix of Captain Haddock and Mark Twain. He wore leather jacket and leather trousers strung everywhere with steel chains. His entire body swung from all joints and he threw his legs and hands while walking and looked at everyone as if he missed something they had said. But I never saw him talking to anyone.

The Swinger in the Train - This boy be-speckled with pouted lips and wild grin hurriedly entered train threw his jacket and specs on ground took a position near door and wildly swung forward and backward in a position one takes before starting a 100 meter dash.

The Bearded Hobo - He was the most known and much loved old man. He was shabby dirty with tangled beard wild eyes and frantic gestures! He would board the train take a position holding a pole and grab attention of women and start jumping on both feet that clanked coins in the plastic glass he held with one outstretched arm. He would start singing Ray Charle's "She gives me money when I am in need" and then tell very dirty jokes to which men laughed riotously while women grinned and looked askance here and there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nausea 2

It's been quite a while that, when I get up in the morning I realize that I woke up in the middle of vivid dreams of things I have to do that day. And they occur in such detail and in so properly spaced out episodes - breaking and resuming again coinciding with my frequent wake ups to check the time on the wall clock or to drink water from the amber yellow glass streaked with hand painted vertical lines kept on the white enamel painted wooden windowsill and sometimes to go to bathroom to spit the mucus that accumulates in the upper regions of my throat due to perennial cold - that I don’t feel like getting up, I go on sleeping, changing positions on the old mattress, trying to neglect the slightly nudging pain that prolonged sleep plasters on my body, thinking that the day has started and so the work I intended to do. Reverie of respite and entirety!

I don't know exactly when this started happening but if I have to pin it down on events rather than times, then I can say that they started occurring when I started getting worried about my life and time in NYC, I mean it's significant to me to be here since after may be 17 years it's the first time that I have started getting worried. I have never been depressed since that long time in my life either. My way of dealing with depression is sleeping it over since it's the same condition we try to acquire when we meditate to reduce the beta waves in our brain. And I can say that it has been helpful but the only problem is that all the time that I sleep, I consider it wasted, which I would not do so if I spend even double the amount of time meditating. But I guess methods that are approved to achieve a result no matter what, give you a sense of achievement while if you achieve same result by any other method, not approved, you feel bad about it.

These dream sequences that make me feel that I have already started my days have replaced my earlier and much uglier episodes of nightmare, where I saw myself always falling from a height and hence never slept for more than an hour or two at a stretch....I always used to wake up once within that time. So I can’t say if the situation has improved.

Going beyond myself, the city doesn't help me much either. The solitude that I crave for so much and that I now get here also nags me for no reason! Though it is almost onset of the summer, the days that start with bright sun light are still infrequent and the dreary, cold, overcast sky that I see through my dusty double paned glass window adds a heavy, foggy, condensing burden on my senses. The bare and simile red brick apartments that have become familiar to me, fail to cheer me, even the one way rattling sound of number 1 subway fails to convey motion of the day, dynamism of the city or the fact that other people are up and about, people who must get up and do certain duties that are mood independent. I wish I had been one of them, who can’t avoid getting up and opening shops, running trains, buses and taxis, or serving in the restaurants.

But alas! I have more liberty with my day that even an existentialist will be afraid to handle!


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pub Culture Vs Whatever

Eastern people or the right wing nationalist parties in most South Asian countries perceive Western culture as a kind of decadence, something that pollutes their culture.

What they don’t understand is that western culture (popularly associated with America) is a culture of convenience and comfort. Westerner invariably come out with things and ideas that are very useful for every aspect of modern life and hence are easily assimilated by people worldwide than anything that these easterner conventional people can come up or try to stick to. Obviously the conventional puritan people of East have no ability to come out with more attractive or convenient things so they just, out of guilt symbolically reject few western things?

Also, why these right wing puritans are selective in their rejection? Right from the first thing used by them in the morning - the toothbrush to every other thing used by them throughout the day is mostly invented by these westerns to make modern life easier and yet they take some ‘symbolic’ things like pubs and movies and songs and Valentine Day and the idea of absolute freedom as polluting and try to vent their guilty fury at it?

Why don’t they learn? Contrary to evolutionary creed explained by Darwin they stubbornly refuse to adapt to evolving cultures. I mean even if you are believer and creationist you can still guess that humanity due to its mental capability is destined or doomed to keep on progressing no matter what so why not aid it constructively than fight it foolishly?

Again taking about Darwin’s theory (can’t escape this grand old man) let people choose to do what they want to do and let the survival of fittest theory prevail in cultures too. Even the dandy English Hat went out of fashion since it was not convenient so does Hippy movement and drugs and free sex of sixties. More things will phase out even the idea of ‘convenience’. Don’t worry, if chastity belt, al-Qaida, blowing up people in name of religion and religion itself is convenient it will prevail and jeans, noodle strap, valentine's day, right of abortion and idea of happiness will fade if it’s not convenient, but let it happen by itself don’t force it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


" The more powerful you become, the more powerful enemies you create."