Wednesday, October 29, 2008


This winter's going to be a rough one. And I don't need weathernetwork's long-term forecasts to know. It's not yet November and I've had to bring out the big guns - woollen socks, mufflers, toques, etc. I leave home all wrapped up, looking very teddy like (more bear, less roosevelt) and with all the dexterity of a deaf bat... So I really have to ask: Why do we put up with winter?

There was this one year when I collected signatures to petition the weatherman for a milder winter. It didn't work. I shoulda got more signatures.

But winter's just part of the seasonality. Four seasons, each very different from the other, changes things up when you're bored of the view outside. It gives me a sense of the passage of time*. In Bangalore, when each day felt just like the one before or the one after, I had to rely on the newspapers to know how far into the year we were. Here, in Toronto, the colour (or the absence) of leaves helps me find my bearings.

And it makes us appreciate each season that much more, knowing it's going to be a good while before similar conditions visit us again. I suspect this is why sunburns happen. When the sun comes out, I feel like a grad student at an expensive AYCE, stuffing myself silly because it's going to be a while before I can afford the extravagance again.

The other plus about winter is that you can resort to the evergreen conversation fallback - "Man, some weather, eh?" - without it seeming wholly unintelligent.

In Bangalore though, this'd be a little silly *any* time of year - "Wow, it's crazy out there, again in the 27-32 range, eh?"

*Update - Nov 2, 2008 - I wrapped this one up prematurely. I meant to hold forth on the nature of time, and how, even within the context of its inevitable march (day-night and the seasons themselves, i.e. rotation and revolution), there's concepts that we as a species append to it.

Because of our mortality, we feel the need to divide time into past, present and future. We use the concept of a calendar, where though the days and months continue to recycle themselves, we can't extend that luxury to the year. And that's a good thing. Imagine if our hypothetical immortal selves had decided on a binary year calendar, one that reset itself when four seasons passed. The concept of history would get addled..Our schools might have had to do away with the subject entirely..and in some part then, the concept of memory..then, that of nostalgia..and so, a large part of emotion.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Portraits - I

They'd run out of orange wedges and fortune cookies at this rundown restaurant in chinatown thirty years ago, and Lourdes wouldn't leave until they'd given her something to wash down the chopsuey with. They asked her if she'd take a baby. How the baby got there, I don't know. Lourdes agreed, and a few minutes later, boarded the bus with a box of General Tao/sticky rice in one hand, this chinese baby cradled in the other.

It was past midnight by the time she got off the bus and walked the remaining three blocks. Her apartment building was boarded up from the outside, except for a retractable metal gate at the north-eastern corner. All three tenants had their own keys to this gate. She set the baby and the chopsuey down on the pavement as she jiggled the key to the gate. A cone of orange light from a buzzing street-lamp lit the area. The gate opened noiselessly. The tenants took turns keeping the gate oiled. You couldn't have it jam when there was trouble on the street. Oiling the gate was also a mirror of how they lived in that neighbourhood - smoothening edges, beating the rust.

That was thirty years ago. This past week, when Lourdes died, her son couldn't afford to bury her. His skin itched, flies swarming about the dried blood on his body where the skin had cracked open. The desert heat sizzled off the concrete roads where he lay, his mother's body beside him, under a cover of tattered cardboard boxes. She probably died of old age, though she couldn't have been more than sixty. When the mind gives in, the body soon follows.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On Holiday

For those of you that have stopped by over the last couple of weeks and seen nothing new, my apologies. I've been soaking my feet in the mothersoil, will be posting starting next week (week of Oct 20).