Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Visiting Haworth, Bronte Country: In Hindu Businessline

In my head I have written this article with much more melodrama. Visiting Haworth and the famous moors in Yorkshire, England was a lifelong dream. That is where the Bronte sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne - lived and wrote most of their books. For some strange reason I had never wanted to visit any literary place as much as Haworth, perhaps because it seemed more inaccessible than most. And then one day in late September earlier this year I went there and it was overwhelming and one day I will write about how overwhelming it was. For now, here is something I wrote for Hindu Businessline's lovely supplement BLInk.

Read it here or see below for a slightly unedited version. 

Published December 10, 2016. 

MEET THE BRONTES

An English village where the three illustrious sisters lived their short lives, and the wild, temperamental moors that gave us dark, complex characters

There have been many beginnings to this piece. Written and discarded, again and again. None seemed wholly right and I have abandoned them, sent them to join the ranks of false beginnings, words that I had decided did not replicate the language that was tumbling over itself in a hurry in my head, describing things, feeling what I felt.

Perhaps the beginning was really 20-something years ago when as a girl growing up in the hills without enough books to match a voracious reading habit, I reached for, wayyyy before I was meant to, grandfather’s library and met the Brontes sisters. Before the Brontes there were the Russians. But that is not a story that has a place here, today. The beautiful hardbound books with black and gold covers felt too heavy in my hands, I remember. But perched upon a windowsill with Stewart Hill in the background, these classics felt familiar, like it was a story from a slightly eccentric aunt’s backyard. The mountains outside were a reassurance, but the moors would soon take over. Though, it was only a month or so ago that I understood what a moor was, 20-something years after I mouthed that word to myself aloud in a Google-less world, wondering which planet’s landscape it might most closely resemble. I was as much into astronomy in those days as I was into writers whose lives were as dramatic as the heroines they wrote.


And then, many, many years later I found my way to Haworth, where these writers, long recognized as amongst the greatest in English literature, lived. The Bronte sisters – Charlotte, whose 200th birth anniversary is this year (no, the trip wasn’t planned to commemorate that, I promise), Emily and Anne Bronte. And their brother Branwell who tried to paint but failed and then tried to be a drunk and succeeded and died from that success, and their father Patrick who was the curate at the church and though a frail, sickly man, outlived all the children and died an octogenarian. They all lived in this big stone house behind the church, which was called Parsonage because that is what a house allotted to members of the clergy was called. There was, and is, a cemetery in front, which must have been a depressing and all too realistic sight to wake up to every morning, I imagine. But then there were the moors behind the house and they were bleak, cold, windy and maddeningly inspiring, so maybe the tombs weren’t that bad after all.

So they all lived in this big house with an aunt who moved in to help raise the children after Mama Bronte died. Largely ignored by the adults, the Bronte siblings took to making up and then writing down stories and poems in miniscule handmade books, some of which are on display at National Portrait Gallery, London. I went and spent an hour peering into these books and the many drawings and paintings the siblings made – their art, though not at the level of genius as their books – was still mighty skilled. Or so I think. I could forgive the Brontes all follies, as you can tell.

There are a few samples on display at the Parsonage too, now a museum housing their possessions. The rooms are recreated to near likeness of how they must have looked when the family lived there, down to the wallpapers. The kitchen has model bread in the oven, a hand towel hurriedly thrown on the table, a plate set for breakfast, a cupboard with the family’s china on display. The dining room was where the children sat around and amused themselves with stories set in an imaginary kingdom of Angria and where later the girls would write their masterpieces – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. The tea cosy sits atop the table that continues to bear the signs of constant use, and it seems like the sisters will be back any minute now, to discuss their writings with each other till about 11 o’clock every night.

There are portraits, furniture, artist boxes, drawings, books, penknives, letters and this and thats that fill the museum. Charlotte’s wedding bonnet, faded now, made her look like ‘a little snowdrop’, villagers’ accounts of her wedding to Arthur Bell Nicholls say. And because it is her bicentenary year, there are a few installations that respond to the idea of the miniature in her world, curated by the writer Tracy Chevalier. Another writer, Grace McCleen, was chosen as a writer-in-residence for ’16 (lucky woman!) and published Every Sounding Line, a collection of poetry as a result of the residency. Excerpts are printed and strewn on mantle pieces and window sills throughout the house. I see all this, twice over, once hurrying through because it is nearing closing hour and the next day taking more time than I have ever taken in any other museum.


Your impossible greatness, 



invisible yet present,



in the impossibly small.

The Parsonage, fronted by the church, sits atop a steep road that is the Main Street of Haworth, set with setts.Picturesque photographs of the old street, flanked on both sides by cute little shops selling thingamabobs and old pubs are good for the Haworth brand. The Brontes are very good for business. Apart from the well -stocked Parsonage gift shop, the rest of the village sells more Bronte souvenirs, from jewelry and vintage clothes to books to candles and more thingamabobs and my favourite, jams and jellies inspired by characters from the famous novels. The Black Bull public house (pub as we know these places today), sitting by the entrance to the church, is where the brother Bronte is said to have spent many an hour trying to drown his failure in drink. Opposite that is The Apothecary, a 17th century building now also a hotel that I spend a night at, was where Branwell bought his laudanum from, they say. A red telephone box, so typically British, is in another corner, opposite one cute little Post Office. When you stand in the middle of the road and look out, there are the hills and moors, there in the distance. Everything looks like a movie set; they have good reason to keep it so, given the hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Some are research scholars, some are fans like me, treating this as a literature nerdy pilgrimage, and a lot are Japanese – there is, inexplicably, a very large number of Japanese tourists that come to Haworth every year. So high are these numbers that directions to the moors and Bronte sights are carved into the signboards in Japanese.




After marveling at tiny shoes and tinier books and marveling at how these kinds of things hold so much interest for a fan, pedestrian as I would have snootily called such endeavors, had it been anything else, another writer even, I head to the moors, seeking The Bronte Way. There is a well-marked path on one side of the parsonage, past a kissing gate, past two friendly, and huge, grazing horses, past ewes on green, green pastures (all too damned picture postcard-like, I grumble into the wind). It is not too late in the morning and there are several joggers and walkers about, most with their dogs. The moors are, to borrow McCleen’s words, ‘…a sea of swells entwined as if fingers in prayer.’

For the three plus months that I have spent in this island country, I have been incredibly lucky with the weather. The famous English summer has been exceedingly good and I realize I am tempting fate, every passing day. It has been mostly sunny and happy as I wind myself down south from high up in the Scottish Highlands. The day I am to walk the moors, a slow drizzle starts. It is nearing autumn and heather, the pink flower of independence that carpet the moors, are dying. By the time I cross the road and find myself on a path, the wind picks up. It is cold, very cold and windy and raining and I just want to go all English and demand a warm fire and a hot ‘cupatea’. I was to walk to Top Withens, a ruin that, even though there is near conclusive proof that it is not so, is popularly believed to have inspired Emily’s portrayal of the Earnshaw house in Wuthering Heights. There is a waterfall and a bridge along the way, a rock where Emily is believed to have sat, gathering ideas. I am too unprepared for this sudden turn in weather and scurry back, seeing the ruins from a distance, somewhere beyond the haze. Appropriate though, I later think, to see the moors the way they were described by the Brontes, as moody, as wild, as perfection. That is the way I will want to remember them.


The sisters walked the moors a lot. I am, like scores before me, trying to look for answers: for how they managed to write such feministic texts from that tiny non-descript village, for what is it about the moors that inspired them to birth such complex, dark characters, for how these shy Victorian women, with all the trappings that came with that age, wrote such fierce, independent heroines, making them radically feministic and ahead of their times by several decades. I am presumptuous of course. As if these answers would speak to me or
…reach with the tip of its finger



to graze my skin with its alien own.


Standing there, with their beloved moors all around me, I believe, like McCleen writes, that if their spirit lives anywhere at all, it must be here and not in the village or the church or the house. I wait for a while. I am not sure for what. But

Instead of a haunting

I was forced to admit

I was extraordinarily

alone.

And so it ends. A beginning that begun 20-something years ago.




How to get there:

The nearest mainline railway station is Keighley, from where there are frequent 'Bronte buses' available to Haworth village, a distance of about 4 miles away. The nearest airport is Leeds. Both are very well connected by trains, flights and coach from London.

Where to stay:

There are several B&Bs available in the village, apart from AirBnB places, youth hostels and farmhouses. Visit http://www.haworth-village.org.uk/ for a list of the best ones. The Apothecary (http://www.theapothecaryguesthouse.co.uk/), a 17th century inn, now converted into a guest house is bang opposite the Parsonage and overlooks the famous cobbled streets of Haworth and is a great place to explore the village from.

Special tip:

Pack those walking shoes and rain gear. The best way to have the Bronte experience is to walk the moors and around the village. There are plenty of well marked walking trails. And some excellent pubs that serve whiskeys and beers brewed locally, to relax afterwards.


On the Rise of Female Comedians in India: In OPEN Magazine

Over the last few years, female comedians seem to be everywhere. Which is of course a very good thing. The fact that they have to be distinguished as female, paying attention to their gender is not a good thing. I write about that too, in this piece on female comedians in India, in OPEN magazine.

Read the piece here, with photos, or see below. 

Published on December 09, 2016.


LADY HA-HA

How funny were the jokes? They were very funny. We all held our stomachs, threw back our heads and hooted with laughter. But I couldn’t tell you one of the jokes, the comedian refuses, because it is a secret, it’s for women, and that too invited women only. Though if you are a woman you can email the team and ask for an invite. None of the content is meant to be put online, that’s the whole point of the ‘cult’. What I can tell you is that Disgust Me, by Sumukhi Suresh, that was performed recently in Bengaluru was (to rephrase the promo) a cult where we let go, laughed at that crass joke and did not worry about looking fuckable or appropriate.

Upon entry, everyone is given what resembled a tiny penis on a short silky lanyard and encouraged to wear it around their necks. Within five minutes of making her entrance, Suresh will say ours is a small country, referring to the tiny penises. It sets the tone for the rest of the hour-something stand-up comedy show, where she talks to the audience and hands out goodie bags filled with honey and sex toys. The confident confidante manner Suresh adopts on stage makes it an enjoyable hour. As expected, there are countless jokes about penises and boyfriends/husbands and blowjobs and going down and the marriage market and such like. There are jokes about nose poop and a story of bed wetting thrown in.

Suresh started Disgust Me because at one of her other shows, she noticed that some women were uncomfortable laughing at sex jokes when there were men around. So she designed this as a place they didn’t have to be worried about being judged for enjoying dirty jokes. The jokes centre around ‘taboos’ that Suresh’s mother told her were too disgusting to retell, and she encourages her cheering audience to either enjoy them or be disgusted, like her mother would be.

From making her mark at Improv, a desi version of Who’s Line is it Anyway? the immensely popular impromptu comedy show where actors have to enact situations that the audience gives them, to having a couple of viral videos to her credit, Suresh is among the fast expanding tribe of women who are gaining fame and following for their comedy shows.

“It is like a sperm ya. Just one in a million. Then why is it getting so many views?” Suresh had complained, showing me a ten-second clip on her phone a few months ago. In the video, she is draped in a starched white saree with a golden border, the kind worn in Kerala – not her home state – and sings a classical Carnatic version of My Humps, the old Black Eyed Peas song. Hash tagged #TheClassicalSeries, she made the clip while having some three hours to kill, and uploaded it on her Facebook page. The number stands at a million plus views as I write this.

Even in the unpredictable world of viral videos, Suresh has hit the jackpot a couple of times over. It first happened with her short video of a character called Anu Aunty, a middle-aged woman, more a friend of the family than a relative, who nags a young boy about studying to be an engineer or a doctor, though he would rather be an entrepreneur and start something of his own. Her portrayal of Anu Aunty was instantly relatable to young people who are forced by the family into these professions because they are a ticket to wealth, a good spouse and elevated social status. In middle-class India that is still hugely aspirational, Anu Aunty is every neighbourhood nag whose curiosity, and interference, in other’s lives is relentless and irritating. Suresh’s latest sketch series called Behti Naak—where she is an annoying, arrogant young girl with a runny nose—is from where a ceramics artist who sat next to me at the Disgust Me show, started following her work.

The popularity of such videos and the spurt in the number of stand-up comedy shows in tier I and II cities in India speak of a country that has embraced comedy in English as a new, delectable form of entertainment. Nearly all the metros have comedy clubs that exclusively host sketches, improvs and stand-up acts. That an increasing number of these shows are headlined by women comedians speaks loudly of a society that has started to laugh with women, and not just at them.

Bollywood cinema is a mirror that reflects the trends of the day, even if they are misleading and inaccurate. In movies, the female character who was, most often, if not always, ‘fat’, darker skinned and not ‘conventionally’ pretty was the preferred comic relief. A puny male comedian, sometimes her love interest, nearly always laughed at her, and moviegoers laughed with him. The stereotypes of the comic, just like the roles of the virgin heroine and the sexually liberated vamp, remain watertight compartments in popular culture, in both Bollywood and mainstream regional language cinema. The immensely popular male comedians, both of yesteryears and today, owe much of their careers to sets that mock wives and mistresses and their attempts at housekeeping, child rearing and money management, the last of which they were deemed too stupid to be trusted with, anyway.

Over the last few years, younger women like Sumukhi Suresh, Punya Arora, Neeti Palta and older ones like Anu Menon, Radhika Vaz, Aditi Mittal and others have broken the glass ceiling, turning misogynistic comedy on its head and laughing all the way to fame. Not that the road is smooth, not at all, point out all the comedians I talk to. But they are ready for the fight, and are unwilling to be bullied by male comics or be defined by their gender. This is a battle that even the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer are waging in the West.

Punya Arora is an underwater photographer who got curious about stand-up comedy, tried it at an open mic night and fell in love with the format. Raised by a single mother who got divorced because her husband wanted a son and wasn’t thrilled about having a daughter instead, Arora was encouraged never to let gender define her, or her choice of profession. “I have a very supportive mom,” she said, when I ask her if her family is okay with her performing on stage. I ask because a lot of jokes these women comedians make use the words fuck, vagina, sex, etc. – words still taboo and rarely spoken aloud in public in India. An aunt did ask her what her “marriage plan” was, and she answered that she had a life plan instead.The common belief is that stand-up comedy is something some women dabble in before settling down into marriage and kids. “My mother thinks I am going through a phase,” says Suresh, admitting that her family doesn’t know the full extent of her stand-up career. She has women coming up to her after her shows asking her to tone it down, out of respect for her future in-laws. “I am more afraid of the women in the audience. Female comedians badly need women to back us,” she said. “Who will marry you?” is an unasked but implied question, for young women who are on stage, sometimes in bars, late into the night, telling jokes about their lady parts and the things they do with men.

Radhika Vaz, one of the first women comedians in the country to gain widespread attention, was already older, in her late 30s, married and hence, “didn’t give a fuck” when she started doing stand-up. “I had the advantage of being older, and also had female role models (in New York where she started her career) who said anything they wanted. They were not held back by being women,” she says, admitting that she got lucky that way. India and the unspoken rules that define a woman’s behaviour in public, and at home, were not even on her mind.

Vaz’s sets are deeply personal and she goes after three things—marriage, children and aging— often in her jokes. The underlying feminism is unmissable and some jokes are deep and dark. Given the baggage associated with the word ‘feminism’, is she one? I ask. “It is a simple word, the simplest word in the whole fucking world, pardon my French,” she says, explaining why being a feminist is so important in a patriarchal world. “Patriarchy is a worldwide issue and that is why feminism is important. I am a feminist, I am just a feminist,” she reiterates.

In her show Unladylike, like the title, she talks about issues that are deemed to be too ‘improper’ for women to talk about. Her show and sketches crackle with smart lines on virginity, nipple hair, the Brazilian wax, and how a full shave looks like “two chicken breasts squashed together”. ‘Brazen’ and ‘bold’ are hasty descriptions, for her or the others, for Vaz only talks of topics that should be normal, not embarrassing or shameful to address.

What is life like on stage? And Vaz says that she came to the party with husband, in-laws and parents. “I have an independent streak, and my husband is a lot like that as well. He manages all my shows and everyone knows what is happening (with the jokes). As for my in-laws, they live in denial.” I could almost hear her grinning into the phone.

Vaz was a pioneer in the field and paved the road for those after her, I point out. “I don’t think the road has been paved yet,” she says, estimating that India as a society and as an audience will take a little more time to be more accepting of performers like her.

The content that these women write invariably becomes personal and feministic. Arora talks a lot about single parenthood. Suresh addresses her plus-size body and moves on to tackle mundane issues, ending with something dark and feministic to “shock-and-surprise”.

They all love that there are more women on the scene over the last couple of years. “We need more female comedians because we need more work. We need to understand that,” Suresh says, adding that the real challenge will be when the numbers are higher, which is when the quality of the content will be the only thing that will be important. Their audience is still restricted to a niche, English-speaking crowds in metros and larger towns, a fact that Vaz acknowledged as well. “English is the only language I speak fluently and it is a bit of a handicap. But I have performed in places that are not Delhi or Mumbai where the audience may not be limited to an English speaking crowd,” she says.

Social media has played a crucial role in the success of these comedians. Vaz, who jokes about her anger management issues, told me that it was “great to write something” on Twitter and let it out. One-liners on current affairs apart, a lot of the sketches that they write and produce and upload on YouTube add to their popularity, in turn giving them more shows, in turn helping them grow their fan base.

What with women cutting their teeth into yet another male bastion, what do the men think? I had asked Suresh. “They are very, very supportive. Blanket rule,” she told me, a sentiment the others echo as well.

It might be a tiny section of modernized, liberated urban India that is laughing with these women, be it on their shows, through columns and books like those of Twinkle Khanna or on social media. In a Utopian culture your job and gender should be independent. But for now, it does matters. And that is why every laugh is a loud war cry asking for the fall of patriarchy.

The Lost Art of Sending Greeting Cards: In Binkana Column, Kannada Prabha

I am sending a few greeting cards this year, belatedly. Adding in this and that into the envelopes, personalising the crap out of them. Some of you will get one!

This column might well be my last in KP (more on that later). I wrote on greeting cards and ended by wishing people a happy new year. It was published on Christmas Day. Unedited version below.

Also, Happy New Year, dear people.

ನನ್ನದು ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ಕೆಲಸ ಜಾಸ್ತಿ. ಈ ಅಂಕಣ ಕೂಡ ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಯ ಸಂಪಾದಕರಿಗೆ ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ತಲುಪಿರುತ್ತದೆ, ಅವರನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿದರೆ ಗೊಣಗುತ್ತಾ ಹೇಳಿಯಾರು. ಪರೀಕ್ಷೆಗೆ ಓದುತ್ತಿದ್ದುದು, ಟಿಕೆಟ್ ಗಳನ್ನು ಬುಕ್ ಮಾಡುವುದು, ಅದ್ಯಾವುದೋ ಅಪ್ಲಿಕೇಶನ್ ಕಳಿಸುವುದು, ಕರೆಂಟ್ ಬಿಲ್ ಕಟ್ಟುವುದು, ಎಲ್ಲವೂ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ನಲ್ಲೆ ನಡೆಯುತ್ತಾ ಬರುತ್ತಿರುವ ಚಾಳಿ. ಇದೊಂದು ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸವೆಂದು ಖಂಡಿತವಾಗಿಯೂ ಹೆಮ್ಮೆಯಿಂದ ಹೇಳಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ದುರಹಂಕಾರ ನನ್ನದಲ್ಲ. ದಶಕಗಳ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ, ಟಕ್ಕ್ ಎಂದು ಕೋಲು ತಿರುಗಿಸಿ ಬದಲಾಯಿಸುವುದು ಕಷ್ಟ. ಬದಲಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ದಶಕಗಳಿಂದ ನಡೆದುಬರುತ್ತಲಿದೆ ಎಂಬುದು ನೀವು ಊಹಿಸಿಕೊಂಡಿರುತ್ತೀರಿ.

ನಿನ್ನೆ ಇದೇ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ಕೆಲಸದ ಹಿಂದೆ ಓಡಿದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನಿಮಗೆ ಹೇಳಬೇಕು. ಅದೆಲ್ಲಿಂದ ಬಂದ ಯೋಚನೆಯೋ ನಾ ಹೇಳಲಾರೆ. ಏನೋ ಓದುತ್ತಿರಬೇಕಾದರೆ ತಲೆಗೆ ಹೊಳೆದಿರಬೇಕು - ಇಂತಹಾ ಯೋಚನೆಗಳು ಬರುವ ಸಮಯ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ರಾತ್ರಿ, ಇನ್ನೇನು ಮಲುಗಬೇಕು ಎನ್ನುವಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ, ತಲೆಗೆ ಹುಳ ಬಿಟ್ಟಂತಾಗಿ, ಮತ್ತೆ ಎಚ್ಚರಗೊಂಡು ಪ್ಲಾನ್ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ ನಿದ್ರೆ ಕೆಡುವ ಹೊತ್ತು. ಇನ್ನೇನು ಈ ವರ್ಷದ ಕೊನೇಯ ವಾರವಿದು, ಒಂದಿಷ್ಟು ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರಿಗೆ ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್, ಶುಭಾಷಯ ಪತ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಯಾಕೆ ಕಳಿಸಬಾರದು ಎಂದು ನೆನಪಾಯಿತು. ತಕೊ, ಮಗುವಿನ ಕೈಗೆ ಹೊಸ ಆಟಿಕೆಯನ್ನು ಕೊಟ್ಟಷ್ಟು ಉತ್ಸಾಹದಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಳಗಾಗಲು ಕಾದು, ಅಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ತಡೆಯಲಾಗದೆ ನನ್ನ ಪೇಟೆಯ ಮಧ್ಯೆ ಇರುವ ಈ ಹಳ್ಳಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪಕ್ಕದಲ್ಲೇ ಇರುವ ಫ್ರೆಂಡಿಗೆ ಫೋನ್ ತೆಗೆದು ಮೆಸೇಜ್ ಕಳಿಸಿ ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಎಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ ಎಂದು ಗೊತ್ತ ಎಂದು ಕೇಳಿದೆ. ಅವನಿಗೆ ಗೊತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಅದೆಲ್ಲ ನಮ್ಮ ಈ ಊರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುವ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಸಂಶಯವನ್ನೂ ಒಂದಿಷ್ಟು ವ್ಯಕ್ತಪಡಿಸಿದ.

ಬೆಳಗಾಗಿ ನಾನೆದ್ದು ಏನೇನೆಲ್ಲ ನೆನೆಯುತ್ತ ಇರುವಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ನನ್ನ ಅದ್ಭುತ ಐಡಿಯಾ ಪುನಃ ತಲೆಗೆ ಹೊಕ್ಕು, ಕೆಲ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರಿಗೆ ತಮ್ಮ ಪೂರ್ತಿ ವಿಳಾಸವನ್ನು ಕಳಿಸಲು ಹೇಳಿದೆ. ಅಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ನೆನಪಾದುದ್ದು ಅವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನು ಸಂಗ್ರಹಿಸಿ ಬರೆದಿಡಲು ವಿಳಾಸ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ನನ್ನ ಬಳಿ ಇಲ್ಲವೆಂಬುದು. ಸ್ಮಾರ್ಟ್ ಫೋನ್, ಇಮೇಲ್, ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ ತಂತ್ರಜ್ಞಾನ ಬಂದ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಾಯವಾದ ಅದೆಷ್ಟೋ ವಸ್ತುಗಳ ಸಾಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಅಡ್ರೆಸ್ ಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳು ಸೇರುತ್ತವೆ. ಬಹುಷಃ ಈ ಪುಟ್ಟ ದುರಂತ ಕೆಲವೊಂದು ತಲೆಮಾರಿನ ಕರ್ಮವಷ್ಟೇ, ಒಂದಷ್ಟು ವಯಸ್ಸಾದ ಮಂದಿಯದ್ದಲ್ಲ ಎಂಬ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟೀಕರಣ ನೀಡಬೇಕೋ ಏನೋ.

ಅದ್ಯಾವುದೋ ಖಾಲಿ ಪುಸ್ತಕದಲ್ಲಿ ವಿಳಾಸಗಳ ಗುರುತು ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾಯಿತು. ಕೇಳಿದವರೆಲ್ಲ 'ಆಹಾ, ಥ್ಯಾಂಕ್ಸ್' ಎಂದೇ ಹೇಳಿದವರಾಯಿತು. ಇನ್ನು ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಹುಡುಕಬೇಕಿತ್ತು. ಇನ್ನ್ಯಾವುದೋ ಕೆಲಸದ ಬೆನ್ನೇರಿ ಈ ಹುಡುಕಾಟ ಪ್ರಾರಂಭಿಸಿದ್ದೂ ಆಯಿತು. ನನ್ನ ಏರಿಯಾದ ವಿಷಯ ಬಿಡಿ, ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ದೂರದ 'ಪಾಶ್' ಎಂದೆನಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ವಠಾರದಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಸಹ ಅದೆಷ್ಟೇ ಹುಡುಕಿದರೂ ಒಂದೇ ಒಂದು ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ ಸಿಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ನನಗಂತೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಕಮ್ಮಿ ಅಂದರೆ ಇಪ್ಪತ್ತಾದರೂ ಬೇಕಿತ್ತು.

ಬೈಕ್ ಒಂದರ ಹಿಂದೆ ಕುಳಿತು ಹುಡುಕುತ್ತಾ ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿರಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಸುಮಾರು ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಹೊಸ ವರ್ಷ, ದೀಪಾವಳಿ, ಯುಗಾದಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕೆಲವರ ಹುಟ್ಟು ಹಬ್ಬಕ್ಕೆಂದು ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಕಲಿಸುವ ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯದಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದುದು ನೆನಪಿಗೆ ಬಂತು. ಕಾರ್ಡ್ ಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹಲವು ಭಿನ್ನವಾದ ರೀತಿಯವು, ಮ್ಯೂಸಿಕ್ ಬರುವಂತಹಾ ದುಬಾರಿಯವು, ಹಾಸ್ಯಾಸ್ಪದ, ಜೋಕ್ ಉಳ್ಳವು, ರೋಮಾಂಚನ ಕವಿತೆಗಳನ್ನು ಹೊಂದಿರುವವು, ಮತಷ್ಟು ಯಾವುದೋ ದಾನ ಧರ್ಮ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಗಳ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಗಳು, ಒಳಗೆ ಖಾಲಿಯಾಗಿರುವ, ನಮ್ಮದೇ ಸ್ವಂತ ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸಿದ ಸಂದೇಶಗಳನ್ನು ಬರೆಯಬಹುದಾದಂತಹವು, ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ. ಸಾಲು ಸಾಲಾಗಿ ಜೋಡಿಸಿಟ್ಟ ಕಾರ್ಡುಗಳಿಂದ ಆಯ್ಕೆ ಮಾಡಿ, ಎರಡು ಗೆರೆ ಗೀಚಿಟ್ಟು ಅಂಚೆ ಚೀಟಿ ಅಂಟಿಸಿ ಕೆಂಪು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಬಾಕ್ಸ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ತುರುಕಿ, ಮತ್ತೆ ಖಾಖಿ ಸಮವಸ್ತ್ರ ಧರಿಸಿದ ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮ್ಯಾನ್ ಒಂದಿಷ್ಟು ದಿನಗಳ ನಂತರ ಸೈಕಲಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಟ್ರಿಂಗ್ ಟ್ರಿಂಗ್ ಎಂದು ಬೆಲ್ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ ನಮಗೆ ಬರೆದ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ ಅಥವಾ ಕಳಿಸಿದ್ದಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದ ಉತ್ತರಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾತರದಿಂದ ಕಾಯುವ ದಿನಗಳವು.

ಮಧ್ಯಾಹ್ನದವರೆಗೆ ಹುಡುಕಿದ್ದೆ ಬಂತು. ಎಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಸಿಕ್ಕದ ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡುಗಳ ನೆನೆಯುತ್ತಾ ಬೇರೆ ಯಾವುದಾದರೂ ಸುಲಭದ ಐಡಿಯಾ ಹೊಳೆಯಬಾರದಿತ್ತೇ ಎಂದು ಗೊಣಗುತ್ತಾ ಹಿಂತಿರುಗಿ ಬಂದದ್ದೂ ಆಯಿತು. ವಿಳಾಸಗಳನ್ನು ಸಂಗ್ರಹಿಸಿದ ಮೇಲೆ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ ಕಲಿಸದೇ ಇರುವುದು ತಪ್ಪು ಎಂದು ನಿನ್ನೆ ರಾತ್ರಿ ಇಡೀ ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಅವರವರ ವ್ಯಯಕ್ತಿಕ ಆಸಕ್ತಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಹೋಲುವಂತೆ ಇಲ್ಲೊಂದು ಬರ್ಮಾ ಪೇಪರಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಬರೆದ ಪತ್ರ, ಇಷ್ಟವಾದ ಕವಿತೆಯ ಒಂದೆರಡು ಸಾಲು, ಅಲ್ಲೊಂದು ಸಂಗ್ರಹಿಸಿದ ಹಳೆಯ ಚಿತ್ರ, ಒಂದು ಬುಕ್ ಮಾರ್ಕ್, ಹೀಗೆ ಕವರುಗಳಿಗೆ ಹಾಕಿ ಗಮ್ ಅಂಟಿಸಿ ಮೇಜಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಒಂದರ ಮೇಲೊಂದು ಇಟ್ಟಾಯಿತು. ಅಂಚೆ ಕಛೇರಿಗೆ ಹೋಗುವ ಮುಹೂರ್ತ ಇನ್ನೂ ಬರಬೇಕಷ್ಟೆ. ಅದಕ್ಕಿನ್ನೂ ಲಾಸ್ಟ ಮಿನಿಟ್ ಬರಲಿಲ್ಲ.

ಮುಂದಿನ ಡಿಸೆಂಬರ್ ಬಂದಾಗ ಇಂತಹಾ ಐಡಿಯಾ ಮತ್ತೆ ಹೊಳೆಯದಿದ್ದರೆ ಸಾಕು ಎಂದು ಒಂದೆಡೆ ಈಗಲೇ ಅನಿಸುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಆದರೂ ಇನ್ನೊಂದೆಡೆ ಬಹುಷಃ ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕೆ ಒಂದು ಸಾರಿಯಾದರೂ ಅಂಚೆ ಕಚೇರಿಯ ಮುಖ ನೋಡಬೇಕು, ಕೆಂಪು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಬಾಕ್ಸ್ ನ ಮುಂದೆ ನಿಲ್ಲಬೇಕು ಎಂದೆನಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಕಳಿಸುವುದು, ಪಡೆಯುವುದು ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ಮುಖ್ಯ ವಿಷಯವಲ್ಲ. ಕಥೆಯ ನೀತಿ ಎಂಬುವುದೊಂದಿದ್ದರೆ ಅದು ಈ ಅತೀ ವೇಗದ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದಿಷ್ಟಾದರೂ, ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆಯಾದರೂ ನಾವು ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ನಿಧಾನವಾಗಿ ವಿರಾಮವನ್ನು ಅನುಭವಿಸಬೇಕೆಂಬುದು. ಕಾರ್ಡುಗಳನ್ನು ಬರೆಯುವುದು, ಒಂದು ಸಣ್ಣ ವಾಕ್, ಬೆಳಗ್ಗೆ ಹತ್ತು ನಿಮಿಷ ಪೇಪರ್ ಅಥವಾ ಕಾಫಿಯ ಜೊತೆಗೆ, ಒಂದೆರಡು ನಿಮಿಷ ಧ್ಯಾನ, ಹೀಗೆ ಜೀವನವನ್ನು ಕೆಲ ನಿಮಿಷಗಳ ಕಾಲವಾದರೂ ನಿಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಕಳೆಯುವುದರಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಸಂತೋಷ ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಸಮ.

ಈ ಮುಗಿಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ವರುಷದಲ್ಲಿ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ಸುದ್ಧಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕೊಂಡಾಡುವಂತದ್ದು ಬೆರಳೆಣಿಕೆಯಷ್ಟೂ ಸಹ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ದುರಂತದ ನಂತರ ದುರಂತ ಎಂಬುದೇ ಮಂತ್ರ ವಾಗಿದ್ದ ವರುಷ ಸದ್ಯ, ಮುಗಿದೇ ಬಂತು. ಓದುಗರಿಗೆಲ್ಲಾ ಗ್ರೀಟಿಂಗ್ ಕಾರ್ಡ್ಸ್ ಕಳಿಸಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗದು. ನನ್ನ ಹೊಸ ವರ್ಷದ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳನ್ನು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವೀಕರಿಸಿ. ಹೊಸ ವರುಷ ತಾಳ್ಮೆ, ನಿಧಾನದ ಗಳಿಗೆ, ಹೊಸ ಹರುಷವ ತರಲಿ.