Monday, February 28, 2011

Concept Human

[Last part of the "Voices of I" series]

I think I no longer have a voice. Then, silence.

Standing by the church patio, Joseph looked prim with his barong tagalog. Designed by a couturier two years ago, his outfit was tailored barely three months before the wedding. The morning sky seemed not to delay the promise of another day's worth of summer. All the while, the sunlight polished a gentle luster on his leather shoes. From where he was, Joseph scarcely moved. Lost in a catalog of images somewhere at the back of his mind, he saw something with pristine clarity. In a previous lifetime not too long ago, he was Mary's husband and she was his wife. They were happy then and their late night strolls in Paris were made lovelier by the way Mary pressed her hand with his. It was tight and strangely familiar. In those evenings, the damp cobblestone steps were always illuminated by street lamps that have seen better days before the turn of the twentieth century.

Their story, it seems, has been refined by an amalgam of history, with the years jumping back and forth as if time did not stretch infinitely like a straight line. On countless moments when the sun is about to break its light on the eastern horizon, Joseph would find Mary beside him, sleeping like a tender maiden betrothed to the love of her life. He is someone she has met on first times too many to mention. This gave Joseph the unquestionable assurance that someday, in another lifetime, they will meet again in a rendezvous far too perfect to be a mistake. Perhaps a plot that repeats itself time and again bears the incalculable imprints of forever.

In one lifetime, Joseph was a self-styled geisha who eloped with Mary, a divorced intelligence officer at the height of the occupation of Manchuria. In yet another lifetime, they raised their family of eight in an African coastal town. Years of protest proved unavailing; foreign ships harvested the bounties of the sea while the emaciated fisherfolk sulked in utter despair. Joseph and Mary lost two daughters from death through poverty. Still, in quite another, the carpenter Joseph and the virgin Mary had a child in Bethlehem at the time of Herod the Great's rule. It was not in any way a great time for the rest of the world.

And more. One February night, they met in a bar. In a parallel time, she was flipping burgers and he was a student. Eighty years ahead, her name was Roxanne. Eighty years more, she was Caprice.

I have seen Joseph like a mirror reflection. I have seen him blindly wander through these countless lifetimes, unrelentingly groping the dark by the palm of his hands in search of something lost, or someone who was never there, and with only the memory of Mary to guide him. I have seen Mary, too, and I miss her. But this is not supposed to be my story, at least not on print.

The Gothic church was an imposing figure against the backdrop of sprawling acacia. At nine that morning, the bridal car arrived. Stepping out of the white Mercedes, Mary was still as beautiful as any one of the days and nights when Joseph met her in places he could barely enumerate. Her very presence catapulted his mind back to the present, the is.

It is true that the world each time is different. It gets bigger, sometimes smaller, and it will never be the same as the last. In all these, Joseph takes their burning desire to be reunited as the only unwritten constant. Everything else that is written and volatile implodes. The gradual death of memory is a decay that cannot be undone, like ancient acacia falling victim to the weakness of their aging roots. Always, the ground below shifts. Street lamps have changed in a continuum. The cobblestone steps appear and disappear, with no guarantee that they will reappear some other century. In this state of affairs, flux is the rule. Joseph and Mary themselves are the only exceptions. It is no surprise, therefore, that Joseph will still be able to recognize Mary among the million strangers who have nothing to do with them. Now, Mary is in front of the church.

But Joseph could tell that something was amiss.

The entourage went ahead and the sound of the church bells began to ripple through the woods. Mary began to walk towards the altar. Her pace was slow and yet she had an aura of confidence. Joseph could see her in that lonely procession. But every second, her figure turned smaller, more distant, as the end of her gown unfortunately dragged along the way. Finally, Mary stopped. Chris looked at Mary with an expression Joseph has seen before.

After all the rituals, the magic words came. I do, Mary said. Chris did the same. Joseph did not say a word. He was seated far back where the sound of the applause and the blankness of an inner silence enough to break one's spirits become acquaintances for the first time.

Sometimes, it only takes two words to make a man suffer a voiceless cry, only to wait, and hope, for another lifetime just to find his voice again.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

La Pelle

[Part 3 of the "Voices of I" series]

I could have spent the rest of the day inside the vehicle and paid every penny I had just to make the ride endless. Gently rubbing shoulders and arms with a beautiful girl for a few stolen moments feels like being trapped in an event horizon. Escape is almost impossible. Neither can you fall through the invisible surface of a powerful vacuum. You are simply there, suspended in a void, frozen in a cosmic chasm, but you soon metamorphose after a few carefully chosen muscles move as your brain willed them to. You are reminded of Franz Kafka and, suddenly, you feel like one or all of three things:

A crude organism beholden—for the first time since 1986 or thereabouts—to the sight of a female apparition so close you can almost taste her by planting a soft kiss on her right shoulder by surprise; a bookworm suddenly turning ignoramus about the distinctions between the laws of Newton and the laws of physical attraction; or a pious laity sitting in posterity beside a creation unmistakably divine that you cannot help but be thoroughly convinced just by looking at her lips that no god could have quite possibly shaped her being from the rib of a man. It just cannot be. It revolts against plain logic. No beautiful lady could have possibly evolved from the flesh and bones of a creature that has nothing to do with aesthetics.

Her cheeks had an amber glow, too unimposing on close view that it blended quite well with the afternoon sunlight. She has a name I do not know but I was certain we were studying in the same university. The print on her loose shirt was a dead giveaway.

Inside the passenger jeep, she was a total stranger and yet I was at the mercy of the slightest touch of her skin. I cannot be certain if she noticed but it was not I who made the first contact, at least as far as I can recall. Unfortunately, my memory is a traitor. It betrays with calculated precision and I am always at its cross-hair. More to that, I think she did not bother to dignify my presence with an innocent rub, more so one with malice. All too clear, I plainly did not deserve either one. A mortal must never expect being ennobled by a deity on their first encounter.

There was something about her, and perhaps it was not her fault that her lovely arm brushed with my tired hand in the first place. It may have well been an accident all along, a progeny of a force majeure as picturesque as a French film's climax in slow motion, an enticing casus fortuitus with only one casualty—reticent, though, like an inquisitor forever cursed with silence, but still a casualty.


If there is an oxymoron to put the gamut of the experience in an odd syntax, it would be "lovely trauma". There was a point when the length of our arms glided with one another and, at that moment, I could have instantly died from a form of pleasure better left unspoken, but I will say it anyway because it will not make any difference. I am neither a big fan nor an advocate of asexual reproduction, the one where you do not really have to work your genitals, but her skin alone is enough to incite either involuntary orgasm by day or wet dreams by night. In fact, when the passenger jeep made turns at two consecutive curves on the road, twice did I realize that her supple skin defies friction. It was incredibly smooth I felt incredulous myself for wanting to touch her arm just to satiate my curiosity. There was absolutely no way to make fire with it, and it will be senseless to even dare. I smiled at the thought of it and I wanted to tell her how much I would like to skate my fingers up and down her arms.

But there was an attempt less sinister, or more trivial, which was borderline barely there. Like a paratrooper disguised as a very shy cabbage doing reconnaissance on vegetable territory, my little finger made mild contact with her wrist. My finger was barely there until it landed like a chopper on a pristine helipad. I tried to recoil my finger but I was too late. I was already too happy that I found myself partly smiling and partly grimacing. I went ecstatic inside and I still have the butterflies in my stomach to prove it. While I kept my little finger lightly deployed, I could not help but glance at her, as if I was about to say, or sing, I want to hold your hand.

I swear it would have freaked her out if I did, for I do not sing too well. I sing too bad you will want to kill me by smashing my larynx with a sledgehammer. Thrice.

All pleasant experiences can last infinitely until the point where they necessarily have to end. Para po was the magic phrase, her voice surprisingly tender, prompting the driver to maneuver the passenger jeep to a halt just in front of the dormitory's entry path after I echoed what she said but with more vitality. In that rare opportunity, I had to make sure that she was heard. Para daw po. She got off the vehicle, looking more unbearably attractive with the parasol by her hand. And I remember her briefly looking back at me with a smile before she went her way. It was a good day and I went home.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Plump Fiction

[Part 5 of the "Voices of I" series]

Roxanne lives a sex life that is as arid as the Gobi. Truth be told, dry is too polite an adjective to characterize the state of affairs between her genitals and actual—not imagined—coitus. If her vagina is a desert, it is one that thirsts for the first drop of rain that will finally undo the curse of famine, a literal coup de grace for the celibate. In one of her toilet bowl contemplations not too long ago, Roxanne can almost hear her vulva speak to her as if it was pulsating with alien life, declaring with a clout of frustration—like Mark Antony at the start of his funeral oration for Julius Caesar—that she has become more virgin than Mary of Nazareth herself. "Shut!" Roxanne would issue the command like a judge would issue a writ with finality. Unfortunately, her vagina has lips that will not be sealed by a mere order from its possessor. "I have come to bury your virginity and not to praise it," the creature would interject, smiling without teeth, as if to say that Roxanne is its arrogant underling. Although Roxanne would have none of it, perhaps the vagina has a point when it said that the fruit is already swelling, or ripe enough for harvest season, only that she hangs at the topmost branch and that nobody ever dared to climb the height of the tree and touch her.

The problem is that they exist in the same body at the same time, like two disparate independent clauses bridged by an unbreakable conjunction; they necessarily form the whole sentence. You cannot take away one without destroying the collective meaning. Roxanne sees their situation comparable to sisters conjoined in utero, sharing the same blood and flesh, but treats everything as communal only to the extent that one is willing to share. Nobody wanted to share anything, and therein lies the rub. Because their flesh is one, nature dictates that their relationship is one of absolute community of property. Worse, the vagina cannot divorce itself from her.

On the twentieth of each month, it bleeds. It is not wounded from a protracted battle but it is waiting for that fateful day as Milan Kundera himself would have envisioned it: "[Roxanne's] legs raised in the air like the arms of a soldier surrendering to a pointed gun." Enemy occupation will be liberation day, like how traitors embrace the knees of the conqueror in exchange for an extended artificial life, no matter how brief. It will be the death nail to her chastity; the immeasurable pleasure therefrom will be nirvana for the vagina. What she detests, her receptacle yearns. The reader must understand the dualism, the dichotomy that separates the organ from the organism.

I have not seen Roxanne in seven years, much less the proud flower that complains for not having been placed on the head as a crown to a queen, a rightful throne that deserves the attention of the universe. In my memory, she is a voiceless face whose skin is lovely but pales in contrast to the soul that hides beneath. I remember the two short encounters we have had in the past, and on both occasions she said "no". The question had something to do with her name and her answer had a lot to do with rejection. Twice failing, I did my research and eventually found out for myself. I think I have known many things about her. Looking back, there is always a fine line between fiction and truth, but three years less than a decade is a period long enough to blur any distinction, if at all it still matters today.

Novelists and women—oftentimes just one and the same—have long posed the theory that there is a group of the female species out to reserve their chastity, or bent on remaining true to their abstinence, until the day the bold and brave hazards to climb his way through the thorns and claims the destiny meant for a man and a woman, which is to consecrate their lives in a lasting union. Until that day, the Gobi is to remain deprived of irrigation, or exonerated by harrowing winds from the vast sea of nimbus above. Roxanne believes in this like gospel truth, as if the occult is not in any way different from organized mafia called religion. In a way, her vagina is a stubborn atheist. Men in her college admired her for her iron will, but they admired her sexual canal all the more for its rebellious disposition. Like greyhounds, they wag their tail after picking up a scent that they were trained to recognize. Her dogged followers want both polar worlds and they desire to smother themselves in those extremes. They are captivated captives who understand prison term as the closest thing to sexual freedom.

Etymology is a curiosity. The word vagina literally means scabbard in Latin. It is supposed to hold a bladed weapon, like a knife or a scimitar. The scabbard poses the least danger; it is the weapon inside that can inflict mortal wounds, some of which are never to heal.

I am yet to recover from the seven years of absolute nothing that Roxanne has given. Her absence has been fatal to my cause. She has been the executioner, if not the guillotine herself, taking the form of a blade that hides inside a fertile sheath of skin, waiting for the prompt time to wield itself against the neck of the convict. I have been guilty of admiration and I have died many times during those seven years.

She is the vagina without her knowing it.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scent of a Woman

[Part 4 of the "Voices of I" series]

Her name is Caprice and her scent lingers long after she has gone elsewhere. The smell of her perfume is no more and no less than what it is and what it should be—a smell, one that easily drifts with the wind. But her scent, it hovers over memory for a while and sinks into its embrace, like an aftertaste of the pleasantries during dinner, the fine wine being a mere decoration to all that is sweet on the same night, even perhaps everything else that there has been in all those encounters. Her scent repeats itself time and again almost everywhere, and not even her absence can dissipate what it leaves behind on sunny days and lazy afternoons, the more tender evenings notwithstanding. It is strangely recognizable but is never really understood for reasons that any mind, entrusted at the mercy of passion and longing, cannot begin to comprehend. I could kiss her neck, lavish its warmth, and let her scent consume whatever is left of my desires.

If intimacy is as familiar as air is to lungs, her scent may well be my oxygen. I would breathe her memory and feel every second of her life racing down my arteries. I would be alive and her absence will kill me.

But I have lived.

On many occasions, the midnight sky is our ceiling, earth our heaven, and the moon our witness. My fingers would trace the edge of her chin as I gently let my lips touch hers, slowly but without a trace of hesitation. She would hold me close and tight; I would return the favor and she would let loose a soft moan, as if she suddenly discovered her instincts after a lifetime of solitude of maybe a hundred years or so. We would close our eyes then and, for the longest two minutes of our lives, the world is ours without us begging for it. Perhaps, when you have everything in your arms, there is nothing more to ask for.

Caprice would try to regain her composure for a moment and I would kiss her again. But before she could take command of my lips, I would withdraw. Less than a refusal, it is a ploy she pretends not to be fairly acquainted with. She would look me in the eyes in a shy attempt to find an explanation she could wrestle her thoughts with. All temporary retreats being impermanent, I would resume my display of affection for her, purely sincere as it was from the start, and let my hands fall wherever they may roam.

Still, she would lead the way. It is this which brings her an unspoken delight. Like a vassal owing allegiance to the sole lady of the manor, I would follow without question and my demeanor would be domesticated to her ideals, like a creature by its own but is tangled on its leash throughout. The way she would let her hair fall as she arches her back and reveals the full glory of her neck is an open and exclusive invitation, mine and mine alone, much to the exclusion of the universe. The grantee must comply therewith, and I would soon find myself in complete submission to Caprice. Every inch of her skin is porcelain I could not resist.

But her scent, above all, is a fragrance that is ineluctable for a man too strong to be meek. It cuts across this heart like a crescent scythe, a heart emboldened by a spirit that has almost conquered life's little but perennial troubles, and this one scent it can hardly shield itself from for no armor will suffice. It is a scent that refuses to wither, if not one that denies its abject decay by reason of its very being. It is a scent that can shape a heathen into a priestly sinner overnight without the need for a novena or the intervention of the saints. Nowhere has there been such a colder compromise for the sheer pleasure of indulging in something that is not there but is there, still. Like the Siberian breeze in the middle of May finding itself pushing down the tropics, but far more enticing. Like a god, only more divine and less forgiving.

Caprice, you are lovely; your scent, all the more.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Monday, February 7, 2011

Massive Failure of Erection

[Part 1 of the "Voices of I" series]

He was thinking, or he feigned the whole process, but the way he did it did not impress her a bit; his chicanery bored her. He tried to gather his thoughts as if he was forcing the veins in his wide forehead to lacerate their way out of his skin. It could have been enough to make him shit his gallbladder while sitting right next to his stunning date. After nine shots of tequila and twelve cigarette sticks, he was speechless. It was infinitely worse than when he took his first swig of alcohol for the night. Perhaps there were not enough interesting things in his dictionary that he can say without simultaneously breathing into them an air of bravado, so he had to think of something.

It was getting late in the evening and his resolute attempts at intellectual masturbation were foiled from time to time by her sly remarks. He would fidget a bit before he would poke her attention with his words and gestures. To her mind, it was a sign of two things: he was still alive and, as a matter of sheer necessity, she still had a mission to accomplish. Nonetheless, it was a mission she was willing to fail if she felt like it. That Sunday night, she was determined to murder his every chance of nailing her. Had his mind been sharp enough, he would have easily felt that his situation was more miserable than being reincarnated as Patrick Ewing's foreskin left out to dry in the sun after circumcision. Unfortunately, his mind is obtuse. His brain, or head, is something else.

For her, the way his cerebrum protruded against his cranium is an anomaly, or a clear indication that God, or Allah, or Buddha, or Bathala, or Darwin's evolution, has a strange way of illustrating humor for posterity. If a picture paints a thousand words, his forehead easily qualifies as a library. Perhaps, she thought, it protruded for no apparent reason except to make the world a little less unforgiving, maybe even to make others feel good about their selves at his expense, which isn't exactly a detestable leisure. Or, the awkward anatomy of his head is his cerebrum's symbolic way of making its presence felt, as it unmistakably did when she told him ten minutes and four seconds ago that he could need an abacus for a brain. Are you still single? He asked her, his tone highly suggestive of how much he wanted to get into her pants later and get out of it first thing in the morning. You could need an abacus for a brain, she said. They weren't exactly a couple but they were the only pair, and an odd one at that, spending their time at the sulky bar before the bartender had to call it a night for the patrons.

Maybe she has a point. After all, he is a mere biped that can hardly claim ingenuity as his prime virtue. For him, he is just what he thinks he is—another mortal, the living and walking proof of his parents' carnal desires, the fruit of a sexual congress one damp and lazy afternoon, the only sperm ever to successfully race through that no-man's land called fallopian tubes, a forty-two-year-old fetus with hair on all the wrong parts of the body. But even this stubborn fact she still wanted to treat as a conundrum, one that has to be banished for the sake of womankind, with the only exception that she'll go the mile, or play the ground, if only he could exhibit a flicker of intelligence, even the artificial kind. She was a potential mate, a desirable creature from the world of vaginae, and he was just a thing, or something. An it. The polar opposite of all things beautiful, not even quaint.

The place was as dead as his toenail, and the throbbing pulse on his veins was not even considered by the foxy lady as a sign of life. These things did not excite her in any conceivable way. It took his neurons twenty minutes to phrase the question where do you work again?

At the plumber's shop. I'm a pipe vacuum, she said without hesitation. It was her vain attempt to spark his plug and, hopefully, fetch an ounce of his wit in the end. It was like she was milking a rock.

No response. By her standards, the conversation was a monologue; the monologue was onerous and real. He was lost and he could not find his self inside a small bar which he calls world, or universe, whichever suits his circumstance, after a day's worth of work as a clerk. The scent of the midnight's promise was already under his nose and yet he failed to pick it up and whisper an expletive in return if only to assert his lust in a gentle way, one which she was willing to listen to like gospel truth. A simple shit or fuck would have sealed the deal, but it turns out that four-letter words are too much for his brain, too much that it might suddenly have a massive hemorrhage even before it could finish forming the second letter.

His mind is not as sharp as his dick.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Flipping Burgers

[Part 2 of the "Voices of I" series]

If you think your job is exciting, try flipping burgers. Be a "service crew" at a small burger joint in a small suburban community, preferably a village of shanties that has a geographical shape closely resembling Tyra Banks' right armpit on a bad day. On your first night shift—which is most likely the only shift you'll get for the next three months—sit in a corner and wait. While waiting, you can do one of several things. You can pretend that you're awake or you can feign sleep; assume they are different. Expect a drunk adolescent who, instead of placing an order, will simply insist two things for the sake of making an even more juvenile point. One, he will profess that his buns are warm enough to cook themselves. Two, he will declare that you do not have the bread that will fit his footlong. And then he will turn, walk away with no sense of direction, and slowly disappear in the dark distance.

It's bad enough that you can't shoot down the bastard with a glue gun so you will chase him and slash his frankfurter with a bread knife, or sever a portion of it with a cutter. As penance for the sin you've just committed, you will mail his bologna to the Daughters of Charity, preferably with a note saying that there's a fresh joke somewhere inside the envelope. Suddenly, you will wake-up to the sound of a passing tricycle clattering down the alley as if it was waiting to die from a terminal case of tuberculosis. You will ask, was everything a dream? You will be as confused as a wrinkled cucumber in a convent. Out of the blue, you will suddenly remember Inception and imitate Leonardo DiCaprio. You don't have a spinning top so you spin a coin on the floor instead. You check the bread knife and the cutter and feel relieved. They do not have a bloodstain but you didn't notice that the coin was still spinning. And all that jazz.

Most of the nights, you'll have monologues. Indulging in that intellectual orgasm will not seriously threaten your health so long as you do it in the presence of your most complacent audience—yourself. Do not think, though, that it will make you an Einstein overnight. It will only help you forget, at least for a few minutes, about the poster's imposing image of Wowie De Guzman on the door. You know quite well the unspeakable misery of having that poster. Wowie's hair alone already puts you in an even more vulnerable state than having Judy Ann Santos with him in the same frame; the tenants of the neighboring shops will kill for a Wowie memorabilia any given day, and it's not because they want one. Perhaps, it has something to do with his hairstyle early in his career and, looking back, how it now offends the sensibilities of a barber or practically any person with a pair of scissors. With that in mind, you begin to theorize that he is either a cross-breed of this and this, or a hair follicle engrafted to grow on a scalp. But to avoid exploring the possibility of resurrecting a dead career by sporting a new hairstyle—and by completely doing away with the old one where one's hair looks as though it's been axed right in the middle of the head—you focus your mind on the pan and flip a burger.

And then you flip it a few more times. Never has there been a greater moment in your life, a cul-de-sac to every cul-de-sac that you've had before. You realize that flipping burgers gives you dominion, or the power of control, over beef and starch and the frying pan. It's a lesson they did not teach you in school. But you are fascinated and overwhelmed after discovering it on your own, like the day you discovered erection and told your seatmate that you invented it. You were sent to the principal's office that day but it did not change a thing. You still felt triumphant and from that day onwards you dreamed of becoming a scientist. Today, you flip burgers for a living.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questa Cosa Nostra

The whole transaction took less than three minutes. From where I sat, I could hear the rustle of the small notebook's pages as the tall man sifted through what might have been a list of important numbers. He seemed to have been looking for something and, judging by the way he maneuvered his fingers through the pages one by one, he was confident that what he was searching for was there. He must have been right. Inside, the storekeeper tried to hand him a few bills through the shop's small opening, the part where all the selling and buying take shape. Although the man forgot to remove his helmet the whole time, it did not seem to bother him. I was a bit bothered that he was not bothered, but I let him be. After all, the afternoon sun was still bright even if it was a cold Monday. By the time he was back to his red scooter, he bid the storekeeper a brief adieu. That was when his accent gave away his nationality.

Maybe the stereotype for their people has a bit of truth serum in it. Some Indians in this country practice that ancient business for a living. Quite a number of them do so as well back in the streets of Calcutta or Mumbai. All these years, they may have already mastered the craft and store owners everywhere have already benefited much from the same. These foreigners have done it before and they'll do it again simply because—as one Indian who speaks Italian puts it, questa cosa nostra—"it's our thing." Quite possibly, they may hardly be able to steer themselves clear from that business. They may try, but like a cat desperately trying to run away from its own tail, they'll eventually realize that five-six can never be far behind.

I just made-up the Indian who speaks Italian part. Still, I think it's their thing and perhaps they will not disagree with me, at least not violently.

And most of the time they do their thing with their scooters. It's like a pleasant love affair in the presence of strangers. Each day is a different experience even if the routine is essentially the same. They stroll the alleys, stopping from one merchant to the next to gather the spoils of the day, and at the end of it all they are happy, or at least the driver is happy. On some occasions, collections may be as dry as Danny DeVito's left testicle but they know by heart that it's all part of the risks of running a business, or actually riding one. On better days, the consequences are readily apparent. It is, and will always be, business as usual. The machine gets oiled, and so is its master. Well, at least not literally.

Others have only so much to say about their partnership on wheels—man and his personal machine—but they could only care less. You can hardly separate one from the other. It's as if there's an invisible umbilical cord that connects them, with the motorcycle not necessarily being the mother and the Indian rider not quite being the fetus. Either way, the case of scooters and Indians is ripe—or pregnant—with stories, most of which are never to see the light of day. Others, though, get to land on the front page of broadsheets and tabloids, especially if the stories have everything to do about Indians being knifed to death. Which makes you think why they still prefer to grow their roots, notwithstanding their capital, in cities and towns in this country when the moment they do so their turbans are already waiting for them in their graves, or somewhere in the Ganges river. In many ways, they are vagabonds in a hostile environment.

Perhaps, for the average "bumbay", things are not really as bad as the way the media portrays the rut and gut in the metropolis. They scour the streets with their scooters and they get to witness firsthand life on ground level. It may not always be a beautiful sight, or one that draws and inspires a host of artists to use their poetic license, but it is still one that holds a promise or two for the everyday woman and man and everyone else in-between.

But knives and deaths and graves aside, it is still their thing. Of course, it's not uniquely theirs. I know some Filipinos who are more "bumbay" than the Indians themselves. They don't do five-six. They do five-seven, sometimes even eight. They embody the very concept of a loan shark on dry land, and it's an evolved form, if not an outright mutation, of the business of the Indian on red scooter earlier in the day.