Each Sauntering Step : Chapter 1

      “So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

…the village of Kalyanipuram. The government announced today that it would be unveiling the flagship infrastructure project in a couple of weeks. What do you think Sri, is this…

Ashwin Ram lies on his back, struggling for breath. He turns to his cellphone.

…It’s a great opportunity, Sam. Chennai’s water troubles have been in the news ever since I can remember…

“Alarm snooze,” he says. Sri’s voice fades out. He rolls to his left, buries his face in his pillow and fades back to sleep.

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Now put your little hand in mine; there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb. Babe. I got you babe. I got you babe. That was Sonny and Cher with their 1965 hit, I Got You Babe. 1965 homies, a…

“Alarm off,” Ashwin says, turning the radio off. He heaves himself out of bed and looks at the screen of his cellphone. 9:45 am.

He smacks his forehead.

Jumping out of bed, he picks up the pack of cigarettes as he stands up. He shakes the pack, empty. He picks up his phone, swipes around for a few seconds before selecting a podcast and pressing play.

Hey there, this is Cinema Hour and we are your in-house cinephiles Rob and Jay. We have something different planned for you today, take over Jay. Thanks Rob, today we will be joined by Mike Fagan, critic, director, actor, podcaster, et cetera et cetera…

Ashwin disappears into the bathroom. The voices of Cinema Hour’s in-house cinephiles fill the white spaces of his studio apartment. Zombie-walking through another Friday, he thinks.

…Over twenty years ago, Joaquin Phoenix starred in Spike Jonze’s modern classic, Her, as a lonely writer who falls in love with his operating system, voiced expertly by Scarlett Johansson. Typical of Spike Jonze’s…

When he re-emerges from the bathroom, he walks up to the clothes cabinet next to his bed, picks out his clothes and puts them on through repeated glances at his cellphone, rolling up the sleeves of his sky blue shirt, fighting his way down the legs of his black trousers, and struggling into his argyle socks and vintage DMs. Taking one final look at the screen of his cellphone – ten fifteen – he slips it in the right pocket of his trousers before stuffing a wallet in the left, slinging a black satchel over his right shoulder, and plugging in a pair of earpods. He exits the apartment, slamming the main door shut.

The apartment falls silent.

…Released in the same year, Ben Stiller’s film was initially met with a lukewarm response from critics who complained that it was too cutesy…

Time to progress from original Dawn of the Dead zombie pace to remake Dawn of the Dead zombie pace. He jogs into his parking spot, jumps into his car, and slams the door shut. Placing his cellphone behind the steering wheel, he unplugs his earpods, and starts the car. The car stereo leaps into action and his phone’s screen lights up.

25 minutes to Work, the car says in the voice of Anastasia Myshkin. Slow-moving traffic on Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road.

Ashwin speeds out of his garage.

…based on a classic short story of the same name by James Thurber. The film deviated significantly from the story. Like fellow winter release, Her, Walter Mitty represented Hollywood’s attempt to recalibrate its understanding of technology’s power to dehumanise to the age of artificial…

Ashwin’s phone buzzes.

Call from Singh, Anastasia continues.

I’ll take it,” Ashwin says.

“Oye Ashu.” “Oye, what’s up.” “At work?” “No, driving there.” “Late?” “Yeah.” “Listen, tonight, scene at my place. Arun and Sunayna will probably be there quite early. Arun’s not going to work either.” “Sunayna’s in town?” “Yeah. Listen”, Singh says, “I’ll be at home all day, so –” “Yeah, sounds good, I’ll let you know when I’m off work. Should be done on time.” “Sure, sure, you sound like you’re in a hurry…?” “Yeah, dude, I’m… pretty late.” “Oh, god, (nervous laugh), ok, cheers then.” “Cheers.”

The podcast continues as Ashwin honks and gestures wildly at the white SUV in front of him.

These pricks with their stupidly cliché American cars and their stupidly cliché American selfishness and —

…the winter of 2013-14. You have to remember, Jay, that… that was the precursor to our times. The zeitgeist then was very similar to…

Ashwin’s phone buzzes again.

Call from Boss, Anastasia says.

Great. Just great. He throws his hands up in the air, honks, and throws his head back in frustration.

Call from — “Yeah Anas —” — Boss — “I’ll take it.” Call from Boss, the voice repeats. “Miku, Answer.”

“Yea Joe.” “Morning, Ashwin. I need you to get the reports I asked for by noon.” “Yea Joe, will be done.” “I won’t be coming in until one today, so if I could see that in my mailbox for review before then, that would be great. I trust you have started.” “Yessir I have.” “Mona says you aren’t in yet…?” “Traffic Joe, you know how it is.” “Hmm.” (Silence). “Great, I’ll look forward to seeing the reports by twelve.” “Yea Joe. You’ll have it by then.” “Thanks Ashwin, bye.” “Bye.”

“Mona says you aren’t in yet,” Ashwin says, mimicking Joe’s lazy baritone. “Thanks Ashwin, bye.” He turns left at a traffic signal, and drives straight into the jam he was worried about.

…join Mike on his podcast where this week he’ll discuss cinema clichés: from the mind-opening gay bar experience, to the nobility of poverty. Heavy stuff you’ve got there, Mike…

Between jerks of the car, Ashwin sees a hoarding by the road.

FEELING DOWN?

One in five Indians experience alienation and an abstract sense of loss

GET HELP

Call 1800-438-4357 now

Issued in public interest by the Ministry of Health, Government of India

…for this week’s edition of Cinema Hour. Next week, we’ll get back to standard operating procedure with a strange little film from India, Fight Maar, and Hollywood’s big releases, before discussing the history of protest in film with our secret special guest. Goodbye.

Ashwin’s phone stares blankly at him as he struggles to manoeuvre past traffic.

20 minutes to Work. There’s more traffic — “It’s alright, Miku.” — than expec — “Stop, Miku.” Slow-moving traffic on Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road.

Play next,” Ashwin says.

This is Radio Buzz with the Week in Focus. This week, it’s Ari Durent with the latest in Deep House Revival….

“Stop, news, search archived, Kalyanipuram,” Ashwin says. “Sort by earliest, read news.”

Artificial Lake to End Chennai’s Water Woes?

Vishnu Varma | HTN

Chennai: The Government of Tamil Nadu has announced plans to construct an artificial lake on a site 100 km away from Chennai in an attempt to fulfil the city’s steadily growing water needs. The lake will be constructed on a site that was once in the village of Kalyanipuram…

I was sixteen when I first learnt of the planned inundation of my father’s birthplace. At the time, I had never visited Kalyanipuram, and was certain that no-one in his family had, since my great-grandfather had died there twenty-odd years after pa was born. When he returned there with us a few months after the news broke, I found myself confronted, for the first time, with the land I was told drove his grandfather insane.

…Kalyanipuram, one of many villages in Tamil Nadu to have gradually ‘died out’ due to mass migration to nearby cities. It is believed that this migration is one of the primary reasons for Chennai’s water shortage…

In the black-and-white history of the paternal line of my family tree, the tale of my great-grandfather was a black one. When he died in Kalyanipuram, returning from the temple in which he had spent much of the previous five years, the family discovered that he had bequeathed all of his meagre estate to the temple. Attached to the will was a note in Tamil that when translated read: “That which man covets as his, is not.”

…The construction of this lake is unlikely to draw protests from organizations such as Gaon Bachao Andolan (GBA) and Tamil Nadu’s own Namma Graamam Namma Veetu (NGNV), due to increasing concerns over the insufficiency of Chennai’s water supply and Kalyanipuram’s status as a dead village. In a rare display of bipartisan support for the move, members of both the ruling party and the opposition formed a…

Every Indian family has at least one story of madness to serve as a cautionary tale to eccentrics who have ‘lost their way’. KG Ravichandran was our  family’s token madman. His story was passed on from mother to son and son to grandson in the same oral tradition that had kept stories of god-kings and demon-kings alive for millennia.

…End of news story. Read next?

“Yes,” Ashwin says, sitting motionless in traffic, staring out of his windshield at the traffic light.

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The Lost Lives of Kalyanipuram

Sunayna Varma | HTN

“Stop.” “Open podcasts.” “Play.”

Hey guys. It’s me, Ari, with the latest in the world of Deep House. Exciting month, with the release of dubbb‘s latest single, Charmed. Great track, with an appearance from rock stalwart…

Ashwin glances at his cellphone. 10:51 am. He looks out of his window as red turns to green and honks in syncopation with the pounding beats of dubbb‘s Charmed.