A song that changed my life. . .
WHAT TO SAVE FROM THE FIRE Grandma offed herself years ago so that just leaves the Picasso but it turns out to be a pencil drawing you made at six, triangle of a sail, one duck on a squiggle of water. Up go the curtains in a bright rush. You’d definitely save your daughter And take her place on the pyre, But she moved to a faraway island After launching a few thousand ships. Once you left a throw rug On a floor heater to keep the darts You were throwing from falling in And woke to a room made of smoke, but all that burned was the rug so it didn’t count, the way nothing counted back then, you and your friends carrying blankets and pillows outside to sleep and opening all the windows.Fire is fed by air, a slim lick of flame expanding like most people in middle age. -Kim Addonizio *************************************************************
“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place, such a lovely place
Such a lovely face . . .”
I mouthed the words silently, then gave in and sang along in my assumed British baritone as I bolted my bedroom door firmly shut behind me. Radio Mirchi played the top charts every weeknight at 11 p.m. by which time my parents were comfortably ensconced in their beds and woe betide anybody who disturbed my mom’s slumber. She was always going on and on about how light a sleeper she was and any noise, a mouse scurrying over the floor boards; the clink of the glass Coca-Cola and Limca bottles as my brother yanked the refrigerator door open, looking for a midnight snack, jarred her awake.
I loved listening to the vee-jays at Radio Mirchi, Rajiv and Sunil as they opened every song with their witty repartee.
"Rajiv, is Money, Money, Money really so funny in a rich man's world?"
Or, "Sunil, does Madonna look like a Material Girl to you?"
I'd auditioned to be a vee-jay at Radio Mirchi but the higher-ups at Delhi's hot radio show passed on me.
"Voice too nasal," I overheard one of them say dismissively.
"Too squeaky for radio, beti.” This from a too-friendly Uncle whose hands lingered for a tad longer than necessary on my back.
“Television might be a better avenue for you. I have many friends in high places. Take my number. Call me sometime in the evening. We can talk about it. Maybe even meet up. . .” He twirled his big, black moustache as he spoke.
I accepted the folded note pressed with clammy fingers into my hand. I crumpled it up and threw it into the garbage bin as I walked out the shiny, new building, all steel and chrome, on 20 Janpath Road.
“Old geezer,” I muttered under my breath.
I didn’t give the ‘horny lech’ as I’d privately named him, another thought. . .
until my brand-new bridegroom gently put his hand on my elbow and turned me around.
“Honey, I want you to meet Uncle Dev Khurana. He’s my father’s family friend. He encouraged me to apply to U.C. Berkeley after I finished my computer science engineering at I.I.T. Uncle, this is Sonu, who I’ve been rhapsodizing about for the past six months. You have to visit us in California once when we settle down.”
I looked at Uncle Dev from under downcast lashes. He twirled his moustache and I tunelessly whistled the lyrics of Hotel California under my breath.
I nodded my head vigorously like a bobble head ,
“Yes, Uncleji, you must!”