Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Scenes from a Marriage: Going to the Tate

Long post. At your own risk.

“Why are you here?”

Saturday morning. The sun is actually around though who knows for how long. Bill’s reading one of his logic books. Moi just got off the phone with partner in Barcelona.

“You are just depressed because your mad Spanish partner called and you have to work”

“First of all, he is Italian, not Spanish. Second, he is not mad. He is just funny. And no, I don’t have to work. He called because he had some questions on some analysis we had done. All cleared.”

“Oh ok”


“I don’t know, ok? I am also trying to figure this out”

“Yeah? Like how?”

“It is not ideal. But maybe we should get used to it only”

“You think so?”

“You have a better idea?”

“Well, we can always pretend”

“We can pretend that the other person does not exist?”

“Something like that”

“How exactly do I pretend that you are not here when you are here talking to me?”

“So you don’t want me to talk to you?”

“That’s not what I said”


“See, I don’t like it too much too. It is more than a little claustrophobic. I mean, we had it all, didn’t we? Our own lives, mutually exclusive friends, lovely weekends together, everything one could ask for. How did we end up this way?”

“You tell me”


“It is all very strange. Like last Thursday when L called you about Edinburgh”

“I know. It was damn strange. I mean, she was like hey, do you guys want to come up for Easter. And she barely knows you right? But just because we are together, she feels like she has to invite you also”

“Yeah man. At least we told her only you are going. Good. And remember when MR was here a couple of weeks ago. What were you doing with us then?”

“I see what you mean but MR is not a good data point. I always tag along with MR as you are guaranteed good food”

“That’s there, I guess”

“I think though for people to treat us as two separate beings, we have to make it a point to remind them that. It is sort of expected that if you are some sort of a couple, you do everything together. Which we don’t and we happen to have real lives without each other, so we have to make sure people know that”

“True enough. But its not just that right? Its not other people. The fact is we do live under the same roof”

“Yes, we do but think of it like you have a roomie.”

“You forget that I have lived alone for the past four years”

“Yeah, I see that. But even for me, its quite bad”

“I don’t understand what your clothes are doing in my closet for instance”

“I know. I come home at night and for some reason, you are around. And then I realize its not just for the weekend”

“It is terrible. What are we to do?”

“I don’t know. We should probably make trips alone, I guess”

“You know what? Lets try this. Today, we won’t go together to the museum as we planned. We go solo”

“That would be nice. Maybe we should just go to different Tates”

“No because both of us have seen Tate Britain and we want to go to Modern”

“Well okay, I will do some work and then leave. You go now only”

“Good idea”

An hour later, I found myself chatting up with a nice, Jamaican guy by St Marylebone church (a few blocks from home), and hogging delicious rum cakes by the dozen (that he was selling) when I see Bill heading in my direction.


“What are you doing here? You were going to the Tate”

“So were you”

“I decided to walk some and then take the tube”

“So did I”

“You want some rum cake?”

“Of course”

High on rum, we said bye to Jamaican cake-seller, promised that we will back next week to get the ginger relish that he told us was amazing, and walked together down Harley Street towards Oxford Circus. (We might or might not have rang some of the Patient Bells that we saw on the way.) By the time we reached Oxford Street, the alcohol started wearing off.

“Zara! I need to shop”

“Oh no”

“Oh yes. Anyway we weren’t supposed to be together”

“Right. Ok then.”

“You taking the tube now?”

“I think I will. You don’t stay here forever ok? The museum will close otherwise”

“No, it won’t. Tate is open till 10 PM on Saturdays”

“Really? Cool”

“Yeah, bye”

What’s with this place anyway? Every store gets repeated after a block. I had just spent an hour shopping at Zara, Next, H&M and Clarks and here they are all over again! I mean, yeah Oxford Street and Regent Street are two separate streets but they are right next to each other and they even intersect. This whole comedy of putting stores right next to each other seems suspiciously like something the Americans would do to minimize the level of physical activity needed to get to a store but hello, this is the civilized world. The buses do not stop at every block here; like other self-respecting countries, they stop once every kilometre. Or is it that the city is so darned small that there is nowhere else they can have all these stores? Maybe I should just walk to Tate. I am already in Piccadilly Circus, I just have to cross the river somewhere. Wait, what about lunch? Its 3 PM! Hmm, I will go to Chinatown and get a tube from Leicester Sq or something. Which way is that now? There are only nine different directions that you can go from this intersection. No wonder they call it a Circus. Btw, is it just me, or does everyone else also keep looking for members of the Drones Club when in the vicinity of Piccadilly? Anyway, I will go this way and see where it goes. Noel Coward. Theater district. Should be heading in the right direction only. And what’s that? Pather Panchali? Curzon’s the name of the place. Maybe some sort of film festival going on? No, looks like they randomly screen old movies. Also screening Babel. No point. Wait, this is Chinatown, there’s the arch. Now, where can I have some good dim sum? Easy. Just look for real Chinese people inside restaurants. No, no, no, yes, there are many Chinese people in here. But it looks so garish. Dragon red everywhere. It’s so like one of those X of India places. It has lots of Chinese junta though, I will go in only.

“Yes, just me. Table for, wait. I have a table already”

“What are you doing here? Are you following me?”

“She follows me in and then asks me if I am following her. Who is following whom?”

“You were taking the tube from Oxford Circus to Southwark to go the Tate. How did you get to Chinatown?”

“You only said the Tate doesn’t close till 10. So I decided to walk. And you won’t believe this – I was generally walking and I saw this movie theatre screening guess what?”

“Yeah, yeah. We non-Bongs can read too, you know”

“Really? I would never have known. So anyway, I thought since it’s a long time since I have seen the movie I will go in and watch the movie. It just ended and I came here to have some dim sum”

“And how come you chose this particular restaurant?”

“I followed the Chinese. They do have awesome dim sum. Here, check this out”

High on dim sum, we walked together to Trafalgar Square. We figured out plan - Bill would walk along the embankment and cross one of the bridges while I would head to Charing Cross and take a tube from there. We said goodbye and I walked to Charing Cross where I saw directions to Waterloo station. Waterloo station is on the other side of the river. So there is some sort of a walkway? Under the river? Have to try this out. So I followed directions and a couple of minutes later, found myself on a bridge! Very cool looking footbridge next to a couple of rail bridges, it looked cable-stayed – the decks were suspended from fans of steel rods and were supported from below by six or seven pylons. The decks were also somehow connected to (also supported by?) the pillars of the railway bridge – all very innovative. The fans of steel rods reminded me of that huge cable-stayed bridged in that pretentious city by the river - Bidyashagar shethu as Bill would call it. Hang on, where is the man when you need him? We need to figure out this whole bridge mechanism. It looks pretty cool. Oh btw, why are there so many people here? Skyline? Yeah, right. London has a skyline. Please let us not get into that again. Any place with water and lights look nice when the sun goes down. So? Anyway, time to hurry. Its nearly 5 PM. Oh, I can walk on the bank here – its pretty neat. They seem to have some decent restaurants and stuff. And what is that I see? People selling discount books? Oh shoot, they are packing up.

Travelling the World! Six-in-one illustrated Theroux! The Great Railway Bazzar, The Old Patagonian Express, The Kingdom by the Sea, Sunrise with Seamonsters, Riding the Iron Rooster and Down the Yangtze. And illustrated! So yes, I own three of them but I can always sell them on eBay or something. Should buy only. Right then, in total C-movie style:

“You know what? I saw it first”

“Really? Then you can pay for it. Here”

“What? You don’t want it?”

“That’s not what I said”

“By rights, you aren’t even supposed to be here. You were taking the tube from Charing Cross”

“So I decided to walk. Is that a crime nowadays?”

“No. Did you see the bridge?”

“Yeah, I walked on it only”

“I was figuring out how it was held in place. Pretty innovative na?”

“Yeah, man. Guess what it reminded me of!”

“Of course!”

“You know what is the problem with us?”

“That we actually are the same person?”

“Something like that. How more boring can we get!”

“Oh well! If we are boring, we are. Nothing we can do about that. But here's the problem - We love spending time with each other doing random things like these. Its all the regular stuff which gets to us”

“So you mean there is no point in all this? We should somehow get back to our “away on weekdays” thing?”

“I think so. Can’t you get a travelling job or something?”

“What? You want me to travel every week? How about getting a real job for a change? You know, one that pays money for instance”

“That isn’t going to solve the problem na. And anyway, we are at the Tate. We should go in”

“I guess so”

To tell the truth though, I did think (pretentious Bill probably won’t admit it but I am pretty sure that’s what he thought too) that it would be all too much culture vulture for me and I would get out in an hour or so. Three hours later, we were done with just the third floor. We literally had to be dragged out when they closed at 10. As Bill said, it was really scary. When words like surrealism, cubism and abstract expressionism actually starts making sense, it is really time to revaluate err..things. And oh, if you got till here, thanks for your patience and here are some favorites:


Space Bar said...

lovely, lovely, lovely. if i ever get married again, i want it to be like this.


audio said...

how european... italian, spanish, art, asian food, distance in kms and to top it all the title... my friend you have crossed over.

beautiful art. can you put artist names and titles along side, so we in the uncivilized wild west can look some of them up.

and sigh, all this Hullabaloo and you guys are still the same. good job.

black mamba

(your making me sign up for a blackmamba gmail account aren't you... )

Preeti said...

awww ... are we becoming soppy romantics now?

Veena said...

Space bar: Thank you. Maybe you should try it again, it can't hurt.

Audio: Hello, yeah man, whatever happened to your black mamba id? Italian, Spanish - Oh no, that is one random partner I am maskamarofying to so that when he starts the Barcelona office later this year, I can get to move too!

Yeah, ok, I will update it sometime - the Cannibal and Metamorphosis is Dali, the Pieta and the crumbling city is Ernst. Three dancer's ofcourse Picasso. The last one is actually a sculpture by this awesome dude called Munoz. Cool na?

Preeti: Hello? First audio and now Preeti? You guys forgot your "real" names kya?

Soppy romantics? Here we are trying to figure out how we can get out of each other's sight for a good part of the week and you call us soppy romantics? You think we should try SARs now? :)

The Black Mamba said...

you have forced me to sign up for a new gmail acct... and move to blogger 2 (not beta) ... I expect payback..

Preeti said...

sure sure ... like I believe you ... you know you went 'awwww' all day.

oh, and the best kind of SARs are those that threaten to turn into soppy romances :) details soon ...

Ludwig said...

> cable-stayed bridge

It is very gratifying to know someone who can tell her suspesion b.'s apart from her cable-stayed b.'s. Have lost count of the number of times one has had to tell ignoramus Kolkatans that that thingumabob swaying gently over the Hooghly is not a suspension b., and that no, it isn't even remotely like the Golden Gate.

Sometimes, we sit all alone at night, and ponder whether public knows that the Napier's Bridge consists of bowstring girders.

We're becoming very very weird, aren't we?

Veena said...

BM: Ya ya, you first call and then we will see.

Preeti: Can't wait. Mailing right now.

Luddo: And I am not even a real engineer? Cool, aren't I? Though must say it was all cos of the dear city by the lake. Only city I know which remembers its structural engineers along with its architects (people who dunno Bruce Graham will know Fazlur Kahn!), so didn't have much of a choice but to read up all about cable stays and the rest.

Really? Not sit alone at night waiting for Irrawaddy dolphins? :)