At Swim, Two Boys

Just like almost everything else in life, if you look closely, there is a pattern to seemingly random events. Or rather, without much strain, you can see that there is pattern to events that are supposed to be wildly random.

Almost a year ago, in July 2015 when I was in Chennai, my friends group from Trivandrum made a short notice plan to go explore Pondicherry and before we knew we were already in Pondicherry having fun! And weather made quick plans like us and a rather sunny day turned rainy as we watched (I should have taken a hint at that point about the Dublin visit). To escape from the rain, we ran to the nearest building which happened to be a book store. Among the books that captured my interest that day was a book that inspired a dance by Earthfall I somehow came across and looked interesting because it is set against a backdrop of a waterfall and the stage is a slowly filling lake- At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill.atswim

I bought the book.

The book is not exactly gentle in the first 100-150 pages. Jamie O’Neill fishes the most beautiful words from all over the dictionary, cooks them in choicest of, what I assume are, phrases from Irish period vocabulary and serves you with a side of history of Irish Easter Rising. It sure is yummy but it takes a while getting used to. The book is set in 1915-16 Dublin and tells the tale of two boys Jim and Doyler set to the backdrop of Irish struggle for Independence from the British. I would write about this wonderful book and its story of love, war, poverty, self-acceptance and war some other time.

And before I finished this book, I am assigned to a project in the very Dublin the book is set in. What are the odds? At that point I didn’t even know we had projects in Dublin.

I carried the book with me to Dublin.

While walking back home from a cinema last day, I saw a poster for the play At Swim, Two boys. I am like, Whoa!! I ran across the road, clicked a picture of the poster and came home and booked tickets for the next show.

The play is one of the most beautiful man made things I have ever seen. Samuel Beckett Theater in Trinity College is quite brilliantly set into a multi level asymmetric stage where the whole of the play happens with absolutely no break in flow save for the short intermission. Fenna von Hirschheydt who designed a space like that should be doing our public spaces; such a clever use of space. The same set is a pier, beach, bedroom, living room of multiple houses and often simultaneously and you need not be Sabu Cyril to visualize the parts of the scene not depicted in the minimalist set.

But for me without question the best part of the show was the brilliant acting by the lead pair, Jim and Doyler. Or was it their adorable Irish accent? If I was Doyler, I could kill to hear Jim call me Doyler.

Kerill Kelly made Jim such an endearing character. The innocence in his eyes, despite lack of evidence, I would call fake. You can’t look that innocent and naïve at this age. It just is not humanly possible. I have no idea how he does that. A very mature young actor. Intentional or not, I think I saw the whole play through his eyes. Attention to details is amazing. While sitting with legs in water the way his foot plays with the imaginary water was the most memorable part of the play for me.

In no way is other actors any lesser than him, just that Jim is the most lovable character. Theo Foley is brilliant and oozes confidence. Doyler looks considerably different than how I had him pictured in my head.

Anthony MacMurrough convincingly convert the initial slight hatred we might feel to the character to a sort of love and respect. And oh Nancy! Love you! ❤

How did Tim Scott adapt that mammoth of a book to such a short time frame without losing the essence of it? The screen-play, to layman’s eyes, have done justice to the novel.

Would have loved to get my copy of the book signed by the Author and the lead pair!

I think my disappointment of having missed Khasakkinte Ithihasam play in Bangalore has vanished. Seeing a play based on a book you have read is an inexplicable feeling. If you think movie adaptations are good, trust me plays are the best. Remember the childhood days when you thought the actors lived inside the TV, that is how you feel when you see a play. No start-action-cut and retakes. People live the characters right before your eyes.

In one year, picked a random book from a random bookstore and ended up traveling to a country and city where the book is set and see a play based on the very same book. Hmmmm…

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Do we know each other?

Ok! I admit that today is the first day that I saw her. She was not the overly-pretty-with-overdone-makeup kind you usually see at college festivals but just my “type”; you see. As you can expect she was the leader kind of a girl with two-three side-kicks. And all four of them boarded the bus I was in, from the engineering College bus stop. It was obvious that she was from some other college and had come here for the college festival that was going on for about a week. Otherwise why should they make such a hullabaloo about the treasure hunt even when they are in the bus? And it is not very usual in Kerala for a public bus to be that noisy. So this team was there in the treasure hunt; I made a mental note of it.

I should have taken a note on my phone or something. Because that was just a beginning of the array of things I noticed about her, starting from the scar on the right arm, right where Padma Lakshmi has a scar. She had very light luggage, making it obvious that she was staying in the campus itself. When was the last time a girl travelled light? Hunh? So she should be going out to buy something. But having accompanied enough girls to college festivals, I knew that this should be some dance stuff she is going to buy because she would otherwise have sent a guy to get it. That means ,there is only one place she would be going to now, The costume center, made famous by sponsoring the costumes in a popular reality show. That is about three stops after where I had to get down. When the conductor came to give me tickets, I had to think twice before taking the tickets. Telling you where I took tickets to, would be underestimating you as a reader!

I kept a tab on their conversation. (Sheesh! Sorry) I wanted to check if I got the guess right. But when the conductor reached them, though just a couple of seats ahead, I couldn’t hear what they said. The girl who was sitting on the aisle seat, beside whom she was standing, took the tickets. That got me curious. I HAD to know where they were going to. But the bus was entering the noisy town area and I couldn’t really hear anything what they were saying.

Since there was nothing else to do than making character sketches about people (one of my hobbies), I ventured into that. That reminded me of lot of people I met at school festivals and college festivals. The guy I met during CBSE School festival, who got me to change my hair style, the guy I competed against in oil painting whom I met in college after 8 years, the girl with grey eyes who congratulated Arun Basil even though he lost the prize in Malayalam recitation (the poem was Anil Panachooran’s “Brandhi”, later a song in a mainstream movie), the lady captain of a women’s college dance team who shot our video and posted it on youtube, the college junior who got the whole crowd on their heels during the personality contest (more on it later), the girl who sent a personal note of appreciation to my email id after the Paper Presentation at a Tech Fest. Oh! There are so many people. I missed college festivals very badly. I should have gone for the music night yesterday. Deepak said that he can get me a pass. But I just didn’t feel like it then. I should have gone for it.

What is today’s pro show, I got curious. May be I should go there today, I thought. I took my phone out and opened the website. The treasure hunt showed up as the current event in progress. I found the twitter and facebook integration pretty cool. Surprisingly the registration seemed to be still open. It would be cool to get the updates, I signed up. It required me to give the twitter handle and a mobile number. I was asked to add the names of three team mates, I gave something in random. Now I was placed in level one. To instill the competitive spirit, they had put up the progress of the other teams as a beautiful timeline mimicking the facebook timeline. I heard a loud laughter and my attention got to the girl again. She saw me looking at her and stopped laughing. They all looked at each other and then all I heard was a suppressed giggle. I couldn’t let the smile escape the corner of my lips when she gave me a glance. She gave me an awkward smile. She was embarrassed for sure. There wouldn’t be many all-girls teams in the contest. I looked at the list again. There was only one twitter handle with a girl’s name. That made things a lot easier. Most people have their twitter handles same as their email ids. And most of those people have their email accounts in gmail. I went to facebook and gave “her” email id in the search box and clicked the post button. OUCH! Why did I POST that!! Why do the post box and search box look so similar!! I hastily deleted the post before anybody could “like” it! On searching with the email id, exactly one profile came up. But had a doll’s pic as dp. Argh!!

Thanks to the sloppy default privacy settings of fb, I could see that many of her friends had actually tagged here on photos! The latest one being a pic of the Mobile pics album by some guy called Pradeep. They were all posting hoards of comments about how awesome Karthick’s music was yesterday night. Pradeep had also mentioned that he missed most of it as he had to leave for college right after the pic was taken. And Malavika (oh btw, that’s her name) had commented that the only guy who came with them had left! 23 likes. (WTH)
So the point is, now I know lots of things about her, she got a fortune cookie, somebody said something about her and I could answer 10 questions to know what is that, she loves a Paulo Coelho quote, she loves F.R.I.E.N.D.S, How I met your Mother and Glee, loves Balabaskar and Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan (both violinists), has a cousin Roy (a Christian sounding cousin for a Hindu sounding girl! Ohkey should be like me), answered who is your favorite school teacher? with “Shailaja Mam”. I know her hometown, college, school and even where she went for tuitions to. That is because she is a member of “PK Sir’s Tuition Class rocks” community on Orkut. (Oh yeah, I went to Orkut too.) Infact I went to Google Plus too. But as we all know, Google Plus membership is like Gym membership- everybody has one, but no one really goes there!

The old man sitting next to me was about to leave, I hastily took one more glance at the registration list of the other events and saw her name in almost all the events. The results page also showed her name once- First prize for JAM (Just a minute). Wow! That’s awesome! She should be an excellent orator, I thought to myself. He got down at the next stop. I sat there looking out of the window ,paying no attention to the girls. (Didn’t want to scare her away from the only vacant seat in the bus). She came and sat near me. I acted mildly surprised and said, “Malavika, congrats! Heard you were awesome at the JAM last day.” She was genuinely surprised and thanked me. She fitted a question mark on her face that read, do we know each other? I smiled and said, “Don’t think so hard, you don’t know me”. She asked if I was a participant at the college fest. I replied no. And I am working at Technopark. Obviously she was curious about how I happened to know her and the JAM contest. I replied that I know so many things about her than she thought I did. I was not sure of what I saw in her eyes. Was it fire or ice? But it looked so damn pretty man! There was this moment of awkward silence. She asked “What?” I said I knew that she was from Palakkad and goes to Nehru college. She said that, then I must be a friend of somebody from her college. I said no, In fact I had been noticing her since PK sir’s tuition class days. I could see that she was so surprised and may be a little scared. As if to change the topic, I asked her, how her cousin Roy and aunt Sheeba were doing? How long is Manu chettan’s onsite travel to Sydney? She didn’t really answer any of those questions but kept asking how I knew all that!! I just answered “I know”. And smiled. May be because she thought that I knew all of them, I must be trustworthy, her hostile defensive position changed to kind of pleading to know who I was. Thanks to that, I also know that she knows someone called Arjun, because she asked me if I am his friend. By then, the bus was one stop before my actual stop. I thought, now there is no need to go there so I’ll get down where I had to. I told her that I needed to get down there to get a new string for my violin. (Did her eyes sparkle?) And I casually remarked that since Pradeep had to go back, it should be tough for her to run around in Trivandrum to get the stuff herself. She literally had her Jaws dropped. Before I got down I gave her a tip, the book fair at VJT Hall must have some of the latest by Paulo Coelho. While I was about to get down, she asked me my name. I just smiled and got down. I could see that she was still looking at me while the bus was going ahead.

The account is totally fictitious and seriously have very minimal relation to any real lady.