On Saturdays

Madrid, Spain

I guess I´m too used to sitting in a small room and making words do a few things. I see enough of humanity at the racetracks, the supermarkets, gas stations, freeways, cafes, etc. This can´t be helped. But I feel like kicking myself in the ass when I go to gatherings, even if the drinks are free. It never works for me. I´ve got enough clay to play with. People empty me. I have to get away to refill. I´m what´s best for me, sitting here slouched, smoking a beedie and watching this screen flash the words. Seldom do you meet a rare or interesting person. It´s more than galling, it´s a fucking constant shock. It´s making a god-damned grouch out of me. Anybody can be a god-damned grouch and most are. Help!

— Charles Bukowski (The Captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship)

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On the Saturday, I try to leave the structure of my days to chance. Total ambiguity. I tend to embrace it. There is too much structure everywhere. Time-boxing, space-boxing, leisure-boxing and other types of social-boxing. I like less structure. I work on random things. Go to random places. Even do some randonautica. This helps me keep myself away from thoughts of indignified loneliness. Away from my acquired self annihilating feelings. Away from myself.

On a typical Saturday morning, I start by reading Charles Bukowski as I get ready. Ready for my ritual. Ritual of randomness. I like reading Bukowski. Some people frown at me for reading him. He is considered sexist and all. Whatever he might be, he is good at describing the banality of life. He seems mostly meh all the time. Today, I am meh as well.

At 9:30 sharp, I go to these driving classes on Zoom. They are theory lessons from a fellow Indian who helps other colonial Anglo-Saxons pass the driving theory exam. He is direct. His dictum is a classic cornerstone of Indian pedagogy — Scare them until they perform and everything is ‘somehow’ related to survival. But it is fun to be in the class. That is my only Indian connection in Spain, yet it feels very plastic. There are just voices with pseudonyms in a boring zoom class. No one is having fun. No one needs to. Because we are just here to pass with 90% grades as we have been manufactured to.

There are two breaks in the four-hour class. I am preparing for another IITJEE exam. The same old grind. This is what I think of it. My brain. My exam prep. Pass or you are not worth it.

The zoom class is quite functional. No one spends any effort in travelling. No one knows anyone. There is no community. There is a WhatsApp group. That group we all know. WhatsApp group are like promotions. Everyone wants one, but nobody wants to be in one.

I need a break by now. Eyes are tired and I am starving. I walk 3 km to my Indian place. It is a small place that serves kebabs and secretly serves other dishes. Most people don’t bother to be curious. We are accustomed to be told. This place is like a canteen. Mostly immigrants (sometimes expats) walk in. The others just take-away from the window. He serves this vegetarian dish called Nashta Plate that I really like. It has vegetables and lentils, served with a piece of naan. The spice levels are at par with the motherland. This dish confronts and sooths my soul.


The place is my personal embassy. My cocoon in the foreign land. I feel safe here. Most of my friends do not. The atmosphere is calmingly busy. Several colourful people come in and talk to the waiter. He welcomes them all. Some don’t buy anything and just sit around. Charging their phones, talking to their family and speaking their mother-tongue. They play songs. Send voice messages to their wives and tell them they are doing well. A few people come here to practice rap. I was asked by one of them to subscribe to his youtube channel. He is called SlamDaddy. I did. Not a lot of people in the street ask you to subscribe, yet.

I and the waiter talk in Spanish but greet in Urdu and I place orders in Bengali. Today, I was not 100% emotionally, so, I drank some chai. Lately, I have been asked to drink less chai. Saturday is the only day I have chai. I feel nice and anxious.

Sipping the tea, I look out of the gate. I see other people sitting on terraces eating British Indian food. The food looks great everywhere. I have pretended to be on the other side. It is hard. Plus, it is not that fun.

At the doorstep, several people pass by. Kids, mothers, parents, and pets. They all are going somewhere. Somewhere where they are reserved.

After drinking the tea, I pay, and greet Khuda Hafiz and walk to my next destination. This is the Museo de Reina Sofia. I love to go there. I feel welcomed there. It is my sanctuary and sanatorium. Museums are great places. You can see things, learn a lot, and project your inner world on the abstractness they present. Also, you cannot be weirder than that painting. People have better things to stare at.

I bought a museum membership last year. A great investment. Just cost me two menu-del-dias. So, I often go before the museum’s free hours. I love the inviting emptiness. The personal grandeur of watching Joan Miro, Dali, and Picasso with just me around feels liberating. This weekend I am researching Guernica for my postcard show. I went to see it. Last week, I was at Museo del Prado checking out Goya’s Tres de Mayo. Picasso was a great art historian apart from being an amazing painter and many believe Tres de Mayo’s lighting and hand have inspired Guernica. Interesting.

I am giving away postcards for both of them for my Postcard show! . Sign up now :)

Apart from the galleries, there is a small corner in the garden where I sit and read. It has an olive tree nearby. The bench is in shade. It is surrounded by flowers and paths. The whole setting seems unreal. It is just missing a lake. The other benches do not offer this mysterious comfort. I have tried them all on other Saturdays.
Today, it was occupied by a beautiful girl in her 30’s. She was reading. I did not want to disturb her. So, I did not go to the garden.

Fifteen minutes before the museum opens up for the market, I make a magical escape. I am back on the streets. My face covered with a mask.

In a few minutes of walking, I go to Rodilla. This is the one near Atocha Station.

This is where I am now. In my little corner. I order a tea (do not order a chai latte) and munch on a sandwich. The one called queso con tomate is my favourite one. This Rodilla is usually empty. Most people just get take-aways for their trains to their wonderlands. Often you can find people planning trips, solving family disputes, meeting old friends, like really old ones. Never have I heard people planning coups here. The place feels warm with human connections. Even with all this talking, it is quite silent. I just stay here and pay my time with teas.

I sit, I write, I draw, I ink.

As I sip tea, I wait. I wait for the weekend to end.