Thursday, 15 June 2017

High Flight

The aircraft picks up speed, a faint barely perceptible tottering giving me a quick flutter of anxiety. But it soon disappears in the sheer adrenaline rush of a take-off. I wait eagerly, my palms clutching the armrests for that exact moment when the wheels break the shackles of gravity and we are airborne.....I don't know why but this particular point always gives me a feeling of unbridled exhilaration. 
But soon my eyes droop for I had had to wake up at three am to catch this half past six flight and before I know it, I have fallen asleep, my cellphone screen still blinking in my hand.
A loud "Awesome!" jolts me awake. A teen boy in the seat diagonally opposite mine is peering down his cabin window and gushing...."Wow! Look! Awesome!"
I look out, almost in reflex. We have left the dusty brown polluting fog that envelops Ahmedabad far far below us. Here, at around probably 25000 to 30000 feet, there is just the pure sapphire blue of the atmosphere, so pure that I am a little dazzled by its brightness.  And a little below us, under that umbrella of blue, is a world of clouds. They are of all shapes and sizes and forms: great cones of ice cream, scattered wisps of cotton, some like freshly made paneer, others like mountains of mist and still others like a perfectly flat calm sea of white....
Everything seems rock solid, like a real world and I have to really exert my imagination to convince myself that it is all just water vapour, all evanescent and one would plunge right through it in case one decided to jump out of the aircraft......
I look up once again at that beautiful blue. The aircraft passes through a short grove of clouds. Now, I am so close that it feels I can actually put out my hand and touch them and feel their cool dampness against my fingers...And as the aircraft rushes through them and emerges once more into the blue, the words of High Flight by John Gillespie a World War Air Force pilot who attained martydom in that war, comes dancing into my mind....
I write because I love the dance of skillfully strung words and I simply adore the word-dance created by this poet in his short and simple but exquisite poem.
Read and enjoy the sheer exhilaration of High Flight...
(I'd advice you read it aloud in your mind, if that's something possible)

High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things-
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Monday, 12 June 2017

A Short Treatise on Love

The Little Friend confided, 'I'm in love!'

Her eyes shone, the single ectopic dimple high up on her cheek-bone twinkled and her face flushed with a faint pink lustre.
Love is such a delicious thing that even my jaded old self found itself filling up with excitement at her shy joy.

But the thrill was short-lived.

Life nowadays is lived on WhatsApp it seems, for soon I received a sad message: 'I texted him my feelings.
And he said No!
He was very polite. But very firm!'

The joy had left her being.

'Young people!' I shook my head and texted back,
" वो नहीं तो कोइ और सही....
कोई और नहीं, तो कोई और सही...."

Then, just as I finished thumbing the send button, I felt Ms PnP stir within me. (Ms PnP: Ms Prim n Propah. You may like to refer to an old post of mine called 'A Walk to Work' for a detailed introduction to her)
'That,' she admonished, 'was an extremely inappropriate response. Does not befit your position in the Little Friend's life as an Elder, a wise confidante!"

Ms PnP has taken to wearing makeup these days and though I thought she looked rather dishy with MAC's Girl About Town glimmering on her pout and a Bobbi Brown shadow shimmering on her brows, the look in her eyes dissuaded me from uttering anything of the sort right at this moment.
"Would you have said the same thing, reacted in the same way if she were your sister? Or your daughter?"

If I had thought that the MAC on her lips and that Bobbi Brown in her eyes made Ms PnP any less wise, those thoughts now silently slunk away, tail between legs. Ms PnP was right. As always.

Egged on by Ms PnP, I was compelled to ask myself: If she had been mine own, would I have reacted in such a flippant manner? Would I have been so casual, so dismissive of the young girl's feelings?

Definitely not!
Instead, I would have been worried sick, anxious, scared......What is she going through just now? How depressed is she? Suppose she stops eating? What if she is unable to study and prepare for her exams? What if she becomes a rebel? Anti establishment? Gets drunk? Does drugs? Gets into a relationship with a goonda/ druggie/hippie/married man on the rebound? Contemplates ending her life? Feels rejected? Begins to believe that she is a failure? A good-for-nothing?
What if she closes her mind to Love?
What if she stops believing that it exists?


No, definitely I wouldn't have stopped at the afore-quoted daft ditty. I would have given her a whole treatise on Love, Aibee's take on it. And hoped it would help her cope.

And it would have been something like this:-

           Aibees's Treatise on Love

I'll be very methodical here, unlike my usual bedraggled posts. That's because this subject is a difficult one and the only way to keep on a coherent course is to be objective and methodical. 'Order and Method', a la my favourite detective with the egg shaped head, Poirot!

So beginning at the very beginning ( 'a very good place to start')......the First Question that arises, goes like this:
Is there really something called Love?

A tough, tough question to answer and if I'm not careful here, I might just find myself in a swamp, being quick-sanded in.....
Is there a God? If you believe there is, then there is, for you. Similarly, if you believe in love, then it is there, for you. Believing in God is a good thing too for she/ he/ it inspires us to be good humans and also is our crutch in crisis. The same goes for Love. Being in love brings out the good in us (at least, it should) and if reciprocated, gives us a willing, empathetic shoulder to lean on.

The Second Question asks : why do we fall in love?

Why indeed? I do not know the answer to this one. All I know is that Love has its own reason that obeys no mortal law, follows no mortal rule, defies any mortal attempt to decipher it; dancing its own crazy dance to some old, forgotten melody that only the soul can recognise. Love happens anytime, anywhere, anyhow and belies all human boundaries: of gender, of age, of creed, of reason....I think I should leave it that....!

But  there's a small point I'd like to add. Because Love is like this mad mountain stream hurtling down the hill side at breakneck speed, consumed in its need to immerse into the sea, I would advice that one frame one's own rules for Love. This would help reign in this wild emotion and give it some semblance of earthly order. And while each one should make their own rules, I could give you a starting point:
Rule Number One: Love cannot and should not be forced down someone's throat.
Rule Numbet Two: If Love threatens to cause someone (anyone) hurt, drop it like a bag of hot coals and run for your life!

The Third Question which can be called an offshoot of the second, runs thus: What is it that we fall in love with?
This one's my favourite for it lets me meander, something I love to do ( with a tendency to lose myself if I'm not careful). So why do we fall in love? Is it because of 'kitna sona tujhe rab ne banaya', the physical beauty of the other? Is it because she has flawless skin, Meenakshi eyes, a sensuous body and is, simply put, gorgeous? Is it because he is tall and dark (or in the case of us Indians, fair) and handsome? Maybe. A person who is easy on the eyes definitely catches attention. I too would be partial to Brad Pitt if he ever lands up in my office. But over years that have turned my black hair gray and my gray cells wise, I've realised that one can fall in love with such varied things, a laughter that comes ready and deep from the soul, the kindness of voice that is coloured with concern for those in need, an unadulterated passion for one's profession, honesty, neatness of person and manners, the ability to listen, to find humour, to be without malice, to see the good in people and situations, to love life and to treat all that it brings with equanimity......
I could go on and on............But that would be purposeless for you would have by now, got the general drift of what I'm trying to convey....!

But that doesn't mean one falls in love only with virtues. One could fall in love with quirky things too: like the curve of the lips in a smile, the crinkle of the eyes in laughter, the faint gentle amusement edging a voice, a dimple, a firmness of carriage, maybe with a quiet blue shirt in a sea of loud attires or perhaps with eyes that look straight down yours and don't falter.....I think I'd better stop for I've begun meandering!

Let's move on to the Fourth Question: how would you know whether you are in Love?

This one's very simple. Ever waited in line with a saal leaf platter in your hands at your turn for a puchhka (that's golgappa/ paanipur for the Northies) ? Remember the quiver of excitement, the shiver of impatience, the tingle of expectation and then the waves of pure ecstasy that bathe you when you place the first puchka into your mouth....Well, if you happen to get a similar kind of feeling when in the presence of another being, know that you are In Love. And if you haven't, go try a puchhka first (the Bihari/Bengali version and not the Delhi one)!

And what if that someone tells you a 'polite and firm No'? That is our Fifth and Final question.

I am currently in Ahmedabad. It's hot and humid and horrible. But I have some work to do, some shopping and of course a rendezvous with an old friend. I just cannot let this heat get me and keep me jailed indoors. And so, in spite of being a comfort-loving lazy bum, I slather on sunscreen, guzzle a litre of water, don a cap and opening my umbrella step out into the sun to face the city and Life.

I like to think of Love as the weather around us. The weather exists around us in varied forms; at times, like today in this city, hot and humid, at other times cool and breezy, at still others, a raging stormy night. But do we humans really let the weather rule our lives? It might influence our routine just a little but at no juncture can it be said to rule it or define our day. Love should be treated just like that: a phenomenon that runs parallel to our existence, allowed to crossover when it brings promise of an azure skied autumn or a blossom scented spring but kept at bay if all it carries are hailstorms and the bite of icy winds. And finally, one must never forget that however searing the summer is, the rains will follow......

I'm going to end now ( a little abruptly, I agree) but if you happen to think of Questions Six or Seven or more, do leave it as a comment in the comment box below!

PS: I think I'll send this to my Little Friend!

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Soldier and his Song

For Major David Manlun, 2 Naga Regiment and all the Others who have gone before him....

I have nothing but my words to give and so I've woven them into a wreath of respect and remembrance for you, my Brothers.....

I had sung a song,
In the quiet of the night
It gave a happy twirl,
Then sailed out of sight!

Throbbing in its wake,
My lonely guitar pined
But my Land had called
The war bells had chimed.....

I donned my loyal gun,
In steel and strength circled,
Sans fear, sans regret,
Into battle I hurtled.

My old song meanwhile,
Travelled my lovely Land;
Over rivers and blue hills,
Over the oceans' brown sand.

By my busy Mom's side,
It stopped for a while;
Danced on her thoughts,
Till she broke into a smile.

It whirled round my Dad,
A flash of cooling breeze;
He paused at his toil,
Moment's happy reprise!

It reached out to friends,
Landing in their dream;
They sang again my song-
Its old beloved theme.

The enemy is felled;
And now I only long-
As broken I lie here,
For my guitar-woven Song.

On the wings of the bugles' call,
As they lay me down to rest,
My song's flown back to me
Sleeps now on my Tri-Colored chest!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Boiling Point!

"Its very hot here Ma'am!" A young friend texts me.
"How hot?" I type back.
"Like the inside of a microwave!" Comes the prompt reply.
"You mean oven!"I correct her.
Of the microwave generation, I don't think she is acquainted with the 'oven' as we knew it: a round aluminium vessel that ran on electricity, with a part glass lid through which one kept peeking impatiently every ten minutes or so, to check whether the cake had risen.
"OK, an oven!" replies my accommodating young friend.
"Its really very hot, Ma'am." I can feel the distress in her voice.
"No AC?" I ask.
"No." she writes. "Only a desert cooler that starts to wail the moment I switch it on...."
"Oh!" I giggle.

I can sympathise with her. It really is very hot here, very, very hot and bone dry, like in the middle of a desert. AccuWeather says, '45°C, RealFeel  51°C'. With no air-conditioning, no cooler and no refrigerator, RealFeel for me I would say, is closer to 61 than 51, truly the inside of a microwave. And believe me, I am not exaggerating even a little bit.

Its two thirty pm. I step out of the air-conditioned cool of my office and immediately, a blast of dry heat rams into me, almost throwing me off balance with its force. Recovering somewhat, I start my short walk home. It's not even 200 metres but it feels like the Desert Marathon. My legs refuse to pick up speed, paralysed by the heat. And so I trudge on, dragging my reluctant legs behind me, feet squirming in protest inside my hot, sweaty boots. 

In this mid-afternoon with the heat at its peak, there is a depressing silence all around. All souls have retreated indoors, defeated by the heat. Not a leaf stirs and the trees stand unmoving under a weird incandescent grey brown sky that dazzles you if you show the temerity to look up at it.

I am panting as I climb up to my room. My clothes feel as if I've just run a hot iron over them and I can't wait to change into something light and airy and cool. But 'cool' is in serious short supply at present. My comfort clothes feel hot to touch, my dining table is like a lighted stove top and the chair almost sears my bottom when I try to sit.

I seek refuge in the bedroom. But there is no escape even inside it. With two of its walls in direct line of the sun, my bedroom's like the inside of an oven ...or a microwave...or a blast furnace... I switch on the fan and then can only cry with despair as it gleefully churns smoking hot air all around me.

"I'll take a bath!" I try to sooth myself. I turn on the tap and wait for the cool to fall. For a second, nothing happens. Then a great spray of near boiling water drenches me, almost scalding my skin.
Taken by surprise, I barely manage to duck the shower spray and then check whether I've mistakenly left the hot water geyser switch on. But no, the switch is on 'off' and no light glows on the machine. I am so defeated that I can only grind my teeth in despair.
Then I hit upon an idea. I turn the geyser-water tap on. Water that has been lying in the machine has escaped being boiled inside the rooftop tank and hence is cool. I finally stand under the shower, eyes closed in bliss, as cold water floods over me in comforting waves.

But the bliss is short lived for one cannot stand under the shower the whole day long. And the moment I step out, the heat is waiting, ready to pounce.

Lunch is sitting on the table but all that hot daal, red curry and yellow sabji reminds me of more heat and my stomach churns at the thought of consuming them. I make a dash for the cold curd and as I spoon it in, I place its glass bowl against my skin, savouring the coolness.

The afternoon is one saga of restlessness and of waves of heat doing a maniacal voodoo dance around me. Outside, the sun beats down through the dust haze that the 'Loo' has stirred up and to me it appears as if each dust mote is like a mirror, reflecting and magnifying the heat a hundred times. Its unnaturally silent too outside and makes me wonder where the mynahs, the parrots the squirrels and the barbets have hidden themselves. I shift the curtain and peer out at a mango tree just behind my building and catch the eye of a young owl that has taken shelter in the leafy shade of the tree. We stare at each other in empathy,  victims-in-arms of this relentless summer.

Afternoon flows into evening and then into night but there is not a drop of respite from the heat. Sweat trickles down my back and neck and I shiver in its wake. Everything is hot to touch: my phone, the pencil, the bedclothes and even the floor. I keep drinking water like medicine, to ward off falling ill with heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke. With nothing to do, no place to go in this baking summer day, I take to sending Other Half (now cooling himself in the hills) tortous emojis of flames and burning balls of fire. Of course, no amount of fire ball emojis can warm up his hills or cool my plains.....and so after being consistently ignored and suitably rebuffed, I do the only thing left for me and that is try to sleep. But scared off by the heat, sleep does not seem to want to step this way. I toss and turn, then pace up and down the house trying to search out spots of coolness. And as I do that,  I recall Kuttush's method of cooling himself in the sultry summers of Mumbai when he was a pup. He would take refuge in the bathroom where after having urinated on the bathroom floor, he would spread the liquid all around with his paws and then flip down on the pee cooled floor!!!!!!!!
I can't help but smile at this memory. Kuttush has always been a man with a mind and agenda of his own.
Of course I myself can't take a leaf out of his book but can definitely improvise, I tell myself. 
I remember how at the height of summer during my childhood, my mother would pour buckets and buckets of water on the floor of our home every evening to cool it. I loved this and would in fact, wait eagerly the whole day for evening to fall. I would splash around in that water, pretending it was a lake and even try to sail little paper boats in it. Of course, my boats would soon get grounded in that two inch depth of water! We would then all troop up to the roof top where my mother would again pour water to cool the roof floor. Then on this cooled floor, she would place large reed mats, cover them with thin cotton sheets and we would lie there under the wide -open, clean summer sky, the reeds digging gently into our backs as my father taught me about planets, stars and galaxies, his fingers tracing constellations against the dark air......

I do have a roof here, but of course, I cannot even think of at sleep-in there.They'd surely hand me over to the psychiatry ward of the local hospital if I were to be found wandering on the roof in my nightclothes. 

So, inspired by my childhood summer and in part by Kuttush, near midnight, I pour two buckets of water on my bedroom floor, open the doors to allow cross-ventilation and keep the fan on at full blast. Physics takes charge immediately as in the dry air, the water from my little bedroom lake evaporates, taking with it that terrible heat.
And so, if you were to peek inside my house last midnight, you would have found me sitting in a pool of water on the floor, over a thin cotton sheet, a fifty rupee, handwoven, dripping wet गमछा wrapped turban-like around my head and another, even wetter one thrown over my shoulders like the hermit's उत्तरिय, busy blogging, as the water seeped- up from the floor and down from my गमछाs; and then, in the hot dry breeze churned up by my fan, evaporated, creating the perfect, zero-energy, almost-green AC..............

Sunday, 4 June 2017

দুটি কবিতা

শেষ পাতায় মলিন সাদা গোলাপের গুচ্ছ,
আর কিছু কথার আঁকিবুঁকি।
খুশবু-হীন গোলাপ-ছবি
আর খেই-হারানো কথাগুলিতে
ছাপোষা প্রেমের উঁকিঝুঁকি......

আজ কিছু শব্দ পাঠালাম তোমায় :
রোজকেরে, সাধারণ সেই শব্দগুলি
আমার খুব প্রিয়।
তাই -
"নীল আকাশের আভায় মুড়ে
কাগজি লেবুর গন্ধে ভরে"
-দিলাম পাঠিয়ে তোমায়।

"মেঘ, বৃষ্টি, দামাল হাওয়া
শীল, তুষারের আসা যাওয়া
পাখি, পাতা, ফুল, শিশির-ছোঁয়া!"

শব্দগুলি পেলে
হারিয়ে, ফেলে দিওনা আবার-
তুলে রেখো এক কোনায়,
তোমার ধুলো ভরা ওই উপরের তাকে।

আর একদিন,
কোনো একলা শেষ সকালে,
কিম্বা ক্লান্ত রাতের আঁধারে,
কিম্বা জীবনের এক হঠাৎ 'কি-জানি-কেন' মুহূর্তে:
নামিয়ে এনো আমার শব্দগুলিকে :
কেটে, ছিঁড়ে, নিঙড়ে, পিষে,
হয়তো পেতে পারো তাদের বুকে
ভুলে যাওয়া অনামা প্রেমের
একটা হাল্কা নির্যাস!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

An Update on IT

IT died.

I have noted that writing about sadness helps wipe it away. Not completely though, for remnants persist, like water stains that linger on table tops after you have wiped them clean with a wet rag. But enough to lose their power to hurt. I think its called catharsis.

She (for IT was a 'she') seemed to be perking up, learning to hold my 2 ml syringe with both front paws and suckling so fast that the syringe plunger sailed forward without me having to press on it from outside. Her eyes had opened into two large nightsky blue orbs, all iris and no sclera. She seemed to like the feel of my hair dryer under which I placed her after washing her under by washbasin tap. She seemed to like crawling all over my orange room, tottering like a drunk on unsure limbs, searching for what I could not fathom. I called this wandering of hers, 'duniya dekho'.
And thus, things were moving quite nicely, including her bowels over which I had initially worried like an overanxious grandmother.

Then I moved to the hills.

For me it was such a relief: home, hearth, coolness, mountains, garden, flowers, early morning teas, friends, fun.....
But something did note bode right for IT, there in the mountains.

Was it the cold?
Was it the dogs who sniffed at her and then kept their distance?
Was it that the feed I was giving her that was not right?
Or was it not enough?

I am not very sure.

But one day, she just stopped feeding and in the evening I found her dehydrated and mewling in distress. She refused to feed at all and my medical sixth sense told me she would not live.

She didn't. Next morning, I found the body in the box, stiff and cold, and IT long gone.

I am left still searching for the reason why.

My vet schoolfriend, now practising in the UK told me that sometimes when a mother cat knows that a kitten is not destined to survive, she abandons it. So, she said, IT was not supposed to survive and that Nature had taken its course. And that I should not feel bad.

But then there are things that nag me:

The veiled unhappiness behind Other Half's question: You're getting a kitten here???? The dogs may not like it! Why don't you leave it with someone there itself?
My washing of my own hands each time I touched IT, for fear of some unknown cat borne zoonoses.
My plans to hand her over to the foreign NGO run animal shelter in the village behind our home.
Kuttush refusing to even acknowledge IT's existence.
Mimie barking at her, unsure, a little alarmed and then taking to retreating under the bed the moment I called out to IT.
And finally, my waking up one morning with a raging fever, chills and shivers, and announcing with petulant disgust : I must have caught a bug from that damned cat!

Did IT sense this undercurrent of resentment, this vague air of unwelcome that lurked in the coolness of my home under the mountain?

And then sensing it, did she, like a conscientious house guest who did not want to stretch her hosts' hospitality, curve her little tail with its hairless tip gracefully around her emaciated body and curling gently into her rag-lined shoe box, died?

How many things does one grieve for in this sorrow infested world?

Amidst a jungle of sadnesses and hurts and pains, each of hue darker than the next, the dying of a six inch long incredibly ugly baby cat does not even make it to the list of sorrows.

And so I have not grieved. I have consciously tutored myself not to waste my emotions on inconsequential things like sick, dead kittens.

But the soul has a mind of its own and it is its own master, taking orders from none. And mine has decided it must grieve the passing of that ugly, homeless, motherless baby cat.
In the bargain, it has caused me much discomfort, at odd moments forcing embarrassing emotions out of my reluctant eyes....

Hence, the need for this post, like I  said before, for catharsis.

In a four feet tall nameless, potted plant flanking our main door, a Himalayan Bulbul couple have made a nest and laid three purple streaked eggs.

In this place with hundreds of tall leafy trees and thousands of meadows with thick dense bushes, why my home, I am forced to ask again. The Universe, it seems, is up to its games once more. But I am not going to fall prey to its shenanigans this time. Let the Bulbuls manage on their own. My involvement will be limited to taking a few photographs on my cell phone and the odd cheery good morning to the roosting parent bulbul when I am on my way in or out of the house. That's all.

(I was thinking: watching first the eggs hatch and then the baby bulbuls learning to fly would be fun. Maybe, I'll place a bowl of water beside the pot and some birdseed too. The mummy and daddy Bulbul would not need to fly far for lunch and dinner then.)

I wonder : can a kitten reincarnate as a bulbul?

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

You Forgot to Cry for Me, Mrs Sharma

In winter last year we had taken a train ride, your family and I, strangers first then chatty train mates. On the Rajdhani, Delhi to Jammu.
While I was opening my foil wrapped IRCTC dinner, you took a quick, pitying look at the soggy, tasteless fare; and holding out a steel plate with hot alu ke parathe and home made achaar, had said, " Beta, have this!" And as we ate, your son and I, you had watched us with a Mom's indulgence.
But when today's newspaper screamed 'Army Officer on Leave Kidnapped and Murdered in Kashmir':
You skimmed the page.
You forgot to cry for me, Mrs Sharma.

At Jammu station, we had parted ways, you to the Mother on the Hill and I back to work at my country's restless edge.
On that dirty platform full of shoving pilgrims, when I had said 'Bye Aunty!' you had patted my shoulder saying, 'Bye Beta, jeete raho!'
But when my brothers lit candles for me that sultry summer evening at the Capital's Gate:
You missed the vigil.
You forgot to cry for me, Mrs Sharma.

Your daughter is to have a summer wedding.
Brother and sister had sat on your balcony, discussing deeply critical matters: the wedding photography and the wedding FB page.
Watching them together, you had sent a silent prayer to the heavens for their happiness.
You didn't think of my grief broken sister.
You forgot to cry for me, Mrs Sharma.

On the way to your favourite soap,
your remote had paused at a news channel. It was flashing my story, enough TRP fodder for 24 hours. My mother's face was frozen on screen, a crisscrossed maze of disbelief and pain.
You flipped the channel.
You forgot to cry for me, Mrs Sharma.

Your son has bagged an overseas job. In these unsure Trumped up times, that's sure an achievement.
He will leave tomorrow, on a tedious eighteen hour flight. And he won't be back home for a year at least.
You worry for him: hate crimes, refugee crisis, violence of the radicals, bomb blasts, employee layoffs.
I know that at the airport tomorrow, you will wave him goodbye from beyond the glass doors. And then when you can't see him anymore, you will turn around and weep.
And when you do, set aside a few tears.
Don't forget to cry for me then, Mrs Sharma.

High Flight

The aircraft picks up speed, a faint barely perceptible tottering giving me a quick flutter of anxiety. But it soon disappears in the shee...