Sunday, December 24, 2006

sometimes the nipples say more than the face

Susan Sarandon said: “I’ve never been comfortable with nudity on screen because nipples always upstage you. For the first 15 seconds, nobody is listening to what you’re saying.”

If you watch European cinema—I can vouch for French and Spanish at least—what comes across especially is the explicitness. In language, in visuals, in subjects. There’ll be movies with women, and men, roaming around naked without the motif being Viagra-esque. Their audiences have that taste. At least, I hope for that.

Back to Sarandon. When you’re showing flesh on screen, the objective is to show an aspect of the character that is being portrayed. But if the viewers don’t hear what the filmmaker wants to tell, what is the point? Is it because of this failure to communicate that moviemakers and scriptwriters shy away from absolutely realistic cinema? There’s a nine minute long rape sequence in Irréversible. That nausea just swells up inside.

And the question of selective nudity too. If the bare body is that of an attractive young woman, comfortable with her sexuality, it should precisely be because the script demands it. But, the naked body could also be that of a middle aged virago. Why isn’t that shown? Don’t such women exist? Or does the script ask for taut anatomies in working condition? Get an old hag to strip and let her act her skin off and then see the movie for what it’s worth. I can hear this coming: Dude, you wouldn’t want to watch it. Well, I also am not particularly interested in paying to watch women raped or people slash and cut each other up. But then, I do that. We all do that.

Remember that scene in Fire when Mundu masturbates before Biji. How ironic--and fascinating--that a woman director canned that. And, as an entity, we’re the largest movie watching populace in the world.

And how do our films excite our female audiences? What do our actors do for them? There's a big mismatch somewhere.

A huge chunk of India's mainstream cinema is meant for titillation of the family in the living room. In the cheapest way that embarasses both father and son, and if you've a large enough family, both grandpa and dad.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the big strip tease

Living off jobs which didn’t interfere
With their primary interest—perfect gratification
Unfeeling voyeurs rose from their chairs

It was the big strip tease
Taken off, sliding down satin legs, thrown off a now bare torso
Items of societal dignity

The audience, whistling and hooting
In cahoots
Fate in open connivance with the living

What they desired,
The law-abiding quotidian,
Their loins ached for
That bit of flesh—ravishing, succulent

He sulked in his chair
Glug, glug the pegs burnt
The lampshades turned upside down
The existences murky

Desires flitted like bluebottles
Imagination begot dirty wings
The untouchable was here
In the face

Yet now, he thought
Her mystery hidden in a hutch
She invited more

The face, it had to be
The false bravado
The surety
Where did it come from?

She was there,
Glowing naked as a bulb
Yet she wasn’t bare

What the madhouse couldn’t hide
The flesh couldn't show
That mask on her face
That isolation
What did she feel?

How does one feel?
In a place where men are so true
For her to melt into an aphrodisiac

Thursday, December 07, 2006

prizes in knotholes

A few days ago I ate Bombay duck, a fish dish (no ducks!), for the first time. Imagine my glee then when I read about it in ‘The Inheritance of Loss’. Haven’t you ever felt this way— the joy of reading about something you’ve experienced personally, with the memory of it still crisp? And then I was awash with the same thrill all over again when I read about Kalimpong and Teesta in the book. Wow! I remembered the chill, the inundated noodles for 25 bucks, the smoke-breath, the icicles, the rapids. Crimson throbbed in my veins again.


The urge to write, at times, is like a driving demand of a child; you’ve to attend to it and worse, or better, you can’t discipline it. On such occasions, when this craving takes you over, the need to satiate it in a respectful magnitude looms like the physical immediacy of a new spouse. Always there, in your face. Irresistible. I want that passion back in my life again; rather, I want to get to live it again. Last evening, I tossed around wistfully, recompensing for travails, navigating through dusted alleys, clinging to a past treasure, wanting to lay my hands on the loot again. I want to resume my visitations. Into minds of siblings, into torn families, through a pin hole in old asbestos, to a single patch of light on a dappled floor, to prizes hidden in knotholes. This inheritance cannot be whittled down. At all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

to bombay

Imagine entering or being pushed inside a jam-packed compartment —your feet almost dangling in air, your body (not even the skeleton is spared) contorted in shapes unimaginable, inexorable forces moving up and down your shape. Inside, the crowd is bristled up by a motive not grander than reaching their everyday destination—office or home—but as urgent nevertheless. The invaders—you—are welcomed by pushes, shoves, and gropes; cries of andar, andar fill the air that has been stifled between and beneath tumultuous bodies. And after much warfare, when you do acquire a foothold on a patch that has not been annexed by another sole and as you struggle to keep a clammy hand hinged onto something, you’re treated to extraordinary sights: comrades nestled cosily, shuffling a pack of worn-out cards, a gentleman reading ‘Kasturba: a life’, or a group chorusing Marathi songs.

And imagine going through almost all of this all over again, twice a day, everyday, for days and days.

Bombay takes you by the scruff, turns you over, and shakes the last ounce of you from your piggybank. The experience is exhilarating, disgusting, exacting, refreshing—all at once. Two nights ago, at 1130, I saw one having a haircut, and one giving it too! When the narrators in Bollywood flicks say ‘the city never sleeps’ this is what they mean.

The contrast of India cannot possibly hit you harder anywhere but here. My office, in central, posh Lokhandwala, is opposite a string of huge malls but adjacent to a line of jhuggis and chawls. While there are coumtless eateries nearby, the streets are lined with makeshift huts that dole out lunches at dirt-cheap prices.

And public transport is the greatest leveler. Classless commutes. Everyone travels (rather has to) by local train or bus. The hottest chick to the oldest uncle, to the loudest mawaali, to the most straitjacketed buzurg.

Today, as I got down at the bus stop near my office, I saw Hrithik’s bare chest shouting out loud from a giant poster. I couldn’t help grimace. That instant, nothing was further from truth, from reality. After a bus-train-bus ride of almost one and a half hour, after the jostling and huffing and puffing nothing was more absurd. I think that’s why people are so passionate about movies—to escape a harsh, shared reality. To saunter in a place so unimaginable that it refuses to acknowledge their depressing and exhausting truth.

There’re a hundred things to write about. But I’ll give myself time to sauté them, then deep fry and relish them.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

from bangalore

From Bangalore:

Last days at a place involve you before releasing you altogether, for better or for worse. There’s the meeting up and final words with friends and then coming back to your solitary thoughts. Within the last minute chaos is a new direction. Everyone else knows about it but only you are entitled to feel it.

I’ve 2 more days in Bangalore. I had arrived here quite inauspiciously, having forgotten my 10th marks card that had, to cut a long story very close to its denouement, resulted in 4 weeks in a pigeonhole with a dastardly patron to survive. I survived, if this post isn’t proof enough.

Back then, I had a better plan for the future; right now there’s a much stronger conviction.

Yesterday I went to 3 shops to sell off old furniture, understood soon that their keepers didn’t think much of my belongings and ended up making the deal with a very good friend. It’s uncomfortable to do business with a friend; you are wary about hurting his sensitivities by quoting a high price, and too low a price only ends up making you rue the transaction. And with a close friend you’re afraid something untoward may creep into, and then disturb, the mutual equation and with barely a friend, the deal shall set the tone for future affairs.

Non-sequitur: my mother is unconvinced about my skill at packing. She pesters me with questions that concern vexing details. I’m not as concerned. Is this skill gender specific or am I just too bad to notice my level of inaptitude? My checquered career has had a few blemishes (refer to the story of the missing 10th marks and the sneaking patron) which, my mother feels, don’t give me the liberty, or audacity, to pacify her worries.

Going off a philosophical tangent, most choices you make aren’t that momentous. They only set the tone. It’s what you do afterwards that bake or burn. Such a vantage point can work both ways: it can keep you more focused on action and keep your mind off unnecessary regret or elation, or it can take the sheen off the finality of any occasion and make your approach towards any decision lackadaisical.

I wonder about friends though. Will it be the same ever again? Something very sublime inside of me asks, ‘Why can’t it be better?’ I’m bad at keeping in touch. But I hope the sublime outlasts this something so commonplace.

The next 2 days will pass off and arrange themselves in a week, which will tuck itself in a month that will fit in a year. Just a number: 2006. As I’ll remember that figure with events—personal and national—I’ll probably never pause to ask: what did I learn from it? Did living become just a force of habit? Or did it actually matter?

The nub is to travel the journey and not to canter to any destination.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

that name on the merit list

They hadn't cost her a dime, her dreams. But there, in that very public of places, they melted into tears. And fell off her luminous eyes. Slowly and softly. She didn’t mind them, slipping away. There were enough happy, sparkling, bulbous beads to spare. She remained glued to that name on the hastily written list, checking every letter, her lips mouthing every syllable. That was the one, she told herself. That had to be her child.

She pulled herself out from the cloud of nervous parents. The glistening film on her upper lip was wiped away by an impatient hand that longed to be clasped with the other in prayer. She looked upwards and then inwards. Her God had a heart, surely.

That night she rode up the crescent moon and pitched her nascent dreams into the night sky. Before she came down, she broke a small piece off the lucent concave, heedful that it would disappear into an emptiness soon. She would try to make it last until the end of the month. Like an item of grocery. And then wait for it again.

She couldn’t believe that name on the merit list still. How much would an English school education cost? For then, it didn’t matter. Neither did the blisters wedged between her toes.

Friday, November 03, 2006

my plough, my land

Ladies and gentlemen, seraphs, elves and pirates, exhibit number 1: a star-studded plough.

What would you think if you’re pointed out a plough in the sky? Any sense of wonder? Gasps--audible and visible? Diminutive dreams tumble out from your imagination, swell and threaten to turn real. Oh, back to the plough. A plough with which to till the skies, with glittering stars for beads of your perspiration. Clouds who had been reconnoitering, though aimlessly, waiting to pour down on, now gather with an unmistakable urgency. Something debatable, worth talking about, has led to their most recent caucus. After much deliberation they decide on a plough–-that one with stars.

And drop it onto my backyard. A plough with which to till the skies, with glittering stars for beads of my perspiration.

And guess what? I got the job.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

black-faced happiness

This time when I had been home I went to Keonjhar, as promised, to spend a few days with my mom. All through my engineering I had tactfully avoided staying there stating the value of the precious few days of my semester breaks.

Keonjhar is a sleepy little place laden with huge iron and chrome ore deposits, coal mines and tribals. That is an extremely uncharitable statement and it doesn't say much more than it says.

When I went for a run early morning I saw hordes of locals being trooped onto trucks that lined the streets. Men were paid as less as 60 and women lesser for an entire day’s work in the coal mining quarries in nearby Mayurbhanj. Evenings would witness black-faced happiness with soiled currency in hard hands. Life happened one day at a time. When they saw me running in my Benetton T-shirt and Reebok tracks I wonder what they must’ve thought. I felt inexplicably embarrassed, although I reasoned there was no particular reason why I should be. It was my hard-earned money which had allowed me life’s comforts and no one could take that away from me, much less the happiness I derived from enjoying them.

One evening I accompanied mom to an acquaintance’s (rather an old employee’s) house. She had a 5 year old daughter who was asked to sing rhymes and the latest songs before me. The house comprised of one room with a detached, makeshift bath-latrine. When I arrived beds were dusted off and utensils, books, clothes were cleared. I was offered Sprite when I knew they wouldn’t have it themselves. That 8 rupees would go into an account where every penny mattered. Every rupee saved would bring a smile of relief. It would buy an ounce of happiness which came cheap for people like me. Still, there was this genuine largess sitting right across me in a single bedroom of hope. That belittled.

Baba, will you have anything else? Kurkure, Cadbury?

Such memories mean much more than can ever be fathomed. They bring forth a wave of emotions. A surge of guilt mostly. But to do anything out of guilt would be just not it.

Some duties are not obligatory. They're just more important.

Which bubble should I fill and which one will burst?

Should I trust my instincts? This always crops up like an assiduous turtle called to race against the profligate hare – not in full measure but just enough to keep me interested. There’re intelligent guesses and then there’re blind ones. Then there’re some absurd ones which come across as veritably brilliant and vice-versa (don’t flip-flop all the adjectives).

I’ve been though phases. To guess and proffer phase. To stay mum and withdraw phase. And an in-between, mishmash phase. Poignantly and retorospectively I’ve had complaints against and during each of them. When I’ve been forthcoming, on occasions, I’ve shot off absolutely dumb momos and when I’ve kept the jackpot answer to myself I’ve been left with randomly uprooted clumps of hair from my scalp. I’ve tried to get people (teachers, instructors, friends, etc) to understand that genius sleeps with stupid for better and for worse and hence they should accept esprit and dumb momos with equal receptivity. This phenomenon has not just been restricted to classroom (or similar face-to-face) situations. Its ambit include MCQs with negative marking. On countless occasions, when I’ve narrowed my choices down to two, the battle between the possible and the probable--that strife between instinct and reason (though not in such clear terms)--has just thickened. Leaving me nowhere. Dammit! What’s the use of eliminating 2/3 choices if you’re left with options you can’t decide between? It’s all the more frustrating. And then Murphy himself has to be countered. If I trust my intuition it turns out wrong and when I don’t I rue missing my chance because that just would've been bingo!

More about the strife. For all these years I’ve believed myself to be one. Except of course when I’ve had to choose between having junk food during jaundice and drooling in public. Or similar moral dilemmas. But faced with two tussling MCQ options I’m split asunder, along the seams. There sprouts a reasonable, play-safe alter ego who cants me to see the truth: discretion is better than valour. And the just-do-it second self who requests me to trust my hunch. I oscillate between the safety of a staid spouse or the thrill of the enticing other in a backless choli. Precisely. (I dare not draw the analogy for the fairer sex for fear of a dumb momo)

Back to MCQs. What do I do? And before I’ve made up my mind the clock hands have changed numbers. Generally, I refrain from choices or take the safe highway (rather than my way). And am ensconced in my cocoon. In this CAT season I suppose this dilemma has great significance for our burgeoning aspiring-managerial populace. I wonder if someone can come up with an algorithm that can be customized to suit every user and thus maxmise his or her usage of intuition. What an invention!! And stupid me, as a child I thought, while going through long GK lists, that all great inventions had already been, well, invented and there would be nothing worthwhile left to, well, invent in the coming years.

Monday, October 23, 2006

to be the one you want to be

Five years ago I started studying to be a Mechanical Engineer. A year and a half ago I became a Software Engineer. A few months ago I was on the verge of studying to become an MBA, having got through 2 IIMs. And now, I’m doing something I haven’t been formally trained in at any point in my life. If a pithy statement is necessitated it is this: sometimes we may/do spend years climbing up long ladders only to find, at the top or somewhere in the higher rungs, that we’ve been snaking up the wrong ones. Or even that we’re way too up on some ones to get down and climb on to the right ones the--ones we would love to.

When I quit my job and subsequently forfeited my chance of pursuing an MBA I didn’t have a career path chalked out. I was only beginning to feel strongly about one particular thing: of all the kinds of imprisonments that we find ourselves living in one of the worst is to carry a question mark as a legacy of our past or as a precursor of the future. And this was just one aspect. Another driving issue was reason. Why one should be doing what one does. There should be at least thousand reasons for a thousand of us. Quite often the best of the worst lot comes up for serious consideration. And elimination. I can’t be this, this and this. That leaves this. So let me become this. Voila!

While the possibility of putting safety/security over choice/interest looms large at every junction, there is also the period of drifting along saying ‘let me find out what I want to do in life and then I’ll do something about it’. We (the ones who are reading this blog) are in a far better position to decide our destinies than many many others. When I was involved with a group of volunteers in teaching underprivileged kids the basics of computers a question had cropped up as to what lasting, tangible benefit the kids would extract out of a sporadic, even solitary, exercise such as learning computers. They may very well never have to do anything with it again. But then were we willing to bet on it? And wasn’t it better to give the kids a certain level of acceptance and a few choices which could help them later in life? It struck me that we, by virtue of our position in the scheme of larger things such as status, acceptance, and comfort in society, are far better off. And if we don’t make efforts to avail ourselves of it then isn’t that a pity?

I’m expecting a few to ask: is it entirely possible for us to decide our own fates? To decide one's destiny and to evaluate oneself on evident, more acceptable yardsticks are not two exclusive areas. For every Kiran Desai who wins recognition as a practitioner of a lonely, reclusive art there may be hundreds others who live in oblivion. But then, is the Booker the criterion for her success? What about the absolute joy she had while stringing together each of those thousands of lines? And herein is my point.

That when we truly enjoy what we’re doing we will think before we (or even will not) measure ourselves against hikes, bonuses, awards and start looking elsewhere when they don’t come our way. Or feel disenchanted about our lives.

Today I’ve a telephonic interview, possibly the final round, for an editing job. If I get through it’ll be redemption of sorts. Solely because I’ll be able to do what I want to do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Experiences With Older Women

As did Bapu learn from his episodes with truth so did I benefit from my flings with women who preceded me temporally. This talent of mine was discovered quite early. The time was around puberty. A few newly secreted hormones had announced their arrival as well spaced tufts of hair on my upper lip. There was a buzz in the air; curiosity demanded investigations to be conducted with urgency. In such an age - when lives are led astray; when impulses and pimples acquire a power of their own – I committed my first act of sin.

She was the daughter of a friend of my uncle. (Just) A year senior to me in school, she had by then built a reputation of being an accomplished Odissi dancer. I had eyed her in school on some occasions. And smiles had floated still in air then. Such moments had lingered on in memory whenever I imagined as to what great associations could have been formed between the two of us. Pretty and dainty, silent and smiling, she veritably came into my life one evening when I was huffing and puffing on my study table (after having dashed from a session of verandah cricket on hearing the approaching croak of my uncle's scooter to bury my head into a book and fit into the role of a studious ward). Poor little rich beautiful girl had come after a dance performance at the Kala Vikaas Kendra (faithfully translated as ‘Art Enhancement Centre’) to say ‘Hi’ to a sweaty little rickety boy and offer her enticing hand of friendship.

Attired elaborately in a yellow blouse and a heavily bordered saree, with chunky jewellery around her neck, a broad silver belt hugging her waist, ghungru around her ankles, and all accompanying finery she must've looked, well, a woman to me, or else, what I did to her in return can never be excused.

As she came into my room accompanied by my uncle and a coterie of simpering elderly women I dared not look up for I was sweating badly and ran the risk of being asked a few uneasy questions. As my uncle introduced her to me (not having known that we had already locked eyes), I, as any decently schooled and brought-up boy would do to someone who he was expecting to be an elder or elderly, got down on my knees to perform a mark of respect that is called mundia in that side of the world.

Mortified, she jumped! And shrieked, “What are you doing?” And the aunties? What did they do? In a breaking into of fanatical peals that their ages didn’t merit, their mouths rang out ‘hihihihihi’.

And imagine me! In a room full of chuckling aunties, having already doused any fire beyond re-ignition between my now ‘elderly’ love and me, and sweating profusely (that just heightened my chickened-out situation) I started counting six digit numbers in reverse.

But if you thought this early lesson might’ve taught me somewhat then . . .

During my Art of Living Basic course I sat across someone whom, for want of a more apposite name, I choose to call a woman. Now we were required to narrate our lives to each other in 5 mins. While I had rambled on and let her gain a much too private insight into my happening life and times this woman was very concise and to the point. How she fit her god-knows-how-many years into the smallest nutshell possible was this:

I was born in place X. Our family consisted of dad, mom and a younger brother. Stayed with them till graduation. And now working for company Y as a designate Z.

Done! Over! Before I had even registered her name in my brain. Not even a minute had passed. What were we supposed to do? Sitting right across with half a feet between us, the uncomfortable silence made me queasy, if not her. Unable to bear the thought of lip-locking (our respective ones), I blurted out something.

“How many kids do you have?”

Suddenly the woman acted like a living thing. And asked, rather loudly that made a few nearby heads turn curiously towards me, “What kids? I’m not yet married!” Again numbers came to my rescue. Only this time seven digit ones. In retrospect I think it was because of the calming ambience that nothing remotely physical was done unto me. Otherwise, my patron (who, in my defense, let me propose looked a potential aunty) could well have treated me better.

Age and women do not make a couple. It is better you take my word and not find this out from experience. And putting their feet into mouths comes naturally to a few deserving men like me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Munna and Circuit

The institution of friendship has been delineated to some extent by the movies we’ve seen; while such portrayals carry much meaning, when looked through the prism of our everyday lives, they are difficult to be duplicated. This being true, the purport of the message conveyed assumes greater significance.

Jai-Veeru, since 1975, have triggered billions of tear ducts into action. Their acts were the epitome of companionship. And before you only notice, and infer from, the male bonding there are female duos as well. Like Thelma and Louise. It’s because male camaraderie, while being more visible, is easier to be captured on screen while girl bonhomie in movies is usually typecasted under the genre of chick flicks.

Munna-Circuit, bond terrifically - and decidedly so - on screen; though, it’s very unlikely, if not unpalatable, in reality. It's one way: Circuit giving, Munna taking. The absolute selflessness of Circuit makes Munna’s self-interests stand out a little grotesquely. Imagine what could’ve happened instead.

Circuit comes to Munna and vents out, “It’s always your life, your problems, your worries. Only you, you, you. You know what? I’m done. I’m through with this. I can’t take anymore of your shit.”

Camera focuses on the sheepish expression of Munna – that expression of sudden realization; that ‘Damn! I must be a real piss-off’ look - and then zooms out and the viewer sees an aerial shot that shows Circuit turn away. But of course you also notice the growing distance (figurative) between the two as Circuit walks away (physically apart). Cinematic brilliance. You nurse biting pangs and take out your handkerchief.

Lamenting that finding true friends today is a rarity, and a matter of luck, is a matter of emphatic convenience. It's as if you've nothing to do with finding a true friend. You've sinned as much as you've been sinned against.

Reel altruism is there to make a statement. It’s better to fathom this and not try to measure real friends by that yardstick. To take, without giving, is asking for the moon, and, to be true, the taker deserves it much less than the friend who gives.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

shade and shadow

This one is between shade and shadow.

Shade of a friend; shadow of his expectations. Shelter of companionship; shadow of the accompanying responsibilities. Shade can never remain itself for long; sometime, during the ticktock march of the clocks, its solace turns into liability. The shroud that protected you from the chill now threatens to smother you. The blanket that shielded you from harsh glares paints your identity in its own blackness. Discomfiture sneaks into what was, once, a cocoon and your benefactor, now, can only make you uncomfortably silent.

Shade asks questions: Why did you do that? Did you think about anyone else (me) before doing that? How can you be so selfish?
Shelter turns peremptory with injunctions dissimulated as things softer like advice and suggestions: Don’t do this. I suggest (I insist) you decide against it. You’ve made the right decision . . . I’m glad for you!

What the protected – shaded and jaded – says: Don’t worry about me. It’s best you be honest with me. I’ll let you know when I’m hurt.

Inwardly, collapsing like a house of cards, what does a shielded voice murmur: Honesty comes with discretion and a little care for feelings. Is this so hard to fathom? And my freedom? Have I lost it?

Despair, and fear, and you hear the perfect sad pitch.

Bonds of love become barnacles; favours become the unmerciful edge of guillotines; all old accounts are dusted and tallied - How much is owed? How much has been left unclaimed?

The interplay of shade and shadow continues. Father mother brother sister uncle aunt husband wife boyfriend girlfriend friend - all function, in the world of umbra and penumbra, by the rules of shade and shadow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I did it!!!

The traffic stopped for me at junctions. I swear it stopped. I was the only one running and long trails of bikes, cars, and buses laden with people with Sunday morning plans waited for me to pass. Some cheered me, some just gazed with a palpable curiosity and some, I guess, just wanted me to pass quickly. And it wasn’t just for me. It was the same for very single runner and yet each felt like royalty.

There was an old lady at the end of the Vidhan Soudha road who shouted ‘all the best’ at the top of her voice. Children were the most visibly excited, and puzzled too as to why such a motley congregation was running itself dead. But mostly there was the curious onlooker who was too shy to root for outsiders.

The loneliness during a marathon can only be contrasted with the assemblage at the start. You are rounded up in a flock and then the gunshot. Galloping, ambling, walking - people start in their own ways only to lose contact from there on. The sights and sounds that you encounter along the way come with an exclusive ownership. You've to run to understand.

The organization was shoddy although the full and half marathons did start on time. There were hordes of volunteers who sometimes didn’t have an idea of what was where. Let me have the pleasure of mentioning the Good Day guys who never as much gave a single biscuit as they had useless paper caps thrust into everyone’s hands. In contrast Real Active juice packs were distributed like small change. But all this was more than made up by the enthusiasm of the participants. Early morning Kanteerava stadium came alive when a gunshot was fired and a procession of chest numbers sprang into delirium.

Shashank ran for the cause of underprivileged children, Mr. Anil was dressed in fake tiger skin that had ‘Save Nature’ written all over it, one firang’s iPod flung itself loose and crashed on the way, an uncle ran with supplies of water strapped onto his belt, many ran in T-shirts with slogans, many with earphones plugged deep into ears, a few checked their cell phones every now and then, and a few others gaped at Deepika Padukone on the walls (at least I did).

There were a good number of oldies running and it made me wonder if they were running for a lost age. And considering Bangalore is teeming with software professionals why were they so less? I know you’ve mock CATs to write and Monday mornings are important and Saturday evenings even more so. When people ask me “How was it?” I don’t know what to say. It obviously doesn't concern you much and you'd rather sleep than participate or come to cheer. And where were the ladies? How can there be so few interested? How can so many be into the same things?

We spend a third of our lives in the shadow of death and soon let our waking time become a litany of hours to be passed. We are convinced by Rang De Basanti as much as we are by Munnabhai. But that’s about it; we still can’t make choices for ourselves.

Lester Burnham (American Beauty) had said, “It’s great when you realise you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do.”

Yesterday I surely did as did so many others who I ran with.

I finished the Times Bangalore Half Marathon (21 km) in 1h 46 mins and Gujja in 1h 53. Initially we had looked at a realistic 2h 10 and then at an achievable 2h. But we had not even half-expected it to turn out so well.

Finishing a half marathon is the craziest impossibility that has turned possible. And completing it in good time is indescribable.

A huge thanks to Pj, Chandu, Ravi and Ritesh for turning up to cheer us.

MUMBAI MARATHON is on Jan 21 next year!!. Of the top 15 finishers in Mumbai m'thon this year there were 12 Kenyans and no Indians :(

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Run Forrest! Run!

I had quit my job, gone for a trek in the Himalayas, came back home – a visitor after almost 2 years. As my luck would have it I chanced upon an old school friend Jay. He had become an Army Lieutenant. I, a truant engineer. He needed some company for his early morning runs. I agreed almost immediately. The casualness of his offer subsequently vanished during the runs. On the first day I jogged 5km in 25 minutes. The distances stretched - 7, 8 10km - (with a concomitant improvement in time) and what had started as a filler became a whole routine. We would run, exercise and then hang around in chai shops for long. I had been doing fairly well until one day he decided to put me to test. It was a 20km python in which I was sure about getting stuck in the middle somewhere in the innards. And I was afraid I would spoil the reputation that I had so recently and so painstakingly built. Jay kept telling me: abbey, daaru, sutta ke baad bhi tu kaafi fit hai yaar.

But I ran. We shifted the time to evening since the summer sun blazed by 630 in the mornings. We walked till Deer Park and from there ran till the Annicut at Naraaj and back. We couldn’t complete the entire length (I was in a dilapidated state). And when I announced 16km at home rather agonisingly there was no jubilation. (and it was at that very moment I pledged to show them that I could run a marathon . . . not so melodramatic of course)

That evening Jay gave me some gyaan on running in particular: (1) It’s your hands as much as your legs which can exhaust you (2) It’s best to know your optimum speed and then stick to it faithfully.

And we talked - I having run out of thoughts to accompany me and he to give me food for thought. He said the clincher was boredom more than fatigue. You thought you were run down when in fact you had been just done in by the sameness. He said one should just run without thinking things or wondering about the route or even noting how much was left to cover. I thought that was a very unimaginative and mechanical way of doing something. But I ran.

I ran every day for about 2 weeks back home and then I continued by myself at NGV in Bangalore. Then I had to go home again and my ritual stopped for almost two months until last week when I heard about the Bangalore Marathon. Sometime after I had started I had promised myself I would run a full marathon but that needs some reckoning still. This time I’m making do with the half marathon i.e. 21km. I collected my chest number the other day and didn’t tick any cause for which I would run on the form. For the love of running if ever there was an option like that.

Yesterday I clocked 15 km in 86 min and there was still some pizzazz left. I felt good even though I was pushing myself after a long time. My target is 21km in 2h 10min.

My preparation has been punctuated with rather long breaks and too little conditioning. But come Sunday morning and I’ll forget. My legs will tell me they can carry me a few yards more, my heart will pump in excitement and my brain has already assured me (during the run only) it won’t meddle with other more important faculties.

The great philosopher Nike(as a sales pitch?) had once said:

"There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open."

Wish me luck!

P.S: The reporting time for the half marathon is 530 am instead of 430 am as has been printed on the handouts and website (in true Indian ishtyle). Better clarify before landing up in the dark at Kanteerava Stadium.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Match Point

1. Guilt

Nola walks off, from the innuendos of the mother of her fiancé, into the rain in the countryside. Chris, boyfriend of Nola’s prospective sister in-law, sees her and follows. Then:

Nola: I don't think this is a good idea. You shouldn't have followed me here.
Chris: Do you feel guilty?
Nola: Do you?

And they kiss in the rain.

2. Lust

Chris: I’m contemplating leaving my wife for another woman. But when the time came to tell her I couldn’t do it. It’s crazy. I can see no real future with this other woman and I’ve a very comfortable life with my wife.
Friend: Ya but then you don’t love her.
Chris: I’m not saying I don’t love her. Just not the way I feel about this other woman. Maybe it’s finally the difference between love and lust.

3. Greed

Chris: I don’t fool myself that I haven’t got used to a certain kind of living. Am I supposed to give it all up?

4. Luck

Chris: The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realize how much of an impact luck plays. There are moments in a tennis match where the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, remains in mid-air. With a little luck, the ball goes over, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose.

Sometimes luck follows you like a faithful puppy; for the aspiring criminal luck’s like the Hand of God. But guilt is a permanent scar; you’d rather be apprehended and punished than see it everyday in your reflection. Guilt can’t be washed off the face. On the contrary I wonder what are the possibilities if luck helps us in our transgressions – little and big. If we get that little push at the hour of the crime and then things turn out favourably can’t we be led further into our ignoble pursuits?

Match Point is a welcome departure from Woody Allen’s romantic, neurotic comedies although the latter are brilliant in their genre. It’s as the critics say: ‘darker’. I feel at times reviews just shoot over the heads with their fancy talk (called ‘spiel’ which is what I want to avoid to make my point) but then if you watch this movie carefully you’re bound to come up with little clues - that otherwise would go unnoticed – that just make it jump the threshold between a good and a better-than-good movie. Like which book Chris is shown reading at one point and why when Nola says that her building has been burglarized and the woman down the hall has mice it’s something to be kept in mind. The plot is tight and has been lent an ingenious tweak at the end.

The title had led me to believe it was something else altogether but you never know. I’ve practically said nothing about the characters and the setting because I believe the message is sweeping. London, Chris and Nola are just excuses to show human beings as they are wherever they are. It could happen to your best friend if not to you (if you're relieved at reading this don't be surprised)

THIS is for starters.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If you're going to try, go all the way

The cliche of ups and downs, crests and troughs, snakes and ladders croaks rickety; it sounds outrageously banal especially when I'm forced to listen to humdrum speeches by preachy orators. But when I feel all that ebb and flow, high and low within me I realise the reality of it overshadowing it's commonness. I don't have to wait for significant occasions to feel that and God forbid those moments may pass with hardly as much as a flutter of a butterfly wing inside.

Its there everyday; I only have to pay attention. To the abyss I say I can only rise from it; to the sky I tell the fall shall hit hard. And to everything I murmur: this too shall pass.

Every passing day there come a few moments, a handful maybe even less - a solitary thought, where I feel myself. Nothing much happens to me then but its the afterglow that I bask in. It's like a shot of adrenalin, of resplendent beauty, that eggs me on for the oncoming hours, days, weeks. It pedals me on and my wheels run hard. As barriers, uphills threaten to cut me short, slow me down, the inertia of my happy juggernaut keeps me rolling. I pass by the morass without sinking, I ride through the stench without stinking and I roll on.

My life, each life, is such a story. The rough and the smooth, the evil and the righteous coexist, not peacefully or staticaly, but locked in a tussle as profound as any great battle - dynamically. I live my life consoling myself that my happiness will outlast my living. I dream the momentary will outlast the eternal. I wait for a few drops of rain in what can be an endless summer. And in a way - this way - I root for the underdog. And while I'm at it I learn I don't need to. It'll come when it has to. Bon courage!

May the living keep flying and may the dead rise from the ashes.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The hospital IS NOT RESPONSIBLE for your valuables

As we - D, our domestic help, and I - entered the Emergency Medicine Dept. at St. John's the guard at the entrance halted us to ask the patient's name which I dutifully said adding that it was a head injury - an emergency case. Then he asked me my name which I mumbled before he relented to direct us. A few metres on at the other end of the corridor the second guard, making sure he disbursed his duties well, stopped us again to carry out the charade. And as all this transpired D was bleeding profusely - the towel wrapped around his wound soaked like a cigarette butt in public loos. Finally after we were let in into the Priority - 1 room a doctor (a lecturer in medicine) took an interested look and asked a few questions before he asked his junior - a PG student Mr. T - to diagnose him. Mr. T now enquired his quota; he hadn't paid attention the first time they were asked. He wrote down the rather lengthy report - left lateral laceration, 8 cm long, 1.5 cm deep, weapon involved: kitchen knife, address, thumb impression, etc) during which a few nubile interns gathered around him and invited him to their world with enticing smiles and he in turn blushed baby pink. And after a good 20 mins of entering the premises we were asked to get an X - ray done of the skull ( Anterior-Posterior and lateral). The X-ray room was a 100 metres walk. And after it was done the operator refused to give me the X ray saying that it'll be sent to the Priority -1 room. So I went back only to be asked by Mr. T for the X-ray. After listening to me he ordered someone to fetch it from the X ray room since they normally took a long time to send it across.

As we waited a few Sisters got together for some chit-chat. I hadn't paid them any attention until then and what I saw made me rue it. Miss I was telling Miss J about this new intern from Germany, "I've heard he's very intelligent. He has won many prizes and all." I turned to stare at a 6 ft 5 in giant. Meanwhile the X-ray report arrived and it became the cause cèlébre as every soul worth an ounce of medical literature decided to look into it. It was determined beyond the reasonable doubts of a few too many noble docs, interns,etc that there was no damage to the cranium (thats why the X ray had been done in the first place) . There was a brief 'pehle aap' fiasco between the German Mr. G and the Indian Mr. T as to who would treat the patient. By seniority Mr. T won the vote. The stage was set. Or so I had thought.

In the emergency ward of a hospital as big as St. John's at any given point of time there are 8 - 10 suture sets. But right then there wasn't a single one. All had been despatched to be sterilised (hygiene is of paramount importance of course) My patience running thin while having already waited 15 mins for the suture set I asked Mr. T as to why they couldn't/didn't send the sets in batches instead of all at once. He reassured me - "It happens man."

When the suture set arrived a trolley was rolled on wheeled legs with the necessary equipment. Mr. T put on his rubber gloves only to find: there is no razor to shave off the hair off the scalp surrounding the laceration. So another hunt began, and the razor wass hunted down after 10 odd mins but it turned out useless without a blade which was eventually got from a simpering Sister. And then the suture started. Since it was quite a long and deep incision it took time. While Mr. T was on his 3rd stitch the Sisters and attendants had vanished and a swelling beacuse of a blood clot (haematoma) had developed. I was asked, "Do you fear the sight of blood?" I said, "No" and I was invited over to assist Mr.T !!!

Now because of the fresh blood that kept collecting at the site of the wound a soft, pulpy mound had formed. When a stitch was put blood would ooze/ gush out of the puncture site because of the pressure built up by the rupture of the blood vessels in the area. Increasingly it was becoming difficult to tie it up. I helped by pouring Povidine-Iodine solution into a cup, giving gauzes to Mr. T by forceps, replenishing the saline in the saucer and asking D, the victim, to pinch himself hard to take his mind off the pain. 12 stitches were put in place after a drawn out hour. Mr. T taking the advice of a senior surgeon put on Dynaplast (a kind of elastic band) over the tomb that had formed by now. Wiping off the blood off the face and hair took another 10 mins after which a Sister who had vanished earlier handed me 3 prescriptions.

The St. John's pharmacy is overworked and understaffed. It took me an hour to get the medicines. And finally after enquiring about the doses and outpatient facilities it was time for home.

12 stitches, 140 cm of non-absorbable suture wire (Ethilon), a huge quantity of blood, 4 and a 1/2 hours and an extremely frustrating experience later all I remember is this:

1) During one of the many waits I asked the German guy as to 'what if there is a serious emergency?' (I had to put it that way since a plain, simple emergency had lost it's effect). He said 'but there isn't one now.' I stressed on the 'what if' part and regretted it because he told me next, ' This is India. It happens all the time.' After enquiring I came to know he had been there for 5 weeks but he said he was sure of what he said. A German has the audacity to say this about one of the premier hospitals of Bangalore.

2)Doctors are esteemed a lot. They are veritable demi-gods. But one who is insincere can make you sick to your bone and you get to know this the hard way. We all cheat and fool around at our jobs but a doctor in the emergency dept. simply cannot afford it. It's a God-forsaken place where tempers run high and patiences run thin and to look at Sisters having crushes by the minute, interns make silly passes, or male attendants mistaking boobs for faces is a blood-boiling thing. There are genuinely sacrificing doctors and nurses no doubt and I understand how difficult life must be for them. But the ones who are not - God forbid them from you.

3)And all this had started because of what the security guard of an adjacent building had to say to D: that the hair on his chin was more than the hair in his (D's) loins.

4) The hospital is not responsible for your valuables. (This was written in the Emergency dept) If your life is a valuable then bad luck!

Friday, August 18, 2006

right to live. live to write

A pen. A paper. And you're ready to write? Alright, some food for thought.

Is it that simple? (rhetoric)

Writing at all times is a personal experience. But within that there are so many demands to be met and so many things to be kept in mind. In school it was to write some sense in 350 words. In college it was to stretch out 'one liner' answers into full pages until the examiner got so confused in your clap-trap he was convinced "iss bandey mein kuch hai". And all the time we never really had to think

Unfortunately, if you want to I mean really you still didn't get me.. i mean really, truly write then the situation gets a trifle tricky.

Pen, paper and food for thought are all mandatory ingredients but you need that something..that spark to ignite the fuse.. and then write as it sets your imagination on fire. Then repeat the process over and over again until it becomes a habit, a second skin. I'm not sure where to get that and I doubt attending creative writing classes help.

Sometimes, or maybe at most times, its easier to write pages about one incident, like in real time, than club huge chunks of time in a single paragraph. When you recount an anecdote there loom a thousand finer points. Some important, or rather relevant to the story, and some not so. Its absolutely necessary to thresh the chaff from the grain. Because if you don't the reader may look upto the wrong pointers to relate to. And in the end, its how much anyone relates to, or understands what you want to say, that makes him harbour any feeling from adoration, love to hate, disgust for your work.

Midnight's Chilren is a brilliantly written book. Its a veritable training module on how to narrate. Yet when I first tried to read it, it just left me with a collection of new words. And when I asked a few of my friends they shared my sentiments ( and I was relieved!). But guess what? It has won the 'Booker of Bookers' award. That means it has been held as the best book to have won the Booker prize in its first 25 years. Yet more people (atleast in the 20-30 group) must've read 'One Night at a Call Centre' and maybe even enjoyed.

Does it say anything about the readers or is there something wrong with being critically acclaimed?

Its the same thing as masala potboilers setting box-offices on fire and crtically hailed, landmark movies coming a cropper at the marquee. Filmmakers never blame the viewers when serious and good cinema falls flat on its face. Instead they say the audiences' taste is different or may be there was something wanting in their product. Its called biting the bullet

It can happen with anyone with creative products to sell for a living ( I mean all you engineers, doctors, MBAs dont come at me..). But when you're at it, when you're I mean really really writing... thats the last thing that comes to your mind. You don't measure yourself by any standards. And all you need is just a pen and paper. Because an imagination has run amok. A storm has been raged. You can't ever catch the wind, can you?

I'll end with this piece from 'The God of Small Things'

"Anything's possible in Human Nature," Chacko said in his Reading Aloud voice. Talking to the darkness now, suddenly insensitive to his little fountain-haired niece. "Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy."

Of the four things that were Possible in Human Nature, Rahel thought that Infinite Joy sounded the saddest. Perhaps because of the way Chacko said it.

Infinite Joy. With a church sound to it. Like a sad fish with fins all over.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


For a generation, a society, to believe in a philosophy took one man, really.

Think of how difficult it is to convince a populace of a tenet, to unite them under the aegis of a single idelogy, by thinking of how unsuccessful a generation, that India which was unified before independence, has been in making its children understand what they believed in. Non-violence died long back, sometime before Gandhi did. It was as if Ahimsa had a meaning only until the fight for freedom from imperialists was on. Once that battle was won it lost it dissolved - corpus and will.

I'll be a trifle defensive and say rightaway that I'm not vouching for Ahimsa. I don't know if its right or if it can withstand the quicksand of practicality (we call it realpolitik these days). I'm too naive for that. Or maybe I'm too informed without having being there and done that. But I fail to understand how a path of action followed by so many billions could be so summarily abandoned especially when they so strongly and so obvoiusly believed in it? You can argue with the non-aligned movement and how atleast under Nehru we were a peace loving nation which we're even now. But still how could parents not teach our midnight's children what they stood for? Or did they actually stand for it?

I'll look at it from the other side. What about war? Is there anything called victory in war? With all the abstruse terms floating around - psychological victory, strategic vic, tactical vic - somewhere even the focus has shifted from the noun onto the adjective. History has taught us that men and weapons make bad bedfellows. The judgement of human beings simply cannot be trusted to save humanity from disaster. Muhammed of Ghazni attacking us 17 times or Alexander conquering most of Eurasia after bloodbaths didn't cause as much damage as a World War did. Japan has learnt its lessons well. There is more intelligence, more life, more beauty at stake now. What is meant to be a deterrent doesn't take time to become an agent of pre-emptive attack. Victory in war can at best be Pyrrhic and even that, most of the times, is overestimated. You can say Israelis have been more sinned against than sinning or the Hezbollah militia have a right to their freedom but it doesn't change a thing and that's exactly what is sad. Someday it'll become so complicated, and absurd, that our collective fate - the kind that you must've read about in sci-fi novels - has to be decided by a throw of dice. Words like Cataclysm, Apocalyse, Armageddon will be in our newpapers once and after that no word shall ever be printed.

I respect our soldiers. They put their lives on the line. For people like us who care about them mostly when they die and maybe moreso if they have saved a few civilians before dying. If this is repugnant it's as much of a truth as the view that soldiers are perpetrators of some of the worst human rights violations in high insurgency areas all over the world. The concept of a nation is an epic truth, that of safeguarding it is sounder, and even the rationalism that it's a job like the doctor's or engineer's and everyone has to contribute in their own way makes sense but . . . Why is it that today in our armed forces there is a growing shortage of personnel? Maybe our youth have found better, less riskier alternatives to earn a living. Does that make fighting for one's country a last resort, or one of the last options? Is the concept of patriotism losing relevance because you can't see the bad guys from the good ones?

Life verily exacts its revenge when something that you've stood for all along stands compromised. Soldiers make such choices and I respect them for that. You read first hand accounts of the World Wars, or watch Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and you'll get an idea. The only thing that war gives for sure is scars. It leaves countless sentinels who have fought for freedom, with guns and death, with a numbness that makes the rest of their days a living hell. The saddest thing is to come back home a hero and then lock yourself up and question whether whatever it was that you fought for was right. Was worth it.

Someone said 'everything's fair in love and war' after which people have been repeating it for ages. This thing is so old I bet no one even thinks about it before saying it. This statement in a nutshell says this: the goals of love and war are the highest ideals for which any man can strive. So all actions stand redeemed in the process of accomplishment of those ideals.

But really if you ask me maybe most things are fair in love (ok can I have some more time to decide? :-)) but war? .. no comments ... you should ask the guy who first said it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

err...bhaiya apothecary there's a fly in the ointment you're selling

The other day in the middle of a seemingly regular conversation a friend asked me if I remembered my sister, who's long been dead, often. For many years I had been indifferent to this requiem of reality, alternately banishing and stowing it away. Maybe there was unwashed pain. But of late, and that accounted for my reply in the affirmative, I've been opening long locked boxes. An occasion like Rakhee evokes special memories and makes me wonder what it would've been like..

One of my very good friend's little sister started tying me rakhees sometime back in school. And now several years hence she goes into an overdrive every year before rakhee asking me to visit her several hundred miles away and hardly ever reminding me of the gifts she so rightfully deserves. I would have had never imagined what had started solely because of how regularly I used to go to my friend's place would grow into something so redeeming. It brings a smile to the lips - one that outlives seasons until the next year.

Schooldays were witness to quite a few rakhee tales. The one that I especially like occurred in the 8th class. This girl S got to know of this guy P (a big bully in class whom the girls frowned upon) who was interested in her. It didn't help when we told her of how serious P was about her. Scared he might do something, she hatched a master plan. A day before rakhee she brought a box full of chocolates and a 'cute' rakhee to school. In the recess she cornered P literally and told him he had to be her brother. P, in a show of manly defiance, clenched his palms together ( to-get-her) in the back. She held out her token of sisterly trust before him and enticed him with her forbidden fruit (chocolates!!) while he steadfastly refused to give in to it and thus give up hopes of his amorous liaisons. This continued for a good 40 mins until the teacher had to separate the desperate sister-to-be and the brother that never was.

But credit should be given to our man P for choosing the path of righteousness because guys did use rakhee to get up, close and see they could always pass off a little mischief as brotherly concern. Whoever spoke about the means justifying the ends!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

the poorer me

The thing with the death of a loved one is that it doesn't make you sad per se. It's when you remember small things in context and you realise how much it means to you, how much you miss it, and how little you appreciated it that a poignancy gushes out through the spillways that bereaved eyes can sometimes be.

These days my grandmother keeps visiting me in an image of a hapless old lady frantically looking for her grandson on a strange, long school corridor. A curfew had been imposed in town after communal riots had broken out post Babri Masjid demolition. The teachers were brainstorming about the students' safety when she hotfooted into and out of classrooms with an urgency only duplicated in labour rooms. I saw her on the corridor and shouted, without fear of the looming pedagogic figures, 'Aai'. And then the entire class screamed out at the top of their lungs 'Aaai'. She saw me, came running over, and hugged me tight with my face buried in the soft of her belly. That was it - an old, uneducated, and stupidly doting grandmother making a mockery of a curfew to come to her grandson and a roomful of boisterous schoolkids united with him for a moment in the love for their grandmothers that they each wished were there. I had won that day.

She lost a few days ago.

My life will be all the poorer for it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

more verse less terse

sometime back when I was drunk I scrawled this (retrieved from the archives of my cellphone):

for all punch drunk in love,
what lies ahead is a treasure-trove,
the keys to which cant be bought in a mart,
but only to be found in your beloved's heart

and then when I was a little sad, and drunk still, I drawled this:

all mothers that send their sons to war,
in hope leave their doors ajar,
but even if the battle scarred return from afar,
their souls have changed beyond repair

she cant see rhyme from chime, she doesn't know mirth from mime!

Quite exuberantly I started with:

Pitter patter amidst the clatter
a little brain is in a batter
sifting through all the clutter
to pen verses that glitter

and then when she didn't quite get my line I wrote:

Hither thither into the gutter
O these poems full of butter
vanish with hardly a flutter
and there wails the rhymer's letter

and then when she still didn't get any of it I composed:

Bitter poet at the end of his tether
his ballads as cute as a pup's litter
but his princess of frowns and jitter
fails to understand his poems better

Friday, July 14, 2006

a short fuse and a long memory

A short fuse and a long memory; a poisoned stream and many plants of hatred along its course; a moment of madness and long years of stoking. This is all it takes. That is what it took. The RDX exploded but only after the timer in a few twisted minds, possessing the energy of vindictively coiled springs, had been set off.

After every attack the clock starts ticking; while we’re haplessly busy cleaning up the mess of the last blast the next one is on its way. What we think is the aftermath of a tragedy is actually the deathly calm before the next one. Before the past is sutured and stitched up the future arrives yet more spectacularly with grander manifestations of a million grudges – ancient and new. And the present? Oh, it’s just too painful to talk about.

All we do is tend to the effects on the surface while the venomous causes have percolated into our blood. Right now in madarsas young minds are being fed rancour; in open fields a hundred minds are being closed shut (while their torsos parade in saffron and khaki); some vengeful hearts are being born.

Without doubt, across generations, our people have evolved into stupider societies. Such a society can’t tell black from white, let alone distinguish between shades of grey. So many bio-datas today read in bold : Educated and Stupid. Whoever accused poor, old illiteracy of all problems! SIMI is a students’ organization; RSS, Shiv Sena, VHP comprise of a reasonable proportion of literate participants. The peaceful morningwalking Shiv Sainik who was outraged enough by the soiled bust of Matoshri to call upon a mob of dangerously indoctrinated, unthinking men (instead of just wiping the mud off and carrying on) was, in all probability, decently schooled and colleged too. I wonder if the defilement had been caused by a wandering, disrespectful pigeon what fatal reverberations would have savaged the avian world.

While the victims’ (of any of the many tragedies halting our busy routines like festivals) families wipe away tears, or, being too spent, just let it dry, a few others are savouring a bitter taste in their palates and looking for reasons, ramshackled and recent, to justify and map out a destructive course of mis-action. Are some terrorists being born out of 7/11? And did anyone keep count of how many popped out post Godhra?

Amidst the hiss of a billion sobs of a brave city a few millions are already bandaging their hearts in readiness before the next blast.

What our progeny is going to remember of our trauma will be encompassed in a few death tolls and dates. But some sons will carry the legacy of their embittered fathers as worthy torchbearers and satiate inherited vengeance. God save us. Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

here I go!

When you stare at a blank screen and write just about anything and everything that comes to your cognisance its scary and exciting... whatever I'm going to write from here on in this post will be without a break taken, or pause here it goes

Right now my mind is blank and I'm typing slowly so that some thoughts can be gatherd without breaching the clause that I've laid down at the beginning..and I've this tremendous urge to lengthen my sentences to buy time which I'm so evidently doing as anyone can see from the redundant phrases and clauses... My grammar has gone haywire..I'm not obsessed with it but I'm particular about it and it makes me squeasy if I come across a wrongly, or badly, put sentence...and so you see as thoughts grow older add some wings and either fly away beyond memory or land onto the penned runway..right now I escaped a mistake..I was just about to spell it 'runaway' but some agency told me it was wrong..this is getting too difficult with every strained out word dropping off the tip of my fingers..lethargy and inertnesss are beginning to emboss themselves onto my grey cells and I'm reeling under its weight..Aha.. I got it..I'll talk about hallucination, elevated plane of thought, reveries and stuff... When you smoke pot the most engrossing activity is linking up your thoughts..I mean to every untrained mind there is no logical sequence to thoughts, mostly..we just meander here and there and hop and skip between the fanciful and the rational..but try remembering what comes to your head one by one as they come and go..the chain of thoughts keep growing longer until your brain runs out of space to stash them..the cache overflows..(ok the last sentence was to buy time:))..and then you bamboozle yourself and can hold no more...but when you've had 'bhaang' it's slighlty or maybe more cant think normally..which is good cos most of mormal thoughts are random and fly, scream,sail, soar, run, gallop, swear, roar, and i 've run out of verbs..and ideas too..
i got something for you..the feamle praying mantis is known to bite off the head of the male after the males run off as soon as the mating is over..some of them are lucky while some 'veergati ko prapt ho jaate hain'..
I can talk about Zidane also and it would be a lot easier but I feel too sad to think about him...Instead I'll talk about this one time when we were playing an Inter house match in school..I was at the non- striker's end when the batsman, a good friend of mine, slammed the ball straight back and it hit my balls..I've never ever felt like that..It wasn't awesome..
When someone asks me about my favourite movies I'm at a loss for words cos I don't want to choose from among them..its unfair and unreasonable too..
When i think of all those people who've changed the world, and the people in it, for better or worse, its the common trait of conviction which shines through..A dictator like Hitler or an activist like Martin Luther King or Albert Einstein or Gandhi - all of them believed in what they did and they did so till death.. maybe we, the masses, miss out on that..cos I think if we firmly believe in something there's no way we can't make a difference...
I want to write about bombay blasts but again its too disturbing..
so i'll end my breakless monologue with whooooopppppp:)
and shit I didnt note how long it took to pull this off:(

Friday, July 07, 2006


today he's happy
for himself
today he can stare sympathy in the eye
and say that he doesn't want Him
today he created something on his own
and felt it
seeping into his skin
like rain

today someone can give him a million reasons
to change the world and time
but he wouldn't let the hands of time tick
nor the tides move a yard faster, nor slower

today he turns his back on the past
his old clothes are shed, as he walks around bare
today he sees his fears pass him by
as he drives his caravan to paradise

today his heart is filled with light
and he looks within for a reason why
today he closes his eyes and sees
through cobwebs and traps

today he's me
he's I
today is what I will not share
today I'm ready to walk alone
into the sunset

Thursday, July 06, 2006

passing it on...

Pj thank you for tagging me to this string..

I'm thinking about...

how people on the streets will look like Naked..and if some people'll form an opinion of me cos of this statement

if all of those who claim to have had happy childhoods have reached the peak of their lives while as a child and it only has gone downhill from there..and if this is true and someone told this to them there would be more suicides

I want to...

travel across India - everything in it.

to never forget, even a little, all those moments when I felt truly happy

stand up to what I feel is right and not complain

I wish...

to understand and to be understood by a few people whom I want to, atleast

there were no hangovers after the highs

to make a movie

I hear...

one song in a loop for hours on end

I wonder...

if retired judges are guiltier than criminals

if school teachers realise how important a difference they make to students

if movies can be a very good teacher as I feel they've been to me

if for a hero to exist there must be his evil alter ego.. and we want villains cos without them there would be no heroes

if I've wasted my education and if I'm doing something now which I've never been taught.. if self-education is the only thing worth having

if I really know what I much depends on the moment - how you're feeling, what you've been thinking - that I find it hard to believe that given a slightly different set of circumstances I would've made the same choices

if there's anything called true love and if I can ever experience it

I am...

what I think myself to be..( it's a bit of each one of you)

I dance...

almost everyday when I'm alone listening to music

I sing...

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

I cry...

at movies (thats why I prefer watching them alone :))

I write...

stuff which I'm not really, truly sure makes sense

I confuse...

roads. I've a very finely tuned non-sense of direction

I need...

food for thought and a bike trip across the himalayas

I tag Pasta and kING bONG May they spill their beans with aplomb!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

dizzying, dazzling nocturnal lights: the final chapter

At the outset, I request anyone interested in reading this to first go through part 1 and 2, and in that order. Else its better to skip the whole thing altogether.

What I wrote in the first post about my nightly activity of staring at a computer screen throwing off dazzling visual effects was the most original thing I had ever written. I had never been conditioned about it, nor had I heard anything about it that I could've repeated. I wrote what I saw and it was as simple as that. The effort may have lacking in quality but not in originality.

And then I had people asking me, with noble intentions, if I was alright. Now if I had written something about, say, Indian culture there would surely have been a more expected response, possibly a more favourable one. But thats beside the point.

I ask you this: even though I know shit about Indian culture, or heritage, or any such subject which I've been hearing about since the faculty of memory took shape in me why is it people accept me better when I opine about them. Why is it that second hand originality, if there's anything of that kind, is so rampant and appreciated? Do people revel in it or do they not realise what they claim is theirs is actually borrowed? How good are we?

2 years ago I had had a chance meeting with someone which, I can claim unabashedly, made me think. He said, "If you're not learning something right it's better not to learn at all. Otherwise later, if ever you seek real education, you've to unlearn your past, and that'll cost you time."

We're like that movie-cartoon character who has walked beyond the edge of a cliff but hasn't fallen because he hasn't realised it yet.

P.S: The story in part 2 has been taken from 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig. I've modified the narration a little to help me make my point. This book holds the record of being rejected by the most publishing houses - 120 in all - before becoming a New York Times bestseller.

dizzying, dazzling nocturnal lights : part 2

A girl wanted to write a 500 word essay about India. Her teacher suggested she narrow it down to her hometown. She couldn't write it in time because she wasn't able to think of anything to write. The teacher was stumped. He told her, "Narrow it down to the a main street of your town." The girl came back in real distress the next time;she still couldn't think of anything to say, and couldn't understand why, if she couldn't think of anything about all of her hometown, she should be able to think of something about just a main street in it.

The teacher was furious. "You're not looking," he said. "Narrow it down to the front of a building on a main street in the town. Start with the upper left brick."

Next class, the girl came in with a puzzled look and handed over a 5000 word essay on the front of a building on a main street of her town. "I sat in a coffee shop across the street," she said, "and started writing about the 1st brick, and the 2nd brick, and then by the 3rd it all started . . . it all started to come and I just couldn't stop. I don't understand."

The teacher understood it the way it was: she was blocked because she was trying to repeat, in her writing, things she had already heard. She couldn't think of anything about the town because she couldnt recall anything she had heard worth repeating.

The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing.

The teacher got a fillip. Next class, he asked everyone to write about the back of his thumb. Everyone gave him funny looks but they did it, and there wasn't a single complaint about 'nothing to say'. In yet another class he changed the subject to a coin, and then to only one side of a coin.

What the students wrote, even though seemingly trivial, was nevertheless their own thing, not a mimicking of someone else's. He concluded: imitation had to be broken before real learning, or teaching, could begin. Little chidren didn't have it. It seemed to come later on, possibly as a result of school itself.

That sounded right. Schools teach you to imitate. If you don't imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. In college it's more sophisticated; you're supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince him you aren't imitating.

Students were completely conditioned to work for a grade rather than for the knowledge the grade was supposed to represent.

----- END OF STORY-----

Monday, July 03, 2006

dizzying, dazzling nocturnal lights!

For the past few nights a very engrossing activity for me has been this:

turning on the visual effects of iTunes player and staring at the monitor.

This is what I see:

marble green swirls revolving at a constant speed - very disciplined.

beige coloured irregular, corrugated lines like a freaky ECG report.

speckled 8s like a clip tied to the screen that whizzes around a centre.

a kaleidoscope of circles that are very jumpy. They are like children that hop along in gunny bags, as seen from above.

a continuosly propagating sine waveform or a string that has been tugged at its untied end - crests and troughs that float past.

a sequence of scarlet specks that spread from one end to another increasing in size like a jet of ink thrown off a fountain pen.

a concentric pattern of whorls that look like the colured fingerprints of a culprit who has been caught red/blue/magenta/violet handed.

gemstone blue planes above and below your line of vision that make your sight seem crammed in between.

many elliptical orbits, very close to each other, that revolve together like a single wrist band.

flower petals - oblong shaped - that are lined with veins like a wrinkled forehead.

a purple and bright green combination of concentric circles like compact discs of varying sizes that have been piled upon one another.

a sprinkler spraying crimson water that has cut out a circular garden in the screen.

a collection of blue and pink bars like an Eastman Colour bar code.

taillights of cars, of a spectrum of hues, that whiz past like on a Tokyo freeway.

There are countless other constellations which either change shape too soon or I find too abstruse and abstract to describe.

While concentrating on each of these patterns there is this constant feeling of being pulled in, of travelling along constricting tunnels, of being swallowed into the mouth of whales with funny coloured palates.

The unifying theme is that all these images exhibit a symmetry. There is a method to the madness.

You can either trash this as jabberwocky or turn the visual effects on the next time you listen to your favourite playlist. And then try to make something out of it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

of trust, heartbreak, and redemption

When Cafu handed over the Brasilian captain's arm band to Dida before being substituted, with 12 minutes to go and his team trailing in a world cup quarterfinal, he also entrusted his teammates with what was going to be an important part of his legacy. He could take no more part when his dream was being actualised.

Watching that moment I felt that was what defined teamsports: to put your trust in your teammates and ask them to put theirs in you. Maybe many years ago, this scene had been enacted but with Cafu as the arbiter of someone's destiny. And now, life was coming a full circle as generations shook hands across the touchline and a baton was passed.

When Zidane consummated a sublime pirouette over the ball ( a 180 degree turn for the football savvy), belittling 2 Brasilian defenders and commingling ballet with soccer, it wasn't just a piece of skill, or a move of brilliance. It simply could not be just that.

It was a moment frozen in time, set in stone for eternity. For me, whenever I'll remember Zizou, the European championships, world cups, world player of the year awards wont come to mind. Memory will be an ageing 34 yr old who had the gall to do something which even younger, maybe better legs, wouldn't dare to. This moment will define him in my consciousness forever.

All the heartbreak in sports (penalties, you may say going by the current mood) is more than compensated by those few specks of time when your heart speaks out through your game. There is no pressure, no doubt. Only pure, unadulterated joy. Inexorable. Unforgettable. It is for these fleeting instances that any professional sportsman goes through years of painstaking effort and carries an almost unbearable burden of public scrutiny, pressure and many a million hopes

Sometime back (in 1999 mostly) when Manchester United had won the European Championships, Dwight Yorke, their striker then, was asked about how he coped with the intense pressure, the media frenzy. He replied that his job involved no pressure. Nothing in comparison to what families in Sudan, reeling under a famine, had to bear to feed their chidren.
That statement, very much, put things in perspective.

Trivia: When Henry volleyed Zidane's cross into the back of the Brasilian net it was the first time in 56 matches that they've played together that Henry scored of a Zidane pass!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What If . . . ??


Situation 1

I decide to meet an acquaintance, and so I venture out. But due to heavy traffic I decide to take a detour.

If I hadn't taken that detour I would've found a woman waiting at the signal for a light to turn green and for an old love to reappear. This woman had once been my life. Then I had lost her. To circumstances. Nothing that either of us could've done much about. She got married, had a new life. I didn't see her again for long years. And now life has turned a full circle. Her husband is dead and she is alone.

Maybe our love would've rekindled. Our dreams would've agreed. One small change in our timelines, maybe, would've changed our lives.

Situation 2

I go out to photocopy a friend's book a day before an important exam. All but a few pages are copied. A trivial mistake by the shopkeeper. I don't realise the pages are missing until the next day when there's a question from those pages. I miss the cut-off and the job. I decide to change my aspired profession and turn to something else. I'm no good at it and I fall apart.

Now tell me what are the odds? Against any decision of yours making an irreversible impact on your life? Was a life decided that very moment those few pages weren't photocopied?

And what are the odds against life or death? If you had gone out a second sooner onto the street you would've been run over. A second later and you would've met someone at the turn with whom a lifelong friendship awaited.

What is chance? And coincidence? Accident? Free will, volition? What about destiny? How can any one thing be pre-ordained when there are a billion other possibilties? How can there be a design when there are infinite other likelihoods? If there is a plan is it that life's random? Our paths criss-cross with some and we don't meet the rest but it could so easily have been the other way round.

We are always pondering about the decisions we make in life. About how much of an effect, or repurcussion they might have later. But what about the decisions we don't take? The choices we don't make? Would life have been better, or happier, or sadder? Is there only one right path and hence, are the countless other paths wrong? Are we taking a wrong lane this very moment?

PART 2 (I rewind a few decades and mull over the questions)

Circa 1940. Think of a girl child. Village bred, with a chidhood spent learning culinary tricks and braiding oiled hair and a life of matrimony shrouded in purdah. In all probability her life's script was set in stone years before the incidents actually happened. A plan devised so foolproof and airtight that Fate found it hard to tamper with and resigned herself (to whatever higher powers you can think of). Caste, religion, gender dictated her Fate.

Today, do we need to be scared that our lives are faced with more potentialities?
Or should we feel lucky that we can exercise our will?
Should we think that with this freedom comes a greater risk of things going wrong? What if you can't sleep tonight worried sick that you'll mess up?
Wouldn't you be happy to let your future be offered to you on a plate?

I've this hunch that with passing years, with more intersections and crossroads in our lives, Fate is going to have a tough time choosing roads for us. It'll have to put in extra Fatehours to decide whats in store for us. Just look around and you'll get an idea of what all and what not can happen. Tarrot card readers, Bejan Daruwallahs, astrologers will have to sweat it out before wagering on our futures.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

from the fringes of society . . .

"Where do you live?"

"In the fringes of society."

"Never heard of it. Where is that?"

"Oh, that's just about everywhere. I've been all around this place."

"Well then, how is it that I've never seen you?"

"We only see what we want to see."

"If that is so, I should've chanced upon you quite a few times. I wouldn't have minded meeting you, really."

"Thats correct but thats not how you would've seen me,you know. You never would've wanted to run into a transvestite."

"You mean one who cross-dresses?"

"Well yes, that, and a lot other things."

"Like what?"

"Like one with a pair of tits to go alongwith a dick."

"What! You can't be serious!"

"I can't be kidding. You see, my silicon has somewhat dropped off and I haven't put my lipstick and mascara on. I can't blame you for not noticing it."

"It's a bit difficult to digest, frankly. Still, how have you been doing?"

"I've been busy, for sure. And I've been doing a lot many things. At first, after my operation, I tried regular jobs but then I just wasn't a sight for sore eyes, you know. I tried waitressing but the patrons didn't like the food, I was a salesman but the customers didn't want the goods. I wanted to teach but the kids just wouldn't stop staring at me."

"And then?"

"So I became what they wanted me to be."

"What? A preacher? A nun?"

"Hell, no. I became a lover, kindof."

"You fell in love? With who?"

"With whoever wanted it. With husbands tired of the smell of their wives, with old men and women who had forgotten what it used to feel like when they were young, with teenagers who wanted a forbidden sip, with people afraid of commitment and with those too committed to be free."

"You call this love?"

"Why not? In fact, my love is unconditional. Well, almost. I give away myself and all I ask in return is a little dough. Which is, I'm sure you'll admit, much lesser a price to pay than attention or love.

My clients tell me their untold secrets, and I help take loads off their weary chests. When with me, they keep aside their responsibilities and worries which have been like, what, millstones? They become who they really are, and sometimes they surprise themselves by how much they open up to a stranger."

"You mean satisfying the whims of debauched men and women is unconditional love?"

"If you choose to call them so. Some live out their fantasies with me but most are just regular folk with their jumbled-up lives. You can club them together in a clan but you'll be astounded by the variety you'll end up with."

"And you claim to put their pieces together?"

"I claim nothing.

I drive a streecar named desire and my passengers just hop along the way. During the journey I'm a lover, a whore, a friend, a confidant(e) or whoever they want me to be. They enjoy the ride and get down happy."

"Haven't you ever been, like, kind of roughed up?"

"Not just kindof. Every once in a while I get those macho, sadist types who have to see blood to feel a throb. But over the years I've learned how to handle such scum. I call it an occupational hazard.

You know, once I had got my nose done and it had cost me a fortune and then I had got thumped the next day. I let it stay that way and came to be known as 'the crooked one' since then. It has increased my clientele - this name, you know. Funny how you much you sweat making yourself look perfect and then you're wanted all the more because of an imperfection."

"What about your social life? Friends?"

"My whole life is social, really. Actually its the underbelly of social.

I've made a lot of associations at my job. Friends I can call them although they don't recognise me on the streets. They've shared their most personal moments with me and they know it.

But I do have friends. You know, mostly people like me, making a living on the streets. And our friendship is that much stronger because we've nothing to hide, really."

"So how long will you go on like this? What do you want to do next?"

"My body can't keep up with the demands of the job. These days I just bank on my old clients. And I don't want another surgery, for sure. So, very soon I've to hang up my boots, er, my stilettos, rather.

And I'll just live off my hard-earned money. Write, maybe. You see I don't need what they call 'expansion of imagination'.

People's imagination has been my reality, pretty much."

P.S: Overheard conversation between a transvestite and a bystander somewhere on the streets. The bystander starts the conversation and then it follows in sequence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

who is he?

I've known equations for a long time; not the simple or simulataneous kind but more complicated ones. No, not even quadratic or bi-quadratic but the ones even more twisted.

I'm talking about the ones anyone grapples with to come to terms with family, friends, life. A little tweak to his personality, a slight toning down or turning up of a personal trait and his variables settle into a pattern.

To his best friend he's this kind, forgiving, supportive person, to his childhood pal he's this dorky friend who had a weird, though funny, imagination in school, to his current girlfriend he's so cuuuute - this adorable teddy bear she loves playing with, to his ex he's a good guy but one with an insecurity that overrides everything else, to his easy going friends he's a bit of a domineering shadow that lurks over everytime they say 'no' to his demands, to his more independent and less malleable pals he's this easy going guy who is hardly ever pushy. The list can go on and on.

Who is he? I'm sure any character sketch going by all pointers furnished by his friends and relatives will have some common features but I'm doubly sure that it'll also throw up a wild assortment of extremities, making anyone wonder whether its one person being taken in context. We all wear masks to the world and hence appear different to different people. With each one we play a unique part; the parts are so many yet they seldom get mixed up.

And amidst all this, who does he think he is? Does he really believe any of this role play? Well, of course, he does. The girlfriend makes him believe he's so nice he feels good about his life, the old friend he had cheated once evinces a guilty distaste in him and he tries avoiding him. The bottomline is: Whoever makes him feel good about himself makes him reciprocate in similar ways. The ones who make him uncomfortable by laying open his ugly side or showing him what a hypocrite he has been make him react likewise.

And this is when the seeds of acrimony are sown; seeds which grow into plants and challenge the very foundation on which they stand. Sometime later when he tries to break the shackles of his stereotyped images he'll meet with resistance especially from the ones he thought he could count on. The girlfriend will wonder what happened to the cute teddy she loved playing with, the mother will mope about whatever became of her dutiful, unquestioning son and he'll brood over how he had been taken for granted all the time.

Truth be told, we are what we appear to other people and so we are actually a host of different people jostling for space and attention within one entity. And when we change which part of us changes? Which of the masks do we discard and which ones do we put on anew?

As in an equation, in life too, any tweak in the variables on one side will have to be compensated on the other side. Because this when denied there's no equation, no balance in a relationship. Because when it comes to, we all need the other side to complete our equilibrium. Our essence is valued by how well we fit into the scheme of things. A scheme laid down in society and followed by legions of men and women. And somewhere during this falling in line, this nodding of heads in agreement, our identities are lost and we roam about in fancy masks with our real expressions hidden.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

pArAdigm shift!

'Pa-ra-dime. Yoy never heard of the paradigm shift?
Example: you see a man with his hand up your granny's ass. What do you think?'


'Right. Then you learn a deadly bug crawled up there, and the man has in fact put aside his disgust to save Granny. What do you think now?'


'There you go, a paradigm shift. The action doesn't change - the information you use it to judge does. You were ready to crucify the guy because you didn't have the facts. Now you want to shake his hand.'

'I don't think so.'

'I mean figuratively, asshole,' he laughs.

This is an excerpt from 'Vernon God Little' where Lally, a media man explains to Vernon little what a paradigm shift is.

Lets take this discussion to a more practical setting and try driving home the point.

A black gangbanger - frustrated, edgy and armed - is about to do something stupid at a restaurant where he's having coffee. The waitresses are white, the service is indifferent to coloured ppl and ppl stay at more than an arm's length from blacks. Our man has made up his mind.

Just then a white waitress walks in with his coffee, smiling at a funny joke her boyfriend just cracked over the phone, lost in her happy thoughts, but looking at him while she serves him. His faith in people suddenly stands redeemed and is exemplified by this beautiful, smiling white waitress lovingly serving a black gangbanger coffee. Maybe the waitress hates blacks, maybe she loves them. But thats beside the point now because at that moment she can't be proven racist.

Closer home we encounter paradigm shifts all the time. Our hero robs, cheats, maybe even kills but all is excused when we learn that all this is for a reason and a noble one at that. There's this 'boodhi ma, jawaan behen' and what not. Our sympathetic juices start flowing unhindered. His actions stand vindicated.

I'm not saying this is flawed or anything. What I'm hinting at is this :
Positioning of facts and motives is everything.

What we see in movies, or read in books might be dramatised but reflects reality nevertheless. There's no such enity as a total thief or a perfect gentleman. If you're caught in the wrong place at the wrong time you better come up with a damn good alibi to escape.

I can hardly wait to see what Rahul Mahajan is going to come up with.