Monday, November 19, 2007

I walk on bubble toes

I sit cross-legged, twiddling thumbs and dusting off
Yesteday’s scurf
Choosing whole seasons to efface
That spring of apathy, there goes the summer of skeletons

I turn with a swish, and shoot off a thinking man’s look
Asking “what is that?”
A mirror or a photograph of my best self?
Am I the one who clings or lets go?
Is that the one who spills beans in a drunken stupor, or
Then who do I lie to?

Before the winter too there was cold
Yet hope was there
Hope only stayed faithful to young years
Crossed-out calendars hence, they live apart and fragile

Time has been stripped off, shred
And all that is left now is a want
Without history or chronology
I may say more, or less
But all that will come out is a version of that want

I lie here in the sink
A crusted, burnt pan
Dumped under a column of running water
Waiting to be wiped shiny clean
Then put on the stove to stew flavors

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It’s a peculiar feeling when expressed in these many words:

I do not understand why nothing really hurts, nor why I’m never truly happy. On occasions, I’ve wondered if there’s something wrong with such a feeling, and I’ve conjured up dire scenarios and wondered how I would act were they to come true. And even then I’ve seen that my life would go on. That I would find a way out. Does this make my sorrow, my happiness any less important or worthy of attention? I’ve been in situations that would demand self-castigation or would make others label me indifferent or selfish, but nothing matters, really. There exists an equanimity within me that draws its strength from impassivity. That nothing is really important. That there are replacements and substitutes, and remedies and workarounds.

I play so many roles, yet none seems to seep under the skin. Insincere and superfluous, my roleplays may be called. It is true, yet is it only that? I laugh, I advise, I appear, I indulge, I joke, I talk, I am just present sometimes, I work for people, I listen to them, I lie, I restrain, I share, I deter, I correct. And all of these are essentially fleeting—their realities are visiting guests. They do not stay long; they cannot. If they did, they might rot my life because their foundations are flimsy and they start to decompose in a matter of days. People do not and cannot pause to think of such truths because they’re busy stuffing their lives with more. They’re engaged in keeping up with the consequences of one reality, or working hard to acquire a new one. Either ways, they are neck-deep in life or at least busy trying to.

Rob a man of his subterfuges and you’ll see him desperate and lashing out. That is why people are so lonely when they’re alone. No, it is not a sequitur. It is almost an irony that when no roleplay is asked of men and women, they feel lost. Is it because the subterfuges, however short-lived they might be, define their lives?

Human existence is a difficult phenomenon to deliberate on because sometimes there remains no frame of reference from which to plot, to measure, to relate to, or to extrapolate. You love someone the way he is and your love is unconditional. Is it not sloppy too that it leaves his inadequacies unattended, his blemishes intact? Is it blind, or short-sighted, in that case? Should then your love be correcting, demanding, strong and harsh? Is apathy as a middle path worth choosing? Can human discretion be trusted on to mold a newborn who is without habit and possession? Are there adequately strong moral codes for raising a life?

The quality to perceive the human condition is a double-edged sword—the brave will want it to feel what it is like to live, while the meek will say “no, thank you very much, I’m happier with my desensitized life.” Yet, I do not belong to the meek because I can still feel. Does that make my life any happier? No, certainly not. Yet, at least, the life I live in has a window. And sometimes, when I open it, I can see a fantastic imagination rising over fragmented and disagreeing realities. And then I feel truly free, without allegiance and bondage. It’s an awareness without joy nor sorrow—only a deep realization. To even begin to grasp this hint of a feeling, you shall have to step out of that swamped nest in the attic.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nobody tells me what to do

After watching No Smoking, I remembered what had most stayed with me after I had seen 2001: A space odyssey: the director had real balls. More so, when he has in his reportoire one film that was never released and another that ran into big problems with the censor board; because until he strikes gold, everything he touches is looked at with circumspect. More importantly, Stanley Kubrick could afford to produce 2001 himself, and his name did command an audience in 1968. Anurag Kashyap is a much poorer cousin who has dared to present before an audience that is quite content with neatly packaged routines a very selfishly made 140-odd minutes of footage. I stress the minutes because it takes hardly one to turn a viewer away from the hours of thought and effort invested in filming that footage. Also, these days, it takes just one bad/thanda review to drive viewers away from an outing at the theater. In the last five days, I’ve listened to more than a few people talk about No Smoking’s poor ratings when I’ve asked them if they were interested in watching it.

The film says nothing about smoking. Some other personal habit could’ve been shown without altering the import of the movie. And it is definitely not a film that carries a social message: smoking is bad. If they show it, and you’ve heard it on TV, then its probably a marketing gimmick, or just a ploy to please the powers that be, or simply the flavor of the season.

No Smoking, to me, is about insolence. As K, the chain-smoking dapper protagonist, asserts before the mirror, Nobody tells me what to do.

I’m not sure about the stereotype, but a male chain smoker isn’t always as in-your-face as K is in the movie. There are subdued, subconsciously apologetic, smokers who are almost sorry about their habit. But K takes the crux of the matter and shakes every vestigial and societal aspect off it. He is man in his most unmoderated form, untamed too. He elicits very strong, definte opinions because he doesn’t bother to round off the edges, nor cover the blemishes. He blows smoke on his wife’s face; yet it has got nothing to do with his love for her. He loves her, as he does love his brother; yet, he will not change for them. Without a hint of apology.

What does society—the living beast that manifests itself through appointed and sometimes self-appointed sentinels—do to such an impertinent man? It tries to prune him, chop off his fingers, snatch away his remote control. If he gives in, then his existence is rendered incomplete. He then is admitted into a diabolic fellowship and looks for another to pare down so that he can be recompensed for his own deficiency. Imagine losing your fingers in an exercise but having the chance to get them back if you refer another, who then will indoctrinate yet another and so on, for the same undertaking. It’s an unending cycle. However, there’s a catch. The spirit cannot recover; only the body can. Once sacrificed, the essence of existence cannot be procured again. This is all that No Smoking has to say.

I’m not even trying to separate the quality of the film from its intent. Because this film has been made for the love of the art. So self-indulgent and so striking.


I could write more, but I'll only give the details. I finished in 1:47, way more than what I had aimed to. A 7:45 am start meant a scorching sun halfway through the race. By the 10th km, my calves started twitching, and I tapered off without even realising it fully. Thankfully, I got Bahn, who finished 2 seconds before me, alongside from the 14th km onward. Having someone set the pace helps when your body isn't responding too well. In the end though, I was glad I finished it.

The heat got to most, I think, from what I gathered from people after the race. Milind Soman, who was faster than me by less than a minute in Mumbai earlier this year, lagged a fair bit behind when I finished. My rank jumped to 323 from 750 in Mumbai with the difference of only a couple of minutes. Gujja finished in 2:02; he had hardly practiced and that showed. Reports claimed a participation of over 7000 professionals (which is exactly what, I do not understand). So, comparatively I did quite ok.

In truth, however, I can't quite see my effort in perspective. A part of me is disappointed with the timing; another is more appreciative, considering the heat and cramps. I do not feel the need to patronize any of the two. So, I just let them be.

I shall always remember the stretch leading up to the India Gate. Prior to the race, I had imagined about what a lovely sight it would be to behold. But once there, when I started cramping, all the romance just ran thin. I could only manage to concentrate on the next few steps; I started counting numbers cyclically. You need many such hours of trial to fathom what you can do and how far you can go. It's either a painfully or an exhileratingly pure experience. Every time I touch the finish line, I will have learned something more about myself in ways that no one can teach me. I wish I could explain it; sometimes words are just too cumbersome a tool to use.

I'll try harder in January, in the Mumbai Marathon. Until then, all I say is bluster.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My eyes are silly silly silly

Hawkins: I’ve got it! I’ve got it! The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
Griselda: Right. But there’s been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace!
Hawkins: They *broke* the chalice from the palace?
Griselda: And replaced it with a flagon.
Hawkins: A flagon...?
Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.
Griselda: Right.
Hawkins: But did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!
Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
Griselda: Just remember that.

---------from “The Court Jester

The king smoked a Cuban cigar
And there coughed the old vicar
Cigar, vicar, vicar, cigar
What difference does it make?
A c here, a v there
What does a king care?

My eyes are silly, silly, silly
They make me dilly dilly dally
I’ve arrived in life a man
But with my moustache in the make-up van

She was hard, she brandished her might
For the kids she was an absolute fright
She never let them fly a kite, never tolerated a slight
“There, there,” the kids shouted, “there goes the woman in uptight”

------------Lines for a few of my own musicals

I’m leaving for Delhi this evening. Last Sunday, I did 15 km in 66 min. That tells me I’m sort of on track for the 28th.

I’ve a feeling I’ve arrived in adulthood whole
Only if I were shorn off this worldly parole
I should not go down without a try
Because sometimes even turtles can fly

Wish me luck, fellas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is serious talk diluted by humor?

Imagine a teenaged girl on her first trip with friends. She wants to fit each of her dozen favorite dresses into a tiny bag for just a weekend outing.

I’m having trouble keeping a reign over my choice of ideas. It’s like I’m going to author only one book ever; hence the urgency to stuff everything in it. Make it an expression of all my thoughts—everything that I’ve felt, ruminated over, understood, deconstructed. This is the Achilles heel of first timers: too much, too soon.

Sometimes, when I read what I’ve written after a reasonably long interval, I’m rather surprised for someone who’s reading his own writing. The purport appears much diluted than what I had apprehended at the time of conception, or the analogies are jarring. Words of value have the power to weather time and situations. They should make sense, carry the same punch, at all times: marshmellowish in or out of love; deeply moving before and after pregnancy; funny on bad as well as good hair days.

Or they should carry the tang of abstract metaphysical shit. Whose shit it is, then, is entirely left to your sense of smell or to how clogged your sinuses are.
I love Murakami for the nothingness that he portrays.... He’s a nihilist, yet so much of a believer.... I mean, his words say nothing, yet everything.


I’ve always wondered about the truth in *discovering* oneself. I think its usage is clichéd and inaccurate. I don’t think there’s a complete, definite *you* waiting to be discovered. A more accurate word is *evolve*. It’s by putting yourself in different situations that you allow yourself to grow, in whichever way, and evolve into the person that you subsequently become.

A staunch Church-fearing Catholic is most certain to not discover her sexual side before marriage, if she abstains from premarital sex. Give her a riding crop, banish the Church from her mind, or hand her hope with batteries, and you may just trigger a perpetual hormone surfeit in her system.

You think cricketers in the 70s and 80s had more integrity than the present crop, which made them keep their hands off match fixing? No. They just didn’t have the opportunity. So, although it is commendable that they were honest, hardworking working-class sportsmen fighting to win each time they stepped onto the field, they managed to stay relatively squeaky clean because a good enough temptation hadn’t presented itself yet in their time.

You may strongly oppose abortions and have reasons aplenty to substantiate your choice. But, you still may not have carried an unwanted life inside you. Or you may not have seen a friend or your own child go through the travail of a teen pregnancy. Having experienced any one of the above, you may very well switch sides. Would you then find who you truly are?

Nothing determines us as much as the part of the human spectrum that we’re witness to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

fear and loathing

Too many people know me here. This place seems like a ghetto where everyone knows everyone else, where eventually we all have to perish. No one comes out alive. Before that, there shall be some moments of respite, but punctuating these moments will be a fierce countenance stretched taut over the hours—millions of them one after the other, like an army of ants. The thought of it makes me cower. All the tenacity melts to unmanly wuss and rises up in guttural convulsions. It sucks me out hollow and vacant. And then fills me with hunger for the same things again. I look through the same recipe again; I cook the same poison; I stuff myself with it.

And the turnstiles to the park rotate again. I make a full circle to find myself at where I began, veritably rooted. My system can never assimilate the poisonous air—I turn to smoke coarse desires, I slake my thirst with cheap money. Such a warp. The forces are at it, twisting that which has been eulogized as unbending—the spirit. But it’s dead and it’s famous. That’s why everyone is brandishing a copy of the neatly written eulogy.

I can’t fight the future. I can’t fight when I’m asleep. I can’t fight because I’m busy. People, listen! Come together and destroy each other. Let’s all fall apart because there’s a private solace in witnessing a collective fall. Damn he who doesn’t participate.

Let us fall in love, fuck our brains out, and fuck some more. Let’s fuck, fuck like rabbits. Fuck until we can’t even see the cobwebs. Or let’s reign in our fucks for now, and be moral. Better still, let’s save ourselves for the eventual fuck. Let’s then have kids and sit at interviews offering donations for admission to kindergarten. Let’s turn teachers and preach. Do this; don’t look up a lady’s skirt; don’t cheat in exams; don’t lie; speak your mind, albeit when mommy and daddy are in a good mood. Let’s push them to excellence; to thinner air. Let’s make educated piggy banks out of our children.

Let’s smooth all edges in hindsight. Let the obituaries of sick, devouring parasites read well. Let’s all write them in good English.

“Son,” the father said, “Do you see this?”
“Yes, father.”
“This is a machete. Learn to wield it.”
“For what, father?”
“Learn to use it on yourself; learn to chop, to pare down yourself so that you fit in.”
“But won’t I kill myself then?”
“No son, you’ll only learn to grow in ways that agree, that blend with the landscape.”

Friday, October 05, 2007

with great difficulty or with foolish abandon?

The other day, a friend, while chatting online with me, spoke about an interesting incident that had occurred about a decade ago. It was mundanely interesting—the kind of interesting some of us need to hear every day to feel a sense of amusement. So, I thought about the incident after that and made up a story revolving around it. I narrated the story, or rather my version, to three other friends. Didn’t tell them about my concoction; just recounted it with some friend of mine as the protagonist. I liberally added details (not as far as sub-plots) as I expatiated upon my story, as they occurred to me. When they asked me questions, I proffered answers that seemed plausible given the fabricated circumstances.

Sometimes, I do this; it is rather engaging.


I’ve run a decent distance this week. More than 30 km in 5 days. Tomorrow, next morning that is, I plan to run 10 km. I’m excited about it, but I’m not too excited by the sameness in the morning sights. I hate the old woman who puts her sac down at roughly 6:30 every morning and starts wailing for alms. It beats me. Her motivation toward this daily activity seems redoubtable. There’s this hunk who runs as if he’s in a photoshoot, swinging his hair wildly. And, the aunties in salwar-kameez and sneakers who parade woodenly and gossip. All of them quite fit their respective stereotypes too, which is what adds to my miff. I like watching the kids waiting for their school buses though. They are lost, sleepy, curious, and bright. There was a phase in the 2nd standard when I dreaded going to school. A wave of melancholy would sweep over me—or rather I would allow it to do so, so as to loll in it—every morning. I used to go in a rickshaw (not auto), and throughout the duration of the ride I would be grumpy. The rickshawwala, I forget his name, had a big mole like a watermelon seed fixed near his nose. It’s funny I remember him by that. My mum used to be paranoid about him, always checking if he was drunk.


I’ve been wanting to blog, and now I’m writing about wanting to blog. Reminds me of “Adaptation” and Charlie Kaufman. It’s about a writer trying to adapt a book into a movie screenplay. Anyway, I haven’t been able to blog because I just didn’t want to blog for the heck of it. [This is how unstructured thought reads.] So, this movie, Adaptation, has twin brothers Charlie and Donald. “Charlie writes the way he lives... with great difficulty. His twin brother Donald lives the way he writes... with foolish abandon.” Donald is the more successful writer, of course.

I’ve been on this extended movie trip for over a month. Have watched quite a few brilliant movies, the experiences of which I cannot do justice to by elucidating in a blog. Have been paying attention to a few things—most importantly, to how footage is shot and compiled.

In “Central do Brasil,” an old woman is shown working at the busy Rio central station. The camera follows her weaving her way through the crowd enroute home from work. When she reaches home, however, the camera is already inside the house. The shot is that of an observer in the house looking at someone entering it. This shot is not her point of view; it’s that of an outsider who, ironically, is inside the house. A little later, a window of the lady’s house is shown being opened, from across the street. Again, it’s the view of an observer who’s outside the domain of the lady. These scenes evidently do not showcase her vantage point.

Flip to “Le Fils.” The camera follows Olivier, a carpentry instructor, as he moves, whenever he moves. When Olivier looks around a corner, we look around the corner. He looks at a boy huddled up; we look at him too. The shots are very faithful to what Olivier sees.

Given the fact that these examples belong to different movies, it is quite interesting to understand their relevance to the themes portrayed. I don’t agree with “Central do Brasil”; I have a feeling the director didn’t pay enough attention to why he wanted his shots the way they were shown.

This is why I prefer watching films by myself. I’ve been ribbed about this habit by friends. Anyway, some of the movies I’ve seen—persona, blowup, wild strawberries, 12 angry men, bleu, the double vie de veronique, color of paradise, seven samurai, the tenant, sonatine, blue velvet, 2001: a space odyssey, talk to her, the big lebowski, central do brasil, le fils, mountain patrol.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ram Sethu and Gujja

Let’s catch up on the buzz of the week.

On Saturday, Bharatiya Jan Shakti Party president Uma Bharati filed a police compliant against Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, and three ministers.

What led her to this?

The government hurt her religious beliefs with its affidavit on the Ram Sethu issue. The former BJP leader was upset over the government’s affidavit, filed before the Supreme Court, and since withdrawn, in which it had stated that epics like Ramayana provided no historical proof of Lord Ram’s existence, angering many Hindu groups.

What led the government to its affidavit?

The government was responding to a petition against the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP), which has been billed by maritime experts as the “Suez of the East.” The much delayed project proposes to build a canal that will reduce the distance between the east and west coasts by up to 424 nautical miles and sailing time by up to 30 hours.

In a separate, though related, news story, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international general secretary Pravin Togadia asked the organization’s activists to file as many as 1000 FIRs against Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi for his disparaging—and rationalist?—remarks questioning the existence of Lord Ram.

In related developments, traffic was held up across several North Indian cities on Wednesday as the VHP protested against the planned project.
Also, Ram Vilas Vedanti, a former BJP Member of Parliament who is also described as a senior VHP leader, remarked on Friday, in Ayodhya, that VHP saints would weigh in gold anyone who beheaded Karunanidhi and cut out his tongue.

Skepticism abounds on the project as certain quarters have raised the issue of a cost-benefit analysis and damage to the coral reef. However, maritime experts say that once completed, the project would bring immense economic benefit to India, and an environmental assessment has put to rest all fears of coral damage, indicating that the dredging will steer clear of coral reefs.

• The SSCP was originally conceived in 1860 by the British Commander A D Taylor of the Indian Marines.
• The SSCP was first cleared by the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet in 1955.
• After independence, almost once in every decade, a committee or a prominent expert made a recommendation in favor of the construction of the canal.
• The Suez and Panama canals were opened in 1869 and 1914 respectively.

What I glean from all this is that inertia isn’t an Indian trait. Want to build a canal? Set up a committee. Want to stop a canal from being built? Stage dharnas and protests and burn everything. Want to justify such actions? Ram naam satya hai. In school, I learnt about the Suez canal and about how ingenious a feat of engineering it is. Also, while having to memorize the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, I recognized that India is a “secular” country. Both these nuggets of information underwent an essential, if not factual, correction.

In the next few weeks, I see historians and people from the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) leaving no page unturned nor graves undigged to prove/disprove the existence of Lord Ram.

Scenario 1: Mr. Singhal, top ASI man, is sent onsite to Ram Sethu to assess the age of the purported bridge. Before leaving, he is asked for a small favor by his mum.

Beta, will you please get me paao kilo (250 g) of soil from Ram Sethu?
Umm... ma, but... ok ok
Also beta, Mrs. Gupta, our neighbor, also wanted some. Her son is really ill.
Ma, this is an official trip!
I don’t know. You get me... and don’t cheat this time, get a clean handful. The last time from Dwarka, the soil smelt as if someone had just crapped on it.

Scenario 2: Ateet Mishra, reputed historian, meets an expert on the Ramayana to trace the chronology of events that led to the construction of Ram Sethu.

So, how can you be so sure that Ram existed?
What’s there to be sure? Ram was, is, will be... always. Now, some people also question whether there was a Holocaust or not.
But tell me how can a man from Lanka get involved with someone from Ayodhya in those days?
Arrey, distance was nothing for Ram... He was omnipresent.
Then, why did he build the bridge? He could’ve just gone there and fought Ravana.
Tch tch... you don’t understand... That is how it was, or else how would have Ramayana happened?
You mean to say all these elements just further the story?
Arrey, now, don’t ask me irrelevant questions. Ask Valmiki who wrote it.

Scenario 3: After the Ramayana, it is the sleazier Mahabhrata that is the center of attention. In this regard, a respected gynaecologist testifies in court.

Dr. Agarwal, tell me, is it realistic to say that it is possible for a woman to have given birth to 101 sons, as Gandhaari did.
Medically, this is unlikely. However, it is not impossible. For example, say, she gave birth to quintuplets each time. So, 20 pregnancies and you have a hundred Kauravas.
Brilliant analysis! However, tell me what are the odds of 101 boys and not a single girl?
It is difficult to say, but one possibility could’ve been female foeticide.



Personal update

Three evenings ago, I get a call.

Dude, Delhi marathon is happening.
28th October. You coming?
No yaar. Broke now. Blew up everything in Goa.
Dude, don’t worry about all that. Just come.
I’ll call you up tomorrow.

Next day, Gujja, my co-runner at the Bangalore and Mumbai half marathons, books tickets for the both of us for the Delhi Half Marathon on October 28th.

One day hence, I borrow money and buy running shoes, vests, socks, and shorts—the ensemble (this damage will be smoothed by my quarterly medical reimbursement due next month).

Gujja is smart, adventurous, responsible, straight, besides being tall, dark, and handsome. He swims, works out, knows how to salsa, is a complete athlete and cricketer, was really slick with Flash (when in college), and smells good too. The only possible loophole is a dicey sense of humor. But I’m told he’s working on his narration and content.

Why is he single? What’s with the girls? They land up with total jerks, have their hearts broken, binge on chocolate, and go on shopping sprees to get over it. But how can they miss someone like Gujja?

Anyway, I’ve upped the ante, having already started practice. I’ve beaten Gujja at the last two half marathons, and if things go well, I’ll do that again. Imagine, paying for someone’s fare and being beaten to the finish by him! Gujja, if this doesn’t set your sculpted ass on fire, nothing else ever will.

And this time it’s 21 kms within 1:30:00.

Friday, September 14, 2007

cries and whispers

The street was enveloped in cries and whispers—soft sobs and wispy utterances. The early evening facade had worn itself out. The honking and buzz that would normally stun eardrums had retired to basements and garages. Now, all that one could catch from the insouciant air were cries and whispers.

He hacked and took a swill from the quarter. The whiskey had sunk down to its dregs. “Soon, it’ll be over,” said he, “and I’ll be down on my knees.” And yet he couldn’t think of anything to stave off the vermins. They were drawing closer in search of a decrepit mind to lay eggs in, to hatch and multiply, to build a home in. What a maze, he said to himself. Every moment is a step toward the inevitable, with that tautness of resolve a little weaker.

Engrossed, he almost stumbled upon a scraggy lump on haunches. An unkempt kid was sifting through the garbage for something meaningful—a discarded loaf of bread, a rotten apple, a few morsels. Anything that would stop the walls from closing in. The boy was rummaging through a pile of filth with a single-mindedness borne out of hunger. “Here, take this,” said he and dropped the bottle onto the heap. The boy didn’t look up, and he waited, for no one, before continuing to walk ahead.

A distant light shone upon a fetid pool by the street, like a bitter moon, making him look up at where it came from. The letters above the iridiscent source were delicately woven into one another in a tapestry, to form a name. His strides lengthened in the direction of the glow; he was almost running when he reached the wide glass doors of the store. The exterior had the signature of someone who cared for it; yet, it wasn’t pleasing to the eye, possibly because it was not done in a tasteful, social kind of way. The mannequins on the storefront did not resemble any that he had ever seen—a group of magnificently clothed women eyeing a female nude. Her eyes were barely open, as if the lids had cascaded a moment earlier, and her body was in a reposeful posture like it didn’t depend on balance. She wasn’t sculpted to perfection; only her blemishes were sculpted perfectly. If she was suffering, she didn’t show it, although disguise didn’t seem to be one of her ways.

Pulling the glass doors apart, he entered the store.

“I’m sorry, sir,” a very respectful voice ventured. “We’re
closing now.”
“Are you? I have barely come in.”
“I understand, sir, but we really are closing now.”
“Yes, sir, we are closing. Now.”
“No, I mean you really do understand?”
“Uhh...what do you mean?”
“I saw your shop from a distance and I came in, almost running. It is beautiful.”
“Well, thank you, sir. We are glad.”
“Who is we? You keep saying we. Who’s we?”
“I mean our shop, this shop,” stuttered she, unclasping her hands and spreading it outward to indicate the domain of we.

The light from the rows of lamps fixed on the ceiling and walls, turned up or to their sides, had bathed the floor in a sheer, yet private, shadow. The softness of this ambience contrasted with only the unfiltered shafts illuminating the rows of clothing hanging languidly on trolleys.

He gazed intently at each piece, mindfully soaking a pristine charm while disregarding the fumbling requests of the storekeeper. It was as if he was in the thick of one deep emotion, while the edges of another had blurred themselves.

The clothes were all hand stitched, each waiting—uncompromisingly, patiently—to blend with the personality of the discerning buyer. Above each was a snippet providing the idea behind it or photographs related to it, as if each were a persona with a singular history. Halting, continuing, he read the notes attached or peered at the snaps, reading between them or blowing them up in his head for finer details. Then his gaze fell upon the photograph.

It was an open coffin. An old woman lay in repose inside, her eyes sunken, and her body shrouded with petals strewn all over. A beautiful wreath circled her torso. Surrounding the woman were a group of people, her bereaved family possibly, captured in a grieving moment. All but a little girl, who was looking straight at the photographer. Her lips had parted into a wide smile and her shiny set of whites spoke of two brushings daily. Oblivious of any need to conform to an accepted emotion for that moment, her eyes entrusted the onlooker with a sublime innocence. She vested all the belongings of her newly lived years with the gazer, asking nothing in reciprocation.

It was a summer long past. He was two weeks from turning five, and life was just beginning to lend itself a shape. It was the evening his nana had died; it was a time when grief incited in mourners a silent wish to destroy all existence in their purview; it was when the photographs were being taken, during the funeral. An aunt first noticed it.

“Look at this child! He’s smiling! What a wicked little thing this child is! Aye, why are you smiling?”
“Because mummy said you should always smile in a photo,” replied he dutifully, slowly, and then rolling his eyes upward, trying to fetch another important reason from his young memory, lisped, “And mummy also told that
nana went to heaven; so, I should be haaaappy.” He had always been a sprightly little one, always happy to explain and seek.

“How dare your mummy say that! You little brat, don’t you know that your nana died? And do you see the others smiling?”

In a fit of rage, she slapped him hard. His mother, always subdued and demure, took him away and locked him in the storeroom until the end of the ceremony.

Long after he had been brought out, he still remembered those burning cheeks and a pair of eyes running itself dry.

“Sir, we need to close now,” reminded the storekeeper.

“Why do you have this photograph?”

“The dress below that, you see, was ordered by the old lady in the picture, ironically as her funereal attire. But she passed away before that. So, our M’am has put it up for sale. She also has put this photograph up, I don’t know why or how she got it. She has weird tastes, I can tell you. But if you’re spooked by that kid in the photo, then ya I know how it is. Looks creepy, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, she does,” he replied, sealing the conversation shut.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

he’s the dude, i tell ya

How often had I heard the phrase “commentary on our society” and how little had I grasped it that I so marveled at 12 angry men huddled, locked, inside a cauldron of a room to decide the case of an 18-year-old boy. All this on the hottest day of the year—soaking handkerchiefs, sweaty swathes on buttoned shirts, glistening foreheads, and grimy minds full of prejudice, indifference, hatred, rigidity, and ennui. So, 12 Angry Men please watch.

Behind the veneer of societal decency, how do real men decide? Not everyone puts their feet in puddles of reason; most of them, perhaps, sidestep the slush. All that sangfroid is for sermons. Its bollocks. People sweat, they stammer, they shout just to be heard; choices are made in fits of emotion, apathy, duress. And then stands are stuck to, to not appear whimsical and fickle. Were there no one looking I would’ve swicthed like that—this way or that, who the fuck keeps an eye.

Its eerie to gauge the magnitude of discomfort of someone asked to make a decision—a conscious, rational decision. Its the possibilities that stump. “I’m not used to supposing; I’m a working man.” I tell ya what they don’t ask at job interviews: Are you the freedom-seeking type? Would you surrender more than half of your waking life just to earn enough vada pav to keep you off stomach cramps for the length of the other half? Anyway, long question. They probably would have to repeat the question to get the idea across.


Ok, pertinent query. Would you be ashamed of yourself if you woke up in a gutter after a night of getting soused? I mean ashamed of your very own self. Now, this is my list of things to be ashamed of (not a comprehensive, all-encompassing one though):

If you are picky about food. Corollary: you fucking can’t enjoy the variety that is on spread.

If you overcompensate for the lack of a certain quality, which you desire, with another vice. Corollary: you not just are unable to save your ass, you succeed in getting it flogged like Zorro’s stallion, too.

If you heap the harvest of a stoked anger upon somone else. Corollary: not only will the person you are angry with not know that you are pissed with him/her but the inheritor of your misdirected anger will also wonder “why me?” and nurse a real sore grudge against you.

Ok, three should do fine.


Now, my old man is stuck. It’s this guy in my story. When it first happened, he came around to getting stuck that is, I gave him my hours. Then, I reasoned, let’s give him some space. So, I sort of let him loose, not scot free but on a leash to wander yonder. But that stubborn sonofabitch! He just refuses to return... it’s not like I can’t get him around to do stuff, you know...

Can he smoke pot? Of course, he can.

Can he want to fuck younger women? May be he wants more.

But listen, I tell ya... Motive... MOTIVE. He needs a fucking good motive.

Everyday, someone gets up on a heavy dose of Jack Kerouac and decides to explore. And ends up sloshed and disillusioned.

Right now, therefore, as you can very plainly see, my old man is staying put... he thinks he’s the “Dude,” the big lebowski, you know. May be I should just get someone to pee on his rug. Ha! So much for creative abilities! Its a fucking lie, I tell ya.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

debauched devdas and Anurag Kashyap

Sumit recounts his story as a 19-year-old here:

During my B.Tech 1st year I made a play with my seniors on the life of AIDS patients and during the whole process, everybody claimed how much we FEEL their pain and how we wanted to work for the CAUSE. Well, I never felt their pain nor did I work for the cause, I just enjoyed working with one of the most talented people I had met till then, I enjoyed writing the script, I enjoyed writing the poems on the posters, I enjoyed playing the charecter. But all that claim of CAUSE-thing by my revered seniors left me confused. I felt that something is wrong with me, probably they feel something I am not capable of feeling.

This theatre lover chose to not be a part of street plays that his group had organized to collect funds for the Tsunami relief fund (he put his contribution in a charity box, instead). His friends accused him of “running away from the responsibility of a theatre person.” He didn’t agree with the “this-is-why-theatre-is-done” (to help people, that is) philosophy. What was his reason for not doing it then?

My reason for not being a part of their endeavours was that they all were not doing it in a very creative way.


Anurag Kashyap’s (Black Friday, Paanch) struggle to make films that he believed in, without sacrificing or compromising his vision, is worth a read; if this trait percolates into the quality of his movies, then I can hardly wait to see them. His efforts at making his version of Devdas “where Devdas doesn’t pity himself, he discovers himself... that he is a debauch, a hypocrite, he is a sensualist, hence self-destructive...but he doesn’t know he is destroying himself” led him to knock on the doors of many potential producers, one of whom bestowed on him this priceless piece of advice.

Producer: This is your problem, you are always angry, no one can talk to you, do you know nobody here hates you as much as you want to believe it...even people at Yashraj say, he is a nice guy, all he has to do is stop being so angry...they really want to help you.

Anurag: Hello, do I look like I need help, I need people to believe in me, I need them to stop trying to help me, I want you to stop trying to make my life better, I want someone who can see I am not trying to make someone bankrupt, I am not an art filmmaker, I am not trying to sell philosophy, all I want to do is make films that everyone sees, I also want to reach out to the same audience that everyone does and how would you know I can’t if I am not doing what I want to.

What does Anurag Kashyap feel about the Devdas we know of for which, I presume, he wants to create his version of it?

Saratchandra always regarded Devdas as his worst book ever, which ended up becoming his most celebrated...Indians loved to pity themselves...hence songs like ghungroo ki tarah bajta hi raha hoon main.


1. Laxman had no identity of his own. Take Ram out of the equation and Laxman seems to have lost his personality.
2. Gandhari chose to lead a blindfolded life because Dhritarashtra, her spouse, was blind.
3. Bhisma vowed lifelong celibacy, distributing his hormones among those less passionate about life, and forsook his claim to his father’s throne as an act of pure sacrifice.

For the Hindu child, the acculturization begins rather early. Two memes of their society—sacrifice and pity—are like constant reminders, admonishing, motivating, driving, directing them toward lives lived in their throes.

While sacrifice, as an Indian emotion, is pretty easy to identify with, pity is cloaked in the garb of kindness for the unfortunate; the unfortunate are buffeted by fate; and that is beyond their control. Thus, to feel pity for them is inevitable; it is destined and beyond the ambit of human control. And hence, the unfortunate need your pity.

I’m not convinced.

Friday, August 24, 2007

a long evening

On Saturday, 18th August, at about 10:30pm, we began to realize the consequences of my carelessness. Earlier in the evening, lounging on the soft sands of Benaulim, I had kept the keys of our rented Pulsar on my slippers next to me only to conveniently obliterate it from my fleeting memory.

And, with the evening air pregnant with impending rain and the sea gathering its forces like a medieval army, it was such a beautiful setting that we could do nothing save go on a wild sheep chase, rummaging through a sandy plot where we conjectured to have most likely lost the keys, and now our minds. Tracing long straight lines with the backlight of our cellphones and demarcating our respective areas, we tried to bring a semblance of order to our search. More than a few long minutes of such travails and simultaneous futile attempts at procuring a torch hence, a rather helpful chap joined us, throwing off new ideas. He fetched a dry coconut branch and a matchbox to start a fire, but the soggy, wild winds were a literal damp squib. Sumu, meanwhile, decided, rather apologetically, to interrupt a cuddling couple on a bike nearby on the road leading up to the beach. Although the headlights lit up a sandy sweep, the keys remained ensconced, away from our sights. Shrugging off the urgency that such situations threaten to saddle with, I couldn’t but marvel, albeit fleetingly, at the setting, the grandeur of it.

On Sumu’s suggestion, I called up Francis, the rental guy, in Panjim. He had 3 sets of spare keys but couldn’t tell if any were of the Pulsar. After some reasoning, Sumu and I decided to spend the night at the only shack nearby since it gave us the heebie-jeebies to leave the bike in the open. The plan was such: search once more in the morning. No luck—go to Panjim, get keys and try them out, and get a duplicate made if keys don’t work. Lucky—go to hotel and collapse on the cosy beds (the romance of the night was already drenched as it had started pouring, with mosquitoes at us like hags). So, we spoke to one of the waiters in the shack who advised us to wait until the husband-wife duo who owned the shack left for home at 12. We bore a frustrating wait, watching lazy tourists trickle in, cursing them.

Sometime after midnight, Devendar Singh, the tandoori-chicken dishing chef came around to chat with us.
Haan, yahaan so to sakte ho. Bas bhoot aate hain. (Ya, you can sleep here; except that ghosts visit this place.)
Ha ha ha... kahaan aate hain? (Where do they come?)
Yahin pe, baahar, jahaan hum sote hain. (Here, where we sleep)

His words were laced with an earthy accent, typical of a rather docile UP wala with a penchant for recounting anecdotes. He was from Uttaranchal, he told us, and had been in Goa for about 12 years, working at sundry places. The other night, his patraam ( matron) had jumped from slumber on hearing his dead father call him by is nickname (“Damu, Damu”). On other occasions, the deceased patriarch had been seen counting money like a teller on the table that served as the cash counter. On asking him whether he himself had seen the apparition, Devendar casually remarked, as if to an impertinent query:
Main nahin dekha lekin sab bolte hain. (I haven’t seen but everyone says so.)

Changing tack, as evident in smooth conversationalists, he proceeded to acquaint us of the reda-fighting custom in Goa.

Yahaan ke log ekdum jaanwar hain; ladte rehte hain jaanwaron ke jaise. Apna patraam bhi ladta hai. Pichli baar, pachaas-pachaas hazaar do baar lagaya. Jeet gaya. Phir poora ek lakh lagaya. Hum logon ki mehnat ki kamaayi. Dedh ghante lada vo; beech mein vo haar maan liya tha. Lekin phir vaapas aaya mudke. Phephde phat gaye thhey uske. (People here are animals; they fight one another like animals. Our matron also fights. Last two times, he bet 50k each and won. Then he wagered a lakh. It was our money, from our efforts. He fought for an hour and a half. In the middle, he gave up; yet, he came back. His lungs burst.)
We were dumbstruck. I asked, “Kiske? Patraam ke?” (Whose? Patraam’s?)
Nahin, reda ke. (No, those of the reda)

On the verge of chortle on realizing the misplaced sense of drama in the narrative, we reconciled ourselves to the seemingly palatable truth that human beings didn’t fight or burst their lungs; instead, it was redas on whom rode big money and who were pitted against each other. We were further told that reda fighting starts with the rounding off of the tourist season. Several Goan households keep redas, some employing helpers to take care of the animals, who are fed only to be braced for bloody tussles in summer.

At around 12:30am, Vicky, another waiter from the shack, came to us swinging a small pencil torch in his hand and turning about a bigger proposition in his mind. He wanted a favor from us in return for helping us look with his torch. Since he was not allowed to drink during work hours, nor buy it from the shack after that, he wanted us to buy HoneyBee (brandy) for him. He placed a Rs 50 note in my palm, asking me to wait for his signal before proceeding to the shack. He went back, and I waited. When I went in, I bought him a quarter of kaju feni since the brandy was beyond his budget.

A little later, when patraam and his wife had left, he came out and downed the feni, neat and bottoms up . Having had his shot, he decided to stick to his side of the deal. So, the 4 of us—Vicky, Devendar, Sumu, and I—ventured to the beach armed with a pencil torch. The search resumed with the 4 of us combing more or less the same area except Devendar, who had gone further to one side.

Meanwhile, I conversed with Vicky, who I learnt had arrived in Goa only a week ago. He had been a captain (main cook), working in Bandra, Bombay. After a bout of illness that kept him away from work for a fortnight, he was greeted with a booting out when he returned. He shifted to Goa. The simplicity of his situation did not escape me; rather, it hit me smack on my face. Not more than a month ago I was thick in the search of a place to stay—calling up brokers, bargaining deals, answering mum who wanted daily updates on the house-hunting process—and here was this guy who relocated his life in hardly a week. Just like that. Where do we, he and I, rank in the scheme of things? And what are the limits of the human spectrum?

After Sumu and I had almost given up the search and were looking forward to a night in the shack, Devendar lifted the pall of resignation and how—hurrying toward us with a beaming smile, keys in hand.

Main apna dimaag lagaya ki aap chappal haath mein leke chale honge. To chappal ke saath saath chaabi bhi thodi door tak jaake giri hogi. Isiliye main us taraf dekh raha tha. (I figured that the keys would’ve been carried along with the slippers for a short distance. So, I was looking further that side.)

We just hadn’t thought of it.

A happy feeling gripping us like a fever, we offered to buy both of them—Vicky and Devendar—drinks. They unhesitantly declined. We decided to sit and chat with them, time suddenly displaying an agreeable mien. I offered Devendar a cigarrette, and he appeared visibly excited about smoking a Gold Flake Kings. Basking, like a school kid who has outscored his classmates and seen his world shrink to the walls of a classroom populated with lesser beings, he laid bare his reasoning for us again with “Main apna dimaag...” (I figured...) to which Vicky, sensing a hogging of credit, countered with “Lekin yeh torch nahin hota to kya chaabi milti.” (But if I didn’t have the torch, would you have got the keys?) A sense of balance appeared to be restored.

L to R: Vicky, Devendar

On being asked to pose for a snap, Devendar wore his happiest expression, his large, round eyes unmistakable; Vicky took his time, lighting up a cigarrete before looking at the camera.

When we left them, my cellphone showed 1:40am. The human condition that I understood had stretched a wee bit, encompassing a few more lives within its purview.

And those who were in wanted to be out; those out, couldn’t wait to get back in.

P.S.: I’m not very sure what a reda is. I’m guessing a fighter bull.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


After lunch at Viva Panjim, we—Sumu and I—sat at the entrance to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception clicking photographs and soaking in the sights offered by the surrounding old Portuguese buildings. Inside, we were informed of a special mass to be celebrated to commemorate the silver jubilee of Mr. and Mrs. Paulo’s marriage. Having edited a document on Sunday mass sometime ago, I bubbled in excitement at seeing what I had read about; I found a listening ear in Sumu, whom I familiarized with pews, procedures of the mass, vestment of the priest, and some more jazz. I flipped through the smell of freshly printed words, in hymnals kept on pews, that tried to hem in a quarter century of memories and experiences in speeches and hymns set within the narrow margins of each page.

Driving in Panjim, through the labyrinth of one-way roads, I managed to escape even the faintest drift of swatantrata-divas hoopla; I did somewhat feel like living in a democracy where some of us could safely afford to choose to not be vocal and exhibitionist in patriotic histrionics. Almost all shops and establishments were closed, and it seemed as if we were rustling the soft down of a giant creature—otherwise living and breathing—in a state of afternoon dormancy. We crossed the Mandovi River on a ferry with our bike—a rented Pulsar 150—piled on it. It was amusing to see people and their vehicles, including four wheelers, stacked on a motor-driven ferry.

Off at Betim, we rode northward through Calangute and Baga to Anjuna. I recognized a few places from last time and proceeded unasked to proffer information on them to Sumu. The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna being our target, we went there in the hope of getting good bargains. But it was not to be. Off season. I wonder if families could go through such seasons—a period of estrangement or feud to be immediately followed by a purple familial patch. Would you accept the deal, thus ensuring the inevitability of good times after bad and that of living in no fear of a permanent breaking of blood ties?

At Anjuna, we watched the waters shimmer the brilliant yellow of the setting sun. Some kids seemed up to their antics under the guise of raucous soccer, my recollection of an amputee distinct. She must have been around 7 or 8 and was without most of her left arm. In the shack, a firang uncle kept to the beats throughout with a frugal version of trance dance.

Later, in the evening, we strode up to vista point at Dona Paula. The first thing I noticed in the soft light of the waning crescent was the rippling waters that roared like an engine as they crashed into the shore. The lights from the Marmugao Harbour twinkled bright even when I closed my eyes. Behind my eyelids, I traced long streaks punctuated by short, staccato ones. A silence descended over me as I mulled over how my violently shaking hands had attracted much attention during a reading test before the class in kindergarten. I remembered Brodingnag—that place in Gulliver's Travels where everything was of a bigger size. Sometimes, memories resemble the inhabitants of that place—they are bigger than the minds nurturing them. Also, over the years, you dab colours to dog-eared, yellowed pages and read and reread them, drawing newer purports each time. And questions bounce off the pages, flitting in and out of your consciousness, to the horizon and back.

Much later, I couldn’t remember if it was a young boy’s dream. I grabbed at the earth, and the chunks in my palms were of the most beautiful hue. I dived into a tunnel of water, listening to the quivering inside and breathing out wondrous silvery bubbles, and I immersed myself in breathless seconds.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

stealing mesmerizing beauty

Tweaking words for a living conditions you to occasionally feel only watered-down thrusts of their sinew. Like the tick marks you perfunctorily injected as soaring birds in your primary-school sketches, thereby lending the most everyday hue to one of man’s deepest desires­­. Flight. In your doing so, flights of reality--of freedom, of aspiration--were perhaps reduced to prosaic chores. Gushing verses became mundane prose, news briefings. What did you pay attention to in your depiction of a range of low-necked hills, its valley bedecked with a rivulet that flowed by the threshold of a small cone-roofed hut with a garden and fencing and its plunging neckline covered by a rising sun with distinct rays of alternating lengths? Why did you sketch such grotesque distortions of reality and fantasy alike?

Slash and burn the produce of truly mediocre minds. Although this can perhaps be the gravest sin to be committed on dull faculties, running the risk of rendering them absolutely infertile, any semblance of cultivating herded blunt heads--conditioned collective mindsets--has to start with the disposing of indoctrinated soil and its poisoned harvests.


In The Blue Umbrella, Rajaram, wily appropriator and helping hand to Khatri, a tea-stall owner, questions him about the sense in fixating on an oversized umbrella. Khatri, with a face that is peppered as much with pocks as it is engrossed in the cost of living, retorts by asking him about the use of a rainbow, about the need for watching the sun sink below the hills, about the intelligence behind a crazed craving for pickle, if I may add.

The movie is about everything mentioned in its reviews; it’s also about stealing mesmerizing beauty in the twilight of life and suffering the consequences of a losing bargain thereafter.

I’m a big fan of the sensibilities of Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar; however, what pulled me along was Pankaj Kapur. He’s worth every penny his character Khatri swindled off patrons.

Monday, August 06, 2007

To Goa

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been trying to gather a few friends for a trip to Goa between Aug 15 and 19. Although there were a handful of takers initially, no one seems to be up for it right now, work being the main reason. Nonetheless, I’ve decided on making a solitary trip if need be, rather than can it altogether.

Travel can so often be a vanishing act, as I have realized myself. Sometimes, barely a week after a memorable trip and I’m looking at the last vestiges of it, nostalgic. Travel can also be an escape. Ever watched a movie where the dialogues and characters are funny and entertaining but you can’t follow the narrative at all? There may not be any central theme of your journey or any one thing that you may bring back home. You may alternate between feeling like an insider and outsider, shuffle between unfulfillment and peace, or swing from end to end, but be gripped by a host of feelings throughout.

For each one of us, there are places and situations we wouldn’t want to be in. But time and again, maybe at regular intervals, we still have to pay our visits. It’s like being under the weather and still having to go to your nemesis to answer disconcerting questions. Although you may have people for support, the intensity of the journey almost transmutes it into a solitary trip for you. Traveling is a reprieve from running such enervating errands. Time and space assume bigger dimensions than they really are, but then do you know their ambit? Travel, above all, necessitates being selfish and being with yourself, sharing a little less of you, and trying to make sense.

In trying to reproduce a sense of familiarity in excursions, much of the meaning of travel is lost. There are more memes to be imbibed in a cup of coffee at a café that is seemingly estranged from humdrum than at a watering hole that resembles your favorite bar.

What I do with my time and space is an experiment, and if I choose to recount my expeditions, it wil be a to-and-fro between memory and reality. While I’m there though, I’ll raise many a toast to crisp mornings and balmy evenings, and to Goa.

P.S.: If you have any suggestions to offer to me before my Goa trip, please do so. I may try out your advice and in turn give you feedback.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The inner life

I shifted to a new place.

On Sunday evening, quite late, I stood watching the waves from my basement. The waters seemed far from me—a wilderness stay put right in between. Milky hoods rose up from the surface, stretching and commingling, before crashing into the embankment along the periphery of the row of buildings. There was once a beach there. Was once a beach there, there? There, there was once a beach. Now, there is none.

Over the years, the waters have slowly, certainly, inundated the shore so much so that residents of the buildings survey the watery expanse with eyes that are daubed as much with a lurking foreboding as with an accustomed, yet sheer, thrill.

What’s wrong with this world? Nothing whatsoever. Except that even birdsongs might not be to everyone’s liking.

I trod on ground laid thick with granite chips that had been wet to an almost black by the mist in the air. In the windy cool of the darkness, my body broke a thousand bubbles of spindrift that floated in the air.

The sky was patched in a nightly shade—billowy, rippled, shifty—and collapsing. An aircraft flew through the clouds—its lights helping upward-cast eyes follow the trail—before being muffled by cottony blankets.

Within me, there were a thousand voices speaking in languages that I couldn’t talk in. All assumed personas spoke forth with immaculate articulacy. I remembered weak smiles that had chapped the corner of lips. I could not remember when I spilt into two or even more. A wall was the only thing I had carried along with me, like a treasured item of furniture. And wherever I set my dump, I surrounded myself with it. Sporadically, when the need arose, I filled up the thin, craggy lines of fissures.

Why do people come together? All associations based on loneliness, ennui, a desire to vent, to pour out—what is their destiny? What reduces the strongest relationships to the sharing of everyday banalities? Why is a celebrated form of dependence called love? Does it occasion a loss of individuality in exchange of a secure companion? Can two people who do not need each other, who are complete in themselves, who do not pursue company for want of a listening ear—can’t two such people—come together?

I feel empty, incomplete, like hastily strung words that have not arrived at their denouement. The crux is within. The lights that will guide me home will shine on me while I’m wandering alone on streets that have no name. The door within will answer my knock on a murderous night.

Nowhere…can the world exist except within us.
Our life passes in transformations,
And what is outside us grows steadily smaller, until it vanishes…


Thursday, July 05, 2007

growing up again

Growing up meant outgrowing polka-dotted, fancy 'durga puja' shirts for less gaudier, plain ones... it meant wondering how actors changed costumes in the blink of an eye during song sequences

growing up meant learning about the worlds of Right and Wrong, Dos and Donts, and then witnessing their boundaries dissolve.. it meant watching the black and white blend into solemn grays... it meant learning that the 'ever after' in the 'lived-happily-ever-after' ending stories was actually a Short, Finite period of Time

growing up meant asking questions to which there were no answers: in a fight between a hippo and a shark who will win? do you love daddy more or me?

growing up meant watching adults make funny faces and laughing at their foolishness... or breathing life into battery-powered toys, favourite pencilboxes, and fragrant erasers such that losing them sapped you of reasons to be happy

growing up meant letting school teachers build edifices in your memory that lasted more than a lifetime... it meant piling up birthday candles until there were too many

growing up meant not letting a drop of pee out until mother said 'ssssssss'... it meant learning to tie shoelaces by yourself... or lisping 'baba black sheep' before proud, indulgent Mamuni

growing up meant saying 'god promise' to be privy to deep, dark and mysterious littlechildren secrets... it meant swearing to be 'best friends for ever'

growing up meant dreading when you had to look mother in her eyes and lie and realizing that it was futile... it meant listening to grandma's fantastical stories with rapt attention and then believing in them... it meant being petrified by the palpable dread in ghost tales

growing up meant having an idea of 'adult' questons and wondering who to get their answers from... it meant watching a world of infinite possibilties shrink when you fathomed those answers

having grown up means biting nostalgic pies from memory and almost smiling out loud at the lucidity of bygone years... it also means losing an artlessness and not mourning the Loss...
it means spinning a life gone by on memory's wheel and lending an acceptable shape to its corpus... it means letting wondrous eyes turn into hard marbles and living with the consolation that it was worth it... it means measuring words before others... it means adulterating friendship and gathering and dusting off soulmates... it means fighting against everything and everyone to protect that little something that is still unscathed

P.S.: I had published this post (except the last part) about a year ago

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I am a pang

I’m perished. I’m blank. Tissues of torpor have invaded my core. Moments of pith have deserted me.

My body is a sheet that shrouds and protects the dignity of the corpse underneath; only my eyes belie. Of late, the sense of déjà vu has been unmistakable. I’ve been looking for an alcove to find shelter in at every possible opportunity. I’m afraid that my efforts at separating myself from the outside may just peter out. I may become a vegetable.

I need space and time. I need a place to myself. I do not want to escape into a world of fantasy; I want to create one of my own. I cringe at the idea of what a normal weekend entails but have been partly subjecting myself to the same. Because I can’t write at home—with the TV, phone conversations, and people—I sleep, read, surf, and waste precious hours.

Everyday, I need to string words for myself. It’s only when I’ve penned them that I feel a sense of living. But, by not being appeased, this appetite is eating me from inside. The days smother me but are cruel enough to let a few faint glimmers in through slits. The nights perform the coups de grâce, blemishing hope and snuffing out life. And I can’t even lie naked on the floor and stare at nothingness. For every unit of space has twisted itself into a diseased shape; across every patch of the floor are strewn banal lives.

I feel like an immovable block of stone has been placed on the fountainhead within me. I just can’t displace it.

While I sleep, the hours are slipping away from under my pillow. They teach me—as they have proselytized many before me—that life goes on. I am a pang.

Rain-washed and sun-soaked
Culled by incubus.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

world’s deadliest animals

With the human habitat rapidly encroaching upon the wilderness, several species are being rabidly threatened. This has led to a status quo wherein the butterfly effect has emerged as a conspicuous and frequent phenomenon.

When socialite Paris Hilton handed herself over to the authorities soon after attending the MTV Awards Show and a day before her scheduled date, the Sheriff’s department was caught napping. “Such a high-profile client, and you don’t even have the basic amenities for subsistence celebrity living,” he fulminated. “Get your shoddy asses to the Walmart store, and get Ms Hilton all the lip gloss and mascara that she needs. Now!” Meanwhile, in the penitentiary, there was a huge ruckus, for its most visible boarder did not have a cell for herself. This led to an ad hoc arrangement, and it was decided by the powers that be that for the time being, Ms. Hilton would be stocked in a makeshift tent a little away from the main block.

But first things first.

In the 1950s, African honey bees were brought to Brazil for cross-breeding with the resident European bees. Little did they anticipate the ferocious speed with which the African breeders would pommel their European counterparts, turning what the farmers thought to be a bee-hive of activity into mass orgies that Kubrick had visualised for Eyes Wide Shut. Very soon, the beeziness spread across the Americas and the swarm annexed countries like the Roman Empire in the heighth of its fashion. Thus, by the 80s, they had arrived in Hollywood, O my Brothers.

Anyway, so, for putting up Ms Hilton’s abode, a rare teakwood had to be chopped off, much against the vibrato of vocal environmentalists, and in the doing of this, a beehive that thrived in a knothole of the tree trunk was displaced. Evicted out of their hearth, the cross-bred buzzers went berserk, wrecking havoc, pushing their tribe further up along Amreeka. After much reconnaissance, they finally selected a patch close to a placid lake (hereafter Lake Placid) where the Augusta Masters (goalf tournament, Dinesh bhai?) golf course. Now, the crocs in Lake Placid had already been much bugged by the prying wannabe NGC explorers who in the pursuit of croc-footage (that would get them a primetime slot) had disturbed their habitat. With the constant drumming by the newbies, the ghariyals were at the end of their tether. Now, all this oblivious to the human world, the preparations for the Augusta Tournament were in full swing (or birdie). So, when Tiger (no, not a species but a goalfer, remember Dinesh bhai?) shook his butt—taking the earth’s rotation and spin into consideration—to hit his approach shot into the green, he went a little too deep into the marshy rough, where the lazy alpha ghariyal was basking. Peeved no end, he snapped at Woods’ Achilles heel, (no, one person only) sending the latter’s title-deprived competitors into spontaneous rapture.

This broke open a Pandora’s box—on one hand was the Damocles’ sword of the Gogo Green Earth environmentalists’ group, who cried foul against the senseless human intrusion into natural habitats, while on the other hand was Mr Bush who ordered a high-level probe suspecting the crocs to be Al-Qaeda trained.

Across the oceans, Mr Mush, extracting full juice out of the potential squeeze, asked his media honchos to shoot a croc-training footage, and sent the same to Mr Bush, with the P.S. of the mail requesting Amreeka’s help in saving Mushy’s domestic ass.

Not to be left behind, with the intent of parrying media frenzy, Manu and Sonia are meeting today, in disguise, at PVR, Saket, over a show of Dharm (which they expect to be snail-paced so as to enable them to continue their emergency talks).

P.S: There are no typos in this post. All the puns are intended. No mammals were harmed during the making of this post.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

my sunday brunch

Big B sits on the steps of a circular platform in the main party area and waits. Nathulal, owner of the proverbial moocchhen (bushy upper-lip appendage), gifts Big B a huge bottle of some brand of alcohol from the License Raj. And, behind him, waiting in line are several other well-wishers of the Budday Boy, that is Big B, with bottles similar to Nathu’s. After the gifting-shifting is over, one of the guests, quite nonchalantly, asks Big B as to why he isn’t indulging himself in cake-cutting and subsequent eating. To which he, Big B that is, remarks, in a demonstrance of his unsurrendered volition, Amaa, hamara janamdin hai, hamaari party hai, jab hamaara man kare hum cake kaatenge (my birthday, my party, i’ll cut the god-damned cake when i feel like). In the delivery of this fiercely individualistic line, though, a dil ka taar (string of heart) is strung, and Big B, reeling under the weight of the absence of a certain one in his party, accuses Munshiji of being culpable of a great, emotionally punishable, crime. He reminds the latter, though not in mockery, of what he, the latter that is, had said about an aurat (woman) lending wazan (weight, gravity) to a mard ki baatein (man’s words). Ho hum, hum mein hai dum (we have the guts; the introductory phrase only for musical impact, much in the lines of chhaiyan chhaiyan, tamma tamma, humma humma) may have cried the feminists. Munshiji, to his credit, doesn’t babble arey bhaagwaan (common form of address used by rural Indian husbands for their respective better halves). Instead, buoyed by his well-tuned gut feeling, he says, Mujhe yakeen hai woh aayegi, chaahe qayamat aa jaaye (I have faith in her coming, even if disaster striking). Big B orders all the lights to be switched off save one—that which glows pure as a flame, literally. He lays down his terms: He shall wait until the candle melts to wax, and dust grounds to dust, and if she does not turn up by then, his faith in candles shall be destroyed. The guests, mute spectators thus far, bow in shame served aplenty with hunger, and wait. So, Big B waits, Munshiji waits, Nathulal and his moustache wait, and the sidekicks in the crowd wait.

Unable to bear the wait now, with three-fourths of an hour past, Big B picks up a guitar and starts rendering a song about intehaan (test) and intezaar (wait) that is languid only to emphasize its synonymy with the purport of the song. Gradually, as he croons past the mukhda (opening line of the song), he picks himself up and asks pertinent questions such as aaaina kuch khabar mere yaar ki (mirror, do you have some news about my beloved?). The melancholy in the air runs itself thin and slips into the realms of the bizarre. However, just before this process is consummated and the mysterious sightings of an unidentified dancing object mindfuck Big B any further, attired in glitzy-glossy appropriated from the wardrobe of Baapida (legendary music director who weighs as much as his jewellery and speaks a language in which the last line of this post is written) appears the weighty (t)issue that is Jayaprada. The trumpets and the trombones give way to drums, lots of them, and those instruments that squeal disco Baapida sounds. A muhalla (neighborhood) crowd gushes in, in dated suits, sarees, and chappals to bestow significance upon the occasion. Jayaji, dances to Baapida’s beats and lip-syncs to the voice of Asha taai (rhymes with baai but men have lesser sexual motor response for this species). Gyrating, pirouetting, serenading. Big B, catatonic, with two left legs and two right (he is a leftie, ya) hands. Plays the drums, sings the song, and cavorts. All at once.

In Baapida’s words, it would hab been bhery phoolish to hab bhizualijed this song in any aather way.

P.S: (1) This post is my version of the song Intehaan ho gayi from Sharaabi, which I happened to catch on Max. For reference, Munshiji is Om Prakash and Big B is…now c’mon guys .

(2) I think the cellphone operators can use the waiting-period footage to make far better ads than the daadu-chessplaying-pota-traingoing Airtel version.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

He who could have been


Did you go to his funeral? Did he even have a family? Of course, he had one. Why do you ask? Didn’t I tell you they had all come wearing black armbands?

In mourning? Of course.

What did I see?

I saw them going home, into their loos. “Fucking long funeral,” they said and perched over their shitpots. The radio was on full blast. Turn it loud, Captain. A little jig, a little swerve, and a spray of sallow pee all over. And the band came undone and fell under. Then they flushed their loos. Or they remembered to save water and didn’t.

The next morning the obituary read

Loving father and caring husband passed away in his sleep.

He was bereaved by his 2 children and wife, who inherited a sprawling 52 acre estate and a plush bungalow.

Many years ago, as a child, he had looked up to his parents and had inherited his father’s stupidity and his mother’s perfidy. He led a life blissfully unaware of that, tinged only with the regret of a moment when he had been weak enough to believe in himself.

He went no further than a fetid shitpot. That is where he had to go.

At least, he didn’t have to suffer. He met a painless death.

That moment

A ray of light darted in his head. Yet, it did so like a streak that belonged to a lingering sunset, casting a glow over the remains on the shore. Memories shone resplendent like wet, glistening rock faces only to be extinguished, awash, by the returning waves. A shadow had come upon some parts of the world, while the others waited for their turn. Something told them their moment would come, and they must blaze in all glory then. “I must not forget. I must not,” the words jetted out from between his teeth.

He wanted to learn to enunciate each sorrow, each prick, each punch. And let the pain seep in like faith seeping out during acts of infidelity. Hold every image against the fading light and see through the negatives. Let them dance, with nakedness as their sole guise. Under the naked guise of pity, promise, and fatherhood. Stand with arms hanging lazily by his side and witness the collapse of institutions. Throw his head back insolently, proudly. And say, “You can’t touch me.”

Monday, May 28, 2007


“There’s so much nonsense about human inconstancy and the transience of all emotions,” said Wynand. “I’ve always thought that a feeling which changes never existed in the first place. There are books I liked at the age of sixteen. I still like them.” (The Fountainhead)

I don’t remember examining this “human inconstancy” anything beyond the usual life goes on…people change bromide*. We ascribe the change in our feelings (toward something static) to the notion that life itself is dynamic by virtue of transient circumstances, situations, settings, moods encompassed within it. Every song, movie, book, play, poem—any work of art, anything that is not subject to intrinsic change once it has been brought to fruition—is evaluated by the subject in a state of mind. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. So, if the beholder’s perception of an object wavers with time, then it translates into a situation wherein the aspects of beauty that are perceived have changed. Thus, the judgments we pass on works of art are not merely subjective (with respect to the subject), they also change temporally, i.e., with time, even when the subject is held constant.

However, there’s a more fundamental character to our judgments. While it is explicit that we perceive different things differently, what is implied in the context introduced above is that we also perceive the same thing differently at different instances. There are books I had liked when I was younger that, now, I wonder how I possibly could have (What did I see in them then? What don’t I like in them now? Are they the same things?). More pertinently, sometimes, this chasm in one’s opinion may widen with age or fluctuate in phases.

When we look for one essential trait in any object, our perception of the object cannot change solely because the object is immutable. The crux that questions every judgment is whether or not the object has integrity. Does it have a purpose, a meaning, a central function? This quality is exclusive of the subject/observer and intrinsic of the object. This meaning holds, regardless of any criterion that the human mind may impose to evaluate. What an object stands for, to the greatest degree, is not transient. Those who understand this, and look for that one shining trait, are unlikely to change their opinions of things.

I’ve a feeling this is one of the things that Robert Pirsig tried to put across when he tried so hard to define Quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He essentially imparted an absolute nature to his Quality and removed any duality in the process. And that is how he could ascertain whether or not a motorbike or a restaurant had that Quality, regardless of who drove the bike or who dined in the restaurant.

Coming back, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the reasoning behind such a view as Wynand’s had I not read Rand.

*Bromide is an interesting word. Also check sulphite if you’re amused.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

At 1:52

Right at 1:52, a tingle will run up their spines. A fluid sensation, swiveling upward like a young flame that laughs off the wind, will gush forth. The flowers—golden, merry, purple, auburn—will pick themselves up and float wavily, waft, and stow themselves in no particular order in the heart of a hutch burrowed deep in a sunny patch. Creatures of the earth, ye little puppy, creepy-crawlies, grounded feathers, and the tiny girl with lips wearing a riot of Holi and the listless simian Heckava nestled in her arms will meander from their businesses. They will, no shall, arrive with the crackling of dry leaves underfoot, flitting back and forth, humming now and then, rustling awake other tiny lives. All of them—members of the most recent family—will wind up near the flowers. The tiny puppy will sniff with a liquidy nose, the millipede will glue itself around the stalks with a thousand feet, and the girl will have the shape of wonder in her bulbous eyes. She will keep Heckava down but not before asking the assiduous ants to vacate the patch. The irascible teeny-weenies will pay no heed and continue to stomp from here to there. They—entire colonies of them—will chomp Heckava’s soft behind, gifting the simian a red rind. He will try to act strong, in spite of his immaculate composure being stretched thin, and will present a brave, bland face. The puppy, timid and small, will have never had smelled a petal. Until then. He will lick off the finespun petals, as if they were caked with something sapid, and the blades will then shimmer. The ants, seeing the glistening petals, will blitz toward them and clamber up the stalks, over the millipede, in search of manna. The little sparrow with plumage that had not yet met the winds will tip-toe and peck nervously. The blazing, tender, riot-colored lips of the girl will part and a soft zephyr will drift. A violent commotion will occur—the ants will cling tight to the surface with all their might. “That was not funny at all,” will they shout in unison. The girl will giggle with little pink-nailed fingers over her mouth. A delighted Heckava, having tasted redemption, will remove the pretty, green scarf from around his neck and, in a display of exhibitionism, will swing it in the air. The puppy, satisfied with his grasp of the goings-on, will wag his tail in a display of shtick. The lonely house lizard will look wistfully from the window opposite the patch, and yearn. For a moment, he’ll forget his household and consider inviting himself over to the proceedings.

Then I shall pull the shutters down on my world. And that will be it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

unleashing a self-seeking spirit

Sometime later, or earlier, a bus passed by. It was as packed as packed could be. Suddenly, unsurprisingly, I had this pang of pity.
People’s lives, hard as flintstones, and peopled lives smacked hard by myriad everyday gavels, grunts passing off as breaths, making ends meet only by burning at both ends. And then? This hard anatomy turns brittle. As brittle as rickety bones. Or glass. And breaks into shards that pierces their bodies or makes them crumble into amorphous masses, shapeless, and brings them at the mercy of a solitary gust. During moments of weakness, they measure their stretched existences in all or nothing. During moments of joy, they try to forget their moments of enervation.
But then, I thought, it is their choice. Haven’t they chosen to expend their waking hours under the shade of a dubious shape, in the quest for a greater pursuit. Comfort, security, insurance against bouts of profligacy, endorsement—a higher ideal, nevertheless. Higher than their horizontal, flattened lives. A Shangri-La where their lowly hunger—this extreme desire to come good, deliver, meet the expectations of others—should be appeased. Why, then, do I find solace in pity? Shouldn’t I be proud of, and happy for, them; should not this very awareness embolden me to lay claim to being selfless, by virtue of being happy without a stake?

Selfish—it sustains an odor. The odor of something concealable. Garlic on breath. Or that of censures, mock and otherwise, that condition to an extent wherein should the very word be uttered in anything addressed to us, all elements of our existence react to throw out its sheepish smell with a single-minded sincerety only replicated in affairs beneath the sheets. Huge endeavors are undertaken to mask a guilt-ridden smell by periodic, convenient, intermittent altruistic deeds and thoughts. Like my pang of pity that tried to camouflage the odor of my ignoble, selfish existence by sensing the poignancy of the bus-laden lives of my less fortunate brothers. In the span of that one thought, I atoned for my sins. O, Father! I know I have sinned. Let my path meander with the bends of your hallowed course such that at every opportune occasion I can let your waters cleanse me. And thus I did wash my sins clean.

Opulent, ornate facades of buildings are gloriously analogous to the empty designs that we showcase in the course of the tirade to fit in, in society. The ostentatious archways only expiate the dingy matchboxes inside, stacked unimaginatively, laboriously upon one another. What could I have been? When did I realize that I’m as corrupt as the ones I despised in fables? When did I become one of them?

So that we are valued agreeably in societal eyes and earn good riddance of our compunction, we propitiate by offering alms and acting meek. This by far is the most popular path to selflessness: The duties include satisfying the presumption of others, being projected favorably onto them, and, in doing so, sacrificing the absolute ideal—the purpose of existence. Should I quell my spirit to bargain for an acceptable apology for a moral code? By being flung to the streets at throwaway prices, it is demeaned, rather ironically, to a more humanly character.

I earnestly aspire to offer my selfish self at the altar of altruism. I, as the embodiment of self-absorption. Why do I need to ask for forgiveness? Nothing, but the individual spirit, is absolute. I have a purpose that far outruns that of bandy altruistic legs. There is no end to the means. It is only the means. Perfect happiness is not in its realization. It’s not in retrospect, nor in summing up. It’s in the moment. In the somersaults without a crowd. In the lonely smiles. In the process of being unleashed. Like a rabid spirit.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On board

The thing about the Defence Forces is saab. Captain Jay has a flunky (a sipahi assistant) who attends to him all the time. He takes care of his dog Leo, succumbed to motherly worry when the canine was bit by a leech (may very well have squashed that bloated bloodsucker had he chanced upon it), knows what saab wants on each day of the week, and fights with the cook to get those dishes prepared.

When Jay left home to join the NDA, he left as the son of a father who had a watch shop. He had bored his family and friends to death with Paramvir Chakra stories and other tales of its ilk. A mediocre runner until then, very soon, he became quite competent at cross-country running. If he was hurt in tournaments between squadrons, the entire squad would go all out to help him. Because he had started boxing well, too. In due course, he could perform more than 40 cream rolls (a front and a back roll in succession) a minute. The Indian Government has invested 17.5 lakhs in him at the NDA, and a few lakhs more at the IMA. Every round that he fires from his firearm costs the exchequer a few hundred bucks. In practice, he empties rounds after rounds at dummy targets. In encounters, he has seen magazines being emptied into a single militant.

Jay is posted in high insurgency Assam. Bodo and ULFA. Now, he’s on vacation, though, and ogling at girls with as much religiosity as he practises running.

Jay’s friend, Lieutenant Dhara, junior to him by one year at the NDA, joined the Navy. On board INS Tarangini from Muscat to Kochi was by far his most excruciating experience ever. He would keep watch for uninterrupted lengths of 4 hours on the crow’s nest, at the very end of a 33 m long mast, with a pair of binoculars. In freezing rain, amidst strong winds, under starry nightskies, and with twinkling shorelines on the near horizon. He would of course have someone (they work in buddy pairs) with him at the top, who would be puking as the ship rolled and pitched. It was quite similar to the descent in a Ferris wheel, he quips now. When the deck tilted by even 5 degrees, at the crow’s nest, both would trace a huge arc of vomit in the drenched air.

Dhara is with INS Mumbai, a Delhi-class destroyer of the Indian Navy. Very soon, he’ll be shifted to Vizag. Every shell that he fires from his vessel burns 6 lakh rupees. He handles equipments whose costs run into crores. He’s chiefly in logistics now—managing the ship’s mess, organising functions that entail the participation of officers from the entire fleet, and catching up with old friends like Jay (with whom I have tagged along to the Sailing Club of the Indian Navy Waterfront Training Centre at Colaba in Mumbai). He opines that if he quits the Navy and works for an MNC as an HR consultant, he would earn a fortune.

Both of them, Jay and Dhara, are eagerly, with breath that’s just about on hold, anticipating the 6th Pay Commission that promises to, at least, double their salaries. They want working spouses who can lead their own lives and who do not expect their husbands to be there at their beck and call every morning. Maybe, they can deal with it if their spouses want the same from them too. Both are slightly amused when punctuality and discipline come up in conversations. For them, reporting at 8, when you are supposed to report at 8, is actually late. On time is 745. This is what they have learnt and what they hopefully practice beyond their work too. Both sometimes use the word civilians when referring to the populace outside their cocoons. Both live for themselves and their band of brothers; both fight for a geographical construct called nation, where strangers are differentiated as countrymen and infiltrators.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

when i unraveled

On the edge of the cliff, I was in a straitjacket—my arms tied, my mouth clamped shut, and my brain washed. A credulous seeker like me was an easy prey for charlatans promising ethereal bliss. So much so that I had started to see the vacuity in almost everything. And then as yet again I pushed myself back from drinking the tenuous poison, I fell.

As I fell, the stubborn chains in me refused to give way. The barnacles did not unhinge when I tried to break free. But this was only at first. I closed my eyes and noticed the spidery snares that had built themselves inside of me. On removing them, I saw the center of my mindspace littered with personas. I had let them inside, and insidiously, their thoughts, their memories, had held sway over me. They were regular characters—friends, lovers, colleagues, family—who had set up their shops on my thoroughfare. Luring me for business, offering bargains, dictating terms.

Without feeling, I evicted these tenacious tenants. I ripped their belongings apart, yanked their clothes from the clothesline, expelled the damp, soggy air and the cares that had infested my days. Everything went—the taste, the smell, the touch. It was not hate, nor indifference, that made me do it. It was an attempt to salvage.

And then when I fell, I unraveled. Factions of me—the entity—spouted forth like marbles from a bursting pocket. I fell far and wide, in meadows, on treetops, on thatched roofs and verandahs, in the wilderness. My soul, though, gravitated steady. Quite blandly, it fell freely. After the myriad Is hit ground and dribbled onto distant lands, they marched toward a focal point with purpose. They promenaded past vistas and vantage points along the way, and on assembling, they fused into an ensemble to reform a single me.

This new me had a repertoire but no baggage. It traveled light, backpacked, built houses and brought them down with the same regularity. And when in need, it unraveled.


Last evening promises to steadily climb up the charts of memorable outings. Jew town, Paradesi Synagogue and the last remaining Jewish family of nine that patronizes it, Fort Kochi, sea-facing, antique-hoarding Ginger restaurant, Kashi art café and the cleaved bamboo with a slender tube of light inside, cute single firangi women crowding distinctly touristy restaurants, street houses with quaint doors lining narrow roads like palm trees, “you buy fish we cook them” open-air eateries, sprawling old mansions transformed into heritage hotels, respectable uncles in starched white mundus and their unerringly wrong directions, and this line that I saw on the boundary wall of a school: Do good unto others and share what you have, for it is pleasing to you.

P.S: I just changed the last word of the graffito to turn it into an aphorism.

Friday, April 13, 2007

the theory of (in)equality

If we were equal, where would we be? Imagine billions jostling for the same space, elbowing each other along the way. And a street kid getting equal opportunities as you did. Wouldn’t, couldn’t, he have done better?

Our dreams aren’t in perfect harmony; they are realized only by outdoing those of many others. If one rises from the dust, a score others rot like cadavers. Thrown to the hyenas. When a million palms unfold before you, which ones do you deem as worth redemption? Your peace can only be paid for by someone’s solace.

As you pay for your education, you begin to notice things they never taught. If the law sees everyone as equal, can justice be ever dispensed? While the more equal from amongst us snake out unscathed from trials that set dangerous precedents, the lesser majority have to painfully learn to moult.

If we weren’t equal, where would we stand? The upsurges accompanying our rites of passage are the same. And the insidious insecurity in mundane interactions sweeping across an arid expanse of timid hearts too. We, the living, bob our heads in perennial search of pigeon pleasure; we fly away at the slightest tremor that threatens; we poop out when no one is looking at us. We all bear the hours while awaiting the moments.

We, the rational beings? Individual existence is based on actions that hold meaning for oneself and are not necessarily rational. To label us as rational is to define us woefully out of context. There’s more convenience in method than is palatable. At some point, we do realize, and maybe acknowledge, that our lives are carefully nurtured lies. We wish we had lit a bonfire of our vanities. Now, vanity is all that remains of us.

Our lives, across conveniently constructed dominions, constitute the free history of a nation that has forever been encompassed by revolutions violent—within and without. Yet, as the gates of sovereignty were flung open, the door to the free mind stayed locked deep. With its key, corrupted by a plethora of dogmas and opinionated inheritances, dropped into a swirling mass that flowed into a common nothingness. This key has been, by virtue of being searched for, lost.

Love conquers all. Every cloud has a silver lining. Faith can move mountains. Everything happens for a reason. Where there is life, there is hope.

For a semblance of sanity, you need to be fed something at least.

Perspective mostly strolls in, in retrospect.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Let me ease out of this hallway please

If I say esoteric, people say it’s a word difficult to fathom. But then, I point out that exoteric—the well-known and the widely understood—stumps them too. Do these words mean anything at all?

When I drink, I smoke. And I try to maintain an optimal proportion of both, when in simultaneity. 3 drags and a swig. I’m never satisfied though. Therein lies the puzzle. I’m happy, but the niggling details refuse to let go. Too much for the lungs, too little for the liver, or viceversa. If I concern myself with the details, I just cease to enjoy the moment.

At bedtime, I agree that it has been a happy day. The hours conflate, translating into a balmy feel; yet, the analysis of the minutes vex me. If I choose, still, to be happy, the other me reminds me that there has been disregard of slights. Thoughts have not been thought over. The saner me says, “Rub those stains off for tomorrow, please. Or else they will notice and comment.” I’m many different persons while talking to myself.

So, smart and sprightly, up and running, I stand at the threshold of existence to welcome the daylight of life. Shuttling between existence and life though are the moments.

Between the perfectly done hair and new shoes lies a trepid heart, and beneath it are two cold feet.

She grew up by the sea with the rustle of sand-filled breeze. I step out and the blare of incessant honking and the cry of too many babies stupefy me. Reality distorts dreams many times over.

It has been seeping into me that no lesson lasts a lifetime. The agenda always outsmarts the plan.