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.