Monday, December 25, 2006

Religiously yours...

Calvin's at it again --



Missing…

It’s almost 4 AM. Really. Although that’s how one of the Matchbox 20 songs goes… “The clock’s been stuck at 3 for days, and days…” No it hasn’t been stuck anywhere actually. Though frankly a lot of us would like it to break off somewhere. Cuz everyday they look at it, it’s the same time, but just another day.

It’s generally in the night that I sometimes think about my previous place. The location that inspired 2 and 80 and other musings about the sea. You see, in these parts, except for Bandstand, there’s not really much of the ocean that you get to live with. Perhaps that ‘s why South Mumbai still commands a significant real-estate premium (Though that is a different subject matter altogether and I won’t waste precious blog space with that for now). Neither the stretch that leads to Bandra reclaimation (separate article on that later).

You can’t sit down at Bandstand (or anywhere in Bandra, for that matter) and try listening to “You’re Beautiful”. Doesn’t work. It’s like watching oil on water. It’s there, but you can’t smell it without getting a whiff of the salt around. Nor can you experience those random memories that flash, as if your mind were a photo frame, and a stranger decided to shine some photographs through it. Figments of lost songs playing on a neighborhood radio. They are there, but you can’t sing along with them. Because there’s too much crowd in these parts. Everyone has their stories to share with the ocean. Though in Breach Candy, it were a select few who walked into that sea-facing park where they could open their heart out. And watch the crimson Sun sink in the waters.

In these parts, even the Sun must be bored putting on a similar show every evening. And so as I write this, I know I am missing those few silent words with the waves. And perhaps more than that, it’s that feeling that I used to walk away with, as I continued to listen to those songs. With the waves lapping behind me, with the stream of joggers/walkers taking their turns around the park, or in some cases, with the guards coming in to close the show, there was a faintly familiar feeling of just saying goodbye to a friend, a friend who had answers, and not questions to throw back at you…

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Forever...

From amongst a few million songs, some of those choicest lines that I will probably live with.. forever.. (No Floyd/Rush songs have been mentioned here since even within rock, they belong to a genre that cannot be summarized in a few words...)


"When we woke up, one of us was crying.." - Staring at your window (Jon Bon Jovi)

"She's got a lot of pretty pretty boys, whom she calls friends..." - Hotel California (The Eagles)

"Every song I had to play, while people sat there drunk..." - Lodi (CCR)

"I never thought I'd live to read about myself in my hometown paper..." - Nothing Man (Bruce Springsteen)

"It's all a lot of oysters, with no pearls..." - A long december (Counting Crows)

"The streets you're walking on, a thousand houses long, and that's where I belong..." - Swallowed in the sea (Coldplay)

"In this world of purchase, I'm going to buy back memories..." - Run (Collective Soul)

"Whether I'm drunk or dead I really ain't too sure..." - When a blind man cries (Deep Purple)

"And we have just one world, but we live in different ones..." - Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits)

"I know that you can love me, when there's no one left to blame..." - November Rain (Guns n Roses)

"And you cant fight the tears that aint coming, or the moment of truth in your lies..." - Iris (Goo Goo Dolls)

"This is all the heaven we got, right here where we are..." - Shangri-La (Mark Knopfler)

"She thinks that happiness is a mat that sits on her doorway..." - 3 AM (Matchbox 20)

"If you can understand the me, then I can understand the you..." - Unforgiven II (Metallica)

"Wrapped in a polythene, tucked away safe in my mind..." - But it rained (Parikrama)

"And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there..." - Drops of Jupiter (Train)

"Although I wasn't there, He said I was his friend..." - Man who sold the world (Nirvana)

"Every whisper of every waking hour, I'm choosing my confessions..." - Losing my religion (REM)

"And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls..." - Sound of Silence (Simon&Garfunkel)

"Homesick, for the home I never had..." - Homesick (Soul Asylum)

"Cuz it's always raining in my head..." - Epiphany (Staind)

"He said he wanted heaven, but praying was too slow..." - Snowblind friend (Steppenwolf)

"Those three words, are said too much, they're not enough..." - Chasing Cars (Snowpatrol)

"And I'm a million different people, from one day to the next..." - Bittersweet symphony (The Verve)

"And I'm six feet from the edge, and I am thinking, maybe six feet ain't that far down" - One last breath (Creed)

"Wherever you have been, wherever you took cover, no arms that pulled you in could hold you like your mother..." - Babybird (The Wallflowers)

"There was a time when the pieces fit, but I watched them fall away..." - Schism (Tool)

"I can't believe the curtain has to fall..." - Persephone (Wishbone Ash)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Between absence…

Would it ever be true…

When skill becomes more than just an absence of flaws?
And virtue becomes more than just something between the vice…

When closeness becomes more than just an absence of distance?
And warmth becomes more than just something between the ice…

When faith becomes more than just an absence of disbelief?
And trust becomes more than just something between the lies…

When love becomes more than just an absence of hate?
And joy becomes more than just something between the cries…

When peace becomes more than just an absence of war?
And safety becomes more than just something between the mines…

And God becomes more than just an absence of the Devil?
When meaning becomes more than just something between the lines…

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nice guys...

...are believed to finish last.

But could it be really true that they are running an entirely different race perhaps?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday morning, 11:00 AM - II

Working from home is strange at times.

Slept at 3 in the night (nothing quite unusual about that), woke up at 10 (now that's unusual). And decided to put some freshly washed utensils to good use. Seriously, how often does one get to make omelettes on a Wednesday morning? And though there is always some confusion about the required cooking resources in this house, it's surprising how much can one achieve without knowing the location of salt and chilly within the premises.

And for a while I will even ignore the fact that the following conversation took place between my flatmate and myself before I proceeded with cooking --
Self (with a greasy bottle which has some yellow liquid in it): "Hey man, is this cooking oil?"
Flatmate: "I believe so"
Self (eyeing the bottle with suspicion): "You sure? This ain't rat poison, is it? Cuz it smells funny"
Flatmate: "But there are lots of things in this house that smell funny..."
Self (all suspicions removed, and convinced about the humor content of things in our house): "Perfect, funny or serious, cooking oil it is..."

I was making an omelette after more than two years today. And my vague memory was telling me that salt should be one of the ingredients. But that brings us back to the existential question: "Where is salt in this house?". "The kitchen" is what some would answer. Very funny. I spent the next five minutes opening every bottle which had some white powder in it (thank heavens we don't do cocaine) and actually tasting it. Couldn't come to a logical conclusion though and decided to try my luck with the eggs in their purest form - No salt, no chilly, no onions. Ever heard of unadulterated eggs? Before this morning, even I hadn't.

The ultra-pure concoction was edible. With ketch-up of course. The person who invented ketch-up definitely had similar difficulties in finding salt in his/her house. How else would one come up with such a perfect substitute?

And now, it's time to get back to work, on this uncalled "holiday" bang in the middle of the week...

Wednesday morning, 11:00 AM - I

Working from home is strange at times. Specially if it is an uncalled for "holiday" bang in the middle of the week. An entire state is shut down today. Because someone who wrote a part of our constitution was born on this day. A day that should mark more frantic activity towards a better (remember "Secular, Democratic, Republic" ?) India, is the day when there is an almost red alert in the financial capital. Some residents of Dadar area decided to evacuate their houses for a day because of the crowd coming in ( we are yet to understand that "free for all" is not quite the same as "Secular, Democratic, Republic"). It's almost surprisingly disturbing how the most active city can become the most helpless in times like these.

A statue of 6th December's birthday boy was violated in Kanpur last week, and that resulted in high drama in Mumbai. Statues taking priority over statutes. People are asked not to roam around unless absolutely essential. Not to do business unless absolutely essential. Not to be caught in the line of fire unless absolutely essential ("Secular, Democratic, Republic").

Converting a city into a fuckin' sanitarium is an art in itself. And we all are pretty talented artists.

Or...

The misty air,
You stare in disbelief,
The poisoned wine,
Or the yellowed leaf.

The final race,
You try to fight,
The prisoned life,
Or the unending night.

The stillness around,
You grasp your dreams,
The chilling peace,
Or the shadowy gleams.

The silent pain,
You force a smile,
The graying rainbow,
Or the last mile.

The weakening magic,
You wave the wands,
The losing battle,
Or the changing lands.

The laughing hyena,
You pull the trigger,
The missing shots,
Or the tired grave-digger.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Amsterdam - Winter...



I had always believed (or was made to believe) that Amsterdam offers a whole host of casinos, pubs, shops, and a few places of cultural interest such as museums, art houses etc. And of course the typical Europian style streets and settings.

But what I didn't know about Amsterdam was it's country side. Very dutch. Very beautiful. Very picturesque. The moment I alighted the train to Zaanse Schans I could get the feeling that this is perhaps the stuff that our desktop wallpapers are made of. And after I had seen the snaps from my camera, the most logical thing was to indeed make one of those snaps as the desktop background...



"Zaanse Schans" means Windmill Village, and the picture on the left gives some indication of what the village is like. Never thought electricity generating machines could seem to fit in such serene surroundings...








And now, I will just let the pictures do all the talking..

























Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dinner at 1:15…

I don’t know how many cities in this country would allow you that luxury, or callousness, if you will. To be at a party till at least 1 and then figure out that you had been sitting and talking without enough food to take you through the night. To be confident enough that no matter where you are, some decent joint would be open to welcome and feed you.

Tonight, it was Papillon, in Juhu, which did the honors. And it wasn't just us, a bunch of young kids (though "young" is doubtful to describe us, but "kid" probably still holds true) who were contributing to Papillon's post-midnight revenues, but entire families who seemed to have deliberately missed out on their suppers.

Pav Bhaji at 1:15 can actually be an exhilarating experience. The few occasions when you somehow end up appreciating Mumbai for what it is. For not sleeping. For being happily, blissfully awake (albeit in that dreamy, zonked out way). For being powerful enough to disturb the circadian rhythms of all its inhabitants who then gloat in their ability to live without the essentials. To make super humans out of humans. Where insomnia becomes a strength of character, and not something that you go to the neurologist for (although you probably end up going there eventually, but by then it’s too late…)

It’s perhaps these abnormal things that we remember more than our dinner at 9, isn’t it?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Familiar strangers…

They just sit there. Perhaps that is their purpose. And the moving waters keep lashing against them. Arriving. Departing. Sometimes in haste, sometimes in leisure. Like a bird casually alighting on a branch, and then flying away towards another. Or an eager lover who comes running in anticipation knowing that there’s heart-break right at the edge. Or a far-off acquaintance met at a gathering, says a word or two, and then mingles into the crowd, just like those absent-minded waves…

And they wait there. For the passers-by to come and watch the play. They are the ones who give the sea its sound. For without them, the sea would be silent. Without them, the water won’t break into a million pieces, and there won’t be anything at which the onlookers will look and contemplate, and seek solace…

They are the threshold. The waters can’t cross them. The levee. It’s an odd role to play perhaps. Being the horizon. Being the edge. The border. To see both sides of the story so closely. Everyday. Protecting one from the other. And getting blamed in the process…

Wonder what would those stones and rocks think at times. That they don’t belong anywhere. Everyday strangers to the ocean. Everyday strangers to the busy streets. And as they wave at the waves, they would never know whether they are welcoming the ones that are on their way, or wishing a safe trip to the ones that just went back home…

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome to the machine…

It’s almost spooky when I think of it.
The out-of-control car that claimed 7 lives (5 plus 1 pregnant woman) in Bandra. The partying group had come out of Taj Land’s End at 2:45 AM. I was at the same place at 11 PM, helping a friend buy passes for the rave party about to start there. The meandering car lost control after taking a U-turn next to CCD. I was sitting with friends in front of the same CCD till 12…
It’s odd how often we ignore that it could be one of us. On either side of the wheel. The driver, or the driven.

And perhaps what is more disconcerting is the fact that while sitting by the sea that night one of the things we talked about was actually the extremities which define pleasure for most of Mumbai. So unless it’s an exclusive party where you get drunk till 3 (and then drive around with zero control), it’s not considered cool enough. Though admittedly, this farcical coolness is worse in the northern parts of this country, but Mumbai ain’t far behind in screwing up its standards.

Yes, it’s perhaps a one-off case. At least that’s what we hope. Perhaps a lot of us get away because we get plain lucky. We don’t kill anyone, or we are not killed. Usually.
But once in a while, one of those millions on the streets of Mumbai, could become victims of another crime they didn’t commit – being homeless.

And on the news channels, the police could be seen requesting people to not sleep on the streets. As if they had a choice.

The police could also be seen requesting people to not drink too much and drive responsibly. As if they will exercise this choice…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Returns of the day...

So here's another one of those nights that has crept up to me, telling me that I am one step closer... The Sun is the same, (as Floyd said) in a relative way, but I ain't the same....

What should such a day be like? A day to introspect? retrospect? inspect? or just suspect?

What is more worth remembering on a night like this? The pocket full of marbles that I used to run with, or those games of summer, or those high-school Maths problems, or the races I ran, or the races I just watched?

How do you choose from amongst those memories? You can't favor one over the other. Even memories have egos. You can't ignore any one of them. What if one of them is hurt and refuses to come back forever? Can I handle that?

The whole process is a lot like looking in the rear-view mirror. Especially those ones which say "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear". I guess the same holds true for each one of those images in our mind. Much closer than they appear. And catching up fast. Sometimes rushing past to get ahead of you, till you become another object in the mirror of your memories...

And as I sit here I am trying to count something. Though I don't know what. I just found that it's so very difficult to measure a life only in terms of years... in terms of greeting cards, in terms of bouquets, in terms of phone calls... Perhaps it's also in terms of the times your hands didn't hurt someone, the lies you never told and the tears which don't have your name written on them... Basically things that we generally don't care a damn about. Meaningless episodes in our otherwise meaningful lives.

But is that bringing me back to the most basic question, the one people spend their entire lives without getting a hold on?

Many happy returns.
Of what?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Umrao...?

As per statistics, my usual rate of watching Hindi movies is two per year. Since this year is coming to a close, I thought I should complete my quota and maintain a healthy track record.
And so today it was decided that the latest flick "Umrao Jaan" shall be the chosen one. After all, there was a lure of the Lucknow setting, perhaps the thought of classic dialogues, or something else...
And though there are umpteen number of reviews of the movie floating around on the net, I still decided to punch the keyboard for one more... Afterall, it's rarely that such a movie arrives which makes you feel that you have lost something valuable.
The valuable thing in this case was 220 Indian Rupees. 160 for the ticket, 30 for the auto, and 30 for what was claimed to be a Russian salad sandwich (just as an aside, whatever little plans I had to ever visit Russia were thwarted by this concoction).
The thing is, it's not very often that I walk out of a moviehall as soon as the screen claims "Intermission". This time, I ran out of the hall and paused only when I was sure that I was a safe distance away.
So what exactly happened during those crawling minutes before the break that caused this? One word - artificial. Too much of Urdu thrust into the movie as if compensating for the otherwise nonsensical dialogues generally strewn about. I come from a place which was frequented by some of the best Urdu writers of all times (Mirza Ghalib, for instance, was born there). And if I had a tough time figuring out half the words spoken, then I can't imagine the plight of those hapless Mumbaikars around me who anyway have their own distorted version of Hindi itself.
And the next thing artificial was the theme itself. An overdrawn love story, which looked too polished, too cloy, too Mills & Boonish almost.
But the clincher was that one 10 minute scene where our dim-wit son of BigB turns up drunk at the doorstep of Miss Saccharine. That was the end of patience. That's when I walked away...

...Mourning my loss of a couple of hours on a lovely Saturday afternoon... and yes, the 220 Rs. as well...

Friday, November 03, 2006

The pigeon and the statue...

They say sometimes you are the pigeon. They also say that as per the laws of karma, you must be the statue at times as well. Something like a bad hair day. Happens even to bald people, or so I believe. Except that this time, I almost knew when the fast winds would start shuffling my otherwise "Setted-Wetted" hair.
Though frankly, for the past few days, my health has anyway made a comfortable, middle-of-the-road statue out of me, with the "common cold" (I wish it were somewhat less common than what it is...) and random fevers leaving me dazed through my work.

And then to top it all, as if the week was vying to end on a particularly irksome note, I suffered a small setback at work. Here the word "small" has been used taking full advantage of relativity and related concepts.

You win some, you lose some. Only sometimes, you lose some more. That's precisely what all pigeons and statues feel about their relationship. Every dog has it's day. And today as I looked up, standing in the middle of the road, "statuesque" and all, with things falling straight into my eyes, I realized that birds aren't too far behind in claiming their days...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Goodbye Syd...

I know it's late for this. Obituaries are supposed to be written sooner. But I guess for some legends who can't die, you don't really call it an obit. It's more of an eulogy than anything else. A kind of Thank You note that you leave on the pillow. Knowing very well that the note also has GoodBye written somewhere over it.

I am talking about Syd Barrett. 6-Jan-1946 to 11-Jul-2006. The band he created wrote songs about him. They knew exactly what they were saying when they called him a painter, a prisoner, and a martyr. And Crazy Diamond.

They called themselves the T-Set, till he named them Pink Floyd. In a spur of moment. Like all good things, absolutely randomly out of the names of two blues singers. And the name stuck. Almost 40 years now and there are enough people who can vouch that "See Emily Play", "Arnold Layne", and infact the entire "Piper..." still sound as haunting as they perhaps did all those years ago.

Not to mention his singles, songs such as "Bob Dylan Blues" and "Gigolo Aunt" which were written when he had reached advanced stages of vegetation. A numb, white-washed brain that could still create strange rhythms, often forgetting what he wrote or sung. Thanks to Dave for recording all that. I guess that's the least he could do. After all, he probably wouldn't be in the band if it weren't for Syd cracking up one fine January morning in 1968.

He lived for music. He also died for it perhaps. We don't know whether he consumed LSD or did the LSD consume him. I guess being a legend is about leaving notes on pieces of paper, for others to figure and complete. And the Floyd did a pretty good job of it.

Everybody wonders what would Floyd be had he remained. We don't know. We don't want to know infact. It's a bit like asking how much sense it would make if fireflies could glow incessantly for an hour, and not just for those flickering moments. They wouldn't be fireflies then, would they? Syd was just like that. And that's how we want to remember him.

"Here today, gone yesterday". That's what it feels like. Hope you are good wherever you are. They knew everyone would miss him when they labeled his greatest hits "Wouldn't you miss me...?"

Thanks Syd for all the music. And the images. And the themes. And the words.
And for Floyd. Shine on...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

While my guitar gently weeps...

...Or actually it's me who's not so happy about the whole thing. I am not saying it's over. But it's been a strange friendship. In fits and starts. Like fervent telegrams sent to enquire about a friend's health. And then a long lull. And all I am left with, is unconvincing excuses to justify.

It began almost four years ago if I remember correctly. And there was an immediate craze with which I took up the guitar. Cuz being a rock fanatic causes your fingers to twitch very often and there does come a phase when you realize that playing air-guitars while listening to the likes of Satriani and Clapton, is just not quite cutting it. And so I went to a teacher. And I practiced. And yes, there was a big smile on my face when I could effortlessly switch from D# to Bminor to Emajor (not a very interesting sequence musically, but for a beginner, generally results in good finger movement).

And then the long exile. Accompanied by the usual excuses -- "Time hi nahin milta hai". The same words that I have oft repeated for so many other meaningful things in my life. Thus continued the Morse-codish behavior. Periods of sounds, with gaps in between. Uncertain, unplanned, perhaps avoidable, but gaps nevertheless.

I picked up the instrument again yesterday. Like an old letter that you don't want to read, but something draws your hands towards it. The second string was showing signs of rusting. I moved my finger over it repeatedly, as if the harsh surface would serve as an atonement for the neglect that I had shown. And then I tried tuning the guitar. Thankfully I could tune it in five minutes. Not bad.

And then I tried "Wish you were here" (Floyd), after a long, long time. I remembered all the chords. The intro solo as well. It came out decent. Consolation prize. Then the riffs of "Hotel California" (Eagles). Then the opening riffs of "Outside" (Staind). Then the intro of "Closer to the heart" (Rush). And this is where it hurt. Except for a few intros and riffs, there were hardly any songs which I could cover fully.

But as I said, it's not over yet. It won't ever will be. Can't be, actually. Though for the time being I suppose I have to contend with the air-guitars. But someday soon it will again be the melodies of songs that shall emanate from my guitar, and not the sound of muffled sobs...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Seven months...

The time it had been since I had home food. And with every morsel came flashing back the memory of Mahalaxmi station's vada-pavs consumed as dinner. Or Garcias Pizza's garlic bread. And all the others whose numbers I have been dialling all this time.

There was this one time when I called up a restaurant and before I could finish articulating my order, the receiving party blurted the complete order and didn't even bother to ask my address. I had become a "regular" there. It's said that it's a matter of some pride when a bartender greets you as you walk in. But I believe it's a cause for concern when a home delivery joint can predict your order and doesn't need to wait for you to tell your address.

Today I could partake of all the items without having to stress my mind to identify what exactly was I eating. Or the "unbalanced" nature of the diet. Or the calorie values...

Very simply put, thank God for mom.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Working from...

...Anywhere.

They say that working from home is becoming a rage. But there are those of us whose forty percent of working hours are spent in moving vehicles (the word "moving" becomes a misnomer at times, especially if Mumbai roads are the medium to "move" on). In the early days I used to look out the car window trying to enjoy the scenery. This continued till I realized that the city being Mumbai, there was no scenery really and I had therefore not been enjoying anything. Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment about the futility of everything, under a Banyan tree. I achieved the same under a metallic roof.

In Mumbai, even if you have to visit a place which is a stone's throw away from yours, you will take a stone age to reach there. There are folk lores in every Indian village. Most people are not aware that in Mumbai too, there are songs which old women sing at 4 in the morning mourning lost stones and pesticides. This particular song claims that a jilted lover tried throwing a stone from Malad towards his beloved who was sipping Coke by herself in Andheri on a calm Wednesday evening. But the stone got stuck in a traffic jam and the beloved died of pesticides.

And it is for this reason that I am not left with a choice but to type meeting minutes while inside the car. Amidst the horns and the slowly creeping trucks it is a remarkable experience. It is believed that your surroundings affect your thoughts and that in turn affects what you write. The readers of those meeting minutes have frequently commented that they almost heard a noise as the email opened up, like the desperate blare of an autorickshaw who has placed his vehicle perpendicular to the traffic. It has also been observed that the words seem to be somewhat cramped, like a biker squeezing between a cement truck and a BEST bus. And that the general undertones in "Action Items" are very similar to those that pedestrians on Mumbai roads can be heard mumbling -- a delicate mixture of prayers and abuses, both said at the same time...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cinderella...

...In an earlier post I had promised a separate entry on Cinderella because of my fascination for her. Let's see how far I can keep my promise. 

...So once upon a time there was a girl who turned, from a daughter, to a stepdaughter. Though she belonged to a noble background, her stepmother made her run around for all the work and did not allow her to wear the good dresses. And this girl had nothing to sleep on but the heap of cinder collected in the scullery. They say it is for this reason that she was called Cinder Maid, or Cinderella...

But this is not her story.

This is the story of all the velvet shoes we step into, of the sea-colored dresses we wear to the parties, and of the golden chariots we ride in. And of everything that disappears if we fail to leave before the clock strikes twelve...

Because this is our story.

We refuse, even for a moment, to acknowledge that there will always be (as Goo Goo Dolls would put it), "the moment of truth in your lies...". We all have become modern-day Cinderellas, racing around with an artificial demeanor, till we lose track of time. Till we get to a stage where we cannot say with certainty as to what is artificial. Till we repeat our lies so often that not accepting them feels like a folly. Till we are left with no choice but to run over the fence, leaving nothing but a velvet shoe behind.

There's one difference though. Cinderella was justified. She didn't pray for it. But the gifts were given to her out of kindness. But what we carry around with us, are strange burdens. Mask after mask. Layers of it. Donning one after the other, but some traces of our real face still surfacing occasionally.

And then we become criminals. When it's not the soldiers of the Prince who come looking for the foot that will fit the shoe. But the minions of our disgruntled, paranoid Karma frantically catching up with us. And then we are too afraid to put our best foot forward...

Go home Cinderella, the clock's ticking...

Monday, October 02, 2006

October Rains...

It's been raining again. Yesterday morning the lashing rains at six confused a lot of happily asleep Mumbai citizens. And it didn't stop throughout the day. The rains had revisited as if they had forgotten something the last time. Like an absent-minded scientist who forgets his umbrella and after having traveled half a mile, comes back to ransack his lab and disturbs the happy white experimental mice.

Of course, the umbrella was never in the lab anyways...

Moving experiences...

Shifting house, or "moving", can be a rather moving exercise. So here I am, on Sunday night, typing away from my new house. Shifted to Bandra (East) from the heart of South Mumbai - Breach Candy. Felt like a culture shock the other day. Breach Candy looks like a car parking lot, because every house has at least three cars -- "one for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy...". Well, certainly not for the boy who lives down the lane, but there is no dearth of takers for that one extra car anyday.

I remember Pushkar mentioning in one of his posts about never underestimating the importance of home food and free laundry. Now home food is something that I have almost forgotten. I have learnt to live on pizzas, burgers, and strange oily veg curries from restaurants whose only identity I have with me, is their phone number. But free laundry, that's a different story. A PG acco can spoil your habits. And so it was with me in my last house. Clothes were washed and ironed and placed neatly near the bed every day. I guess those days are over. As I struggled with the washing machine and the erratic Municipal water supply today, and walked in the rain to pick up clothes for ironing, I once again realized the number of things we take for granted every day. Or as Joni Mitchell said in "Big yellow taxi", "Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got, Till its gone..."

My room doesn't have a curtain yet (another thing that most people take for granted). I can see everything that's on the other side. Obviously the same holds true for the onlookers on whose other side I happen to be. But with my room being on the third floor, there's not too much peeping that people on the road can do. Though frankly, there's nothing in me or my room that's worth peeping at anyways...

And of course, in all this flurry of facts and emotions, let me not forget my house-mate. He left for Uncle Sam's hometown the day I landed in this house (in case I haven't mentioned it yet, it was the last day of September 2006). And so the first evening was spent in what I call the "Discovery Walk". I do that whenever I land in a new place. It is a process by which a person, by randomly walking for a couple of hours, finds the eco-system necessary for survival. Places such as the local grocery store, the chemist, the roadside vada-pav joints, the bus stop, and similar places of tourist interest. Though as a custom, such a walk requires the participant to take any turn that catches his/her fancy with no regard to consequences. The net result being that I usually forget where I started from after two hours of such a session of brownian motion.

Needless to say, forgetting the road to home can be a rather moving feeling...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lessons from the Mumbai Locals...

Mumbai Local Trains are the lifeline of Mumbai. They are also great teachers. Some go so far as to claim that traveling in Mumbai locals builds character. One would therefore expect Mumbai to be as characterful as possible. Maybe that's what the Mumbai local spirit is all about. Maybe...

Anyways, today we shall cover some practical lessons learnt while undergoing varied experiences in the locals. Let's call these lessons, for the purpose of academization, "MLTs". We intend to take up five lessons from Mumbai Locals - named quite appropriately as MLT-101, MLT-102, MLT-103, MLT-104 and last, and the toughest, MLT-105. The courses are self-explanatory in nature, as will soon become evident. All these lessons will include the time of day, the specification of the train and the class of journey to be undertaken in order to successfully complete the course, apart from other trivial details.

Without further ado, we begin with MLT-101.

Time of Day: 9:30 PM, Sunday

Train Specification: Churchgate, Slow.

Boarding Station: SantaCruz

Alighting Station: Churchgate

Your class of journey: First

Handicap: None

Qualification criteria: Find the right platform, get in and out of the train at the designated destinations.

Notes/Comments: If you fail at this, you need to look again in the mirror, and then break the mirror.

A preliminary course, this is where one should ideally begin their training, though (as is the nature of human beings), we are all born experts and so we attempt far more amazing things much sooner in our life, with a few of us actually remaining alive to tell the world about it.

 

MLT-102

Time of Day: 6:30 PM, Monday

Train Specification: Churchgate, Slow.

Boarding Station:SantaCruz

Alighting Station: Churchgate

Your class of journey: First

Handicap: A bag (containing a laptop), an umbrella, and a swiss watch on your hand

Qualification criteria: Get in and out of the train with no damage to the laptop, the umbrella, to the watch and to self. Also, while boarding and alighting, there should be NO physical contact with any humanbeing/organism on the station.

Notes/Comments: You should be able to qualify easily after one attempt

 

MLT-103

Time of Day: 6:30 PM, Monday

Train Specification: Andheri, Fast

Boarding station:Mumbai Central

Alighting Station: Dadar

Your class of journey: First

Handicap: A bag (containing a laptop), an umbrella, and a swiss watch on your hand

Qualification criteria: Get in and out of the train with no damage to the laptop, the umbrella, to the watch and to self.

Notes/Comments: The author does not take any responsibility in case the swiss watch goes missing while attemtping the above operations.

 

 

MLT-104

Time of Day: 6:45 PM, Monday

Train Specification: Boriveli, Fast

Boarding station:Dadar

Alighting Station: Bandra

Your class of journey: Second

Handicap: A bag (containing a laptop), an umbrella, and a swiss watch on your hand

Qualification criteria: Get in and out of the train with no damage to self and laptop

Notes/Comments: If the umbrella and watch go missing, you will still be considered as qualified

 

 

MLT-105 (Only to be attempted after all the above 4 have been qualified. This experiment involves significant threat to life and limb)

Time of Day: 7:15 PM, Monday

Train Specification: Virar, Fast

Boarding station:Dadar

Alighting Station: Bandra

Your class of journey: Second

Handicap: Trust me, it won't make a difference

Qualification criteria: Get in and out of the train at the designated stations, with no major injuries to self

Notes/Comments: Since there is no way you can even think of attempting this at home, so I will do away with the customary warnings and wish you good luck. Also note that only for the purpose of this exercise, falling on your face while alighting does not count towards major injuries.

 

*Please note that whereever used, the expression "Get in the train" implies that no part of your system is outside the door (No, not even the shoe)

Touch and go...

The problem with fleeting moments is just that -- they are fleeting. 

You realize that the moment was just here, with you, within your reach. You could feel it, smell it, sense it, and then when you look around, it's gone.

Moments that you start missing even before they end. 

 

Like that book that you hoped had fifteen more pages just as you turn to the last page...

Like that road that you turn around and look at with wistful eyes, just before the last milestone...

Like those last few minutes in the morning when you wake up to find the alarm is only twenty minutes away...

Like that song that you can't wait to play again just before the last notes are played...

Like that conversation when you wished something more was said just before your coffee is over...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Quotes

The best gift you can give to someone, is to forget what they should be sorry for...

The complexity of our life is limited only by the hyperactivity of our overworked imagination...

Hope is not about conquering your fear. Hope is about holding your fear by the hand, and walking with it...

Infinity is not something that doesn't have an end, but something that doesn't need a beginning...

The true measure of a useful life is not the number of tears left behind in death, but the number of smiles spread around when alive...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Run...

It's an illuminating sight, in Mumbai, to see the kids growing up on the streets. They learn a lot of things this way. I saw it in movies earlier -- the effect of Mumbai on kids. I still remember, in most of them the camera would focus on the puny, running legs of a kid who just stole a piece of bread and then the scene would fast forward where the character now running is the hero who has upgraded to stealing a necklace and the followers have upgraded from roadside onlookers to the men in uniform.

That of course, was a dramatization, but not entirely unfounded.

The streets of Mumbai teach its kids...

...To run from one crowd, only to lose themselves into another crowd

...To run towards the next taxi, trying to coax rich strangers to buy pirated copies of "How to win" and "Rich Dad, poor dad" and "Heal thyself", the irony of the whole situation being so fucking blatant and you feeling so unsure where to look as if your mom just caught you with both your hands doing something below your belt

...To run into their road-side make-shift homes, to take shelter from the pimps on the streets

...To run from their road-side make-shift homes, to save themselves from a father who's too drunk

...To run behind the walls, to hide themselves from tomorrow

...To run against the rush, just for the kick of it

...To run with each other, to find a solace that is unattainable in this city while standing still

 

The streets of Mumbai teach its tomorrow...

...To run...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fear and love

"Conversations with God" talks about these two emotions being the only two emotions upon which every other human feeling is founded. Every thing that we sense and understand can be distilled into either of these. No more, no less. If I were to put it something along the lines of HP's latest ad campaign, I would say "The human is binary again..."

Because it is fear that makes you grip and grasp at things, while it takes love to let go...

Because it is fear that forces those promises upon you, while it takes love to just believe...

Because it is fear that leads you to find excuses, while it takes love to stop looking for reasons...

Most importantly, the concept of love in this context is not just the boy-girl type, but all the definitions hold equally true as much for a mother-child love, for instance.

And to conclude this small post, some extrapolations that I drew from what I could fathom --

Even if you have never been able to help yourself, help others so that they can live...

Even if you have never been able to reduce your own suffering, lessen it for others, so that they can smile...

And even if you have never been able to listen to yourself, listen to others so that they can share...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Just follow your heart...

"Easier said than done, obviously". That's the usual response to a statement like this. But then, come to think of it, given a choice, wouldn't this seemingly emotional, irrational choice be the most logical one?

I mean, if you find yourself at one of those zillion forks that life plants in your way, and those wavering, uncertain clouds have overshadowed your Pole Star, then how do you decide? I am not saying it's easy. It's not supposed to be easy perhaps. Deep down, it's not just the sound of those guiding, reassuring, benevolent heart beats. For it's only when you are confronted with these choices, that you can also hear those faint, quivering, fluttering noises that keep asking "Are you sure?"

Perhaps it's better to let the heart rule sometime.

Perhaps, hope is indeed a good thing.

Perhaps, when it's time to look back, you will thank your heart.

And perhaps, your heart will thank you even more...

 

And while we are at it, I can't help quoting that immortal line from one of the most amazing songs ever written -- "Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on" (from the song "Stairway to heaven" by Led Zeppelin).

Again, it can be easily brushed away as the musings of a 60's rock lyricist, but seriously, I suppose having this notion is what following your heart is all about...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Destiny's children...

It has struck me as strange, this fascination that a lot of people in our country (and outside as well, actually) have with astrology, palmistry and the likes. Is it just a desire to peep into the future? To avoid the bad, to anticipate the good? And the even stranger contradiction in the fact that we ultimately believe that fate is the decision maker. If fate is the decision maker, then of what use is this future gazing?

The only logic that I can think of is that of easy blaming. Isn't it extremely convenient and effective to lay the responsibility of every screwed up thing in our life upon a few stars and planets a million miles away? Or on the convoluted ridges and shapes on your hand, regardless of what you do with those hands? I am not discounting the scientific rationale behind astrology here. It's just that I have never been really able to figure out this rationale.

It's sometimes hard to believe that if your relationships are not working out, then it's the "manglik" effect to blame (poor Mars, a few million people everyday hold it responsible for their marital woes). Or that it's "shani" or "rahu-ketu" playing the roulette with your professional life, or things like that. The reason why it is so hard to believe all this is also perhaps because we have these concepts of rahu-ketu etc. only in this part of the world. There are enough people outside India whose lives are not particularly going smoothly, but they are pretty much unaware of these concepts. Though these days they are making up for the lack of this Oriental wisdom by resorting to numerology and palmistry.

Maybe someday I will figure out. I just wish my stars could tell me when I would...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Just another love song...

 

Is there any shortage of love songs these days? Or should I say, has there ever been a shortage of them? Not really, right? Bollywood is famous for churning out songs for no reason or rhyme (pun intended). And so it probably wouldn't hurt to add one more to the infinite list that is already floating in our universe. Except that I can't classify this into any particular genre of romantic monologues.  It's certainly not useful for the purpose of serenade. Any attempt to sing this under a lady's window would probably be met with sharp objects thrown from the window in question. It's not a Romeo-Juliet departure song either. Shakespeare (he is one person who has definitely turned enough in his grave), will once again turn (how much turning room there is anyways in a grave, by the way?) if Romeo were to sing this.

But that's the catch. For Juliet had no choice. But Scarlett had too many choices. For those who are not too familiar with Gone with the Wind, her full name was Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler (No wonder she could never make up her mind about whom not to love).  

And Cinderella. She's my favorite. I have great respect for her. She rocks. 12 o' clock, and gone (more on Cinderella in a later post).

Anyways, so here it is, the "unclassifiable", just another love song...

 

Falling all over, head, toe and heels,

Just another heart, in trouble

How do you tell apart love, from a crush?

A big bubble, from a bigger bubble?

 

I know you will find, what I couldn't find,

I know you will touch, that coveted space

But where will it lead you, when it ends?

Smiling back in the mirror, your uncertain face?

 

Turn around; you may see someone you knew,

Feel your heart-beats again, as you leave to go,

But did you notice, that questioning look on his face?

Was it the first goodbye, or the last hello?

 

You fear the fear's coming back,

You are losing something you've got,

Did you ever heed when they told you,

Lovers may live forever, love does not?

 

You never thought it could happen to you,

You were so safe and sound,

Perhaps you were not so right after all?

Perhaps you forgot, that it all comes around?

 

It will happen again, you can't help yourself

More will arrive, and even more will go

How long will you hide the fact

The last time you fell in love, was not so long ago?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Free me...

For those who have heard Uriah Heep, the title of this post would bring some interesting memories perhaps. But this post is not about interesting memories. It’s about parts of a past worth forgetting.

For those who remember that we today completed 59 years of freedom, this day might be a day to rejoice. But this post is not about rejoicing. It’s about coming to terms with realities.

For those who have determined that we have successfully traversed a long distance, this day might be a day of heaving a sigh of relief. But this post is not about relief. It’s about an overwhelming anxiety that leaves one in a state of turmoil.

We have certainly come a long way, no doubt about that. India was shining. It still is. But what hurts is the dark spots on our shiny surface.
59 years and we still have the Babri Masjids and the Godhras to our credit. 59 years and we still have no justice for our Jessica Lals. 59 years and we are still destroying innocent lives with state level sex rackets involving high power ministers. 59 years and we are still trapped with Bofors and Telgis fooling with the tax payers’ money (of those few in a million who do care to pay taxes).

There is a something essential missing from our freedom. And it creates a strange nauseating feeling. The feeling you get when you are forced to eat a bowl full of curry, with no salt in it.
It didn’t have to be like this. Some people blame Nehru, others throw it all on the Mahatma. Some say Indira Gandhi made all the mistakes. But we, the people of India, were always right. Right?

So what does it take to be free? What does it entail? How long before we ultimately end up selling our country? Inch, by passing inch. Religion, by useless religion. Rupee, by wasted rupee. Independence Day, by live-telecasted Independence Day.
Or can we keep it safe? From ourselves?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Photon...

It was out of no reason that today I decided to just go through some of that stuff which I had written earlier, but had never posted anywhere. Like one of those days when you think about cleaning the closet, to make space for newer things, to throw the trash away, except that you end up spending a few hours playing and looking and associating memories with those items, only rearranging them and never having the heart to really dispose of anything.

And it was in out of this rummaging that I found this one. Written a few years ago, titled “Photon”. Yes, it’s about the thoughts of that tiniest unit that makes up all the light around us (my high school physics teacher would never have looked at it from this angle). I was wondering what it would feel like to be the smallest entity making its small contribution to illuminate the entire world. And this is what I had come up with --


Into the ocean, hidden from all,
And back again, to the lighthouse
I've seen that mighty ships have fallen,
To softer winds, silent and proud.

Planets were there, where they still are
Though shadows have changed, over the years.
I try to make out, as I move,
The salty waters, from the muddy tears

I slide across, into the dead bones,
Into temples, idols, and the stripper's frame
The heart of all, I find devoid,
Lost in search, of a fragile name

I am a witness, to the daily circus,
This dreamt-of world, and its worldly dreams,
Saints and sinners perform their art,
I wish I could tell them, what it means

And I light up the rain-washed roads,
To be splashed around, by footsteps unknown
Evanescence and eternity are so very same,
The sooner I die, sooner am I reborn

Open the box, and I'll escape,
Though infact, I was never inside,
And I'm afraid I won't find it,
Any more greener, on the other side...

Stories...

The life we lead, the death we fear
Are the shades of a smile, the hues of a tear
The truth about life, that nothing's really true,
Coz we just hit the black, before we touch the blue.

The roads we build, the bridges we burn,
For the people we meet, on every single turn.
To fall in love, and then try un-loving,
Is like meeting death, and then try undying?

The places we hold, in the scheme of things,
The Sun, the stars, the chocolates and the wedding rings
But still we fight, to find that special role,
The hunt for that pillar, beyond the final goal.

The fear or love, and the trust we place,
Caught in a steel web, our images in space
Waiting for spring, my snow-covered hopes,
While it all melts, or while I learn the ropes

The wrongs and the rights, and the fairy tale stories
But we ain't in Hollywood, and this ain't the movies
Confronting my illusions, is tougher than it seems
Or appreciate the similarity, between reality and dreams...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Realize...

Sometimes it’s perhaps too late to admit that you have signed up for the wrong relationship…
But when exactly do you realize that you have got it all mixed up?
  • After the invitation cards have been sent out?

  • Sometime after the advance has been paid to the caterers?

  • After the last dinner as a single?

  • After the best man, and the bridesmaid have been decided?

  • While walking from the dressing room to the wedding hall?

  • While walking down the aisle? (In Indian context, somewhere between the fourth and fifth “phera” around the fire, perhaps?)

  • Somewhere between “I” and “do”…?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seattle, 21st Floor

It’s 7:45 in the morning. And as I gaze onto the freeways from the 21st floor of this hotel (with “Man on the moon” playing in the background), it’s somewhat thought-invoking to see the huge swarm of cars driving down in an orderly fashion, following each other at a safe distance, at almost the same speed, with their headlights trying to cut through the early morning clouded environ in this city. A few hundred trailing red lights like worker bees, waiting in line with each other, against each other; to win alone, or to lose together. Changing lanes, and perhaps hoping that altering parts of their life were as easy as the amber indicators with a light tap on the steering wheel…
Mechanized, trailing along to their offices, with a million thoughts in their drivers’ heads, protecting their cars, while their dreams crash against the dreams of those driving in front or behind, waiting for their turn, waiting for signals…


Sunday, July 09, 2006

You're beautiful...

I’ve been listening to this song for 2 days now, which includes one whole night of continuous playback. And as I write this, it is obviously still playing in the same infinite repeat mode. There must be something to it that I just can’t get it out of my mind.

At a first hearing, this song sounds like just another love song.
Except that this one has a meaning that goes far deeper than that of a boy-girl-look-at-each-other and instant chemistry etc.  There’s a hidden undercurrent in the song that talks about more than just a passing, unachievable crush; about more than just the truth of the futility of chance meetings in a subway…
And the words in the song which sum up that one emotion that most of us are liable to ignore, are “I don’t think that I’ll see her again but we shared a moment that will last till the end…

It’s a thought that I’ve tried to explore earlier as well – the notion that our life is not defined by any one “defining” moment (marrying that perfect girl?, getting that perfect job?, finding God…?), but more importantly, it is defined by what we do with those day to day things that happen to us. The “simple” joys that we take for granted, like a gently falling leaf, to be looked at for a few seconds and then to be reduced to its literally fallen existence.  

Even in that imperfect job, there are things you can do that stand out…  Even in that imperfect marriage, there are so many ways to find each other…  Even in a life without God, there are enough chances of holding on to faith…

A sum total of moments, taken till the very end…
A box full of chocolate wrappers, taken from one temporary home to the next…
A falling leaf, taken from one dream to the next…

Now that’s what’s beautiful…

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The night she came

All my life, I wanted her…

Wanted her to search for me with desperate eyes.
To look all around calling my name, waiting, almost pining…
To come close and tell me with those inquiring eyes “kahaan thhey ab tak, sab tumhara intezaar kar rahe hain…” (English translation – Where were you till now, everyone’s been waiting for you…”)

And tonight, it happened.

It’s surprising how some of the most memorable moments start always so innocuously. I was having a comfortable drink in the Taj lounge at the airport of one of the most non-happening cities in India – Chennai. With friends of course. Whiling away the hours (few minutes actually) waiting for the 8:05 PM flight to back home. After a lot of words and drinks had been exchanged, we realized we hadn’t shown up even for the security check by 8 PM…

And then she came…
…With a walkie-talkie in her hand. The stewardess from Jet. A symbol of authority. A part of her responsibility being ensuring that errant passengers observing delays in meeting the law and the X-ray machines are gathered and sent into blue-tailed Boeings…along with their 30 kg hand-baggage of course.
She obviously insisted on carrying out her duties with a disturbing seriousness. Her behavior and reactions have already been described in the opening para of this post… It was the moment I had always subconsciously waited for, but had never deliberately anticipated its arrival.
Of course a consequence of this encounter was that they managed to depart the flight with only a ten-minute delay.

But my life, is now forever changed… Because her words still ring in my ears… :)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Listen to the mirror…

And just because you have always believed that it was you who was watching, doesn’t mean the finger’s never pointed at you. For every sin committed, for every right that has been wronged, you had an excuse. There was someone to take the blame. And the next morning, you would get up again and had the guts to dress yourself up in front of the mirror, never guessing that you could be on the receiving end one day. And that the eyes that look back at you through the looking glass everyday, could hold an accusation…

The scenes you lived were clips from a movie, played over and over again, until the tape runs out, until scratches appear on every single frame, until you find that one shot where the mirror speaks back.

And all that you can then do, is listen…

Sunday, June 11, 2006

When was the last time you…

… Stopped at a traffic signal, and prayed that it would never turn green?
… Called someone, and prayed that she would not pick up the phone?
… Stood at the station, and prayed that your train had already left?
… Saw a beautiful dream, and prayed that it would always remain just a dream?
… Drove down to a place, and prayed you would have taken a wrong turn?
… Bought a wedding ring, and prayed it would get stolen?

And when was the last time you said a prayer, and prayed that it would never come true?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Between 2 and 80…

Near my house is a park which ends in a walkway by the sea. People come to the park to have some fun, and then some of them sit down by the sea-shore for a while. I also do this occasionally, and here’s what I saw today:An old woman (quite old, but rather active) of about 80 was sitting on the edge staring into the ocean. Next to her was seated a little girl (about two years old perhaps – her great granddaughter probably). And what struck me immediately what that none of them was saying anything. Both had their eyes transfixed onto that amazing nothingness that the ocean has to offer. And I started wondering what might be going on in their minds. The great grandmother would definitely have had her shares of experiences in all these years, and maybe looking at the ocean offers her a few windows into her past. A life on this planet almost over. Being born, crossing childhood, first crushes, getting married, watching your kids get married, and then spending your evenings in taking a little two-year old girl for a walk by the ocean… One entire life which I have tried to summarize in one sentence – a life sentence perhaps (pun intended).And what would that little girl be thinking as she sits by her old granny, gazing at a much older ocean with her na├»ve eyes? I noticed that she would clap her hands every time the waves hit the rocks, perhaps commending the Ocean on a step well performed, oblivious to the fact that the Ocean is a veteran at this art and lashing out at the rocks is, as some would say, “all part of the job”…In between her appreciation of these oceanic tactics, would she be thinking about her new dolls, or her shoes, or that kid next door who she plays with? Or what it takes to be a grown-up? Or what it takes to be a granny? Or perhaps, what it takes to be an ocean?Of course, I don’t know what they both were thinking. Maybe nothing. But I found myself breaking into a little smile as I turned to look away from them, and into what they were looking… that unending mass of water which is equally magnanimous in sharing its peace with anyone. Two, or eighty, it doesn’t really matter…    

Connected…

Like so many other blessings in life, this one also has its own side-effects. I am talking about the comfort of being able to go online anytime of the day, any day. Yes, I can now send emails from airports, or from my taxi, or my loo (not that I would want to, but then there are some things that can’t wait…). And even while sitting in the sea-side sands at Marine Drive, with enough babes to provide good quality distraction…

So you see, this is where the trouble lies. The last thing you would imagine yourself doing while enjoying the sea and the air and everything, is the thought of reading yet another mail from your boss reminding you that (as expected) you haven’t really done anything significant in your life till date. It is in times like these that you shift your contemplative gaze back and forth from the inviting sea to your laptop and then to the sea again, wondering whether the Indian Ocean will get angry if you offered it this piece of metal and plastic for an evening snack.

But then there is, of course, the romantic advantage of chatting with your girlfriend/boyfriend/pet/whatever while you realize that your car hasn’t moved more than 100 metres in the past 30 mins. The cops have something against the use of mobile phones while driving, but I don’t think they mind the use of laptops while maneuvering your car on Indian roads.

I remember till a few years back I always thought how it would be like to be “connected” anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. They say you should be careful in what you ask for, for you might just get it; and as I type this out while shifting from HBO to ZNews, it dawns upon me that after all that fodder which life has thrown at me, it still keeps the greener grass on the other side…

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mumbai Times...

Sometimes an age is not enough to figure out a city. And if the city is Mumbai, some people say that a few million ages put together will still not give you a glimpse of what this city really is.
The first week, and this city actually slaps and shocks you. Coming to Bangalore (a few years back) was like being woken up with a splash of water. But the first week in Mumbai was like being dragged at 4 am and thrown into a pool of ice cold water. The day I heard the news that a plot of land near my temporary abode had sold off for INR 63000 Rs per square foot, it dawned upon me that in all these years that I’ve been on this planet, I am still not able to buy myself one square foot of land.
People say that about 6 foot space is all that a person needs in the end. But this is where we realize that while you are alive in Mumbai, you anyways have no land to call your own; but even when you die, you are still short of real estate. Perhaps this is what Lord Krishna meant when He said in the Gita “Tum kya laaye thhey, kya le jaaoge” (What did you bring and what will you take back?). In Mumbai, there’s nothing that’s your own, and thus, in perfect accordance with the rules of Bhagwad Gita, you can’t take anything with you either.

All across the world, we know that there exists a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. In Mumbai, these two opposite ends have learnt to coexist. Right next to a tall building, you will find a huge slum population. Both parties acutely and uncomfortably aware of the other’s existence. Their eyes surely meet everyday. Maybe after a few years, they even begin to smile at each other. But what is most striking is perhaps the resignation of everyone to their fates.
All I need in this city, is a Mercedes. And that’s because everyone here seems to have one. I wonder when I missed the bus.
And a loneliness that’s spreading around like a disease. People tend to multiply as they appear and disappear in huge swarms on any local train station here. And everyone is desolately lonely. One look at the disturbed people around you on a local train (i.e. people who are hanging for their dear lives in the locals), and you know that something has cracked inside the city. The veneer outside is perfect. Shining. Stain-resistant perhaps. But deeper down, those cracks in the mirror have started appearing...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What a fall was there...

That we are a jobless nation, is proven off and on by things we keep doing in the name of keeping ourselves busy. But for some strange reason, the government and various organizations in Maharashtra seem to have an even higher degree of joblessness. In the past, it has been the omnipresent hoodlums of Shiv Sena who had nothing better to do than to tear up film posters and make sure that no couples could have a peaceful meal on St. Valentine’s Day. In the name of moral policing, they did whatever they could to make sure that they were heard loud and clear. Infact, logic points clearly to this being the sole reason for their activities. It is pretty obvious to the whole nation that if they really cared about morals so much, they would first learn to shut their trap and learn to co-exist with human beings.
But the recent issue of wardrobe malfunctioning takes the cake in whatever stupid this nation has perhaps done. We have a million issues to deal with.. 40% of India lives below poverty line, there is a very visible dearth of water, electricity and similar basic amenities, but that doesn’t prevent us from scaling up a few incidents in a fashion show, to national level, where there have been debates in the parliamentary bodies about the possible conspiracies behind these incidents. Really, such a fucking spiritual and holy society we are that the whole world now wants us to become deprave and immoral, thereby leading to our total degradation and downfall – Al Qaeda, are you listening? There’s no need to train terrorists to blow this country apart – in these people's opinion, just a few nude women are perhaps enough to bring our GDP growth rate down from 8% to 0%.
And now there are government officials who will “study” this matter of a few falling clothes. To even the most casual observer, it is obvious that all these officials will do in the process of investigation, is to glue their depraved eyes to the screen as they put those footage videos in infinite repeat mode. And I can bet that half of these loser babus would be jerking off at least five times a day to the falling tops and splitting skirts, all in the name of getting to the “depth” of the matter. Their poor wives are of course well aware that their useless husbands have now got the official license to satisfy their most incestuous fantasies.

It is still not clear to me what exactly has fallen… It’s not the clothes. It’s us. A society as a whole that should be ashamed of all the shams that we create, and thrive upon.

And more ashamed should be these officials and the aforementioned self-appointed moral guardians of this country. But the irony of it all is that these very people are so degraded and sub-human, that shame as an emotion has been obliterated from their system. They are living proof that Darwin’s theory of evolution has failed miserably in this country.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Alcohol (Part IV) -- The sad love stories

The last (and as is customary to add), but not the least, is the “drunken my-love-story-is-sadder-than-yours” session. To err, as they say, is human. And every man worth his alcohol has, at some point in his checkered life, made the mistake of either actually falling in love, or believing that he was in love.

Now the species of males (displaying a striking similarity to pigs – refer this post) have a rather limited vocabulary and can always be found short of the right words (thereby being reduced to uttering “oink, oink!” at the opportune moment). But under the influence of ethanol, even the most reticent of men find themselves gifted with a cornucopia of words.

And this is how these sessions proceed. A typical conversation goes thus:
“Bahut lambi kahaani hai dost, kya karoge sun kar”. Translated, it reads, “It’s a long story my friend, what will you gain upon hearing it?”
The reply comes as follows:
“Abhi to raat jawaan hai huzoor, har jaam ke saath apni kahaani sunaate jaaiye”. Translated again, it means “The night is young, sir. With every drink, pour away your story as well”

What follows is a half-hour monologue, starting right from where he met that unfortunate girl to the time they had their first “pav-bhaaji” on the streets, and then moving on to irrelevant trivia such as “her mom thinks I am a total scumbag”, or “I have spent ten thousand rupees on her till date”

I have of course, consoled many such lovers, and in the process have realized the healing touch that this liquid provides. It is not without reason, therefore, that it is offered to the Gods in prayers. It’s worth it. Absolutely. It can do wonders and can even lead to miracles (waking up next morning, still alive, seems like a miracle to me everytime!!)

Alcohol (Part III) -- The conference

The next form of group alcohol participation is named “drunken conference” which is what happens when a bunch of men get together and decide to hold a meaningful conversation while partaking generally high quality liquor. This is one of those sessions where all things terrestrial and extra-terrestrial are discussed with equal ease, and the information that each participant possesses on each topic is nothing short of extraordinary.
At one such session that I attended, we addressed the following issues of immediate global concern:
1. The rise and fall of the Mozambique currency.
2. Mating rituals of the African red spiders.
3. Life on Neptune twenty years hence.

The order of these action-items is of course, immaterial. As some of you will recall from personal experience, after the fourth drink, one suddenly acquires the amazing capability to hold the fort on more than one topic simultaneously, which is precisely what could be observed after an equivalent amount of alcohol had safely found its way into the blood stream of all the players.

Alcohol (Part II) -- Drunken Revelry

The most common form of alcohol consumption is called “drunken revelry”. All participants in this process consume enough alcohol to:
a. lose track of how much they have drunk
b. lose track of the two essential dimensions, viz. time, and space.

As a consequence of the above two, the behavior of such persons is extremely unpredictable and ranges from howling at the moon to repeated attempts at climbing the wall. At the end of the revelry, the concerned parties end up either in a ditch, or some such suitable location where they find it very convenient to spend the wee hours of the morning, generally muttering an old song to themselves, though of course, not without causing much annoyance to the near-stationed dogs who also choose these same hours to complete their daily ration of rest.

Alcohol (Part I) - A brief intro... (??)

Surprising (to me) that I have decided to touch upon this topic so late in my blog. Considering the ever increasing count of allegations which I have to field every day, I should’ve been inspired to write this earlier. Well, better late than never. Or as they say among the alcoholics, better drunk than sober.

There came a movie once titled “Sixteen years of alcohol”. How apt, I’d thought when I first heard of it. But I strongly opine that merely sixteen years are perhaps not enough to understand the spirit of the spirits.

And so this time, we shall be discussing at length the various modes in which alcoholic consumption can be witnessed.

(Continued in next post...)

Cherish

It’s true that most of us would rather want that one moment to culminate into something more wonderful, but I suppose it’s best if we understand that life is a lot more meaningful if we learn to appreciate and understand the beauty of these individual moments; and more importantly, to not lose these moments in the pursuit of “goals” and “destinations”. Or with reference to what I said earlier, milestones are important, but not at the expense of miles…

You can’t ignore the smell of earth after the first few drops of rain, to worry about the number of inches by which the water table will rise…

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Last night at IIMB…

It seems strange now. That what has ended was perhaps one of the most memorable phases of my life. This place has now become another chapter in my life. Pages of which I shall keep turning to, to find those lost words that I would have accidentally missed. The realization has actually not hit that hard still. But it will, after a few days when thoughts turn back to this place, then perhaps a lot of us will suddenly wake up to the fact that we are never going to live through it all again.

And of course, in hindsight, it’s always so much fun. Even though there were times when we just wished that it would all just end and that we could fly away. IIMB has been another learning point that has taught me that our life is not a sum total of all its milestones, but instead, is a sum of all the miles that we traverse between those milestones.

And in these last few hours that I am here, I will probably take a walk around. Have a cup of tea. Look over the balcony. Do the simple things. Seemingly useless, but precisely what will be missed the most.

“So long, and thanks for all the fish…”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Moving on…

Because when it finally comes to deciding whether I want to be happy or not, guess I still have the choice. To pick up the pieces that I want to. Our present is like a photo album, where we place pictures from our past. There were some moments full of joy and then some not so great; moments that still make me smile, and moments that still cause a soft pain, a gentle reminder, like a child poking in your ribs and asking you to wake up.

And this is where I pick up the snaps I want to keep. My past is certainly not in my control anymore. But what I do with that past, is entirely (well, almost) upto me. I can choose to either savor the times I spent with my closest companions, or fret and fume about moments when I was away from them.

And so as I move ahead, I will decide cautiously and consciously to relish the more worthy moments. I suppose this is how I would like my life to be. A life that treads softly upto me, like the sudden autumn wind that surprises the fallen leaves; that disturbs the reverie of the silent lake, with a short, rippling dance.

Of course, it’s easier said than done; times when you realize that computers are perhaps the happiest entities on this planet. Just one “delete” and it’s gone. No pain, no suffering, and its over. Not like us. Humans. We hold on to those broken blades till we don’t know how much we have bled.

But still, I will try to throw the blades away. I’ll forget the blood that I’ve drained. Will stop looking at those wounds that won’t heal. Will instead make this attempt to look at what’s left of me. To go ahead with it.
To meet Life. Like a long-lost friend. To say Hello after all these years. This time, with both hands. And even a hug perhaps; for there are no suitcases that I am carrying. No backpacks full of ragged dolls. It’s just me. And my Life. And the road ahead…

Monday, March 13, 2006

The numbers don’t add up…

86 lakh, someone said. And I paused for a moment, and then realized how conveniently a few numbers have been multiplied together to come up with this figure. Take a few pound sterling, convert it to US dollars, and then again convert that to Indian Rupees, and there, lo and behold, you have defied logic, gravity, and everything we thought we could rely on.
It is an achievement, undoubtedly. Placement season at my school is amazing, no doubt about that. The best companies. The best offers. The best students.

But unfortunately the exceedingly pretty picture painted for the outside world perhaps does a little damage to those who still aren’t placed. Or who are not placed on the first day (because eventually, everyone will definitely be placed in a matter of 5 days). It does hurt when friends and family start calling up and ask for “good news” from your side. It makes you feel sorry for yourself, when you are not one of those who could "make it" on the first day. Makes you feel incomplete, and you start questioning yourself (Or rather, those friends and family start questioning you as to what went wrong).

And more importantly, or disturbingly perhaps, a hajaar people out there start looking upon this building of IIMB as a money churning machine. No one cares about subjects or courses or learning or anything else. All that shines in the eyes of the starry-eyed aspirants, are dreams of dollars. All that glitters for them, is nothing but gold. And quite a few of them do get a shock when they realize that not everything was as bright as what was promised to them. That this moon too, has spots of its own. For about one third of the batch, perhaps yes, this place gives them what they came for (that they don't know what they came for, is perhaps a different issue altogether). For the others, it leaves them equally confused by the time they are done with it.

But I guess that’s what management is all about, isn’t it?

On being a man…

Quite a while ago, I had written in my blog, that all men are pigs. I had written it more as a gesture of jest than a really serious accusation. But posts by so many women on Blank Noise Project, especially those by Annie, Rohini, and Hemangini have now made me realize how disturbingly (and sadly) close to the truth I actually was.

What the fuck is wrong with this gender to which I belong?
Admittedly, I didn’t know this problem was so severe till I read so many of these accounts. First hand accounts of women who have been mal-treated by complete strangers. And I was ashamed. Of belonging to this species. I had always taken comfort in the fact that I have more “rights” being a man, more “freedom” being a man, but I had never realized the acute shortage of these very entities for a rather large number of women out there, traveling in buses, trains, becoming objects of public consumption every passing day.
I still take comfort in the fact that I am a guy. Perhaps because I don’t have the strength to imagine what most of these women have to go through. Or perhaps just because I have grown with those comforting thoughts, somehow fed into me, through years of “societal training”.

But all said and done, am I completely clean? Can I proudly claim that I have never ever done anything that might have hurt someone?
Well, not that I know of. I know this sounds like an excuse. Because it is one.

But I will confess nevertheless.
Yes, I have talked about women within a group of guys. Yes, there have been a few occasions when my eyes have rested perhaps a little longer than they should have, on a passing woman’s breasts. Yes there have been occasions when I have let out a sigh and imagined a little more than what I should have.
But I am still proud of the fact that my hands have never jumped around to “feel up” a girl. That as far as is physically possible, I leave space between myself and an unknown girl sitting next to me in a bus or a train. That to quite an extent, I do understand the difference between “looking” and “leering”. That I have never whistled, or passed any kind of comments, on unknown girls that I come across in streets (including those which are extremely "provocatively" dressed, so to say - refer earlier post). That the only thing I would like to do with an 8-year old girl, is to read her stories of princesses and fairies...

...And that perhaps, I am not (and never will be) as much of a pig as evidently a surprisingly high number of my co-species are..

Friday, March 03, 2006

Road-side romeos – are inside your house…

I read in Khaled Hossini’s debut novel that the worst crime you can commit is of theft; because every other crime is nothing but a variation of it.
The act of showing disrespect towards a woman (by teasing, molesting, whatever…) is no different. By moving that roving hand to touch an unsuspecting part of her anatomy, the criminal steals her right to feel safe, her right to be comfortable, her right to be normal, her right to be herself…
And our society certainly doesn’t help much either. The blame is usually (perhaps because it is more convenient?) imposed on provocative dresses, and the perpetrators of the act are exonerated as always.

What happens outside is one issue. But the worse form of this crime is what happens inside the four comfortable, apparently safe walls of a home. Cousins, uncles, in-laws, everyone, anyone could be those wolves lurking in the shadows, waiting for a careless moment to make their dangerous move. They aren’t outside, they are not somebody else’s problem. They are right here, with you, watching you, eyeing you, imagining you, ready to leave you with ill-shaped scars on your virgin psyche.
Out there, maybe you can ward them off with knives, judo tricks, blinding sprays, or other gizmos that our advanced world has to offer. What do you do for those whom you trust(ed)?
And with what stupid logic can the society protect these psychopaths who feed on kids as young as five-six years old? Provocative dressing? That won’t work. They probably have to come up with a better one that that.
How about “Being a girl is your fault”? How does that sound for a blame? Is that strong enough? Correct enough? Fair enough? Sensible enough?

How about some statistics, just to corroborate the gravity of the situation-
1. 77% of rapes are committed by someone known to the person raped. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
2. Around the world at least I women in 3 has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family. (John Hopkins School of Public Health)
3. 22% of females raped are under the age of 12 years; 32% are 12-17 years old; 29% 18-24 years old; 17% over 25 years old. 83% of those raped are under the age of 25 years old. (National Institute of Justice)

And the most disturbing reality of it all:
Only 2% of rapists are convicted and imprisoned (US Senate Judiciary Committee)

There must be something seriously wrong with the world that we live in. And we have to do something to fix this.
Social awareness?
Better legal procedures?
Training for women?

Or how about “Charity begins at home?”

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What’s...?

What’s happiness, if you have to enjoy it all alone?
What’s pain, if you never shared anyone else’s?

What’s charity, if you haven’t given everything you ever had?
What’s a gift, if you haven’t known that giving is better than taking?

What’s a loss, if you are still left with memories?
What’s a memory, if it doesn’t make you cry?

What’s a tear, if you have kept it safe till now?
What’s a smile, if you haven’t wasted it on someone?

What’s a dream, if you haven’t known what nightmares are?
What’s patience, if you have never waited long enough?

What's failure, if you can afford to forget about it?
What’s victory, if you have never lost anything worth loving?

What’s love, if you have never hurt yourself?
What's hate, if you never burned within?

What’s death, if you have completely figured out life?
And what’s life, if you know what to do with it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What’s the point?

Why is it…
That there has to be a reason for everything?
That there has to be a meaning in everything we do?
That there should be a purpose for everything?
That there should be a point of every conversation, every dialogue, every monologue, every fucking word?
Who do we fool when we create reasons when there aren’t any?
What do we achieve when we have reached a result? When there was no need for a result?
Who do we prove to that we are right? When there is no reason to be right?

For whom is this done? What’s the pain point? What’s the pleasure zone? There must be something wrong going on right here that I am perhaps trying to fix. But again, what’s the need for that? Nothing will change if our world keeps on going the way it is.

So what’s the point of writing all this?
Other than letting out the confusion inside?
What else?
Why is it…?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Shalimar the Clown

Rushdie’s writings seem to be more like a sleight of hand than a prowess of the mind… the way a magician conjures up rabbits out of hats, so does this author weave yards of magic through the looms of his unchained imagination. When he writes, ideas and stories merge into each other like twirling layers of chocolate in a four-flavor ice-cream.

And in Shalimar the Clown, he is at his best again. The story moves seamlessly from California to Kashmir via France as if Rushdie intends us to catch a non-stop roller coaster across the continents with the glorious scenery unfolding in front of our bewildered eyes.

The lead female character is aptly named “Kashmira”, and the author ensures that her life somehow proceeds in the same disturbing way as the beautiful land from which her name was derived.

The oft-recognized artistic imagery is evident right from the time he starts describing the sun-lit California:
On those rare mornings when she awoke to cloud cover and a hint of moisture in the air she stretched sleepily in bed…
…But the clouds invariably burned off by noon and then there it was again, the dishonest nursery blue of the sky that made the world look childlike and pure, the loud impolite orb blaring at her like a man laughing too loudly in a restaurant
.”

And then the truth about broken dreams in this promised land:
The beautiful came to this city in huge pathetic herds, to suffer, to be humiliated, to see the powerful currency of their beauty devalued like the Russian ruble or Argentine peso…

On the other hand, the disturbing reality of Kashmir could perhaps not have been depicted in better words than these:
Who raped that lazy-eyed woman?
Who raped that grey-haired lazy-eyed woman as she screamed about snake vengeance?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that dead woman?
Who raped that dead woman again?


Nothing but a series of questions that jump out at you from the pages, and the beauty of it all lies in the fact that these are questions no one wants to face.

That’s Shalimar the Clown for you.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Emotions…

It is true that your heart is all used up, and that most of your emotions have been burnt to smoke and ashes; but I still feel there’s something of a human left inside you. Whether I feel proud of that element of humanity, or sympathize with it, is still a question I haven’t answered.

And what can you salvage from this emotional wreckage?
You will find a few tattered, fluttering pieces of love somewhere, shivering in the wind; another few crooked, out-of-shape, rusted fragments of empathy trying to fight the heavy rains; and somewhere in this mess you will observe, shuddering in a dark and wet corner, the bloodied remains of trust.

You can pick and choose the battered emotion of your choice. You can even play with it, it won’t complain; there’s nothing left to complain anyways. You can break them further, just to see how far can emotions be actually broken; you can try molding them like clay, just to find out how much can emotions be bent.

I am sure you will be surprised by what you find…

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Money

What money can do, is magic. What it cannot, is reality.
There’s too much truth associated with money. People swear by it, more than they swear by God. Infact, a lot of people live for money. It’s equally true that a lot more die for it.

Money often breeds hatred. Surprisingly, it breeds love with an even greater ease.
Money changes people. And then there are some who use it to maintain status quo.

But they say money can’t buy happiness.
Maybe they are right. But I still feel that it can at least buy your sadness away…

Friday, January 20, 2006

And the only thing certain…

… Are uncertainties.

It’s strange that even at this stage, there does not seem to be a clear light in the distance. Even Heisenberg would not have predicted this level of confusion in the basic framework of matter.

I feel sometimes I am living in a number of different parallel worlds. Parallel pasts, and consequently, parallel futures. Only this time, it’s not science fiction that I am talking about. But my own trysts with those disturbing parallelisms. A huge world of ifs and buts. A road chockfull of forks. Each leading to heaven, each leading to hell.

I hadn’t expected this to happen. The mist should have cleared instead of deepening.
But maybe I have found the reason.

Maybe it’s true (and no matter now ironical it may seem, but that is the only plausible explanation), that the farther you have traveled from your home, the more lost you really are…