Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2007

If I don't be there by morning

Is it worth suffering the torment of a double migraine, cramped seating, bad food and a hellish 4 hour taxi ride ?

Only if I'm coming home. To Pune.

For some reason that seemed to make sense at the time, I decided to surprise my family by showing up at the front door a week earlier than expected. The only thing that could go wrong with this little scheme was that I would call my Dad at 4:00 am and on asking him where he was, be told that the family was in Bombay for an impromptu visit. Followed by the interesting news that I, on the other hand was giving a few black looks at the stubbornly shut front door. You know... ensuing pandemonium.

A certain someone just recently remarked that there would no doubt be a tale involving my trip home. I concurred. As I have found out, figurative spanners manage to strangely and smugly steer their way comfortably into the machinery running my life. Simply put, my folks were in Bombay on the same day I was and had only reached home 6 hours before me…

Its the time of the season...

On-campus, I work at the dept. of Communication Studies, where on most days, there isn't too much to do besides answering phones and delivering letters elsewhere at UAB. However, this soporific state of affairs has, in recent weeks, ground to a halt. Figuratively speaking. The dept. is shifting offices to a new building, which has the faculty alternately whooping with joy and weeping in despair. Their ambivalence is due to the fact that the new offices are incomparably better than the current ones but none of them want to face the trouble of packing and moving their paraphernalia. So.

Enter the office boy. Who, if any of you have read previous posts, is me.

I'd like to meet the individual who thought that it'd be a great honour for me to do the packing for the entire faculty, barring a few kind souls who'd rather assert their independence and do it themselves (bless them). And, as is usual in situations I'm involved in, they discovered that I'm some sort of idiot…

Possibility

What do you do on a perfect day? A day when the sky is so blue, you actually stop and admire its blueness. A day when the flame-red and emerald-green leaves of the trees go ‘wisha-wisha’, allowing you to dream on that drudge-walk to another 8 hour day. A day when the radio plays songs that get your feet tapping and you forget that the walk through the trees actually happened and dream a little more.A day when you realize that Diwali is around the corner, you are no where near the corner and sweets, savouries and firecrackers are just memories of a distant shore and better times. You sigh, deeply and completely, letting every muscle and limb relax. You pause for a fraction of second longer before you open that door. Take in that blue sky and pleasant breeze. Hum that tune that’s been stuck in your head since you woke up this morning. And step over that threshold. To…
Song for the moment: Move along - The All-American Rejects

The Waiting Game

You could just about make out the tiny, strawberry tip of her tongue sticking out as she concentrated on her movements. She knew that getting the combination right was all that mattered and her face was Mona Lisa-like; the ghost of a smile suggested itself at the corner of her mouth but her eyes betrayed the inner demons of fear. They were waiting there for that one slip of the foot, one suggestion of disruption in her focus before she completed the sequence of the ritual. It almost came. As she made her final leap, she noticed the bluish wisp out of the corner of her eye and it rattled the gates to her own personal hell. Her leg, so sure until that instant, landed awkwardly, wavered, shivered, but ultimately stayed put. “Too close”, she thought. It was done, for now. In illogical indignation, she turned toward what had almost caused her failure. Some distance away was the villain, a svelte spire in the shaded doorway, slowly rising toward inevitable dispersion. The cigarette was the …

His-tory of music

The room was a mess. The walls were lined with shelves of books, music and knickknacks, all arranged higgledy-piggledy, suggesting a long lost battle with organization or devotion. The table was in a worse state. Random ink blotches peppered the worn brown surface like Rorschach pictures beyond interpretation and a growing pile of crumpled paper balls threatened to do a Vesuvius on the Pompeii that spread itself on the rest of the table. The pale green lamp, bent over like a tired old crone, had not bothered to do its duty for many a year. Perhaps it had simply forgotten how. Perhaps it had not needed to bother. Who knew? Even the pen-holder, a beautifully crafted wooden piece, was empty; it, along with the other paraphernalia on the table mutely and gently implying that things here were past their prime. The table faced a window which opened onto bleak, gray skies and a plot of land that could no longer call itself a garden. ‘Scrub jungle’ was perhaps the right phrase. The whole set…

monkey see, monkey do

It is with incredulity that I've followed the newspapers from back home in the last few days, my increasing disbelief safely attributable to the charges of 'racist' that some idiotic cricket 'fans' have managed to tag themselves with.

I wonder which genius tried to spin the idea that the hooting and mimicry that went around the grounds had anything to do with misunderstood celebrations. If those sounds and actions are in a local language, then every evolutionist and linguist worth his\her salt needs to hotfoot it to India. Apparently, quite a few chaps in the country haven't bothered to make it onto the evolutionary ladder at all, forget qualifying for one of the numerous ancestral classifications, and getting these specimens under the microscope would be scientifically invaluable.

I suppose it's hard to get one's head around the idea that Indians, who are not the 'fairest of them all' by any stretch of the imagination, can be racist. People are, …

Gaining my religion

To say that religion is an important part of India is the ultimate understatement. The country is steeped in religious fervour, is the mother of all melting-pots when it comes to gods, goddesses, idol-worship, non-idol worship, sadhus in various stages of undress, intoxication and malnutrition and host to festivals right throughout the year. It permeates everything, and I mean everything and apart from cricket, is quite likely is the major fuel for the great joy, sadness, celebration and social crime that ignites India.

Very Jekyll & Hyde.
Very public, very personal.
Very tricky, very touchy

Think about it. The field trip lasts for 12 - 14 days. In this time, we have to introduce ourselves, get accepted by & worm some extremely private details out of a group of people who probably have never seen any real strangers and are therefore perfectly within their rights to be reluctant to let on, if not be downright hostile. And this just describes what we are up against for the census d…

Coming of age in the Department OR " Where's Ms. Mead when we need her ?"

Right throughout the 1st semester, we kept hearing about the field trip; an almost-mythical rite of passage that students of anthropology underwent after the final exams. Our curiousity being piqued, we naturally asked around and all we ever got were infuriatingly superior looks and sneers that suggested that those hapless missionaries who travelled through deepest Africa had been on a picnic compared to what awaited us. Left with no option we obliged, waiting and wondering.

Just before finals week, our professor handed us a list with a rather grim air (he had the grim air, not the list). Or maybe the fact that we were in the lab with the skeletons contributed to the atmosphere. Anyway, the list contained a number of things one would normally take on a camping trip and a few items I'd never seen on any sort of legitimate camping list before. Beedis, for example. Since finals were hovering, we didn't pay too much attention to the list and by the next Friday, exhausted and shaken…

Scars and Souvenirs

The plan was simple. Intrude upon the lives of a hapless group of villagers and get what we want.

This is not a story about some nameless corporation exploiting innocents for oil and mineral wealth but the tale of a field trip that certain students of Anthropology went for in December 2006. Which means that it was a regular potboiler. There was exploitation, selfishness, and intrigue. There was laughter, romance, the odd song and dance sequence and even a marriage. There was magic, ghosts & demonic possession, allegedly. People were seriously injured and some flirted with death. Somewhere in this jamboree, diaries and field books were written up & photographs taken.

One of those experiences that nerds like to think of as the most exciting time of their monotonous lives and the cool ones chalk up as another interesting interlude.

Either way, it was not easily forgotten.

Blind-s

7:45 am on a cloudless morning and the group sits down for its first chai of the day.

"Put on the light. It should feel like morning" says the worthy, sitting opposite the shaded windows.

The times aren't they a-changin' ?

Running against the wind...

Do you know what it feels like to sit with your face in your hands, completely depressed and wretched for 93 minutes ? I do.

Do you know the feeling of an indescribable joy begin somewhere in your toes and burst into your brain after the aforementioned 93 minutes ? I know that too.

I woke up this morning to find out that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has retired from football. To not see him on the pitch any more in the familiar Manchester United no. 20 shirt leaves me with a hollow feeling somewhere inside. How soon before the Welsh wizard and the Ginger ninja are gone as well ?

And how in the name of all that is decent is the Indian team going to replace Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble when they retire ? Granted, the Australians went through something similar, but they were the Australians.

Generations are defined by their sporting heroes. We spend countless hours reliving those incredible moments, remembering exactly where we were and what we were doing as they were being etch…

The boy stood on the burning deck...

I've often been told that I'm unique... and more in the spirit of a spat-cum-hissed epithet rather than a compliment. In one regard though, I'm fairly confident that I am of the majority - I loathe exams. Completely and absolutely.

(So, why am I doing another Master's degree at present ? Because I am a glutton for punishment)

Within a few weeks, I had contrived to fit in with the rest of the public in my Anthro class, basically because they were the friendliest bunch I'd ever met. But, a sense of bonhomie was not going to help me in the mid-semester exams that were approaching with the clinical purpose one of those carnivores one sees so often on Animal Planet. I was approaching the mid-sems with a sense of trepidation and decided that there had to be some truth in the old adage about misery loving company and all that. So, I brought up the subject of the papers with Gaurav. You know how it is... people egging each other on with an absolutely transparent and blatantl…

'twas one of those times...

A few sporting shockers have occurred over the last 2 days. For one, Manchester United, one of the many blights of my existence, managed to draw their first game at home against some not-so-scary opposition. So what do the fans get for having seen the spending of over $40 million over the summer ? A chap with a broken foot sidelined for 2 months. This would be fine if the chap in question was say... Wes Brown, no offence to him. Unfortunately, its Wayne Rooney. Enough said.

Number two on the list is the fact that Roger Federer has lost a final... to a guy who admittedly beat Nadal and Roddick on his way. But the reason Federer is Federer is precisely because he's not some clay court specialist or a 24 year old has-been... which makes the whole affair as surreal as Roger's regular game. All I can think of is that some poor sods have been cheated out of a sure bet.

Number three, and admittedly my favourite is the news that India has pulled off a test series win, not against the us…

Cricket

Numbskull

Apparently, suffering indescribable torments before being admitted to the dept. wasn't good enough. Either that or somebody conveniently assumed I was a masochist.

Still reeling from the fact that I was to face 10 papers for the mid term exams in a month's time (I was already a month behind, remember ?) I shakily made my way for my first class which happened to be in the lab; Anth - 110: Biological Anthropology (Practical I). It may not sound like much, but in my condition that was probably the best place to begin. For one thing, I didn't really have to speak to any one (not that that stopped a few, mind you). For another, and I'm not being morbid, there were skulls all over the place. I quietly took my place in a suitable corner.

A big chap with a tentatively curious yet friendly expression on his face stepped up and introduced himself as Gaurav. We chatted for a bit before in walked a lean, unshaven, dishevelled looking fellow in spectacles who from first appearances,…

Kismat - part 2

I'm at a party. There's a lot of beer floating around along with some tequila.

Problem ? I'm not a party person and there's way too many people floating around too. Hence this post.

The anthro dept. chair has a nice office. Its spacious & has 2 large windows overlooking a plot of land attempting vainly to be mistaken for a garden. At the time of this story, the trees outside were decked rather prettily in a riotous bloom of red flowers. Very pleasant, on the whole for the spectators. I wasn't one.

The one anomaly in this otherwise normal room were a set of swing doors at the entrance. They were exactly like the ones you'd find in a saloon in the Old West complete with the wooden slats, extended creakiness and definitely having had seen better days. It may just be my imagination or my circumstances at the time, but every time I was about to enter that room, I felt like that insignificant desperado in the western flick who knows he's going to have his noggin…

Kismat - part 1

[The next few posts are going to be about my time in the Anthropology dept., Pune Univ. from 2004 - 06. I'll cherish those 2 years, always. I met some real characters... friends now, and went on a trip that left me with memories no amount of time can fade. If interested, read on... if not, well... tough.]

I'm lounging in my chair at work. My back is curved at an angle that promises some painful consequences later, but I leave it to my later self to deal with that. In this not-so classical position, the only thing I can clearly see is the ceiling. There's nothing even remotely remarkable about it; its been painted this marvellously creative shade of... drum rolls please ... white & there are two sets of tube-lights that compete with each other to light up the room. Since the room is only 7 x 6 at its most optimistic best, the brightness here manages effortlessly to set my teeth on edge. But, I digress. The ceiling only serves to bring back memories to me of another time …

See - saw

I don't claim to understand any form of poetry. I don't claim to write any either. Think of the following as free verse, in kindness and rambling, in any other state of mind.

a look, a glance, a stare ?
just a pair doing their myriad duties
too well...
and more

they asked me
i could not answer
they told me
i could not understand
they gave a smile of acceptance
i could not believe
they cried, no tears
i could not comfort
they conveyed our closeness
and forced our distance
they were fearful
i was the coward who flinched
they were cold fury
and i let them burn, consume...

i turned away
wished in that instant they would demur
blink
be anything but alive with that cornucopia of possibility
and it was i who brushed them close for all time
so gently

they haunt me now
always
i would have it no other way
they mock me, my helplessness, my humanity

At world's end

There are places in this world which you actually will miss if you blink. This is one such place. 7 feet by 2 feet, that's all the space it occupies. In the daytime it is enveloped by a cacophony of cheerful conversations, indignant arguments and incredulous beseeching. In the evenings it exchanges these for the illumination from the typical 60 watt clear bulb dangling from the red and black twisted wire, and perfumes itself with the bewitching smells of sandalwood incense and jasmine, a potent combination that I like to think is India's alone.

Odds and sods drift in and out, hardly spending a fleeting few minutes contemplating a lightening of their purse. Sometimes the rupee notes shyly unveil themselves, at other times they don't. The rotund figure who is master of this space is generally perched on the single metal bar-stool. He deigns to chat with a chosen few familiars and casually ignores the rest. There are instances when that seat is empty and he's sharing a …

warrior soul-speak

The following text has been taken from the Japanese anime Bleach, episode 125. The two characters are Kurosaki Ichigo (IK) and Kenpachi Zaraki (KZ).

Make of it what you will...

IK: We finished our fight a long time ago.KZ: Finished? It’ll never be finished. A battle is not like some stupid argument. As long as someone is still breathing, the fight isn’t over.IK: I don’t have any reason to fight you.KZ: You want a reason… for fighting ? Why don’t you just accept it already, Ichigo ?!
You seek out fights. You desire power. Isn’t that right, Ichigo ?
Everyone who searches for power, without exception, searches for battle !
Do you fight in order to become more powerful ?!
Or do you want more power so that you can fight ?
I'm not the one to tell you that. The only thing I know for sure is, guys like us were born this way.
We were born to fight, Ichigo !BATTLE ?!
KZ: Your instincts will keep leading you towards new battles. It’s the only way you have.
The only wa…

of paper boats and potholes

Nostalgia and homesickness have an interesting effect on the past, in that it tends to become rather rosier than it actually was.

It rained here a few days ago. Nothing special in itself of course but it did get me thinking about the monsoon in India and the fact that this is the first one that I'm missing in 14 years. Having lived in both Bombay and Pune, I've pretty much seen everything that the season has to offer, right from the collective sigh that always goes out when the first showers hit town to the collective swearing that took place the day the heavens decided Bombay needed a long overdue bath... the day referred to as 'Terrible Tuesday'.

For the average Punekar, Simla Office ( the local met station) is an undeniably lovely bit of architecture but as far as announcing the imminent rains are concerned, it is practically redundant. Round about the end of April and never later than the 2nd week of May, the city fathers sheepishly come out of their stupor & in …

Part 2 - Multitudes of manic metaphors & maxims

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live" - Douglas Adams

Naveen and I are sitting outside the Kaul Genetics building when he casually mentions that there's a job opening for a student assistant at one of the departments at UAB. On-campus work opportunities are so notoriously rare that had this been the age of mythology, you could safely expect to see Hercules adding this one to his list.

To put it mildly, competition here was fierce.

Okay... time to make a confession. From the outset, I had the funny feeling that this job was mine. The facts speak for themselves - I was the only chap who could work the exact days and hours required, the work did not require any clerical experience nor expertise and well... I had a feeling.

Life... all it ever does is wait for an opportunity to deliver a kick to your unmentionables. Its success rate is remarkable too. I applied for it (the job, not the kick) and got it. "Drinks all around."

The fates threw the kick in for free. Th…

Part 1 - "Sometimes I wanna take to the road and plunder" - B. Dylan

"Arrey, you have an on-campus job na ? Where ? "
Deathly silence.

"Haan, so how much funding is your department giving you ?"
Deathly silence. A single droplet of sweat, starting at the brow, begins its journey toward terra firma .

"Man, there were so many positions open at the campus job fair last week. Did you go ?"

Deathly silence. The droplet had been feeling decidedly lonely but not any more. In fact, the droplet privately feels its getting a little crowded. And the terra is no longer all that firma. Of all the bamboos, the one called 'panic' is now firmly lodged, well... further elucidation unnecessary, methinks.

"So, yaar... where is your money coming from ? Did you get a scholarship or something from the university ?"

Deathly silence. Can't move any limbs. Possible onset of catatonic schizophrenia.

So ladies, gentlemen, kind readers, voyuers, bored souls etc. - I needed a job. Technically, I needed money... but being law-abiding for …

Ants on a mobius strip...

The bitch about hindsight - it just mocks you.

There is this phase of life where we have fantastic dreams, outrageous ambitions and even ideas that appear slightly dubious now that we can look back. In most cases, that happens to be the time we're in college, attempting to get our Bachelor's degrees. I'm not quite sure why this is so - certainly, when I contemplate my college life, I can't recall anything about F.C that inspired me to greater heights - umm... in those areas that are accepted as respectable enough to be scaled, that is.

Can you honestly see yourself inspired into being someone respectably employed when the professor of psychology is droning on about how some chap got his poor dog all strung up and excited over a bell ? I think not...

As far as I can make out, in my 3 years in that grandiose institution I read a lot, developed a marked fondness for beer, a variety of other spirits, was introduced to philosophy by the dynamic duo of Ashish and Ketan, motor-b…

the walrus had a point...

Another day, another birthday..........

Not mine but does that really matter ? Each milestone someone you know passes, it is you who are acutely aware of the sand in the hourglass - each tiny little grain...separating itself from the rest, sliding ever so slowly along the curve of that smooth path, waiting an instant...an eternity for some... and then just as surely, dropping down. Another moment gone... and before you know it, so have you.

It's summer here as of now and its officially the holidays. I suppose one indication that we are no longer children in the truest sense of the word is the fact that the summer holidays no longer exist for us. It doesn't for me either; I have the dubious honour of having to take 2 classes in the summer semester.... and well, right when the professor has been talking for more time than you'd care to believe, I think back to the times summer meant being woken up by mum and after a suitable breakfast being politely directed outside the house …

birds of a feather...

A couple of declarations before I pontificate on today's theme...
Manchester United finally stopped torturing me and won the premiership yesterday. Its been 4 long years of watching them see-saw between semi- decent football and the kind of stuff that can only be described as akin to several Greek and Shakespearean tragedies put together. However, the deed is done for this year and joy is in the air... for now.
My exams are finally over and another semester has been chalked up as completed. What I actually learned is open to debate, but the important thing is, I am one more semester closer to coming home. Which really is all that matters anyway.Now that we've got that out of the way, back to the issue at hand - room mates.

It had been a couple of days since I got to the land of excitement (o good for you, you recognize sarcasm) and the first couple of days went by in the usual fashion - I spent a good portion of it berating my actually being here, a little more cursing myself &am…

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dreamed before - E.A Poe

He sure knew what he was talking about, because the silence hit me like a physical blow.

11 am on a Sunday morning, my first real day in the U.S & groggy from the jet-lag I suppose I could be excused for the steadily wilder ideas rushing through my noggin. My imagination, never one to be accused of sobriety at the best of times, decided that this was not one of the best of times and promptly went on a joyride of possibilities... everything from plague hitting the city to something straight out of 'Night of the living dead' (yes, yes it was the morning & you are welcome to take that up with my imagination at your leisure). Anyway, welcome to glamourous Birmingham, folks... biggest city in Alabama, don't you know. And not a soul to be seen as far as the eye could see. And not suffering from any ocular problems, my eyes were working fine thank you very much.

The chaps I was staying with no doubt had gone through the same set of emotions. Its hard not to abandon the popu…

life on the road.... OR... what websites don't tell you

In my boots on the 22nd of August 2006, anybody attempting to pass themselves off as even partially human would have found self-abuse an easy art form.

Yours truly finds himself in a new country, studying for a degree the name of which, when mentioned to the general public never fails to draw the creased eyebrow and the puzzled frown followed by the "umm...cool... but what is it ?" As if that were not enough, I've just been informed by my academic adviser in a cheerfully manner that bordered on the vulgar, that I wont be receiving any financial aid this semester. Not content with this bit of blight, I've also been summarily informed by the very same still cheerful personage that I will be taking extra courses this semester as well, that will not count toward my final degree. Yes, yes, on cue I oblige with the double take as well as "what the... why the...". You, astute reader must have pictured the scene by now. Not what I'd consider the most warm welcom…

unto the breach...

For those of you who think that this blog in general, is about colourful lyrics, prepare to be disappointed. As for anyone who recognized it as a take on W. Blake's work, there's no real need to get into enthusiastic high-fives or self-congratulatory sentiments ... but feel free to do so if you need a little ego boost.

All enthusiastic about starting a blog, based on a few amusing\interesting samples written by supposed friends, but at this juncture, I have just 2 words - writer's block. Not that I am in competition with the chaps who wrote any of the historic the epics...pick one... but even a passable limerick seems to be beyond the realms of possibility. Which is strange, considering the numerous scapes and situations I get into, a rich vein of amusing tales as friends will testify. Why the reluctance then ? It possibly may have something to do with the thought at the back of my mind that I have enough assignments to do today that I am not so artfully avoiding by ramblin…