Saturday, July 28

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 blown off by Clint Eastwood at the start of the movie. It's all well and good for Clint, who proves 2 things with one bullet; the gun works & that he's the epitome of 'cool'. The desperado on the other hand...

In the afternoon of that fateful day, I went back to the dept. with the application fees and the necessary paperwork. I wouldn't go so far as to say there was a song in my heart and a tune on my lips and all that, but my spirits were definitely on the rise. The HOD, in a diabolical turn of events calmly announced that there were no seats available at the time. Down came the spirits. In fact, given that I became very familiar with the outside of those swing doors over the next month, all manner of spirits went down. Five times... I visited that dept. five times over the next month hoping to persuade the main man to admit me but to no avail. I found myself shown out of his office so fast each time that I almost met myself coming in.

To cut a long story short, in true filmy style, I told myself that the sixth time would be the last time... I had lost hope and run out of patience and alcohol. Outside those cursed doors, I took a deep breath, told the universe it owed me one and entered the room.

The HOD looked at me for the longest second possible and..... asked me to sit down.

The next day, I paid the semester fees and made my way to the dept. to check out my subjects for the 1st semester. On the notice board, I browsed through the time-table and noted with admiration that there were 10 different papers on offer for the 1st semester itself. "Not bad" I thought, "there's so much variety and choice. This is an amazing dept.". I asked a professor who was passing by how were we to make our choices out of the 10 available. Casually and laconically she says - "there's no choice".

Eh ?? What ??

Next: George, Elvis and old world monkeys.

Friday, July 27

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 and another place, when I was similarly ensconced on my Kinetic at the University of Pune, or as it's better known, Univ.

Words are not adequate to describe how comfortable the Kinetic is for lounging. The spare wheel is perfectly placed to be used as a pillow and the seat is a good enough mattress. Hang your legs over the handles and there you have it. Which was exactly the position I was in during those hot afternoons when even the bees are buzzing about sleepily and the general atmosphere is one of laziness. The trees outside the Anthropology Department, where I took my Master's degree, provided the needed shade and the sun shining through the dark green foliage is what I recollect when I contemplate this cheap imitation of an empty canvas above me now.

When I look back, me doing anthropology was not something even Nostradamus on his best day could have foreseen. I had just finished my B.A in Psychology and while there had been a considerable hiccup in my personal life at the time, I was all set to take my M.A in Psychology at the Univ. The tiny flaw in this master-plan was that the Dept. of Psychology at the Univ didn't want me. At all. Okay, so maybe it wasn't such a tiny flaw after all but well... 'the best laid plan of mice and men...' and all that. The thing was, there were 26 students who were admitted for the M.A programme out of which only 10 were admitted from the open category. So, one had to have exceptional marks to get in as a General Category student. I did not. When I first met one of the professors there, he told me a guy hadn't been admitted to the department in the General category in 9 years. I was effectively playing the part of the snowflake in hell.

According to the prof. the last guy who had applied (and obviously not got in) had instead applied and been admitted to the Anthropology Department next door. Smiling and in a winning tone, he further said that this student now held the Royal Flush as far as the hand of Life was concerned. I, understandably was not reassured. Due to past experience, I suspected that the hand I'd be dealt would consist mainly of Aces and Eights and therefore forgot about the anthropology application idea. I was determined to & confident of doing psychology and nothing else.

2 weeks later, I gave in my application to the Anthropology Department chair. By then, the semester had already started and I was facing the prospect of doing an unimpressive psych course from a college which wasn't even in the city limits. The Anthropology dept. chair was naturally reluctant to accept my application since it was obvious that anthro was my second and blatantly desperate choice. But he looked through my application, said it was fine and asked me to come with the fees that afternoon.

Apparently, August has its own Ides. Who knew ?

Next: I go around the mulberry bush

For those ignorant of the playing cards analogy:

Royal Flush - the best hand in Poker, consisting of the Ace, King, Queen, Jack & 10 of one suit
Aces and Eights - the two-pair hand infamously referred to as the 'Deadman's Hand'

Saturday, July 21

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

Wednesday, July 18

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 'cutting-chai' with his acquaintances a little distance away.

I'm one of the those he speaks to. I've even shared that cutting-chai on occasions.

This infinitesimal space, crammed among its siblings, is lined with second hand books. Wall to wall except for the entrance of course. Books that no one will read any more. Books that no one will print any more. Books so tattered that no one can read them any more. Rare editions and cheap prints. Tales of long ago and others that are...well... porno. Books frayed at the edges, books well thumbed, books with spines as deeply lined as the wrinkles on an old man's face.

I cannot remember the first time I crossed its threshold and now I don't want to. The instant I enter, the sounds of the world outside melt away and I'm left in blissful silence. I've spent hours just sitting on the floor (no mean feat, mind you) and browsing through the tired and dusty stacks. Sometimes I get the funny feeling that 'they' are waiting with bated breath to see which one of them I'll pick this time. I've tried to leave empty-handed and failed spectacularly on each and every occasion. I've revisited my childhood by buying whole series of novels that were around long before Harry Potter was needed to enthuse people to read.

While I am there, my shoulders drop and the masks come off. There are no expectations. I flip through random pages and travel the world for free. I can dream with my eyes open and for a few moments, chase that unicorn named innocence.

Have you ever wondered why yellowed pages have that unforgettable, mesmerizing scent ? The answer isn't that romantic... and it's probably not fair to break the spell here.

It is my place of refuge.

CROSSWORDS ? Don't make me laugh.

Sunday, July 1

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 !


KZ: Your instincts will keep leading you towards new battles. It’s the only way you have.

The only way to become stronger.

Fight Ichigo !

If you want the power to control your enemy, take that sword in your hand and cut him down. That’s your only option.

That’s the road that continues in front of you and remains behind you !