Wednesday, December 30

Heart like a wheel

Q 1: Why have I never written a New Year's eve post before ?

A: I was too busy bringing in the New Year to bother.

I did not mean to do a post on it this year, but it's another slow day at work (shocker!!), the Eng-SA test is over & Google Reader tells me stubbornly that no one is going to write anything today. So, well...

Q 2: How was I going to go about it ?

A: The easy approach would have been to write a short description of 31st Dec 07 & 08 & compare them to 2009. Whoop-de-do & all, but it would have been a futile exercise. Or rather, pointless because I gain nothing from it & you, the kindly suffering reader, would have muttered darkly about unnecessary revisions & heaven forbid, redundancy.

Instead, I went back to the posts I wrote this year for ideas. Now, just to keep you lot from falling asleep, I've conjured a set of visuals to explain the whole deal. I am really bad at art, so if you don't like it or don't appreciate it, jog on.

2009 Graph of Emotions


2009 Career Graph
2009 Social Graph
That sorts everything out rather lucidly, no ?

While I've given my sense of humour a rest this year, the melancholic side of me seems to have gone into hyper-drive. Less posts have been churned out in 2009 as well, but I like to think the quality of writing has picked up a smidgeon. New styles & themes were explored (sadly, only as regards writing... heh) & I'm okay with the results.

A year of shake-ups, of affirmation of ancient fears, a year of hesitation & one of... resignation, perhaps ? 2009 has been a year of existing in that purgatory between being sure & unsure of the world around me.

Ambivalent.

Yes, it has been that kind of year.

Cheers all.

Song for the moment: Aanewala pal - Kishore Kumar

Wednesday, December 23

Age of innocence

Her untidy, muddy-brown tresses, the latest pixie rage, served to compliment the dusky hue of her skin. On anyone else, the turmeric-yellow top would have clashed with the skin; on her it seemed subjugated by some quiet confidence. The red calf-length skirt with plenty of mirror-work swished too & fro, the blue sandals demurely completing the ensemble. She was pretty; her eyes, nose & mouth conspiring to project a picture of childish wonder & amusement. Around her, the crowds swirled & ebbed but she looked steadily at one man.

At first glance, his clothes, shoes & weary demeanour shouted 'casual labourer'. Another look might just suggest something better... a low-pay clerk at a small, dusty office perhaps. The faded blue checked shirt, the grey trousers & scruffy black boots covered him with a familiarity that suggested they had been doing so forever. His hair, slicked back with the help of much oil, was black, yet white had begun to touch the roots. The face was craggy but managed to suggest a kindly pride dulled by tiredness.

The two of them eased their way through the throng even as purple dusk spread her wings across the sky. She held his hand even as he sauntered on, seemingly oblivious of her fingers twirling in his. Together they made their way to a bench that was already occupied by two other men. He sat down without a word. She stood in front of him for a moment, swaying gently on her heels, contemplating. With the grace of an autumn leaf in the wind, she slipped into his lap. It was done so naturally that no one looked. People passing the bench did not even glance at them with that pseudo-voyeuristic delight one sees otherwise. Not a word was said between she & he. They continued to sit & watch & mull over their own worlds.

The young man who had been watching them all this while, continued to watch. He was waiting for something to happen. Surely they would not continue to sit there all night ? He wasn't going to wait around to find out, that was for sure. For now, he waited, his foot tapping to the music on his mp3 player.

It happened.

He heard two whooshing sounds & people began to run. Through the music, he could hear yells & screams. And her voice crying out...

"बाबा बघा ! दोन-दोन ट्रेन आली आहे !" (Dad look! Two trains have arrived!)

The two of them got on the train heading to VT. The watcher got on the train to Andheri.

Bandra station was left behind.


Song for the moment:
I want to hold your hand - The Beatles

Sunday, December 13

Paper cuts

It was the first free-flowing laugh he'd heard in some time. Even without putting a mouth, a face or crinkly eyes to it, he was envious. And instantly amused at his envy. Had things reached such a nadir that he was jealous of a stranger's happiness ?

Shuffling through the quiet, familiar bylane, the suddenness of that rippling sound had startled him. He was contemplating his Osho's with some vexation as they were just 'that' annoying bit too big for his feet. Shoes never seemed to fit him well, a fact consistent with the rest of his clothing. His body gave the impression of having given up on growing as a thankless task, leaving him to struggle along in clothes that were too big or too small & shoes that were too tight or gave the impression of clown feet. The Osho's though admittedly comfortable, were no better & forced him to move like an arthritic tortoise contemplating it's life with dissatisfaction.

As a force of habit or perhaps to avoid the idea of his lurching gait, his mind wandered along a different path, but one he'd been on before; change. He'd attended a wedding the evening before & found it interesting that he could not picture his friends any differently after the ceremony. To him, it seemed like they had moved on from being casual daters to people just more committed to each other. Marriage ceremonies did not signify the occurrence of anything special to him, unlike in childhood. Back then, there was something solemn & urgent in the air, almost like being in the eye of a hurricane & being unaware of it. As a child, he had viewed weddings as grand, social occasions with a singular event - the actual moment of marriage. Now, being an adult, he was aware of a lot of the back-stories; the gossip, the heartache & the bitten lip, the planning, the deliberate steps & decisions people took... even the blossoming love story, if that be the case. The magician's trick had been explained & no longer seemed extraordinary.

He was making his way back from an old haven in Hong Kong lane & change had caressed that corner of the city also. It used to be impossible for him to leave without at least one book in hand. This day, followed by the disinterested eyes of the owner's crony he had found nothing. He had found nothing on his last four visits. As his back turned on the shelves of the 'latest rages' without a farewell glance, he swallowed the bitterness. Magic was gone from here as well, not deconstructed but fading away. Beauty replaced by convenience.

He turned at the corner & saw her. Resting against a concrete post, she was in classic Puneri winter attire; sari, sweater over it & a hanky tied around her head, protecting her ears from the cold. Except that winters in the city were no longer cold. He could hear her saying something as he approached, heard her laugh again & not finding anyone else around, assumed that she had one of those hands-free gizmos. A heartbeat later, he understood. She was mentally ill. Then, he saw where she had chosen to rest.

It had once been part of a gate-post, the start of a wild garden leading to a house with a small central lobby & to shaded rooms with two cane chairs that defined comfort. A house that meant something intangible to a great many people now scattered around India. Walls & spaces that were valued when they stood & were were now priceless when only the mind's eye could see them. Change had taken the house away, but even the last remaining piece could still make someone laugh without paying for it.

Change was not invincible.

But it was merciless.

Song for the moment: Blowin' in the wind - Bob Dylan

P.S: This is not an argument against change, just a slice of the opinion pie.

Wednesday, December 9

Slim slow slider

At work, there is a large window behind & diagonal to where I sit. From my seat, turning slightly to the right I can see the fawn coloured guard tower of the American School of Bombay through this window.

I see the guard in his chair facing away from the setting sun. He is sitting in one of those simple black plastic chairs with stainless steel legs. The chair rests close to the metal pipes that pass for railings & his left arm lies extended on the first pipe.

The guard is gently rocking back & forth in his chair. Again & again. Just to break the rhythm, he tilts sideways. His hands now cradle his neck as he bends forward, allowing his spine to stretch. And he continues to roll gently, now being practically unaware of his own movement.

The view of the world from the tower is insignificant & I should know. I have almost the same view. I feel a strange kinship with this man who sits less than 30 metres from me and does not know I exist.

It takes a moment but I understand why, eventually. I close the drapes & turn away, a luxury he does not have.

Right now, I can sit at a desk typing these words & he can sit on a black plastic chair with an insignificant view.

But we both see only dead-ends.

Song for the moment: The Pretender - Foo Fighters

P.S: Anyone out there know of any openings in Editing / Publishing / Writing with decent pay, in Bombay, let me know.

Monday, December 7

Cover down, break through

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live - H.D Thoreau

Twice now, I have heard this quoted; in twilight after a game of cricket in Pune & at a Bandra pub this weekend. To me, the essence of it has become the proverbial pebble in the mental shoe. You do not know how it got there, between the pad of the 1st & 2nd toe. It is discomforting & irritating. You want to take the shoe off, shake it violently & watch with an almost evil glee as the innocuous object flies out into the distance. But you don't. In the recesses of your mind, you wish the pebble would make it's way out just as it made it's way in. Nudging this is the certainty that it will not. More often than not you continue walking, resigning yourself to temporarily suffering it. It is a familiar approach to you anyway. After a while, the discomfort becomes a part of your shoe, your gait.

The following is my attempt to take the shoe off.

I have spent this weekend thinking about the above idea. My initial instinct was to concur. If I had, perhaps this blog would have stayed silent for a long time, maybe forever. Not catastrophic in itself, but it could have led to a domino effect on other areas of my life. However, what it did result in was some serious thought & this post. It is not a refutation, A. This train of thought flagged off as I saw the bike roar off in the distance yesterday afternoon. And wondered why I did not just ride pillion. So bear with me.

I am 27. Or will be in a matter of weeks. My life so far has not been remarkable. It has had it's upheavals. Lots of them. There are precious few instances or occasions that have made me genuinely laugh or be glad that I was there, alive & well. More often than not, I have taken the safe / mundane approach, the result of some interestingly colourful upbringing. Like you, I have obsessed about the nature of life, railed against my existence & what it could and should amount to. Some posts have reflected that. For the longest time, caressing the present even, this state of affairs has pissed me off, sent many a futile rush of 'do something now' adrenalin coursing through me only to dissipate sheepishly.

I like roller-coasters. I like to cross a road in speeding traffic. I like the narrowing field of vision as my bike hits 80 km/h. I like to play the perfect bar on my saxophone. Take that perfect photograph. Where is this going ?

See, what I wanted to say in my previous post, but could not quite pull off is that there are very few moments when I am completely alive, aware, in control, helpless, fey & at peace, all at once. I think my readership will understand what I mean. An easily understandable example was the Goa trip I made in 2003. But these instances are exactly that - far & few. Do these mad & priceless moments become the reason for writing ? Do they permeate the text, the spirit of this blog ?

I don't think so.

Like I said, had I agreed with Thoreau's idea, this blog may have breathed its last. The blog would have been the first victim because it is one of the very few things that I take pride in. I write because I can; in part because I have a readership (and readership is valued, as this writer's post will tell you) but also because there are times & resultant posts that I know I am proud of. Not of the content itself, but that I can write. No one has yet told me otherwise.

I do not write thrilling tales. I do not write about many unreal, unbelievably mad moments. I have little to none of those. And I write about whatever I want, when I feel like I can.

But here's the thing. I personally do not believe that it is this quality about someone's post that brings me back to their blog. What does bring me back is Good writing; the ability to get across even the most innocuous of ideas or events with words that keep me riveted. Even a single sentence from a post that stays with me, makes that exercise a good one.

I sit down to write because I am living & I can.

Song for the moment: Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sunday, November 29

The day I tried to live

A bend in the road
I've said this before, but it bears repetition. A proclamation regarding motorbike trips invariably will be greeted by the furrowed brow & the questioning look. The correct answer (to avoid painful & pointless inquisitions, arguments, drama etc.) is to nod earnestly with an equally saintly grin. And then carry on with the trip.

On my most recent outing I discovered that while the destination is not terribly important, it would be nice if said destination did some brisk business in the beer-serving line. Harihareshwar-Srivardhan is nothing to write home about. The MTDC resort restaurant is passable at best.

But those seconds; unfolding into minutes & hours as you meander through the countryside. Seeing a lot, thinking of a whole lot more & remembering what you choose to. When you are outside of yourself and dimly aware of the brake, accelerator, gears & the road ahead while the rest of you is soaring through a different land altogether.

Where you do not know what you could experience around the very next curve...

You. The Bike. The Road.

Song for the moment: 24 - 25 - Kings of Convenience

Sunday, November 22

When the tigers broke free

A Sunday morning.

I am awake a lot earlier than is usual, even on a weekday. From my bed, swaddled as I am in my quilt, I turn on my side toward the window. Even without drawing open the curtain, I catch snatches of birdsong. And silence, if you can understand that. The steady, dull roar of traffic is absent but not for long.

Parting the corner just a bit, I am granted a framed view of the world. The sky is still silver with the plant in the window-sill darkly dominating everything else. I discover that I can see the exact same scene in b/w, if I close my eyelids a fraction and peer. I proceed to do so till the reverie is broken by the cuckoo clock cooing on the half hour. Compare that to the phone alarm that wakes me on most mornings. Sigh... and snuggle into the quilt even further for a fraction, then get out of bed.

Although against the idea, I start my trusty laptop to check on the football scores. Man U wins - hooray. Liverpool & Man C draw - chuckle, guffaw, etc.

I see a mail from one of the few who matter & write back... you know, one of those starting out being short & snappy but end up as four 6-line paragraphs about practically nothing. A proper mail after ages & I am strangely thrilled. Pan to a pensive me evaluating my current state of affairs, when a simple email is thrilling. Cat-lady type status in the making, me thinks.

My first cup of decent, hot morning coffee in heaven knows how long... & the smell of piping-hot dosas wafts by.

The saxophone resting in it's case, catches a glimpse of pale morning light & gleams elegantly.

It is winter.

I should move back here. To Pune.

Song for the moment: Take five - The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Tuesday, November 10

Animate - inanimate

When you have nothing to write about, it is slightly irritating but nothing a spoonful of patience & a weather eye cannot resolve eventually.

When you do not want to write at all, there is a problem.

I am in the throes of both & do not expect to be cured of either any time soon. This fact does not bother me either.

Imagine trying to run in a pool of tar. Or swimming in quicksand.

The feeling of existing so slowly that everything else seems to be on fast-forward.

Song for the moment: Boat Behind - Kings of Convenience

Friday, October 16

Stranger things have happened

Letting go of the past is hard... & some of it is burned in, indelible even with the tide of time washing over it. This we have to accept.

I've often wondered how hard is it to give up... flashes of inspiration or incandescently creative works that bind us to memories we're trying to let go of ?

Some time ago, I wrote for a girl. Words that were forged in the fires of my desire, passion, apprehension & even anger. Poems... single sentences... free verses that laid bare my dreams & inked crimson by the earnest ferocity of feeling. When I read them, and I read them over & over... I was astounded. Astounded that I was capable of writing something so evocative for someone. By far my most intense work.

Me in blue cursive.

Life, being indifferent to the vagaries of human hearts, carried on. For the longest time, I kept those pages locked away... the only reason I can offer for doing so was because of the capability that seemed to course through them.

Today, I unlocked the desk & took up that bundle in my hands. Took them out to the balcony.

Without a final glance, with no goodbyes & only night standing witness, I burnt every last page.

Watched fire trace the edges.

Watched wind lift glowing remains into the night sky.

Watched without regret.

It feels like a fitting day to say it...

Chapter closed

Song for the moment: The Lonely Shepherd - Gheorghe Zamfir

Monday, October 5

Something in the way

The sky.

That's what you keep your eyes fixed upon while standing at the corner, waiting for the bus at 6:15 am. People tend to look uniformly expressionless at such god-awful hours & more so if all they have to look forward to is a 4 hour bus journey. Today is no different. You are struck by the passengers' resemblance to milling sheep & are about to smirk.

Realization happens... you are part of the flock, in a way. The moment feels so grey.

So your glance drifts towards the heavens. As you walk out of your house into the lane this morning, it seems as if clouds heavy with the promise of rain hovered over the world. You wonder if the saxophone case is waterproof, take the easy way out & pray that a downpour does not answer the question. Even as you trudge toward the highway, the case has irritatingly begun to assert it's weight.

It feels like the morning light is introducing you to a new sky. It's not blue yet but it is no longer dark. Stragglers from last night's showers are scattered across the horizon & a crimson blush stains the white. Unbidden, you think of words like 'panoramic' & about the genius of Turner & Monet.

You have had an 'interesting' weekend. It wasn't supposed to be. You had looked forward to a long laze, hanging out with family or friends. Comfort in routine. Instead, you have been reminded of responsibilities & obligations that adulthood has thrust on your reluctant shoulders. Saturday evening felt like the tendrils of the past brushed up against the pillars of the present when cricket & conversation allowed you to confront the idea of change.

People would say you are not old enough to feel weary & jaded.

People say a lot of things.

The bus crawls past the pink-&-white buildings & you wait till the river has been crossed. Then, you draw the curtains & try to sleep.

The sky is just the sky again.

Song for the moment: Don't fear the reaper - Blue Oyster Cult

Sunday, September 27

High, low & in-between

You know... our problem is, we think too much

A sentiment I've heard hajaar times over & have personally expressed often during random walk-talk or pub sessions. The cavalcade ruefully shakes its collective head, smiles that tired "yes we know, but what to do now?" smile & carries on the conversation. The problem, as it were, seems to spring up an awful lot when we drift into the area of women, relationships & general risk-taking. But mostly women.

I am of the school who is generally accused of *ahem* 'thinking too much' & have been advised in no uncertain terms to chill the f%@k out. While I harbour no ambitions of living up to a 100, fit as a horse while being as mentally active as a colander, I do try to take the suggestion seriously so that I may see some grandchildren. Or, more realistically, the 'Ipod Telepathy'. On this weekend's bus trip to Pune, I brought along my mp3 player so that no stray thoughts would try and present themselves at the cranial doorstep. The bus driver (who may have something against passengers providing their own entertainment) had other ideas & proceeded to play 'Kal Kisne Dekha' at maximum volume. Now, while I am an admirer of Pearl Jam & Metallica, there is no way my puny headphones could compete with the audio system on the bus. My theory on the loudness is that it prevents any mortal with adequate hearing from falling asleep. Including the driver.

Trying to watch the movie was out of the question. Honestly, I tried. The chaps who came up with the picture avoided the sticky situation of a shady story by the simple expedient of not having a storyline at all. Indeed, from what I could make out, it was a montage of random people caught in various mysteriously vague expressions mouthing dialogues that Yorick's skull would have been ashamed to attempt. Stitched together with the customary song-dance sequences, the final ludicrous product was let loose on an unsuspecting but unsympathetic public.

With no books in hand either, it therefore was inevitable that thinking would happen...

Golden eyes, cats in the dark
Slink opposite me on the highway
All roads lead to Bombay
All bodies follow
Where do the spirits go ?

Does Purgatory have an expressway
& is it paved with good intentions ?

It is all very well to pontificate
On youth, chance & how these we profligate
Something we know, or not
Something we hide, or forget
Is to know if
We are chasing
Or are running away

At times, anger is good
It's blazing ferocity cleanses the detritus
False forgiveness, feigned friendship
Dampen the flame
But embers do not die
To those who preach about walking away, I say
Do not walk into the darkness
Without learning to light a fire
Or, accept that you need the embers
And live

(As you well know, thoughts come & go. The above are in verse to give some semblance of sense. If you understand or relate to any of it, then enjoy. Otherwise, well... I do think too much.)


Song for the moment: Indifference - Pearl Jam

Thursday, September 10

5 - Frail & Bedazzled

Even silence speaks - Hausa Proverb

The words I am about to type in this post are today just that. Words. They will tell you the facts but not allow you to understand the churning emotions that we waded through that long, black night. The facts are hair-raising enough so perhaps not all is lost.

To somehow heave your mind off it's bed, ready it begrudgingly to carry on in the face of physical anguish & then be told matter-of-factly that one bike rider cannot see in the dark... you know the trip just got interesting. And yet, incredible as it may seem to you, we carried on. The spirit of youth, that was us. How we did circumvent the minor hitch of Ketan's night-vision was -
  • Ashish riding ahead at a speed of 35 kmph at best.
  • I'm sitting behind him, with a ridiculously heavy bag on my shoulders.
  • Ketan is following us on his bike, even slower than us because... & get ready for this... he's not watching the road. No, what he's putting the strength of his ocular powers on is the tail-lamp on Ashish's bike.
  • Ashish concentrates on the road, avoiding potholes & trucks.
  • Ketan concentrates on the tail-light of Ashish's bike.
  • I concentrate on looking behind me once every minute, watching for Ketan's bike's headlamp.
  • Yes.
I see that scene sometimes, reader. Silhouettes of trees, of the bike behind me, of Ashish's helmet in front of me, a flash of the white road dividing strip... these are what remain to remind me of what we had done. Till today, I am incredulous.

At around 12:30 am, a sorrier bunch of individuals could not have puttered their way to the border. Where we found out that Ashish's bike did not have insurance papers. Which instantly put us on the shifty-eyed, shady smuggler-type list. The cops, realising that they were on to a good thing, asked us for every possible piece of identification. My British Council Library card (don't even ask) brought a hasty end to the night's amusement & we crossed over into Goa about 250 Rs. (Ashish, please clarify) lighter. Considering our हालत we should be forgiven for thinking that the journey was over.

You see, crossing the border does not mean the beach has kindly parked itself a stone's throw away. With more than a hint of desperation, your nose twitches for the smell of salt-air, your ear for the sighing of the sea. And the road goes on & on & on...

Eventually, we stumble into Calangute.

Ketan tells us that we are going to the Indian Ocean hotel. You will not be shocked when I reveal that we rode up & down Calangute village in the dead of night until even he was convinced that the hotel did not exist or more likely, had got up off it's foundations & had meandered away. The universe, having extracted its fun, arranged to have a Chinese tapri open, where divinity in human form directed us to a apartment-hotel in a quiet alley. We walked into our room & I put my head on the pillow. It was 2:00 am.

I awoke at 3:00 pm the following afternoon.

We had made it to Goa.

Somehow.

Song for the moment: Constant Motion - Dream Theater

Thursday, September 3

4 - No leaf clover

Long after adrenalin has given up on your body, it is dread-tainted thrill & stubbornness that burns in your veins, pushing you, your body & your mind way beyond their limits. Okay, I'm no authority on human physiology but that's what kept me going that day.

We'd been riding from 6:30 am on a hot October day. We had envisioned ourselves in Goa 12 hours later. So, at 6:30 pm, 12 hours later, we looked at each other's sunburned, weary faces & then slowly accepted where we were. In the middle of nowhere. The sun had set. There was NO ONE on the road & this is no exaggeration. Although we'd been making decent time over the day, the breaks brought on by the monstrously heavy bags had crept up on us. To now discover that our destination was at least 5 hours away... there was nothing to say, really. We rode on in silence. That is, until we got to some small decrepit town & halted for tea. It was bad tea, but that's not the point. It was 10 pm and sense ordered us to halt for the night & ride on the morrow.

At this point, I'd like to tell you something about Ashish, Ketan & I. (The aforementioned are free to dispute this if they want) Different people though we undoubtedly are, there is one point we do have in common. The vagaries of fate only make that gleam in the eye brighter, awakening the 'कीडा' (insect does not explain it satisfactorily). Outwardly, this manifests in a grin of impish, unholy glee.

That we were tired was beyond question.
That Goa was not a stone's throw away was indisputable.
That the highway was dangerous in itself was obvious.
That it was poorly lit, with trees cutting off any moonlight, made it scary.
That we could stop for the night was an option.
That we did not, is reality.

At the tea stall, what I remember about that discussion is that not one of us explicitly said we should stop. There was some hemming & hawing, some chin-scratching & some stretching of muscles beseeching for rest. And then there was a pause.

Until Ketan talked about why it was important for us to continue & how Goa was only a couple of hours away. We shrugged, thought about what we were doing & rode on into the pitch black.

What Ketan had failed to mention to us was that he was completely night-blind.

Song for the moment: Ghost riders in the sky - Johnny Cash

Tuesday, September 1

3 - Cool Confusion

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart

- Marcus Aurelius

Often, I wonder if that motorcycle-trip would evoke such strong emotion in us to this day, had it all gone according to 'plan'. The plan incidentally involved us sprawled lazily on a beach with a crate of Kings (a beer found only in Goa), watching the sunset. Which would have placed us on the beach around 6:30 pm.

We will never know.

At 2:00 pm we set off from Kolhapur, supposedly on our way to Goa, via the Amba Ghat. Now, over the years I've come to understand from experienced bikers that a 6th sense clears it's throat when something about the journey does not feel correct. Being the amateurs we were, that sense stayed stubbornly silent for about 2 hours. In that time, we made our way on to a highway that was rather bereft of vehicles & pedestrians. A very scenic ride, the highway cut through lush forest-land & meandered over heather covered hills. The superb lunch induced a pleasant soporific effect but any sleepiness was brushed away by a gentle breeze. What are popularly referred to as optimum riding conditions.

To this day I cannot explain why a faint stirring of unease seemed to ripple in the air when it did. We had been riding for over 2 hours & while there have been faint misgivings about the rather desolate look about the highway, we were also somewhat caught up in the scenery & the ride itself. I remember the moment clearly; we had come to a fork in the road, taken the right & stopped for a drink of water. A man strolled passed us, his limbs moving with the steady rhythm that suggested he'd been on the road for quite a while. On a whim, we asked him if we were on the correct road to Goa. He said we were on the correct road to Ratnagiri.

Whatever else Ashish, Ketan or I may be, we are not particularly slow in the head. If you look at the road map of Western Maharashtra, the road to Goa follows South from Kolhapur. We had been earnestly riding West. Even then, realising what had happened, we did not grasp the enormity of the distance that lay ahead. What we did was turn around, take the other road from the fork & hoped for the best. It was around 5:00 pm & the sun descended ever so slowly but surely toward the hills. Even as we rode on, we tracked it's position because one thought reverberated at the back of our minds - that we had been warned not to ride on the highways at night.

I could feel the urgency that had crept stealthily into our riding. We rode faster & a tad recklessly, all the while aware that dusk approached. Time & again, we calculated what our average speed had been, reassuring ourselves that we did not have to ride for much longer.

At twilight hour, in deepening gloom, 3 steadily tiring men on 2 motorcycles careened past a green signboard, looking out for one name. It said:

PANJIM - 350 km

Night fell.

Song for the moment: Highway Star - Deep Purple

Friday, August 28

2 - Endless, Nameless

It's hard to write about a journey made 6 years ago without getting sidetracked into nostalgia & painting whatever memories are left in a genial light. My reasons for wanting to make the trip were twofold; the need for a holiday & having done precious little in the reckless line of activity, a need to rectify that. The others had their reasons also, which are their own & it'd be pointless to wonder what those were. Suffice to say, the collective yearning of 3 very different guys metamorphosed into the events of one week.

In 'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', Pirsig speaks about how different the same journey can be when taken by motorcycle & by car. Very true. A car journey, while comfortable, seems to isolate you from the road. There is no such feeling on a bike. You are there, in the moment, for every kilometre that you travel, willing the wheels to eat away the space to your destination. The bike ride makes you conscious of every part of your body, especially when your back & posterior begin their indignant protest. I could have easily romanticised the experience for you, reader, but this is my version of events & I try to stay true.

For one, the initial thrill of embarking on the journey wore off after about 2 hours, to be replaced by the knowledge that our destination was a long way away. The road after Katraj Ghat was terrible, full of potholes & detours since the NH - 4 was being reconstructed as part of the Golden Quadrilateral. We did not have mp3 players to break the monotony of the grey landscape & resorted to crooning songs until our throats gave up the exercise as a bad job. Personally, the hardest thing to do is to stay awake, lulled as you are by the steady drone of the engine and the soporific scenery. After 11 am, the October sun beats down with a vengeance and the road begins to shimmer. I have a faint recollection of Ashish yelling my name out once with more than a tinge of alarm in his voice since I'd begun to noticeably list to the right.

To combat this, we took breaks ever so often. I tell you this without any shame; the feeling of stretching your legs & letting the blood flow to the nether padding is positively glorious. Naturally, the discomfort increases in magnitude as the hours go by & you find the riding time between breaks becoming shorter. It's all part of the experience. Around 12:30, about an hour from Kolhapur, we halted under the blessed shade of a few lonely trees bordering the road. There was an earnest discussion about hunger & the massacre of food that would take place at Kolhapur. The silence thereafter was heavy, leaving the crickets to pierce the fatigue with their cries. Not a soul in sight besides us. The road behind us was impassive & the one ahead was indifferent. Right then, in the middle of nowhere & out of nowhere, a man selling Kulfi appeared in front of us. Perhaps I was slightly stupefied by the heat but there would have been no surprise evinced had he unfurled wings & announced his divinity. We duly contributed enough money to ensure that his children would go to Harvard, ate our fill & carried on.

Lunch at Kolhapur was supposed to last half an hour at most. We did not move for about 2 hours. The superb food induced some reluctance in our gung-ho no doubt, but it was the sol kadhi that ultimately seduced us completely. Looking back, perhaps this was the universe's way of preparing us for what lay ahead.

Kolhapur onward, Ashish had been instructed to take the Amboli Ghat but there was some hesitancy on his part as to the veracity of the information. So, 3 innocent young men did something that made sure we will remember this journey till the day body & spirit part ways. We asked a waiter how to get to Goa via the Amboli Ghat. There was a pause, the shortest of pauses that suggests either hesitancy or recollection as the 3 worlds held their collective breath & watched. "अम्बोली घाट नाही, तुम्हाला अम्बा घाट घयाचय" (You have to take Amba Ghat, not Amboli Ghat).

We left Kolhapur at 2:00 pm... & rode on.

Song for the moment: La Partida - Gustavo Santaolalla

Wednesday, August 26

1 - For those about to rock

[A bit of flashback is about to commence. The month of October is almost here & that month in 2003 always brings back memories. I hope you enjoy it. I know I did.]

Once before on this blog, I have referred to the idea of 'cool'. The Wikipedia entry (and there is one, which is delightful) on the topic is extensive and an interesting read even. At the end of the day (or for clarity's sake), the point I'm trying to make, dear reader, is that I am not, have never been & will never be, COOL.

Which, if you've followed this blog over the last couple of years, should have suggested itself to you anyway. One does not take liberties with anticipating intelligence, however, so the shameful fact or dirty linen if you prefer, has to be aired loud and clear. Not the linen. That's a similie. Haan...

Why this chest-beating confession, you ask ? Because, when Apocalypse happens & one's antecedents are looked over, even old Mephisto will have to admit that there was one little incident that would qualify in the permafrost category of coldness. I refer to a trip I took with 2 other dudes about 6 years ago. A motorcycle trip from Pune to Goa, to be precise.

Before you snigger, & you lot will snigger, let me quietly remind you that the NH - 4 wasn't always in the splendid condition it is today. That it is an effortless drive now is thanks to it being selected as part of the Golden Quadrilateral. When we took that trip, the highway was being worked upon. This is India... you've seen road-work right ? We understand each other clearly then.

The two gents in who's heads the idea for this trip germinated are Ashish & Ketan. Ashish then owned (and still does) a Yamaha RX-100. On cue, hearty applause from those in the know. Ketan owned a Splendor, which was a very nice bike also. Since this is a throwback to college, I have to say that I was a tad antisocial at the time. Also angsty. A bit. The guys in question would talk about the trip & I'd quietly ruminate on the snippets of information they were dispersing. Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and just asked if I could go along. Ashish was nice (or nonchalant) enough to acquiesce, which called for one of those mental victory jigs a-la Sir Alex when Man U score a goal. It was nice because I could not ride a motorbike back then. A state of affairs that was enough to allow Fate to take it's usual bite out of the collective posterior on offer later on the trip. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Then came the planning part. See, even as I type all this, I have to smile because if ever you needed proof of my naive lack of coolness, it's coming up. To look at the bag I finally finished packing, one would have concluded that I was attempting to repeat Phileas (or Phineas) Fogg's journey around the world. Putting it briefly, it was big & heavy. When I tell you that the others had packed similar bags, you will no doubt be mentally prepared to read me state that we changed our minds about the motorbikes & decided on a camel caravan.

We stuck with the motorbikes.

And the bags.

The night before the trip, apprehension & a barely containable excitement is churning in the pit of your stomach, making dinner a tricky affair to navigate. Post dinner, which was at Roopali on F.C road, the 3 of us were to head to Ashish's Aji's place, which was a couple of minutes up the same road. Ashish & I got on his bike, Ketan got on his & we left from Roopali.

10 seconds later, Ashish & I realise that we've lost Ketan.

On a straight road, with no turns.

Ahh, omens.

Song for the moment: You found me - The Fray

Monday, August 17

Let them talk

There is a school of thought that would quite likely be scandalised by the idea of intellectual discussions being held in a pub / bar. Impropriety and what have you. Folks like us (you know who you are) would counter with the notion that our intellectual pursuits occur only in pubs. That's when the cranial creases are watered... doused actually, & whatever is left of our neurons are firing on all cylinders, ablaze thanks to the tipple of choice. Mind you, I'm not advocating that this is the best way. It's just our way. Or my way, if any reader resents the liberty I've taken of assuming anything.

Not to keep tottering around the proverbial mulberry bush (why mulberry, I ask), the latest discussion touched on the dichotomy(?) of loving your work. That is, working the week for the sake of the cheque & engaging in your passion during the weekend OR striving to make your passion, your talent or a synonym of your choice the porker from which your bacon is carved. Right about now, if the thought of a nice ham-n-cheese sandwich has not taken over your senses, you may just be thinking about which of these categories you'd qualify. Some of you I know personally, so I think it'd be safe to assume your reaction being along the lines of "Pshaw!! This is a done-to-death, cat-skinning, horse-flogging excuse of a post. Next!" And I wouldn't blame you either. Sitting as you are, with various nifty MS Office docs open, projecting yourself as the very paragon of honest labour, I suppose the answer to which side you fall on is obvious. Or not. Who am I to predict the vagaries of our likes & dislikes ?

My fellow discusser understands the harsh realities of life & slaves away for 6 days at a job that does not drive him giddy with joy, makes bowls of moolah (he hasn't got to 'pot' status yet... or has. Muhahaha !!) to indulge his vicarious pleasures on the 7th. According to him, this state of affairs is satisfactory & the status quo will be maintained. Regardless of the fact that half the planet thinks he's a beast of a writer, mind you. On the other hand, I work in a job that's staid at best, know the importance of money & yet am of the opinion (a foolish one, I'm starting to think, but I blame Time) that life is only meaningful if Mammon glances benevolently toward the excuses that parade themselves as the end product of my 'talent'. Ahem. Yes...

Why I think like this I don't know. Call me a stubborn b*****d if you want but I've always been obsessed with the idea of living life in vibrant colour; a richness you may associate with the smell of freshly cut fruit on a warm spring day, with a thirst that's quenched by the sharp, cold bitterness of that first beer or the tang of THE filter coffee, the giddy comfort of butter-laced food on a cold day, of lying in the perfect hollow of a bed warmed by your body & the quilt enveloping you... Yes, I want to live like that & I am not stupid enough to think that one every moment will be like this. But I want to try to live at least the majority of what's left in this fashion, if for nothing else than the fact that there are things about us we cannot change, cannot help... and we've learned the hard way (is there any other) that we were dealt a tough hand in the endless card game.

If you've reached this sentence, thanks for reading. When enough foolhardiness has been accumulated, perhaps I shall wager all the chips on a talent I may or may not have. Until then, I shall believe in one life & live another, escaping every now & then into a flamboyant world that tantalizes every one of us on the horizon.

What about you ?

*Yes, this one is wordy & bordering on the contrite. No apologies.

** Many thanks to the discusser. The post hasn't come out as well as hoped but one has to make do.


Song for the moment: Everything in it's right place - Radiohead

Monday, August 3

Champagne Supernova

To Saturday, 2nd August 2009...

Something as innocuous

As

A fluttering piece of paper*

Escaping from the shirt pocket

Whips up a maelstrom

Fragmentary images

Imagined sounds

Light & dark

Belonging & knowing

A slice of paradise


Song for the moment: The Green Fairy / Swagger like us - T.I

* The paper was a bus ticket from Bombay to Pune for Friday, 31st July 2009.

Wednesday, July 29

Longfellow Serenade

Dear reader,

A conversation in a buzzing bar over a mug of beer got me thinking on today's theme; the writing of a letter. As with many of the shared contemplations I've had, we spoke about it for the sake of the flowing idea, the peculiarly gentle glee in being able to use what have commonly been referred to as 'big words' in actual conversation without having the threat of perplexity hanging in the air. Perhaps you have & enjoy these moments yourself. Mayhaps, you have debated the same theme ?

Nonetheless, I often ponder upon the march of time & technology that has left me regarding life with some ambiguity. I appreciate technology & how it has made living easier on many levels. I do not hanker for the b/w television nor for a computer with 16 MB RAM & the large floppy disk. I thank the heavens for air-conditioning & the photocopier. I use the internet a lot. The Dark Ages or in India's case, the years up to the 1990's, had their moment in the sun. But like a handful of people I know (know, I said. There's probably a boatload of you lot out there), there are some things I miss for their ability to remind me that I was a child once. Those large, box-type knobby radios for one. That delightful telephone with the rotating dial pad for another. Not having experienced a childhood that even remotely resembled either the Blyton or Wodehouse varieties, I'm not struck by a sense of nostalgia when I reminisce about those years. But I am at a loss to explain why the ticker feels a little hollow and the shoulders a tad more weary when I catch a glimpse of memorabilia that has quietly faded away.

I want to ask you - can you remember the last personal letter you wrote ? Not typed. Think back to crisp white notepads with those reddish-maroon ruled lines. To a certain nervousness... or was it hesitancy... as you sharpened the pencil or filled the pen with Camel blue ink. That metallic smell wafting out of the ink bottle or that of the wood shavings. Perhaps you unconsciously stuck the tip of your tongue out as you began to give life to those blank spaces, telling your story to someone else. Someone who meant enough for you to write them. To eventually feeling a slight pain in your hand, only to find that you've written over five pages of vivid yet tragicomically ordinary descriptions. To being confused about whether to end with 'yours faithfully, yours truly, yours sincerely, love...' and having to look up letter writing in the Wren & Martin.

To worrying about whether you've attached the right amount of postage ?

When was the last time you received an envelope with sheets of writing addressed to you ? Perhaps the writer liked using scented paper. Perhaps they included photographs. Perhaps they knew you were something of a philatelist & attached exotic stamps ? When did a sheet of paper start with 'Dear (your name)', meaning it was for you & you alone, letting you delight in a rare fragment of privacy in a public home.

I write to no one because I do not know their exact address. I no longer read names of funny sounding streets & cities and dream about what these places would be like. There is no longer any need for me to look in the mail box.

One moves with the times, but the tendrils of the past often reach out and brush up against memory. Against an aching longing. Against a loss of identity.

Not having written a letter to anyone in years, I find that I have written one to you. Not in the way I wanted to but perhaps with more affection than other avenues would allow.

With warm regards,

Me.

Song for the moment: Video killed the radio star - Buggles

Wednesday, July 22

Everlong

In the greater scheme of things, 3 years probably means very little. When you find yourself mentally rewinding through the last 3 years however, perhaps the burden of time hangs heavier. Why has this come up ?

Not being around for the last 3 monsoon seasons, I'd almost forgotten why we're obsessed with the rains. Those who care enough have a check list of things to experience, gleefully cross off items one by one. Gastronomically, there's a bounty of items that's tied to our memories of rain. मक्का, चाय, भजिया, पकोडे, समोसे, दोसा-साम्बार ... the list of steaming hot tangy & spicy food that seduces the palate through the length & breath of India in the rain is quite likely endless.

If you are from Pune however, there's something you may just have experienced in your teens and college years. And are quite likely hankering for now, as you stare at the glinting droplets of water, the gentle roar of rain and the emerald newness of the leaves. I refer to biking in the rain.

Yes, I know you grinned.

The memory of riding your bike in the rain is something you will never forget... especially if you are from Pune, since biking is something we just do. Like eating or sleeping. Going to college in rain meant either that you wanted to get to Fergusson and spend the rest of the day drinking chai and hanging around campus or F.C road or that you... well... heck, you just wanted to get out of the house. For years, I did the commute on my Kinetic Honda.

Now, those of you in the know are aware of the Kinetic's reputation in the rain. The wheels seem to develop a mind of their own & agree with the brakes that the rider's life is rather boring and must be made umm... interesting. You've either personally experienced or seen the infamous Kinetic-skid. A bike skid is nothing nice, but Punekars & especially Kinetic owners have become rather phlegmatic about it. A greenhorn, properly horrified, will comment on how unsafe the roads are in the rains only to be greeted with a look that is quizzical or scornful. Quite likely, the greenhorn will be told that they have no idea what they're talking about and to desist before someone makes pointedly sarcastic remarks on intelligence and the lack of it. There's a method to us & our madness, you see.

I've missed the last 3 monsoons for a variety of reasons. I've missed my bike. Now I live in Bombay, where the rain culture is something else altogether. I like that too. Yet...

I'm in Pune on work. It's raining. I have to navigate quite a stretch of the NH-4 for this work.

I know my bike. I know what it's capable of. I know to respect it's qualities & limitations.
अंदाज़ it's called I believe.

I'm on the road... the rain is drumming against my helmet and I can see very little. Just a blur of the vehicles... the spaces between them. I can feel the droplets like needle points against my chest. I open the throttle... gently. Let the bike get used to the splendidness of the road. Steadily increase speed. There's a slight gap in the visor & I can hear the whistle of the wind. I cut my way through the vehicles & it feels like they are standing still. The speedometer needle indicates that the speed has hit 70 kmph.

The moment happens.

Framed between sky & earth,
Embraced by the rain,
I am alone.
I am soaring.

Song for the moment: Original Fire - Audioslave

Tuesday, July 7

Man in the box

Reader, I type this post with a strong control of my considerable command over invective. Amravati, that odious spit of land in north Maharashtra was visited again this weekend. That's right, this weekend. The district coordinator for our project there, a creature who quite likely is channelling Judas, Benedict Arnold & any other traitor you'd choose, specified the weekend for ISO analysis. The last week was no picnic at work either, so my mood on Friday evening as I awaited the train at Dadar was one of thunderstorm proportions. Not helping my mood any was the ISO consultant.

A boatload of people either hate or love their jobs. But I have not yet met anyone who's job is his philosophy and vice versa. Except for the ISO dude. This specimen has to be met to be believed. I say met because by sight he probably resembles some jolly Santa in his middle age. You know, before the white hair, ho-hos and the reindeer... Once this dude starts talking however, stopping him is impossible. Believe me, I've tried. It's like trying to stop a break in the Khadakwasla dam with cellotape. Now, while no one will ever accuse me of above-average cranial activity, even I understood early on that I should not, under any and I mean ANY circumstance give this guy a chance to start preaching. I mean, if you think you could be dying, die. Don't ask this windbag for help. He qualifies as the reference to 'a fate worse than death'. Even so, being careful to the point of petrification, a man needs to breathe. Or move. During which time, some slight suggestion of sound may escape from you. That's all he needs to start off blabbering about how he knows the best method to do this, achieve that and whatnot. I'm just waiting for the day when this personage accosts some random unfortunate in the men's room and instructs him on how best to answer nature's call. Or perhaps break wind.

Anyway, my strategy when I've to accompany the town crier is to take a load of books, my mp3 player & enough batteries to comfortably power a city for 3 days. The moment we're on the train, I plug in the earphones, whip out the book and pointedly ignore him. Even this does not stop him tooting his horn every now and then, mind you. On this trip however, ISO-man, the dastardly district coordinator & Amravati itself came together to leave me... well, you know what they say - जब किस्मत ही गांडू, तोह क्या करेगा पंडू ?

First off, it was the weekend. Having to travel all night on Friday when I could have been otherwise employed was bad enough, but the fun does not end there. You see, to get to Amravati city and beyond, one has to hop off at a plague-spot called Badnera Junction. At 5:30 am. After which, a very sleepy, increasingly despondent blogger has to make it through the day listening to the coordinator spin tall tales about his efficient work & have ISO-dude counter him with suggestions about how to better himself. It's like the argumentative chess game from hell. The only difference being that in a chess game, both players have sort of a 50 - 50 chance of winning. But ISO-man is the Deep Blue in human avatar, so no ordinary mortal stands a chance. Someone hearing-defficient maybe, but no one else.

After 2 days of this brouhaha, if people were pious, truthful and all that, they'd admit that precious little actually got done. IF. We make our way back to Badnera Junction on Sunday evening & I don't know... the fates were trying to indicate that the fun wasn't over, I guess. Because it rained... poured like the rain of our dreams, venting nature's fury on an indifferent earth, accompanied by dark-grey skies & lightning bolts. I tell you, if a voice announced that the crack-o-doom and judgement day was upon us, I would have believed it. ISO-guy would no doubt have some ideas for nature on how to achieve a 'quality' Pralay, but that should surprise none of you by now. So, accompanied by this band-baaja, we get dropped off at the station at 8:00 pm, well in time for the 8:45 pm Samarasta 'Super-fast' express. Just as we're getting to the platform, a voice, which will probably haunt my dreams for years to come, announced prettily that the train would be late by 2 hours. I suppose it should have occured to someone to enquire against which snail the train's speed was being touted.

I reached for the earphones & book before she'd completed the announcement.

2 hours later, the same voice announces purposefully that the train is now delayed by 3:30 hours. I give up on the earphones & other paraphernalia and begin to pace. The stray dogs on the platform begin to give me looks of pity. Or scorn, I don't know... it was around 12:30 am. At about 12:45, just as I begin to draw in a deep breath to really let rip into life, the universe & everything else (to borrow a phrase), the train sneaks in, shamefacedly & shifty-eyed. At this juncture, I was ready to discover that Bogie A2 had been left back at Howrah & that we'd have to travel in the pantry car.

I reach Kurla around noon the next day, attempt to find a rickshaw & make the next blunder. I agree to share the rickshaw with ISO-man, a decision akin to allowing Bluebeard to commandeer your rowboat. About halfway to Santacruz, I gave up & began to contemplate an afterlife where I'd never have to run into anyone who's heard of ISO standards. Or at least, this pontificator. Who knows... perhaps he's dreaming of instructing the dudes up and downstairs on how to achieve efficiency.

Pah !!

Oh and just to round things off, a migraine came a-visiting yesterday evening.

Song for the moment: Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel

Sunday, June 14

Running on empty

Having written about a 100 something posts, you would think it would get easier. Just think the thoughts and the words will type themselves into something resembling a readable piece. You know others who do it. Of course, that does not happen. To you, that is.

Much as you'd like the blog to simply be a place for your thoughts, the random ideas that float in to your head and a landing pad for the times when ennui brings you crashing down, you are coherent enough to realize that you have expectations of yourself. That, having read good books by great writers, you would at least want to try to take a few tottering steps toward quality writing. You think about the number of drafts you've deleted because they did not have 'it' when you read & re-read them. Right there, the little guy with the sneering voice points out the mediocre ones that have made it past the 'publish post' point & you begin to wonder whether you would recognise quality writing if it waltzed in & punched you on the jaw. Just thinking about that makes you weary & pine for a pint (and more) in the right company.

You want to write about how nice the weekend has been. About the sheer brilliance of making it home without sweating for a change. About wolfing down dinner & heading over to a pal's on your bike. About how riding the bike is effortless because you are the only one who knows how to coax the best out of her, gently. About how you can ride at speed with a joy that threatens to spill over from your chest because you KNOW every dip, curve and pothole on the road. About how the night wind whips through your hair, seemingly celebrating with you. About how the VAT 69 on the rocks goes down oh so agreeably. As does the next one. And the next. About how you have your first night of unbroken sleep in ages. And how the breakfast at a non-descript spot in a nook of Deccan Gymkhana requires nothing more than a sigh.

You want to make the description of a cricket game in the evening read well, let the reader live each moment in your shoes. You want to write about the whispers of the evening breeze & a late summer evening blue sky that envelops you in a gladness for just being there in that moment. You yearn to paint a written picture of the sheer pleasantness of a swim at dusk followed by a piping hot, spicy meal. About how the night lulls you to slumber.

It amuses you in that typically twisted way that Sunday shimmers and disappears. That Sunday evening is a celebration of Nature coming to the party. That the very air seems to remind you that you don't live in Pune any more. You even smirk because the thought comes unbidden - maybe you wouldn't notice the sunset if you did live here. Then your shoulders drop... perhaps because that thought has hit too close to home.

You can 'see' yourself stumbling along sleepily on Monday morning. To leave.

But, even after a 100 posts, you find yourself unable to say it well.

And you wonder why.

Song for the moment: Don't speak - No Doubt

Friday, June 12

Eyes of the beholder

"You've lost weight" they say
In concern, not in congratulation.
Perhaps a slight twinge of envy, maybe
That they need must exercise
To achieve something similar.

He shrugs his bony shoulders
Smiles.
And wonders how one can feel both
Heaviness & emptiness
In one body.

"It must be love"...
"He must be pining"...
He is polite & will not shatter their illusions
But cannot help his amusement at the antithesis
For abhorrent anger will burn the flesh just as well.

Song for the moment: The last time - Janis Joplin

Tuesday, June 9

Goldfish bowl

It looked innocuous.
That was the truth.
It had his name, designation, office address etcetera.
Pretty consistent with what should be on it.
It was his very first business card too.
And yet, he could not escape the fact - it looked innocuous.

In that moment, it seemed to define him... the individual alphabets uniting to obstinately state what it was he did.

Or what he pretended to do.

Who he was on the day.

And who he wanted to be.

With a deep, weary sigh he wished he had not ordered so many of them.

Song for the moment: White rabbit - Jefferson Airplane

Tuesday, June 2

Holes to heaven

It was around 7:00 pm on a weekday as I entered the house. The hall lights were dimmed & the atmosphere was sombre... so heavy that I knew there'd been a stormy argument very recently. From the kitchen, came the sound of a knife rhythmically slicing through vegetables & hitting the cutting board. The clickety-clack of the computer keyboard could be heard faintly from my folks' bedroom. My strategy in such times was to quietly slink into my room to ensure I was not at the receiving end of any leftover angst. I know you've done that countless number of times too.

The stereo was playing a tape called 'Love at the Movies', a mix of romantic 70's & 80's movie songs. Not being at an age where one is terribly enthused by random people yodelling on about love, pain, loneliness or belonging, I barely paid any attention to the music. Just as I'd crossed the hall toward the passage to my room, the opening bars of this floated forth from the speakers.

I froze.

For, while I could identify the guitar part of the song, it was the other accompanying sound that reached into me, into the depths of my heart, making it feel heavy and light simultaneously... setting off sparklers in my head, letting me see rich colours pulsing in the dusk. This being a time before the internet was even heard of, I found out whatever I could about the song from the catalogue. And, for the very first time, I read the letters... took in the sound of the word... imagined the tune in my head as I spelt it out - s a x o p h o n e.

Mesmerised. That's what I was. I remember thinking that I finally knew what the soul would sound like.

I was 12 then. At first, thanks to a lack of knowledge and of course convenience, I heard the song again and again... to a point where my mum made me a copy of the tape to ensure the original would stay safe. I was satisfied by just listening to it. A few years later I was watching an episode of the Simpsons... remember the one where Homer is in the hospital and Lisa plays him a song on her saxophone ? At the exact moment she starts playing, I knew.

I had to play it too.

Today is supposed to be the day of my very first saxophone lesson. So much emotion, so many memories, too much, actually... is balanced on possibility.

Song for the moment: Turn the page - Bob Seger

Thursday, May 28

Right turn

How some people churn out posts & good ones at that with unfailing regularity, I will never know. I've tried it and the end result has always been something so malignant that the writer in me recoils at the very idea of something like that making it's way onto a public forum. Even today, I've tried to write up something suitable, on a number of themes, all of which have been flushed down the virtual commode almost as quickly as they were typed. At this juncture, if any bright beans among you wish to enquire how I'm spending time at work attempting to blog, desist.

When it comes to the whole dating-relationship-feelings shipwreck, I seem to have wised up in the last month. Part of that is down to the figurative roller-coaster ride I experienced. Amusingly enough, I got off the ride feeling nauseous and unsteady, swearing I'd never ever get on it again. But that roller-coaster is addictive... and as a friend of mine put it, no one asked me to get on in the first place. I suppose it would be better to view it as a watershed moment; understanding & more importantly, accepting that adulthood can be filled with moments like these reduces the whole dramatic tempest to a mill-pond. When I say wised up, I mean that I now know that people are selfish and allow for that to be a huge factor in any potential relationship. As an adult, you make adult choices...

After what seems like an eternity but what has typically been about 6 months, I may just have found a real live saxophone instructor in Bombay. After speaking to him, the thought did cross my mind that I ought to have picked a less expensive instrument to fall in love with. Like the triangle, for instance. The horn itself cost me a packet. Getting it into playing condition wasn't cheap either & now I shall have to part with quite a few doubloons to take lessons. Which, thankfully, I don't worry about so much, because I am at least able to pursue a passion. Not everyone is that lucky. Come to think of it, not everyone even thinks about what they're passionate about. Enough said, methinks.

Song for the moment: I feel a change comin' on - Bob Dylan

Friday, May 15

Doctor my eyes

Irony: A bunch of people meet up for a conference on preventing child labour. At 11:00 am, the tea is brought in by a 12 year old kid.

*
*
*
*
Guess who chortled ??

Yes, I don't belong in this line of work.

Song for the moment: Cast no shadow - Oasis

Monday, May 11

Man Overboard

The dashboard informs me today that this is my 100th post. When I started blogging, I was confident that the number of posts would not even get to 50 before I lost interest and shut this blog down. As expected, things did not work out quite like I'd thought.

Two years on from starting this blog, writing some good & some bad posts, I wanted this one to stand out; to be pleasant, to be funny, to have some trace of joy rather than angst, to subscribe to hope. I sit here, re-read that line & find that this post will have failed miserably on those counts. And for once, I realize that there is no comfort in routine, in predictable patterns.

A theme done to death is how children want to be adults and once they are, find that it is not as great as they'd imagined. Today I find that it's easier to think of oneself as an adult than be treated like one by others. True, childhood is not the cakewalk Enid Blyton would have us believe, but to understand that it generally is a precursor to the patterns of adulthood is also not something one realizes in time. We live, waiting for & expecting some innocuous, possibly whimsically charming rites of passage to mark our stepping over the threshold. And we continue to wait, all the while having a lurking suspicion that the twists and turns of childhood are present but no longer the same. No longer are the consequences light enough for us to just learn and move along. An old wound, opened often enough, will refuse to heal. And the older we get, the harder it is to recover, regardless of life's lessons and experiences.

Today, at this exact moment, I miss the unthinking loyalty that friends exhibit as children. The fierce, unquestioned support for each other, regardless of whether we are right or wrong. The readiness to take up cudgels (literal or figurative) on behalf of a friend who cannot. As adults, we rationalize. I'm not suggesting here that some readers did not do that as kids... but c'mon. We went with our gut back then... and the gut told us that it takes two to play a game of cricket.

As adults, even with friends, we want to know the other side of the story. Even the Neanderthals among us are dimly aware that another side exists. While we lend a ready ear to a friend's woes, we want to know the reasons behind why X got screwed over by Y, whether Y was in the right, if X even has a case to argue for.

Typing this today, feeling what I am, having lived the last week, I know I have friends. Those who will go out of their way to help me, aware that I would do the same. But I want one who will take up the cudgel for me without thinking. And just like that I know there will not be one.

We are all adults. And in some battles, alone.

Song for the moment: Tequila Sunrise - The Eagles

Update: I do have one friend who will take up the cudgel.

Thursday, May 7

The hardest part

As suggested to me by a bloke in foreign parts, I'm writing about it. Somewhat.


Over the last week, I’ve found out firsthand, the literal, effectively demonstrated (on me, that is) meaning of a lot of phrases I viewed before as hackneyed or exaggerated. And trust me when I say this – one is much better off viewing the words ‘heavy heart’ as hackneyed. Especially if the heart is yours.


I’ve been given a crash course in understanding why ‘timing is everything’ isn’t something to be bandied about casually like say ‘winning is everything’. If winning were everything, then an awful lot of poor sods out there would be nothing. Including yours truly. But timing really is everything. Case in point – The one week… the ONE week where I needed my friends to be around so that I could get inebriated, smashed, sloshed and in case the point is not clear yet, completely drunk, these fine gents have both toddled off on holiday at the same time. I know these people. In their line of work, holidays are far and few so it’s rather a bitch to not even have one of them around to just sit, nod his head wisely, sympathise, empathise, buy a few rounds, etcetera. My wanting to go out on the town with Bacchus has nothing to do with the ‘heavy heart’ business of course.


So anyway, finding the paddock empty, I’ve gone ahead and resolved to stay away from the stuff that cheers & inebriates for the next month and a half.


I know, I know. Because.


Song for the moment: Low man's lyric - Metallica

Wednesday, May 6

Wake up and smell the coffee

L: ... make you feel cool. And hey! I met you... you are not cool.

W: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.

L: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in this world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls but we're smarter.

W: I can really see that now.

L: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love...

- Lester Bangs & William Miller in Almost Famous

Yes, we will smirk and dismiss stories & films. But some images, some moments of music, some lines or conversations will reach deep and relentlessly into the dark places and jolt something. If possible, our expressions will remain the same but... watch closely. Eyes will widen for an instant, the bottom lip will be chewed absently and that seating position will no longer be 'that' comfortable. Inevitably, we will search for those in the room that will know exactly what we know in that instant... and Mona Lisa smiles will be exchanged. Because we understand. Because we are helpless.

L: The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.

Face it... You just smiled.

Song for the moment: All I really want - Alanis Morissette

Tuesday, May 5

A minute longer

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me"



Yeah, right.

Song for the moment: Tuesday's gone - Metallica

Thursday, April 23

Goodbye Cold World

Folks, I have seen hell and let me tell you, no bright lights or tunnels made an appearance.

Amravati district in Eastern Maharashtra. Where the temperature on Tuesday was 45 degrees C without even trying. The district project coordinator we met on the day phlegmatically remarked that we were lucky since the temperature on Monday was 47 degrees. Uhuh.

I have experienced such heat only when I lived in the UAE. Even there, we had the good grace to exist in a cucoon of air-conditioning, only venturing outside in the evening. In Amravati, any work worth doing gets done between 5 - 10 am after which time only desperadoes and the suicidal are on the roads. And us of course... the intrepid cast of 'Social Workers sans Frontiers... & Brains'.

Just after we'd attacked a very good roadside dhaba & started on the visions of a beautiful siesta, one of the people I was touring with insisted on being taken for a drive.
At 2:30 pm.
Right.

In what I suspect was a fit of malevolence, the long-suffering coordinator decided to fulfill the chap's request by driving us to the hill-station of Chikhaldara. No doubt a normally delightlful journey, the winding roads and hairpin bends on the journey were then negotiated at a speed of around 65 kmph. This, the afternoon furnace (heat being too mild a word) along with the feeding frenzy that had just taken place ensured that one of the other fellows along on the trip thrice pleaded in a quietly determined tone for the vehicle to be stopped. After which, the lunch, mid-morning snack and breakfast proceeded to decorate the landscape in a fashion similar to Jackson Pollock's work.

Needless to say, I could not wait to get out of there. For one, I had begun to have out-of-body experiences while being wide awake. I think. For another, missing the train would mean waiting at Amravati for another 24 hours, during which time this blogger would have been 'well done' in the steak terminology. On a side note, if there is one thing I hate with a passion, it is the summer sun. My dream is to live in some cold, blustery port city in the far north where days of sunlight are a rarity & hence welcomed. Anyway, while waiting at the station, I received a call from my boss. Apparently we've landed a new project on preventing child labour. I will be coordinating (at least in name) this project, quite likely meaning monthly visits to the district where the work will be undertaken.

The district selected for the work to commence ? Amravati.

Song for the moment: Burn - Deep Purple

Wednesday, April 15

No rest for the wicked

Readers, the somewhat short hiatus from posting can be traced to a few things. For one, I recently moved house (a nice 1 BHK in Santacruz) and the tandaav that goes along with instigating said move left me wishing for nothing more than an endless row of the chilled stuff... and some sort of self-respecting body metabolism that doesn't scream "double chin & beer belly is happening" every time I drink a few sips. A few sips, mind. Sigh....

Also, for reasons unbeknowst to me, I've been assigned the chore of accompanying some consultant chap as he meanders around the NGO's project offices around Maharashtra. ISO certification or some such nonsense. Since my responsibilities in this matter have so far involved doodling on the note pad & valiantly avoiding the urge to catch up on forty winks at the table, you can safely assume that your lives are more exciting. Except if you are someone who gets paid to watch paint dry on the walls, maybe. To cut a short story even shorter, self mooches around Dadar station at odd hours with bag in hand, hoping to miss the trains but never actually working up the nads to ensure that this happy eventuality occurs. Latur, Osmanabad, Amravati and Mahad are left on the agenda for the month... & I'm thinking even jolly old Julius wouldn't have shimmied around this much on his Roman conquests. But alea jacta est & whatnot.

In the midst of this largely self-invented melodrama, I have still not managed to find a saxophone teacher. My illusions of Bandra as a cool place chock-full of musicians, is fast evaporating to be replaced by an image of how my dear sax will most likely end up being used as a vase. Or some vital component of an Ikebana arrangement. As if these slings and arrows were not enough, getting to work from Santacruz is becoming a tricky issue. From Bandra, it was all cut and dry; walk to station, cross over to East, take bus, get to work. Reverse on the way home. From Santacruz, the instruction manual now reads - walk to station, wait in line to buy ticket (yes, I know a season pass is available... %@#@ you too !!), curse idiot in line who thinks the ticket window is some sort of confessional booth, get ticket, rush to appropriate platform, jump into running train, get off at Bandra (west, that is), cross over to east, jump into bus, get to work. Whether I want to go back from work is now up for debate.

All of these travails pale in comparison to what occurred at lunch today. I have, through extensive use of charm and etiquette, ensured that left-over pohe from breakfast (whenever made) will be reserved for me at lunch. Today, humming a catchy tune, I made my way to the canteen, only to be told that the pohe was over. For a second, the birds ceased to chirp, dark clouds hovered & the brow was furrowed. The regular menu was begrudgingly accepted and I proceeded to eat. Only to see the walrus (the colleague who sits next to me at work... don't ask) happily masticating away on what suspiciously looked like the missing pohe. My missing pohe. Another colleague confirmed my suspicions and the canteen was silenced for an instant by a blood-curdling war cry.

Big time vengeance is assured, reader.

Song for the moment: Bleeding me - Metallica