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Showing posts from 2009

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.



That …

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…

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 i…

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…

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 abo…

The day I tried to live

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…

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 f…

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

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…

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 nig…

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 themse…

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 power…

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 se…

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 & meand…

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 y…

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…

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. Rig…

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 t…

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 …

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 impo…

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 waltz…

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

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

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 f…

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 p…

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

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 prec…

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 …

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' comfort…

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, th…

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 e…