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I'll see you in my dreams

There is a parable about holding a fistful of sand. I'm not sure exactly how it goes, but the moral was that the tighter you tried to hold on, the faster the sand spilled out.

I thought of something else in this context.

Sometimes, you hold on for so long that you forget why. You don't even realise your fist is clenched. When you do; when you eventually work up enough courage and open your hand, there will still be a few grains stuck in your palm. Those are regret, doubt, desire, sadness and... faint memories of the hope and possibility that made you pick up the sand in the first place.

The problem with sand of course is that you'll never successfully manage to dust off every grain.

Song for the moment:Slipping Away - Moby feat. Alison Moyet

She speaks American English

It's the time of the season, as the song goes, when relatives residing in foreign parts realise that the cure for homesickness is affordable and arrive like a mob of vultures to a carcass party. How else can you reasonably explain the fact that five different people have flown in within a week and made the pilgrimage to my grandma's place.

That doughty lady is of course, delighted and exasperated in equal measure. While she loves visitors, particularly family, and is of an age when every day is a gift, she certainly does not possess the equanimity or energy to juggle their various dietary and behavioural idiosyncrasies with her usual finesse. However, she perseveres.

Last night, this entire crew of NRIs met up at my uncle's place. I happened to drop by on my way home, and was immediately pulled into the jamboree. I'm pretty certain most extended families are as noisy as mine when meeting & catching up, in some cases, after almost 20 years. Like me, you'd expec…

Dumb

Good batsmen watch for the googly.

Great batsmen force spinners to bowl it.

And then there are those poor sods who suspect it is coming, dread it coming, see it coming and yet... stand dazed, frozen and helpless till the stumps shatter.

I understand shattered.

As in cricket, as in life. Practice makes perfect.   

Song for the moment:Failure - Kings of Convenience

A little sugar in my bowl

I'm no authority on this, but spending time with someone you like or have a crush on is similar to using cocaine*. Ok, please don't raise your eyebrows, go "Huh??" and leave the page. Read me out. 

Initially, you run into this person (let's say 'her') for a few seconds. It doesn't happen everyday. It may not even occur more than a couple of times a week. It also is NOT the result of your absolutely non-creepy engineered luck of seeing her at a distance and sort of, kind of dragging your feet in that direction. Still, the resultant joy is enough to last you throughout the day, though you don't really know why. 

Maybe because you're a hermit in these matters, your cranial & cardiac systems take a while to get going. But you aren't stupid and eventually put 2 and 2 together, realizing the fact that your somnolent heart does a vigorous rumba in her vicinity and that, lord help us, you may just be developing feelings. For this girl. Egad…

Femme Fatale

An allegorical tale

Today is the day. I will do it. I will ignore him. He will not get what he wants. I am strong. I am resolute. I will not acknowledge his presence. I will not look. I will not speak. I will not move. I will not even raise a hand. It doesn't matter if I starve. I can do without his food. He will not even have the satisfaction of knowing that I am hungry. It is a small price to pay, but he will get the message. I have pride. I have self-respect. I don't need him.

I am not a lab rat. I am a...

*Bell rings*

Damn it!

(Somewhere in heaven, Pavlov's dog is laughing at me.)

Song for the moment:I can't stand it - Eric Clapton

Land's end

I've never been enamored by technology. Not really been into smart phones, gaming consoles or whatever else caught the fancy of my peers over the years. Heck, I still use the laptop gifted to me 7 years ago. And it runs fine, thank you very much.

Which is why I've never been satisfactorily able to explain my desire to own an iPhone. I'd always dimly been aware of the brand but mainly because of the iPod. Like many others who's desires are/were heavier than the wallets, I've surfed through websites looking at iPods of various shapes & capacities with a mixture of longing and exasperation, discussed with friends and the voice in my head whether it made sense to own one, got to the 'check-out product' page before abruptly closing the tab, and so on and so forth. This was until last year.

While I was perfectly happy with my trusty Nokia phone, my friends slowly succumbed to the smartphone craze. I resisted as long as possible, often finding myself in situ…

Pumped up kicks

When friends engage in lamentation and brouhaha about turning 30, it is easier to go along with the general chest-beating, even if it is just a token gesture on your part, than to voice your private opinion that involve the words 'unnecessary drama' & 'overreaction'. Though it is difficult to accept change (and more than half the posts here rail against it), you eventually shrug (mentally perhaps) and carry on living your life.

The first thing that does ring in the march of time at a personal level, are changes to your body. Unless you're one of those lucky born-athlete bastards blessed with great metabolism and fantastic stamina, you're going to notice that your physique isn't what it used to be. Along with the thinning hairline (at least for guys this is the first sign), you begin to feel the love handles, the beer-gut and the gently suggestive curves of the faintest double chin. Activities you'd carry out without breaking sweat (figuratively al…

Fragments of time

At first glance, this is a shot of something so mundane that you would dismiss it as nothing. What do you see? A water tank, a broken, tarred patch speckled with eucalyptus leaves brought down by the wind & rain, a spade & a levelling plank in repose, and creeping up on these, a neat row of determined-looking cinder blocks. That's about it. Taken from the balcony of a house on the second floor, the shot can be construed as a common, artsy attempt in an Instagram-driven world. And you wouldn't be far wrong because it is an ordinary photograph of a very ordinary scene.

To a very few though, this is a watershed moment, frozen for all time. It is testament to the end of something.

For 21 years, this tar ground, framed by the tank, two buildings and a gate, has been a cricket pitch. You can see three neat, parallel lines painted on the tank wall, but that is a recent development. For the generous width of these stumps alone would have some 30 year old gents scoffing. Once…

Addicted

He wondered when his turn to bat would come.

He'd been waiting a while, more than an hour and it was making him uncomfortable in a guilty way. The longer he stayed in this quiet, comfortable room in the pavilion, the better it was for the team. And the team was everything. He'd said it so many times, at interviews and post-match presentations that it should have become a cliche... like that nonsense about some tracer bullet, but no, it became his mantra. He played for the team.

But he was a batsman, and deep down, in an ancient place, there had always been a spark of fiery joy when the two wickets fell. He had felt guilty about having this feeling, agonised about what it meant about him as a person and tried to kill it off by listening to music so loudly that someone would have to tap his shoulder to signal that it was his turn to bat. All he'd succeeded in doing was burying it under a pile of phenomenal records, performances and a spotless character, both on and off the …

Looking for my life

Punekars of a certain vintage and neighbourhood will share the twinge of sadness I felt when they hear that the venerable albeit shady Abhijeet Video Cassette Library has been replaced by a shop selling paints. For me, it was a milestone moment - of the fact that another Aundh landmark has joined the ever-growing dust heap of my childhood memories. Of a place, a city and an ethos that was very different 21 years ago.

In those far off pre-internet days, Abhijeet was part of the Aundh triumvirate of video cassette shops, alongside Sapphire in Sanewadi and Cosmos in Parihar Chouk. This was a time when cable tv truly was in its infancy. DD National was DD 1, Zee had only one channel and DD Metro was pretty watchable, particularly after 11 pm on Friday nights. Ahem. In this scenario, video cassette libraries were understandably popular. 

Sapphire was probably the best of them when seen through the spectacles of our middle-class values. The guy running the place (Sunny? from Assam) was fr…

No one like you

I was born to tell the truth. Maybe that's why she liked me.

She was a remarkable woman - smart, witty, tall and graceful, power oozing out of her every expression and gesture. A genuine beauty. But, like all rich, powerful and beautiful people, she needed constant reassurance. Her intelligence, good looks and status had isolated her and made her lonely. Her husband was constantly traveling; a real wheeler-dealer with a talent for mergers & acquisitions. His job became his life and she was just a trophy wife. She had no real friends. Except me.

In me, she found both reassurance and companionship. We spoke for hours. Rather, she spoke and I listened. I was good at that. All I wanted was to see her happy. She would talk to me about her hopes and fears, her love of children and her sadness when she couldn't have any. She would always end our conversations with the same question. And I would give her the same answer. I waited for the day she would finally realise just how bea…

Requiem for the Indifferent

How am I
supposed to work
to play and laugh
knowing what I know
burrowing into my head.

How am I
supposed to wake up with
the stunning, breathtaking shock
of 8 months ago
and
the agonizing emptiness of now.

How am I
supposed to reconcile
with the fact that distance
is not as painful
as proximity.

How am I
supposed to share
the same patch of sky
the same sun and moon
the same air and water
with you.

How am I
supposed to yet be unable to
share a glance or a smile
a greeting or a goodbye
a heartbeat or an hour
a touch or a caress.

How am I
supposed to accept
that there was no hope
when I can feel it
beat relentlessly, eternally.

How am I
supposed to stay stern
when even the very mention of you
forces a smile to rush from my heart
to my eyes.

How am I
supposed to live
knowing you
and knowing you
not knowing me.

How am I
supposed to come so close
from so far
and find myself
farther still. 

How am I supposed to survive the next 3 days?

Song for the moment:Sky & Sand - Paul & Fr…

Proletariat

How easy is it to abuse power?

Being Indian, we see the innocent trampled under the iron heel of what passes for government almost every day. In Mumbai, every minute. Being people with internet connections, and about 20 minutes a day when we're not on Twitter, FB or torrenting a movie, we read about it happening, overtly and covertly, all over the world. Unless we're the unfortunate sods getting fucked by fate and the machinations of the Man, it is only faintly affecting. Like trying to read by the light of a few stars.

Of course, we probably engage in it ourselves; in various subtle or knowing ways, with family, friends and random others. Then it becomes excusable, thanks to various nifty and self-assuring phrases that zoom through our craniums, so again, the effect is diluted.

So, if you know you're powerful, how easy is it to abuse power? 

From what I've seen over the last couple of weeks, not that hard. All it takes is the ability to enjoy being vindictive and t…

Warning Sign

The fear of being left behind is an instinctive feeling that first appears in childhood; we are in a unfamiliar, crowded place, entranced by the chaos of light and sound around us. It is only gradually that we realise that we don't know anyone we're seeing. Once the seed of that dread takes root, it flowers rapidly, killing off any joy we felt earlier and replacing that with a cold, heaviness in the pit of our stomach, a feeling that suffocates as each second ticks by. Then, out of the panic, we will see our loved one or hear them call. Relief will wash over us and life will go on but we'll never be rid of that all-consuming fear.

When colleagues announce their resignations, having secured better jobs, we'll have mixed feelings. Genuine gladness that their hard work, suffering, tenacity and talent have paid off, is often shaded by the familiar fear; That we're getting left behind. In this case, other feelings will join in. Inadequacy, self-doubt, ennui (apparent…

Just between us

*Fiction:

You're the only one I want to call. Because I love you.

In this fucked up, dysfunctional, empty, phone-swamped world, where no one has the decency to pick up their phones anymore, you will pick up. And your "Heyyy" will be genuine. Really genuine. Not the "I don't really want to talk to you, but what the heck, at least I can be polite and pretend" genuine. You really will be glad I called. That 'I' called. And when I do, you will pick up.

That's why I can talk to you.

With the others, it feels like a ruthless, "are we done yet?" act. I can feel their impatience through the line. Their boredom. Their absolute lack of interest or concern. It isn't important that I rarely call. That my actually making the effort to scroll through my contacts to hit their number, a gesture that takes almost no effort in the physical world, but costs oh-so-much to the mind and the soul... that effort is an irritation to the others.

They'…

Heart-shaped box*

He sat on the floor, with his back to the wall. The drawing room had no furniture apart from a television resting on a bookcase, because he did not require any.

In the breathless stillness, the smoke spire from the slow-burning cigarette resting on the pen stand to his left, sliced upward in a straight line. The glass on his right held two fingers of Glenfiddich.

Drag and sip. Drag and sip. In rhythm.

His brain told him cigarettes were bad for his lungs. His brain told him booze was bad for his liver. His heart stayed silent.

Slowly & steadily, the combination of the scotch and the cigarette was making him weak-kneed.

It was as good a substitute for being in love as any.

Song for the moment:Oh, me - Nirvana

*4 years in Bombay and counting

Goin' through the motions

The trains were delayed this morning.

Not the usual 5 minute inconvenience. I'm talking 30 minute, platform stacked 6 rows deep, people hanging onto people who are hanging on the door, passengers standing in the unique 'bugger the man ahead' formation (think about it) kind of crowded.

Somehow, I get to the office and check my mail and the job schedule, to find a stinking pile of what passes for work waiting. One of my clients wants a newsletter designed and copy-ready by 1 pm, while they're still giving galleys of the original information at noon. Information that has to be edited, rewritten, proofed and then sent to the art director, complete with snappy captions and whathaveyou. Information that is, at best, incoherent, and at worst, incomplete and incomprehensible. Which I point out to the long-suffering client servicing guy, who talks to the client, and is sent another document containing... the exact same information.

I'm still digesting this tripe, when ano…

Ricochet

You're at the threshold of the house, wiping your shoes on the mat. Of course you're nervous.

This isn't the first time you're entering a place, but entering a new place is always a little tricky. So you took a little extra care this time around. Made sure the week leading up to it was as stress-free as possible. Negotiated a few slippery spots and curves on the approach road with surprising dexterity. Tried to relax and stay loose as you walked up the front yard. Rotated your shoulders and released a little tension between the blades and your neck. Repeatedly wiped your palms on your trousers to get rid of the cool sweat beads. Gave up. Clenched your fist, let it hover on the door, and began wiping your shoes.

You knock. The door opens immediately and you step in. Tentatively, because its a new place. And then, steadier and more confidently, each tread followed by the next in a slow but rhythmic pattern. You see the door you want and begin walking a little faster, yo…