Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2014

Black Star

We follow the old laws.
An eye for an eye.
In his case, a life for a life. Only, he was special. Different.
There had always been something about him. A smell. A look. The shape of his face. We follow the old ways.
We recognise the signs. He was born to make trouble. To be trouble. I was present at his birth, like I was present at the others'.
He was not like the others. He did not cry. He would not make a sound.
He just stared. Even I, who had seen so many children, shuddered. That night, I made the blood sacrifice to our gods.
I looked into the fire to see his fate. What I saw, I could not comprehend. That is when I knew.
He would be the end of us. 18 years later, I looked into those eyes. Black. Blank. Cold. Lifeless, even in life. He had killed. That in itself was not unusual for us. We follow the old rules.
Death was part of life. And killing was the instrument of death. But. He had not killed an equal.
He had not killed in a fight.
He had not killed to survive. He had kille…

Just an illusion

On a recent evening, I found myself outside a house in one of Pune's older, fancier and leafier (mercifully) suburbs. Winter meant that it was well and truly dark by the time I reached the place accompanied by an old schoolmate, who complained incessantly about the cold weather. We had come to visit (hang out with, in our jolly modern lexicon) one of his close friends, a very tenuous connection for me.

Another old school friend was already there. As is usual in these situations, I kept to myself, happy to sip at some rum and water and listen in to the humorous bantering that still marked the conversations in this group. At some point, one of these guys, all of whom freelance, run their own companies or work with their fathers, pointed out how unusual it was for me to be in town on a weekday, which is when I told them about quitting. Their reactions were worth noting. The guy who didn't know me so well was lackadaisical about it but my 2 school friends, who have known me, in a…

Don't look now

For the chronically nostalgic, there may be nothing more shocking than being able to say "goodbye" and meaning it. Walking away without wistfully looking back. Yet, that's probably what is happening to me.

Yesterday, I visited my old workplace for an interview in the mainline department. Yes, the same place I once had a passing interest in a colleague and only later realised that she wasn't about to reciprocate. Considering the maelstrom of feelings at the time and, to be honest, for a long time after, I worried about seeing her again.

So imagine the amazement when I found I felt nothing. It feels strange even as I write these words. Sure, I didn't need any butterflies dancing an energetic salsa in my tummy while the heart did a drum solo and mind stepped out to a long lunch. But there wasn't even the weakest hint of my pulse quickening. When I walked out of there, it was with the knowledge that not only was the chapter closed, the book had been returned to …

Hit the road, Jack

The previous post was not titled in a moment of premonition.

But there has been a gap. A long pause between posts.

And my life.

January 2nd, 2014. Will I remember that day for the rest of my life? Probably not.

I've suffered my fair share of traumas and forgotten when they occurred, instead holding on to how they made me feel.

I'll probably remember the last 9 months as a benchmark for how I don't ever want to feel again.

It's a crazy world and people put themselves through crazy things for money.

I don't want to anymore.

Throughout the stress-filled days, empty nights and every frustration & rage-rich moment, I wondered when I'd say "Enough".

I did not reach breaking point.

This job, this place is not worth me even trying to push myself to that limit.

I simply chose to respect myself.

And quit.

Song for the moment: Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

Gap

So what happened this time?

Don't know... it seemed to be going... I suppose 'well' is too strong a word... decent, by his standards, shall we say?

Hmm... was he being himself again? That's not exactly appealing, you know.

Hey, c'mon, that's a bit harsh. He's okay... maybe too melancholic at first glance, but we know better... he's a nice guy... funny as hell.

Exactly the problem, idiot. We know him well... that's taken time, not to mention a lot of effort on our part... he doesn't really make a great first impression. Or the second, come to that.

Perhaps... but, he tried this time... really, he did.

Did he? Seems to me, he could have done better... if he'd made that decision... booked that ticket....

Fuck that! It was a bloody good thing he didn't and you know it. Imagine landing up there and finding out.

Puhlease!! He should have done it... it would have shown intent.

Guys, the way I see it, intent wouldn't have been enough... so…

Who are you?

In conversation with a recent acquaintance last week, I realised my contribution to the exchange was gradually becoming one-dimensional. After the easy hors d'oeuvres, the main course was a well-plated dish of almost nothing. In that, I could only talk about work-related stuff, which (even to me) suggests that I am a very boring guy, with no real interests or hobbies. No life, basically.

Admittedly, talking to new people is difficult, and gets more challenging as we grow older. If you are lucky enough to meet them early in life, then there's no pressure to come across as an interesting person. You are who you are and social Darwinism will either cull or preserve, and allow your friendship/relationship to evolve. On the other hand, meeting someone new when you're entrenched in a demanding job, with nary a social activity in sight, challenges the limits of creativity. The most mundane of things have to be generously embellished; you have to constantly evaluate where this ne…

A horse with no name

One of the less pleasurable aspects of reaching Pune is the traveling, particularly road journeys. Thanks to the inflexible work schedule, it's impossible for me to hop on to one of the regular intercity trains from Bombay, leaving only the MSRTC buses or Cool Cabs. The taxis require you to have either 3 other travellers or an infinite amount of patience so they're usually not an option, leaving only the bus.

To be fair, the Shivneri buses are usually dependable and my only grouse is the increasingly princely sum of the ticket. However, dependability and comfort are of little use in Bombay's famed traffic, which is a doozy on Friday nights and long weekends, when everyone and their uncles seem to be frantically scooting out of the city. This was the case on the Independence Day weekend too.

Reaching the bus depot, I was faced with a queue of at least 100 people, all of whom had a resigned "FML" look on their faces. I got talking with the guy standing before me a…

Socha kya tha, kya ho gaya

If I'd started a blog on social or infrastructural issues plaguing this country, there would have been more than enough posts to write. But I generally avoid it because I don't want to criticize anything or anyone without offering a concrete, plausible solution to the problem.

However, I have to ask - What's the deal with rainwater harvesting? Or, more accurately, the lack of it? Bombay is inundated with rain every year. The city's population is rising like a rocket. I'm reasonably confident the dams supplying water to the city aren't upgrading nearly as fast as the number of people. It's not like rainwater harvesting is some magical new technology that visiting aliens have gifted us; the Wikipedia article on it says that our ancient countrymen practiced it. Madras has successfully implemented it some years ago and other states have held it up as a model way of implementing the system. Heck, even Bangladesh has had some success with it. So when and why did…

Children of this time

Then

In college, he was a voracious late-night reader, staying up till 3 and 4 am with books, the beloved desk lamp covered with a yellow dust cloth to dim the light to a soft glow. The strongest memory he has of those nights are trying and failing to stifle the helpless giggles he'd break into over lines and passages in '3 Men in a Boat'. He would read night after night, doze off and still make it in time for early morning Psych lectures at Fergusson.

He remembers the winter morning classes best, kick-starting the Kinetic and riding off into the cutting wind, enjoying the cold emptiness of Ganeshkhind Road, which was narrower then, with neem trees shading a whole lane that is now empty concrete. He deigned to wear a sweater because the cold made him feel alive. He has a permanent memory of riding past the Ambassador Hotel in Model Colony and marveling at how the black tar road changed from gold to silver as the sun rose higher and higher.

He remembers many things from col…

The frayed ends of sanity

In any situation that requires order, discipline and efficiency, we as Indians tend to fail. Yes, not everyone would qualify, but this is a country of 1.5 billion and counting, so that's pretty obvious. Most do qualify and that's where the problem lies. At heart, Indians are a peculiar kind of barbarian.

I use that word carefully because I ran through a whole gamut of them including ignorant country bumpkin, animal, savage, and so on and so forth, but using any of those tags would be unfair. Plenty of villagers in India understand order, discipline and efficiency. They're smart, self-sacrificing and hard-working. Similarly, animals have their own rules so to compare the typical unruly Indian mob to animals is pretty stupid. Even barbarians could very well have imbibed any of the characteristics I believe we as Indians purposefully choose to ignore. The word 'savage' is distasteful and again, stupid because indigenous people follow their own laws and that's the…

Evening Prayer

It happened today.

The past month has been incredibly torrid, work-wise. I've usually caught the last train, reached home at 2 am, pretended to eat something and fallen into a dreamless sleep. I worked weekends and even a couple of overnight sessions, including one at the start of this week. And all the time, I have not stopped looking.

There were many opportunities of course. Silent nights as I've trudged tiredly towards the station, the only person on the road; at 3 am, my eyes stinging, staring at the screen, wondering what line would be appropriate for some press ad; on the trains and in the taxis, looking out into the nothingness of the Mumbai night, feeling the wind and rain howl their symphony; the moments I've spent, wearily sitting on my bed, wondering whether my work & my current lifestyle are worth whatever I'm accepting.

But no. There wasn't even an iota of it. Till today. I was home, having taken a rare holiday for personal work. There's no su…

Hey, that's no way to say goodbye

G's ability to write had become still. "Still like a noonday minute in the brutal, breathless summer", he thought. It wasn't that G hadn't pondered the situation. However, he couldn't come up with an answer to satisfy anyone, least of all himself.

The answer came whilst he stared out the window, at and past the eucalyptus tree. G usually wrote about his feelings and experiences. And for over a month, he'd felt almost nothing; had no noteworthy experience. G was simply making it through the day, day after day, counting the hours, waiting for something to happen. It was Sisyphean.

G was certain his family and friends lived similar lives of routine. Sure, there was some tumult now and again, but overall, he could not see reflected on anyone else's face, what he was feeling. Or not feeling. The people he knew were carrying on with their lives, making plans, meeting lovers, getting engaged or married, having children, doing well at their jobs, and finding…

Time of the gypsies

Yesterday, I did something that most of you consider normal. I went to see a movie at the theatre, or as some of us still cutely refer to it, the talkies. Going to the movies is something I do very rarely because my weekends are usually spent in a catatonic state or visiting friends. Cinemas don't allow for interaction, and I've also stopped going to movies by myself.

Anyway, thanks to the benevolent goodness of two friends, a lovely couple who are also my self-appointed guardians in Bombay, I shimmied along as the 3rd wheel for the evening show of 2 States. I enjoyed it; both the cinema experience and the movie.

Yes, perhaps the plot moved along rather quickly and conveniently, particularly in the first half of the movie and then lost steam later on. And maybe the worded stereotype jokes were a little stale. But overall, it was worth a watch. Alia Bhatt acted really well and dominated the movie (which she'd have done anyway considering the screen time, but even so) and …

Aqualung

One beer.

One beer just won't do. It really isn't enough. On a sultry night, when the very air is thrumming and shimmering, it doesn't quench your thirst (no matter how much you tell yourself that it does). It makes you crave more. More beer, more everything. The taste evaporates off your palate slowly. Reluctantly. Like lovers relinquishing their grasp on each others fingers at the end of a lovely evening; before one of you gets out of bed in the morning.

Beer is mean. When it realises that you are serious; that you really, truly aren't going to follow up with another, when it doesn't get to glide past your lips, swish about your teeth and hit your throat again with all the wallop of a gastronomic "Hallelujah", then it becomes vindictive. And it takes revenge by drowning you in memories; of good times and better times. When it was the grease that kept the night, the laughter and the glow of camaraderie going on and on. You'll smile since you can…

Darn that dream

The space had character.

The outside room was distinguished by wooden floors, formica topped tables around the corners, shelves lined with video tapes & reels, cardboard boxes hiding behind pillars almost in apology, and piles of vouchers, bills, shooting dockets & other documents shuffling around higgledy-piggledy wherever they could. Large, framed prints hung on the walls. The room should have felt crowded and untidy, but it did not. Each of the items had made a place for itself in there, and now looked like it had always belonged.

The inside room was all him... his personality & tastes expressed in a strong, vivacious fashion. The aluminium windows, open more out of rusty compulsion than choice, looked on to a dreary building. An AC rumbled on in a determined fashion, while the water dripping from it made its way down the window grills, into the gullets of crows, sparrows and any other bird that needed a drink. A very hot summer was in the offing.

His table was wooden …

Bird on a wire

This weekend, I finally made some time to visit (and I use the word carefully) my feedly subscriptions. There were more than 400 unread articles, dating back to just over a month ago. Which coincidentally was also around the time I wrote my last blog post. Those who know me will get where this is going - that the 400 unread articles are a sign that all is not well in Grinch-land; not just because I read regularly, but also because I am rather particular about not leaving things unfinished. 'Obsessive-compulsive' is the phrase you're reaching for I suspect, though that's neither here nor there. Or perhaps it is.

Either way, for me it isn't and wasn't normal. And therein lies the tale; even by the standards of an abnormal industry anyway, it hasn't been a remotely normal month. This should explain it with far more brevity & humour than yours truly is capable of. And because of it, I have been forced to ignore the other parts of my life. Leave aside books…

Getaway

Okay, so that last post had a mild "Itna sannata kyun hai bhai?" feel, which I've been encouraged to eschew in favour of a totally believable, "C'mon Barbie, let's go party!" theme.

So I'll resume normal services and give some updates from the Gulag, also known in the local idiom as the place I work. The greenhorn putting in his papers was basically the signal for opening the doors to the Augean stables. Within a week, his senior on the account put in her papers citing a shattering of her confidence (her actual words). The girl hired to replace greenhorn number one experienced 2 days - Thursday & Friday, before failing to show up on the subsequent Monday, thereby giving the management a well-manicured middle finger.

Meanwhile, another client servicing cretin, who fancied perhaps that he'd signed up for a pleasure cruise, lasted exactly 1 day. I have a vague recollection of him pompously surveying the chaos engulfing this place on the day he…

Just Looking

Sometimes I will do this. 
Visit the blogs of people who are not on my reading list. 
Type out the addresses from memory and hit 'Return'. 
Wait. Knowing what I certainly know, yet I yearn.
Maybe I'll be proved right. That they don't write.
Or maybe, that they have.
When I see that last post. 
And find that it's a 3 year old ghost.
I become wistful. With a dash of melancholic, for taste.
Wondering why they stopped. Making judgements of lost potential in haste.
Could it be that they've moved to another ground?
To something like Whatsapp; more convenient, less profound?  
Perhaps staid routine claims another writer. 
Whose ink is fading, as the page grows whiter. 
I'll admit, the thought makes me sad. 
Though I know there's no use feeling bad. 
So, I'm going to fall back on that old standby; hope.
Visit old posts, reminisce and cope.
Wonder if the authors will ever rediscover the fun. 
And write again, even if it is a poem as basic as this one.
Song for the moment:

Seek & Destroy

I am staring at an email sent to the entire office on the morning of 8th Jan. The mail was about welcoming a new employee to the agency. He was joining at a Junior Account Executive position, which, in industry parlance means Lower than Doormat; a guy who could, on average, expect to - be mercilessly badgered by his boss, be belittled by any creative teams he worked with and face a complete disruption of his eating and sleeping schedules. 

Of course, he need not expect this degrading experience at every agency he sends the resume to. The intensity of this treatment also differs between places. However, largely, starting out in a junior AE role is a thankless existence, something I feel all of Client Servicing is anyway.

I pulled up that particular email because I have just been told that he has quit. After a horror of a Monday, he didn't come into work yesterday and the rumour is that he was extremely stressed out, which caused his BP to plummet and him to faint. I am not surpri…

Same old song and dance

The few and far readers of this blog, along with any dedicated online stalkers, may be wondering why I haven't posted in such a long time. The kinder minority may suggest that perhaps it was a splendid decision on my part to give the blathering a rest.

The simple truth of the matter is that I tried to make the most of December because it was my last month at (the now) previous work place. A well-known, or should I say infamous ad firm, in which I spent exactly 2 years, 1.5 of which were painfully crushing and miserable and 6 months that were bad. Ok, make that 5 months and 3 weeks. I am not exaggerating. By the end of the first week, I'd cottoned on to the fact that every single person in my department was as miserable as fuck, and unable to do a thing about it. It was like being the bunch of musicians who got stuck with the unfortunate role of providing music as the Titanic went down. The combination of an unhinged, non-creative Creative Director, a Stymphalian bird masquera…