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Showing posts from 2016

Lonely Fire

"To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss." - Khmer Rouge

People at work think I'm crazy. Not the "let's avoid this geezer, he makes strange jokes, giggles at inappropriate times, probably has a head in a jar at home" mad. More the "why does this asshole care?" insane.

It's true. I do care. Heck, I'm a completely different person in the office. I openly admit I'm an ogre. A miserable, grumpy bastard. It's not even like I want to be that way. I actually am quite cheerful and foolishly optimistic on Mondays. After my first coffee of course. Let's not get stupid. I look at my job-list and think "What can we do here?" Every week, I do this even though I am a raging monster, lashing out at all and sundry by Friday. Why?

Because I am passionate about the nuances of my work. The creative, psychological, witty aspects, sure. Most people in advertising are. But also the dull stuff like meeting deadlines, wanting to…

A singer must die

A good friend sent me a message today. Which said that Leonard Cohen had died. I stared and stared till my knees trembled. Then I sat down and cried.
I shed some tears for that fine mind. And some for that voice so deep. Some for the simple beauty of his words. They're all we have leftand it made me weep.
Then I gathered up the pieces of me. And left home, lost and grim. Something has changed forever. This world is poorer without him.
We'll carry on without you, Leonard. We'll shoulder our burdens again. We'll listen to your songs over and over. And one day, they'll dissolve the pain.
Rest in peace old man.
Though you've left me a little broken. I'll never write as well as you, perhaps. But maybe, you'll look kindly upon this token.
Song for the moment:Hey, that's no way to say goodbye - Leonard Cohen

Liquid Spirit

My blogging schedule is somewhat akin to what regularly used to happen to friends on bike trips. Like their rides, the year started decently enough and I averaged a steady 2 posts a month. Which, considering my 'dull-as-ditchwater' life, is awesome. Then the wheels came off in August (like a Bullet's silencer on one ride) and there just wasn't anything to write about. Nothing cheerful anyway, and my loyal readership of one hinted strongly that I should put a sock in the melancholy blathering. So that was that.

But Diwali happened and it's given me an excuse to pen this.

I like Diwali. The goodwill, warm wishes and hope for the new year affects even a curmudgeon like me, so there's some mighty powerful waves floating around I reckon. The sibling and I gave up on the dreadful Tamil Diwali custom of waking up at dawn for an oil bath many years ago and our parents got the message. Of course, the fact that we'd get to burst firecrackers and eat like starving an…

Dockyard

It's the end of the month.
The 31st day of what feels like forever.

The salary is in the bank.
But there's no fuel in the tank.

Fatigue makes the eyes smoulder.
Tiredness coats the mind. Makes it fuzzy.

How the bones are holding up is anyone's guess.
What's keeping an aching heart going is a mystery.

The needs are few.
The wants are spilling over.

People wonder if he's thirsting. For her.
Truth is, a good whisky will do just as well.

Maybe there'll be fewer smiles.
There'll be fewer hurts too though.

He can't taste anything.
Nothing serious. He has the flu.

So, being full is just as good as empty right now.
The edge is off his appetite.

For living.

He has been sleeping the sleep of the dead.
Restfully empty.

Slumbers as beautiful as a blank canvas.
Just as meaningful too.

Then, after many days, he dreamed last night.
She said: Maybe you should...

Song for the moment:Feed your head - Paul Kalkbrenner

Feelings per room

He didn't know the shit had hit and smeared itself lovingly all over the fan till he heard it. Or, more correctly, did not hear it. Anything. Which was terrifying when it was buzzing with the sound of lilting greetings, jokes rehashed year after year, tinkling bells and the clash of silver/copper vessels on plates just a minute before. Taking his own stuff out of the bag, he turned around quickly.

Everyone was silent. Everyone was staring. At him.

From the slowly purpling face and bulging eyes of the vaadiyar (priest) to the disgusted glares lashing waves from 50 uncle-types who mentally crossed him off their list of potential maapilays (sons-in-law) on the bloody spot, he caught an invisible punch of disapproval and outrage that made him flinch.

Surely he hadn't done anything so scandalous. Heck, he'd just got there! No time for an accidental, ill-timed fart or an involuntary cuss to escape. He'd definitely taken a bath this year. The clean lemony smells of Lifebuoy …

Lotus Eater

My previous workplace, or as I call it, advertising hell, is squeezed into 2 floors of a raffish building in a venerable part of Bombay - Fort. Day after day, I would walk from Churchgate past the Maidan, eye-catching examples of British architecture and gloomily lonely agiaries to reach that creative sweatshop. Some days, I hated it. Other days, I loathed it absolutely. The only saving grace was Swagath.

Even though I was born in Bombay, have lived in Pune most of my life and speak Marathi pretty fluently, a part of me is still mostly Tamil - my diet. Don't get me wrong; I love Maharashtrian food. But my genes are stubbornly South Indian when push comes to shove. Sadly, imbeciles have boiled Tamil cuisine down to sambar, rasam, curd rice, idlis and dosas. They only need visit Krish Ashok's twitter food feed to realise how misplaced their notions are.  

Anyway, when I fall ill, I crave comfort food. Which is home food. Admittedly rasam is one of the most tried, tested and tr…

Get lucky

The funny thing is it wasn't supposed to turn out such a great party. Well, 'supposed' is harsh. 'Wasn't expected' shall we say. Yet, it did because all the ingredients came together, not in their perfect measures but haphazardly, dashed into the pot with a careless grab and fling.

Old friends, good friends, absent friends, whisky and rum, good conversation, better pauses, the best laughs, the melancholic sighs of wistful disbelief, the unholy glee of impishness allowed for a change that led to the incident of the contact between the alleged permanent marker and the dome, much hilarity, the kind of which had been forgotten for years by all and then sleep.

It is when everyone will realise just how great a party it was. That is when a bolt of something wonderfully good and thankful will strike everyone together. Of course, we'll all shrug it off.

Pity really.

Song for the moment:He had a good time - Cliff Martinez (Drive OST)

Waves

It's the monsoon and watery green dominates the view from my window. It's a colour I love because I'm mad on plants. My dream house would have a large garden where neem, mango, jackfruit and jamun trees would flourish. Maybe pomegranate, peru and chickoo (sapodilla is such a strange word) too. Of course there would be a kitchen garden for the chillies and lemons, kadipatta and dhania.

Right now, my passion for gardening is quenched by the earth-coloured pots and plants fighting for space in the drawing room window. Some of the leafy warriors are at least 20 years old while others were planted last year. Tulsi of course grows wherever it likes, making its home in multiple pots at once. Yet, every time I look at them, it is with more than a twinge of sadness. Because this is the first time in years they are growing without the gardener.

A slight old man. That's how I remember him. An old man with slouching shoulders, in a shirt no longer white and brown trousers. A tatt…

What I'd say

A million dreams laid to bed

The infinite loop of imagined dread

Countless things left unsaid

The enemy, the man in my head

Song for the moment:Never - Heart

I'll never be the same

10 years ago this August I said goodbye to my family and friends and left for the United States. I was going to study, or so I thought. In truth I did not know why I was leaving home and a still unwritten future. It seemed like the thing to do; the rite that was expected of me and whose crushing inevitability then still mystifies me now.

The University of Birmingham, Birmingham - AL. Where licence plates did not make bold statements as in the North but suggested a quiet, deep faith that reflected the local religious fervour. 'Stars Fall On Alabama'. Yes they do. A strange, alien state vastly distanced and different from the images covered by popular television shows like Remington Steele, Baywatch and CSI. I was someone else back then. Unable to say if I now am a better or worse man. Nursing my grief, unsure of an extended existence away from home and family, lonely in my journey, lonelier when I reached another shore and plagued by the infinite demons of self-doubt and fear.…

Paint it black

After almost a decade of studiously ignoring the hairline cracks, chips, peelings and in one mysterious spot, battery acid stains, we finally capitulated and agreed that the house needed a fresh lick of paint. And then collectively shuddered because each of us remembers the last home redecoration.

It involved the usual characters; smiling carpenters, stonemasons, architects, painters, a budget and a timetable. As Burns put it succinctly - the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. In our case, they zoomed off into another dimension altogether.

In a moment of weakness, we'd decided to stay in the house while said renovations were being undertaken. I don't know whose clever idea it was but suspect all of us lost about 5 years by inhaling cement dust over that one fateful month.  

The first hint that things would not go swimmingly was when workers began to dismantle old bathroom tiles. They started off by chipping these away under our watchful eyes. We turned away …

Know me now

There's someone you like.
Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
You want to ask this person out.
So you plan.
Think up witty opening remarks.
Predict some comeback statements.
Your possible responses to those.
Where you can go on a date.
What kind of questions to ask so the conversation doesn't hit dead air.
How you can stay funny without being crude, sexist, racist or whatever else 'ist'.
How you can react if it all tanks like the Titanic.
How to control the urge to let out a wild war-whoop and perform a vigorous rumba if, heaven help us, it all seems to be going well.
Perhaps how not to faint away in complete shock if the person indicates that it was fun.
That there could be another one.
Think about if you should drop them to a cab or bid goodbye and walk away.
If you should offer a handshake or a hug.   

You work at it because being charming doesn't come naturally to you.
If flirting is a game of chess you're no Bobby Fischer.
In fact, you are pretty much the anti-…

I'll be waiting

Occasionally, people will peer into the horizon, sigh heavily and say something along the lines of life being easier in their past.

It wasn't though it used to make more sense, I'll grant them that. Take for instance, the act of falling ill. When younger and unwell, I wouldn't go to school. If it was a mild ailment, home remedies would save the day and I'd be off to the alleged temple of learning the next day. Occasionally, the situation was more serious and called for a doctor's visit, medicines and a period of convalescence. Rarely was surgery involved. And, always, recovery was the key. As long as I ate properly, stayed in bed (and with books, who'd want to get out of it, pray) and behaved, all was well.

Things have changed and how! I doubt what I'm about to describe is particular to advertising but it does seem that my industry takes this cake and masticates rather horridly.

Today, I felt under the weather. Enough to actually call in sick.

Why are thos…

As time goes by

I've had many years to think this over, so here goes.

Nothing sets a guy behind in his social game like studying in an all-boys school. See, it is all very well scoring good marks, avoiding negative reports from teachers, beatings from parents and all that bullshit, but this kind of schooling robs you of one huge piece of education. How to speak to girls. Rather, how to just be normal around them.

Nowhere does Darwin's theory hold more true than in the jungle that is an all-boys school. You need special skills to survive. If you're good at sports then you're sorted. Firstly, playing any sport and being any good at it automatically imbibes that real, ferocious competitive spirit and confidence you need later in life to fight off the horde of randy bastards, smile and make eye-contact with a girl you're interested in. Secondly, being a sports-jock gives you a 'reputation', a magical cape of macho, if you will, even as the barest wisp of a mustache is struggl…

Hold me down

He looked up at the display board again.

Its sickly yellow glow indicated there was still a minute to go, though he could swear it'd been promising that for nearly three. Headphones cut off the sound of his surroundings. His head and feet bobbed and tapped lightly to the music. That was about all the 'dancing' he'd allow himself. He couldn't remember a time when he'd danced with complete abandon, limbs flailing in absolute frenzy. Something deep within, some broken spring in his soul had cut off the music inside. Without it, his body could go no further.

At first, late work days were an exception. Now, they'd become the rule, so he stopped keeping count, instead, thanking the universe if he got done before 9. Tonight, there was no such luck. However, the train wasn't empty. The lifeline of the city never was, just like a living artery was never empty of blood. He managed to get an aisle seat, a small but precious pleasure.

He began to read, though tire…

I can't hold out

It's funny how things can change in the blink of an eye. Or 5 years, give or take a few blinks.

If you'd given me a Rs. 1000 coupon for Crossword back then, I'd have been thrilled. Sure, I've never been the biggest fan of the place because they never have the book I want. In a bizarre twist, Popular in Deccan always does. It even became an oddly confirming ritual. Too lazy to bike to Deccan, I'd try the small Aundh branch of Crossword, then the gargantuan SB Road one, and the assistants at both would shake their heads in infuriating apology. Then I'd walk into Popular and get the book in 5 minutes flat. Sometimes, even less. The SB Road branch of Crossword has shut, the Aundh one has become huge but Popular is err, still sort of popular.

So, you'll understand the lack of joy when gifted a Crossword coupon sometime last year. Since it expires in April, I went by the store today with a blank list. I'd buy whatever was even remotely interesting and fit in…

Raspberry Beret

It is not easy to be empathetic. Instinctively, we tend to think of ourselves first and others afterwards. Especially when we are going through bad times or are under stress.

What is stress? Psychology Today defines it as a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. Stress is not always a bad thing. The reaction to it has saved many a pair of buttocks from messy ends. Chronic stress is a different kettle of fish. Our reactions to it manifest themselves in many ways, none pleasant.

The point to note is that stress is a stimulus. It needs you. I guess this situation has spawned an industry of philosophies and activities, all of which seem to boil down to similar themes.

1. Reacting (or how one does so) to a stressful situation is a choice.
2. That one can deal with it (because we cannot always avoid getting stressed).

For the sake of argument, I will assume that no one wants to be or enjoys being constantly stressed. While some people work better under pre…

Mista Bone

I am a bogeyman for organizations. A hex for hire. Any workplace I join soon loses its joie de vivre and descends into a circle of hell Dante probably didn't envision. When I signed up at my current agency, my team was admired and envied by the rest. It was a rock-solid art-copy boss team (which is becoming increasingly rare) and a balanced number of juniors, self included. I was astonishingly optimistic about life and set myself a target of 3 years at this place at least. I wanted to do good work, maybe win a few metals and, after the stresses and strains of the previous agency, just catch my breath.

And here we are, a full year and something later, staring at a sickeningly familiar scenario. The art head left in May and the team crumbled like a Parle-G left to soak too long in the teacup. The other senior, not the cheeriest man at the best of times rapidly sank into an endless miasma of depression from which he won't extricate himself any time soon. Two of my colleagues lef…

Everything that rises

I am not a doctor.
I don't cure people or save lives.

I am not an engineer.
I don't build anything useful.

I am not a scientist.
I don't discover anything that would benefit mankind.

I am not an artist.
I don't make paint, sculpt, or envision anything that could be  art.

I am not a carpenter.
I don't craft wood into furniture.

I am not a teacher.
I don't inspire others to seek knowledge or help them understand.

I am not a soldier.
I don't defend my country.

I am not a journalist.
I don't seek the truth or expose the evil in this world. But then, who does?

I am not a banker.
I don't take care of anyone's life savings.

I am not a policeman.
I don't keep my fellow citizen safe.

I am not a gardener.
I don't nurture a single seed into a tree.

I am not a chef.
I don't make anything that would satiate hunger.

I am not a driver.
I do not ferry people to their destinations.

I am not a writer.
I don't fashion letters into words and id…

Expect no mercy

Inspired by a true story

February 2010. At 10pm, it was business as usual at a popular pub in Bandra. The Brownian motion of the crowd kept the place heaving tolerably. The early birds had cadged all the worn tables and the rest arranged themselves in higgledy-piggledy fashion around the horseshoe bar. The music was good, the beer flowed and the bouncer/manager's dark glasses reflected the mellow yellow lights.

They'd also see two guys in their late 20s standing in a nook, holding mugs of beer and politely swaying out of the way of everyone else. U and A were making desultory small talk, as meaningful conversation was almost impossible over the blaring music. It didn't matter; the cold satisfaction of every bitter sip hitting the throat was enough. Suddenly, a cheery voice hailed U. Turning around, he saw S, an old school friend, jammed amidst a bunch of others at a corner table. After the greetings and hugs, space was made for both guys, but at opposite sides of the table…

Give the kid a break

And that's why it's ridiculously tricky to talk to someone you're crushing on. 

Jokes apart, a change of calendar has occurred. Which gives us an excuse to be irrationally hopeful/optimistic about our lives. The opportunity to delude ourselves into believing the slates of our actions and choices can be wiped clean. That we can drastically alter our personalities into more charming and winning ones. And, the not-giving-a-flying-fuck universe will make things happen so that we may find happiness. Quite.

Thought for the year: When there are fish aplenty in the sea, it's best not to fall for the mermaid.  

Okay, I'm done being myself. Time to don the mask of cheer for a bit. Make the best of 2016, everyone.

Song for the moment:No more Mr. Nice Guy - Alice Cooper