Sunday, July 31, 2005

Worth Rs. 10/-

While I was whining about my life to all and sundry, somebody upstairs decided enough is enough, and so sent down scores of angelic helpers to pull me out of my rut. What happened was this: on Wednesday evening I succumbed to the call of the Chicken Tikka Sub. The result of this was a very satiated stomach, a very long post about last night's dinner (a.k.a. The land I live in...) and me generally feeling upbeat about everything. After the mustard and mayonnaise had worn off, I realized that I was left with a solitary 10 rupees note in my purse. I was wondering what to do about it, for it was 1 am already. The choice was between a moonlit walk to the ATM or skipping breakfast next day or rather the same day. When A, who was going home at that very moment, invited me to breakfast.

I was delighted, ecstatic, and I gave him an instant hug! He cast me a doubtful look, pondering whether he had done the right thing. I guess my flurry of "Thank You's" put his doubts to rest. Omelets, bread n butter, poha and milk. What more can a man ask for? Well, man can be very greedy and ask for lots of things. I, however, played the perfect guest and offered to walk to office, while A could ride his bicycle. To my surprise and horror, A offered me a lift. Where is the horror in that, you might ask? Well, I am mortally scared of getting on anything while it is moving (this due to a rather unfortunate incident with a bus but that will have to stay out of this post, for now). A stopped, asked me to get on and then started his cycle with much effort, for both him and me are rather fondly attracted to the earth by gravity. I have not been on the carrier seat of a cycle in eons, and I blessed A with every blessing I could think of right then.

Hours rolled by on a busy Thursday, and soon unrelenting hunger struck again. As I was about to undertake the inevitable trek to the ATM, SM turned up and said, "Hey! Remember the report you helped me on? The boss really liked it. I am treating you to lunch!" And just like that I was at a complete loss for words and in complete control of the menu. I'll spare the details, but the lunch sure felt good. I came back to my office room, and U who had just completed her project, invited me over for dinner. I was suddenly "the poor baby boy who's out of home for first time and needs to be looked after." Everybody was molly-coddling me! I, who was starting to believe more in my instant messenger than people around me, was suddenly wondering where had all these people turned up from.

I spent the evening explaining the Potter stories to U's wonderful kids. I have a penchant for story telling and kids form the best listeners - they imagine without questions rooted in drab realities, but beware lest you feel you can pull the wool over their eyes! This was topped by a screening of Shrek 2 (I loooooove that Donkey) and a wonderful dinner of many courses - lemon rice, bhindi, papaya, rotis, buttermilk, and tutti-fruity ice cream.

Next morning before I left for home I told S about my lonely 10 rupee note. He was of the opinion I should lay a wager as to how many days I can survive without spending any money at all. He labeled me as the "sponsored candidate" in office, and went as far as to suggest that on Monday I should ask the boss for a treat.

I had not even finished my weekend quota of sleep when I got a call from B, inviting me over for dinner and a movie. I jumped at the chance, for I had not seen a movie in ages. This was my first visit to B's home since he got married. B's wife, a most charming lady, cooked. Over a dinner of rajma-chawal and mangoes, she complained jokingly about B's sense of clothing, and how he is never chatty whenever he comes back from office. I was thinking, "Here is another happy marriage!" Later at the mall just as they stepped onto the escalator, I saw B hold her hand. It was all there, right in that small gesture, all that they felt for each other. Whatever pangs of loneliness I felt, were washed over by a rather well made movie titled Yahaan.

I am sucker for well made movies with enchanting visuals, a very nice looking female lead, a mesmerizing song and a credible story set in contemporary India. A love story set in the gorgeous valleys of Kashmir, where bullets are as numerous as the snow flakes, played chords of music which many Indians like me barely understand. I drove back home at 11 pm, amidst crawling trucks on the highway, happy and sad at the same time, I was beginning to see a tinge of the strength love gives a person. The love of friends, of family, of my land ... and of the beloved.

It's back to work tomorrow. Anyone is interested in a dinner date? Don't worry! Ofcourse, I'll pay. After all, I still have the ten rupee note in my purse.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The land I live in, is the land I do not know

Would you believe it - I call home and what do I hear? That it is raining cats and dogs! And here, I craned my neck out of the window to check... nah... there wasn't a cloud in sight. In fact it the sky was a mesmerizing electric blue, slowly receding into a glowing orange at the horizon. I decided to walk back to my room.

A solitary walk on a pleasant evening was peaceful and sweaty. I open the door of my room, to find my roomie sprawled on the floor, battling with the leg of the upside down table.

Smiling, and aghast at the same time, "What are you doing?"

"The leg is a bit wobbly. I am trying to fix it."

"Oho! Enough of your engineering already... let's go for dinner. C'mon!"

And so I tugged him free of his beloved table, and off we went to hunt for dinner. Another short walk, and we landed at a nearby mess. While I ordered 2 Naans, 3 Rotis, Mixed Veggies and a Dal Makhani at the counter, NP i.e., my roomie, found and held on to a vacant table for two. Seated and waiting for the dinner the conversation turned from here to there. Until it meandered to NP's home in Chattisgarh.

NP's home is near Bilaspur, in Chattisgarh. I churned in my brain all the high school geography I could remember, and asked, "so you are on the Chota Nagpur Plateau?" NP was rather delighted to hear that ignorant me knew anything about his locale. "Yes." He went on to tell me of the forests and the streams in the area, and about the Bastar tribes which inhabit the region.

I sat wide eyed, and amidst chomping mouthful of roti every now and then, I was whisked away to the gold and diamond mines. He told me of a the hills in the region, and how the soil yielded every possible ore on this planet. It was like I was hearing of another land, where people do not put doors on locks, or rather where doors were an anomalous occurrence in homes.

He told me how the making of a separate state of Chattisgarh had benefited his people. I was shocked at the naive ideas I held on this matter. I had always looked at it in a very "dividing-the-country" sort of way. I guess it reflects my typical cosmopolitan sacrosanct upbringing. I had no idea of the problems the people of the region faced, because Madhya Pradesh was simply too large to administer as one state. Neither did I know anything about how different were the tribes in the region from the average government employee in Bhopal.

He told me about how the new government had started to give free cows to the villagers, free bicycle to the girls if they went to schools, and also how entire tribes would move from an area where a school was opened because they detested any contact with the outside world. Innocence, deprivation, sanctity of a century old way of life, development fighting it out; trying to bring balance to a fragile world.

The government has sold huge tracts of land to the Japanese, because the soil was rich in iron ore. The tribal people still hunt with bow and arrow, and also fight off the insurgent naxalites in the region with them. With modern civilization is corroding the borders of his land, NP seemed concerned. I was more amazed with the fact that he was here today, eating with me. It must have been difficult for him to get here. I had no idea.

Every time I come in touch with a tiny bit of India, I am left at a loss for words. Where is this land? Where are her people? Do I live in the same country as NP? Here in Delhi, where I can either read about the mini skirt which is supposed to be back in vogue or Mumbai which is swimming in rain. Where the next person I meet can be from Honolulu, or Chattisgarh, like NP. In this city, although I can find the India I have lived my life in, I believe I am missing the India that has lived during my lifetime.

I often think, do other people feel the sense of wonder I feel for this country. I feel so... incomplete and lost... as an Indian who does not know so much of India. I have promised myself to learn about her as much as I can. I hope I can live up to that promise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


A silent smile breaks,
On parched, dry lips,
As I sit alone in a room full of machines,
And munch on a packet of potato chips.

As songs pours out of the speaker,
Ordered by a digitized play list,
Random thoughts float around,
Yet, the feeling is too strong to be missed.

A laugh rings loud and clear,
Like a brook tripping over n gushing by,
Aftertaste of a breath lingers,
Burning on the taste buds like a firefly.

Chains of reason break down,
Gears of thought come to a grinding halt,
Overwhelmed senses take the reins,
Wild, galloping heartbeats exalt.

Memory of an impassioned touch,
Hairs reaching out in a straightened stand,
Caress of an angelic form,
Blessed by a divine hand.

Colours fade into tones of gray,
The night sinks into sleep's regime,
Haunted in day by maddening desire,
Searching for the elusive you in my dream.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Battering me

What does one do when one feels horrible about oneself? In spite of knowing that the feeling is completely irrational. Today I felt a lot of things. Well I do all the time, but today since I didn't do anything else all day and was all alone at home, the mind went on an overdrive. I have a tendency to amplify by many times whatever I feel. It is good sometimes, but mostly it's like white noise - it cancels out and submerges everything else around me. It's like I am unable to feel anything with half a heart. I thought for once I'd try and construct a concise map of my head from morning, and see if it made any more sense that way. So here goes:

1. Inconsequential - I was the puniest, most inconsequential being on the whole planet. It will not make any difference to anybody if I suddenly disappear from the face of the earth.

2. Angry - God forbid that anybody should come in front of me when I am angry. If you think I have any skill at expressing my mind, it is not a good idea to be at the receiving end of my tongue on such occasions.

3. Ashamed - I usually beat me self up after I lash out at somebody. I didn't today - I mean lash out. Still I was ashamed of myself for getting angry.

4. Selfish - Well this one was pretty obvious. I felt so totally selfish. Like I was only and only thinking about myself in all this.

5. Undeserving - I do not deserve to be loved. Well actually, I felt that I'd love so much, I'd probably smother the life out of the poor girl. Hence, probably any poor girl is better off without me.

6. Bored - My life has been suspended between work and home. No time for "me" in all this. So once all the mad rush of thoughts drain themselves out, I invariably feel bored.

7. Alone & Afraid - These two go hand in hand, don't they?

8. Exhausted - Five days of mayhem and then this. I was feeling like life had been sapped out of me. I so wish there was a "Off" switch on my head - so I could stop thinking for a while. Constant thinking is so exhausting.

9. Sleepy - It had to happen. So I bumped off for a few hours. I cannot remember many of my dreams these days. Wonder if I am having any.

10. Calm - Sleep is therapeutic. Calm is transient. I'll think about it tomorrow. After all... tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Insanity on the menu

I do not feel like writing anything that makes the least bit of sense to anybody. Why should it, and why should I? After struggling with what to write for a few minutes, I want to laugh. Yet sitting in an empty room, laughing does not seem a lot of fun. With beautiful song playing on my computer, I am thinking of this and of that. Soon the room will be filled with one or two more creatures of the night like me. It feels good to be able sing out loud once in a while. What good will thinking about anything do? I suddenly feel this - I cannot do better than my best. I cannot. I have practically stopped praying for myself. I am not going to break this up into paragraphs - I am sick of writing proper compositions whole day. I am into self pity again - I read this post saying that bloggers are always whining about their lives - at least I do something that is contemporary. I am amazed by my friend's ability to work wonders, even when he has to worry about a roof on his head, and his wife. I read at least ten random blog posts today, thinking each time, which of those lives were better than mine. Hindsight is 20-20, but why do I do what I do - I need to remember that. Why am I afraid, and what am I afraid of - I need to remember that too. Too many hyphens are bad writing style, but considering what many people are writing these days, a few extra dashes won't harm anybody. I do not know what is next. I know what I want: I mean eventually. Well that too, maybe I know. Okay, I have a fair idea. Why is the next thing always important? There was a time when I could gaze at the sky and wonder. Today, when there is a full moon in the sky, on the 36th anniversary of the first moon landing, where is that wonder? My last crush was quite some time back, and my present one is kind of half way. Most unsatisfactory. Why won't the new Tomb Raider game work on my home PC. Well, actually I know the answer to that one, but still! Today I must have murdered at least 50 ants when I stepped on a colony of ants. What business did they have in the middle of my room? Incessant thinking. How do I stop this? Will a bullet through the gray matter help? Will it hurt very bad after that? Have you ever seen the lines on the palm of your hand change? I wrote a dark poem yesterday. I sketched all night the day before that. Potential to create. Creating something burns fuel. What is burning? So many many things to do. Yet. There was a time when I could write without caring who was reading. Even when nobody was. Will it ever come to that? To giving this up. If "this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime," will I have other lifetimes? What kind of people die alone? Okay, this is getting too morbid! I ate a bar of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut all by myself. Indulgence and bad teeth. I read Sanskrit after a very long time. And also a Batman comic. I have started my second Bangla novel. There are times when it feels good to be alive. Somebody seems to have appeared behind me, and is complaining that his monitor is not working. Does only sleeping beauty get a prince charming? What exactly is feminine in the words "sleeping" and "beauty?" I guess sleeping beauty can also get a princess charming as well. Now don't blame me for corrupting a fairy tale. Fairy tales are for fairies only. I am not one. Though what would it be like to be a fairy? What does one call a male fairy? Mairy? Till more madness takes hold... adieu.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chup kyun khadi ho?

Tumhe to meri zaroorat bhi nahi, par mujhe tumhari aadat hai,
Kya meri gumraah dhadkano ko dhadakne ki ijaazat hai?

Shayad kuch faasle tay karke,
Raat ke andhere se darke,
Teri parchai se bhi mulakat na hogi,

Paani se nam aankhon me ab sookha dala hai,
Zindagi main din-ba-din tanhayi ka shor bad chala hai,
Par tumhari ek muskurahat bhi hoton se nahi takrayi,
Pyaar na sahi, kya meri yaad bhi nahi aayi?

Apna jadoo wapas le jaao, meri soch mujhe wapas kar do,
Bezubaan is jism mai phir nazm ki awaaz bhar do,
Yaad rakhne ki wajah ki jagah, bhoolne ki wajah bata do,
Meri berang subah se ye dhanak ka parda hata do,
Tab shayad sanson ko phir se chalne ke liye majboor kar sakoon.

Chappal etiquette

My roomie and me have opposing notions of chappal (i.e. Hindi for slippers) etiquette. He prances around the house bare feet and wears his pair of worn out chappals when he goes for a bath. I tend to care for my tender feet more when I am on dry land, and dare to go naked when going in for a bath. And no, we do not have a concept of exclusive bathroom slippers!

See my horizons expanding already?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Will you come with me?

I have to go, now.
Will you come with me?

It is going to be a harsh climb,
Uphill most of the way,
Though I cannot carry you,
I'll hold you night and day.

Chilled winds, and sweltering heat,
Starving nights of half baked bread,
Though I cannot buy you more,
I'll pledge you my half instead.

No clothes of fashion, nor toys of play,
A roof porous to the rain,
Though I cannot keep you dry,
I'll share your every pain.

I can and will build my world,
Brick by brick, every column and beam,
Though I cannot wish it now,
I'll colour your every dream.

If you want to stay still,
Then I will let it be,
Though I cannot have you by my side,
I'll always seek you for me.

I have to go, now.
Will you come with me?

Thursday, July 14, 2005


My world has changed. Rather it has turned upside down. If you can picture it like an egg, I've dropped it! So in other words it is a mess but I am a changed man because of it - you decide for better or worse by the time you finish reading this.

I got tired of commuting some 20 odd kilometers every day to work. So I moved out of home to a hostel. This happened last Tuesday. After twenty six years of home, the first day of the outside world can seem pretty harsh. I was out, alone and abducted by mosquitoes in the middle of the night from my room. Unable to find the sleep fairy, I decided to go to my office (which is open 24x7) only to find the rains romancing the moonlit sky. I had left my solitary umbrella in the office. I finally won over the sister anopheles at 5 am. Two hours of sleep in the night make for a very bad next day. I have been discovering new ways to sneak in naps at work.

Next, morning I got a lift from V. She rides to office on a bike. She has offered me a lift many a times before, but I've let my male vanity get the better of me on all those earlier occasions. That morning she didn't have to ask twice. Every person I saw on the road was staring! The air which washed over my face felt just as intoxicating, when I rode behind a man. On way she told me her kid was getting operated for hole in his heart. He is having the operation right now, as I write this. I've been praying.

I've started work on something which has been pending for a long time. So the moving out seems to be serving its purpose. I have strict orders to call home once every day to report my doings. The first day I called, mom sounded different on the phone. I have taken so much for granted for so long. My family has been one of those things. I dread the thought of being left alone in this world, and for not being there when they'll need me in turn. Letting go for them must be so much more harder. I can hear the longing in my mom's voice. After just one day! You might think I am being melodramatic. But I think I am learning how to listen.

The only other bachelor in my office room (7 of us share a biggish room) got engaged. I could not believe it at first when A told me. I am the only single "entity" now in a room full of six married people. Not my idea of an conducive work environment. I had to play proxy for a school friend while he was making out with his girl. His dad called to check that he was at a movie with me (which is what he had told at home). I managed to mutter some sort of convincing reply. I hated doing it. I also felt like I was the last man left on earth. Where are you? I've been searching.

I have to walk some distance before I can get dinner. The place has tables set out on an open terrace. I was enjoying my tandoori roti, dal and some veggies when it started to drizzle. As I began hurriedly gulping down the tasty morsels, with a piece of roti in one hand and spoonful of dal in the other, I witnessed an ant with wings do a triple summersault and dive into my bowl of dal. My complete inability to prevent this act seemed so funny. It was like life was rushing toward me and daring me to meet it head on. I am learning how to share.

A single phone call from somebody very far was the highlight of that very dull evening. Finding a house for S and his family was the highlight of the next. Breakfast has settled into a routine of a chocolate chip muffin and a glass of chilled cold coffee. I did not think I'll write a post before Saturday, but I've started listening to someone's suggestions rather seriously. I am afraid though all habit forming things hurt, when they become addictions. I've been trying to be brave.

I am looking forward to the weekend. This has not happened in eons! I was hardly noticing the difference between a week-start and a weekend. Life is breaking its monotony. Soon it will be time to fly. I know where, I do not know how. Besides, I think it is time to find a co-pilot. Have I seen too many masala Hindi movies, or does the boy really get the girl? I've been reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Ishaan lay on the cast iron bed. The solitary window in the room, on the wall to his right, was letting in a narrow streak of sunlight into the otherwise dark room. Strains of an early morning radio somewhere wandered in, hitchhiking on the lustrous dawn air. He was wide awake by now and he could see Victoria behind her easel. Her face was in the shadows, but he could see her hand move. She held her palette in her left hand, while the right was guiding a size 2 brush on the canvas. She occasionally raised her head to look at him. Her look was blank, and seemed to peer through him. Her strokes varied, from gentle flowing ones to the vigorous rising crescendo of Bach's fugue in D minor. Her strokes had played a major part in persuading him to model for her, when she had breached the topic last night. "I hope you are going to make me look good." "Oh yes! If only your head was a little smaller..." He could not say whether she was joking or whether she meant it. He thought for a while, staring at the creaking ceiling fan, as the blades tried in vain to scare away the cobwebs on the walls.

Victoria was a receptionist at The Radisson. He was a tour manager for a travel agency. He had looked at her the first time and quite forgotten about the tourists he was supposed to guide on their maiden tour of the subcontinent. When he had left that evening he had her phone number in his pocket, which he had not dialed for two days out of sheer fright. Now he lay there, on the cold bed, with nothing between the cotton bed sheet and his sweaty skin. Victoria was an enigma to him. She attended art school every alternate evening, and everything about her was colour. Her smile, her touch, her smell, her hair, her clothes. This often overwhelmed his black and white logical mind, but also challenged it. "You were good yesterday night. But I was better I suppose or you would not have agreed." Victoria's voice sounded like a rhapsodic wind chime. She was not asking a question. She knew she was good.

"Do you love me?" He did not know why he asked this. She stopped for a while, gave a short laugh, and went back to her canvas. He stared at the yellow ochre stain on her left calf. It was right where the sunlight stung her soft flesh, and it shimmered like made of earthen gold. "Oh you do not want me to love you. You just want me." Victoria said the most outrageous things. She also said mostly truthful things. "I have been transferred to our Hyderabad branch. I would not be able to see you for the next six months." "Can you move the sheet down? Yes. A bit more. Keep it there!" Ishaan was not sure if where he wanted this to go. "Will you come with me?" "No."

He was wondering if all this was worth it or not. "You will outgrow me soon enough. I am just a stray habit you've picked up." Victoria was entirely nonchalant about the way she said all this. "But we are so good together." "We'll burn each other out soon enough. You do not want to burn. It does not feel good." He could never understand when she behaved like this. Almost as if she had fortified herself away from him. Victoria was trying to keep her wayward hair strands in place, but they occasionally fell on her face. She was using the back of the brush to put them back in place, while leaning her head back a little. He caught the glistening moist below her eyes. Everything was black and white again. "Will you marry me, Victoria?" The palette clattered to the floor.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Terminal Velocity

The air washes over my face,
As I fall down from the cliff,
Between life and death, a fatal race,
The competition is not all that stiff.

I had hoped to catch the hand you lent,
To jump over to the other side,
Thinking so I thus far went,
Walking over thin air to cross the wide.

Betrayed by the missing hand,
Something broke when you let go of me,
Waiting now for the inevitable land,
Approaching too fast for me to see.

My heart or head, which went first,
I can barely think at such a speed,
Would it have been better to die of thirst,
At least my dreams would have lived, indeed.

In that last second between heaven and earth,
If time promised to be still if I did not move,
And you lent me a hand with lack of any apparent mirth,
I'd still attempt another catch, maybe chances with trial improve.

Monday, July 04, 2005

With you

Every hour of every day overflows,
With you.
Every night every burning star glows,
With you.
Every tone of my voice resonates,
With you.
Every dream in my sleep equates,
With you.
Every song I hear is filled,
With you.
Every emotion I feel is instilled,
With you.
Every mirror in every light shines,
With you.
Every path on every road aligns,
With you.
Every story of every love ends,
With you.
Every break of every hurt mends,
With you.
Every stroke of every brush gyrates,
With you.
Every movement of magic life animates,
With you.
Every sight I ever see is tinged,
With you.
Every hue of every white is fringed,
With you.
Every divine of every God is one,
With you.
Every wild in my every dark is human,
With you.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A point of view

A few days ago, I saw this on a digital photography website:
Maxwell's Equations
For those who are unfamiliar with those four famous equations, they are called Maxwell's Equations. Developed by the famous Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, they unite the very fundamental forces of electricity and magnetism into a coherent theory of electromagnetism. I encountered them for the first time in a high school physics class. Are they not beautiful? I think they are simply gorgeous.

Simple, elegant and complete, they describe something which forms the thread of nature's divine tapestry. I have always believed that science at its elegant best is an art. Yet I see people who scoff at students of science as being artistically blunt. Many a times I interact with people who are talented and extremely gifted in the performing/visual/language arts, and they tend to look down upon tech geeks as being incapable of refined thought. Geeky science people might prefer reading Batman to Leo Tolstoy, but that does not automatically condemn them to the very lows of creativity. And then if they dare to give their views on, say a painting, their tastes and opinions are discarded as being crude, by default.

But I am not done yet. Now see this painting by Salvador Dali, called the Corpus Hypercubicus.
Maxwell's Equations
He has used an unfolded 4D hypercube as a cross here. The hypercube is a generalization of a 3-cube to n dimensions, also called a measure polytope. And how many times have I also met men of science who think art is an adhoc way of expressing things. It is not uncommon to see students of science look at artists with distaste, for its lack of rigor and abundance of abstract thought. I think that in every shred of art that has ever been, one can find scientific method and expression.

It is very difficult to make one see the other at times, but they are right there, inside of each other. I see both as wonderful manifestations of human thought. And one intertwines with the other in ways only limited by our imagination. I cannot write enough words here which will convey how exactly I feel about this, because it has permeated into me more as an experience than as a collection of facts. More often than not, I have found that my interactions with people from both streams have enriched my thought process. The only point I wanted to get through is that one does not preclude the other. I hope I have done that.

I am sure all this was part of some grand plan but I cannot remember. Seeing me in much distress, Pooh Bear explained thus:
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you sometimes find that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.