Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stream of thoughts

The desire to express often surpasses the desire to suppress,

The hope of a perfect life is more realistic than the knowledge of a realistic life.

The music that fills the ears takes one to a different land.... where all, but the bliss of the music, disappears.

What is it about applying one's creativity that pushes one into a zone where one is almost 100% involved in the task at hand?

And why does the mind behave strangely when an old companion is visibly happy with someone else?

In spite of all the broadmindedness, sometimes, one gets caught up in mindless tussles with societal norms.

And it's weird. One knows and fully fathoms and acknowledges the necessity of sorrow/grief/longingness. Yet, one wishes for it to get over. And how!

I like Hindi movies where they try to depict paradise. Sometimes I think they limit it by displaying a visual imagery of it.
But again, at least, for the lesser imaginative souls, it acts as a blueprint of that what could be.

Is there really a place with limitless grasslands, with lush green color... the wind tickling the insides of the blades... the cloudless sky with the colors of dusk brightly sprayed across it... and then the quintessential fire around which two lost souls sit silently, absorbing the inexplicable beauty...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An old thought

//Beginning of excerpt

I wondered what we were/are for each other all the time.
But today you used the term 'best friend'.

I like it. It's like a load off my mind. Now that the relationship is defined, the protocol follows. What to do and (more importantly) what not to do is defined.

I like the way you said "I don't want to fall in love with you again". I wish the same. I don't want to fall in love with you again. But in my case, it is not again. It did not really really stop... and at what point it increased in intensity, I do not know. But now it is like I am engulfed by you. You are in the classroom, you are in the trains, on the bridge, you are in the student who is asking me the question, you are on the staircases where we fleetingly and coyly flirted... you are so much a part of my life here, that I wish you don't enter this make-believe world... this world in which the image I have drafted of you symbiotically co-exists with me... because if you do enter this solemn creation, it might, perhaps, disrupt the peace that I have finally attained.

There is no doubt in my mind that my perception of what-you-would-be-were-you-here is more attractive that what you actually are. I endow you with all the qualities I want in you. I edit you blatantly. You are just the facade. For me, you look and appear like you, but your personality otherwise is a concoction of my desires.

The question that naturally follows is why would I ever want you in my life?
Can't I live with the mirage?

I am torn between "what is" and "what ought to be"... although it is ME who gives answers to both these questions

// End of excerpt

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When someone quotes mad-or-what...

and pits my point in the blog against my conversational point, and then laughs accusingly... I belie my internal complacency with the facade of annoyance

Kaisa ullu banaaya! ;-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Know Thyself

She hears the cell beep with the message tone. She feels her stomach contract slightly... and finds herself taking a deep breath.
She ignores her cell. But the more she ignores, the tenser she gets. She knows he must have reached downstairs, waiting for her in his car. She checks herself in the mirror for the nth time, smiles broadly to relieve herself of any residual tension... and walks out with a carefree gait.

The first moment, the moment when she enters the car is the harbinger of the evening. She looks at him, there is a momentary silence... and she feels the need to dispel it before the silence starts to imply anything. She talks in a fake tone, eager to set a light jocular mood. Once that objective is achieved, she feels much better. She likes being in her comfort zone... now things are under control.

They go about their normal routine of talking to each other without listening, deciding on the place to go and then changing their minds at the last minute, looking at each other furtively, playing bhangra music coupled with romantic bollywood... and in general giving opinions on each other and pulling each others' legs.

This is sooooo much fun. She feels so light during and after such meetings. These meetings have none of the intellectual thrills she had anticipated to have on an interesting date, and they don't do anything out of the way (its food or movie or food), and it's not even new i.e. its not the novelty that has kept it interesting.
But she realllly enjoys these meets... so much so that she wonders if she knows what she really wants.

She has begun to dread that her conceptions about perfection, and conclusions about self, may be highly flawed. And her favorite pet-peeve is an undetected narrow-mindedness that has remained undetected for precisely the same reason: her being narrow-minded.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On holding back

She starts scrapping him on orkut... then scraps the idea.
She wrote one of those I-have-nothing-to-say-so-here-it-is---hidden-in-a-silly-heyyyyy-msg.
Then she decided against it.

At night, 2 am perhaps, she was as herself as she could be. In that state there is generally very little holding back, being done. She gives in to all temptations/desires (thats what life's for, after all, eh?)
Yet, she controls the urge to click on the send button of gmail.

She hears those songs, reads those stories and watches those movies that advocate professing one's feelings before it's 'too late'... or advocate speaking one's minds nonetheless.
She believes in that partly. Perhaps wholeheartedly.

But there's something fishy. She doesn't know if its just her, but more often than not, she has been successful in eliciting a more satisfactory response when she doesn't communicate too often. When she doesn't mail or call or communicate much, in general, the other person feels a sense of mild insecurity. It is THAT which brings more enthusiasm/consideration-for-her-feelings in those rare communications.

She doesn't like holding herself back. But refraining has often brought greater rewards than being oneself without any check on it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Does it matter that I matter?

Handling someone's emotions is a draining task.
Sometimes one wishes to escape such ordeals, even at the cost of a less involved relationship.

Is it inherent in us to rely so deeply on someone else for our emotional highs such that it becomes dangerously parasitic?
Isn't it true/proved that our happiness is 'within us'? If so, why is this knowledge not omnipresent enough to spare the heart-aches to many a lost soul!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A random realization

A person's true wealth is judged by how happy he is.
It is not money, but happiness that counts.

But money is valued because somehow it seems that happiness can be achieved by using money effectively.
So, one is as rich by x amount, if one uses the x amount effectively to gain happiness. The piles of rupees/dollars do not contribute to a person's wealth if they don't contribute to the person's happiness.

There are other factors that give one happiness....
1. The number of fulfilling relationships with other people
2. One's clarity of thought and peace of mind.
3. Lack of stresses and discomforts.
4. Variety and intensity of emotions felt over the lifetime.

Many more.. which I can't articulate accurately.

So, wealth is a summation of all the potentials that contribute to making a person happy.

But are these potentials measurable?
Since there is no provably clear way to gauge the intensity of these factors, the Fortue 500 estimates a person's wealth only by the measurables, which happen to be money.

I don't know what's the point I am trying to make. But sometimes, some partial realizations make one feel profound. This one is almost there :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Art of Living

There are these courses that happen across the globe, in all continents and cater to all strata of society... and they claim to change people's life.

They probably do.

But what's the big deal about it? Why make so much noise about changing lives? Almost everything that we do, changes/impacts our life.
Another bad thing about claiming to change someone's life is that you put that person in a vulnerable position. Some (like me) may get super-guarded... hell! I don't want something to change my life overnight, without me inspecting, evaluating and finally allowing it to change. And there are some who get excited, who are desperately waiting for someone to show them direction, to point a finger at the right path so that they can comfortably and conveniently walk on.. and they are relieved to hear the things that one typically hears in such courses.

These courses are good in their own way... there is almost always certain takeaways that are worth the resources invested into the course. In particular, this AoL course taught me to:-
1. Be a better listener
2. to do crazy things that I would be awkward to do otherwise (tell people my true dreams, look into their eyes and search for divinity, dance to the tunes of bhajans... many more)
3. how humor can be used effectively to drive home a point.
4. subtle aspects of dealing with failures

But what sticks in my mind and bothers me is the fundamental methodology used in such courses. It works on the philosophy of faith. "Do the kriya, do the saadhna, and you will feel joy within". The kriya and its functioning, the meditations, the saadhnas are not described clearly. Since the guru says it is to be done, the followers do it... how can they question the guru? They need to have faith in the guru's words and doctrine.

This, in my opinion, is extremely dangerous. It can lead to (or probably already is) fanaticism.

What is the difference, after all, in the way, say, a religious extremist outfit operates and a self-development course where the practices are not questioned?
To an outsider of both of these, both of these are dangerous.
But to an insider of either of these, they are doing the right thing.

Interestingly, it seemed impossible to communicate this, put this point across to the AoL volunteer. She was not even listening.

Anyway, the bhakti and sangeet was mind-blowing. And the tidbits of interesting facts was fun listening to. The teacher was cool.
It was worth the time, money, energy and the space in mind devoted to it :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Matter of Time

She would smile at strangers,
didn't know how else to look,
but it was a matter of time
until she realized she better behave

She was scared of standing up,
in front of the class,
afraid of being laughed at,
afraid of being wrong
But it was a matter of time
until she braved the crowds.

There were those who influenced her,
those who molded her,
those whose talks echoed throughout the day, for days...
But it was a matter of time
until she found more invigorating company.

She would steam up when injustice was meted out,
Feel the urge to right the wrong,
She corrected those who spat on the stations
and worshiped the epitomes of honesty
But it was a matter of time
until it hit upon her - there really is no right or wrong.

She defined herself as a person who believed in blah1 blah1,
a person who liked blah2 blah2
a person who wanted to blah3 blah3
But it was a matter of time...
and all the blahs changed.

Most things seem to be a matter of time,
TIME is what defines us.

A person's life is primarily a function of time.

But there are some things that are constants... like the DC component in an AC graph.
It always plays a role, even when it is zero.

That component, I guess, is love.
Or 'true love', if you please.
Something, I can't find a better definition for.

But something that is not a matter of time... as they say, it's eternal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crackers of Joy

She was in the gymn, working out rigorously. Her thighs hurt when she did her 20th squat. She shut her eyes, and in that moment she saw Egypt... the hotel in which she had stayed, the oppressive heat during the day and the cooling colors of the sheeshas at night... many people... tooo many people bustling around the busy streets of Cairo.. and the spectacular feeling of walking along the life-giving Nile.

She sometimes can't believe that had left it all... dropped everything and taken a break from life... to enjoy life. She can't believe that she had once slept in those scary dorms, walked alone on those bright streets of Amsterdam, befriended absolute strangers in the dorm and traveled with them.

Sometimes she sees her travels as that point from which life began... like the day Christ was born. It is the reference. Everything before that is BC, and everything after that is AD.
Everything before her travels was when she was a different person... not just a different person, but a person she sometimes can't even identify with now. Nothing after her travels would have happened had she not traveled.

She hasn't experienced fear since then... or genuine unhappiness. She has become carefee. She has gained the perspective to identify and courage to ignore the irrelevant. She has also learnt the art of looking at herself from a vantage point, without getting involved/biased. She can cry/laugh/teach/learn etc and transit out of herself and question why she is crying/laughing/teaching/learning.

She is in love with herself... bloody narcissist!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making my own sense of it all...

This is what I understand of the current mayhem in the economy:-

US bank gives 2 types of loans: corporate and personal. Say there is a corporate that is into real estate... company HomeMakers (HM), and there are many clients A, B, C etc.

HM requires a loan for its business of producing houses whereas A needs loan to pay for the house.

Now bank tells HM: "Hey, you want money for your business. I see that you might do well. I am willing to stake my money in your business, as long as you show your own commitment. So, I will put in 50% and you put in 50% into the total capital. If you can invest your 100Cr, I will match it to invest another 100Cr."
HM is happy. He makes houses and sells to all those who can pay for them.

Now HM tells bank: "I can probably build more houses if there was a market for it. Currently there are some people who would like to buy a house, but don't have the capacity for it. Why don't you loan them money to buy the house? If you do so, they can pay me the money for the house piecemeal and I can build houses for them as well. In short, why don't you create a market for me? ".

Bank looks at capacity of A. Bank sees that it can afford to lend money to A coz A seems to have repayment capacity in a certain time period, say 20 years. So Bank tells A: "I am willing ot invest my 80% and your 20%. You repay me back the 80% in 20 years. Until then, you use my money to pay for the house and enjoy the benefits of getting a house NOW as opposed to many years later."

So, HM builds more houses, the As Bs and Cs get houses and the Bank makes its own profit from the interests generated. This is all good.

Now, for some reason (this is dont get), the Bank has a lot of money. So, it tries to find more such customers. Many banks have a lot of money and all of them want to lend it to such customers. So, customer tells Bank_1: "Why should I borrow money from your Bank when I can do so from Bank_2 as well?". So, because of competition, Bank_1 says: "Alright, I'll lower the amount YOU have to invest in the flat... how about a 90-10 ratio? I put in 90%, you put in 10%."...
Because of intense competitions, banks start giving loans at 100% their own risk. They can do this because of an important underlying reason. The real-estate prices.
Today, if client A takes a loan for a home, pays some amount of the loan, and then decides that he can't pay anymore.. or for any reason, he defaults at the payment, the bank can simply hijack the house, and sell it in the market.
Since real-estate prices are rising, the bank will get a higher price in the market, than what it paid for (in terms of the loan to the client).
The bank also got a small portion of the loan repayment.

This way, the bank does not lose anything... and this in fact, seems to be a lucrative business... perhaps so much so that the bigger players get interested.
Now say the bank does a 200million dollars such business.. and is happy with it. A bigger player comes and says: " You continue doing this business. However, I have a lot of money with me which I would like to invest in this business. So, you find clients for me, do background checks on them, lend them MY money and collect interest from them... and give the interest to me. I can't do this myself coz you are better at this whole thing than I am. I just have the money. So, if you are collecting 12% interest from your clients, you charge 12% on these new clients... and give me 11% out of that. The 1% differential you can claim as yours".

Now, the bank gets a chance to earn more. It continues with its own thing of lending people its own money to buy the flat.
But additionally, bank tries to find more customers to give loans to. This time, however, there is a difference in the banks mentality. This money that is to be lent is not the bank's... it is the Bigger Player (BP)'s money. And more the bank can lend from the BP's money to the clients, the greater is the 1% chunk of it that the bank is going to earn. However, NOW if some client defaults on payments, it is the BP's responsibility to bear the losses.
So, the risk which initially the bank bore if the client defaulted, is moved to the BP

Now there is a Bigger-Than-Bigger Player (BTB) who can loan more money to the BP. And the risk of the client defaulting is moved higher in the hierarchy... until there are still bigger players, and now the game goes international. It becomes news that the US banks have a great business, and dllar is strong and all that... so European banks, Indian banks etc invest in this scheme.

In general, initially the risk moved higher in the hierarchy from bank to the bigger player (sometimes called wealth managers) to still bigger players. When international entities got involved, the risk got diversified across the world.

In principle, many people across the globe contributed to give the client A, B and C the power to buy his house.

It was all good until a dreaded thing happened. Real-estate pries went down. For instance, a house that cost 100million today, costed say 90million tomo. Now A thinks... "I have paid 5million of my loan back. But what if I chose not to pay anymore? I can give the house key back to the bank... and get a new home in the market for just 90million. So, I spend a total of 95M vs 100M." The Banks got keys to many houses. In short, many people defaulted on the payments.
So, all the banks started selling those houses. Because of greater supply than the demand, the prices spiralled.

This caused a negative cycle. The bank that thought that it could recover its loan in case of a client default, by selling the house, could NOT recover, because the value of the house went down.
So the bank lost its money... and so did the Bigger Players (because the risk was pushed up the hierarchy).

The big names that we hear today (Lehman Bros, AIG etc) are the bigger players somewhere in the hierarchy.

Since they began losing money in this business, they had to get back all their money invested in other businesses all over the world, to contain these losses.
So, India felt the heat because of 2 primary reasons:-
1. The international investment that it received (Foreign Investment: FIIs) is being pulled back.
2. The Indian entities that invested in this business lost their money.. and they were the Indian big players like ICICI.

From a rough statistical data, only 5 billion dollars of the total 55 billion dollars of foreign investment has been pulled back. And India is in panic mode. 30% of the money around is from foreign investors, and 70% is domestic. In worst case scenario, if ALL 30% were to be pulled back by the foreigners, the 100% has to be satisfied by the 70% that we domestically contribute.

This probably causes an extremely negative market sentiment and indices of growth/success/stability/hope (like the Sensex, Real Estate morale) spiral down cascadingly.

It is believed (by dad :) ) that the worst has not yet arrived.

There are too many Qs.
1. Primarily, what went wrong?
What I don't understand is how does the tide turn? What causes it?

2. This business of loaning money to clients and having a hierarchical system for that, has been in effect since 10-15 years. Why did it collapse NOW?

3. Also, why are some economies resilient to these damages, and others more vulnerable?

Perhaps, to understand these things, one needs a deeper AND wider know-how of things. Or one needs a dad like mine... who can tone (dumb?) down the talk to my level. (Claimer: any mistakes are a part of MY misunderstanding).

But if nothing else, the current scenarios do make for fascinating coffee-table discussion and ruminations and speculations... As interestingly observed by dad's friend that "Worth has become vyarth, and notional losses have become national losses"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The real damage

Wi-fi is disabled in our college. Strangely enough, the same people have taken contradictory stand on it... so much so that they have shifted their sides more than 3 times. This is almost unpardonable...

When the college became wi-fi enabled, people gloated with pride... They started quoting bandwidth, signal strength and all that... in many a places, it was quoted as the strength of the college. And then, this city was attacked using an insecure wifi... and there was a cascade of disconnections. Suddenly, people were now proud to have made our college more secure by disabling wifi. The wifi range was 'so good' that someone sitting in the car outside college could use it.

But then, the big fish arrived to judge the small fish.... guys from the central board came to accredit the college based on facilities and infrastrucutre and other parameters they deem fit. Now, college had boasted of wifi. So, they turned it on for a couple of days... to boast of how we embrace technology and all.

This is not just two-facedness, but changing the face too many times. It is a pity that the minds that run a prestigious college should so openly participate in a farce.

But worse, in my opinion, is that the anti-social elements succeeded in scaring educationist and professors of computer engineering courses enough to switch off wifi (a lifeline of this age). Instead of being proud that by disabling wifi we have made the college a safer place, we should be ashamed that we had to recede, to ashamedly take a step back. Instead of using preventive methods, we simply used escapism.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A strong opinion on not having one...

The world's biggest smoking ban has been imposed in this country. That too, on a markedly auspicious and sentimental (for some) day, making it all the more difficult for the opponents to overcome the resulting moral support this law gets.

Having a categorical view on such a subject does not seem justified, and that is because having such a view requires the viewers to have experienced/experimented with both sides. Smoking may be physically injurious to health, but it probably gives a much-needed temporary relief to the smoker. Same with many 'vices' of society, especially Indian society. For instance, smoking weed (marijuana, or ganja) is not proved to cause or instigate lung cancer. And the psychosomatic relief and joy obtained from it is unparalleled (perhaps preceded by higher drugs).

This is not to say that consuming drugs, smoking tobacco, premarital relationships/sex, live-ins, and all other taboos are necessarily right. It is just that it is not clear whether indulging in them is good or bad.

I recently got into a mild argument with an acquaintance who happened to be a doctor. When I expressed my disapproval at the law nonchalantly, she was most offended. "You should see the patients of extensive smoking... their un-seeable swollen lips... their pain and suffering", she said with a tone which was irritatingly righteous.

I think the problem is that that which we see appears more gory than that which may be gorier but cannot be seen. Just because one can see the pain and suffering and the sights which caused one to convulse with nausea, does not mean that there aren't worse cases of suffering. Perhaps smoking caused the patient to eventually suffer after some 40 years of regular smoking. But can't you see the interim relief he got, the smile on his face while sharing a smoke with colleagues or friends, enjoying the temporary state of bliss? Perhaps he should have controlled it to not let it worsen. But the real debate is - are years of engagement in a potentially 'harmful' activity which gives one considerable joy/relief/happiness really that bad that a government has to step in and debatably compromise on individuals' right of choice?

The only redemption for the law is that the government is trying to protect those who do not smoke from the ill-effects pf passive smoking. In that case, doing that in Mumbai is almost laughable where some reliable statistic says that staying in Mumbai is equivalent to smoking a half a pack of cigarettes everyday. However, overlooking that, it is understandable if such a law is to be enforced in really confined places where passive smoking is inevitable. But banning it in the open-space of Mocha, near the paanwala, in any remotely public place even if it is open-air, is pushing it.

I think we have forgotten that health is not confined to only physical health, but mental/emotional health is just as important, if not more. In that case, (case 1) A's smoke causing B to smoke passively is probably not as bad as (case 2) A's insulting and demeaning behavior causing mental turmoil/stress/depression in B. The govt is doing a lot for the victims of passive smoking coz it is detriment to B's physical health. But is the govt or any agency of power doing anything to stop/contain adverse effects to B's mental health?

There are many ways to look at it. And getting back to the original point, no individual or entity, be it government or society or parents, can have a categorical view on such activities without having tasted both sides.

Monday, October 06, 2008


It was a Sunday, and she was on Carter Road. Sitting. Staring... into the space and years.

She could see a lot of couples. And more bystanders trying to watch the couples. Yet, the couples were in oblivion, and knew how to have fun clandestinely.
She smiled at their victory vicariously.

The place seemed so familiar it almost made her uncomfortable. She realized that she had not forgotten much. It was just that she never experienced the right triggers that activated these memory cells. Now that she saw the same setting, she could identify even with the crevices on the rocks... They were their sinhaasans, once upon a time, those rocks... thrones on which the two of them sat and watched the world pass by, drew generously large conclusions, made small talk and big talk alike, tried to impress, tried to understand, kissed, groped, made unfinished love, solved mid-day crossword and basked in the glory of getting the 9-letter word.

And for an instant she felt filmy. She thought that she would give up all that that made her 'grow up', her foreign education, her degree, her mature mindset... hell, even her travels... only if she could get back that untainted joy of companionship.

She knows it is not him that she yearns. It is the companionship... that feeling of speaking one's mind, of getting honest opinion/advice/feedback, of knowing a new perspective, of laughing together.

She fiercely guards her independence... but at the same time, hopes for someone to rightfully snatch it away.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Plain Updates

Time for a new blog post... I am happy, relaxed and 'de-stressed' as a friend pointed out.

It's 2.40am on Saturday night, and I just got back from a totally kick-ass session with friends... Absolutely unwound! It started with going for Garba (being deprived of Mumbai garba for 2 years) with Falguni in her elements.... followed by cheese pav bhaaji and sandwich and good ol' ThumbsUp at Shivsaagar, and then the soothing Double Apple sheesha at Mocha.... and then the interesting drive back home... all this tinted with the 'haraaaami jokes' and bakwaas PJs and reminsicizing days of yore...

Ah! There is little that can beat the raw freedom of dancing Garba to Falguni's tunes... Andar kaa jaanwar utth jaata hai. There comes a point where nothing matters, and you are one with the music... the crescendo and the eventual climax take you to a new plane where it's only you, your rhythm and the music.. and if you break out of that mode, you see all others still in trance...
It's almost soulful.
Also, there is an inexplicable joy in understanding others' in the group and getting the same step in 4 beats. Just recently I tried choreographing a dance, and I realized how tough it is to get people to synchronize their dance steps... but somehow, that is not the case with those who understand garba... I don't know if it is in 'our blood' (if there is such a thing), but the synch definitely happes much easily and quickly..

Sameer, Hetal, PG, Mani... I love you all... I laughed until my eyes cried and stomach ached. It felt so good to do absolute bakwaas.... Being a teacher, I end up re-thinking and filtering my talks much more than I ever did... but today, it was pretty crazy...

Apart from all this dancing and garba, the students of TSE are crazy. They sang the Happy Bday song for me twice in 1 month.. coupled with loud hooting and banging of benches. But I love this job... I am learning a lot about interaction with another breed of people. And they are very cooooool... in fact, I am afraid I might fancy them.

Many more updates.. but now it is time for my dandiya-energized-but-simultaneously-exhausted body to relax.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Patriotism

It is something that aggravates people enough to stake their lives over.
It is something that unites countries over most of the statistics and surveys.
It is something that make citizens proud, or ashamed... it is the driving force in international clashes. In fact, the very word international says something about the existence of nations, and hence patriotism.

Is this an innate emotion? Are we born with a capacity for love for the community/society/country that we are born in? Or does it come out of constant direct effort and implicit nurture?

For me, it is a confusing emotion. I can never really defend it, and yet I can't deny the sense of belonging that I feel because of it. It makes the girl studying abroad search for Indian videos on youtube, watch over and over again the ad of 'chalo India' with a sense of pride and belonging and a drive to 'do something for her nation'.

The songs of Swades, Guru... the Teach India campaign.. the festivals all around the year... even the Bollywood songs and dancing... the jhumkas and the latkas and the matkas... letting a guy run along the local train an assist him board it in spite of the compartment brimming with passengers... the mithais distributed whole-heartedly in tyohars... the fanaticism over anything Indian, be it cricket or be it parampara/sanskruti... the un-definable yet omnipresent Indian-ness that is unqie and pride-worthy most of the time.

Well, there are probably many things here... but patriotism is the word associated with the feeling of pride and belonging one feels to one's homeland (IMO).

It makes millions cry when it is showed in one angle - the Lagaan or Swades angle... in each case, India triumphs against a foreign power. In Lagaan it is a direct clash between two cultures... whereas in Swades it is more subtle... it lies in the questions that plague the mind that has to choose between two cultures. And eventually, patriotism triumphs.

But it just as well makes millions squirm in their seats when they see the price to be paid for it, or the anti-growth activities flourishing and being supported rampantly in the name of patriotism. In general, looking down upon other cultures/countries in an inevitable by-product of patriotism, or so it seems. In the showdown between patriotism and peace, patriotism wins by a hands-down majority, as the newspapers tell us about the Kashmir issue.

Is it a necessary emotion? Why are we 'patriotic' about our country? Why is granularization fixed to that point? Why not a continent? We don't hear someone being proud of being an 'Asian'. And why not to a greater granularity - a state, or a city or a family? Patriotism is promoted on such a large scale that we are explicitly told not to put religion/sect ahead of country. Sharukh, in Chak De India asks each player to be proud of being an Indian, and not a Punjabi or Gujurati. Well, well, why not ask her to be proud of being a human? I mean, why are the bounndaries of countries embossed on the world map, and not the continents/state/cities or any other significant landmark? Aren't countries created for the purpose of convenient governance/handling of people? There isn't and there probably should not be anything more than the significance of that convenience attached to what people think about their country.

But there is an inexplicable joy in that sense of belongingness. Is patriotism necessary? Is it beneficial? And if it isn't either of those, can it be replaced, or will its removal make a void in the emotional factory section of the human minds?

And going by a new angle that I consider these days, is a patritic person genetically superior? In the game for survival of the fittest, the qualities that do not matter, or those do not give the entity an advantage over another, are lost over the long term. So, if one were to bet on it, would Patriotism survive through millions of generation and triumph as an advantageous/winning emotion to be eventually coded in the genetic material, or will it lose its wajood?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I really want is...

an avenue, be it a place or a school or a simulated environment or a program that I can upload in my brain... but something that can make me see things from someone else's point of view.

It seems to me that it is not THAT difficult to create such a device/atmosphere. And that if such a machine is created, it'll be the next big thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A badly done job!

You have ideals/principles/ethics/morals... perhaps all these of yours are entirely self-defined.
But you have them nonetheless. And at times, at the cost of judging prematurely, you shun those who think otherwise.

And then, you who endorsed these principles, violate them... you compromise your values.

And then, nothing is worse than hindsight guilt. You can't live in the present coz your mind can't let go of that wrong-doing.

What is one to do? Sometimes there is no praayashchit. And sometimes, the guilt is the worst punishment.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Living this way

is not too difficult.

There was a time when the 'if onlys' haunted her. The roads, the restaurants and the pav bhaajis in those restaurants, the trains and the rides, the staircase of the college and the small window on it, the fresh breath of air on bandstand, the smart student in the class, the movies... all of this meant an emotional hiccup. Before she would realize what was happening, she would be attacked by the pang.

But now it seems comfortable. There is comfort in longingness, and in tolerance... there is joy in looking at the yellow-lit building in the slums, the bright green masjod ad the Islam flag, there is joy in being called Ma'am, there is freedom and a vantage point to view the worldly struggle from.

There is the joy of playing music in the background and writing a blog post.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That unsuspecting moment...

that's the moment when I fall in love... I am listening to a song that I have heard innumerable times. But just that one time, in an unsuspecting moment, I am hit by something about it. And it wins my hearts and a higher ranking on iTunes.

Same with people. I know them for years, have interacted with them in many ways. But all it takes is - I dont know what about that moment - that somehow all they've done, and all they believe in, seems to be appropriate and make sense... Perhaps not defensible, but justifiable.

And then... it even works the other way. There are things I take for granted, and beliefs that I have comfortably defended. But something shakes them. And after the initial discomfort, I begin to see what I had totally ignored. I begin to question that which I was sure of.

Well, it may be because of the people I am interacting with these days. But surely enough, I am not as open-minded as I assumed myself to be. I react too strongly, too soon. I quickly dismiss things that don't suit me, and favor those that do. But I credit that to an efficient judiciary system of my body, I claim that I know what I am doing. I say no to pills too soon, and say yes to bollywood too soon. I believe basic physics is an obvious consequence of natural instincts, and so when NandaBai cant shut the door and can't figure out which way to shut it, I am surprised. Isn't it obvious? Well, that's my shortsightedness. I am impulsively put off by English music - heavy metal/hard rock/rock/soft rock/alternative/trance and all those things that I don't understand. I put them in a category of 'English music'. Only when I was forced to listen to some songs from those category did Sir Elton John become a fav. I didn't want to look feminine for the fear of loosing my boyish charm. I stubbornly refuse anything that make it seem that I am trying to enhance my appearance. But now I am stuck with a penchant for ear-rings and salwaar kameez.

There are countless such cases... but well, does having preferences mean lack of open-mindedness? Well, to answer my own Q, no. But having fixed beliefs is the opposite. And although I always thought I had preferences, most of them turned out to be fixed beliefs.

It's a scary ground to stand on when opinion of self changes. When the primary quality you were proud of about yourself, ceases to exist... and you realized that it perhaps never existed.

You fear that you will age now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

opening the mind

Emotions are potentials. We, as human beings, have the potential to emote. These emotions are then mapped to the society we live in (and society implies our sphere of influence), such that they fit that society. The settings of the knob of each emotion is set according to the comfort level of that setting in the society we interact with.

I don't understand when phrases like "your mind makes you believe BLAH", or "the mind plays tricks" etc. There is no you and your mind. Its all the same. You are your mind. A person is defined by his beliefs/culture/philosophy/morals... all of which are residents of the mind. We live in our minds.
To understand this, to really get a feel, one must alter one's mind. By alter, I mean, live in a (hopefully) temporarily different residence to realize how different different residences can be. A small dose of an opiate can give a sense of that. And it drives home a point that may never be driven home otherwise.

Screwing around with the mind is the way to get that kick that you can't get anywhere else. Agreed.

And although it is a scary process with scarier prospects, it is probably challenging in certain intellectual ways.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An awe-inspiring sight

How close can you get to someone?

Initially we pull out the 'best-looking' garb and adorn ourselves with it. Then we gradually shed it, giving the other entity a 'taste' of the real us. And then, if we sense it going down well, we start shedding and letting the true light sine through.. and all that.

But can we completely be ourselves in presence of someone else? Some things about us are so personal that perhaps NO ONE will ever see/know. After decades of companionship, couples sense that they know all there is to know about each other. True. But there is, perhaps, still a boundary.. a thin but existing wall of privacy that can't be completely gotten away with.

It is difficult to define that boundary. What I can do is give instances of things/activities that can only be done in privacy. Of course, it can be argued that this has nothing much to do with 'sharing and enjoying each others' company'. But whatever!
So, my sister once told me that you should eventually be so close to your husband that you can fart in bed without anything becoming uncomfortable. I say "aaargh!"

But I saw something beyond it today. It was not a romantic companionship, though.

As the local train by which I was traveling passed Mahim, the usual stench of uncleared refuse filled the air. And there outside, in all the muck and lazy, unplucked weeds and dead-plastic choked tracks and the rotten garbage from months... far far away from all the palpable and unbearable filth, sat two friends, sharing a joke. One said something to the other, and the other smiled. Both of them had a ghamla (a container of water) in their hand... and both of them were chatting not over chai, or naashta, or around the corner of the street. They were chatting while defecating.

However repulsive it might appear, it seemed like true liberation. How is it possible?

Is it the same civilize-ation that makes me repulse at the thought of engaging myself in such an activity, that bonds them closer in such an act?

And here I crib and complain when someone enters my room unanounced. So much for privacy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A conversation

I was sitting opposite her, at the place we always hang out. She was right, we have hung out together since a long time now... enough years to wipe out my memories of how she once looked.

I don't know what it is about the people whom we enjoy conversing with. What is a conversation? Is it the case that if two people can speak the same language, they can communicate? Does the comprehension of a common language suffice to communicate? Or do we need to go beyond and say that not just an understanding of the words, but also an understanding of certain key terms is necessary to communicate?

It is strange. When she uses the word crazy, she means open-minded. When she says open-minded she means courageous. When she says 'going beyond words', she means 'thinking about your words for more than 30 seconds'. When she says 'I adore him', she means... well, I don't know what she means.

When I find that her 'dictionary' is different than mine, I get more cautious - I try paying more attention because I am trying to understand what she means, and not the meaning of the words she uses. And this task requires 'going beyond words' in my dictionary.

It is intriguing that probably very few of us share a dictionary, or have even a significant intersection set. Yet, we find someone's conversations more gripping. Why? I get a feeling that I am never sure of what the person means. I understand some parts of the conversation... but conversations that require the use of abstract terms that have open-ended definitions make me uneasy. It feels that I am not getting anywhere. To have any such conversation and render it fruitful, one must define the protocol painstakingly.

But in spite of being unsure of what we discussed, I enjoyed it. And THAT'S the surprising part. I really dont know what she said... yet it seemed to make sense at some level. How can we make sense of that which we are not sure we understand? See, therein I have already worded a contradiction.

Phew! It was fun... yet I agreed to a lot of what she said. Does the years of proximity also help in understanding her?

There were moments when I felt pangs of an never-felt-before disturbance... like I would never understand her and no one would/could understand me... coz although we all speak the same language, we don't have a common pipe for thoughts. Thoughts are personal.... we can share them only by means of language.. and if how A describes a thought is different than how B describes the same thought, they will never know that they meant the same thing... coz it has 2 different descriptions.

Gosh! Feels like one has to be careful with words...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dreams people see

I am going to go to the same class tomorrow... that I have always dreaded. Dreaded coz I was afraid I'll get picked out of the many to be asked a question (if I was unlucky, it would be a 'simple one') and I'll fail to answer... I was afraid that I would not understand what is taught and feel a sense of guilt. I was afraid that I would soon realize how poor a student I am.. afraid that I would get bored... afraid that I would sense a helplessness too strong about the inability to change the situation. I was afraid that I would realize how I was stuck in a rut that I was not interested in.. not even if I win it.

I was too afraid.

Tomo the tables turn. I am anti-afraid. I have never been so confident in life... it is like finally doing something you have always waited for... something you always wanted to but didn't have the gut to.
It is like an author seeing someone read his book... or a musician playing to a live audience.

It will probably be the first time I won't pray. It seems that I can do without even God this time.

On second thoughts, I will need God the most.
*sheepish grin*

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A quick fix

What is it about writing that makes me sign in to this blog and start writing? Most of the times I don't have any idea of what I want to write. The other rare times, when I do know what I want to write about, I don't know how to.
The articles that I have enjoyed writing the most are those written when I am the most sensitive... either I have laughed a lot, and in a vulnerable-to-any-joke mode.. or more often than not, when I am deeply disturbed.

But most of the times I sign in blogger and stare at the editor hoping for ideas to flow and words to articulate them. It's when I am browsing through the labyrinth of my mind, looking for those thoughts - they would give me relief. It's like feeling freer... or like the feeling of having earned your bread, like having done something that makes you call it a day.. it's like talking to a shrink and feeling lighter after saying it all as is.

Whoa! Writing seems to be therapeutic for the mind. A happy realization for the day :-)

What is it about this song? Is it the tune.. or the lyrics? Or the current mausam and stage in life perhaps. It could be the dard in the voice... can't figure it out.

Aaoge Jab Tum... - Ustad Sultan Khan (movie: Jab We Met)

Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna
Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna
Angana phool khilege
Barsega saawan, barsega saawan
Jhoom jhoom ke
Do dil aise milenge
Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna
Angana phool khilege

Naina tere kajrare
Naino pe hum dil hare hai
Anjane hi tere naino ne
Waade kiye kaie saare hai
Saanso he leher madam chale
To tu kahe barsega saawan
Barsega saawan jhoom jhoom ke
Do dil aise milenge

Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna
Angana phool khilege

Chanda ko uta lakho mein
Hai zindagi tere haton mein
Palko pe jil mil tare hai
Aana bhari barsato mein
Sapno ka jahaan
Hoga khilaa khilaa
Barsegaa saawan, barsega saawan
Jhoom jhoom ke
Do dil aise milenge

Things are never where you look for them

Following interesting things have happened:-

1. I am back to making lists.. It has almost become an obsession to pen all the 'things to do' on anything ranging from the tissue paper (that's what we call the napkins in the restaurant in India) to last pages of books to random flying sheets of paper. Invariably I don't remember where I kept the list... Thinking of making a master-list of the lists' locations :-)

2. There are kabootars in my room. I keep wondering what these birds ever do. Mate and recreate and mate and recreate and peck! That sounds a very promising life, and suddenly all that gyaan of getting a human birth after 'chaurasi-laakh' janams doesn't seem justified.

3. There were cows on the main road. YES! They really were there... not in some far-ended suburb of Mumbai, but right in the heart of the city, on the main road in Bandra... and not one or 2, but three unforgivably unfazed cows mulling and chewing cud.. and in general doing what humans should.

4. The trains.... ah! The trains. I fail to understnad, or rather choose to fail to understand the obsession with the local trains. It is there everywhere in the train and in the travelers. Try as you might, but you can't escape it. I spent about 15 minutes shifting from the slow train platform to the fast one, then getting absolutely horrified by the vision of dupattas and their wearers precariously protruding from the train.. and so, stumped, I went back to the slow train to be greeted by warm greetings from the warmer people leaning out of the incoming train. Their joy on seeing us ladies was boundless.. so excited did they get that they extended their hands outfrom the moving train, only to welcome us...
Aargh! Finally I could get in. And I forgot that I was supposed to hold on to something when the train starts/stops. And ouch went the foot of my neighbour and I got a fitting snarl!
Whatever... the more I write, the better... but betty bought some better butter to make the bitter butter better :-)

WEll well... after coming back from USA, I was looking for Mumbai. I thought I had lost it... or perhaps lost myself. I looked for both - Mumbai and myself, in several places... in the paani puri on the streets, in the lost waves on Carter Road at night, in the mindblowing jokes of Jay, in the make-out sessions on deserted roads at night, in the longingness on Dadar bridge, in the old songs played on Radio Mirchi, in the talks with the rikshawallas... even in the never-failed-me local trains of Mumbai... but I think I was looking too hard. Things, events, people.. feelings are often misplaced. They are often not there where I look for.

Finally, I got up today.. on this lazy Sunday morning at 12.30 in the afternoon... had a very sumptuous meal and a gratifying fight - friendly and yet fulfillingly aggressive fight with Yamunabai, and then read the Sunday Times of India... read Shobhaa De's article which made no sense to me... and then read Bachi's article which was sooooooo interesting, that that made me feel that I have arrived.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

jaane woh.. ya jaane na

Two friends sitting on bandstand, in love and not knowing it until it is almost too late. That is essentially the story of the movie... a movie that entertains, that has nothing novel to offer in the plot... and yet... and yet, something about it touches you. Well, for most parts it is the humor, and the freshness (a word used by almost all reviews).

But the real review in her mind is so intense that she is scared to think. It relates way too much to some part of her past that she frantically shuts some portion of her mind.

In the process of shutting down portions of her mind, in the process of training her emotions, channelizing her zest and monitoring her unfounded fears, controlling her anger and keeping in check every extreme emotion... she has lost herself.
She is so much in tune with herself that she can order her emotions... typically she analyzes the situation and evaluates what her emotion should be.. and then turns on that emotion.

She is not sure if she is right in doing some things.

Does the raw, un-mediated emoting give one most joy, or is it the power of control over them that has the potential for greater joy?

She remembers her days on bandstand... with great joy. She remembers the tingling in the stomach when she walked down the Dadar bridge and saw him, the first boy she had really fallen in love with... and then the conversation in the train that left her speechless, and thoughtless... her input in the conversation which made no sense to her, then or now. And then the ensuing date at 9 in the morning, on bandstand. Ah! That was when she emoted... there was the thrill of being proposed! Dam! How much fun it was, how much excitement! It was a perfect day... too perfect... the sound of the waves, the wet breeze, the opening of the day... and sitting opposite to the best guy in the world!

She wonders if she'll feel the same again. Dam this maturity, this growing. She yearns to feel the excitement that she is afraid she won't.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Who am I?

Am I the person who braved loneliness in the long distance trains,
Or am I the person who longs for solitude in the din of even friendly chatter?

Am I the person who thinks about the purpose of life, process of evolution,
or am I the person who gossips about the love life and potential success of Harman Baweja?

Am I the girl who enjoyed possessing 5 t-shirts for 4 months?
or am I the girl who took 15 minutes to decide between the right lip-balm?

Am I the person who craved speed on the highways?
Or am I the person who shuts her eyes in disbelief at an app[roaching low-speed rikshaw?

Am I the person who talked like myself 3 months back?
Or am I the person who is talking like myself now?

Well, that dont make no sense!

It feels like I am losing myself... I liked myself 2 years back, before I went to the US. And then I went to US and gradually changed drastically, and then I liked the changed me. And then I traveled, and changed drastically in a short while, and I liked the newly brought changes to the changed me. And now I am back to where it started... to India. And I think all the changes are getting reverted. I am talking just like I would, had nothing changed!

Can one revert? Isn't change somewhat irreversible and persistent? Or is the mind such that if it wants, it can display no effects of change, and yet live with the manifestation of the changes? I mean, do I have a facade that starts working autonomously, and in a way that interacts with everone differently?

Aaargh! I don't know how to phrase it... and that's perhaps because I don't understand it myself. I haven't had time to spend just with myself, talk to myself, have a romantic dinner with myself in a long time. And now, when I have stolen a few private moments and I try to assimilate the things happening, I feel that my newly found ideas, thoughts and philosphies are either slipping or getting covered by the sticky garb of phrases like 'daily routine' and 'social life of India' and 'family time' and such.

I don't want it to happen. I don't want to lose what I gained.

Even the writer's block has gotten replaced by a lack of desire to write well!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


She meets an old friend in a place full of 'memories'. There is the annoyingly unputdownable attraction, of course. But she has matured, of course.

They talk, they do their business, and they part... just as expected... or just as unexpected.

She sits in her car for half an hour, talking to someone who wasnt there. No, it was not the friend. She was talking to someone else... someone who was not only not there, but someone who isn't!

Some people are crazy. But they think they are normal. Of course, eccentric people think they are normal, which is why they are that way.

Well, she starts thinking. She wants to clear her head and start from the start. But what is the start? Is it when she met herself in the last few months, or is it when he taught her how to think, or is it before that when she hadnt had any personal persons, or is it when as a kid, she thought she was inconquerable? Or is it when the cosmos burgeoned?

okay chuck all this! This is big-time digressing, and more than that, it is bigger time bullshit. And she knows it.

Alright. A decision has to be made. Lets put down the pros and cons. Lets evaluate the way we are taught to, the way things are supposed to be done, the way in which there is a higher chance of success.

Well, outcome after 1 minute of serious manipulation - she cant afford to take life that seriously. She had to keep taking random paths in the forest, to make a colorful pattern by splashing arbitrary colors.... and she likes doing that. She loves forming intricate curves out of just a few points of reference... she likes building a marble sculpture after getting a glimpse of the side-face.

Aargh! Another draft in the blog section. She has something like 10 drafts in the last month, and many more completely erased.

Damn this desire to write well, to make sense, to have cogent convincing arguments, or to have a romantic tale, or an interesting perception, or a poignant saga, or even a curiously interesting random thought! All this is too much expectation from herself.

Is the golden mean just as elusive as they make it sound? She read a borrowed book on the flight today... on 'controlled separation'. Of course she had to return is quite early to the owner who was intears every other minute. 'Is there a way to find a path between the finality of a divorce and the suffocation of a failed marriage?'. Well, it was better frased, shethinks.

Blah and stuff are her favorite words. They epitomize abstraction to an uplifting level.

Alright, some posts dont have endings. She has to stop typing.

She misses travel!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Inexplicable events

Some things leave you happy, some things leave you in awe,
some inspire respect and some evoke pity.

And then there are some things that make you say with genuine disbelief - "What the #%&@!"

It's an outright crazy place, with crazy people right from the Pharoahs to the modern day office going Egyptian. There is crazy traffic on the streets, and there are the crazy vendors, there are stupendous monuments and there is the crazy belief in the will of God.

After staying here for more than a weak, one simply gets immune to anything outrageous. Bizarre is routine here.

But it touches you and makes you see things in an unprecedented way.

When we chatted at the dining table during family breakfast and lunches back in Mumbai , dad would tell us stories and events of his childhood. And they seemed to be so different from the incidents of my childhood. And then, bhai (grandpa) would tell us stories of HIS childhood, and they almost seemed like a chapter of history. He would talk about things I could not comprehend or imagine. And I would be fascinated... it was like getting an insight into the world fifty years before my time.

And today I walked through the Egyptian Museum. I am drained. Not drained by any physical fatigue, but simply by running through my mind a self-created movie of life not fifty or hundred or five hundred or even thousand years ago, but something that happened more than four thousand years ago. While the growth of this civilization has been articulated by several historians, writers, artists in admirable ways, it has moved me enough to express my two pence worth of adulations at the cost of pale redundancy.

There was something about these people that make you uncomfortable. They did make some monumental structures, and they did make mind blowing paintings... but that is not what really strikes you. Although it is commendable that they could come up with the math required to build the pyramid so high, or the knowledge of chemistry to come up with colors that survived through 5000 years, it is their sense of logic that hits you the most... enough to make you uncomfortable within your skin. It was the proof of the development of the human mind that happened then, that does not fall in place with my view of evloution. Philosophy, logic, rationale - all these perhaps are essential for survival in any age whatsoever. But I kinda assumed that having a structured philosophy or a defensible rationale happened much later... It may be that one does not agree with their ideas and philosophies (of resurrection or power of the Pharoahs), but one cant deny that there existed a well-founded (that being a relative term) for all their actions that we see today. They were a people who knew what they were doing... and that too so well that the unity and strength of their beliefs is what made them a civilization that generated awe and inspiration and a unique respect from all those who came later.

And the process of mummification makes you bow involuntary to the mind of the genius. There, in the museum, right in front of me, lied the proof of intense knowledge and talent that existed back in those days.
When I stood in the mummy room alone, seeing the bodies, the signs of well-combed hair, the cleaned nails, and the organs of men who lived 5000 years back, I was in daze. I could not believe it. I still cant. It could not have been. Could I really be seeing the actual hair and skin of the man who lived several milleniums ago?

Recommending a trip to Egypt would be redundant. I can only say that even if one is 'not into those kinds of historical things', one will get into them. And if one is, then nothing compares to actually seeing the manifestation of that crazy people in real.
As for me, the ankh is attached to me for good (pun intended).

Thursday, May 01, 2008


There is what you know and read about in the random travel mags on the flight/online,
And then there is the stark truth you can see for yourself.

There is hassling and juggling through the persistent salesmen,
And then there is the friendly invitation to chai... as a symbol of Egyptian hospitality.

There are expensive restaurants with 'awesome steak' and KFCs and pizza parlors,
And then there is the gastronomic orgasm while eating the Falafal and sipping tamarinda.

There is smoke and dust and dirt...
And there is the single felucca sailing through the pure waters of Nile like a dreamy scene of a Hindi movie.

There can be loud commotion everywhere,
Until your ears filter out the noise and you lose yourself into the faint sound of Arabic music.

There is irrefutable proof of 5000 years of civilization... and the crazy genius of the Pharoes,
And then there is all the unabashed brutal reality of raw human nature... untouched by any element of civilization.

Egypt is surely a place that can test your patience. But just like the ankh, it always gives you energy for more life...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beauty in the Concrete Jungle

There was traveling in a boat to a remote lodge in the Amazon Rain Forest in Peru. There was living amongst the nature, seeing unheard, unseen, undecipherable (but highly distinguishable) creatures including insects, reptiles, mammals, birds. There was walking in knee-deep muddy waters and getting bitten all over by who-knows-what-all, and seeing the sunrays struggling to creep through the tall canopies. There was a boat ride in the dark, to locate the caimen. There was the slight rain (by Amazon standards), there were interesting breeds of trees... there was everything one would want to be amidst when one said ´ I want to be one with nature´

But a 45 minute bus ride in the heart of Lima during peak hours was way more entertaining/involving.

Finding out one´s way around a country whose language one does not know is an under-rated challenge. When in school, I remember a teacher telling us that an average English-speaking individual knows a couple thousand words of English. I found that rather unelievable. That´s a LOT of words. But when I simply could not ask for directions, and then when I managed to ask, I could not fathom the reply... it struck me that all I was looking for was simple words like ´bus number´, ´last bus time´, ´frequency´.

But living in a similar city teaches you many skills. Smiling and gesturing, without any hesitation puts the person at ease. Also, most people are willing to help and try their best in assisting if one shows enough concern on one´s face. Public transport is almost always safe and challenging and exhausting (thats the fun of it). Walking confidently is the best way to walk, no matter how little one knows about where one is going.

The sigñor who helped was a middle aged guy who spoke no english. NO english. And yet we smiled and talked. He took me to a place to eat, bought some bread for himself, and bought a ´pollo´sandwich for me, took me to the bus, and instructed the bus driver in no unclear terms as to where to drop me. I dont know how to show gratitude to such people except to keep chanting ´muchos gracios´.

The bus was almost as crowded as the local trains of Mumbai. And after a long time did I have to use my arm strength to keep my body in place. I heard the all-familiar chattering of young, professional girls discussing the day, the tired laborer sleeping while standing amidst the brouhaha, the beautiful lass staring alternately between her mobile phone and out of the window, the college kid lost in the music playing in his earphones, the conductor squeezing by where ants wouldn´t dare to tread!

And then I reach the destination (after pushing aside everyone heartlessly, to disembark).

It was a sight to behold. The yellow lights decorating the proud cathedral, the municipalty building matching wits, standing tall, the shops in the adjacent streets with the vendors beckoning to all those who passed, the colorful wares displayed temptingly, the discount and sale boards placed such that no one could overlook them, the smell of fresh food... and amid all this was the huge garden with a fountain in the centre. All this made it a beautiful sight, but what made it so fetching/appealling was that the garden was abuzz with young lovers... arm in arm, hand in hand, kissing, smiling, arguing, laughing... lost in their paradisical world. None cared as to who else was passing by, watching them with envy/curiosity. They were there just to enjoy companionship. It was like a typical garden in Mumbai, or bandstand, or Marine Drive, or other such hang outs... except there were no moral or actual police monitoring any activity. The world was free to a large extent.

Love, in any form, makes events or terrains or places or even activities more beautiful. Jungles and mountains and nature have their raw beauty to fall back on. But people typically are more interesting to people.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A questionable Shangri-la

There was a moment of suspended bliss.

All around her were lush green mountains subtly hidden behind the fleeting clouds. The clouds moved like proud vagabonds, changing the view dramatically with their slightest movement. The combination of slippery mud and wet rocks made the path look like that in the jungles of children´s drawing books. The vegetation adjacent to the path was wet and flowery... wild flowery - flowers that have grown out of choice, and not by planning and nurturing.

The slight drizzle combined with the light wind made her skin titilate. Walking in such a weather, at such a height (couple thousand feet) amidst the Rain Forest and the Cloud Forest was an unforgettable experience. She felt like a small child out of a fairy tale, only alive to sing and walk with a springing gait, to ask questions to the trees and to get answers from the winds, to speak softly to the clouds and see the mountains move in unison, to be curious about her body, to question her life, her smile, her motivations, her ideaologies, her philosophy... her.

Who was she? Did it matter? What matters? What was the goal, if there was one? Happiness? Or happiness at ANY cost? How did one measure cost? What was the goal, again? Is it just a vicious circle of questions that get answered if the previous one gets answered? Does any previous one get answered?
Is thinking about this of any worth? Is ignorance really bliss? At what levels? Is she a human incorporation of all that she was taught in her school, home, travels etc? Or is there such a thing as original thought?
What if she was kept in a closed enclosure for 23 years? Would the intersection set of her thoughts then, and now, be non-empty?

Or should she just laugh and be merry now.. and be inquisitive about why she occasionally feels miserable for no reason?

Treking in the high mountains gives her a vague confidence... She thinks the same thoughts she once thoght in the Garhwal trek years ago...
Mountains don´t have a sense of beauty. For the mountain, there is no definition of a beautiful mountain. It is just the way it is. It does not try to fit in, or to become more like it´s role model mountain.
A mountain is.
It is happy the way it is. It does not try to do anything about it, but be itself.

That is why ALL mountains look beautiful. Or all rivers look appealing. They just are.

Does the capacity for thought make us want to improve ourselves? To fit in? Or to stand out? Or to become an epitome of all good things for others?
Why do we have a collective sense?

The path curves, and she sees an opening. The scene is perfect, except for one anomaly. Her.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mujhko chaahiye Mummy ABHI!

As I sit amidst all the accumulated paraphernalia, an old receipt flies... out of rebellion. It has been stored in some god-forsaken packet for some months... only to be disposed off in an undignified manner.

Damn all this packing, damn all this fitting 3 months of clothing into one small ruck-sack, damn all those clothes that I always wanted to wear and never got the 'right time' to wear and how they stare at me coldly and mockingly, and damn all those 'extra lexi pens' that landed up in my XXL-sized stationary box... got in the world of computers, and damn all those mobiles and their respective chargers and the cameras and the batteries and the chargers and their converters.... and damn all those socks that I neither use nor dispose... and damn all those free printers and cheap tables, damn all those close-to-my-heart posters of humorous quotes, damn all those carefully written words of Tennyson whom I have gotten attached to simply by reading them regularly... damn all those burdensome memories with each possession that stops me from disposing them... and worries me because of the fact that I won't feel their absence if I don't see them.

Phew! I am tired of clearing up the clutter and discovering more.
It's a pandora's box of seemingly-useful-but-never-going-to-be-used-items.

Suddenly the essence of aparigraha sinks in. Jain philosophers got it all figured out thousands of years back.. and here I struggle and fight the battle against a captured cause.

I want mom to figure out all the flight tickets and the itineraries, and remember where I kept those passport size pictures, and do my last minute laundry... and do all this in her typical sthitapragya style, as if this were a piece of cake

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Victim of Cliches

She was standing in the room, enjoying the performances.
He was standing in the room, evaluating the performances.

She was an audience.
He was one of them, a performer.

He had just performed.
And she had just applauded.

And then, he had moved down to give space to the next one.
And she continued enjoying the performances.

The room was dark... and she could see the bobbing of faces when the comedian struck with a good one. She could also see the girls in the first row enjoying the drunken oblivion more than the intellectual tickle of the humor.

She was enjoying her experience of a first hand stand-up comedy show.

She knew she was sorta lonely... in a sorta different way. It was quite a while since she had met someone who gave her pleasure... the real pleasure. The bliss of a smooth, coherent, complete conversation, or the joy of a carefully placed joke.

So, she was enjoying the part pleasure gotten out of this public event... where there was something beyond raw carnal pleasures.

And then she felt those eyes. His eyes. It was difficult to tell whether they really rested on her, or was it a trick played by the dim lights. She used her tried and tested stunts to see whether he was looking at her.

She still could not tell for sure.

Then she remembered, he had a squint. Hadn't he cracked a joke on his squint in his session?
Damm!! What a challenge now.

She looked at him a couple of times. She thought she saw the trace of a teasing smile. The show ended.

She prepared to leave.... and he stopped her. "Won't you have a drink?". She smiled. She got nervous.
This was unchartered territory. Had he been a Masters of Computer Science working in a successful corporation in the Bay Area, she had all her arsenal geared up for her assault. Or had he been a commerce student from Mumbai, she knew the movies he would have enjoyed.
Even if he were a firang with a lot of education, she knew some tricks of the trade that she could barter for more.

But he was like none before. Apurva. Or unprecedented!
A sparkling, confident, squint-but-not-affected-by-it comedian.

She could feel the silence heavy in her throat. What the hell does one talk to a comedian?? "Tell me a joke"... "Are you generally this funny, or are you working right now?".
She didn't know. She hadn't read an quotes on comedians either.

She liked challenges... as long as they were not insurmountable.

She smiled. Her smile was a powerful and universal asset. He smiled back. She ordered vodka with Orange juice. He asked her what she had ordered. She smiled and said, "I think it is tequila sunrise". He smiled. She had already goofed up. And how!!

But then, he was simple and unassuming. And they talked and talked. She was surprised. "Do you want to dance?", he asked. She was nervous again.. She knew she was good at dance. Hence she was nervous. "I know a really good Salsa place". She agreed.

It was an awesome place.. not one of the popular wannabe places where everyone wanted to see and be seen. It was a haunt of a handful faithful Mexicans who really knew their dance. She LOVED the music. And he danced sooo freaking well. She threw away her coat of inhibitions and did her real groove. They grooved in unison, two strangers connected only by the desire to enjoy without any hangups. She did all her moves, and he danced like crazy. They were a part of one huge bunch of people, all there to really enjoy dance. There were smiles and laughters and a feeling of genuine merriment. No one cared how their hair looked, or whether their stomachs bulged in the tight clothes, or whether they were being seen, or whether anyone else was dancing.
Everyones body fluidly lost in the music.

And then they left the place... to go to a better one. It was the terrace of a building. A breath-taking sight... one that is shown in the more expensive postcards of the city.

All the skyscrapers glazing with the lights, and all the stars competing against them... and winning. The distant sound of a boisterous laugh, the empty streets decorated by the yellow lights and an occasional speeding car, the light drizzle and the slight blow of the cold tantalizing breeze... and the feeling of being far far away from the burden of obligations or self-righteousness, or from accumulated guilt.

She smiled, with a sense of victory. These were those moments when she was swept away, when she was filled with joy enough to last her through another rough patch.
He smiled back. "You have beautiful hair... and there is something in your eyes, that's very... hmm... i don't have the right word".
She laughs. He laughs. "Do people always expect you to be funny?". "Yes."

She looks up. "Didn't I tell you it looks beautiful?", he asks. "Yes, it looks brilliant".

She looks at him, and is suddenly jealous. He is looking at her with one eye, and all the other brilliance with the other.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Can't remember that good title I thought for this post

I get an email from the university about refund on some bills. I smile, and add it in my mental list of "things to do". I realize that the list has only one item currently.

I have to go on a long drive, and I tell myself that I need to remember to buy an audio book. I try adding it to the mental link list of "things to do". I realize that the list contained an item. (the head pointer is not free). But what the hell was it???

I forget things at an alarming rate. Strangely enough, I always remember that I was "supposed to do something". But I hardly remember what that was.

Why can't the human mind register all the information anyway? Is it a personal handicap, or a generic way the mind works?

We sense a million things perhaps. And if one were to store everything one sensed, one's mind
would be filled with a lot of "junk". So, there is selective remembrance. The awareness captures all. But the conscious mind retains a significantly small subset of it. To give an analogy, in all its lifetime, it retains a handful of sand from a vast beach it has to choose from.

At least this is what "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" says.

But my 2-pence worth questions:-
1. Is the conscious mind under control of the volition of its rightful owner?
Can I select what I want to remember?

2. Is the lifetime of the memory I choose to remember under my control?
For instance, if I see a simple quote in a shop in San Francisco, and I really want to remember it long enough to tell my kids. Do I have a choice of adding the "lifespan" parameter when I store this particular piece of information in my mind?
(The saying was: May you live long enough to annoy your kids.
Now that I write it, I dont think it is witty. And I think that is primarily because I dont remember the exact wordings. Duh!!)

3. How is it that when I see only the roads, I dont remember having come there before. But when I see the roads coupled with the buildings and the skyline and some more factors, I remember having seen it before.
Is it that the conscious mind does not retain individual parts, but retains the "entire capture"? If so, what encompasses the capture? Just the entire snapshot? Or the snapshot with the sounds and smells of the place? Or the snapshot, sounds and smells, AND an incident that occurred there?

Too many questions on how memory works.

If only I can remember at least the directions when I look them up and sincerely memorize. But I still have to keep the laptop on front seat and cautiously keep consulting the open page.

Monday, February 04, 2008


You may try to party, go out with random people in a big boisterous group and enjoy the illusion of making merry, but it's a phone call from an old friend who calls to hear your voice that you truly enjoy. It's the orkut scrap of a roomie who says "stop being a bitch and come back" that one enjoys more than all the compliments one gets in a month!

You may try on all the clothes in Macy's and Marshals and everything in between... but it's when someone special gives you a second look when you are in an old worn-out jacket that makes you look beautiful.

You may eat an un-pronounce-able plate at the fancy Chinese restaurant, and feel upbeat about it. But it's when the Bay Area version of dahi bateta puri melts in your mouth that you feel the epicurean within you moan with pleasure.

You may consume the hard core tequilla shots or have sake with your food... but it's when you laugh with unstoppable momentum at a classic joke, that you get the real high.

You may feign enjoying the subtleties of Superbowl... but it's when you see all the males of your house cheer for team India in cricket world cup that makes you feel the adrenaline within you gushing.

There will be intellectually stimulating men around you... but it's when your chaddi-pal (who has now become rather interesting) pulls a couple of hard-hitting jokes on you that you really appreciate intellect.

You may take and hear and overhear piles of advice... but it's when you take a step, and falter, and stand up again, and find the courage to admit to yourself that you failed, that you really grow...

You may enjoy all the thrills of the witty sayings on Google... but it's when a revelation hits you at an unsuspecting moment, and you articulate it with brilliance, that you find a quote worth remembering...

You may read all you want... and write random thoughts.. but it's when you are in a confounding situation with steep consequences and a significant amount of 'pressure' that you really realize what you want. Perhaps.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Driving crazy!

400 miles. Or a little more than Mumbai to Goa.
That is what I drove in ONE DAY.

Yesterday was an exceptional day. It was when I drove the most... probably drove more in one day than I did in all the years before.
Yesterday was also when I discovered that I was such a good company :)

I laughed... I cried... I screamed with joy and anticipation.. I played games with the music... and won!

I changed moods from being excited about the drive... to laughing at my incompetency at taking the correct exits... to apprehensions about a blaring fire brigade who was struggling to get past me... to the loneliness in a dark road with such nothingness in the rear-view mirror that I was convinced that it was at a wrong angle... to the thrill of getting down in the snow to fill gas... to the adrenaline pumping at 92 miles per hour... to the swaying to the tunes emotion-loaded songs of Atif and Kabhie Kabhie...

It all ended happily... or unhappily (coz I did not once want to reach the destination).

It was one of those times when I could do nothing but think... and at most listen to songs.
It was when I had all my thoughts and all my privacy... and all the freedom.
It was when I looked back at life, evaluated it categorically, re-lived the moments of euphoria and laughed at the sad moments, analyzed my expectations, compartmentalized them into realistic and ambitious... and all those things that one ought to do. One ought to take a periodic break and re-calculate.

Now I have a better picture of what to do :)

Also, an idea for my entrepreneurship list - an automatic camera mounted on a car... and a click on the dashboard. Pretty cool huh?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Life ho to aisi

Guess what!
I have nothing to do!

Like really really really nothing to do. Like absolutely nothing.
I am "lukkha"... totally lukkha

It feels strange to be "free"... I don't have assignments to do, projects to complete (just in the nick of time), a task at hand, grocery shopping... i have nothing to do!

It feels heavenly... blissfully good.

It's what I get after 23 years of dabbling around with academics and more with non-academical stuff. I have come to a stand-still. A pause. That's it. I have to stop the player some time for me to eject the current disk and put a new one.

A clear slate.
I can write whatever I want.

Feels good. Sounds better.

Freedom is a rather mis-used term.
The thought of being free is more rejuvenating than the actual freedom. The idea that "I can do whatever I want" is an anti-dote. It solves all issues, makes one feel lighter... and others "jealous".

It's a strange thing... which is probably known to all... but strikes me in various ways.
It's the "thought" of something that makes one emote. The actual thing may or may not align with the corresponding emotion.
For instance, a candlelight dinner sounds like a very desirable thing. When I tell someone "Hey, I am going for a candlelight dinner", the reaction is typically a "wow". 'Where' and 'when' and 'with whom' follow. But it is assumed to be a success already... the idea of a candlelight dinner is so appealing!
Few people have the courage to accept that the candlelight dinner was not that successful (could be tedious conversations, could be silly mosquitoes).

All this just reminds me to be wary of all the jaw-dropping that happens at the mention of "world trip".

If exploring Mumbai is this promising, other places should shine out.

Where all should I set foot?

Friday, January 18, 2008

should she?

It's the same city... the same room... the same couch... the same freaking position on the couch.

More than anything, it's the same atmosphere - the dim yellow lamp that illuminates the room just right, the same silence that is neither oppressive nor boring but just about questioning, the same comfort zone that inspires her to write, the same questions, the similar answers to them... the same tingling in the stomach that excites her.

She struggles to write down everything. She is too attached to life. She loves living it. And when a moment becomes more than a moment, she wants to record it. Record it somehow, be it a video, a picture, a write up... anything! Memories are too precious to store in an unoccupied corner of the mind - they can be carelessly lost there. They have to be recorded.
How will it be to re-think answers to these questions 20 years from now, to remember her first encounter with a stranger in the flight, her first successful public speech, her jokes that got someone into fits of laughter, her fits of laughters, the long drives at 3am in Mulund abuzz with thrilling adventures done in the stealth of the night, the smiles exchanged with an unknown face in the crowd, swimming in the cool waters of Calangute beach, her first "drag", the first time she went shopping with a guy, the day when she was overwhelmed with a touching surprise, when something within her told her that it was probably the best moment so far...
when she let go of all her hang-ups, let go of her inhibitions, threw away the little shards of her ego, spoke her thoughts loudly, guiltily but fearlessly, when she was vulnerable to the slightest of assaults... and yet didn't hesitate giving in to someone.
How close she was to submission? In fact, she submitted herself, like she used to, like her old immature self that didn't care about guarding and protecting herself, but being truthful to the moment.

She remembers these moments... and some more... But that's today.
What about 2 years from now? She will have more of these.

Should she write down all this. She wants to.
She doesn't want to part with a single memory... she almost behaves like a mother facing the danger of losing her child.

But may be some memories should be stored in some corner of the mind... and it is more fun when they get unintentionally triggered.

She loves the fact that she suddenly remembers her 9th standard history teacher when she gets emotional. Arbitrary stuff! But she loves the fact that not all things that are not recorded will erode or escape her. They are safely ensconced somewhere.

So, the point is that the Mumbai trip shall remain un-recorded... and so will her flight experience.

But she is very happy.
God has been kind to her... really kind.

She kinda misses praying to him.