Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Veteran Toast

The Soldier stumbles into his room like he does everyday. His tall frame stooped with fatigue of the ongoing battle. A battle which he fights not with bullets but with thoughts, not over land but over his soul, not for victory over another but for victory over himself.

Here's a toast to all soldiers, and one veteran in particular. To thank him for helping this greenhorn along his way and to point out when he falters. May he find the peace he fights so hard for.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The King is dead....

While watching CNN last night, a news item flashed on the small bottom banner of the screen which said "UN pledge to give $2 billion in aid to developing countries" (okay I'm not really sure if it was the UN or some other organisation, I'll admit, but the point I'm trying to make follows).

A few days back, GM, Ford, and Chrysler's bailout plan was approved, albeit for a 'lesser' sum of $15 billion. Imagine that. 2 billion dollars for people who can't get three square meals a day, who are besieged with diseases and systems that have been enforced upon them (yes, democracy is not suited for all), and whose stories go untold, "under-reported" - take Sri Lanka for instance, where death tolls have exceeded those in Afghanistan this year, according to Time magazine; but hey, they didn't have trigger happy white boys running around with M60s now did they...

Thomas Friedman, in an article on the New York Times, called the bailout plan the equivalent of several things, my personal favourite being "...the equivalent of pouring money into CD players on the eve of the iPod's release..."

I don't see why they should bail-out the automakers. Granted, there will be massive layoffs and repercussions. But the big three knew that in business, there are risks. It's called capitalism, nimrods. You guys are the ones who espoused it a few decades back. If you can't give the customers what they want, of course they're going to buy someone else's stuff. That's where the hybrids come in, the electric cars, the cars whose emissions are the stuff of clean water. It may sound like science fiction, but then again, so did the Model-T back then.

I was of the mind that capitalism was dying out. (not that I really mind though) That bailouts are becoming the order of the day. But wait, they're now selling senator seats on the open market.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A pinch of salt, a dash of pepper

Taking a backseat and a different perspective, one wonders why the outcry over the terrorists attacks in Bombay seem to be louder this time around. Personally, I love Bombay. The sheer audacity and the fact that I knew people who were there when it happened made me more conscious of the mortality that shrouds us all.

But then again, most of middle, upper middle, and upper income India did as well. Perhaps this goes to prove a theory I expounded long back at the time of the reservations. That to get a populace involved, you have to take something away from them.

Just an observation. No opinions here.


"US intelligence expert says Patil is incompetent" reads an article in an online website, which goes on to describe how the 'expert' found lapses in India's intelligence units.

a) Is this really the right time to be blaming anyone? (and this goes for the BJP as well whose esteemed LK Advani was out campaigning when the Prime Minister had called for an all-party crisis meeting last weekend) One thing that I really (seriously, no sarcasm) respect the Americans for is their unity and their humility in defeat and loss. After 9/11 there was no "it's his/her fault" flying around. Can't say the same for their intelligence experts though.

b) Incompetence is a terrible excuse, but it is far better than sheer indifference. "I told you so" is the current mantra of the Indian public & government to the U.S., whose adulterous love affair with Pakistan has kept it disturbingly blind to the groups that operate from within it. I am not saying anything against Pakistan in general. In the past three months I have befriended three young men from Pakistan and have become incredibly close to them. All I am saying is that there are elements which need to be weeded out. A fact which the U.S. refuses to see. Love is blind, after all.

c) Even if it is true that Tata or even Patil had some knowledge that an attack was imminent, what could they have really done. I have limited knowledge of what they knew and when, but picture being in the Secretary of Defense's shoes 30 minutes before 9/11 and being told that someone flying someplane is going to attack somewhere. I can't imagine what I would do in that situation. (But hey, we all know about them trigger happy rednecks now, don't we)

Even as I type this, blasts rip through the north-eastern state of Assam, not half a day's drive from my hometown and my parents.

Let the blaming stop. Let us remember that the real enemy is not the electorate or even the people who contest them, but we, the people, the public, who forget so soon. Let the rallies manifest not in shouts of anger in the streets of the Causeway but in the ballots of the next generation.

They have caught our attention. Now let them face our wrath.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Sitting up on a regular night, just hours away from my final exam of the second last term here on campus, my friend studying beside me answers his phone. He steps out to talk to his girlfriend for a minute and almost immediately comes back in.

"There's been another bomb blast in Bombay"

It doesn't hit you too hard at first. Preliminary reports suggest that the blast and the shootouts were a result of a gang war in the seaside metropolis. Fine. Let those bastards kill themselves. You feel sorry for those caught in the wake, but at least it wasn't a terrorist attack.

An hour later and your walking towards the night canteen to take a small chai & sutta break from all that contract law and what not. "At least it's not a terrorist attack" you repeat aloud to your friend. And then you step into the mess and see the live footage.

India is a country like no other. The sheer range of everything; monetary, social, geographical, cultural, linguistics; boggles the mind. A wise person once commented that man is happy because he believes he will be soon. This cannot be more true of anyplace than it is here. Despite all the flaws, the failings, the loopholes, the muck in the systems and laws in place, we do manage to carry on, always thinking that things will get better, soon.

This applies to terrorism as well. The country has a poor track record in this field, by any measure. The numbers just keep on increasing. Yet we fail to actually do anything about it. Every time a cycle explodes or a briefcase erupts, we denounce the act and then carry on. We contract extra security guards for a week, a month, put up a brave show, and then carry on; hoping that someone will do something about it.

Last night's attacks were unlike anything the country has seen before. From bombs in crowded lanes in Delhi, we have graduated to shopping complexes, five-star hotels and acclaimed pubs. Terrorism, it would seem, is catching up with the globalization express. It's not about killing people anymore, though the culprits are becoming alarmingly adept at this as well. It's about the sheer terror. "No place is safe", my friend mailed me. It's almost as if the terrorists have plastered signs across our television sets that say "You cannot hide. We will get you. Eventually." We all watched on television and heard on the radio, the reports streaming in about the climbing death toll, the rising number of attacks, the situation unfolding before our eyes and in our heads like a cheap patriotic film. For the first time, we saw the Taj beside the Gateway of India crowned with a halo of fire and smoke and scenes of people rushing to safety amidst exploding grenades.

In all this, we, the people of India, are mere spectators. We stand helplessly, clutching cups of tea and cell phones on automatic redial, watching, waiting. For not the first time in my life, I was just another face in the crowd. Not knowing what to do.

I cant believe the news today
Oh I cant close my eyes and make it go away
How long how long must we sing this song
How long how long

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So I've had plenty of discussions regarding religion, how some believe that God is in control of everything while others believe that he's just there and lets things slide according to the laws of physics and what not. One thing most everyone agrees on is Karma. How Newton's third law applies to feelings as well.
Two cases in point follow.

In Bombay, during my Summer Internship, my office was in the area of Andheri. It was situated along the highway and at the junction where one has to take a turn off the highway to get to the Andheri station, which is how over half of Bombay commutes. So one fine evening (and it really was a fine evening, cloudy, windy and cool) I was catching an auto outside my office to head to the station for my weekly weekend trip to Churchgate, Colaba, and one of the numerous Bars/Restaurants there. After a not so brief wait, I finally managed to get hold of an empty auto. Immediately as I got in, I saw a young man (he couldn't have been more than two years older than I) emerge from the many by lanes of Bombay onto the road I was on in search of an auto as well. I asked to driver to stop and offered to give the young man a lift to the station. He smiled and agreed and got on.

In the short five minute ride, we discussed mundane things about the city, the weather, the ongoing IPL matches (which I never followed but loved Bullshitting my way through - actually I can't bullshit my way through them, just love bullshitting about how I bullshit about stuff; "all talk", I am, so I've been told). He asked me where I was going, I asked him the same, and we spoke half-heartedly with each other. When we got off, he reached for his wallet but I refused to accept his money, reasoning that I was going to pay the minimum ten rupees regardless of whether I had picked him up or not, and I paid the auto driver and walked off.

The Bombay local is known for the multitudes of passengers that throng the trains, stations and the roads that lead up to them. One author estimated that the trains carry more than the population of the state of New Zealand - every day. To travel on them, one needs to have one of a) a train pass - which are available for a fixed route; b) a set of coupons - which allow you to travel from and to any station till the coupons run out; and c) a normal run of the mill ticket purchased from the counter. The first two save you the hassle of waiting in line at the ticket counter, lines which often extend to infinity in the clammy heat of the Bombay Summer. This day was no different - save for the somewhat comforting weather, which was mostly nullified while standing in an enclosed space with about two hundred people.

So I'm standing in line, and counting till 100 and then backwards and then forwards and backwards to kill time. Suddenly I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around expecting someone to ask me if he/she can cut in line and am all ready to decline when I see the young man whom I had given a lift earlier standing behind me to the side holding out a punched coupon for Churchgate station. He smiles in the way only good men know how to smile (or bad men who have been shown incredible acts of kindness, like how I would imagine the Raj smiled when they bowed before the Mahatma) and handed me the piece of paper, thanked me once more, and walked off.

The second incident occurred just two days back, in the city of Bangalore (where I am currently residing) and completed my theory of sowing what you reap. After going on a solitary KFC binge at the nearby mall, I was in an auto on the way back to campus, which is not six kilometres from the mall. Now the auto drivers in Bangalore are just obnoxious. All those who have ever had to travel by an autorickshaw in the city would know what I am talking about. They curse you, demand extra fares for the most inane reasons (I recall one person being told that his meter ran faster than the bike his friend had followed them on because the autorickshaw had three wheels and the bike only two) and get downright confrontational to the point of using violence if you do not acquiesce to their exorbitant demands. I've lived in Delhi for three years, and as an outsider, I can tell you that the rickshawallahs there are serious pains in the posteriors. But they seem like angels compared to the drivers here.

So I'm on my way back and the traffic is hell. It's rush hour in the Silicon Valley of India and all those young IT professionals with their large cars bought off thier hefty MNC salaries (which are actually dirt cheap for the MNCs) are crowded on Bannerghatta Road. My auto is stuck behind a long line of cars when these two men on a bike pull up on the right and ask the auto driver if he can let them pass in front of the auto so that they can get into the left lane. The auto driver gives them a glare, as always, which they assume to be consent. After all, you will never see a smiling autorickshaw driver in the Garden City.

The two men on the bike begin to make the pass in front of our man's auto when without warning (and no reason save to irk the bikers) the driver of the auto nudges his vehicle into the rear tire of the bike. Nothing serious of course, just a little bullying to remind them of who's boss.

Which backfired terribly of course. The two men immediately disembark from their two wheeler and step up to the side of the auto and begin what I must admit was one of the best vicarious highs of my life. They heaped abuses on him in the local dialect (which I unfortunately am unable to reproduce here) and slapped him around incessantly, each slap being followed by more insults and more slapping, each louder, harder, more spiteful than the last.

I sat in the back seat with a smile in my head. After all, it was the auto driver's fault. And more than that, though I firmly believe that "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind", there are still those people who cannot understand any language other than the gospel of violence and dada-ism they preach. After a full five minutes, I got bored of the spectacle and intervened, pleading to the two bikers that he had been slapped enough and that I was getting late. With a slap and a slight, they broke away from the flustered driver and clambered back onto their Bajaj and sped off.

The scales do balance, as I have said earlier. The same auto driver whose humiliation I had passively partaken in turned out to be incredibly honest - his meter was not tampered with, as so many are in this city - and I decided to tip him for it, paying him the sixty rupees that was my reservation price for the ride back home.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A talk by Nikhil Dey

Adapted (actually copy pasted) from the assignment in the SocEn.

Nikhil Dey is unassuming. Be it his demeanour, his speech, his size, his attire (and despite the fact that he carries three cell phones with him); it would be hard to surmise that this man has rallied hundreds to thousands in Rajasthan to fight the blatant siphoning of welfare funds meant for ordinary people.

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) currently employs 15 full time workers in Rajasthan and is not registered nor does it receive any formal or institutional funding. It carries out public audits of funds which are meant for widows, retired workers, people handicapped or disabled from work and people who are supposed to be paid minimum wages for their labour. These funds are drained off on en route by middlemen, mostly the government workers who are charged with distributing them.

Nikhil Dey admits that he has had a more privileged life than most. Having had an education both in India and abroad, he admits that growing up in urban India cut him off (as it has the rest of the 300 million odd who live in large metropolises) from the rest of rural India – when shifting to the U.S., he says it took him three days to adjust to the new environment, whereas it took him much longer when he stayed at a village for the first time. In many ways, this shift was a search for his own roots.

In 1990, Nikhil, along with Shankar Singh and Aruna Roy, decided to go to a village and live with the people; not to form an NGO, but have their work and their contributions be defined by the people they would be living and working with. They believed that true learning would come from experience and practical work. Further, to gain an understanding of what plagued the villagers, they took it upon themselves to live by the minimum wage – right from the very beginning.

They saw that there were several farmers with extremely small patches of land, who, during a period of drought or an off season, would migrate towards cities in search of jobs. They also discovered that acts such as the National Rural Employee Guarantee Act (NREG), which was meant to provide every able bodied person with one hundred days of paid labour, was being misused and the wages being tapped by government officials. Signatures were being forged on rosters and on pension registers and the people who truly deserved the funds were not getting them. The group realised that the creation of livelihoods alone could bring these people out of their poverty. Hence they formed the MKSS.

As the MKSS, they held rallies, staged short skits, and composed songs to reach out to the people. Nikhil claims that everyone has an inbuilt sense of justice and what he and his team mates set out to do was to provide the people with a platform to raise their concerns. The video shown in class has a scene where an old feeble man is asked whether he had leased any of his buffalos to the government. He replies by saying that he has no buffaloes. According to Nikhil, there are hundreds of such people who want justice, but who are individually, incapable of bringing it about. His answer lies in the collective voice of the people – the public audit of funds used by the government as well as muster rolls and pension lists.

To this effect, the Right to Information (RTI) Act has helped the movement to a great deal. The MKSS itself has been instrumental in bringing about this revolutionary law which it itself uses to gather the information mentioned above. The members of the MKSS go from door to door asking if a person whose name is on these records whether or not they have received the support which has been documented. Most of the times, the people themselves are not even aware that they are entitled for such aid.

To solve these problems, we need to be ‘connected’, says Nikhil. He describes the MKSS as a flock of geese, migrating in the ‘V’ formation with what he refers to as the ‘super-goose’ leading the flock. Once it grows tired, the ‘super-goose’ relinquishes its position at the front and allows another goose to take its place and the lead, while it falls back into obscurity, all for the greater good of the flock. As was put forward (to much applause and banging on desks) by one of the villagers to the officials; “We are worried whether RTI will bring us food or not. You are worried whether RTI coming in will leave you with power or not. But what we all should be asking for is, tomorrow, with RTI, will this country exist or not.”

Politics in today’s world, Nikhil says, has assumed a dirty connotation. More so has the term ‘power politics’, indeed the political arena is intended only to be legislative – to draft and amend laws and not to build bridges or towers. This is change in the definition of the seat of power is what he aims to achieve. After all, “democracy”, he says, “is about making the truth powerful, making those who don’t have power become truthful, and making the powerful also truthful.” Further, the power to effect this change lies in the people, as do the answers as to how to go about it. Nikhil admits that when posed with difficult problems, it is not the MKSS which has all the answers. However if more people participate, answers will be brought forward. Such a system truly would be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Nikhil never started off thinking that they would get so big. Even now, he says he has to “pinch himself” to realise how far he and his friends have come. He understands the limitations of the individual and its frailty against the strength of the multiple, yet believes that the individual, while perhaps remaining incapable of changing the world, can still bring about incremental improvements. “Everyone’s own life is a revolution.” Whether or not we manage to change the world, we can control our own lives, our habits, the way we live, the relations we have with other people. A thought perhaps best summed up in a single sentence: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Libran Lives

So after an amazing week, here I am again, worn out from a field trip that took me over 500 kms and 18 hours to complete. Work has piled on afresh like the scores of unread messages in my mailbox which silently snuck in while I was away. The scales do balance. At least for this one-twelfth.

Monday, October 13, 2008


So another trip around the sun begins, to the sound of DMB, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Mamas and Papas, Coldplay, Akon, Audioslave, and a whole host of artists and dreamers, not to mention the company of a few good men (and women), and the call of the muezzin.

It's my third straight day of alcohol and man what a weekend it has been. Vista came and went in the background, a few lectures were attended, a performance in suits during dinner at the place where our future is decided - at least the short term, a night-out with people from the B.C. (un)ltd and one of those good men mentioned, followed by a search for a good breakfast which consisted of scrambled eggs, mutton cutlets and bacon.

People extend their regards, through their feet, through flinging buckets of water (and other things) and raw eggs and cakes, through phone calls, through the information superhighway from miles away. The Dreamy One wishes me and I thank her profusely with a smile to myself.

If life can get any better than this, it will have to traverse the space between.

See you soon.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Worm

Yes; I agree with the Dreamy One. And more so. It is alright to let some nights slip into the mornings; to watch the sun and the birds rise and greet the day with them, lost in alcohol and a sea of drunken stupor. It is not wrong to empty your room so that the guests can have more space to dance, even though that would mean a lot of cleaning up in the morning. It is a part of life to, once in a while, wake up in the morning/afternoon and wonder where the fuck your stuff has gone and whose shoes, cell phone, drinks, food, is lying in your room. It is acceptable to live in a pigsty, once in a while, because with revelry comes a price - that of the hangover the next day and the work piled up by a night which turns into a morning listening to all those songs you thought would never come back to haunt you. To wish for someone to be there yet know that it's all going to be ok. To have absolutely no idea how you are going to take up all the mundane tasks that the new day throws at you. I think, in the long run, and all things considered, that life should be lived. Not gone through, not worked through with its countless trivialities and responsibilities stuffed down your throat. That's why it's called living.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Once around the Sun

While re-watching the movie Gattaca, I came across this line.
So the protagonist is leaving earth for a year (yes it's the future, philistine) and less than a week before launch, he falls for this girl (don't we all) and he tells her that he's "going to be gone for a year, that's a long time"

"Not so long," she replies, "just once around the sun"

Monday, September 15, 2008

All things considered; in the long run (despite Keynes) and in the larger scheme of things, I think that life, when lived (and by this I do not mean at the end of it), is abso-fucking-lutely kickass; warts and all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen defines poverty in terms of the capabilities (or lack thereof) of a person. He stresses on not the ownership of resources and assets but on the ability to use them and the value and benefit which can be derived from them. This is analogous to the axiom of giving a man a fish as opposed to teaching him how to fish.

Thus an individual who is in possession of, say, a book but does not know how to read or write will have no use of the book. A person who has access to milk but cannot acquire firewood to pasteurize it is not much better off than someone who does not have milk. Appearing in public without shame is something which we probably take for granted, yet for millions in rural areas, social biases and generations of dogmas have made such a simple capability almost surreal.

The reasons for this are manifold. But the underlying cause in my opinion is that of society; including all of us; and as a result, lack of education. We have seen the power of embargoes; not a century ago social boycott led to the freedom of our own nation. Today economic sanctions keep entire governments and the leaders of men at bay. Similarly, on a smaller scale, if the society around a person does not believe that he or she is capable of achieving a goal then it becomes exceedingly difficult for that person to do so.

I mentioned lack of education as being a resultant cause of poverty. By this I do not mean reading or writing. Indeed I strongly believe that an individual can be ‘illiterate’ as per the definition of our own government, but still lead a productive and normal life. It is the public around him and with whom he interacts that decides this. The education I speak of is not for the poor, but rather for the rich or the 'well off' who must learn to view the world around them without dogma and doctrines from centuries past. At the cost of sounding incredulously naive and a wee bit philosophical; education involves opening the mind; not in knowing the proportionality constant between the energy of a photon and its frequency.

As pointed out in the first class, the poor do not need our sympathy or our tears. They do not even need our help. What they need are systems to replace the archaic social and economic structure that constantly bogs them down. To this end, the two key drivers are policy and perception. Policy from those whom fate has played a better hand and perception of those who are influenced by this small minority.

Growing up in urban India (I have lived for at least a few years in Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore) it is easy to look at things and lecture people on what to do. But it is the start, at the very least, of forming an opinion and a perception. I only hope that the rest will follow suit.

Adapted from my first assignment in SE or SocEn as some like to call it :)

Monday, September 8, 2008


Classes of my second last term here have started. I'm back from Ladakh after a week (where I blew some 40K as well) and still in the sleepy holiday mode. Ladakh was awesome; scenery, people, places, animals, etc... will post soon. I'm thinking of switching to Picasa for the photos. FB has some issues from the campus server for uploading photos.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How happy is the blameless vessel's lot
The world forgetting by the world forgot
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comical Chauvinism

The Dreamy One claims I am a chauvinist. I disagree. I'm only old-fashioned, with chauvinistic tendencies. The 'Piece' agrees with her. I think they're both feminist. They both disagree, of course.

I claim that 'gentlemanly' behaviour stems from the fact that women are the weaker sex (which is fact and which they both agree to) but that such behaviour is done partly out of a superiority complex that males suffer.

Pitch a person who is thought to be a feminist by the person who she thinks is a chauvinist and you get an interesting debate, no?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Winter (in the City of Djinns circa 2005)

Winter falls over the bright, boisterous conurbation
Bringing with it the fog and the mist and decorating
The meandering suburbs through which travel commuters
Wrapped in leather jackets and woolen caps and sweaters
That shield them from the coldest days that the city has seen
In seventy years. And the capital bustles with many new themes
(The Commonwealth games, the new metro and airport(s))
That make it all seem that things are getting better, of sorts.
“At least the river will be clean in four years time
And hopefully by then, we’ll be rid of this crime
Spree which has overrun our city”, say the populace.
But far from such thoughts and overworked haste
Of page three’s and controversies and daily altercations
Sits a young boy in his room (and here begins the mood
Of this short, epigrammatic story, this ballad to the youth
Of the nation, and maybe the world, for such things go on)

Sits a young boy in his room and gazing at his desk,
Trying to follow the his books but not succeeding,
And it’s just a day left for the dreaded Internals Test.
Yet his mind cannot stay here, with a sigh, he goes fleeing
And delves into contemplation, meditation and dreaming.
He has come far, many miles, yet has many miles to go before he sleeps.
And as Frost creeps inside, he throws his long shawl over his knees
To keep warm (for this year the mercury has dropped incredulously low
Almost grazing the Indian gift to mathematics: the haloed Zero)
He puts his pencil down and concentrates instead
On arbitrary thoughts that come speedily to his head.
He is in college now, in fact, in one of the best,
(An argument that will never be lain to rest)
And as his final year approaches, the future subtly encroaches
On him and yet he can’t say that he is delighted
With the path he has chosen, though he has been far sighted.

Pausing his deliberations he turns to his friend
Sitting across the room, dreaming of stipends.
“Is it dinnertime yet?” he asks his room mate
Who replies “hmm…? No. It’s still quarter to eight.”
Once again our protagonist sighs and resumes his rumination
And idly and absent mindedly chews on his nails in hesitation
Before he carries on his premeditated and calculated procrastination
Of the task at hand - to further what the world calls education.

Excelling in academics, he was the envy of his batch,
And many a prize in sports had he defiantly snatched
Away from competition, for he yearns for the rush
Of defeating the others and then acting like “it’s not much.”
He used to be humble, he used to be meek.
Barely a confrontation or challenge would he seek.
He used to despise the boys who’d always try
To hurt other boys and make the little ones cry.
For these were the bullies (he had been bullied too,
Questioned by them, and by the soles of their shoes)
And bullies are cowards, or so he’d concluded,
They were filled with false notions and were completely deluded.
He vowed to never become like one of them,
To step on other people and always pretend
Like something he wasn’t. To put on a mask
And carry on callously with menial self-centered tasks.

Yet ironically he finds himself now sternly seated
Many years later and his vow has been defeated.
For though our victor has overcome many an obstacle
He’s compromised a little of his faith at every single scuffle
And little by little the compromises integrated,
Till there was nothing left of the kind hearted adolescent
He remembers himself to be, just a little while ago.
(Before he shaped his present protagonist alter ego)
What precisely happened, we (nor he) can assert.
It could have been the bullies, it may have been hurt.
But maybe just plain loneliness or an endeavor at love
Followed by all the reactions, and all of the above
That caused him to walk alone, friendless and forlorn.
And eventually, his heart imploded and gave way to scorn.

He remembers what the world had taught him when he was young,
Learning about getting up when on the soil he was flung.
For fall we must, once at least, we shall hit the ground.
But it remains to us to lie there or stand up and abound.
So he stood up again, and strengthened his shame
And he covered his face and he chose a different name.
A mask to hide what was weak and feeble inside.
And so he became what he hated - the bully full of pride.
Because it’s not easy when you’re backed up against a wall,
You have nowhere to go, not even space to crawl.
When the world pushes on - when it carries on its attack -
With nowhere to go, you have to start pushing back.
So he forgot what it felt like to feel all that he believed.
He numbed himself to what his heart would decree.
And even as the winter crept into his room and he
Huddled even tighter to his shielding shawl invariably
The frost caressed something, deep within something stirred
And was brought back to life. A hollow feeling of meaninglessness
Engulfed him and he opened his Bible to the book of Ecclesiastes
To read the works of Solomon the Teacher, and he was the intern.

This book, twenty first in line in the Bibles New Testament,
Strikes a deep chord in him for it reeks of discontentment.
And even as he turns the pages, his mind once again drifts
For it has no desire to meander over anything but its
Own landscape, a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions
And conflicting beliefs and incompatible notions
About life and how to live, for we all must make a choice
Whether to look at the thorns with roses and rejoice
Or choose to see the roses with thorns and whine,
Though they’re one and the same, there’s no demarcating line.
And then he sees what was obvious from the start
That, in loneliness, long ago, he had twisted his heart.
But now, he was headed for no different fate
For strength lies in humility, and love will not hate
What it cannot achieve, it seeks no reprieve.
Forgiveness of the past and of the self is the key.
And now our little anti hero pauses and deliberates
Over things he hasn’t reflected upon since many a day.

But the minute hand has traveled one fourth its journey
And dinner is about to be laid for all who are hungry and weary
Like our friend. So he puts away the Book and, with his room mate,
Heads from their hostel room to the mess to empty filled plates.
After dinner, to the room his room mate speedily returns
To study more commerce and to eventually burn
The midnight oil tirelessly. Yet our protagonist remains
Standing by the field, where in the morning they play
Hockey and football. Moved by the chill that
Sends shivers down his spine, he lights a cigarette
And inhales deep inside the smoke and the nicotine,
And relaxes as his body is flooded with acetylcholine
He glances back at the brightly lit building where he stays,
His home away from home, the college hostel portrays
An image of peace and tranquility and the assiduously
Adept students that inhabit the rooms, the stalwarts of SRCC.

And above him in the sky, whose stars are obscured by the clouds
And other such Floydian thoughts, pass two aero planes no doubt
Headed towards greener pastures and bluer skies.
The winter mist settles over the green field and travels on till the periphery
And all that can be seen beyond the grass are the lights of the nearby dhobi.
But the embers of his cigarette are his only light.

“They say it’s lonely at the top, but I wouldn’t know.
I’ve never climbed that high, not yet, I’ve always been so-so.
But recently I’ve felt this urge to be the best, whatever the cost,
And it’s with this that I’ve spurned so much, so much I’ve lost.
And yet I keep going because the ladder keeps growing
And rather than be content with what I’ve reaped, I carry on sowing.
Is this how it will persist? Is this how it shall always be?
With me chasing wearily after the horizon on the sea?
Because I feel in part and I think in part (the two aren’t the same
For one needs the heart and the other requires the brain)
I didn’t renounce anything to get this high, to get this far
In my life, rather I realise that I gave it up at the start
And where I am now is but a natural consequence
Of the innocence I surrendered when I gave up my beliefs. Hence
It’s not lonely at the top, but the people who get there themselves
Are lonely already and that’s simply the story. There’s nothing else to tell.”

He turns around to return to his little room of a nation,
And cogitate a little and maybe amend his destination,
And as his mind swims with thoughts of odd fornications,
Winter lifts over the bright, boisterous conurbation.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Sitting up late at night, working on a report that is just one in a long line of TBD's for the next 24 hours. I wish life had a pause button. All the same I'm thankful for the company of the three friends sitting beside me each working on their own separate reports. Though I could do without the Janani Janani. In sort of a good way - It puts me to sleep.

Friday, August 15, 2008


"You ever have those days where you have tons and tons of work to do and no time to do it all in? And as you set out on your day, things keep going from bad to worse and you wonder how the fuck you're going to get through it all?"

That's me a week back. And it wasn't just a single day. It was spread out across the entire 7 days, my agenda read: 5 project submissions, 3 presentations to make, 2 tests, and a compulsory class at 8 in the morning.

'Hell week' all over again? You could say so. But yeah... we survived that we survived this... Comme man!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I love the way some songs make you happy or sad or both, each at different times. And when I say both I don't mean that reminiscent bullcrap you feel when you put on a farewell song. Happiness is a choice. And if you do not choose to be happy, you're either sad or getting there. But some songs just make you wonder about all you've done and all you could've; all you can and all you will and all you know you won't ever do.

Here's one of 'em. Nothing new or radical, just one of those songs. Divine Comedy indeed.

I'm the world you'll never see
I'm the slave you'll never free
I'm the truth you'll never know
I'm the place you'll never go
I'm the sound you'll never hear
I'm the course you'll never steer
I'm the will you'll not destroy
I'm the gin in the gin-soaked boy

I'm the half-truth in the lie
I'm the why not in the why
I'm the last roll of the die
I'm the old school in the tie
I'm the spirit in the sky
I'm the catcher in the rye
I'm the twinkle in her eye
I'm the Jeff Goldblum in the fly

Who am I?

The End

Shit it’s already nine forty five she thinks as she hurries to class unzipping her grey and red bag and reaching for her pen and register as she climbs the spiral stairs after crossing the notice board and then goes down the corridor till she stops outside room number twenty four. She doesn’t like coming here to this drab, boring place so much unlike her old place so full of life and people who she had known for years till it had to end like all good things though she still keeps in touch with her closest friends most of whom fortunately did not move away and she quietly opens the door and slips inside after receiving a welcome nod from the teacher covered in salt and pepper hair. It’s just her second week of college and she dreads the thought of coming here almost every day for the next three years and sitting doing nothing, attending but not giving attention to the classes from the back seat where she passes notes to the only friend she has made till now and then wanting to meet new people but watching everyone disappear as soon as the last bell rings to go home or to the library to study or complete assignments. She hates it all.

He feels the autumn morning sun’s rays wash over his naked skin as he walks over to the edge of the pool in nothing but his swimming trunks and pauses to look around searching for his friend who lives nearby hoping that he too had woken up early for a swim. The air is cool but getting warmer by the minute as the sun trudges across the clear blue sky and not finding his friend he takes a deep breath and plunges into the pool full of murky blue water which had been cooled by the night’s chill and stings him lightly as it wraps itself around his body. As muscle memory takes over and he slices back and forth through the water his mind drifts to mundane things like how it’s such a good thing that the college pool has been opened before he passed out and the fact that there were still so many things he hadn’t tried yet in college, things waiting in the shadows, surprises life had in store for him during his last year before graduating. He had changed since coming to college he thought as he completed his thirteenth length and he reflected back upon his first two weeks of college where he had been so reserved and reticent even though the people in his class tried to open up to him and made light jokes about his cap which he had worn everyday of his first two months of college. As he finished his swim and pulled himself heavily out of the water the caretaker of the pool was using a long stick to clean the pool of all the debris and mud and silt that had accumulated at the bottom and he noticed that the caretaker was staring at the dirt he pulled out as if expecting life to wash itself of its stains at the same time and as easily.

Yellow and orange flames spew out of the monstrous machine’s mouth, black tar churning out of its bowels. The workmen are scattered all over; only a few of them actually concentrating at the task at hand. Huge black barrels are stacked under the shade of a nearby tree, just in front of the side entrance of the auditorium and on what used to be the ‘xerox lawns’. That was, of course, before the photocopy shop was shifted to next to the parking lot. The giant road roller moves back and forth over the newly laid asphalt in the distance. Workers dribble more fresh hot tar over the old pot-holed road and others smoke bidis while they wait for their turn. Change is all around me. Trees torn down and bushes uprooted as I walk around inspecting the preparations for my last college Annual Day. It’s a reflection of all that has happened underneath. In the end, it’s not the place I’ll miss and to some extent it’s not the people. It’s me. Who I was: young, innocent, happy. We all were. It’s not the things that make you laugh that you’ll always remember. It’s the things that make you truly happy and wonder about the future with confidence and think about it not with fear. They sometimes make you cry.

In the end… But we never really know the end do we. We always wonder if there would be something more to the story; more twists and turns. Is “happily ever after” truly that? Or will the protagonist be hewn down by some unknown nemesis, or some unforeseen calamity; perhaps the Ebola virus or tuberculosis. Shit like that happens all the time.

In the end… We always know that things have turned out better than we imagined but worse than we hoped they would. We are never satisfied, never satiated. We keep looking for more, keep trying to build taller towers or expand the borders of our empires. Is that where success, fame, happiness, lies? I don’t know, in just as much capacity as I know what will unfold in the end. But that’s the beauty of it. We don’t know how things end, so we look for new beginnings. We don’t know where happiness lies, so we trudge to great heights to look for it.

In the end… There will be a beginning. And hence endings never cease. There will be an end to your youth, and end to your joy, and end to your pain, and finally an end to your life. But therein lies the magic: The never-ending snake eating its own tail. Without sadness, we would never be able to appreciate happiness, without dreams of heaven; one would never fear pain in the burning pits of hell. And without endings, we would never try and make new beginnings.

P.S. - This was written over a year ago as my concluding article in the college journal Candid Expressions. Miss you Major Idiots.

Holy Cow

Oh ye of bovine ilk
And graciousness divine
Bless this soul with but a kiss
Gentle rains and mirthful wine

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life Lessons

Coming back after a brief stint of self-exile from the blogging world (not that my absence was missed much, but such is the illusion of renown and reputation that many bloggers cloak themselves in) was not easy nor was it hard. It simply happened. Why? Because I was up all night drinking and practicing my salsa (not recommendable when under the influence) and then ascended to the terrace at dawn keeping in my company the good music from my laptop and the vodka, scotch, and beer in my veins. What more reason could we possibly need?

But to salvage one of the articles on my previous blog, here are a few insights gained during what was arguably the toughest time of my life (well I don't know if it really was but hey that statement must've caught your attention at least, no?)

1. Insecurity stems from doubt and worry. These will be your greatest foes because these are the adversaries that will always stay haunt with you, no matter where you are, what you do, or who you choose to spend your time with. Work hard to wear them down, and even though you may never really defeat them, you do get credit for trying. The race is long, but in the end, it’s only with yourself.

2. We are all human. We are always going to be prone to errors, mistakes, false guesses. Practice does not make perfect. Learning from your mistakes does. There are no right decisions, or wrong ones for that matter. There are only choices. There are some choices you may regret for an hour or a day, others you may regret for a week, a month, a year. But no one can live to their potential if they cannot learn to live with their own mistakes. Forgiveness is Godliness. But it is the Forgiveness of the self that is truly divine.

3. The brightest people aren’t always the ones who get the best scores in two hour tests, the best people aren’t always the ones who walk away with the prom queen, though these things do happen. Never judge people by the make of their car or their epitaph. You may have left behind a large sum of money for scholarships or prizes to bright minds that make the world a better place, but that will not change the fact of what you did and who you really were, and the people that have to know these facts, will.

4. If only once in your life, follow up on an impulse and catch the next day flight to a city halfway across the country to meet that girl/guy of your dreams, even if you know that it won’t work out. Life isn’t a fairy tale or a teenage film, but it doesn’t make it any worse to try to make it like one. Always believe in love and cherish whatever memories you associate it with. For it’s the ones who truly believe in something that everyone else says cannot happen that change what everyone else believes in. It doesn’t matter if the race doesn’t change, what matters is that the race doesn’t change us.

5. Lastly… Dream. Let loose your imagination, your hopes, your visions, curb them only with your beliefs. It doesn’t matter if people don’t agree with you. What matters is that they are allowed not to. If everyone dreamed the same dreams then there would be no point in living. And even if dreams may not take root and perish, you will know that for a brief while, you saw a painting on a blank piece of canvas when no one else could, and that it was beautiful. Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got for you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not.

P.S. - Bond I fully remember the gyaan about the effectiveness of using three points rather than two or five and blah... I like 5 points while writing. Gives more room for error.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I once remarked to a friend; “I love experiencing sunrises. Dawn. The concept or the idea of greeting a new day just as it is born. Not that I get up that early too often, but the few times that I do, it always refreshes me."

That was over two years ago. Now I sit atop a stone fortress in a crevice that few venture upon or into. The night is over now and it is almost time for the sun to rise. Already the sky has turned pale within the hour and birds chirp in the distance and bus horns and other traffic sounds resonate along the highway (which once was infested with robbers, as one auto-driver narrated to me) just outside the campus. Yes it is dawn. And a new day approaches. A new day with hopes and desires just like the one that stumbled into being yesterday.

Rain. It falls slowly at first. I am without shelter and for a moment I contemplate abandoning my post on the top of this fortress to seek shelter, but then I think that even cowards have given their lives for more and i halt myself

Wind. It cannot be heard or seen. But it is felt. And it is heard in the rustling of the early morning trees as if they were rising from slumber and shaking the dew from their branches the way we press the sand from our eyes when we look at ourselves in the mirror.

Clouds. They are large in this city, so far away from the city I once called home and the city that promised me a home. Garden City is situated atop a plateau, keeping it at a high enough altitude (similar to my parent’s home) while giving it the illusion of a plane.

Light. The sun breaks through the clouds over the horizon now. The wind whispers in a loud voice to announce the arrival. Hawks and smaller birds rise up into the air.

Rain’s platters audibly upon my shirt now. It is time for me to go. I have born witness. I will testify.

Some days begin like all other; some like something else completely.