Sunday, December 2, 2012

Halfway There, Living on a Prayer

Eleven months, one day, and twelve hours after my last cigarette, I crossed the line that marked the completion of my two and a half hour ordeal taking me across twenty one kilometres of Gurgaon landscape.

The run, which started at seven that same morning, had snaked through freshly built six lane highways of the satellite town before funneling into narrow roads that went past empty fields populated by bullocks and horses. I've often said that Delhi is a village, and if that is true then Gurgaon is even more so. Despite the metro lines and gleaming glass and steel towers, there is a closeness that is somewhat discomforting. You feel watched every moment of your day - strangers on the road ogle at women and other passer-by's, neighbours  in huddled DDA apartments listen in on each other's conversations, and gossip travels fast in work places and multistoried apartment complexes alike. Thoughout the run, bystanders watched befuddled, some passing inane comments, some slowing down in their cars, others peeking out of their windows. Be it Gurgaon or Delhi, India still indeed lives in villages.

I've only recently started running. Six months ago I was hard pressed to run two kilometres in fifteen minutes. What prompted this sudden change of heart? I don't know. Like so much else I find myself doing these days, it started out as just something to do. For whatever reason I started, I know why I carry on.

On a long run, I've come to learn how to listen to my body. To hear what it's telling me. Is that pinch in my left knee something I should be wary of? Does that stitch in my side mean I should change my breathing? Did I leave the geyser on before leaving so that I can get back to a hot bath? The act of running also clears your mind. For two hours there's no one to talk to, no internet to distract you, no information coming in. So your mind turns inwards, to both good and bad. You start thinking of negative thoughts but immediately have to cast them out else be weighed down by them. You start thinking of positive thoughts but realise that you can't savour them because you still need the hunger. It's like a yard sale for your brain.

As you progress, each step becomes harder to take. The last fifteen minutes of my run, my mind was focused purely on one, single thought: left foot in front of right, right foot in front of left, repeat. It's the simplest thing in the world. A one year old baby can do it. But you have to scream it to a body that's screaming back in retaliation. It's learning to walk again, with all the joy that it brings.

You cross the line, doubling over and thankful to god that it's finished. The lady puts a medal over your shoulders while you're still kneeling and hands you a packet of glucose biscuits. Then she asks you to get up and walk around for a bit and maybe stretch. Your knees are still screaming and white pangs of pain dance around your peripheral vision, but you know the race isn't over yet. You're just halfway there. So you stand, freshly knighted, a warrior of the road.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, this is it, your life. Face your fears and live your dreams. Take it all in. Yes every chance you get, come close. And by all means, what ever you do, get it on film.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The ways in which we live, work, play are evolving at unprecedented rates, and this trend is only expected to increase; while the age at which we pass away is being pushed further and further back, and this trend, too, is only expected to increase. The future, then, belongs not to the man who can cling on to a method better than the rest, but to the man who is willing to let go of dogmas repeatedly. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


She is poetry in motion. A song being written. A story being told.

She is the colours on a palette that will become a priceless painting. Colours mixing and mingling. And in their vibrance raging.

She is the monsoon after the summer. The rain that feeds a nation. The hope for those who have none.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

For Little Losty

Like a bride forced into an arranged marriage, she was pushed into the stranger that was Mumbai - jostling and shouting for attention that was never reciprocated. Tired, confused, alone, she wondered "why" day in and day out, but learnt to persevere. Then, one day, after weeksmonthsyears of clenched teeth and counting-to-tens, she realised that she had changed, nay had evolved. And with that came the final lesson - that you can love someone or even something that completely ignores you. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I see Barsad, and Cly Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years' time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward.

I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other's soul, than I was in the souls of both.

I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day's disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Cusp

50 days since I quit smoking. This is the longest I've gone without a cigarette since 2002. I've been here before though - in the spring of 2010, after quitting for 40 days for Lent and then being egged on for 10 more by a colleague and a friend. On the day that I reached half century then, I was out shooting the breeze and decided to lighten up, re-igniting my relationship with the old flame and ending that run.

I think the same could be said for me quitting it as well. I just got bored of it. With regards to health, I've never believed that it ever did me any good, though that never stopped me before. More than anything else, I think that the romanticism of the entire thing just wore off. Saying stuff like "I smoke because I want to die at least as much as I want to live" gets old when you've said it to yourself too many times. And I realised that if you have to keep making excuses to do something (and this applies to anything, mind you) then maybe you shouldn't be doing that in the first place.

So this is it, it would seem. Here's to many nights that this decade old friend has kept me company, nights that sometimes turned into mornings for reasons good, nights that turned into mornings for reasons bad. Adios, amigo. Thanks for all the fish.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Persistence of Hope

In the longest Grand Slam final in Open Era tennis (probably ever as well), Novak Djokovic ended the almost 6 hour odyssey with a forehand shot from the middle of the court to his right and out of reach of Rafael Nadal's forehand.

That is not to say that the fight was as simple, though it certainly looked it after the 3rd set. Nadal had taken the first set 7-5, but Djokovic had then stormed through the next two sets, taking them 6-4 and then 6-2. The Spaniard seemed out of the game - tired, sweating, running to and fro - while the Serbian dictated the shots from the center of his baseline. Anyone who would have said that the match would go till a fifth set would have been considered blind with stupidity or with hope.

Yet that is exactly what happened. The turning point was the game in the fourth set, when Nadal was down forty love on his own serve and a break point to the Serb would have given the world number one a chance to serve for the match. But against all odds, all statistics, against all reason and rational belief, Rafael Nadal thundered serve after serve and rally after rally to win the game, and went on to win the set. As a friend remarked, he seemed to be telling us all: "Alright boys, warm up's over. Let's start playing some tennis".

(When Djokovic was down in the game that led to the fourth set's tie break, you could see the weariness in him as he let the last shot go, saving his energy for the tie break.)

And even in the fifth set, as the match passed the five hour time and into 30 plus shot rallies that left players gasping for breath on the floor, Nadal, while on the run from the far corner of the court hammered a cross court winner that just seemed surreal. As the commentator put it, "that shot at 164kph was the fastest we've seen, and he was going backwards when he hit it"

It was all to no avail, sadly, as Djokovic outlasted - even he would admit that he didn't really "defeat" - Nadal, plunging to his knees and tearing off his tee shirt in joy and relief. But this belies the accomplishment that Nadal achieved that night. In the midst of players who have honed their art to perfection - and there is no denying that there is a certain grace, fluidity, and even sagacity to the way Federer, Djokovic, and Murray all play - Nadal succeeds to trump all that with pure grit. He never gives up, never retreats, no matter what the scoreboard says, no matter what odds the bookies dole out. In a word, he inspires. In his grinding of teeth and grunting of chest, we are reminded to hope regardless of how hopeless things seem, that for anyone and all of us, the match is never over till the last point is played.

After the semi finals against Federer, Nadal was briefly interviewed on court about the rivalry between him and Federer. In three days, the age of Federer-Nadal has ended. The era of Nadal-Djokovic has begun.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


The smell of cigarette smoke from the pub clung on to his clothes, like the memory of the past refusing to let go. He let the windows down to allow the wind rush in and wash the stained smell out of his head and his car.

The night air was cool, it had rained the previous morning and that had taken the edge off the cold north Indian winter. It no longer cut like a blade but flowed like a river over his face.

He suddenly realised that the smokey afterglow in the moist laden winter air smelled like those late nights he had spent back home, driving through streets he had no names for but knew like they were family, with people whose names he remembered but had no idea of where they were or what they would be doing at this moment.

He drove on, homeward bound through the young night.

Having promised his father that he would be home by a little after midnight, he passed through the gate of his colony at ten past twelve. But he drove past the turn that led to his house. What the hell. His promise could wait a few more minutes. It was such a lovely night right now.

He could still smell her in his head. Incense candles mixed in with those dry petals which his mother used to freshen up their living room. A chance missed, no doubt. But he had grown tired of all that. Or maybe too old for it. He smirked at his own self flagellation.

The structures of the colony drifted by the open windows of his car in second gear, his foot off the gas pedal. Grotesquely large bungalows with domes floated by his peripheral vision like icebergs warning him of danger. He guided his car almost drearily through trees sprung out in the middle of the road, swaying left and right in a dance of life and, well, a huge hole in his pocket.

Suddenly a whiff of something sweet ran through his windows. What was it? Jacaranda? No, not at this time of the year. Wondering what it was, he backed his car up to where he'd smelt it. Slowly now, there it was. Dew, he realised. Beautiful in its simplicity and clarity and freshness. The moist air reminded him more and more of home.

He let the smell of cold nights and the memories of early mornings overtake him. Adolescence in Alipore, the smell of anticipation with a tinge of fear as they broke the law. Nonchalance in North Campus and the smell of weeks spent in listless banter. Business in Bilekahalli as discussions on pricing strategies filled the whiteboard on his wall and the smell of that warm, far too sweet chai filled his head.

His circle of the colony complete, he parked his car in the usual spot. Stretching out to the cold Delhi winter, he took in one last breath before he stepped inside.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The table calendar was useless now, he thought, as he undressed after a good long evening celebrating the advent of another year and got ready for bed. It had been gifted to him by a senior from college, a calendar depicting various aspects of a place that had once seemed so alien but now represented a time which he longed for as if it were home. The thought of this made him smile and he picked up the 5x7 inch calendar, paraphernalia purchased for probably no more than a hundred rupees at the college's cooperative store, and flipped to January and leafed through each month, every memory, of the year that had just passed.

It always ends, he felt. Here was a picture of students sitting on the lawns, there was a picture of the college's founder, each month's picture with a caption to depict the mood of the image. How foolish, he chided himself, to rummage through the past for traces of glory like a homeless man rummages through garbage for scraps of food. He decided that he would throw the calendar out the first thing in the morning.

At December, the month that was barely four hours over, the caption read Solitude. How apt, he thought, that after all those pages, those captions of hope, sunshine, and dreams, came one so brutally honest and real. The last mile, walked alone. Winter in Delhi. Cold, desolate, empty. He turned the last page.

But only it hadn't been the last page, there was one more. Maybe the printers had calculated that adding one more page would be of no incremental cost. Whatever the case had been, the true final page lay before him, the image of the clock tower and two students sitting in front of the auditorium. The month, January of 2012. The caption a single word.


The calendar in his hand almost seemed to smirk with an air of condescension between his fingers, vindicated in it's extended usefulness for one more month. He placed it slowly back on the table beside his bed, in its rightful place - a testament to remind him that beyond the end, new beginnings always prevailed. That solitude is necessary, but it is not tantamount to isolation, as the companions sleeping beside him and in the next room, and even several blocks and pin codes away, served to remind him. Friendship would always last beyond the year. And the year after that. We are alone in choosing the paths that we must tread, but our friends and family will always walk beside us, outlasting even the bleakest winters and the coldest mists.

Happy New Year.