Showing posts with label Thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thoughts. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 13, 2021



The boats have returned to the shores of the Arabian Sea and are pulled up far back on the beach, far enough to keep them dry even when the tide gets high. The teamwork on display is nearly perfect: five men and two women sorting through the nets, wringing out half-dead marine life stuck in them with nudges, jolts, and, when needed, knives. This harvest of fish, mollusks, and crustaceans falls on the blue tarpaulin spread below, bluer than the sky and ocean combined. For a hunt that started at four in the morning, the overbearing empty blue spaces on the tarpaulin imply that this catch isn’t a bounty, but as with most matters of life, it may be considered a reasonable, though unnecessary concession ceded to the impoverished. The harvest has been dwindling over the years ever since trawlers were invented to monopolize the seas, outsmarting the humble outboard marine engines of these tiny fishing boats by a gap – understandably – as wide as that between the rich and the poor of the world. A woman is sorting the catch in buckets, classifying the creatures in a vocabulary well understood by humans, while ignoring their zoological taxonomy; the latter doesn’t fetch money. The sun is shyly rising somewhere on the other side of the mountains, and the teeming buckets slowly make their way to local markets, carried on the heads of the womenfolk. The nets and the tarpaulin are hurriedly stowed back in the boats, their sorting postponed to the latter half of the day: the more pressing endeavor of using the sunshine to earn a living reasonably takes precedence.

A man in bright red running gear has descended from the steps of the resort’s beach-access gate. It’s a fine morning, and while the western coasts aren’t the perfect settings for a sunrise, they are admirable for a fine detox. The town’s quaint villages, away from the hustle-bustle of the loud beaches are a must-visit, he was told last evening, and a stroll in one of the local markets is very much on today’s agenda.


The sun, almost double its usual size and bright orange in color, is floating above the calm ocean. Silhouettes of those manmade vessels that rule the ocean during the day are visible with their twinkling lights just at the horizon: perhaps a perfect composition for an earnest photographer who might want to capture this in a frame and title it with a phrase that might have something to do with earth, water, fire, air, and space. And undoubtedly, with an accompanying hashtag about the elements. A man bathing alone in the waters is heard calling out to his friends, apparently a group that might have descended in this town to breathe-in some nature: “Tum log nakli zindagi jeete ho yaar!” (All of you lead false lives). It might be an overdose of enthusiasm, or of alcohol, presumably both – a combination which has generally been known to bring poignancy and philosophical musings to individual minds – that has elicited this war cry from the bathing man. The evening looks promising, though, with flickering lights of beachside restaurants that will showcase the day’s fresh catch, and serve the patrons in a cooking style selected by them, accompanied with a choice of cocktails fixed to perfection.

Near the fishing boats that were moored at the beach earlier in the morning, a woman and a girl begin their evening enterprise: untangling of the fishing nets that were hurriedly stowed in the morning after clearance of the harvest. The process is elaborate and requires patience. The nets are long with a tendency to get enmeshed, and only a pair of deft hands hardened by years of seafaring life can skillfully make them ready for the next day's hunt in the cold, early morning waters. The job will take at least a few hours, and by the time it is accomplished, it will be dark; dark enough to successfully hide the nondescript lives of these two women amidst the brightness and noise of the restaurants and clubs.


The sands are lit up with neon lights in all shapes and patterns as far as the eyes can see. Tables are set on the sand almost until the edge of the water for hosting guests who would dine and drink in this electric atmosphere. Music oozes out loudly from individual shacks, superimposing on each other and competing to create a frenzy that hooks every soul who is looking for a good time. The air has whiffs of pan-seared prawns, grilled fish, and fried crabs, and every other species that made its way to the plate. At places, it is thick with the smoke of the sheesha. Alcohol is visible in the glasses set on each table, as well as in the breaths of men and women gyrating on dance floors set on the sand.

A woman is walking around on the sand carrying numerous woven handbags, jewelry crafted from stones and shells, and other knick-knacks, stopping by at each table with the hope of striking a deal with anyone who might get swayed under influence and actually make a purchase. It’s a sigh of relief when the girl stops her at a table; just the initial conversation offers the woman an excuse to place her load on the empty chair, at least momentarily. A sale is made, but she tries to prolong the conversation that might allow a few more moments of relief before she will need to get on with her wandering in the sands. A story is narrated about when she got to the beach (perhaps around seven), when she will return home (somewhere around eleven, considering the commute that will require a hitch-hike), and the displeasing thought of her kids waiting on her instead of just eating their dinner on time which she cooked before leaving home. The girl on the table asks her a question: “If there was one thing you could change about your life, what would that be?” The woman considers it, and replies: “I wish the smell of fish could leave my hands. It just never goes away!”

Monday, February 10, 2020


The forecast on the phone says, “rain throughout the day”. It’s perhaps ten in the morning, maybe eleven; I am happy about not being on a clock. I step out into the balcony. It feels as if I was last here a long time ago. The sky is overcast, and it might rain as the day progresses. I notice my bougainvillea. It’s already winter, but they are blooming. I can’t recall the last time I observed them up close, or any of the other plants in the balcony for that matter; even watering them was delegated to the house cleaner months ago. Many of them have overgrown, and some have weeds as tall as I remember those plants themselves – beautiful weeds nonetheless. I see the open-air gym equipment in the opposite park; I don’t know when these were installed. When life is on a treadmill, one stops paying attention.

Until the universe jolts you back.

When my father was diagnosed with his virulent lung ailment three years ago, he was already in a phase of life where he would be irritated with himself about small things that he couldn’t manage to do: climbing a flight of stairs, going for a long walk, changing car tyres, or eating heartily at a wedding without upsetting his stomach the next day. Most of it, perhaps, is just ageing. Parts of it, maybe, is contributed by his ailments. We grew up hearing stories about him carrying an entire sack of wheat on his back, which would then be washed thoroughly, soaked in the sun, and hand-grinded in a small stone mill by my grandmother. Or about one of his childhood friends I have met several times, who still can’t hear very well with his left ear because my father slapped him hard during an altercation in his younger days. About his travels far and wide across India on shoestring budgets, and his long inter-city office commutes in rickety government buses in the then roadless state of Bihar. By talking about them more often, he seemed to long for his days of strength and vitality. He sold off his old scooter a few years ago and switched to a simpler electric-start two-wheeler because the scooter was too heavy, the engine’s ignition required arduous kicks, and the machine was getting difficult to drive. Now he drives the new two-wheeler slowly, and almost never drives his own car.

Mortality is a difficult subject. It’s not something one would pick as a conversational topic in gatherings. Nor is it something one would think deeply about over evening coffee after returning from work. And yet, it’s cognizance is all-pervasive in culture. There are tomes of eclectic prose on the inevitability of death, and plentiful exquisite poetry on the beauty of it. Somewhere, it’s associated with solemn pride, elsewhere with liberation, and in yet another context with transcendence to another life. “May you live long” is almost a universal blessing. Perhaps this assumption of the primacy of human breath isn’t completely unfounded; everything else, all the thoughts, actions, hopes, despair exist and create a living experience defined by the existence of the breath. 

However, perhaps breathing isn’t sufficient in itself. One doesn’t merely desire to live longer, but – and this is seldom acknowledged – one wants to live with agency. It’s not about how many constraints of flesh and bone can be conquered by biology to prolong health and survival, what ultimately matters is the agency left for the body to observe, think, act, share, and experience. I notice my balcony closely now. I feel my own breath, and the faint fragrance of flowers, leaves, and soil mixed with it. I feel the chill of the air burnishing my skin. It has begun raining, and the fragrances change yet again. What portent can be greater than the grace that manifests in all this abundance? And what fortune is greater than my agency to observe all this?

Friday, July 15, 2016

The unbearable temptation of extroversion

I do not know when it happened, or, at least, happened for the rest of the world that is always out there judging me as a person, and unsolicitedly deciding my personality traits on my behalf. I got labelled as an extrovert.

I grew up as a shy kid, which is how every kid grows up in a middle-class family in India. I had to go through the assault of plentiful relatives and countless uncles and aunties from the neighborhood who would drop-by the house in the evenings. And just when I would try sneaking in some unsecluded corner of our meagre house to escape this barrage, one of my parents would do the inevitable – “Bade acchhe number aaye iske is baar. Beta aunty ko wo waali poem sunaao.” The ensuing hours were always tormenting: I would fumble through one of the textbook poems, while my audience would munch away namkeen biscuits and loudly sip through their tea. This wasn’t even public performance, but the slightest exposure to people for my 12-year old mind was almost indecent. As I grew up further, the pressure to dance at children’s birthday parties and family weddings and community gatherings on local festivals started building up from unknown people who always seemed to decide things on my behalf – that somebody who scores decently in school should do this, and this, and this as well. The list included learning martial arts, playing a musical instrument, painting, typewriting, but never television.

And so I went through each of these. While learning Karate, and later Taekwondo, the only thing I could do decently were the forms: quietly using the flexibility afforded by a kid’s body to demonstrate exercises, kicks, and punches, without actually hitting anyone. Whenever I was asked to actually fight, I would be terrorized. Not because fights were terrifying (no one hit opponents for real), but the onlookers made me freeze. It was once again an indecent exposure, and somehow my embarrassment never got channelized into aggression, but almost always into helplessness. The Hawaain guitar lessons were rather boring with too much of classical teachings for a brain that was more at ease knowing about formulations of dry ice. I could’ve still managed to learn some bits of guitar, had I been left alone instead of being asked to perform in my first year of training in front of an audience consisting of, you know who. For them, it was an enjoyable game: I knew only 4 Bollywood songs, and they had to guess which one I was playing because it was rarely identifiable. With painting, just when I thought I was beginning to like the blue skies I could paint, my parents thought it well to exhibit them to every visitor to the house. And lo, I lost interest in that as well. The only thing that went well was typewriting, probably because there were no samples to bring home, or no machines to demonstrate on. I avoided all forms of sports too, because it always required people training their eyes on you – I couldn’t stand people prying on how I bat, or how I swim, or how I exercise in a gym.

My introversion was best reflected in the personal notebook I had as a school kid. On some days, it had diary entries, often it had lyrics from Bollywood songs (I had a fancy for the lyrical charm of old Bollywood), and sometimes, amateur poems. One fine day, pop came a request in front of a nameless neighbor – “Beta why don’t you recite that poem you wrote on prices of mustard oil?” And there, my secret was gone. It was as if the world was always conspiring for me to perform; anything done in seclusion wasn’t worth doing.

With entry into college, my introversion got subjected to further stress tests. To be amongst the guys who ‘belonged’, one had to be talkative, sociable, and friendly. I tried a year of rather secluded living, but it seemed like the extroverts created such a tremendous pressure that one always felt left out. These were the guys who would sit and narrate stories on a canteen bench and others will listen with rapt attention, who would stay up late at night and go for a smoke at 4 am and others would want to join them, who would watch sports in the common room and others will react with them, who would manage to be in a spotlight that seemed to always follow them. And I started to be that guy. Only that, I still couldn’t deal with sports, or do anything that didn’t involve being with the crowd and almost hiding in it. I did manage public speaking, but only to an audience that was familiar. Strangers gave me goosebumps.

The corporate world was even more ruthless. Here, extroversion was rewarded; not just by women swooning over you in gatherings, but by clients who judged your acumen based on the glibness of your talk. I would cringe at colleagues who could introduce themselves to everybody in the party, completely on their own. Like just by themselves, no kidding. I would detest those who were comfortable in their skin to walk-in late, and still get noticed even by super-seniors, or walk-out early, and still get fabulous send-offs compared to people like us whose presence never even mattered. I would despise those who could dance gracefully even in suits and dress shoes, and even when they had to be the first ones on the dance floor. And because I couldn’t be them, I started being the guy who could at least hold a conversation with people who were known personally and pretend being an extrovert. Such was the temptation that I couldn’t resist being an extrovert, if only for non-strangers. I started liking it too: hosting a gathering where I felt comfortable enough to pass sarcastic remarks made me feel closer to that performer I was always pushed into becoming.

It’s rather unfortunate that introversions rarely get rewarded. There were barely a handful who could delve deeper into my mind and notice that it had thoughts I would like to consider as beautiful, and not just the unruliness of a pretentious high-fiver. Only a few could see through my eyes to know that networking events are loathsome, that gatherings where less than half of the invitees are known to me are abhorring, that there is more peace in the music that plays amidst the closest companies instead of an unknown crowd in a motley bar. It’s rather unfortunate that extroverts got the upper hand in the worldly scheme of things. The loud and attention-seeking people mostly devoid of substance won the rat-race, and it is worse that I am still trying to be one of them because it were them who labelled me as an extrovert and I had to play along: it’s tempting, you see! To make some amends, next time when we meet, please ask me about my blogs instead of my favorite cocktail.

P.S. Thanks to Rabia Kapoor for the inspiration.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Epilogue: Reflections on Kashmir

[Part 7 of 7 writings on Kashmir]

It was the day of jumme-ki-namaaz yesterday – a big day, considering it was the last jumma in the holy maah-e-ramzaan of this year. Evening traffic from Ganderbal to Srinagar, and everywhere else in the city, was filled with large and small buses and Sumos (they call it "Somu" here) shouting Dargaah-Dargaah to attract the attention of devotees who would want to offer this namaaz at Hazratbal. I was in the shikara of Ghulam Mohammad, an 85 year old man who got me back on the shore when it was time to open his Roza – I paid him more than he had asked for, and got a heartfelt "dua karoonga khuda aapko salaamat rakhe." Walking by the lake at this hour, you could witness numerous people drinking glasses of milk offered free outside various shops across the entire stretch – the first drop of liquid after a day-long fast.

Abdul, the guy at my hotel, left for his home this morning – a place near Pahalgam, with a beautiful name called Aish-muqaam – where he intends to spend Eid with his family. If the moon is sighted this evening, Eid will be celebrated tomorrow itself, else he'll have to wait one more day, fasting. I gave him a tip when he was leaving, and got a sincere "shukriya janaab, meherbaani."

I have an afternoon flight, and I spend the next few hours by the lake. I recall my dad's words, when I had told him I'm going to Kashmir alone. He had said – "Oh go ahead! Paryatan apne aap mein ek adhyayan hai (travel is a study in itself)." He has this knack of saying important things, diluting their intensity with a background smile – when I was a kid, he used to tell me the most simple of things, and add up their priority by a passing remark "Dhyaan rakhna, chhoti kintu mahatwapoorna baatein! (remember, small but important things in life)."

I reflect back on the things I learnt over the last week.

About the forbearing of Kashmir's suffering masses under the dual bane of poverty and militarization. About the utter simplicity of soul and the collective spirit of faith which unites them into a people who live seemingly unimportant lives in silence. About Islam, a religion so powerful that it has survived through centuries without adulterations even when the world kept altering, unites populations across the entire globe, and can still be condensed in just one holy book.

About the beauty of nature. About the 'stationary' valleys and mountains and rivers and trees which are more 'living' than the moving human creatures deluding themselves as the creators of a 'free world'. About the purity and power of rains, skies and earth in making you feel the insignificance of rushing through a few decades of existence, with a worthless purpose largely composed of outrunning each other.

About my own self. About being called a tourist, a journalist, an adventurer, or an idiot at various points of time during my travel. About thinking a little bit more, a little bit beyond. About ilm, amal and akhlaq (theory, practice, and virtues). About writing. About missing people. About meeting people and trying cuisines. About getting tips on riding a horse, which never worked. About feeling an adrenaline. About dropping my guard and doing different things in life. About being inspired.

I boarded my flight at Srinagar around 2:30 PM after going through at least 4 layers of security screening – the Srinagar airport is a fortress, and getting past it includes rules such as no handbags on-board, and identifying your check-in luggage by actually going inside the luggage loading area: your luggage isn't loaded into the place until you have physically identified it as yours. I had asked for a window seat today. As the plane takes off, the valley below me starts receding into a beautiful panorama once again. A smile crosses my lips – a stray thought says "I was there." Parting from Kashmir is tough, and I promise myself to come back again, within this lifetime.

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. Sitting at the Delhi airport, I am looking at the numerous pictures I clicked during my trip. Visiting Kashmir on a 14.1" LCD screen seems to be a gross injustice – after all, a thousand words for Kashmir are like a drop in the ocean.

Kashmir is like love. It doesn't have a 'summary' or a 'conclusion'.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Driving in the rains


The wipers are desperately fighting the incessant droplets banging on my windshield. The excitement of the commuters leaving early from work seems to be compounded by this heavy downpour gracing their return journey – as if the skies are celebrating their little joys of saving a few hours on a Monday. The road ahead, barely visible, is glittering with red and yellow lights from all directions.

Legs are busy negotiating the three levers below and mind is busy reviewing the changes being filmed like a flashback. The helmet visors which needed frequent wiping with the palms a few months ago have been replaced by this windshield. The hands which expertly maneuvered the handlebars and steered their way through crowds are impatiently waiting on the bulky wheel – the grip a little lose by sweat or moisture. The heart had reasons then – reasons which reason didn't understand – to remove the helmet, to feel the wet winds gushing on the face, to feel the prickling droplets beating against the skin, to twist the throttle. The heart has reasons now – reasons which are seemingly reasonable – to press those tiny buttons which close the windows, to cut the wet winds coming inside, to decelerate the pace.


The sound of the wipers is more distinct now – pronouncing their existence – the existence of an anti-force, trying to erase tiny signs of life from a distant glass surface. The windows have just sealed the doors with a thud – almost insulating the honks, the engine roars, and the noise of waters splashing everywhere. The leather shoes, the formal clothes, and probably even the laptop carry-case are thankful that they aren't getting spoilt – those non-living creatures glimmering with the thought that they won. And life lost it. Its still beating against the numerous windshields, window panes and jammed roads.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On the purpose of existence

Better late than never. Finally had a chance to go through The Fountainhead, the masterpiece from probably one of the most analysed authors of all times, Ayn Rand. The gyst of the book, as far as my limited mental faculties allowed me to understand, were represented in the following piece of conversation between the book's two central characters. Given my negative literary standing, I can't dare to analyse or interpret it. Reproducing the original text:

"I've looked at him – at what's left of him – and it's helped me to understand. He's paying the price and wondering for what sin and telling himself that he's been too selfish. In what act or thought of his has there ever been a self? What was his aim in life? Greatness – in other people's eyes. Fame, admiration, envy – all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn't want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn't want to build, but to be admired as a builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others. There's your actual selflessness. It's his ego he's betrayed and given up. But everybody calls him selfish."

"That's the pattern most people follow."

"Yes! And isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he's honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he's great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison. The man whose sole aim is to make money. Now I don't see anything evil in a desire to make money. But money is only a means to some end. If a man wants it for a personal purpose – to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury – he's completely moral. But the men who place money first go much beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, to impress others. They're second-handers. Look at our so-called cultural endeavors. A lecturer who spouts some borrowed rehash of nothing at all that means nothing at all to him – and the people who listen and don't give a damn, but sit there in order to tell their friends that they have attended a lecture by a famous name. All second-handers."

"If I were Ellsworth Toohey, I'd say: aren't you making out a case against selfishness? Aren't they all acting on a selfish motive – to be noticed, liked, admired?"

"– by others. At the price of their own self-respect. In the realm of greatest importance – the realm of values, of judgment, of spirit, of thought – they place others above self, in the exact manner which altruism demands. A truly selfish man cannot be affected by the approval of others. He doesn't need it."

"I think Toohey understands that. That's what helps him spread his vicious nonsense. Just weakness and cowardice. It's so easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is the strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence – such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence."

"That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation – anchored to nothing. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It's everywhere and nowhere and you can't reason with him. He's not open to reason. you can't speak to him – he can't hear. You're tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense of purpose. Steve Mallory couldn't define the monster, but he knew. That's the drooling beast he fears. The second-hander."

"I think your second-handers understand this, try as they might not to admit it to themselves. Notice how they'll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once. By instinct. There's a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. They forgive criminals. They admire dictators. Crime and violence are a tie. A form of mutual dependence. They need ties. They've got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them – because they don't exist within him and that's the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man. Look back at your own life, Howard, and at the people you've met. They know. They're afraid. You're a reproach."

"That's because some sense of dignity always remains in them. They're still human beings. But they've been taught to seek themselves in others. Yet no man can achieve the kind of absolute humility that would need no self-esteem in any form. He wouldn't survive. So after centuries of being pounded with the doctrine that altruism is the ultimate ideal, men have accepted it in the only way it could be accepted. By seeking self-esteem through others. By living second-hand. And it has opened the way for every kind of horror. It has become the dreadful form of selfishness which a truly selfish man couldn't have conceived. And now, to cure a world perishing from selflessness, we're asked to destroy the self. Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You've wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he's ever held a truly personal desire, he'd find the answer. He'd see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He's not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander's delusion – prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can't find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can't say about a single thing: 'This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me.' Then he wonders why he's unhappy. Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self motivated, not to be touched. The things which are sacred or precious to us are the things we withdraw from promiscuous sharing. But now we are taught to throw everything within us into public light and common pawing. To seek joy in meeting halls. We haven't even got a word for the quality I mean – for the self-sufficiency of man's spirit. It's difficult to call it selfishness or egotism, the words have been perverted, they've come to mean Peter Keating. Gail, I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men. I've always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. I've always recognized it at once – and it's the only quality I respect in men. I chose my friends by that. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. Nothing else matters."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sleepless nights and Jagjeet

A piece which played multiple times tonight, or should I say, morning:

फिर कुछ इस दिल को बेक़रारी है
सीना जोया-ए-ज़ख्म-ए-कारी है
(जोया : to search)

फिर जिगर खोदने लगा नाखुन
आमद-ए-फ़स्ल-ए-लालाकारी है
(आमद-ए-फ़स्ल : arrival of the harvest, लालाकारी : spawning a particular red flower)

फिर उसी बेवफ़ा पे मरते हैं
फिर वही ज़िन्दगी हमारी है

बेखुदी बेसबब नहीं ग़ालिब
कुछ तो है जिसकी पर्दा-दारी है

Jagjeet Singh mesmerizing with his poignant voice over Galib's masterpiece.  The original gazal has quite a few more shers than the recitation.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Food for thought III

Happened to get a chance to attend a screening of the 1999 flick "Tuesdays with Morrie", an adaptation of the Mitch Albom novel of the same title.  Some lines from the same justifying the title of this post:

On life and death

Should I tell you what it's like? Dying? That's another subject that makes people uncomfortable.  You know, dying is just one thing to be sad about.  Living unhappily, that's another matter.  When you know how to die... you know how to live.

Don't look so sad because I'm gonna die, Mitch.  Everybody's gonna die.  Even you.  But most people don't believe it.  They should have a bird on their shoulder.  That's what the Buddhists do.  Just imagine a little bird on your shoulder...  and every day you say, "Is this the day I'm gonna die, little bird?  Huh? Am I ready? Am I leading the life I want to lead?  Am I the person that I want to be?"

If we accept the fact that we can die at any time, we'd lead our lives differently. So every day you say, "Is this the day?"  If you did have a bird on your shoulder...  you wouldn't put off the things closest to your heart.

Death ends a life,  not a relationship.

On living

Work, money, ambition.  We bury ourselves in these things.  But we never stand back and say, "Is this what I want?"

We think we don't deserve love.  That if we let it come in,  we'll become soft.  Love is the only rational act.  Let it come in.

Yeah, it's a sweet little story.  See, there's this little wave.  And he's out there bobbing up and down and havin'a grand old time.  You know, just enjoying the sunshine and the wind...  Right. Until he see...  Until he sees the other waves.  Yeah. He sees the other waves crashing into the shore, so he gets scared.  And another wave sees him and...  He's like, "Oh, my God.  Look at what's gonna happen to me."  And another wave says to him,  "Why do you look so sad?"  And the little waves says,  "Because we're gonna crash.  All us waves are gonna be nothin: Don't ya understand?"  And the other wave says,  "You don't understand.  You're not a wave.  You're part of the ocean."   Part... of the ocean.

It's what I call the tension of opposites.  Life pulling you back and forth like a rubber band.  Pull you one way, you think that's what you want to do.  Pull you another way, you think that's what you have to do.
- So, who wins?
- Love. Love always wins.

Forgive everybody everything!  Now! Don't wait!  Not everybody has the time that I'm getting.

On other topics

What is it about silence that makes people uneasy, huh?  Why do people only feel comfortable when they're filling the air with words? Hmm?

You know what's funny? Some people just don't like to be touched.  I always found that rather odd.  When we're babies, we live to be touched...  to be held, cuddled by your mother...  comforted.  We never seem to get enough of that.  We need it so badly.

I'm dependent on others... for just about everything, you know... eating, urinating, blowing my nose.  The culture says I should be ashamed of that.  There is nothing innately shameful about being dependent.  When we're infants, we need others to survive.  When we're dying, we need others to survive.  But here's the secret. In between, we need others even more.  We must love one another or die.  Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.  If you listen to that little bird on your shoulder, you'll believe.  It's kind of hard to get in touch with your inner bird.

That's from W.H. Auden,
my favorite poet.

"All I have is a voice...
to undo the folded lie...
the lie of authority...
whose buildings grope the sky.

No one exists alone.
Hunger allows no choice
to the citizen or police.
We must love one another...
or die.
We must...
love one another...
or die."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The feeling of getting old

You probably wouldn't get the feeling behind this post unless you have a firsthand experience.  Last week, I happened to visit the NIT Calicut campus for some work.  The college was bathed in a festive mood with students celebrating their annual fest, Tathva.

Two young voices sitting on the registration desk announcing timings and registration details for about-to-start events sounded fresh on the microphone.  Teens frantically pacing all around between different makeshift stalls were effervescent in their colourful tees and shredded style jeans.  Those unconcerned couples were spotted walking carelessly chewing peanuts or licking icecreams.  Moving a bit farther, there was a small gathering cheering a bunch of guys dancing on a small stage probably made for impromptu competitions.  The onstage mood seemed to reverberate across the spectators - jubilant and ecstatic, clapping noisily, everyone seemed to be engrossed with the display of energy, youth, excitement, life!

And there I was, standing a couple of yards away across the road with thoughts moving to and fro my mind like those students cycling past their Hero and Avon cycles on the campus' main road.  Nostalgic reflections of college days were the first passers by - the festive spirit of Srijan at ISM bounced back with all its fervor - what energy we had to roam around and shout and at least witness everything that used to happen over the three days!  There used to be life - amidst canteen and hostel backyard chats, amidst elocutions and solos and JAMs, amidst bonhomie of the entire campus at the upperground, amidst midnight trips to GT Road's Khalsa or to Ram Charitra Singh's tea stall on Dhanbad station.  And it's hardly the same now - the euphoria has been waning over the years.

To wash the thoughts all away, I went for lunch at the good old Lovely Dhaba just outside the NIT campus.  It didn't prove much of a respite.  The place was thronged with even more students - small groups of teenage boys and girls chatting incessantly on topics which I feel I have come a long way from.  You yourself don't realise when you changed, or got so much subdued with the waves of time ironing out many of those bubbles of your personality.  You don't realise, or probably don't want to accept, the difference which time brought into you with those few months of job and higher studies interspersed between college life and present.  And pretty much ironically, its time which throws you back sometimes to ensure you understand the reality, that things do change.  It's not a good feeling though, to know that you have aged.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Last Lear

"From the time you wear your costume till you take it off, its one single shot."

>>You know what makes an actor?  




>>The desire to perform.  Nothing else matters.  The first day you walked the ramp it was difficult for you.  But actually its the first day that you performed also.

Simple facts of life, woven marvellously around actors and stage.  Anjana Basu and Rituparno Ghosh writing those dialogues effortlessly pass on the innate rationale - the day 'desire' to live differently and the passion to perform ends, that's the day of being transformed into the lesser mortal.  And the use of actors and stage, well, the movie talks all about Shakespeare: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I love train travels. Flimsy excuses like paucity of time don't let me enjoy a lot of them these days, but a few interspersed ones are true times of leisure. Tucked up in a blanket, eating chewing and reading for hours and hours is a well deserved reward after a few months of seemingly busy life.

Finished this off in one go. Probably the second book ever which I finished in one sitting. I wanted to read this leisurely – savoring all words and not losing thoughts and connections by breaking off in between – wanted to do it for all the recommendations about it. And it was worth it. Few stories are just narratives, few can raise a lump to your throat, and to some particular tit-bit of all of them, you can always relate your own life.

Khaled Hosseini is probably the best story-teller, and doesn't require my humble appreciation. If his last book had the potential to move you deeply, this second one goes one step beyond just watering your eyes. A fable of war-torn lives interwoven with deepest of human emotions and love, it portrays the entire history of Afghanistan. With the book, one can walk the streets of Kabul, Herat, even the fictitious Gul Daman, and witness the destruction of the country and its rich heritage year after year under different regimes, none of them really transforming the lives of people, or their deaths.

Hosseini vividly describes the state of women in Afghanistan, the perpetual grief and fear under which human lives keep on trudging – defiant against all odds. And amidst the description of these tangibles, he inserts his infallible knack – putting into words what human hearts feel. He narrates the separation of friends and of mothers and daughters and of lovers, the undying love of two children and adults, the grief of leaving one's homeland. Love is the prevalent theme of the book, and perfectly depicted, it does hurt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Convexity Theory of Salaries

I don’t think I would be surprised if someone comes up to me and throws a statistic which says that 74% of the productive time of a current generation salaried employee working in one of the Tier 1 cities is spent in mulling over his / her current salary package, and over future avenues of getting an incremental benefit in the same.

I put some more thought into the phenomenon, and came up with my “Convexity Theory of Salaries”. Apparently simple, the theory propounds my idea of a mutually convex satisfaction and effort curves with incremental salaries. The following figure explains the theory in some detail:

Any Tier 1 city employee can be classified into one of the three zones at various stages of his / her life. Different zones have been segregated based on salary ranges, and a creature falling in one zone has characteristics totally distinct from creatures in other zones. In addition, a creature in a lower zone would almost always strive / crib to jump to a higher one.

ZONE 1 – The Laggard Worker

Zone One incumbents spend a large chunk of their time in office. Their work includes mundane jobs, generally of a repetitive nature. They might attend late night calls (support work), verify and document processes (Ctrl + C/V work), spend time on Orkut, YouTube, Monster and Naukri, ensure that the coffee vending machines and smoking zones in the office reach their optimum utilization, and tweak something or the other in their CVs for a few minutes as a daily routine. They are good at narrating stories in their families about how their work at an MNC keeps them busy for more than 12 hours a day but because of a centrally air-conditioned office building and a personalized cubicle, at least the job is satisfactory. However, they are of the most unsatisfactory lot and are proud contributors to the largest bulk of CV movements across job consultancies in various cities. They spend at least one weekend per month participating in recruitment processes for jobs which might elevate them to Zone Two.

ZONE 2 – The Aspirant

Zone Two incumbents are of the ambitious lot. Their office timings become a comfortable 9 to 6 and their work generally involves low-value-add-to-the-company endeavors. They might write codes for small fragments of larger applications, search the net working as analysts sniffing for data, appear for certifications, or jugaado for onsite opportunities. A few towards the right (light green) portion of this zone might actually work on something which might positively contribute to company’s bottom-line and are the cause of envy for their peers on the last day of each month. With their sufficient income levels, Zone Two’ers can afford 2-BHK flats on a twin-sharing basis rather than those Paying Guest (PG) arrangements of Zone One mortals. They even pay the EMIs of their two-wheelers from their own salaries and are the largest contributors to the Friday night crowd at city pubs and restaurants. Some of them start fitness routines and Yoga for the purpose of telling about the same to office colleagues. Their CVs are normally stagnated and a majority of them start attending classes for management entrance examinations on weekends. Even though they are at the vertex of the satisfaction convex, their aspirations keep them cribbing for a slot in Zone Three without anticipating the disaster.

ZONE 3 – The Fallbacks

Zone Three incumbents are classic portrayals of grandma’s greed-is-a-dangerous-evil. They are the fallen back Zone Two’ers normally with a one or two year management education interspersed in between. They spend the maximum time in office working upon presentations which would eventually attract partners’ and clients’ brickbats, excel maintenance for resource allocation, team meetings etc. Their discussion topics amongst office colleagues witness a paradigm shift from Zone Two’ers talks about girls, boss-cribbings, PVR movies and new cellphones in the market to Zone Three thoughts on entrepreneurship and related gassings, plans for apartment purchases, investments etc. Their Orkut albums are replete with their international stints and other sweet memories of Zone Two days and usually a with-my-team snap from their first few days at Zone Three tragedy. Their working hours, stretching to the better portion of twenty four, put them towards the tail end of the satisfaction convex into a situation which their last-day of the month creditings in the bank cannot compensate. It’s already too late for them to get back to the previous two zones and quite a few of them, feeling retired towards their middle age itself, start watching fatso babas on dhaarmik TV channels giving gyaan about life.

Zone Two, according to the Convexity Theory is the Utopia of human existence. It does not take much effort for an average employee to enter this zone and enjoy weekend trips and Friday dinners. A slightly focused strategy can even place most of them towards the right end of this zone which offers comfortable salaries coupled with a relaxed lifestyle. However, the mere attraction to cross the boundary proves lethal.

“Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.” Think before you play ping-pong within these zones.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Food for thought II

"You are generally sadder by what you couldn't do, than happier by what you could. That's the cause of most of the troubles in life."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Food for thought

"Some emotions don't make a lot of noise. It's hard to hear pride. Caring is real faint - like a heartbeat. And pure love - why some days it is so quiet, you don't even know it's there."

- Erma Bombeck

Friday, November 16, 2007

CAT Tips: What to do the day before and on the D-Day

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

- Elbert Hubbard; The Note Book, 1927

The penultimate

Relax! Your part of the job is already done! If you happen to be an engineer too (which I presume with a 90% level of confidence), recall the days when you used to laugh looking at people messing their heads with “Irodov” and “Krishna’s IIT Physics” on the day of the JEE! If you weigh intelligence and perseverance in terms of importance towards cracking CAT, trust me, this cat is way too sexy to be tamed just by slogging hard for it – I would rank intelligence higher when it comes to getting her! If you count in attitude and thinking-on-the-toes as components of intelligence, you are made for an IIM. Tomorrow is your day to prove that you are great not because you are amongst the crowd of those two hundred thousand guys writing the exam each one of which has the brains to solve those easy Quants and DI problems, but you are great because you are more intelligent in terms of choosing the right ones out of the twenty five questions and calm enough to crack them within fifty minutes. Adding to it, you should be intelligent enough to understand that you don’t need to slog tonight to prove yourself tomorrow!

If you want a personal experience, I had enjoyed a mug of beer in Bangalore’s “Just Another Pub” at Koramangala the day before CAT, chilling out with a bunch of college friends (and I got a “blacki”!!) The point out here is not about alcohol (remain strictly within 50ml!); just relax in the best way which suits you. Stay calm, have a dinner with you girlfriend (if you aren’t as lucky as me who doesn’t have any such filthy burdens), and remain confident that you are made for the big day. It’s meant to be a laid back Saturday, let the essence remain – you’re doomed to be back again to the rhetoric of office or classes from Monday!

The ultimate

Ever actually seen how “mornings” are like on Sundays? The exam is at ten, make sure you wake up in time keeping in mind your transit time to the examination centre. You haven’t taken a bath for past 4 days, do it today (yes, do it even though it’s a “sun” day; it’s the second best thing in the world to refresh with a cold water shower on a November morning!) Feel like revising formulae or something? Personal opinion – it’s of no use. It’s only the easy formulae – which you already have used a lakh times – combined with your sheer presence of mind that is required to sail through CAT problems. Get to the examination centre by 09:45, check out all girls allotted the same centre if you are writing CAT in a real town and, finally, take your seat at 10:00.

The 10:00 to 10:30 period when you’ve to wait in the examination hall for the question paper is the worst torture you might have ever faced in life. Here’s how to make best use of the time. Get your brain working before the exam starts. After you are done with the form filling stuff, this is the time to revise your formulae. Your brain is already at peace with the relaxation you offered it yesterday, let it start afresh. Mentally start recalling simple geometry and mensuration’s areas, volumes, equations and stuff. If you remember some problem you had ingeniously solved (ever), think about the solution again, you’ll bolster your confidence. Start building your focus fifteen minutes before you’ve got the papers. Once you get them, it’s the regular easy trick. Pick up the most comfortable areas (personal favorite – geometry in Quants); steer through rough uncomfortable terrains the last. Constantly look for easy problems, spot them right and you are through the cut-off. Get ready to enjoy the Sunday evening once again!

All the best!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hemant Kumar and Gulzaar

Just happened to browse through some old music collection. Was left mesmerized with Hemant Kumar's voice to Gulzar's creativity in this song from the 1969 film Khamoshi -

होठ पे लिए हुए, दिल की बात हम,
जागते रहेंगे और, कितनी रात हम
मुख़्तसर सी बात है, तुमसे प्यार है
तुम्हारा इंतज़ार है...
तुम पुकार लो!

दिल बहल तो जाएगा, इस ख़याल से,
हाल मिल गया तुम्हारा, अपने हाल से
रात ये क़रार की, बेक़रार है
तुम्हारा इंतज़ार है...
तुम पुकार लो!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I need a miracle

The marvellous Bon Jovi...

"He said
I'm just one man, that's all I'll ever be
I never can be everything you wanted from me
I've got plans so big
That any blind man could see "

There's more to it...

"Your feet are grounded still
You're reaching for the sky
You can let 'em clip your wings
'Cause I believe that you can fly"

And the best part...

"It ain't all for nothing
Life ain't written in the sand
I know the tide is coming
But it's time we made a stand
With a miracle"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The other day, was watching Raincoat for the nth time. Just happened to note a small sequence when Anu Kapoor (the house-owner) has finished explaining Ajay Devgan (Aishwarya Rai's old lover) how he's been bluffed by the woman about her prosperity, and how he'd have to force the couple out of his house for not paying the rent. Ajay Devgan offers to pay the partial rent and requests him not to evict them from the premises.

The owner accepts the money, and says -

"Ek baat poochhen baabu?....
Ye aapka praayashchit hai....

ya pratishodh?"

Is it a remorse or a revenge?!! What can you say? :)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't you wanna fly!!

Ever thought of flying like a bird and get lost far far away? The pic is copied from a newspaper article. Its poignancy left me immersed in thoughts for hours!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rang De Basanti

It says - A Generation Awakens... And it tries the best shot.

In this contemporary rendering of the legendary story of Bhagat Singh, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra passes on the message to the young generation brilliantly and almost effortlessly. In an unusual but highly effective format, the scenes shift from historical to contemporary settings flawlessly and it's easy to assimilate the smooth transitions. A.R. Rahman's music with Prasoon Joshi's lyrics create a magical effect.

With its great script, the movie keeps the audience spellbound. The imagination, however, becomes too much in the latter half of the movie when, in protest of Ajay's flight accident, the five young men shoot the defence minister and then broadcast their feelings on the radio.

The movie poses a problem - of the nation gnawed by politicians. But, leaves it at that without giving a solution. It fills the youth with enthusiasm, with aggression, with devotion, but stops at that. Swades, on the other hand, was more realistic with a direct message.

P.S. One particular line which I found more than impressive : "College de gate de is taraff, hum life ko nachaatte hain... to dujji taraf life humko nachaatti hai... dhim lak lak dhim dhim lak lak!!"