Wednesday, November 18, 2009

काश ये खिड़की बस थोड़ी और खुल पाती

वो रौशनदान जिससे बाहरी बरसात से छनकर
आता उजाला छुपकर झाँक रहा है
वो शीशा जिसे भिगोकर अलसाया
भूरा बादल बस ऐसे ही ताक रहा है
काश बस थोड़ा और बड़ा होता

वो ड्योढ़ी जिसमें पहाड़ों से आई
गीली हवा घूमकर शोर कर रही है
वो दरवाज़े की दरार जिससे आती बूँदें
जमी धूल को एक ओर कर रही हैं
काश बस थोड़ी और बड़ी होती

वो खिड़की जो अपनी चौखट बार बार
चूमकर बयार का होना जता रही है
वो अटारी जिसपर बने घोसले के तिनकों को
पानी की फ़ुहार बस छू कर बढ़ी जा रही है
काश बस थोड़ी और बड़ी होती

आत्मविश्वास की वो पूँजी जो मशीनों के
कलपुर्ज़ों के बीच से कभी कभी आवाज़ लगाती है
वो इच्छाशक्ति जो अब भी दरवाज़े के उस पार
और खिड़कियों के पीछे से अचानक सर उठाती है
काश बस थोड़ी और बड़ी होती

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 The helmet visors which needed frequent wiping with the palms a few months ago have been replaced by this windshield.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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some other day: A snapshot from 'K'

NOTE: All characters and events are purely fictional.

It's 03:30 AM. Nibbling on lose strands of NC's (Night Canteen) special maggi, the mind wanders over the persisting dominant thought - 'Shall I call her?'.

It had rained yesterday, the last few days of retreating monsoon giving respite from those incessant days of heavy downpour usually associated with the God's Own Country. Last night's showers have bathed the hilltop in perfect viridian. The wind feels chilly against the body - probably the Backwaters T-Shirt is a little too thin to brave the cold, and jackets are never in fashion at kampus. Eyesight wanders towards the oblivion, soaking the NC-view of the carpet of lush green grass meticulously laid over the amphitheatre - shining like crystals in those white floodlights. The hilltop is covered with the usual dense white fog. The auditorium and the classroom blocks are faintly visible, braving against the natural limits imposed by aimlessly wandering clouds over the hill. Moon glistens right above the north tower, it's still a few days before it'd be a full moon again.

'She might be asleep' - thoughts continue. A bird just flew from the canteen's railing, landing on a parapet alongside the tiled, covered walkways below. 'Was it a nightingale?', colourful feathers of a few rare species are always a feast for the eyes.

The plate is empty by now - a few noodle strands spilled on the granite table giving away the contents of what was just gobbled up. A decision on whether or not to have a fresh cup of coffee is pending. 'Shall I try sending an SMS?' - the easterly breeze rustling past the ears suddenly seems to be slightly wet, it might be raining somewhere far away. A dog starts barking below the NC indicating human movements. A quick glance in the dials shows 04:00 AM - even the steel of the watch feels cold against the skin. "Hey!!" - the loud sound is more like a belch than a note produced by a human throat. More noises follow, and a group of human figures toppling over each other is visible towards the stair case. 'It isn't weekend yet, nor was it someone's birthday last night as far as I can recall' - a sudden thought flashes across - 'what makes them drunk? Must be those hostel L fellas'.

"You want maggi?" - one of the voices is really addressing me, coarse and sheepish, as if the syllables were smelling somehow. "Naah, I just had. I was about to leave, have a morning class guys. See ya!" - the pending decision on the instant coffee automatically happens in an instant as I get up and leave.

'It really isn't a bad idea to send text, I won't get a reply if she's asleep, what's the harm?' - the thoughts persist as the stairs seem to disappear behind the floaters, one at a time - as if it's the earth moving backwards, not the human body descending above it. Legs involuntary proceed towards the crossroads, sleep doesn't seem to be anywhere close to the eyelids yet. The cellphone rings, coarsely, disturbing the tranquility of space, as if messing up with the smooth flow of time itself, 'Why don't these cellphone companies close their business hours for at least a few hours in the night and leave us at peace?'

"Hey, we are meeting up in L. That sponsorship issue. We need to finish it tonight. I would be off on a biking trip over the weekend to Alleppey tomorrow with hostel guys. Come over now.", a fellow Council member explains. "I was about to sleep...". "Baah! Just come over." From the NC to L is a long descent, must've been at least a hundred steps - stairs do not disappear by themselves this time and every step seems to require effort. The large room of the double occupancy hostel is already hosting the other five from the Council and the air-conditioner seems to be working overtime to keep away the smoke of puffs being passed on from one hand to another. Mind is preoccupied with other thoughts, eyes are wandering outside the window losing themselves somewhere in the valley, and the watch is being anxiously peeped at after every passing minute. It's 05:15 AM, and a conclusion seems to have been reached. A decision to grab a quick cup of coffee is taken in an instant and the body suddenly finds itself absently running up the stairs in a crowd of six.

A lazy cuppa seems refreshing - resembling raising a toast to the first rays of the morning sun. People move away one by one. 'It's really late now to call or message her' - once again the thoughts return. Sleep is still far-fetched and a morning stroll in the fresh dawn pops up next on the unplanned agenda. A longer route, covering the entire walkway encircling the hill is chosen to return to the crossroads before proceeding to the hostel room. A few steps ahead, just before the library building, the breathtaking landscape on the right becomes visible. The valley seems to be rising up to meet the human form, partially lost. Clouds are hung in the sky below, like fluffy cotton, interspersed with patches of green - those partially visible spreads of rare flora down the hill. The first rays of the sun impart a unique diaspora of colours in the sky - vibrant shades of cobalt, white, orchid, crimson and viridian competing against each other before they'd vanish into a nearly yellow monotone a few hours hence. The floating mountains are visible as well - that rare sight of a few Western Ghats hills rising above the clouds resembling solid masses floating in the sky - indicating that it might remain a clear day today.

Dew sparkles on the parapets along the sides, and wind seems to be hitting from all directions as soon as the Harvard Steps are reached. Thinking Point stands tall in a distance, leaves of trees above it over laden with water and moisture. The moment seems perfect - 'Wish I could take a walk down the hill, if only I had called or smsed her then itself'. A guard would hoist the national flag below the Harvard Steps in a few minutes, precisely when the hands show 06:00.

There are people waiting below the NC. Bike engines would be fired in a few minutes when they'd zoom off for the morning's basketball practice. It's fairly bright by now and lights in the NC are being turned off, one by one, excusing themselves to let the nature itself take charge for the long day ahead. The guard outside the hostel gate is packing up - it's time for a change of shifts. There are loud gunshots booming out of the woofers in the second room - someone is still busy killing someone else over LAN's Counter Strike. Psychedelic trance is heard from one of the rooms, doors are open, lights are put on, and the occupant is lying on the floor - 'Must've been with the L guys in that party' - logic concludes. A pair of hurried footsteps descend from the stairs - a short, slightly overbuilt figure in running shoes approaches with a loud "Hi" and retreats with the same quick velocity towards the gate, the grin suggesting that he is probably lucky going out for the biggest health discoveries ever by mankind - a morning jog. Middle floor is calm, thankfully, as the eyelids are getting heavier now.

The table clock displays around quarter to six. The day's class schedule is hastily scanned on the laptop - all classes in the first half, one in the evening - not a great Friday by any measures. 'She didn't have the first class, I could've called her at 03:30 itself, she wouldn't have slept by then' - the excel sheet for the other section's schedule provides the thoughtful conclusion with a heavy sigh. The inbox is spawned with Course Coordinators' reminders about readings and cases for the day's lectures, spams of lost pen-drives and external hard discs with promised five-star treats for obligors, winners of last night's 'Hollywood Special' Atharva quiz, some disgruntled soul's advice on how bikes should be parked in the parking area so that they do not disturb others etc etc. IP spams are full of invitations to join AOE, reminders of servers set up for CS, notifications of radios starting up, requests for hot videos, 'first-cut' pictures of a couple caught on camera sipping coffee at 2 AM in the NC, hoaxes of surprise quiz the next day etc etc. It's time to crash on the bed, with a half-hearted determination of attending the first lecture - personal stats are in doldrums and missing lectures could cost dear with grade drops.

There is a loud banging on the door. Amidst overflowing hatred for the visitor, personal cursings are mutely passed to the half-asleep brain regarding why everyday it is being forgotten that the door has to be left open before sleeping. "Give me the calci, fast, I've a quiz" - the visitor announces, speaking loudly, hastily as if he's about to miss an olympic medal. The table clock displays 09:05. The class is in ten minutes - 'Didn't the alarm go off, the thing was set for 08:45 itself!' - mute cursings to the cellphone follow.

The gallery outside the classroom is abuzz with people teeming in from both the doors visible just a few meters ahead, amidst heavy breathing caused by a jog up the stairs to ensure a timely entry. By the time the handle-knob of the door is reached and pushed in, a silence has already wrapped the classroom interiors and the door's slightest noise seems to be intrusive. The professor standing in the teaching well glances at the unkempt intruder in slippers, crumpled pajamas and T-shirt, almost at the same time as all other chairs in the class rotate to face this reality. The glance of the professor shifts to the huge round clock in the back - 09:18, it proclaims. Few other eyes turn to the clock too, as if replicating whatever is done in the teaching well below is a natural act, almost involuntary. The glance shifts from the clock to the intruder, and back to the papers on the teaching dias, suggesting that the moment is over. An air of indifference from all parties for the next split second announces the silent verdict - late entry is forgiven.

Emptiness of the stomach is belittled in front of the emptiness of mind about sourcing strategies of some Canadian garment manufacturer - after all, the case being discussed was never even looked at due to a 'busy' night. The class seems to be running till eternity, and every question thrown at students by the professor draws my involuntary response - the act of looking down with zero eye contact, even stooping a bit, scribbling random notes on paper, keeping the body perfectly still to ensure no creeks from the chair or any sound from the friction of slippers against the floors - nothing which can attract the slightest attention and re-direct the questioning towards this direction. The huge round clock seems to be running slow - probably because of its sheer size and weight, even the batteries aren't able to generate the required rate of rotation in the seconds hand. Eyelids droop sporadically, but a third row seat brutally snatches away the luxury of momentary rests.

"You! Yes you, yellow T-shirt." Dozens of eyes shoot in this direction heralded with the creek of almost all chairs in the classroom, everyone naturally replicating the act being carried out in the teaching well - the professor looking in this direction. A quick glance through the corners of the eye at the huge round clock shows 10:24 - 'Had it been running at its normal speed, probably it would have been six minutes ahead, ending the class' - a mute, cursing mind thoughtfully observes. "I've been observing you since the beginning of this class. Get out, wash your face and come back. You are spending your time sleeping in this lecture." Standing up quickly, stout and erect amidst numerous watchful eyes turned in this direction to witness the 'action' live, legs start moving cautiously towards the gate. The heart is rejoicing with joy - 'Baah! It was just because of drooping eyes. At least questions relating to the classroom discussion were spared!'

Human bodies rush towards the mess, stomping the amphitheatre grass - almost dried up by now under the warm, September sun - in a pursuit to grab plates before the closing time of 10:30, right when the class ends. After flickering through the non-edible remains of morning breakfast, the decision to grab a pack of fruit juice from the NC is taken to ensure reduced hunger pangs and droopings during the next lecture. The day is hotter by now, and beads of sweat on the temples and a slight prickliness here and there act as reminders of a bath overdue for days.

Mental faculties do not seem very supportive of the idea of attending the next lecture, but a cautious warning from a calculative brain about past history thrusts the decision of physical presence. People are yet to return with half-eaten, jelly coated toasts in their hands and the classroom gallery, in its wait for living beings, seems to be basking in some strange pleasure probably known only to non-living objects. Winds from the valley seem to join this invisible celebration of static existence of concrete, hissing against the gallery like an open tunnel, flapping a poster or two on the notice boards to keep themselves in wide view of the gaping bricks, observant windows and onlooking glass doors. Something is fresh about the day, the sun shying away behind the clouds reassures.

And the reason reveals itself, slowly, almost notoriously. Tall, slender, immaculate - the precision of approach probably magnified with the sleek, dark black, velvety gown covering a tender body sculpted to the most serene perfection of curves, volumes and bends. Air seems to be frozen into dried ice and the legs seem to be almost cutting across them - neatly, swiftly. The sprinklers suddenly seem to be overworking, rotating with probably double their normal speed, ensuring that the path is flushed into a carpet of lush green - grass blades competing against each other to get martyred below the small, elusive tip of the heels. The winds, idling away all this while, playing with worthless pieces of paper stuck on the notice boards, suddenly seem to change directions - shyly moving past the ears, barely managing to lift up a strand of hair or two, ensuring that the perfectly straight and smooth tousles do not move anywhere close to an entanglement within themselves. Sunlight, playing hide and seek behind the clouds, occasionally dares to show itself up on the small round earrings, dangling as if drunk, moving up and down with every measured step taken forward. A small, rectangular, metallic pendant seems to bask in the glory of its fortunes to lie carelessly on the supple skin between the halter neckline strips.

Time seems to have stopped, and so does everything else around, with the only exception of the approaching magnificence in front. People running towards the classroom, including those from the other section, seem to be frozen in space. Visibility seems to be impaired, with only a clear conical view in front with her at the fulcrum, and dissolving green all around. Sprinklers obey the sanctity of the new physical axioms suddenly wrapping the earth, turning their heads and water jets away just when they are to be crossed, ensuring that the waters do not dare touch anything else except the heels.

The stillness of time and space defies all laws of land, including the absence of any realizations of unacceptable personal grooming with unclean pajamas and T-shirt and an unshaven face, and the absence of any urgency to rush inside the classroom when the professor is already in. A quick smack on the head combined with a sharp, discrete, campus adjective spouted in the ears about the immediate requirement to get inside the glass doors suddenly disturbs the prevailing calm. Noises are back, visibility is restored, and tranquility is shattered. A distant hope, however, toys in the heart - probably there was a faint acknowledging smile visible on those coral lips for a fraction of second just before the 'moment' snapped, and probably it was in response to the smile at this end. Probably.

The next seventy five minutes of physical presence inside the hesitant classroom are an interplay of esoteric thoughts - mental musings of the possibilities which the seemingly apparent faint smile presented, reminiscences of the last few months at college and the numerous occasions of longing stares at her interspersed in them, remembrance of the lost opportunity of forming inter-section groups in one particular course last term, and the immediate possibility of a quick glance once again as soon as this class ends. Amidst resigned gapings at the slow, huge round clock already crossing the position where the hands meet at noon, the thoughts change into haste, frustration, anger and pray - in that order. It's 12:08, when destiny finally obliges, albeit, not completely - the other section has already dispersed with no lectures to follow. The opportunity is lost, and the good world has become bad again.

Lack of concentration is evident in the absent-minded flipping of slides to be presented during the next lecture due in a few minutes - someone just reminded about my absence in last night's group-meeting in which the presentation was made by other group members, and the group's unanimous decision to allocate the task of presenting to the absentee. The T-shirt seems sticking to the back with sweat, and the air inside the classroom seems sultrier. Tinted glasses of the classroom offer a disguised view of the outside - an emerald sky spread over a turquoise campus - as if it's one of those clear spring days.

Was it the presentations which ended early, or was it the huge round clock which somehow moved faster in order to make-up for its day's sins, the class ends at 01:22. The queue in the mess is still short, with a few plump seniors overfilling the plates with salad, probably in vain hopes to lose a few extra pounds by remaining on fibres. The group from L which was stumbling in the NC last night is visible at a corner - dirty shorts and Tees and uncombed hairs signaling that their mornings haven't happened more than a few minutes ago. A small bunch, all dressed up in messaged Tees, denims and shoes, some of them even sporting goggles inside the mess, is glued to the TV - the chatter box irritatingly filling the mess premises with loud cheers of a football game happening in some unknown location in a faraway land.

'She might have finished her lunch at 01:00 itself, she didn't have a class' - an uncomfortable realization blazes past amidst silent nibblings of a cold chapati. People have started pouring in now, the mess suddenly transforming itself into something of a busy marketplace in India. Amidst the incessant chatter of curious faces trying to figure out the names of dishes cooked by largely failed chefs and the hastened scuttles of 'conscious' souls trying to handpick measured calories and fats from the nearly monotonous colour of overcooked items, the mess staffs are roaming around hurriedly refilling empty containers. After a few more minutes of silent observation of this vibrant display of life in its full form submitting to one of the most basic of human needs, a quick nap in the comfort of the room is involuntarily given a higher preference over already waning thoughts of a bath.

The last, 03:15 class for the day seems to start and finish probably at the same time. Events like a mild scolding for not reading the case, standing absent-mindedly at a side when the project group is making a presentation in front of the class, stealing a power nap without being caught etc are wrapped in a package of hopeful thoughts about the immediate weekend, making time fly faster and the huge round clock saner.

'It's still an hour to go before sunset. How about asking her out for a drive to the beach?' - the hopeful part of the brain tries to argue with the rest of it, as it marvels at the novel idea generated immediately after the class dispersed at 04:30. Moving towards the NC with the rest of the crowd, a few light gushes of slightly cold breeze bring back the hopes of a cold, comfortable night which appeared remote a few hours ago under the ember sky. The head appears heavy again, probably registering its discomfort with some part of the head itself, caused by a busy past week. Alternating thoughts of a seemingly boring weekend, few unfinished individual assignments and hectic schedule for the next week occupy the mind, while the steaming paratha overloaded with extra greasy dollups of butter seem to keep the hands and the mouth busy. Vague hope of a remote encounter permits luxuriously slow intake of the NC delicacy and a long aimless chatter with curious creatures.

"Sea Queen?", the voice at the other end of the cellphone excitedly announces. "Who else going?", goes the reply combined with a swift, discrete glance at the watch - 06:20, the hands obediently project their glass wrapped realities. "Entire mid, get your bike. NC, 15 mins." - the decision is presumed at the other end.

The bike starts with a stutter, engine roaring to life, burning fuel rapidly to quickly proclaim its hot supremacy over most of the metallic parts below, till now wrapped with cold dew and raindrops. The sun has already given way to bright orange streaks interspersed with sienna lining the oblivion, retiring itself from a hectic hide-and-seek game the whole day, and promising a lazy return for a Saturday morning. The tires jerk forward with a screech, in a quick farewell to the crushed grass and mud below. The drive itself is as new as ever, the drizzle assisting the glide of the accelerator wire, and the winds helping the hairs align themselves to the blaze of the metal below - straight, swift, on target.

Drops of alcohol, left after a few gulps, seem sweet against the throat. The evening sea, visible from the corner table of the open-roof area of the restaurant, is wrapped with the usual tranquility caused by the weight of wishes and curses and dreams and opinions of numerous people who took a walk on the sands earlier during the day. The waves seem to carry the weird demands, mute ambitions, hesitant confessions and silenced truths to a better place, an infinite miles away, visible only as a silver line at the far end - somewhere to a world where they can be weighed, balanced out, and distributed equally amongst all living things inhabiting the small planet. The sound of the waves seem to produce interference beats against the ear when mixed with the moist breeze, reverberating with the thoughts of the overworking brain recently lubricated by ethanol. Mental rehearsals repeat themselves - of exact statements which would be uttered when that call would be made, of exact time and venue from where the bike would be started, of exact route which would be taken, of exact potholes which would be avoided, of exact food which would be ordered, of exact discussions that would be initiated. Mental commitments are made to place that call, some other day.

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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recession & Entrepreneurs

Recession is probably the haven for entrepreneurs.  In bad times like these when everything else stops, and when one spends daily office hours apprehensive about every next email being the pink slip, it's time when people start thinking about other avenues.  Of course, it's even more difficult to set off on your own during hurricanes, but martaa kyaa na kartaa. :)

In the flurry of startups I happened to look at in the last couple of months, a few were really novel ideas.  There were hordes of 'me too' businesses which I came across, albeit, each trying to improve past attempts in the domain.  It's an interesting observation, that entrepreneurship is mostly, in layman understanding, restricted to 'new ideas'.  I always wondered why - same idea presented differently can't be as good as a new one - why not 'me too'!

I happened to come across a similar 'me too' attempt - from Bangalore.   There were popular customised-to-Bangalore sites like hungrybangalore and burrp which had similar features for foodies like me, and eveningflavors is just another addition to the list.  However, there are some good things about the latter which made it different.

In the first visit, it might look kind of repulsive - all monocolour, default font homepage without those modern day spiced up 'flashy' pages we are so used to.  There are a couple of spelling mistakes here and there too, giving away the amateurity.  However, when you look closely, you might find a justification for the simplicity.  Man, you are looking for a good place to eat, not a great website to browse with amazing flashes!  If the website's homepage gives you everything at one place, what else do you want?  Eveningflavors throws everything at once - basic search boxes for a quick look, links for area-wise searches, special offer prices at various eateries, and of course, the Special Attractions chosen by users.  The site is yet to pick up, and hence might not show too many user reviews currently, but who cares, I can at least get a comprehensive list for my evening.

Talking about food and Bangalore makes me real nostalgic.  Ah, those days of exploring everything from Chandni Chowk and Grameen and Aranya and Udupi to Roomali and TGIF and Gufa and Queens!  There are times when you miss city life, but most of the times, you actually miss your friends!

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.