Monday, December 31, 2007


I don’t think I have any reasons to write a year-end post. I don’t have any lists of books or movies. I don’t have any learning to share. I don’t have any important events to talk about. There’s really nothing to fill up a year-end post.

Yet, I think I owe a last post for the year that was, to sum up, indeed a happy year. So what if I don’t have any achievements to show off, the joy and contentment I found this year, more than compensates that.

I had a laidback and pleasant year. Just the way I would have liked it to be.

Have a happy time ahead.

Happy 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another realization

One of the most romantic things to possess is a secret pain. We somehow like this idea that, unknown to the world, we secretly carry a pain deep within us. There’s something utterly romantic about suffering alone. We like to believe that there’s more to us than meets the eye, that our pains make us special, that there’s something heroic about our efforts to endure our pains secretly. If we have a secret pain, we supposedly acquire more depth. And who would not like to be described as a person of some depth, after all?

To possess a secret pain is also helpful otherwise. There are ample evidences that, fuelled by their secret pains, people have written books and poems, created immortal sculptures and paintings, went on voyages around the world, made amazing discoveries, reshaped history, and became famous in general. Every artist worth his/her salt needs a secret pain as a muse, it seems. The more the magnitude of your pain, the more is your chance of doing something prolific. Plain happiness has never really created anything noteworthy, isn’t it?

Of late, I have realized with some regret that I don’t really have a secret pain in my life. Leave alone happiness, can't I even have a secret pain? What a pitiful life I live, indeed!

Monday, December 17, 2007


It is a painful moment when we realize that probably we don't have the talent to do what we really want to do. (I mean, of course we can always dabble into something; but I'm talking about the real talent here.) It is also a very lonely moment and nothing in the world seems to ameliorate the excruciating pain that comes with this realization. We struggle between hope and despair, we struggle with all our might to come to terms with it, but nothing seems to fill in the enormous emotional void.

Faced with such a moment of crisis, not everybody can accept the cruel fact with a sane head. Indeed, some even try to find an escape with guns, drugs, or alcohol. (Remember the motto "it's better to burn out, than to fade away"!) But, thankfully, these people are few in number; and most of us, with time, quietly accept the fact without much fuss. "Let's not take our life and work so seriously after all," we seem to remind ourselves and move ahead. Of course, at some weak moments, we lament at not being born a genius, but we do overcome such moments soon enough.

The age-old Indian philosophy says that we only have the right to do our work, and not on the outcome of it; so work your part with detachment and don't desire for a result. Maybe, it's not a very practical thought. Or maybe it is. I really don't know. As for me, I'll occasionally keep writing a few stray posts, even though I've already realized the truth. After all, a race is never a race without those who 'also ran'.

I think I'm getting too wise for my age! Or maybe I'm plain lazy. Who knows!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Walking home

  • The old woman sits on the pavement, in an obscure corner, with two baskets of vegetables. She's chosen the most unlikely place to sell vegetables, it seems. I wonder who buys vegetables from her. I've never seen anyone buying.

  • In the chic coffee shop, a bunch of giggly young girls are enjoying the evening over cups of coffee. Their faces are flushed with laughter and their eyes are brimming with happiness.

  • The new swanky mall that has recently come up, is a buzzing place. As I walk by, I remember that when I came here last year, it was still an empty space.

  • Two migrant laborers, probably from a nearby construction site, are walking home with their daily provisions. It's the end of their day and they seem relieved. They chatter animatedly in their native dialect and walk past me.

  • As I turn left and enter the building, I see an old lady sitting quietly on the watchman's chair. Which is very odd, because I have previously seen the watchman, and he doesn't remotely look like an old lady. Probably this old lady came down for a walk and feeling tired sat down on the chair, I assume. I know it's an uninteresting assumption, but the most likely.
Each evening, I walk the same path to reach home.

And each evening, I find it to be different.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I just had to sign a cheque. When I finished signing, my colleague suggested, "Cross the cheque."

Without knowing what exactly I had to do, I put a cross mark on the cheque. I mean, a put a cross mark (×).

He almost fell down from his chair, laughing.

“To cross means, you have to mention Account Payee on the cheque, for safety reasons,” he informed me, with good humor.

I must say, there are so many things you learn in a day.

There is no limit to ignorance, really.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The last few days

  • I decided to devote some more time and effort to improve my culinary skills, which, I must admit, is very preliminary at this moment. As a result of this unusual spurt of enthusiasm, I found myself experimenting in the kitchen each day after I got home from work. And the weekends were, of course, the ideal time to push the limits and try out something totally untried. While some results of these experiments were moderately palatable, some others were absolutely disastrous. But at the end, to paraphrase Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found several combinations that won't work."

  • I found a dirt road the other morning, near the hillocks behind my building, that goes all the way to the highway. It was more of a trail than a road -- dusty, deserted, and mostly unused. The air was cool that morning and I just walked without caring to reach anywhere. Sometimes, it feels good to walk on a road without knowing where it might take me to.

  • I took part in the city marathon. The first ever marathon of my life. (well, it's true that I just ran the first few kilometers. But the fact remains that I ran.)

  • I realized, to my amazement, that one year has passed by since I landed in this city. And so far, it's been so good.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Meet Charlie Brown

"Charlie Brown wins your heart with his losing ways. It always rains on his parade, his baseball game, and his life. He's an inveterate worrier who frets over trifles (but who's to say they're trifles?). Although he is concerned with the true meaning of life, his friends sometimes call him "blockhead." Other than his knack for putting himself down, there are few sharp edges of wit in his repertoire; usually he's the butt of the joke, not the joker. He can be spotted a mile away in his sweater with the zig zag trim, head down, hands in pocket, headed for Lucy's psychiatric booth. He is considerate, friendly and polite and we love him knowing that he'll never win a baseball game or the heart of the little red-haired girl, kick the football Lucy is holding or fly a kite successfully. His friends call him "wishy-washy," but his spirit will never give up in his quest to triumph over adversity."

From Peanuts.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I'm told that lack of social interaction has brought about telltale signs of a chronic loner in me -- I'm terribly tongue-tied when small talk is in progress, I goof up even when I have to say 'hi' or 'bye' to people, I make excuses to avoid crowded celebrations, I sleep away my weekend, etcetera, etcetera.

In short, I'm told that I should get a life.

Well, I don't tell them that I'm actually having the best time of my life. It will kill the fun, you see, if I reveal it. So, I carry a rather helpless/glum/morose expression on my face and enjoy all the 'oh-you-pathetic-soul' look from others.

It's good fun, I tell you!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


We used to laugh at his stories; sometimes, even at his face while he was still narrating them. "Why do you have to keep telling these made up stories?" we used to tease him, "We don't even find them funny." But he never seemed to mind our sarcasm. A queer fellow he was.

Years later, we heard that he did manage to write a book or something, and also got it published. A strange book he wrote -- about talking animals, walking trees, humans with horns and tails, and all such bizarre things. We wonder how he got a publisher.

I saw him in the market the other day while he was buying tomatoes. "Hey," I said to him, "Why did you bother to write that book of yours? It's total trash." Hearing this, he paused upon the pile of tomatoes, picked up one and hurled it at my face. Then he chased me all through the market. It's only because I regularly go to the gym that I could outrun him.

Well, you tell me, how am I supposed to know that when you become a writer (an established writer, with your books published and all), you get the creative license to throw tantrums, and tomatoes as well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recent read (and watch)

Etgar Keret is my latest find. Keret's collection of short stories One Last Story and That's It, which I read during the Diwali holidays, contains some very clever, bizarre, and arresting short stories. As the title of the book suggests, the stories are indeed extremely short (on an average, running at 2-3 pages each). But within that short span, Keret is able to create and evoke moods -- often with a unique style laced with humor, fantasy, and unusual insights -- that remains with us even after the story ends (or, rather, the way it does not end). Keret's voice is urbane, his descriptions are sharp but detached, his characters are fantastically imagined, and his stories are full of craziness. Dark and disturbing at times, his tragicomic characters and plots are so terse and taut -- you end up finishing the stories even before you grasp it, and then you keep wondering about what it all was.

If Keret's book is slim, A Suitable Boy, which I'm reading for the last six months or so, is mindbogglingly voluminous, full of numerous characters, elaborate descriptions, countless plots and sub-plots. with 1349 pages, it is also the biggest book I've ever read. But the size, surprisingly, isn't a deterrent; rather, one almost feels that it shouldn't have been told in any lesser pages. Vikram Seth, the author, weaves a sprawling tale, set in a nascent, independent India, describing not only the people and places associated with the four main families in the novel, but also goes on to describe, perhaps in immaculate details, the traditions and festivals, the nitty-gritties of law and political undercurrents, the customs of courtesans and common man, the caste equations, the conficts within universities and boardrooms, the characteristics of urbane and rustic milieu -- in short, he writes about a whole way of life, with a pace that's unhurried, and with a style that's pleasingly old-fashioned. The book is easy on the reader; it almost turns into a companion, humoring and entertaining you, when you need a respite from your own boring life.

Now, as for watching, besides the junk I watched on TV, I watched Majid Majidi's Baran. Iranian films, of late, seems to have captured everyone's attention, with their flair for saying complex things simply. Baran is also a simple story; a simple love story. An Iranian boy Latif, who works at a construction site, resents the intrusion of Afgan refugees who, he thinks, are a threat to his own job. So, when a young worker Rahmat, who comes to work as a replacement for his injured father, eventually takes over his tea-serving job, he is furious. He makes every effort to thwart his opponent. Until, one day, he finds that Rahmat is actually a young girl in the guise of a boy. Suddenly, Latif is filled with tenderness for this girl, whom he now wants to guard and protect in every way. The film ends with Latif watching the girl's family moving away to Afghanistan on a cold rainy morning. As the car moves away, Latif stands watching the footprint of the girl, which is now getting drowned in the falling raindrops.

Monday, November 05, 2007

On a Sunday

It's a bright sunny day of November -- a brilliant blue sky; fluffy white clouds; pleasant breeze; fluttering trees. You open the windows wide, sunshine streams in, and you break into a happy chuckle.

It's a day you want to spend alone. Lying on your back, with a book in your hand, occasionally looking out of the window. You don't have anything particular to do today; you can spend your time as you wish.

Lying still on the bed, you let your mind wander. You can also take a nap, by the way, probably hoping that you'll be taken over by a pleasant day-dream. But even if you have to keep awake, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear -- a few twittering birds from somewhere on the trees, a rhythmic hammering sound coming from a distance, the diffused sound of vehicles coming from the road outside, the faint shout of children playing somewhere, the hiss of a pressure cooker from a neighboring house, and many other indistinguishable sound -- a lot of which you do not catch on a busy day. You feel happy this way -- lying down, doing nothing, while the world passes you by.

There are a bunch of people who are compulsively active. Their calendars are always packed, they always have to rush somewhere, and they always need to keep doing something. To be idle, for them, is the most difficult thing to do.

And then, as if to balance things out, like all laws of nature, there's an exact opposite bunch of people -- those who can lie on their back for hours, simply do nothing, and still enjoy it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

On the road

The bus I'm travelling on comes to a halt amongst the din. The roads are blocked due to a strike, we're informed. No buses are going farther.

It's always horrible to get stuck up midway. More so if it's a obscure place and you don't know what to do. The crowds thronging outside the buses were of no help. They only added to the confusion and frustration.

Amidst all the suggestions that were flying around, I found two worth consideration. One: We cross the river by boat and try catching a bus from the other bank, where the strike is not effective. Two: We hire a cycle rickshaw at an exorbitant price and go cross the river by the bridge, which is a few kilometers away.

I decided for the second option. To cross the river Brahmaputra on a boat is not for the faint-hearted.

The cycle rickshaw takes us on a bumpy ride, through lonely winding roads along the bank of the river. We also traverse a few hillocks on our way and at times, when we're going up a particularly steep slope, we get down and push the rickshaw uphill. Needless to say, I curse the whole world and am angry like hell.

Finally, when we're up on the two-kilometer-long bridge (Naranarayan Setu), it's almost dusk. The setting sun is reflected on the flowing water below and the darkening hills on either bank looks eerily quiet. The river breeze, damp and heavy, touches us stealthily.

All these, to me, seem grotesquely fairytale-ish. The setting, although indescribably beautiful, invokes in me a feeling of gloom and fear.

To ease myself, I try to strike up a conversation with the rickshawallah.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


There are times when self-doubt looms large over my life. You know, the time when one is unnecessarily troubled by questions like: "What am I doing?" or "Where am I heading?"

I'm going through such a phase.

And to add to my woes, everyone I talk to these days, talks about 'future plans', 'financial planning', or 'career advancements'. Or, some such meaningful stuff.

Some of these words bestirs me. I chalk out plans in my head. I make my own to-do list. I set a target for myself.

Then, I do nothing. Until I'm overwhelmed by self-doubt, sometime again.

Thus, the story continues...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Useless updates

  • From my balcony, on Sundays, I can see a group of children play cricket. They play with a tennis ball and instead of stumps they use a concrete slab. It's a small patch of land, and not exactly a ground. So, to exercise restraint, they have devised a rule that if the batsman hits the ball over the fence, he's out.
  • The 'Lucky Bamboo' plant I got two months back is thriving, sitting prettily above the TV set. I got it not because I am into Feng Shui or something; neither do I believe the 'luck' part (the fact is, it's not even bamboo). I bought it for the same reason people buy pets -- a bit of company.
  • I pass the evening watching inordinate amount of TV. And before going to sleep I apologetically look at the pile of books lying by my bedside. "Mabe I'm a lousy reader," I say to myself.
  • There are some last-minute things to take care of before I go today. I'm on leave for the next two weeks, you see. But procrastination is an old habit with me. So, instead of doing what I actually need to do I get down to write this post. Last-minute things are meant to be done in the last minute.
  • Waking up this morning I feel a mild dip in temperature. The first taste of winter!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Let's talk again

"Are you saying... ?"


"But why? I mean, what has changed so suddenly?"

"Well, nothing has changed, really. And that, precisely, is the reason."

"I don't understand."

"You know, I'm fed up of waiting for things to change. I'm sick of getting disappointed with you over and over again."

"And you think this is the way to get over your disappointments?"

"I don't know. But, at least, I won't feel sorry for myself, I'm sure."

"You're quite determined, it seems."

"Yes. More than you can possibly imagine."

"You're right, probably. I've never really experienced such absolute determination."

"And you don't even regret that, as far as I know."

"Well, you always knew this. It's not something new. And it's surprising the way you are reacting, really. It's as if you have suddenly discovered that I was lying to you all along."

"I'm saying none of that."

"What exactly are you saying, then?"

"Forget it. If you still couldn't understand it, you'll never really understand."

"Then why are we continuing with this talk, may I ask, if none of us is understanding what each of us is saying?"

"Because you had been asking all the questions."

"And you had been giving all the cryptic answers."

"Look, I did try my best to have a sensible talk, but it seems it's not heading anywhere now."

"When you are determined to go your own way, you can't possibly expect everyone to follow."

"But having your own way is any day better than walking through a maze, where you never know where you are heading."

"Isn't life a maze in itself?"

"Cut your nonsense, will you? Now you're talking like a loser."

"Huh, to be a loser!"

* This sequel wasn't intended to be written when I wrote the last post. The last post was written on a whim. However, I later found out, it was easier when I wrote whimsically than when I tried a more methodical (or, serious) approach. I labored to write but I knew, I've failed. And I didn't want to publish this post and make my failure public. But then I thought, what the heck, it's better to post any damn thing rather than sit and rust. Isn't it?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Let's talk

"Perhaps," I said, not too convinced by your arguments.

"You should say yes or no. There can't be a middle path here."

"There's always a middle path. At least, there's one, in this case."

"You're a spineless creature, a vacillating moron."

"Thanks you."

"You're pathetic."

"Thanks, again."

"Look, this isn't funny anymore. Don't you realize the seriousness of the situation?"

"I do, probably..."

"Probably? You're still not certain?"


"This is so embarrassing. It was so foolish of me to expect that you'll change."


"Go to hell."

"Please don't make a scene. We can probably sort this out more amicably."

"There's nothing to sort out anymore, really. And thanks, by the way, for making me realize that."

"Let me..."

"Please don't."

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Miss Violet Stoneham is an ageing anglo-indian school teacher who lives alone in her two-room flat. Life, for her, chiefly consists of teaching Shakespeare to her class of giggly schoolchildren and a weekly visit to her her brother Eddie at the old-age home. Being a spinster, she worries about her lonely future but is unwilling to leave the country of her birth, despite requests form her niece Rosemary. The monotony of Miss Violet's life breaks with the sudden intrusion of a couple (Nandita, Miss Violet's ex-student, and her boyfriend Samaresh) who, wary of wandering on the streets and looking for some privacy, manipulates the old woman to borrow her flat with the pretext that Samaresh needs a place to write (after all, he claims to be James Joyce in the making). Miss Violet, oblivious of the real intention of the couple, happily lends her flat and welcomes the couple in the hope of a company she desperately seeks. Her happiness is, however, shortlived and she finds herself lonely again when the couple gets married and drifts away from her life.

Well, this is in short the story of 36 Chowringhee Lane, a film I was watching this morning. And I was, strangely, reminded of one of my school teachers, after I watched Miss Violet's character. Not that there was any resemblance in the story but, yes, I felt the same loneliness in both cases.

Anyways, What makes this film a poignant story is the way Jennifer Kendal portrays the role of Violet, a sensitive, susceptible, timid old woman who never speaks loud and who cannot even shout and discipline her own students. The details that show her lonely humdrum life is beautifully captured in the way she checks her letter-box everyday, the way she talks to her cat Sir Toby, the way she eats lonely dinners, and the way she cannot protest even when she's pained. There are many subtexts in the story as well: the fall of once-priviledged anglo-indians, the rise of dissent among them as they are losing out to a new breed of Indians, but Violet's life is tranquil and is untouched by all the turmoil. What remains after watching the film is the palpable sense of loneliness. And of course, there's the ending scene of Miss Violet reciting Shakespeare on a lonely street on the Christmas Night, after discovering that she's ignored and she's no longer wanted in the life of the couple.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The end of something

There are times when everything seems to be going fine -- no real tragedy, no impending bankruptcy, no severe illness. In short, a happy time.

If you've noticed that I've not written for the last few weeks, it was because I was having such a happy time. And one of the problems (at least with me) of happy times is that it spoils me and makes me utterly inactive. Not that I can claim to be active otherwise, but a little bit of unhappiness (like a nagging thought at the back of mind) helps me to be on my toes.

Now, I guess I might have offended some of you by boasting, in not such a subtle way, about my happiness. It's not my intention to show off, really. On the contrary, I wish to tell how this newly acquired happiness has adversely affected me. It has made me sluggish with its placidty. It has made my senses go blunt with its smoothness. You see, in my happiness, my laziness flourished -- I didn't feel like writing, nor reading. It was annoying to see what happiness has reduced me to.

TV channels and newspapers, despite all the hideous and ominous things they show and write, failed to suppress my happiness. I was impervious to the plight I saw or read. In fact, I started enjoying them.

I understand I'm taking this a little too far, but maybe, you can offer me some help by leaving a nasty comment or something. Who knows, it might actually do the trick.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


For a change, I'm a little busy these days. At work, as well as at home.

So my normal routine has somewhat suffered. I'm not keeping myself awake at unearthly hours to watch nonsense on TV. And I'm no longer eating Maggi noodles for dinner. Also, not reading anything (except newspapers) for almost a week.

Well, it took some effort to get accustomed to all these. No wonder, I was absent from blogging for quite some time. And even as I write today, I don't have any substantial things to say. (Did I really have any substantial things to say anytime in past?) It's more of a self-appeasing exercise.

Anyway, I think I pretended to be more busy than I actually was. For, as the saying goes, "A busy person is never short of time."

It's just that I was going through a phase when 'nothing happened.' Apparently, there were more things happening to me -- I was busier at work; I had more things to take care at home. But, somehow, everything I did, my mind drifted elsewhere. I think I'm indeed turning out to be a too difficult person, even for myself.

A saying comes to mind at this point. I don't remember where I read it, neither do I remember the exact words, but it expresses something like this:
"There are only two real grief in the world: one is not getting what you want, the other is getting it."
So, which one do you prefer?

Friday, July 13, 2007


Sluggish head. Parched throat. Burning eyes. Lost appetite. Intermittent sleep. And worst of all -- a cranky mood.

It's so very irritating, I tell you.

But then, when you're feverish you have to bear with some unpleasant things. Otherwise, wouldn't everyone relish going down with fever on the slightest pretext!

So here I was, bitterness rising in me, as I helplessly watched my body staging a revolt against me. Yes, I know, I should have given heed to the early warnings. But till the time I'm up and working, why do I need to give it a damn, right? Well, actually quite wrong. But, let's forget the arguments for now.

Because, meanwhile, more sinister things were happening to me. I felt helpless, spent, and vulnerable. I craved for attention and care. And I hate to say this: I had this shameless tendency to flaunt my illness to gain sympathy.

But, of course, no one took notice of any deterioration in my health, however much I flaunted my illness. So, finally, I gave up behaving abnormally.

When alone, I tried to ignore the symptoms. I tried to get some sleep. (I believe a good sleep almost always cures me of anything. The problem, however, is that I cannot sleep when I need it most.)

Yesterday, late at night, huddled in my bed, watching TV in mute, I somehow managed to fall asleep. Or, maybe partially asleep. Because, I felt strange going-ons in my head. I felt disturbed by something I couldn't comprehend.

And then, I felt a cool palm rest on my forehead. Somewhat anxious and worried. Beside my bed, there was a rustling of clothes. And a lingering fragrance, long forgotten.

I woke up with a start. Just like they wake up in the movies, you see, after a nightmare.

I sat on my bed, silent and befuddled.

There was a breeze coming in through the open window. The eucalyptuses were humming outside. And I suddenly realized, as if for the first time, that fever was burning my body.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

5:30 p.m.

On the terrace of the office, sipping hot tea, and looking over the rooftops and busy roads. It has almost become one of the daily routines now. Rain or sun, we come visiting here. It's one of the small pleasures I have invented for myself.

It's a nice wide terrace, dotted with potted plants and benches. And it's always windy up here. On a bright day, you can see the blue hills sunning at the far end. While on a overcast day, you can see the clouds nestling on the hilltops. In the lashing rains, the place comes alive with happy plants as well as beaming faces (some people cannot resist rains). But perhaps the biggest attraction of the terrace is the big open sky -- it brings joy and solace after a hard day.

I think we should occasionally look up at the sky. It has a therapeutic effect.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dark and slow

There's something of a quiet melancholy about rainy days. They make us lonelier. Incessant all-day-rains, looming gray clouds, and damp windswept evenings (it's been like this for the last few days) have an air of loss and longing. Or, at least, so I felt.

No wonder, the profuse rains of the last few days have put me in a pensive mood. I scampered around the rooms, tried to read, stood on the balcony -- but something made me restless. It's as if the soggy air had slowed down time and there's no sound except the slow rhythmic pattering of raindrops.

And it became particularly unbearable during the last weekend. All day, listening to the sounds of raindrops and the swishing winds, I tried to sleep (so that the time passes away while I sleep). But in the semi-darkness of the rooms, cold and smelling of stale air, my senses became so sharp that I couldn't sleep.

But melancholy, despite the gloom and despondency, is also a source of subtle pleasure for me. Indeed, as Orhan Pamuk describes in Istanbul: Memories and the City about the melancholia of the city of Istanbul as huzun (a Turkish word whose Arabic root denotes a feeling of deep spiritual loss but also a hopeful way of looking at life): "a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating."

I'm all for pleasure and happiness. I want them. But I also want my share of melancholy. Because it is melancholy that helps me understand myself more intimately.

PS: A previous post on melancholy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A trek

This was something I hadn't done in a long time -- to walk in the rain (not drizzle, mind you, pouring rain) the whole day. In fact, I guess, this was my longest period of getting drenched. And, that way, this was indeed a record, however insignificant.

We were trekking towards Torna Fort one cloudy morning in July.

The Torna Fort, which sits atop a steep rocky hill, was shrouded in dense and mysterious-looking clouds. There were green slopes, cascading waterfalls, fresh morning air redolent with wild fragrances, and the occasional chirping of unknown birds. Yes, it was picture perfect!

But there were difficulties beckoning us, as we soon realized. We battled steep climbs, slippery rocks, sheets of rain, and howling winds. We were wet to the bone and our bodies shivered uncontrollably. Occasionally, the wind blew with such ferocity that it almost toppled us over. And the raindrops, aided by the wind, pricked our skin like tiny arrows.

But, it was all worth it. We made it to the top, ate a lunch of paranthas, roamed around the ruined fort, and made a swift descent.

And before I end, I must also say something about the team. We were a team of four, and I was the only male member. P1 was my colleague (who coordinated and organized the whole thing), P2 was a friend of P1 (who had been a wonderful companion), and S. (the frail-looking girl, who was a veteran trekker and, in fact, our guide and mentor and who was climbing Torna for the eighth time!).

And I used to think, trekking was not really for girls!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Small happenings

  • Each morning as I walk for office I pass by this leafy gulmohar tree, its vibrant red flowers scattered on the pavement, and I think "Why this name gulmohar?" (The Wikipedia entry, though informative, does not explain the name.)
  • I'm caught in a drizzle as I'm walking home. Tiny droplets float in air and fall on my specs, blurring my vision. But I keep walking, not bothering to wipe my specs clean. The world looks different through blurred glasses and I'm happy.
  • The elderly and affable gentleman at the shop introduces me to his granddaughter the other day. "She sometimes come to help me after her school," he says pointing to the little girl standing behind the cashbox. I nod, grin, and ask her name. "Sunayna," she says, rather embarrassed at being introduced to a stranger. "That's apt," I say to myself, "she indeed has very beautiful eyes."
  • Lonely evening. Sipping beer and reading Pankaj Mishra's An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. The book is quite engrossing and I'm lost in the times of Buddha, centuries back. I take a happy swig and wonder what these things -- 'renouncing the world' and 'detaching from desire' -- are like.
  • Fresh uniforms, neat shoes, water bottles, schoolbags. Shuffling impatiently on their sprightly legs the children wait for their school bus in the morning. I smile at them as I walk by. Most of them shy away and look elsewhere. However, the other day, for a change, I found one of them making a face at me.

Friday, June 01, 2007


A day of rain clouds. A day of unruly winds. A day of dormant memories. A day of faint yearnings.

Today is a day of waiting. For the rains to fall on skin. For the winds to ruffle the hairs. For the memories to come uninhibited. For the yearnings to go away.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Wanted to leave office early today. If not early, at least on time, I thought. Really, this is unhealthy -- this habit of staying late in office just to kill time. But, and there is always this big BUT, it's evening now and I'm still sitting in my cubicle, typing these words on my keyboard. Things like will-power and determination, alas, are not my cup of tea.

Whatever, I kind of like to go home late. I like the late evening breeze upon my face as I come out of office. I like to sit by the window of the last shuttle back home. I like to watch the bright evening lights of shops, malls, and restaurants. I like to walk back home through the crowded roads. I like the sudden silence of my apartment after a noisy evening.

Well, you know what, I always invent reasons to comfort myself even when I'm in a big mess.

I deceive myself to to be happy. I bury my head in sand and dream.

Monday, May 28, 2007

By the sea

Harihareshwar, May 2007

Just when I was showing serious symptoms of acute boredom, some of the well-meaning colleagues came up with this idea -- a weekend by the sea. Well, this was more than welcome for someone whose weekends were becoming excessively dull and lethargic. The concoction of 3S -- sea, sand, and sky -- was inviting enough for me.

So this weekend, four of us went to this little village in the Konkan coast, where the sea stretches to the horizon, green hillocks dot the shore, and fleecy clouds roam overhead in a perfect blue sky. We walked around the wonderfully deserted beach (there were only us when we went to the beach early in the morning), stood in knee-deep water, watched the waves crushing at our feet, heard the roar of the waves, felt the salty air on our face, and were generally looking happy beyond measures (the numerous photos in crazy poses are testimony to that). And of course, there were also those mandatory sea-bath and frolicking, some shouts and giggles, and some shining specks of sand on our skins.

Now, I don't really want to get into the details. I think you've already got the idea, right? We mostly acted like dumb and happy fools.

I doubt, with this happy trip, I've expended my quota of happiness for the time being. I've a premonition that gloomy days are ahead.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On boredom

The last few days had been wonderfully boring -- everyday I woke up in the morning, glanced the newspaper, came to office, worked a few hours, read some mails, sent some mails, went back home, ate a bland dinner, read a few pages, tried to write a post, gave up, and fell asleep. Yes, this is pretty much what I did. As you can very well understand, even for a comatose person like me, this sort of routine can sometimes get on the nerves. No wonder, these days I appear somewhat lost, subdued, unsocial, gloomy, and aloof (it's a bit difficult to convince, but actually, I'm none of these!). And perhaps the worst thing is, I do not even seem to make any effort to appear otherwise -- I'm blissfully ignorant and happily ensconced in my boredom. Friends, when I tell them about my present condition, shake their heads in disbelief and mutter some words of consolation as if I'm a hopeless case. Well, for once, I do not really have anything to prove them wrong.

But boredom is a strange feeling, I've realized. I do get bored by this loneliness at times, but I can stand this boredom. What I really fear is the occasional boredom I feel in the company of people. I really feel terrible when I have to endure that. (Just for the record, I should say here that I always pride on my ability to endure the severest boredom. It usually takes a lot to bore me. Any lesser mortal, faced with the kind of nondescript life I live, would raise his/her hand and surrender to boredom. But not me, I've grown resistant over the years.)

Anyway, so I'm mildly shocked to find that what I was feeling for the last few days actually bordered on boredom. Maybe, I over-estimated myself, after all.

Whatever, a good dose of reading and I hope to recover soon. The problem is while books give us company and food for soul, they also make us acutely aware of our deepest feelings, loneliness and boredom included.


Monday, May 14, 2007

A house for pranabk

So, this weekend, I moved, once again, to a new house.

Even as I write this, bags, books and a whole lot of other paraphernalia lie strewn in my new apartment. But thankfully -- and I pride myself on this -- my belongings are not much. In fact, until very recently I could stuff all my stuff in two big bags and move anywhere within an hour's notice. In that sense, one could say that I literally lived out of my bags. (Things, however, are poised for a change now as I am contemplating on buying a few more household luxuries -- a television, cooking gas, fridge, etc. But I repeat, I'm just contemplating and most of the time my contemplation does not necessarily translate into action.)

Anyways, after I shifted all my belongings, and was left alone, a strange sense of loneliness gripped me. I paced around the empty rooms and the balcony, inspected the taps and the sink, switched on and off the light bulbs, watched the dust and cobwebs. But all the while, my mind wandered off to a place thousands of miles away -- the only place I still call home. Well, almost a decade and four cities later the word 'home' still reminds me of only one place on earth -- of bamboo fencings, tiled roofs, red hibiscus flowers, branches of guava trees, mango shades...

Now, no one knows this better than me that I cannot go back home again. I cannot go back simply because, I know, my idea of home is rooted in a certain time period and not the physical place itself. My home lives in my memory.

So, I try to convince myself that home is a place where one lives, wherever it might be. I know the earlier I accept it, the better. I know all these, I understand, and I hard try to accept. But somehow, each new roof I sleep under unsettles me for some moment and reminds of a faraway home.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bête noire

You smiled mischievously.

"What?" I asked.

"What?" you retorted.

"Don't give me that crooked smile of yours," I said with bitterness.

"Who said I was smiling at you?" your voice raised a little.

"Who else is here? Besides, I know that smile of yours. I know when you smile that way," I said accusingly.

"If you already know everything, why ask me," you hissed. "There's nothing I can do if you keep imagining things in your head. That's really your problem, you know, you imagine too much."

We stared at each other for the next few seconds. Then I averted my eyes and moved away. I could never really face your eyes for long. And that made me even angrier.

I hated you because I knew you knew. You knew every little thing that I desperately wanted to hide. You knew every embarrassing detail, every deception, every weakness. And now, the way you gave that mocking smile, I knew, you already knew what I was trying to bury so stealthily.

Needless to say, I'm exasperated.

One of these days, I'm sure, I'll break your head when you give that crooked smile from the inside the mirror.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In the moonlight

Around midnight the clouds parted and the moon, shining brightly, flooded the silent night with a ghostly radiance. The brief squall of early evening had left a few puddles, which now shone in the moonlight. The trees, still wet, gave off a soft scent whenever a faint breeze rustled their leaves. And the lonely roads wound around the sleeping houses before disappearing at a distance. Occasionally, the shrill cry of a night bird pierced the silence, and then everything was quiet again.

A swarm of fireflies played under the shadow of the bougainvillea bush, their tiny bodies blinking rhythmically. On the edge of the veranda the money plant crept silently, its shadows making strange patterns on the moonlit wall. And near the closed door lay a modest pair of mud-caked slippers, solitary in the joy of flowing moonlight.

A few wispy clouds, soaked in moonlight, still wandered about. The stars, however, were outshone by the bright moon. And the moon, alive with its blue veins and pockmarks, looked like a forlorn artist, sad amongst all the beauty it has created.

It's understandable why they say it's not safe to roam around on such moonlit night and gaze at the hypnotic moon. You run the risk of being a lunatic.

Friday, April 27, 2007

While he's away

He lay in his bed, sleepless, thinking about it. But none of the ideas that occurred to him so far look befitting, or promising -- they fizzled out even before he could phrase them in his head. So he waited, paced around the room, stood by the window, stared vacantly into the night -- but to no avail. Words and ideas eluded him tonight.

Already, I found out, he has discarded multiple possible ideas -- about the midnight stroll he took the other night along a quiet road with rows of sleeping houses (he found it, well, a bit gloomy) ; about the funny little incident that happened the other night while he was eating a lonely dinner in a cheap restaurant where a television blared non-stop (he's not sure if it will make a good post, he says) ; about the books he was reading (writing about books was an easy way out, he didn't want to piggyback on others' thoughts); about films (but he hadn't watched any recently, he argued); about his last few days in a training (he found it quite insipid and summarily rejected); about his repeated attempts to come up with a post (he was unwilling to admit that).

Now, to tell you the truth, I think he is failing because he's trying a little too hard. Of late, he has found a few comments in his otherwise unnoticed blog and I wonder if it has led to his assuming an air of self-importance, which has made him somewhat more self-conscious about the way he writes. He seems more eager to write some brilliant stuff rather than writing about his whims and fancies of everyday life. Growing readership, it seems, has made him go nuts.

So, meanwhile, when he's away banging his head to generate fresh new ideas, I thought of sneaking in with this little post -- just to keep things going.

Hope he comes to his senses soon enough.


Monday, April 16, 2007


It came as suddenly as it should.

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, while engrossed in a book I suddenly realized that the lights were fading rather rapidly. Surprised, I looked out of the window and there I saw it coming, in all its magnificence -- great masses of dark ominous clouds piling up in the distant horizon, preparing for the onslaught.

It was the first day of Baisakh and in the eastern and north-eastern regions of India, where I grew up, this is a common sight during this time of the year. But here in the western part of India, thousands of miles away, I was not too sure that I'll sight this, and that too at such precise timing. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I tossed my book away and came near the window, ready to watch the imminent show.

First came the winds, carrying dust, dry leaves, twigs and an assortment of other little things. In a few minutes, the winds caught up ferocious speed, and went about on a plundering spree. Sensing trouble, a few sparrows flew past for a safer spot. A dog and a few puppies also ran past, looking for a shelter. People went inside their houses and shut their windows tight, to avoid any sort of nuisance. Only the trees stood, swaying but not surrendering.

And then came the rains, escorted by an army of thunder and lightning. Large droplets came hurling down, making pattering noise on the tin roofs. The air became deliciously cool and heavy with the aroma of wet earth. Dusts settled and trees came to life. And I, standing by the window, oblivious of the occasional sprays of raindrops on my face, found myself flooded with a torrent of rain-soaked memories.

Didn't I already say it somewhere, rains always do strange things to me.

* Bordoichila, in Assamese, means the pre-monsoon storms that are predominant in Assam in the month of Bohag (Baisakh). There is similar term in Bengali too: kaal-baisakhi (fatal storm of Baisakh, called so because of the violent destructive winds that often create havoc).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Summer siesta

It's summer now. And summer, with all its languorousness, is such a good time for lazy people like me. (Winter is, of course, even better. But summer is charming in its own way.) I can now squarely blame the heat for all my inactiveness and get away with being a sloth.

Yesterday being a Sunday, I decided to do my own bit to welcome the summer in my own inventive way -- by being a little bit more lazy. The only activity I permitted myself was reading. So, after a particularly heavy lunch I laid down on my bed with Ruskin Bond's Book of Nature by my side, ready to doze off while reading. An afternoon siesta is, I said to myself, a perfect way to welcome the summer. And a Ruskin Bond, a perfect lullaby.

I cannot say the exact page, but I must have been somewhere in the first chapter, Grandfather's Zoo, when I slipped into sleep. I didn't drown in sleep altogether, though. Rather, I felt as if I was swimming in and out of sleep. Also, I could feel that my senses were still functioning, although feebly. I could, for example, hear the whirring sound of the ceiling fan, the flapping of the open pages of the book I was reading, the rustling of mango leaves in the hot wind outside my window, the sound of a lone cuckoo singing somewhere...

When I woke up late in the afternoon, the sun's rays were already slanted. The day was about to end. I lazily looked out of my window at the wayward clouds floating in the sky. And, thus, the rest of the afternoon was spent in figuring out the shape of the clouds.

Well, so much for welcoming the summer.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Absurd post

It must have began when I strayed into Crossword (the bookstore) last Saturday -- no, not for an urge to buy books but just to pass the lonely afternoon. (I have a lot of books gathering dust, anyway. Moreover, I have recently promised myself to be more economical with my hard-earned money.) So before entering, I pledged not to buy any books. I just wanted the company of books, not own them.

As I hopped from one bookshelf to another, I carefully refrained myself from getting too close to any of them. But my resolve crumbled at the end when I decided, after much dilly-dallying in my head, to pick up Camus' The First Man. As I was coming home that night I kept wondering why I had chosen that particular book, especially because I was not much familiar with Camus' work. It was as if I picked it up on my whim. (Or maybe some absurd reason was driving me, I don't know.) The book is still lying on my table, gathering dust, and I don't even see myself reading it anytime soon.

But for some reason beyond my understanding Camus doesn't leave me there. I somehow keep bumping into something or the other that relates to Camus, each day. I pass the whole week under a shadow of unknown melancholy.

And this morning, again for some unknown reason, I dig out this (check the poem at the beginning, it is a favourite of mine). Simultaneously, my thought also wander to a long-forgotten poem -- a song in fact, the notorious Hungarian suicide song -- Gloomy Sunday. (This song was supposedly the reason of many suicides and was eventually banned. Rezső Seress, the creator of this song, himself couldn't escape its influence. He committed suicide by jumping off his building in a fit of depression shortly after his 69th birthday.) There had been many versions of this song. Read the translated lyrics of one of the versions (the most popular one, perhaps) here.

Now, there's really no need to panic. I'm not contemplating something as drastic as suicide. I was just wondering about the sequence of events -- spread over a whole week.

It all began with that visit to Crossword.

Does it now end here?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Birthday babble

30 March, 2007

Hail pranabk, ye all men and women
For he has, finally, turned twenty-seven

On the 30th day of March he accomplished this feat
So applaud for him, o people, he indeed deserves it

Overwhelmed by the cakes and balloons he did speak some nonsense
But his colleagues were generous, so they did not lose their patience

With age comes wisdom, that's what the whole world say
Let's wait, then, for the wise words of pranabk to follow day after day

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another experimental post

Three reasons for posting this:

  1. Lately, I've seen so many blogs with embedded videos that I thought I need to experiment with this too. So, this is a video experiment. YouTube experiment, rather.
  2. Ever since I found The Follow by Wong Kar Wai (perhaps the best of the eight films of the BMW film series The Hire) I was simply fascinated. If this is the way a product is promoted, I'm sure I'd want many more of them. The only problem is BMWs come at a price which is beyond my reach.
  3. I'm still under filmi influence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Filmi influence

Note: This is a rambling post about a few films that I recently watched and enjoyed. What I am writing are very personal opinions and should not be taken too seriously. And in no way should you let my opinion influence your decision to watch a film.

The Namesake as a whole is not more than its parts. (I mean the film here, not the book.) And if you are a little confused about what I mean by that statement I should say that the film, despite being armed with a universally appealing theme, a decent script, fine performances (though some discerning audience complained about the uneven Bangla accents of Tabu and Irrfan), and the assured touch of a seasoned director, somehow, doesn't quite deliver -- it remains a good film but doesn't go beyond that, it falls short somewhere, it fails to resonate in the heart. It is all the more disappointing because The Namesake is essentially a film about our efforts to rediscover the simple joys of life at the end of all the losses we suffer -- the loss of country, home, family, and the people we love -- and therefore should have walked the extra mile to enforce that message. Also, the inherent melancholy of the story doesn't quite come out as beautifully as I would have liked. Therein lies my disappointment.

The Old Barber is a Chinese film that shows the apparently nondescript life of an old nonagenarian barber living in the cramped and decrepit alleyways (hutong) of Beijing. The film beautifully captures the tranquil lives of Grandpa Jin (the old barber) and other similar old people, as they go about their daily chores, and quite surreptitiously imposes upon us the meaning of life and death, as seen through the eyes of these old people. Acted mostly by non professional actors (Grandpa Jin plays himself in the film), most of whom were found in retirement homes, the film is surprisingly refreshing. There's no trace of cynicism; rather, the film celebrates life in all its beauty.

Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue is a actually a series of ten independent short films that were originally produced to be shown on Polish television and are loosely based on the Ten Commandments. I only watched the first three parts of this series and was completely spellbound. Never ever have I seen the human fallibility, the moral dilemma, the deep anguish, handled with such deftness. The sparse dialogues and the expressive frames convey the moods much more eloquently. Indeed, as Stanley Kubrick said, "These films have the very real ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them... They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart." I, for one, am still under their influence.

Among other films I watched and find worth mentioning are Kissed by Winter (a story of a female doctor attempting to come to terms with the guilt of losing her only son), Nottam (a Malayalam film about a middle-aged Koodiyattam performer, who, notwithstanding the disappointments in his personal life, seeks solace in his art), and The Little Lieutenant (a French crime drama about the police detectives in Paris, but primarily a story of two human beings -- a middle-aged female chief detective fighting alcoholism and loneliness and a confused rookie recruit who reminds her of her own dead son).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Up among the clouds

Dhanaulti, June 2006

Three reasons for publishing this post:
  1. I just wanted to find out how to publish a photo here. So, this is sort of an experimental post.
  2. I'm still thinking about the next post that I'll write (without much progress though, I should add). And I don't like it when my thinking yields no result. So, this is also a pseudo-post to make myself feel better.
  3. I'm longing for a dark cloudy day. Preferably with a drizzle and a chilly wind. The bright sunshine outside the window looks much too cheerful, and I don't like it as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

After the films are over

It's a little difficult to write after watching eleven films in a weekend -- the words tend to get replaced with images. Moreover, any good film is bound to cast a spell and it requires some time to come out of that. I'll wait a few more days to see how deeply
I got swayed by the films. I'm sure that most of what I've seen will be forgotten. But I'm equally sure that some of the images, characters, and dialogues will continue to haunt me. And I just want to wait and find out which were they. I'll write about them after I find out.

The 5th Pune International Film Festival (where I've been seeing these films) is, however, still on. But, since I've to work for a living, I cannot go on watching films the whole day on weekdays. I'll only catch the last shows from today.

Friday, March 16, 2007


My mobile phone connection is, I find out much to my chagrin, blocked temporarily. I can neither make nor receive calls now. And this has happened because I failed to remember to furnish my fresh residential address proof to the service provider. How utterly disgusting!

However, when I think about it with a calm head, I don't think I'm much affected by this development. Very few people feel the need to talk to me nowadays, and I myself do not call up too many people anyway. There wasn't really much to worry about. The world will go on as usual, I contemplated rather philosophically, even if I remain disconnected for a few days.

So far it was so good. I almost succeeded in convincing myself that being disconnected for a few days is, in fact, quite cool. I accepted it with quite good humor. But then, much though I dislike him, I also have inside me a more practical (and spoilsport, I must say) version of myself who's forever disapproving of all my theories about life and living. Hence, I am accused, once again, of being careless, worthless, and retroactive (I mention only three, there were plenty other unflattering adjectives hurled at me).

Well, sorry for dumping this kind of total trash in the form of a post. But that's something you'll have to bear with when I'm not in the right frame of mind. And right now, my mind is just a little off-balance.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not quite cricket

For someone who'd once been an avid cricket enthusiast I find myself surprisingly nonchalant about the ongoing World Cup. By this time, till a few years back, I would have glued myself to television -- but not anymore. (Well, it has nothing to do with my not owning a television, though. Given a television today, I'd most likely be watching a movie on it.)

I do not know when exactly my interest in cricket started waning -- the change must have been so gradual that I failed to notice it. And now my knowledge of cricket has dwindled to such an extent that I don't even know the names of all the countries that are playing in this World Cup. Agreed, there are a lot of new teams (minnows, as we are calling them) playing in this World Cup; but even about the seasoned teams, I doubt, I have very little information. But more than not knowing, it is perhaps the unwillingness to know (I've been skipping cricket news in the newspapers for quite some time now) that marks my departure from a cricket enthusiast.

Cricket, to me now, is like an estranged lover -- there's no ill feeling, but there's neither the passionate attachment of yesteryears. There simply lies an unfathomable distance between us now.

I know the teenage me of yesteryears, who grew up playing this game, would not have approved of this. But then, he would not have approved of so many other things about what I'm today, anyway.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Books and memories

I went book-shopping yesterday. I bought a few books, but browsed lot more. It's such a pleasure when you have rows of stacked books and you can pick any of them at random, scan through the pages at unhurried pace, read the blurbs, and sometimes even test-read a few pages. It's very similar to an extravagantly laid out buffet where you can taste a little bit of so many dishes.

Now, I must add here that I'm not a very dedicated reader. And I'm certainly not as voracious a reader as I'd want myself to be. I go book-shopping even when I know that I've not yet finished all the books I had picked up last time. I guess I love book-shopping (or book-browsing) more than reading. I am hopelessly polygamous when it comes to books.

Anyway, one good thing about my yesterday's book-shopping was that I found a book called Making a Mango Whistle. This book is the English translation of the famous Bangla book Aam Anthir Bhenpu (which, in turn, is an abridged version of Pather Panchali that was specially brought out for children) by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. I remember, in my childhood I read, in original Bangla, one particular chapter from this book. It's a chapter that describes an impromptu picnic that the siblings, Durga and Apu, enjoy in the woods, away from the prying eyes of their mother. I remember how magical the whole adventure looked to me back then. I had carried an image of that picnic all along and I had been looking for this book, if only to reread that particular chapter. I even remembered the original Bangla title of this chapter -- Choduibhati it was called (it's titled A feast in this translation). It's after years that I got to read that chapter yesterday, and I must say the magic remains undiminished.

Reading a translation, specially if you had read the original, can be a dissatisfying experience. But I am glad that this translation retains much of the original flavour and for that the credit must go to Rimli Bhattacharya, the translator. Sample these evoking lines from the blurb of the book:

'Suddenly, towards late afternoon, darkness fell and a monstrous pre-monsoon storm broke loose. Leaves of the bamboo and the jackfruit tree, dust and bits of straw came whirling into their courtyard filling it up in seconds. Durga sped out of the house to pick up falling mangoes and Apu ran after his sister...'

Satyajit Ray may have immortalized Apu and Durga on celluloid, but the book by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay demands, in it's own right, to be read, enjoyed, and cherished for generations.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A better day

It's a bright sunny day here. I ate and slept well last night. Also, talked to a few friends at random. And this morning, after coming to office I buried myself in work. To be busy with work is the only safeguard against all 'empty' feelings, I guess.

Well, this morning found a song by Runa Laila, the once-famous Bangladeshi singer. It's a song called Ranjish Hi Sahi, penned by Ahmed Faraz, a famous Pakistani poet. I think I have heard Mehdi Hassan sing this song before, but this one by Runa Laila was a revealation. This song toppled the position of Tumhe Ho Na Ho (in the movie Gharonda) from my favourite Runa Laila song.

But more than the voice, it is perhaps the words of Ahmed Faraz that makes it such a beautiful song. A Google search will give you numerous links to the full text of the lyrics. Here I'm just giving the opening lines.

"Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhaaney ke liye aa
aa phir se mujhe chhorr ke jaane ke liye aa"

Roughly translated, it means:

"Come to me, even if you are to cause me pain
Come to me, even if you are to leave me again"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A skeptical optimist

The third-floor office is quiet now. I stand up near the big glass window that is behind my seat and watch outside. In the fading daylight it looks beautiful from here. And as I watch outside I wonder if this is what they describe as dusky beauty.

The sky is a riot of colours now. The hills at the distance look like dark, lonely giants. The clouds are smeared with the colours of a dying sun.

Finally, the streetlights are lit. Soon, the lanscape is dotted with lights at all corners. Even the cars on the road below put on their headlights. The evening breeze, although I cannot feel it from inside this enclosed office, rustles the trees below.

And standing here, alone, I try to drive away the emptiness that had been disturbing me for the last few days. In fact, the word 'disturbing' would be an euphemism. What I actually felt was far more excruciating, unbearable, and violent. The feeling was stubborn like a nagging headache, only much more acute.

As I am publishing this post, it's already a full-fledged evening. The view from the glass window is even more beautiful now. But right now I'm too indifferent to appreciate anything. And I really hate myself when this happens.

Anyway, I'm just hoping that tomorrow would be a different day (which in all probability would be worse).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In praise of slowness

Well, what do I do when I cannot find anything new to post? I plagiarise. Now don't give that despising look. I actually copy from the pages of my own old diary and pass it as a new post. That's not such a crime, I presume. So here it goes:

"There's something about slowness that is particularly attractive. And here I'm not just implying physical slowness, but our mental slowness as well. Slowness, often derided as a negative attribute, has its own charm. It resurfaces at unexpected turns and reveal to us a whole new world, a world that moves in its own indifferent way. And those among us, who are more susceptible and sensetive, may even fall in love with this slowness. They may be just as happy to let the world pass them by. There seems to be a beauty in slowness if one pauses to look at it. But, in a sense, slowness is also about the way we perceive things. Indeed, most of us, when confronted by slowness, feel tremendously bored, rather than getting enticed by it. Therefore, slowness is also supposedly a mental state of being. Not everyone is capable of extricating the pleasure out of slowness.

Now, this same slowness also applies to our emotions. There's always an inherent sense of slowness in all our pains, yearnings, and dreams. And it is this slowness that lends poignancy to our feelings and makes us understand them better. Happiness, as we commonly perceive, is a fleeting feeling. It never stays long enough to make us really happy. But our moments of despair, failure, and loneliness never seem to leave us in a hurry. They seem to fit better into the definition of a friend."

Here, I'd like to give just a little background about this piece of writing. I assume this was written on a foggy winter day when I was depressed, confused, and jobless. (I assume because I cannot ascertain the date; my diary entries had always been erratic and haphazard.) That was a dark period of uncertainity and I was almost on the verge of a breakdown. Well, it is again a flawed piece of writing (most of my writings are flawed anyway) but I like the whiff of melancholy and despair it carries -- reminds me of those lonely, desolate days.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bicycle days

I remember I got my own bicycle, after much coaxing, when I was in Class IX -- a spanking new Hero Ranger. Till then I was using my father's bicycle occasionally, but I hated that bicycle. I would ogle at my friends' new bicycles and would be convinced that life without a bicycle was no life at all. So you can see, to me, to own a bicycle was a matter of immense importance.

Looking back, I wonder how absurdly delighted I felt the day I got my own bicycle. It was a heady feeling as I rode my bicycle and zoomed past everyone. There was much pleasure in maneuvering it. And a shiver would run down me whenever I applied the brakes and the tyres skidded, producing a screeching sound and stopping with a mild shudder. I don't think I ever got the same kick anytime later in my life. It was pure bliss. Almost heavenly.

For years to come, that bicycle would grow into a companion. It would take me to the tuitions, to the school, to the market, to the library, to the unknown little lanes and dusty roads, and sometimes, when I'm particularly upset, to the places far away (as far away as a timid teenager could go, that is). Like a true companion it would see me through my moments of pleasure and pain. It would help me find an escape whenever I needed one.

In those angst-driven teenage years, I must say, I always looked for an escape. With wind in my hair and a song in my heart I would imagine myself cycling to eternity, breaking free of everyone and everything. But, in real life, I could never gather the courage to go anywhere farther than the nearby village roads, the bank of the river, or the highway; I could never think of running away from my familiar environments. I guess, teenage days are a little like that: lots of dreams, imaginations and rebellions, balanced by an equal amount of insecurity and fragility.

Living alone, far away from home, I sometimes wonder what happened to that timid, extremely self-conscious teenager who wanted to escape far away with his bicycle. It seems the bicycle could not keep up with him. But I would like to believe that he still fondly remembers his bicycle days.

Friday, February 16, 2007


"I don't understand... ," I hear your voice trail off. There's a pause at your end. I wait. "It's just that," you end the silence, "I don't know how to put it. At times I feel there's a demon inside me who fights against my happiness. When everything seems to be going fine this demon raises its ugly head and starts nibbling away my happiness, leaving a vast gaping hole inside me. It's such a terrible feeling to be defeated over and over again. It keeps me reminding what a big waste my whole life is."

"Maybe you're being a little hyper here," I try to interrupt. "Surely, things are not as bleak as you are trying to portray."

"But they are," you almost shout back. "Everything is so frustratingly bleak that I don't find any reason to continue like this. I don't find anything happy about myself. I don't find anything happy about my whole existence. Everything is so mundane. So boring. So utterly desolate. There's no spark of happiness. Nothing to... "

Here you fumble for words. I don't say anything. The silence lingers between us. I can almost see you now. I can imagine your posture as you talk. I can see you pacing in a lonely room in a faraway city, your face contorted with pain, one hand holding the cellphone to ear and the other moving animatedly, as if trying to grasp the unspoken words out of thin air. I wonder if you are drunk tonight. Or have you smoked a joint? In any case, you are not in your normal self. But I find your voice undistorted and your words still distinct.

"You know the other day I was feeling like this, utterly dejected, and I went out for a walk in the city," you begin again with a surprisingly soft voice. "I roamed around the streets for hours. I like the anonymity the city crowds offer and I often let myself loose like that. Finally, after much aimless walking I sat down on a quiet park bench. It was a beautiful day and as I sat under the shade of this leafy tree, without my knowing, I began feeling happy. Yes, I must say I had been happy. All my worries melted away with the breeze. I don't know how long I was absorbed like this but the moment I began realizing that I was feeling happy something snapped inside me and all my happiness evaporated in a few minutes. I could feel the change taking place in me. Yet I couldn't help it. And afterwards I got so terribly depressed that I went home and shut myself for the rest of the day. It was just one instance, you see. I face this day in and day out -- a fleeting moment of happiness is engulfed by an eternity of dark depressing time."

You again pause for a moment. And your words keep fluttering in my head like a bunch of butterflies.

"Perhaps happiness is overrated," I finally say with as much conviction as I could muster.

None of us speak for the next few seconds. Silence spreads its tentacles again. I take a quick glance at my cellphone screen. The call is on.

"Perhaps," you say finally, "I don't know... "

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Books by my bedside

Ever since I moved to this new city I found myself in the company of books again. This happened somewhat out of compulsion though. What possibly could a socially inept person like me do when he lands in an alien city? So these days you are most likely to find me curled up in my bed (yes, that's where I read most of my books) with a book. And it's actually not as bad as it sounds. I'm enjoying it.

Since there's nothing much happening to me otherwise, I thought of writing about the books I'm reading. Presently, there are four (I shuffle the books according to my mood, you see).

Okay now, here's my take on them (please don't expect any serious discussions; these are, at best, a rambling account of a book enthusiast):

1. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

I'm halfway through this book. And so far it's been an absolutely delightful read. The sheer reckless humor of this book has had me in splits. Already, on multiple occasions I've found myself rolling in my bed laughing out uncontrollably. In this book, Shashi Tharoor weaves the story of the Mahabharata with that of recent history of India. And he does it with such elan! Brilliantly conceptualized and masterfully executed.

2. Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl

This is the first time I'm reading Roald Dahl. And I am engrossed in the well crafted stories. Roald Dahl builds his short stories gradually, in carefully measured steps, and gives us a typical short story twist at the end, much to our delight. I found the stories clever, witty, and sometimes even bizarre. But I somehow didn't find the stories 'hauntingly beautiful' (like some stories that stay with us long after we've read them) -- they have the feel of a subtly modulated plot at times -- but they are taut, exciting, and immensely readable.

3. Short Stories from Pakistan (Edited), translated by M. Asaduddin

I must say I don't have much idea about the literary scene of our neighboring country, except perhaps Sadat Hasan Manto's short stories and some stray readings of Faiz and the name of Bapsi Sidhwa. Actually, this book was lying unread for quite some time now and I fished it out the other day while I was rummaging through my books. The collection begins with with a translation of a short story by Sadat Hasan Manto, Khol Do. I remember reading this story elsewhere, long back, and feeling disturbed for a long time after I read it. I haven't progressed much with the other stories so far but I'm particularly struck by a story by Hasan Manzar. In this story we find a young couple whiling away some time as they wait outside an abortion clinic. As they wait for the clinic to open, they converse, and the boy narrates the girl a story from his past, about an abandoned infant girl whom he once wanted to adopt. There're only two characters who converse through the story and there's not much movement in the story either. Yet, there's a poignant beauty in it. I liked that.

4. Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman

Another book which I started long back but hadn't been able to finish. This is the book containing the anecdotes from the life of Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate in Physics. And I must say this is an amazing book. For those of us who think that scientists are a crazy bunch of people who're pathetically dressed and horribly clumsy, this book serves as an eye-opener. This is an account of a person whose passion for life runs us over. His humor is infectious and as we progress, each chapter shows the life of a genius who derived ordinary pleasures out of his pranks, adventures, and practical jokes. And he tells us all these in a language that is mischevious in its tone and yet utterly adorable.

So that's all I've by my bedside now. As and when I pick up something new, I'll post about it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A nonsense rhyme*

Sunday night
No sleep in sight

Had been sleeping the whole day
Now I have to keep awake and pay

So I thought why not make use of this time
Write some nonsense and make them rhyme

This was no easy task, I soon did realize
I was out of practice and the words did not oblige

I found the words drifting carlessly
And I watched them wistfully

I thought of old days when my pen could strike them down
But now they were jeering at me making me look like a clown

As I sat defeated I suddenly had a cue
An old word of acquaintance, by the name of 'Lonely', came to my rescue

Now 'Lonely' was a timid word, always so alone
Nodbody ever saw him talk, even on his cellphone

So, 'Lonely' was sitting alone on my writing pad
And I thought of bringing him a companion, lest it looked very sad

I did not have to wait for too long
A chirpy feminine word, named 'Rain', walked in with a song

'Rain' sat beside 'Lonely', chirping like a bird
But our young man was not amused, he felt rather awkward

Now 'Lonely Rain' sat on my writing pad with wonderful possibilities
And I left them there washing my hands off all responsibilities

There's a world beyond rhyming, you know
I have to wake up in the morning and go to office tomorrow

* This was written as a proof that I could still produce horrible rhymes if only I applied myself sincerely to the task.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I like this word -- 'elsewhere'. It has an other-worldly ring to it, something illusory and impenetrable. Indeed, however far and wide we go, we never reach 'elsewhere'. It's simply unreachable -- it remains elsewhere, forever away from us.

Last weekend, on Saturday evening to be precise, while sitting at the foot the Gateway of India, the word came upon me fleetingly, almost imperceptibly. It was a perfect evening; before my eyes lay the vast Arabian Sea and behind me the fabled city of Bombay (Mumbai), teeming with life. I tried to absorb the evening with all my senses. But, without my knowing, I felt something amiss, as if something was not quite there, as if something had moved elsewhere.

I felt this way before, I knew. I felt this way when I stood before the majestic Taj Mahal. I felt this way when I saw the awesome snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas. I felt this way when I visited the haunting ruins of history in Delhi. I felt this way when I flew above the clouds for the first time (on an aeroplane, of course!).

It was the same feeling of elsewhere.

Whoever said that wishes were like wild horses, was right. They gallop away all the time, to elsewhere. Everytime I reach a place of my longing I encounter the same feeling -- not here, elsewhere.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Suddenly sleepless

I tossed and turned in my bed trying to get a wink of sleep. But it was one of those sleepless nights. I tried all the sleep-inducing methods I knew -- counted a lot of imaginary sheeps, read Oxford English Dictionary, gave a nice tel-maalish to my head, turned on the radio (yes, I'm a little outdated that way), put the ceiling fan on full speed -- methods that have worked for me in the past. But nothing worked tonight.

Sleep, although one of the most divine experiences, can become a nasty thing when it doesn't obey you. So I lay in my bed, wide awake and deeply irritated, feeling unadultrated jealousy towards all those happy souls who were having a good night's sleep. It was frustrating. I felt like screaming at the top of my voice and waking up everyone. But although eccentric at times, I'm not completely insane. So I dropped the idea of shouting my lungs out and retreated to the cosy orner of my balcony instead.

Outside, the night was startlingly quiet; nothing moved except the faint breeze. Dark silhouettes of trees stood there with a stony silence. The occasional barking of a dog or the flapping of a nocturnal bird only helped deepen the silence. There was nothing I could do but stare blankly at the darkness of the night and feel the silence seep into my body.

I know a dark silent night can lift the lid off different turbulent emotions. But all I felt was rather calm -- my agitation withering away with the passage of time. And standing there on that sleepless night I got to know loneliness all over again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

From a distant afternoon

It was a drowsy summer afternoon. The sun was fierce and the roads were all empty. The air was still and hung like a heavy curtain, not a leaf moved anywhere. The nighbourhood was absolutely silent -- only a faint sound of a radio occassionally wafted from somewhwre.

In the courtyard, under the shade of the mango tree, however, a little activity was going on. Handfuls of earth were being dug up. A young woman was doing the digging while a little boy fetched a mugful of water. She poured the water on the dug-up mound of earth and kneaded them until they became soft clay, ready to be given shape. She rolled one small clay ball and started making a human shape. When the hands and legs were created, she took a smaller ball and made a little head out of it -- complete with a little nose, a tiny mouth, two little button-like eyes, and two protruding ears on each side. The little boy was looking at the procedure intently, hunched on his knees, and insisted that he also tries his hands. He was given a lump of clay and he tried imitating what he saw, but his result was disappointing. So she took his tiny little fingers in her hand and helped him mould the clay balls. And after while there stood another identical little human figure. The boy was thrilled at the result.

"They look beautiful, maa", he said, beaming.

The mother smiled too and said, "Yes. But they are still soft. We'll have to leave them in the sun to dry now. And you can play with them tomorrow."

Then they left the two clay figures in the sun to dry and went inside the house, the little boy trotting happily, his hand clinging to his mother's fingers.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


And then the evening descends. Neons light up the shops, vehicles crowd the roads, and people race against each other to go home. The roadsides come alive with vendors and hawkers. Bargainings go on. And despite the diesel fumes, dust, and honking vehicles I see people sighing a sense of relief -- the day has come to an end.

Isn't there something festive about the way each day ends?

I watch all these from afar, from the distance of a moving bus. I watch the bustle outside and say to myself, "But I'm in no hurry. I can afford to be late." Since I am not worried about reaching home, while commuting from work, I distract myself with little games -- often with words. I pick up random words and, in my head, arrange them into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into.... Well, it doesn't go beyond that. I lose track.

Thus, when I sometimes pick the pen and paper late at night, I find stray sentences and odd words coming out of my pen. Sometimes they fall in place and a little piece gets written (like this one). But often they don't and remain buried, unfinished.