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.