Friday, December 19, 2008

Snippets

  • We go eating sizzlers. At a bustling place, with old friends from college days. As it happens on such occasions, we talk about halcyon days of past and stir up memories of people we knew. We talk incessantly, behave noisily, eat clumsily, and laugh out loudly at the tiniest of anecdotes we share. After so many years, even the painful memories now seem laughable.
  • I’m packing my bags for year-end holidays. I am going away for few days and there’s not much to pack anyway, I think. But this morning, I run around and pile up things that I need to carry – clothes, tickets, slippers, books. Oh, books! I take maximum time to decide which books to carry with me for holiday read. I know, I won’t probably read much, but then I am bugged by the thought, “What if I feel like picking up a book? What if I feel like picking up this particular book?”
  • So, another year went by. And minor ups and downs apart, I think it went quite well with me. I don’t really like to do year-end assessments, nor new-year resolutions. Therefore, instead, I’m going on hibernation for the next two weeks.
By the way, my best wishes to you all for the coming year.

Happy 2009!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Am still here

I feel flattered that some people are taking out time from their busy schedules and wondering about why I haven’t posted on the blog for so long. It is even more surprising (pleasantly, of course) to find that these people are coming in regularly to check whether something new has been written on the blog. Neither my stony silence nor the repeated disappointments could deter them from visiting.

And I must say I am mighty impressed by their remarkable persistence. And I thought that I owed one post for them, even if it is just to signal that I’m not dead yet.

So what kept me away from writing? Well, it was work mostly, but I also somehow didn’t feel the desire to say anything. It is, as if, I have run out of things to say, and whatever I want to say seems totally dispensable. This feeling has somehow made into my mind and I don't see any changes to it happening in the coming days.

Cannot say when I shall be back again, but don't worry because I am alive and kicking.

By the way, before I leave, here are three photos from a recent trip. Posting photos, as you know, is a sign that I have run out of things to write about. Hope I get over this phase soon.

dragonflies flitting about at vijaydurg

sunshine on water at sindhudurg

sunset at the quiet beach at devgad

And no, this post was not written with pen and paper. In fact, recently, I have started typing away even more furiously on the keyboard; haven't got much chance to write with the pen ever since.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Penmanship

The last few days I had been trying to write with a fountain pen. I got it as a gift this Diwali and had since been itching to write something with it. The gleaming pen itself looked very inviting – the nib glided effortlessly on paper, the ink flowed smoothly, and my own handwriting (dare I say) appeared likeable, if not exactly calligraphic.

Anyway, so, with pen in my hand I started scribbling everywhere – a signature here on the flyleaf of a book, a random line there between the newspaper columns, or even at the back of grocery bills. Well, basically, on anything that came close to the pen. Obviously, I was delighted with this new possession.

That was until I sat down to write something in a more disciplined way. Now I realized the trouble I had in my hand – I cannot do a Ctrl + z to undo what I just wrote, I have to strike out and leave an ugly mark; I cannot Ctrl + c and Ctrl + v a line, I have to write every single character; I cannot hyperlink, neither can I run a spellchecker. Probably, the only saving grace was that I was relieved from doing a Ctrl + s every time I wrote anything. But it was a small consolation. In the absence of an undo option, the page I was writing on resembled more like a cryptic puzzle with misbehaved words running randomly between the lines and making a complete mess.

Much though I tried writing with the pen, it was apparent how much I relied upon Microsoft Word. Usually, I am not the one who always laments giving up all old ways of doing things, but it was a bit unsettling to find that I could feel so uneasy when writing with a pen, which I once enjoyed much.

However, I am not giving up on writing with the pen yet. I still playfully scribble with it everywhere. And hopefully, one of these days, I shall write a blog post with the pen. Or, a letter maybe. Well, anything, as long as it gets written.

PS: One thing makes me wonder. Now that there are technologies assisting us to write and format better, it's odd that I find increasing instances of shoddy writing. And I don’t just mean the ubiquitous misspelled hoardings and signboards. I mean the emails, the SMSes, the chat messages, the documents you come across at workplaces. Everywhere.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hunger

This novel cannot even claim to have a redeeming social value. Although Hunger puts us in the jaws of misery, it offers no analysis of that misery, contains no call for political action. Hamsun, who turned a fascist in his old age during the Second World War, never concerned himself with the problems of class injustice, and his narrator – hero, like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, is not so much of an underdog as a monster of intellectual arrogance. Pity plays no part in Hunger. The hero suffers, but only because he has chosen to suffer. Hamsun's art is such that he rigorously prevents us from feeling any compassion for his character. From the very beginning, it is made clear that the hero need not starve. Solutions exist, if not in the city, then at least in departure. But buoyed by an obsessive, suicidal pride, the young man's action continually betray a scorn for his own best interests.
– Paul Auster, in an Introduction to Knut Hamsun's Hunger

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If it's not for you, it's not for you



The first time I saw this one, I just felt it was way too intelligent. The second time I saw it, I thought the tag line sounded almost prophetic. The third time I saw it, I chose to forget my earlier promise (of not linking to YouTube videos) and decided to put it up on the blog, anyway.

On dull evenings

For the last few days, I was a little annoyed with the fact that my reading had taken a back seat. Each evening after coming home I would be overcome with a strange sense of futility for all things I do, reading included. And all I really wanted on these evenings was to blot out my thoughts altogether, if at all that was possible. I was reading less not because I had been busy doing other things, but because I was overcome with a strange sense of – what can I call it – ennui, maybe. Each day, I watched at the pile of books lying unread, and I got more annoyed with myself. And the more I thought about them, the more I became aware of the time passing me by, most of which, I am afraid, rather gone as a waste.

Still, the little I read recently, I read mostly by jumping from one book to another. As a result, I have a series of unfinished books, strewn all over the place.

I don’t know when I am going to catch up with my reading. But, in the meantime, I am busy with something else – watching Kieslowski’s Dekalog (or, The Decalogue), one part each evening. I watched the first two parts of this Kieslowski masterpiece two years back at Pune International Film Festival, and was completely bowled over by what I saw. And, it’s been a wish since then to catch all the ten films of Dekalog someday. As it happens, I have recently come across the complete Dekalog. And thus, at least for 10 days, I have my evenings occupied.

I have read/heard so many different accounts from people declaring how Dekalog has changed their attitude and perspective to films that I am mildly excited to find out how my own experience will be. Of course, the first two parts were influential enough, but I wanted to see the whole thing and then decide for myself.

So, for now I'll be just watching a part each evening and hopefully, I’ll try to write about my experience when I am done watching the complete Dekalog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Disparate

  • A few days back, coming home late one night, I felt a mild chill in the air. It’s mid-October, and winter is slowly making its way, I realized. Of course, the days are still warm, sometimes even hot, but the evenings have started to show distinct signs of the changing season. However, unlike the other places I have lived, winter here is mild and short-lived – none of those thick shroud of fog or biting cold days are seen here – but it’s pleasant and enjoyable nevertheless. As I was riding back home that evening, my mind flew back to many winter days and nights from yesteryears – the sound of dewdrops dripping from the mango tree near the window at night, back at my home; the fogs floating over the surface of the lakes in my college campus, adding bits of mystery to the drab winter mornings, when I walked to class; the bonfires I saw at the grandparents village, which besides giving warmth on winter evenings, were also a huge attraction in my childhood, often the smell of smoke clinging to the clothes as I fell into a cozy sleep; the grey winter mornings of Delhi, which seemed extremely dry, cold, and cruel. Also, not to forget, the heavenly delight of eating oranges sitting in the mild winter afternoon sun, especially after a siesta. Ah, I never realized I had been through so many winters already!
  • In my building, just near the place where I park my bike, there is a pair of trees with tiny fragrant flowers; the air around them gets heavy and fragrant in the evenings when they bloom, and in the mornings they fall off and the ground becomes almost a white carpet of flowers. I know the name of the flower – shewali it is called in my tongue, but I think it’s known as prajakta here, also harshingar in some other parts – it generally starts flowering early October in eastern India and signals the arrival of Durga Puja. Though it’s associated with a happy festival, for some unknown reason it is known as a ‘flower of sorrow.’ Maybe, it’s because of its haunting fragrance, or maybe because the poor flower cannot withstand the harsh light of day. I don’t know, really.
  • The other day, when I was in one of the training sessions, the talk veered to the concept of trust. The presenter said, “Trust is something like a tree – a long time is needed to make it grow, but it can be sawed down in minutes.” For some reason, I liked this definition, and it got into my head.
  • Deepavali (or Diwali), the Indian festival of lights, is just a few days away. In many ways it’s a beautiful festival, especially with the rows of lights lit up at each household. The last few Deepavalis, I have mostly spent alone, watching the flickering earthen diyas, and it made me be at peace, despite the shattering noise of crackers in the neighborhood. These days, I realize, Deepavali doesn’t make me very cheerful or upbeat like yesteryears, but neither does it make me outright gloomy; only a feeling quiet well-being and contentment surrounds me on the festive evening, just like the soothing light of the diyas – it keeps the darkness away, but it's not so bright that it can dazzle the eye. Well, this is strange analogy, maybe. Growing age really does strange things to you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Atlas found

The long hours I spend on the internet – in pursuit of knowledge of wisdom, of course – I discover many things. The one I found today is Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas Of The Planet Earth – which provides us with nuggets of knowledge about nearly all the countries in the world. Well, the website just gives us a sneak peek; the full book in print needs to be bought to be savoured.

Anyway, couldn’t resist giving you some of the country profiles I enjoyed reading (in total random order):
Australia
Once home to some of the most diverse and undisturbed wildlife in the world, the nation of Australia has fallen prey to a deadly scourge of nature shows, with dozens of endemic species being poked, prodded, and bothered to the brink of extinction.

Estonia
The merry nation of Estonia has been under foreign control for most of its history, due to the fact that its main form of defense is holding hands and singing.

France
Home to Earth’s entire population of 62.7 million people, every single one of the planet’s 427 cities, and all of its history, culture, and beauty, France is the only country in the world.

Belgium
While known worldwide for its delicious chocolates, mouth-watering waffles, and extraordinary desserts, there is a lot more to the nation of Belgium than first meets the eye. For instance, the country is also home to delectable pies, scrumptious pastries, custards, ice creams, and truffles.

India
Mired by rising poverty levels, polluted groundwater that threatens the lives of millions, and a rapidly crumbling infrastructure, the nation of India have every intention of addressing these problems just as soon as it finishes telling Midwesterners how to install Windows XP on their home computer.

China
With over 700 billion citizens manufactured since 1892, China is the world’s largest mass producer of Chinese.

United States
The United States was founded in 1776 on the principle of life, liberty, and the reckless pursuit of happiness at any cost – even life and liberty.
Go find out more from the website, if you, like me, are in endless pursuit of knowledge, often from nooks and corners of the vast world of internet. I, for one, after going through Onion's atlas, figured out where exactly Estonia is on the map.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We make memories everyday

Ah, so I come back at last.

No, there’s no excuse for being quiet all these days. And neither is there any reason for suddenly coming alive today. It was simply purely whimsical of me. Or maybe, as they say, real life intruded; so, was probably busy dealing with real life.

Anyway, if you are wondering about the title of this post, I must admit I stole it from a random comment on ted.com, which I sometimes visit for the numerous wonderful, informative, and thought-provoking videos posted on the site. There was something I liked about that sentence, and I thought it should be the title of my next post (whenever it was going to be written).

As it turns out, something about today (I don’t know what) made me put up a post.

So, what was about that sentence I read that struck me, I asked myself later. After all, it’s just a plain statement, and it doesn’t even tell us anything that we don’t know already.

Well, maybe, it struck me because I somehow realized in a flash that all these routine, mundane, and uneventful days I am living are in fact quietly turning into a vast pool of memories. Everyday, unknown to me, I am building up memories – the people I meet, the things I do, or don’t do, the thoughts that cross my mind, the things I avoid, the hours I spend working on my desk, the smiles I share, the words I speak, the meals I eat, the books I read – all these end up knitting an intricate web of memories; how and when these memories will finally emerge I cannot tell. Which seemed mysterious because I don’t know how much of what will stay in memory and at what unexpected time I will remember them again.

I often tend to remember some utterly insignificant things when a much more important thing was happening to me. For example, every time I remember the meeting at the railway station when I was seeing someone off for the last time, I remember the red blinking lights of a weighing machine on the platform. Or, when I try and remember some particular conversation, I remember the cramped PCO booth with dangling wires from where I was making the call. Or, when I try to recall a very old incident from my childhood, more than anything else I remember a steel glass rolling on the floor, the spilt milk getting soaked into the sand.

Memories are indeed trickier than we can probably imagine. Who knows what I’ll remember of these days when I look back. What of these days will remain?

I guess I am just rambling. Better shut off now. Until later.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From halfway

She frowns. "The thing about camellias, you know, is that when they're about to die, they won't tell you in time. If they lack water, they don't look unhappy for a while, and show you they're suffering; they just die."

From An Equal Music, Vikram Seth
I'm halfway into An Equal Music, and even when I picked up the book, I knew An Equal Music was different from A Suitable Boy or The Golden Gate, the two Vikram Seth books I've read earlier, and enjoyed – The Golden Gate for its yuppy quirkinesss and A Suitable Boy for the sweeping canvas. But, for me, An Equal Music is not proving to be an easy read. There may be few reasons: first, it's a book with western classical music as a theme and there're a lot of details I had difficulty following; second, the style of writing, at least to me, seemed so unlike the earlier Seth I've read, and much of the time I had to struggle, despite the book being divided into short readable chapters. Besides, even after reaching halfway, I'm still not getting a pulse of the characters, and I wonder if it is intentional on the part of the writer, or is there something lacking about the way it's written. I'm still reading it, however slowly, and I hope to complete the book in a few days. Vikram Seth is known for writing about immensely diverse themes and reading An Equal Music after A Suitable Boy I cannot agree more. And probably because A Suitable Boy remains so entrenched in my mind, An Equal Music is turning out to be a bit disappointing, after all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At office

I generally keep office out of this blog, and it’s better that way, I guess. But, something happened at office today which I thought I needed to write, maybe just to get it out of my system and forget it. After all, I know people who does that – write to get things out of system. I thought I too should give it a try.

So, it happened that I had booked a conference room for a meeting today, but I didn’t really check out the time zone (being a global company, the web request system has too many time zones available, none of which I was aware of). Therefore, when we go to the conference room, and are in the middle of a call, someone dashes in and interrupts us. He comes in without even caring to knock. He has a frown on his face and almost makes us a gesture to get out. He has the air of someone who seems to be extremely busy, and therefore has no time to even have a decent talk to explain anything. “I have a booking for this room right now,” he says. I, being not very good at countering and always overvaluing politeness, try to mumble something like, “But I did make a reservation for this!” At this he frowns upon me and opens his laptop to show his reservation. I did realize, by then, that I might have made a mistake (which I absolutely did because my reservation was showing a different time zone) and so we abandon the call and move to the next conference room available. Luckily, the next room was unreserved and our call resumed smoothly and there was a not-too-bad ending to the whole thing, after all.

Now, what I want to convey here is that, is it wrong to expect politeness and decency from people around you, especially when you are working in an environment where everyone is (supposedly) highly educated? (The person who stormed into the conference room is a Principal Software Engineer, I later found out from the intranet, and probably is a heavyweight or something, but for me he is simply a man without manners.) I agree that people might be awfully busy and there might be lot many important things making them busy all the time, but is basic etiquette such a difficult thing to practice, after all? Or, is it a notion that politeness is synonymous with weakness? Is it that to move ahead you must get a permanent frown on your face, and intimidate others with your manners and words?

Well, I don’t want to appear to be shocked with this behavior – I have had my share of encounter with rudeness; in fact, plenty of them. But yes, it did manage to unsettle me for a moment because so far (and I’m indeed happy to say this) I didn’t really encounter too many nasty people at my workplace. Maybe, this was a precursor for things ahead!

Whatever, sorry to have disappointed you, if were expecting something different to read here. But, well, one needs to vent out occasionally, and what better place than a blog for doing that?

PS: While walking back home in the evening, I was thinking of this incident and it reminded me of an old essay I read in my schooldays – A.G. Gardiner's On Saying Please, which you can read here. A.G. Gardiner (1865–1946) wrote some delightful essays under the pen-name Alpha of the Plough and this essay is a good example of his excellent style and humour. It is sad that essays never enjoyed as much popularity as novels or short-stories. A collection of A.G. Gardiner's essays, namely Pebbles on the Shore, is available here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

YouTubed

Just dropped in to link two YouTube short films (what else?)

Check out The Danish Poet and Harvie Krumpet, winners of Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for 2007 and 2004, respectively.

Last night, I was having a look at The YouTube Screening Room and found these two absolutely entertaining short films among others. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

By now it must be obvious that I’m wasting a lot of time watching YouTube videos, and it’s no wonder that some of them is spilling over here. But, well, no more YouTube videos in future, I promise.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Aparajito

A few days back, when I was watching Aparajito – alone, late into the night – a strange sense of sadness came upon me. There was this particular scene where adolescent Apu, sitting by his somewhat dazed mother, is trying to explain a globe to her, and she looks at him with a look that is a mix of tenderness, awe, and happiness. Or the scene where the mother is packing Apu’s suitcase with much care, remembering to put all the things he might need for the journey ahead to Calcutta where he is going to study in a college – while Apu is eager and impatient to experience the new life of freedom and learning, his mother is concerned about the loneliness she feels to let him go away from her, which she comes to realize, is probably forever.

Aparajito, probably the least recognized of the Apu Trilogy, is an amazing film. It might not have the early lyrical appeal of Pather Panchali, or the later beauty and romance of Apur Sansar, but it’s a film of poignant realization – a film about growing up and growing apart, a subtle portrayal of increasing alienation from the one who loves you most.

Aparajito essentially is a story of mother-son relationship – a relationship that changes inevitably over time. It’s about a lonely mother who invests all her life to her son with the hope of a better future, only to realize that their futures can only grow apart, and about a son who is caught between the excitements of his dreams and his duty to remain close to his ageing mother. In fact, there’s nothing new to the theme, but the way Satyajit Ray crafts the film makes it an indelible experience to watch, almost emotionally draining.

It is a very difficult moment when you have to let go. It is specially so when you have to let go of something/someone you have nurtured all your life. You know it’s for better, but you can’t accept it either. Like Apu’s mother, who sees her son off with a vague smile, only to plunge into terrible loneliness the moment he is out of her sight.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Slowness

"There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.

In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."
- From Milan Kundera’s Slowness

I started reading Slowness a few days back. And either as a result of paying too much heed to the book’s title, or because the book contains some wonderful passages (which demanded pausing and re-reading and pausing again), I am finding myself still stuck at around the first quarter of the book.

But, of course, I am in no hurry.

P.S. Also, by the way, here’s a somewhat related piece I wrote long back, In praise of slowness, which is neither about Kundera nor the book, but about slowness nonetheless.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Up there

  • Atop the hill, after a steep climb, the gate of the fort is a welcome sight. There is nothing very majestic about the gate – it's rather narrow and without any decorative curving – but it's still strong and sturdy, and it's standing there even after centuries of guarding and protecting. Before I enter, I touch the cold stones and wonder what all this gate must have witnessed.
  • The clouds keep enveloping the rocky fort – hiding everything behind the veil of mist. Occasionally, the veil lifts and the valleys below are visible – tiny little villages, fields, waters of a dam, thread-like trails vanishing in the hills.
  • We sit near an edge, sweat trickling down our face after all the climbing, as the cool moist breeze caresses us. The grass flutters in the wind and there is no sound except the buzzing of wind through bushes.
  • Tall strong walls of the fort, once invincible, stand dilapidated. The stones slabs are covered with soft velvety moss, wet with the drizzle. From some cracks in the wall wild flowers bloom with abandon.
  • A stray dog climbs with us and keeps our company, probably knowing that at the end there will be some food. We feed him crumbs of biscuits.
  • There is a little chit-chat for a while, as we stretch our legs and take some rest, eat, and drink. But after some time everyone sits quiet, immersed in own thought. Only silence floats around us.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In the Mood for Love



It’s 1962 in Hong Kong. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) have just moved into an apartment building as neighbors. They both lead a rather lonely life because their spouses are always away on business trips. Over repeated and prolonged absences of their spouses, they both come to realize that their spouses are actually carrying on a clandestine affair. They are both heartbroken as they realize the truth. And over time, out of their mutual loneliness and sorrow, there grows a tender relationship between them as they seek refuge in each other’s company. But they are so conscious and dignified – they don’t want to be like their spouses, they say, and they vow not to get carried away – that they refuse to acknowledge the love that they both start feeling for each other. Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love is about the subdued melancholy of love that both these characters experience, the tumultuous feelings they want to bury within them, and the enormous restraint that they exercise to avoid ending like their partners.

In the Mood for Love is a vibrant, colorful, and dizzyingly romantic film. It’s about love – unrequited and unconsummated. So when, near the end of the film, four years later, Chow, in the ruins of old temples in Combodia, whispers his secret in a hole in the wall and buries it up with mud in the hope of getting rid of his secret (it’s an old belief), it becomes a scene of extreme poignancy. And, of course, what heightens the mood of melancholy of the film is the impeccable acting, the dreamlike cinematography and the haunting background score.

I found the whole film to be available on YouTube (that’s where I watched it but probably it’s not the best way to watch the film). Incidentally, the film will also come on Zee Studio on 24th of August, just in case you didn’t know already.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At the dentist's clinic

I am waiting nervously at the reception of the dentist’s clinic. There are quite a few people waiting for their turn but looking at their faces I cannot tell if they are at all nervous – they just sit quietly reading glossy magazines. Which, of course, do not make me any less nervous. The dentist is going to drill my teeth today and all the while I am repeatedly asking myself “How painful it is to get one’s teeth drilled?” Obviously, the only way to know it is to wait for my turn.

I do just that – wait – when I overhear a conversation at the reception counter. A woman has come looking for an appointment with the dentist and the girl at the reception counter is asking her some preliminary question before fixing up an appointment.

“Name?’ the girl asks, the woman replies.

“Phone number?” the girl asks, the woman replies.

“Date of birth?” the girl asks. “Why do you need that?” the woman counter-questions, a little annoyed. The girl understands, smiles, and replies (with a mock apology) that she needs it because the software on the computer asks for it. The woman, somewhat irritated, tells the date of birth anyway – the date and month quite audibly, but just before she tells the year she leans over the counter and whispers in a manner reserved only for top secrets agents.

“Wow! You don’t look like it,” the girl says, excited. The woman is visibly pleased and mumbles something to the girl.

Meanwhile, I am much amused with all these happenings and am quietly smiling to myself, oblivious of the drilling thing I am about to undergo. And probably because I was sitting very close, or because I was unknowingly eavesdropping, I overhear the year that the woman mentions so surreptitiously. My head automatically starts calculating. But before I could calculate her age (I am rather slow at calculating) the dentist calls out my name and in an instant I forget everything else and run inside the chamber.

And now, while I am writing this, I have already calculated the woman’s age, but the drilling experience have made me so completely forgot her appearance that I cannot remember if she actually looked too young or too old for her real age.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unread

"He is a man without qualities… There are millions of them nowadays… What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context – nothing is, to him, what it is; everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a superwhole that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a partial answer, every feeling only an opinion, and he never cares what something is, only 'how' it is."
– Robert Musil
For some time now, I had been literally struggling with Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. I knew I was being more than ambitious when I picked up this mammoth book – I’d heard that this book was notorious for challenging the readers’ patience – but didn't realize it'll make me give up so soon.

The first time I picked up the book, which was some months back, I couldn’t go beyond the first few chapters. So dense was the language and so varied were the thoughts running through the book, I felt like burdened with a heaviness that almost exhausted my mind. This was perhaps because none of the books that I had read so far prepared me for something like Musil’s way of writing. This is a book built on ideas – and for most part it leaves the plot (there isn’t much of a so-called plot, anyway, and the book actually remained unfinished when Musil died) to take long rambling pauses and expound thoughts/ideas that seems to go farther away from the actual plot. All these seem to leave the story hanging, leaving me all the more flummoxed at being taken to so many directions and yet not going anywhere. In fact, there’s not much of the linear story-telling that we’re otherwise used to in novels; there’s very little exterior detail about the places and people that inhabit the book; and the book is just a dense cloud of thoughts that grows thicker as it progresses. Obviously, it demands continued patience and lots of will from the reader. And, I must admit, right now I am facing a shortage of both.

I was again toying with the book last night when I realized that, perhaps, I picked up the book at a wrong time – for this is a phase when I am in a strange frame of mind, and I’m least prepared to commit myself to a book that demands such extreme attention.

So, right now, I am keeping the book at an arm’s stretch, just to allow myself to flip through the pages at times, and remind myself that it is lying there, unread.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tagged, again

Plain Jane tagged me to:
  1. Pick up the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.
Now, there are a few books lying around, unread. And, looking at them gives me a guilty feeling.

So, I skip the unread ones and from the table I pick up a book I read long back – Milan Kundera’s The Book of laughter and Forgetting. On page 123, after the first 5 lines, I find:
“A novel?” asked Banaka disapprovingly.

Bibi corrected herself evasively: “It won’t necessarily be a novel.”

“Just think about what a novel is,” said Banaka.
Now the thing is, I don’t know what is being spoken here, although I claim to have read this book. So, curious, I want to re-read the book (which is good enough since I’m not reading anything these days, not even newspapers).

Coming to the last part of the tag, I realize that I don’t even know five people whom I can tag. So, all of you who read this, consider yourself tagged.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

During the rains

The rains are here. Sometimes it’s a heavy shower, sometimes just a drizzle. But, most of the times, the sky is overcast, the air is humid, and the signs of monsoon are just about everywhere – from the hillsides that are turning greener to the mud stains that are appearing on the clothes. And now, if I get to hear frogs croaking somewhere one of these days, the monsoon picture will be complete.

Indeed, if you ever pause and think about it, each change of season seems truly overwhelming.

The onset of rains, however, did nothing much help me come out of my present state of disorientation. If anything, it made me more of a sloth. I kept passing my time in usual idleness. When it rained, if I happened to at home, I would stand in the balcony, leaning on the railing, gazing at the dark monsoon clouds as they filled up the entire sky. Sometimes, waking up from sleep, if I found it to be raining, I would keep lying on the bed listening to the sound of rain, and allowing my mind to wander. Occasionally, coming out of office, if I found it to be raining, I would wait for the bus under the gulmohar tree, and watch the raindrops dripping from its leaves.

I know I have this tendency to go gaga over rains, but I sincerely find it worth going gaga.

PS: I have to admit that I didn’t have much to write anything of late. Or rather, on a more honest note, I couldn’t really bring myself to write anything. Many a times I sat down and typed a few lines, only to delete them later and wring my hands in despair. It seems silly of course, how this inability to put up a post, was affecting me. I hope, with this post, I break the barren spell.

PPS: This post is the result of a comment from Plain Jane.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

After the rain

It rained yesterday. While going home, in the bus, I sat watching the windowpanes blurred by the splattering raindrops, and it made me happy, like always.

The rains, however, also brought about too many difficulties -- clogged drains, flooded roads, traffic jams, power cuts, slushy pavements, and much chaos in general.

I somehow dodged the troubles and reached home safe. But, of course, when I reached home the electricity was out. On another day, I might have cursed badly. Yesterday, however, I managed to keep my outrage at bay, and lit the candle that was lying unused by my bedside for far too long. And I contemplated, later in the evening when I lay in my bed reading by the flickering flame, that this was indeed a fine evening, that the power cut was quite tolerable, that the crawling lines of printed black words in the yellow light looked pretty beautiful, that the shadows in the wall looked dreamlike and mysterious, that there seemed nothing amiss at all.

And, then the lights came. Everything suddenly came to life. The small flickering candle-light started looking inadequate and my interest in the book started waning. Finally, I snuffed out the candle, shut the book, and opened the laptop.

By the time I finally closed the laptop I realized, much to my chagrin, it was already quite late and I had just wasted away my evening.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just read

He sets aside a weekend for his first experiment with prose. The story that emerges from the experiment, if that is what it is, a story, has no real plot. Everything of importance happens in the mind of the narrator, a nameless young man all too like himself who takes a nameless girl to a lonely beach and watches while she swims. From some small action of hers, some unconscious gesture, he is suddenly convinced she has been unfaithful to him; furthermore, he realizes that she has seen he knows, and does not care. That is all. That is how the piece ends. That is the sum of it.

From Youth
by J.M. Coetzee
PS: Sometimes, you happen to read something and, unknowingly, you start liking it so much that you want to read out it to someone sitting next to you. Since I don't have anyone sitting next to me right now, I'm posting it up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

From the mountains to the sea

Whoever was happy with the thought that this blog is dead already should be ready for some disappointment.

I’m back.

Well, I had a short vacation recently, and I thought it appropriate to use my vacation story as a come-back vehicle. And, additionally, this time I have a few snaps to tell the tale.


… on a bright day, on a small train…


… winding through the slopes of mountains…


... gazing at the horizon...


… long winding dusty tracks that get lost in the woods…


… panoramic view at the top…


… one old bungalow named Mon Repos…


… abandoned in the wilderness…


… sitting by the sea…


… collecting colorful shells…


… watching the sunset…

… lying under a green canopy…

… boat ride to a sea fort…

… old cannons on guard….


… the road back …


Excuse me for putting up so many photos. By now you must have realized that this is just a shabby effort to hide the fact that I could not write anything worth putting up here; hence, the profusion of photos.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Filmy evenings

The past few evenings were spent at NFAI – sitting inside a dimly lit and freezing cold theater – among eager crowds, loud laughs, and hesitant whispers; among teenagers with their hordes of chattering friends; among aloof and not-so-young people with a grave air; among the hustle and bustle of somewhat unruly crowd and the harassed staff; and of course, among the eclectic mix of films. These were enjoyable evenings.

Except for a day, when my glasses broke and my eyes were rendered practically useless, I went everyday. Everyday, after office I would head straight to the venue, quietly slip inside the auditorium, wait for the films to begin, catch the fragments of conversation floating around, look around the sea of unknown faces, and generally try to fend off a feeling of loneliness induced by all these goings-on around me.

I don’t think I got tremendously affected by any of the films on offer. They were either mediocre, or good, but not great. Of course, this is just a personal feeling. There is every possibility that I missed the points altogether.

Still, a few films come to my mind as I write this.

  • Long Weekend, which is a hostage drama. But more than suspense, it’s an exploration of relationships.
  • Bye Bye Blackbird, which is period drama with a traveling circus in the backdrop. The only things I remember of this film are the dizzying, and dreamlike shots of trapeze performance.
  • After the Wedding, which is a drama around a family’s secret. It’s a bit high on melodrama, but is a good watch anyway.
  • You and Me, which is funny and breezy. Marion Cotillard and Julie Depardieu, both, are treats to watch.

Before I finish, I should as well talk about another film. It wasn’t part of European Union Film Festival and is therefore somehow unrelated to this post. But, I’d specially like to mention it because I found it much more satisfying than all the films that I watched in the festival. Yesterday, NFAI showed Satyajit Ray’s Sadgati, a short film based on a Munshi Premchand story exploring the the deep-rooted caste system in India. Satyajit Ray refuses to view the story simply as a oppressor versus oppressed, and brings out the complexities of class dynamics, which, over years of unquestioned practice, have affected the psyche of both classes. Sadgati is short, solid, and shows the assured touch of the master film-maker.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Six stories

If you are not averse to digital storytelling and do not mind reading an interactive story, you can check the site We Tell Stories and read the six stories listed therein.

I somehow stumbled upon it today and have already read The 21 Steps and Fairy Tales, in between my work at office. Both the stories, I must admit, I enjoyed – The 21 Steps, for being funny and intelligent; and Fairy Tales, for letting me shape the story my way. Needless to say, I’m eager to read the other stories as well; but, you see, one also needs to do some work while at office.

Anyway, if you have got some time to spare, you can read them.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

They said

  • Something I considered the biggest asset of yours… was your lazy attitude.
  • Though you can do hard work, you prefer doing that only when the problem knocks on your door.
  • I had always confided in you with my problems, like many of us, and it is the trust you command that has made us do it.
  • You have enough capabilities. Yet, the way you make use of it (rather, don’t make use of it) is puzzling.
  • I should not give you advice as my case is also hopeless.
  • … All of us seem to be infected with optimism disease (to quote Rushdie) that we’ll meet some day. But, practicalities are insurmountable and however good friends we may be, I know that you won’t catch a train to Mumbai if you feel like meeting me and neither would I do something that impulsive. Except, optimistically speaking, through serendipity, we might be at the same place at the same time. But then what? I know so many people, good friends living in the same place who haven’t had the time in years to call up and say hello.
  • Rest is laid unspoken.

These are lines extracted from one of my old diaries. Years ago, while we were parting after four years of staying together, my friends in college wrote them down for me – reminiscing, thanking, advising, admonishing, and generally asking to ‘keep in touch’.

Except for occasional phone conversations or emails no one is really ‘in touch’ these days. And even if we end up talking on phone sometime, the conversation becomes tedious and forced. The lively banter of yesteryear is now replaced with more important talks of career, money, investments, marriage, etc. (which, I admit, are definitely important, but somehow doesn’t really make up for stimulating conversation).

But, why exactly this sudden spurt of nostalgia, you may ask?

I blame it on summer heat. Besides making my days dull and lethargic, it is also giving me sleepless nights. And on sleepless nights it is only natural to find yourself crowded with old memories. Old memories – they come to you in the quiet of the night, keeps you awake, only to fade away in the bright daylight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Once

The fiery red flowers dot the roadsides, announcing the onset of spring with a sudden youthfulness. Oblivious of the dust, smoke, pollution, and the scorching Sun, the gulmohars are in bloom again, driving away the drabness with a vivacious display of colors.

But, sadly, the gulmohar tree I used to walk by last year is no longer there. Don't know when it vanished. Maybe, in the process of road-widening it has been chopped off and disposed away. The place where it once stood is empty now. There is nothing to suggest that there once stood such a beautiful tree.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Disquiet

Saturday afternoons were a quiet time in the campus. And now with the semester exams around the corner it took an even deserted look. The leisurely crowds that thronged at different corners of the campus and indulged in endless gossip were nowhere to be seen these days.

“It’s like one of the fairy tale cities which have been put to sleep by some evil magician,” she thought as she walked past the co-operative building, where on other days she always found boys sipping cold drinks and gossiping. But today was different. Even on the road towards the library building she didn’t find a single soul. “Maybe, I should have remained in the hostel room,” she thought, by now feeling a little depressed over her own dismal preparation for the imminent exam. But she didn’t feel like going back to her room, where, she knew, she’ll inevitably find her roommate taking a nap. It was a method most of the hostelers used during exam season – sleeping in the afternoon and doing a night-out, studying all night long. She detested it. Moreover, she knew, even if she goes back now, she would neither be able to study nor sleep, however hard she tried.

Absent-mindedly, she walked past the empty classrooms and entered the library. The reading room on the second floor was nearly as deserted; just a few final-year students scattered around the tables with their heads buried in books. For a few moments she just surveyed around the shelves, without knowing what to do. She picked up a Taub & Schilling, flipped through a few pages, and put it back. No, she won’t understand a thing of digital integrated circuits at this moment.

Finally, she picked up a volume of Encyclopedia Britannica and sat on a table near the big glass window. Opening the book, she turned the pages, aimlessly, and pretty soon got bored again. “What if I break into a loud song now? Or scream with all my might?” The impossibility of the situation amused her much, and she turned her head to look out of the window, trying to suppress a giggle. Outside, the last rays of the sun were slipping away. A leafy silence spread all over the campus. Soon, the streetlights would come on to usher in the evening.

She closed the book and rose to leave.

On her way back to the hostel, she stopped by the lake. There wasn’t the faintest of breeze; the waters stood calm in the twilight. For a few minutes she kept gazing at the serene surface, lost in her own thought. Then, just before she was about to walk away, she picked up a pebble and threw it on the lake. Tiny ripples filled the surface, spreading in ever-widening circles.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tagged

They say, you always remember your firsts. I don’t know if getting tagged for the first time counts as one of your firsts. But I’m worked up, nonetheless.

I’m talking of tagging memes, which keep doing the rounds in blogosphere. I’ve seen them before, and have also enjoyed reading some of the quirky memes. But, well, I never thought I’ll write one myself. To me, it was a silly thing to do.

But, ahem, you sometimes have to eat your own words. And here I’m doing exactly that. (As an afterthought though, I think, it was probably a case of ‘sour grapes.’ The truth was, nobody ever tagged me before.)

Okay, now let’s come to the tag. Plain Jane has tagged me asking to make a list of things that lay by my bedside.

To begin with, I should tell that I don’t have a bedside table or closet. So when I say bedside it actually means the bed itself, except for a few things which lay on the floor but within such close proximity of the bed that they can also be listed as bedside objects.

And now, without further ado, my list:

  1. Three candles, which lay on the floor, waiting for a chance to burn on a night when there will be a power cut.
  2. An electric iron, which keeps shifting between the bed and the floor.
  3. A mosquito repellent and a cell phone charger, either of which I plug into the electric socket before going to sleep.
  4. Two books borrowed recently from British Library – Rites of Spring (a collection of short stories) and Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature (an anthology).
  5. Nalini Jones’ book What You Call Winter, which I’m currently reading. And My Own Country by Abraham Varghese, which I’ve kept as an alternative read.
  6. Illustrated Oxford English Dictionary, which I’ve kept at me bedside for two reasons. One, because it can double up as an extra pillow at times, should I feel the need sometime. Two, as a ready reference, because on many occasions I’ve found myself spoiling my precious sleep trying to figure out the meaning of some silly words.
  7. A few desiccated stalks of rajanigandha, lying on the floor, and still giving off a faint fragrance.
  8. A pen and two old diaries.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Library

A few days back I got myself a British Library membership. Well, honestly, I was a bit disheartened to find that the size of the library was rather small, and the membership fee was rather high. But then, I haven’t been able to locate a decent library in the city so far. So, I decided to give it a try anyway, exorbitant fee notwithstanding.

Anyways, it’s not British Library that I want to write about. I want to write about a different library, a place where I spent much of my childhood and teenage years, and which comes to my mind whenever I browse through books in any library. It was a place which initiated me to the world of books, and gave me an escape from my own boring life. For a nondescript small town, the District Library I frequented was indeed a well stocked library, although a bit carelessly maintained. My adolescent eyes, however, found it to be a place of mystery and dreamlike serenity. Rows and rows of books stacked in tall shelves, almirah-full of hardbound books with golden lettering on their spine, damp dark corners where frail and forgotten books lay among cobwebs and dust, a musty smell of old yellowing pages hanging in air, lengthening shadows stretched across the floor – all these made my visits to the library, often on quiet drowsy afternoons, a sort of dream and adventure.

I could borrow two books at a time, for a fortnight. But often, I’d go back within a week, having read the books back to back. In my early days, however, I didn’t go beyond the children’s section, from where I picked up fairy tales and detective/adventure novels with flashy covers. My reading was further limited by the fact that I didn’t have the confidence to touch the English books – I could read only Assamese and Bengali translations. It would be many years later when, with my teenage restlessness, I would venture out to the books on other shelves, and discover different shores. Those were exciting times as I’d find love, betrayal, conspiracy, pain, and myriad human emotions knocking me over. Sometimes, a book would keep me awake late into the night, with racing heartbeats, and confounding my mind with doubt, guilt, and embarrassment, as if I had tasted a forbidden pleasure.

I often wonder, what I’d have done during those rather boring days of my adolescence, if I hadn’t found this treasure-trove of books, where mysteries unfolded, adventures happened, and dreams took wings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

EUFF '08

Just a small piece of info.

Someone looking for information on European Union Film Festival landed up in this blog. Well, I didn’t have any relevant information here, but this query prompted me to find out if there was any info available somewhere else.

Which made me dig out this link.

The 13th European Film Festival is indeed here. Pune will have it from 24 to 30 April. Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Kozhikode are the other cities where this festival will be staged.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eggs and vegetables

It’s after weeks that I go to buy some vegetables from the old woman who sits around the corner with her baskets spread around her. She feigns surprise at seeing me after so long, and asks in her funny broken Hindi, “Arre, kya khaya itne din?

Now, maybe, she’s not genuinely interested in what I ate all these days; she is probably more concerned about whether I’m buying vegetables from somewhere else. But, she asks it with such a big grin that I have no option but to grin back.

After I paid, she drops a free lemon in the bag of vegetables. Well, this again might be her marketing trick, I assume, but it makes me happy, anyway. All I can think at that moment is I’m going to make a lemonade when I get home.

Next, I go to the small grocery shop from where I buy eggs. This grocer is a talkative man, and sometimes, when he’s in a good mood, he tells me how he went different places while he was serving in the Army; or how the prices of eggs have fallen because of Bird Flu scare; or how he once saw a reckless bike accident (he told this one when he saw a few scratches on my face). Well, he can be irritating at times; particularly when I’m in a hurry. But, some days, when I haven’t talked to anyone the whole day, his talks amuse me much.

Sigh!

I know. I know I am a boring person.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some rain and a book

Several good things happened this weekend. I’ll mention two of them.

First, it rained. On Saturday evening came the first rain of the season, catching most of us unawares. I was riding home and was on the University Circle flyover when I saw the dense dark clouds looming large. The wind was catching speed, dry leaves were fluttering around, and everyone looked up at the sky and hurried up to reach their destinations before the rains started. I too sped up. It started drizzling while I was still on the road, but it was only after I reached home that the rains came down in torrents. Reaching home, I opened the windows wide, dragged a chair to the balcony, and sat with legs stretched on the railings, ready to watch the show.

Second, I read Ruskin Bond’s autobiography Scenes From a Writer’s Life, which I had been wanting to read, but couldn't find anywhere. Then, this weekend I got a call from Landmark Bookstore informing me that they have brought the book, for which I had put a requisition earlier. I bring the book home and finish it at one go (except for a few hours of sleep in between), which is rare because I’m generally a slow reader and I amble through a book for weeks and months. But, there’s something about Ruskin Bond’s prose that makes me read non-stop. And this book was no exception. I liked it right from the Dedication page, which reads ‘For you, my gentle reader’. (How can you not love a book which is dedicated to you?) Anyway, I had been familiar with most the events in Ruskin Bond’s life by virtue of my previous readings of his books, but as he says, ‘the autobiographical element is present in much of my work, but there is really more fiction than the reader may realize.’ So, when I read this book, bare of all the imagination and fiction he creates around him, his story looked more forlorn, more heartbreaking.

Indeed, after reading Scenes From a Writer’s Life you realize why V.S. Naipaul says, ‘I have read nothing like that from India or anywhere else. It's very simple. Everything is underplayed, and the truths of the book come rather slowly at you. He is writing about solitude, tremendous solitude. He himself doesn't say it. He leaves it all to you to pick up.

Friday, March 21, 2008

At NFAI

Summer afternoons are getting rather dull. And in the hope of livening up a little, on one of these particularly boring summer afternoons, I decided to pass my time watching a couple of films that were being screened at NFAI, as part of the Pune Film Treasures Festival. They had been showing films there for the last three days, but I somehow couldn’t catch up with any of them. There were two reasons, actually. First, I got to know about it pretty late. And second, I wasn’t really interested in the films they were showing. But as I said, when summer evenings get rather dull, you really want to do something. So, yesterday, I forced myself out of office and walked into a cozy nook of the NFAI auditorium quite ahead of time. The auditorium, with its rather cool interiors and dim lights, was very sleep-inducing, and I would really have dozed off had it not been some chattering ladies at my back, who kept talking till someone walked up the dais to introduce the film to be shown.

The first screening was Jean-Luc Godard’s Le M├ępris, which I found rather disappointing and baffling. Well, maybe it was my inability to understand the film, but I couldn’t really grasp what the film was trying to say.

The second film, Fritz Lang’s 1953 film noir The Big Heat, was much like a typical good vs. bad story, where an honest cop investigating a case goes a little too far and pays with his wife’s life. The Big Heat is a story of his vengeance. Gripping and fast-paced, it doesn’t waste a moment. Of course, I won’t call it a great film – the film feels rather simplistic and uni-dimensional – but it sure had the charm.

It was good fun.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fragments

Once in a while there comes a book which opens the windows to the heart of its characters with such honesty and finesse that you don’t even realize how and when these characters leap from the pages and become real images, complete with their own voices, mannerisms, and eccentricities; their innermost thoughts lying before us, unwrapped of all the nice coverings.

Anjum Hasan’s debut novel Lunatic in My Head is one such book.

The book begins on a drizzly Shillong afternoon and goes on to traverse the lives of the three protagonists – Firdaus Ansari, the middle-aged college teacher who is trying to negotiate with her unwritten PhD thesis and a much younger fickle-minded tribal boyfriend, both unsuccessfully; Aman Moondy, the twenty-three-year-old who sees life through the music of Pink Floyd, is infatuated with Concordella, and is preparing to attempt IAS for the second time; and Sophie Das, the eight-year-old girl who realizes that “it was incumbent on her to lie, that the truth was often so shabby and unconvincing that she needed to embellish it merely in order to have something interesting to say.

Anjum Hasan’s observation is sharp and her understanding of people and place is through. But more than anything else, I liked Lunatic in My Head for its language. Be it when Amanon the bed with its clean sheet smelling of detergent… lay on his side crying, his tears running across the bridge of his nose and down the side of his face into one of his ears”; or when Firdausoccasionally look up from her reading and stare at the wall, trying to form a sentence or two in her head, but then inevitably dismiss it as weak and unoriginal, and continue with her reading”; or when Sophie, punished by her teacher to stand at the rear of the classroom, “stood at her new position in silence, flaking off the plaster from the wall with her thumbnail”, I paused many a times while reading, overwhelmed by the images portrayed.

I think this is where fiction triumphs – despite all the disclaimers, we know that the book, taken as a whole, might be an act of imagination, but when broken down to fragments, each piece is a reflection of our own lives.

And Anjum Hasan has collected these fragments with much care and has given us a wonderful book.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wayward

You are sick of this idleness. You want to do something. Maybe, write something. And, whatever it is, you want to do it now. Yes, now.

All you do in a day is go for a 9-to-5 job and cook your dinner. Okay, there’s some amount of TV and books as well. But that’s pretty much it. Sometimes, when you lie idle and keep staring into the ceiling, too many weird thoughts come to your mind, and you realize, with a sigh, that your mind has indeed become a devil’s workshop.

You pause here. Hmm, you have begun well, but now what. How to take it forward?

You look around. You try to gather your thoughts. You remember that you’ve recently read an article where the author has warned, “Writing Fiction is not for the faint-hearted. The mortality rate is higher than that of Test pilots.”

But you are not to be deterred by such warnings, of course. Writers are a funny breed of people, you know, they love to say funny things. Not to take them too seriously. After all, the above-mentioned author, by the end of the essay, advises, ‘Never listen to older writers.’

Well, that’s all fine – these writers and their funny quotes. What annoys you, however, is that all these unnecessary readings that you do, affects you adversely, and pulls your thoughts to multiple directions, muddling you further.

Oh, see where you began, and where you’ve reached! It’s always like this, you realize – the thing you begin with, end up as something utterly unrecognizable, as if by some magic.

You give too much liberty to your thoughts, you realize. You are too lazy and lenient to achieve anything, leave alone writing.

You pause here again. A few minutes later, you find yourself counting how many paragraphs you’ve written – eight already! Not bad.

Suddenly, you feel content and happy. You don’t want to calculate where you began and where you have reached.

You’re a hopeless piece, no doubt, but you don’t care.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The stalker

She stops walking suddenly.

My heart skips a beat.

“Shit!” I mutter with disgust and quickly hide my face behind the long strips of gutkha pouches hanging down from the roadside paan shop.

Why does she stop like this today? Could she sense that I was following her? Did I make any mistake? She did seem to be walking a little self-consciously for the last few minutes – too many thoughts come to me simultaneously.

I wait with bated breath; my heart thumps vigorously. What if she walks up to me now and confronts me?

I peep at her – she is bending down and taking off the shoe from her left leg.

I freeze like I’ve seen something ominous. I almost feel like fainting. My head goes blank. Is she actually going to charge towards me with that shoe in her hand? Well, doesn’t seem plausible, but how can one be sure.

I peep again – she now stands on one leg (the shoeless leg bent slightly above ground). I eagerly wait for her next movement. She takes a few seconds to balance herself first. Then she upturns the shoe in her hand and shakes it. A pebble drops off.

Ha! that's it then.

By the time I've recovered, I see her walk away again.

I take a few seconds to decide and then ask the panwallah, "One Navy Cut."

I light the cigarette and watch her walk away.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March-ing

Almost a week into March, and I've not come up with a post. Not that it’s absolutely important or something (it’s just a self-gratifying exercise, as I’ve admitted before). It makes no difference anywhere, anyway. And most probably, barring a couple of people, nobody will even notice if I stop this blog today. Which is justified because I cannot claim that anybody might gain anything by reading this blog. There are better things to read and better things to do in this world than to come here and read my ramblings. But if you still come here to read, you’ve got patience!

But anyway, I think I make a post because it makes me happy. That’s the simplest reason. I cannot straightway tell what makes me happy, though. Maybe I get a faint feeling of accomplishing something when I put up a new post. I know it’s silly to think that way – writing a stupid post and comparing it to accomplishing something. But how can I help if I feel just that way? Silly me.

Oh, too much rambling already. Okay, now for the actual post – which, by the way, is nothing but a bulleted list of stray thoughts (you’re familiar with it by now, I suppose).

  • I see people going places. To different parts of the world. To places faraway and unknown. I admire them. (Maybe, slightly jealous too.) I too wish to go away like them. But all I do is sit alone and dream.
  • I come home early and stand on the balcony. It’s dusk and the children are shouting and running in the smallish park outside. In the gathering darkness, their shouts of joy fill up my empty apartment.
  • I get the news of a death. He wasn’t someone I knew personally but Sheelabhadra was an author I liked to read. Incidentally, when I got the news, I was reading one his books, which I picked on my recent visit to my home town .
  • I see a change of season taking place. The days are hotter now; the wind is drier and dustier. Walking home in the evening I think of rains. It's not yet time for rain, of course. Pre-monsoon storms are still about a month away. But in my mind, I make it a point to see when the first rain arrives.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On another day

I think I need to tell this – that despite the inclination towards all things sad and melancholic, I'm essentially a happy person. As happy as I can be these days. If you thought that I sound like a poor depressed soul all the time, you were obviously mislead.

Just as there are days of melancholy, there are days of plain happiness as well. Days, when I wake up to something happy, without even knowing what it is, without finding any apparent reason. I become happy for something I cannot quite fathom. I don't know what prompts it. Maybe, it is the quietness of an early morning, the cold touch of steel railings in the balcony, the shaft of sun's rays near the doorstep, or just the whiteness of the ceiling I keep staring into.

I don't know. I can't tell.

But I find it nothing less than magical. How and what constitute such a moment of pure bliss?

Perhaps, I'll never find out. Perhaps, I should not even try to.

I'm just thankful for these fleeting moments. Moments, when I feel that everything is well with the world, including myself.

Of course it doesn't last long. But it is worth it while it lasts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One of your days

There are some days, you know perhaps, when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you feel is a strange sense of melancholy.

It might be a rainy day with a slate-grey sky when you want it to rain all day long, and looking out of the window you watch the trees drench quietly, all alone.

Or it might be a hot sunny morning when you wake up to the sound of your old noisy fan, and coming out of your room you wonder how swiftly the world passes you by.

Or it might be one of those chilly winter mornings when your warm bed feels like heaven, and when the thick curtain of fog outside reminds you the days that has disappeared somewhere.

Or it might be a pale day of autumn when the roads you take are full of whispering dead leaves and dusty winds.

Or it might be a day just like today – when, after a long day, you fall back to your room with an empty feeling. You listen to your favourite music, you pick up your favourite book, you stand before the mirror and smile, but you cannot drive that emptiness away. And then you open the window, an evening breeze gushes in, and you see the moon rising, which only reminds you, however hard you try to forget, how lonely you had been today.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coming back

In case you haven't noticed, I had been away for two whole weeks. I was on a impromptu break.

During this time I went to my home town, visited a few other places and people, and generally passed my time at home doing nothing.

It was a break from the routine I follow here. I had no work, cellphone, computer, or newspaper to occupy my time.

I had a feeling I'd have a good time without any of these. But, strangely, all my time I was missing these things there. I was thinking about the things I do here, when I was there. I had a feeling that I might be missing out on something. That there might be important things happening in my absence. That I might be wanted here.

But, obviously, no such thing happened. And now that I'm back, I find that nothing really has changed. Things are still the same on my desk. And nobody has even noticed that I was away.

So, it's back to my old routine. And I'm back to the things I missed.

But now, suddenly, I feel like running away again.

Isn't life disappointing?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Weekend watch

Whew! Lots of films happened this weekend. Well, not really chosen with much care and judgment – I watched rather indiscriminately – and I must say I liked every bit of it.

I began with Gandhi, My Father, which explores the tumultuous relation between Mahatma Gandhi and his son Harilal. I liked bits of it, even appreciated the performances, but remained unmoved at the end.

Then came Chashme Buddoor, the early 80’s romcom. It was a delight to watch Faroque Sheikh and Deepti Naval, the melodrama notwithstanding. Maybe, I won’t want to watch this film repeatedly, but while I watched, I could not suppress a smile on my face – the cuteness was absolutely infectious. And yes, I always liked the song ‘Kahan se aaye badra’ from this film.

Lakshya, the third on my platter, was a film which I had watched earlier on TV, but always in bits and pieces. So, when I watched it this time, at one go, I could not help but admire the film – the beautiful shots, the understated performances, the believable actions. Okay, the film is not perfect – it does not go beyond popular stereotypes – but it has an earnestness that is difficult to shake off.

The time I chose to watch Charulata was perfect – a languid Sunday afternoon. Incidentally, the film also begins on a lonely afternoon of Charu’s life. Charulata has been regarded as one of the most exquisite and flawless of Satyajit Ray’s films, and it’s easy to see why – the film is beautiful, subtle, and poetic. The rest of the afternoon, after I watched Charulata, I lay snuggled in my bed, enveloped with a feeling of subtle melancholy.

I ended my watching spree with Sleepless in Seattle, which was on HBO last night. Not much to say about this one, but it was a good company on a Sunday night.

Well that was all to my weekend.

P.S. Oh, I have one DVD still waiting, Jab We Met, which I’m going to watch soon.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snapshots

  • The lone banyan tree stands amidst the vast green paddy fields. In the hot summer afternoons, when unruly wind comes rippling through the top of the paddy fields, nobody goes near the tree for fear of disturbing the spirits that dwell there. Only a few sparrows hop around in its shade.
  • The mango flowers are in bloom. Buzzing bees, queues of ants, and chirpy birds swarm around the tree all day. A mild heady scent stands in its cool shade.
  • It rains all night. Rainwater leaks in through the old tin roof and forms a puddle on the floor. Somewhere in the dark outside, a bunch of frogs croak in unison.
  • The wide river flows quietly. On its banks, fluffy white kaash flowers dance in the breeze. In the midday sun, the sand on the river bank shines like silver.
  • Shy and delicate, the tiny white flowers bloom in the evening, give fragrance all night, and fall off at dawn – it wilts away in the sunlight. The flower of sadness, they call it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Part(y)ing

We sit together on a big table and talk loudly while we wait for the lunch to arrive. We have already scrabbled with the menu, discussed at length about the dishes we want to order, and kept talking all the while. The restaurant is full and the food is late to arrive. But nobody seems to mind today -- we are more than happy to go on chattering.

"Maybe this is the last time we all are eating together," someone says, perhaps trying to remind us that something is happening for the last time.

But we ignore the thought. We all have new things coming up in our lives and we don't seem to have the time to pause and ponder. Or, even if someone wants to, nobody wants to show.

Someone clicks photos, someone poses, someone pulls someone's legs, someone plays with the cutlery -- we all are happy with the moment.

The lunch arrives, we eat with relish, pay the bill, and move away.

"We all might not be together again. But when we were, we were happy. At least, that is what I would like to believe," I say to myself and go my own way.

Monday, January 21, 2008

January

This January has definitely managed to surprise me.

First, there are these upcoming changes at workplace. But let's keep workplace out of this, for the moment.

Second, I've managed to acquire a few scratches on my Activa and myself. You see, the mandatory accident has already happened. But, I'm not going to give you a detailed description of that either.

Third, I decided to let go the Film Festival this time. Well, it has got something to do with the accident, but had I wanted I could still manage. But somehow, for some strange reason, I didn't want to.

Fourth, I read Vikram Seth's novel in verse, The Golden Gate, which I found rather witty. To read a novel in verse -- it didn't sound interesting -- but, at the end, I liked.

Fifth, I found that I can be particularly talkative, nonsensically talkative, and can be a pain to your ear.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

At Karla Caves*

"Wow! This is awesome."

"Stand near the pillar. Yes, a little closer. Ready. Say cheese."

"This cave is hewn out of a single giant rock. This used to serve as a prayer hall..."

"Where's Pinky? Pinky?"

"Can you imagine what it would have been like to live in this place, centuries back, amongst the reverberating sound of sacred chants..."

"Look at the details of this sculpture. You can see the ornaments she's wearing. Whose face it might have been, who knows?"

"How long it'll take us to reach Bombay?"

"It's amazing how they found this big rock on a hilltop, and working with chisels and hammers for centuries, could carve this magnificent structure."

"It's a pity! They should maintain this site in a better way. The authorities..."

"The signboard says it dates back to 2nd Century B.C."

"Look Maa, the elephant's trunk is broken."

"Let's go now. I'm hungry."

"... and we talk of patience!"


*At Karla Caves, some talk with awe, some remain quiet, and some others just overhear.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What's new

The new year began on a little shaky note.

A few unforeseen things, some lurking uneasiness, along with a little apprehension and confusion thrown in.

However, on the positive side:
  • I'm riding on a new Activa. No more haggling with autowallahs, hopefully.
  • I'm going for walks in the mornings. Don't know how long I'll be able to continue, but I feel good that I've made a beginning.
  • I'm waiting for the Pune International Film Festival, which begins on 10th January. Hope to catch some interesting films.
  • I'm proving myself to be a decent cook.