Friday, December 18, 2009


In all likelihood, this looks like to be the last post of the year. But, this is not a summary of the year gone by nor do I intend to put up a year-end post. In fact, even if I try, which I did for a while, I don't seem to find any high (or low) points that could distinguish this year from other years. Of course, when I speak of an uneventful year, I refer purely to a personal state of being; apparently, earth-shattering events are occurring every other day in other peoples' lives, which I'm completely oblivious of. Once in a while, it does scare me though -- that I cannot feel any rise and fall in life, which everyone keeps talking of; that I am not getting too worked up by the seemingly endless amount of time I'm letting go, doing nothing; that, despite everything, I still feel as clueless or confused as ever. In short, horrifyingly enough, the start or end of a year seem to have lost whatever residual feelings of hope or despair they used to carry; and instead, giving way to a cold indifference.

Anyway, the year's going to end in a few more days. As with every year, I saw people moving in and out, rearranging their lives -- some committing to new things, some rising to new heights, some falling by the wayside, and some vanishing altogether. Oh, wait! Now that I started typing in, I do seem to feel certain moments linger in my head, some memories that I didn't care to look back, some days that indeed were different. Still, what difference those moments and memories are going to make, I am still uncertain of. As for now, I'm waiting with my packed bags, ready to start my much-awaited year-end vacation, a time when I reach a Zen-like state of mind and speculate on the greater scheme of things.

See you all, hopefully more regularly, in the coming new year.

P.S. New year wishes, everyone!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Behind the scenes

The fragrant flowers

Late in the evening, if you came out to the veranda, you could tell the unmistakable fragrance of sewali flowers wafting from the corner of the courtyard. It didn’t take much wind to carry it; the fragrance would spread even when the air stood still, though not very far. And if you stepped down the veranda, notwithstanding the mild cold of early winter, and took a stroll near the tree, you would see it laden with tiny white flowers much like some studded jewelry. The air around the tree would be heavy with the subdued fragrance of newly bloomed flowers and you might possibly even want to pick up a few of the fallen flowers to be put by your bedside. Although difficult to describe in words this fragrance is variously associated with sadness, melancholy, or longing. It is notorious for making people pensive.

The river by the cemetery

The leafy green cemetery does not see too many visitors. Often enough, you would find yourself to be the only person walking by its neatly maintained rows of stones. Pink bougainvilleas and dark-green creepers adorn the walk-way that runs through the middle of the cemetery. Tall sandstone pillars bearing the names of unknown soldiers stand in the formation of an arc. On the grassy lawn, sparrows hop around much of the time. But, it’s the quietly flowing river that runs just behind the cemetery that gives the place its peace and charm. In such a peaceful little place, you might find it is easy to forget what prices these soldiers – young, old, and unnamed, coming from faraway corners of the world – had to pay to wage a war, and then perish, in a foreign land.

The Deepavali diya

As you would agree, Deepavali, contrary its beautiful name, is often more associated with noise than with light. But still, nothing captures the essence of Deepavali more than the image of rows of flickering diyas. Or, for that matter, even a single solitary diya that you might have lit and left alone on the balcony.

Wild grass

If you climbed the hillock that lay behind the buildings, and walked a bit further, you would reach a relatively flat grassy land that is unusually green for this time of the year. Partly because of the abundant rains in the last few days, and partly because not many people come walking to this side, the grasses here have grown tall, reaching as far as your waist. Tired by the climb, if you wished to have a little rest, you could sit on the rocks that lay partly hidden among the grasses and spend a few moment watching the grasses sway in the late-afternoon breeze as grasshoppers, dragonflies, and tiny colorful butterflies hop around.

Weary legs

If you happened to finally make it to the small, almost camped, cave that is carved on the wall of a giant stone on top of the hill fort, a stunning view would await you. As far as your eyes could see, there would be hills, their cliffs draped with passing clouds. In the valley below, the early morning mist would still be lingering languidly. With such a view for company, and the feel of gentle breeze blowing into your face, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to give your weary legs some much-needed rest here. If you wished, reclining on the stone walls, you could also click a photo or two.

The baoli

You would be pleasantly surprised if you discovered this baoli on the hilltop. It is hidden by a thick growth of wild shrubs and is often missed out by people who climb this hill fort. Nevertheless, once you have found it, you would definitely be impressed by the structure. Two flights of perpendicular stairs would lead you to the underground source of water that might once have served many (legend has it, that this place was once a thriving village that got abandoned after a vicious plague epidemic). Sitting on the steps of this dark and cool baoli you might experience time standing still between the ancient brick walls.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I had been going click-happy for some days now. And some of my experiments, obviously, had to spill over to the blog. So, here's an assortment.

the fragrant flowers

the river by the cemetery

the deepavali diya

wild grass

weary legs

the baoli

Of course, there are stories associated with each of these photos. But, those I save for another day.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Here and there

  • The view of sea in the rains is an awesome sight – huge waves crash rhythmically on the sandy beach, the horizon is blurred with dark mass of ominous looking clouds, and the strong gale hits the face carrying hint of salt. It’s beautiful, yet you cannot miss the underlying fierceness of Nature on display. We just sit on the sand, looking at this splendour and hear the roar of the sea, as it rains all around.
  • At night, in the more trendy part of the beach, inside a few winding lanes, the clubs, pubs, and discos come alive. Live music, karaoke, and general noise floats in air. Huge swarms of people throng for fun and there is a festive bustle all around. For a few moments, it is possible to get so overwhelmed with the goings on around you that the sea, which is just a stone’s throw away, is almost forgotten. It could as well be a Saturday night in a city pub.
  • At the cathedral, despite the sizeable number of crowd, it’s surprisingly quiet. People sitting on pews – newlyweds, families, backpackers, nuns – all look around the huge hall and the altar in front. Among the group of mostly elderly nuns I spot a young one, almost a teenager, who looks a bit lost. She looks around at the surrounding grandeur in awe, looking much like a young girl who has caught a glimpse of some film star.
  • At the seaside fort, it’s all noise and crowd and cameras. It’s difficult to imagine how this place might have served as a watering hole for Portuguese sailors who landed here after months of travel on high seas. Walking around, I hear a Bengali father talk to his little son. Both of them seem to be unimpressed with the fort. The father says, “After watching Agra fort, all other forts seem quite run-down and not-so-grand, isn’t it son?” The son nods his little head in quiet agreement.
  • In search of some quieter beaches, we move down south on our last day of stay. Incidentally, it turns out to be an extremely pleasant drive. It’s a sunny day and the roadsides look impossibly green as we pass by paddy fields, ponds, coconut groves, and lovely little villages with quaint churches of all sizes. Our tour culminates with a sumptuous lunch we have at a quiet wayside restaurant. We gorge on the food, talk inanities, and mostly savour the salubrious air of sea.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


At first he thought it was raining in his dreams – as if he were somewhere up in the mountains and a mass of clouds covered him up with a sheet of drizzle. He seemed to be walking, surprisingly weightless, through a haze. He even felt the chill in the air and a whiff of wet barks and leaves. “Isn’t there a place dry and warm?” a voice seemed to sound in his head.

He rolled in his bed and a dim gray morning light, filtered through an overcast sky, fell on his face. Through the open door of the balcony his eyes first fell on the series of fat raindrops that clung to the iron railing. “So, it’s indeed raining,” he thought, realizing the source of chill in his dream. He instinctively checked the time – he had half an hour to get ready – and then looked out of the open door again. With a blurred vision – for not only because he was still half awake, but also because he wasn’t wearing his specs – he saw the raindrops trembling and falling off the iron railing, and then being replaced by another set of equally fat raindrops. “Is this how everything gets replaced, like raindrops?” he thought, “even memories?” For a few minutes, he got lost in a reverie. “Damn!” he suddenly muttered, “these rainy mornings sure give me some melancholic thoughts.” He stared at the white walls, a favorite method to calm his head, and looked intently at the hanging cobwebs.

Anyway, after a while of staring at cobwebs and shuffling in the bed, he woke up fully to realize that he had overstayed in bed. He hurriedly got ready, picked up the things he needed to carry, wore his shoes, checked for any electric switches that might be left on, and then finally locked the front door. He climbed down the stairs trying to remember if he had missed or forgotten anything.

Outside, the rain had diminished to the faintest of drizzles. The air was damp and heavy, and the trees were still dripping wet. Just when he came near his parked vehicle, a cat, all white with a few black stripes, ran across. The whole thing – the rains, the running cat, and the damp air – reminded him of something, but he could not seem to remember what exactly it was. “Just like déjà vu,” he thought. Only yesterday he overheard someone speak of déjà vu, and here he was experiencing it today. “How words catch up with us!” he thought again, with a slight nod of his head, the way he did every time he carried a conversation with himself. But he needed to hurry now, he realized. He hopped on the vehicle, started the engine, and swiftly went out of the building compound, onto the main road, and became a part of the rushing, office-going, quotidian crowd.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


  • Stationery, arguably, is one of the most mis-spelt words – it’s spelt stationary with alarming frequency. Which makes me think: Have you ever seen stationary ever being mis-spelt as stationery? I haven’t.
  • It’s sometimes serendipity that introduces us to a new word. Like I found smorgasbord. I encountered this completely new word, just like that, twice, in two different and unconnected articles, in the span of a day. (By the way, smorgasbord means a wide variety or collection, usually of food.)
  • On Sunday night while I was watching Sehar (a surprisingly taut film, I must add) I came across a hitherto unknown Hindi word varchasva (वर्चस्व). As explained in the film, it means something of an absolute authority that can neither be shared nor delegated – only earned. Interesting, isn’t it?
  • Talking of film titles reminds me of Naseem, a film made by Saeed Akhtar Mirza, way back in 1995. I didn’t get a chance to see the film until recently, but I always remembered the title of the film because, I guess, I liked the tenderness the word conveyed. Naseem, in Urdu, means morning breeze.
  • At work, the other day, I came across this new word – L10N. I had to scratch my head few times before I got to know that L10N is actually "localization" when you replace the alphabets between L and N and replace them with the count of absent alphabets. Ah, such new things I learn at work!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Last Thursday, I embarked on a trip that eventually took me to thirteen different forts, numerous towns and villages, abandoned ruins of temples on hilltops and riverbanks, rock-cut caves hidden in the thick foliage of forests, carved inscriptions, giant fortifications, unknown tombs, water tanks, mausoleums and minarets. It continued for more than three days, across about 1400 kilometers, with little rest in between. So, at the end of it all, my mind is in a blur, and what remains are a few stray images – most of them for reasons I do not understand, yet.
  • The first stop of the road trip came at a tiny little village, where we reached in the wee hours of the morning (in fact, it was more midnight than morning), and wanted to take a little nap in the veranda of a house that we barged in. It was a magnificently starry night and in between intermittent sleep I would stare heavenwards thinking of things that are usually inspired by such nights.
  • Atop one of the forts where some of the old structures are still remaining, was a neat little arched pavilion standing on the edge, overlooking the endless spread of valley below. It was a place I would have wanted to sit for hours, with crumbling rocks for company and strong winds whistling about. But, alas, before I could have my fill, it was time to descend and move towards our next destination.
  • In a godforsaken little place, the only eatery left open was (guess what!) a beer bar, the owner of which was kind enough to let us sleep on its terrace after dinner. So, there we slept again under a open sky, but this time in the company of a staggering pile of empty beer bottles.
  • A series of unknown tombs – about 12 to 15 – lie on an elevated platform in the middle of the fort that we climb in. Most of the tombs had crumbled away – stone slabs had tumbled down and trees had grown up on them – and there’s nothing to tell us who lie buried under them or how they died. Going by the look, it seems they were significant enough to have got such big tombs erected for them and they must have died together. Probably, fighting in a battle, or struck by an epidemic.
  • One of the pleasures of hiking to lesser known places is the surprise element. So, there was this place we went to that had an excellent Hemadpanthi temple with exquisite stone architecture. A steep climb to the hill beyond it revealed three rock-cut caves – one of them containing astonishing life-size statues of Mahavira in the dark cavernous hall. Standing outside the caves, I stood transfixed, looking over the valley that stretched beyond the horizon in the fading twilight, as the jungle came alive with calls of peacock, raucous noise of langurs, and myriad other birdsong.
  • On the road, looking out of window of the car, can be a thrilling experience in itself – nondescript small villages pass by, the clamour of small towns give way to open fields, bunch of trees with inviting shades stand by the road, a church steeple peeks at a distance, occasionally a cemetery or a cremation ghat appear near a river, the clouds change shape and colour as afternoon rolls into evening, the moon comes up shining with pale ghostly light, and the sky fills up like a canvas with clusters of tiny glittering stars.
  • On our last stop, we stand near two ruined temples near the bend of a river. The temples face each other and look much like twins. On their stone walls are curved statues of supple women playing musical instruments, men with garlands around their necks, horses, elephants, floral patterns – everything to the minutest possible detail. I sit on a slab of rock overlooking the tranquil river water flowing past in the fading twilight as the cool breeze soothes my travel-weary body.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Silly office humor

I am looking at a graph that shows the participation of certain teams in certain work-related activity. The timeline (in months) is on the horizontal (x) axis and the percentage of participation is on the vertical (y) axis. Ok, that much for background.

Now, out of the five teams, one team, I find, has jumped participation by a whooping 50% – from 20% to close to 70% – in just last one month. "Oh!" I exclaim and look for the name of the person who manages that team. As it turns out, the name of the manager is (indeed) Oh! Well, the exclamation sign is not part of the name, of course; I merely used it to show my surprise.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

André Kertész

I didn't know about André Kertész until I came across this link about an hour ago.

I liked these photographs, especially the way everyone looks absorbed into the words they are reading – whether it's a boy reading the cartoon strips sitting on a pile of newspapers; or, a university girl slumped on a couch, reading and (it seems) absent-mindedly toying with a ball-point pen; or, a circus performer taking a break in the dressing room, lying on his (or her?) stomach and reading a paperback; or, an old man carefully scrutinizing a book from what seems like a second-hand book sale on the pavements; or, a young man enjoying a book, quietly, sitting on stool, beside a big window and a few cramped dormitory beds, possibly while all other inmates are out – all these, an ode to the act of reading.

Monday, July 20, 2009


The last weekend was spent in delicious tranquility – amidst tree-lined avenues, manicured lawns, and neat little blocks of a residential academic campus. I've gone there to meet a long-time friend who is leading a recluse academic life, which mainly comprises of spending long hours in their excellent campus library, reading tomes of books, researching on subjects often unheard of, and taking afternoon naps. Well, there may be other things in the routine that I don't know of, but this is pretty much what I could gather.

Anyway, like I said, the campus is gorgeous. And it looked especially so because of the profusion of various shades of green, the continuous drizzle, and the accompanying quiet and deserted look. And, oh, besides the flora, they also have some interesting fauna – flocks of migratory birds with long legs and equally long beaks, scurrying army of squirrels, and the ubiquitous monkeys. So, I was absolutely smitten the moment my friend ushered me into the campus. Yes, the campus almost had a picture-perfect look, although my friend reminded me that all's not quite as picture-perfect as it seems. Which, I guess, applies to everything and his cynicism is justified. However, the good thing about this friend is that, despite the bone-crushing academic rigour, he still retains his verve and sense of humour. As a result, we found ourselves talking endlessly about inane things and generally indulging in the kind of laziness that we both appreciate. To spark things up, we also watched some of the trashy music videos of early 90s (which were quite a rage in our teenage days) and discussed the whereabouts of those faded music stars of yesteryears. Much fun was derived out of that.

To sum up, I had a nice time there amidst much of eating, munching, talking, walking, watching, and dozing. Okay, it might seem a little unusual that I travelled about a thousand kilometer to do such mundane things (and not doing any sightseeing or other such touristy things) but, really, who cares as long as we had all the fun.

PS: In the few sleepless moments when I was trying to accustom myself to the new bed and smell that hung in the empty hostel room that was allotted to me, it struck me that it’s been long since I’ve spent some time in an academic campus. And it did bring in a bout of nostalgia, of the place and the people from the past that’s been in hibernation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Past, present, and future

  • It was summer vacation time and we – our family, that is – were doing the yearly tour of relatives. But that summer, for some reason that I cannot remember now, I was left midway at one of my aunt’s place while the rest of the family continued with their tour. So, there I was, living in a hospital quarter (the uncle worked in a hospital) in some remote hills, spending half of the summer vacation. There was absolutely nothing I could do there, except take a stroll around the lush green compound or sit at home as it rained endlessly. Some afternoons, when it was sunny, me and my aunt would go bring some sweet corncobs from the wilderness that was their kitchen garden and boil them to have as snacks. At other times, I read the only book that was present in the house – it was a book about the dacoits of Chambal, who, I learnt from the book, roamed around the ravines of Chambal on horses, with gun in their hand and revenge in their hearts. Even though I was of an impressionable age, I wasn’t much impressed with those dacoits. I was still bored and longing to be back home among my friends, who, I knew, were having much fun. I still don’t know why the memories of those days haven’t faded away into oblivion. Memory is a tricky thing, indeed.
  • I’m reading Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There. It’s a travel book about the author’s (mis)adventures while travelling through the whole of Europe – from Hammerfest, the northernmost town of Europe, to Istanbul, where it touches Asia. Bill Bryson is an author I enjoy to read. Having previously read A Walk in the Woods, in which he writes about his funnily informative trekking expeditions in the Appalachian Trail, I decided to read him again. With Neither Here Nor There, Bill Bryson is again in his reckless humour form. The last I placed the bookmark, Bill Bryson has already gone through parts of Norway, France, Belgium, and Germany and is about to enter Amsterdam. I’m following him closely, as he dishes out anecdotes, histories, travel tips, and plain memories, one after another, in his inimitable style.
  • The other day I saw in Facebook (yes, I’m there too) a quiz which went something like “What kind of old person will you be?” Of course, I didn’t take part in the quiz, but it got me thinking for some time. Indeed, how different do we get by the time we reach old age? I’ll probably remain as skeptical about things as I’m now. Probably, a little more cynical even. And I don’t see myself shedding my laziness either. Things, especially, I definitely wouldn’t want to be are – to intrude on others’ lives or to become talkative to the point of boring people to death (two hallmark traits of old people). But, well, isn’t future a funny thing? I might just become the person I despise now.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

To win a bet

What is it like to write with abandon? I mean, without the worry of being scrutinized or the awkwardness of being too self conscious. What is it to like write on endlessly, uncontrollably, without knowing where it will end, and how? Writing for just the pleasure of writing, or as a catharsis, I realized, I haven’t done for long. (Maybe, I used to do it in those angst-ridden teenage years.) These days, I just write only as much is needed – not a sentence too long. I write official emails with carefully chosen words, in a business-like manner. To friends, I write cursory emails – unsure about how much information to fit in them, I often cut off whole paragraphs after reading the draft. I write to fetch me money, counting each word. I write mechanically – aloof and impersonal – so that I don’t give away what I don’t want to give away.

Sounds a tad pessimistic? Not really. It’s not bad as it sounds. I’ll write few words being in control, rather than too much. I am a little afraid of going overboard, of excess, of saying too much. So, I may end up spending a good deal of time typing letters out, rearranging them, fiddling with sentences, playing with punctuation marks, and finally delete the whole thing. And that's okay with me.

Maybe, writing with real abandon needs much more hard-work, patience, and courage than I know of. Maybe, I suffer from a mental block that stops me from doing so. Whatever it is that stops me, I know no cure of it.

So, at the end of the day, I’ll just write little odd posts like this and obliterate the rest.

PS: If you are stumped by the title of this post, I wrote this up last night so that I don't lose some of my hard-earned money to this poet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When you sit at office for long...

... you come up with a lame post like this.

Okay, just composed a hurried post and wanted to put it up before June turns into July. Not that posting it in July is going to make any difference. But, you see, I'm practicing some self-imposed deadline to discipline myself. This post is just a sort of a quick update, if you please.
  • Although it's monsoon time the rains are nowhere in sight. Obviously, absence of rain is the talk of the town these days. Which is not such a bad thing, I guess. Whenever I run out of things to say, I can always initiate a conversation about how awful the delayed monsoon is proving to be.
  • Apart from monsoon rain, the other thing that is not happening is my cooking. I have gone into a non-cooking mode for quite some time now. The recent acquisition of a refrigerator has not helped much. Bad!
  • I'm sometimes awed by the swiftness of people. The way people make life-altering decisions. The way they appear to be in control of what they do. The self-assurance. And look at me: I ponder hours about whether I should do the dishes, wash the clothes, and mop the floor; or, should I just lie down and stare at the ceiling. Exasperating!
  • Recently, I had been asked whether I have any long-term plans. Like, where do I want to be after, maybe, 5/10 years. Needless to say, I had none. But, now, I'm sort of getting the idea. Is it time to assess and evaluate?
  • The area I live in has recently got many new shops and stores and eating joints – and some old ones closed down. Meanwhile, many people I knew have moved away, changed jobs, bought property, got married, or did some such important thing. And, I'm wondering how much unchanged my life has remained in the last few years.
  • By the way, seriously, where has the last six months gone? I just realized that half of the year is over.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today, I was going through an online training session about time management (what else?) in office. This one was a recorded webinar, one where the participants were communicating with the presenter by typing in their responses onto the presentation slides.

So, during the presentation, one particular question the presenter asked was, "Why procrastinate?"

There were many fervent responses typed onto the slide. All true and relevant to various extent.

But the show-stealer response was, "I hope it will go away."

I felt like the person who wrote this was me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reading update

After an upsetting day, I come home, sprawl down on the bed, and open the pages of Unaccustomed Earth, a book I had been reading all throughout the week, often keeping myself awake late into the night. It was obvious that I liked the book. Jhumpa Lahiri’s words drew me like a force, in a quiet and unassuming manner. And it allowed me to take a peep into others’ life and forget my own. But, well, there were moments when the peep into others’ life gave a glimpse of the pain and wonder that lay buried within self, freshly coming alive from the recess of forgotten memories. And that, probably, is the triumph of Jhumpa Lahiri’s fictional characters; they allow us to feel the pain and alienation of their lives in a way few fictional characters can.

Long back, I had been stumped by the stories in Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut short story collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, which I had read when I was still in college. I realize now that there were some pretty sloppy stories in that collection; but, nonetheless, some of the stories have withstood the test of time and still remain etched in my memory, the characters still alive like I’ve seen them in real life. In fact, I can still recall the way some of the stories – A Temporary Matter, Sexy, and The Third and Final Continent – touched me. Of course I was young and impressionable back then, but I have a feeling that I’ll like them even if I reread these stories today.

The next book of Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake, didn’t come my way for a long time. And when it finally came, I didn’t get a chance to finish it. Till date it remains half-read, and I have ambivalent feelings towards that.

Now, with Unaccustomed Earth, I am again back to the fold, gleefully admiring the stories contained in this collection. Some of the stories in this collection had kept me awake late into the night, and these sleepless nights are probably my compliments to these stories. I have often come across comments disparaging Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing as being confined to the Indian diaspora. I don’t care much about such comments, of course. I have liked these stories and that’s it. Period. As long as she can invent stories of such quality drawn from the limited milieu of Indian (read Bengali) diaspora and still not appear hackneyed, I have no issues reading about her stories.

Among other books I recently read, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies was a bit of let-down; Irène Némirovsky’s All Our Worldly Goods was pretty good (am picking up Suite Française next); and Qurratulain Haider’s Fireflies in the Mist was an absorbing read.

Books are piling up, unread, beside my bed at an alarming rate, and my pulse races just by looking at them and imagining how much catching-up I have to do. Sigh!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A summer day

When I wake up and get ready, it is still dark outside. I load my bag with food and water and come out on the road. At the railway station, however, it’s already busy. Trains arrive and leave, people jump in and out of them. Like any other time of the day.

The day breaks as the train picks speed. The sunlight touches the trees and fields near the railway track. The morning breeze ruffles our hair. Gradually, the city thins out, the buildings and shops give way to wide open fields. After about an hour’s travel, our train is already on the hills and is passing through several tunnels. Far below, in some village, smoke is rising out of a hut.

As soon as we alight at the platform, we run towards the bus station, hop into a bus (lucky that got there in time), and travel for one more hour to reach a dusty little place from where our walk starts. After rushing around since morning, this tranquil place charms us with the very first look. We cross a tiny primary school (it’s closed today, being a holiday), a small shop, and then take the road that goes up in the hills.

During our climb up the hill, we come across several small groups of villagers, all dressed in festival clothes, ambling down to the hill. We find out the reason of festivity soon enough, when an old woman from one such group catches us for a little chat while we rest under a shade. Apparently, it’s the wedding day for one of the boys from the village on top of the hill, and the whole village is heading towards the wedding. And as if on cue, the groom also appears shortly, with garlands around his neck and a bright headgear, but, strangely, walking bare-feet. He gives us a shy grin as he passes us by. We give him an encouraging smile in return.

We finally reach the pinnacle of the fort, after negotiating a steep climb. It’s a small fort – just a few caves and water tanks, one dilapidated stone gate, and one solitary cannon. After moving around the place for some time, we find a shaded place sit down for lunch. And there, looking lazily at the valley below and the nearby hills, I gobble down two paranthas and two gulab jamuns.

The climbing down proves to be extremely difficult – the heat exhausts us completely. The good thing, however, is that the hills are full of wild karonda fruits. We pick the ripe tangy-sweet fruits – eat as much as we can and stash the rest in the polythene bags to carry home.

Rest of the return journey goes pretty uneventfully. We negotiate two bumpy tempo rides to reach the railway platform and then catch our train back.

Of course, this isn't the advisable way to spend a summer day – out in the sun when the temperature soars to 41 degree centigrade. But, well, I needed to go away somewhere, especially after the insane April I had gone through.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

All in a day

  • This morning, while still in bed, I heard a cuckoo sing. It felt so good that I decide to stay some more time in bed, and practice a little bit of whistling myself. Well, I suck at whistling and I got late for office, but doesn’t matter.
  • The Food Bazaar has already started stocking mangoes. Is it mango time already? They kind of look shriveled and emaciated. But, mangoes are good nostalgia material. Reminds me of hailstorms. You know, back then, hailstorms were so much fun, because we could run out and collect fallen mangoes.
  • The eucalyptus tree in front of the balcony is full of new leaves. A few amaltas trees on the roadside are showing off gorgeous yellow bunches of flowers, dangling like chandeliers off the branches. In the nearby hills, some unknown trees have shed all their leaves and are donning pink flowers instead. In a few more weeks, I hope, the fiery red gulmohars, for which I seem to have a soft spot, will also join in.
"the memories of last spring"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Memories of mountains, lost tongues, and encroaching birds

  • The place where I go the other day to withdraw money from an ATM has a new shining office of a travel company. You know the ones that sell holiday packages and arrange for your travel and stay at exotic locations. I am briskly walking past it when, through the glass walls, I see names of popular holiday destinations emblazoned all over the walls of the brightly lit office. And there, among other names, I see Naukuchiyatal. Not a very popular name perhaps (at least, not as popular as Nainital), but it rings a bell in my head. My steps stop briefly there as the splendour of the Kumaon hills come out from the recess of memory – tall trees, winding roads, deep gorges, shady groves, crisp air, and the distant towering cliffs of the Himalayas. Later in the evening, when I am struggling to cross the busy road on my way home, I think of the languid afternoon walk from that trip in the hills, and my lips curl in an imperceptible smile.
  • A recent article I read says that about 2500 languages of the world are presently endangered, out of which 199 languages have fewer than 10 speakers left. This data comes specifically from the UNESCO report UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Piqued, I did a search there for the language ‘Koch,’ which is my mother tongue (if I strictly go by the definition, i.e., the language I inherited from my parents, even if I cannot speak it properly myself) and I found it to be listed as a definitely endangered language, with only about 31000 speakers at present. It seems, with globalization, as we move towards a more homogeneous world, there are many aspects of our lives that are being quietly wiped away. I don’t know whether to feel sad about the dwindling numbers or accept it as an inevitable sign of changing times. Yes, I agree that we should protect languages like we try to protect endangered flora and fauna, but eventually isn’t it time that determines what should survive and what should perish.
  • There is a family (I guess?) of crazy doves that lives on the cornices of the building where I live. They are forever looking for a chance to get into my house and drive me nuts. Whenever I leave the kitchen window open, they come in and create a big mess throwing things around. Previously, they had broken a bottle of soya sauce, and a few days back they broke the handle of a cup, besides many other smaller mischiefs at regular intervals. Enraged, I have tried a few times to trap them and teach them a lesson, but they are always quicker than me. And once they have flown out at a safe distance, they sit quietly and peck each other playfully as if nothing has happened, all the while giving me a nonchalant look. Occasionally, they also make a big ruckus and wake me up from my nap. Whoever thought of doves being a symbol of peace obviously was never troubled by a family of unruly doves. But, well, I guess one has to learn to live with neighbours, however obnoxious they seem. Well, while we are talking of birds, you may want to have a look at the clever crows as well.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


As it happens on Sunday afternoons, I am lazy and drowsy. But, well, I have a deadline and I have to finish something; so I try to keep myself awake and work. The going gets difficult at times though, and I have to take short breaks once in a while to get my concentration back. A little pacing inside the room, a little absent-minded gaze on the walls, a cursory look at the pile of books by my side, a quick snacking of fruits (oranges today) – one of these methods eventually gets me rejuvenated and I get back to my work. The concentration, on an average, stays between half an hour and one hour. After that, of course, it’s time for the next break. Indeed, how much lazier can one get!

So, I was practicing the absent-minded-gaze this afternoon, when my eyes fell on the multiple unread books lying in small heaps all around. I should mention here that I have a habit of tossing up books all around the room and it takes about a week to turn neatly stacked books into a mess that I lovingly create. It’s not easy to understand why I do it, but I would love to call it ‘carefully careless reading’ if that can help me do away with being messy.

Well, for those who’ve known me, nothing new in all these, of course. What is new about today, however, is that I happened to be quite amused this afternoon by looking at the way these piles of books were lying. So, on one side of my pillow lay books of Murakami’s short stories with Nalini Jonses’, both half read, with pages open, spine up, flat upon their bellies. On the other side lay unread books by three writers, as disparate as they can be – Alice Munro’s short stories and Thomas Mann’s grave-looking novel sandwiching the newbie writer Siddhartha Deb (poor Deb, who knew he would ever come between such heavyweights). The other bed on which I sit and work, I find that the scene is a little more crowded. Here, Vikram Seth’s slim travelogue is sitting atop Marquez, Guenter Grass, and Vikram Chandra (which, incidentally, is a giant book, enough to serve as a mini pillow). Beside this stack is another one where Kamila Shamsie’s feisty (bright and colorful cover) novel is jostling for space with Dario Fo’s memoir, Rana Dasgupta’s modern-day fables of stranded passengers on their way to Tokyo, and some other authors who I’m suddenly too lazy to write down now. But, of course, I cannot get away without mentioning the Qurratulain Haider’s novel, which sits alone, a little farther from the hustle and bustle, as if it decided to do so on its own will. Probably, some books do have their own personality, after all.

Hmm, enough of running wild, I guess. The work beckons me again.

PS: Barring a couple of them, all these books are waiting to be picked up some day. Sigh!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Strange worlds

I’ve earlier mentioned about my liking for fiction. But, in fiction too, I have a particular liking for short stories, which I probably haven’t mentioned earlier. Anyway, what I’m getting at is: these days my readings are usually so novel-centric that short stories do not get as much attention, although it was short stories that attracted me to books in the first place. In fact, not just stories in books, I also grew up listening to stories narrated by my grandmother. So, the taste of stories actually built up even before I picked up a book.

My earlier reading of short stories revolved around simple narratives, where something always happened, someone died or lived happily ever after, someone got punished or rewarded. They were linear, straightforward, and easy to read. I devoured them. Those were days of simple unbridled joys.

Then came the discoveries of other short stories – more experimental – not necessarily concerned with time span, more with the inner workings of the characters. And sometimes, the characters behaved in a manner so uncouth and unbecoming (so I thought back then) that I was startled to no end. In these stories, people behaved in manners not deemed proper, there were no happy endings; well, sometimes no endings at all. And not to mention, sometimes, the stories touched on themes that were probably not meant for young readers like me. But, I read them anyway, with palpitating heart and a strange awakening of something inside that was all hazy yet attractive. I was lucky in a way that nobody monitored what I read. Those were the days of strange discoveries, unknown fears and joys. And, probably, those days are still not over, never will. I'm still discovering stranger worlds.

Anyway, the reason I blabbered all these is because I had been reading Haruki Murakami’s excellent collection of short stories Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (link to a review of the book), which is full of strange, elliptical, and yet delightful stories. Many a times, after reading a story from the book, I throw the book aside, come out to the balcony, stare outside and wonder who these people in the stories may be.

Well, I guess I shouldn't wonder. I would probably appear as strange if someone writes a story about me. Or, about anyone else for that matter.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I don’t know if you may have noticed earlier, but there were many times when I came very close to give up writing this blog for various reasons – caught up with work, nothing to write about, worried about money and career, depressed with life, unhappy with the shoddy attempts at writing, etc. But so far, somehow, I have remained unsuccessful to bring it to a complete end. I invariably came back every time after a brief hiatus.

I was going through one such phase again. And, well, this time it came pretty close to an end. Or, so I thought. I was almost convinced that this blog was going nowhere – it can just as well be done away with and left alone to die a quiet death.

The last few days, I must admit, I swung like a pendulum, thinking over it. I had no obvious answers either way. And I almost lost my sleep trying to decide. However, I later realized, from the little I know about the workings of my mind, that given a lifetime, I would still be indecisive about it.

I know it seems funny that I could have been agitated over such a petty thing. After all, why could it even matter in any real sense? Seriously, I still cannot understand why I should’ve lost my sleep for something like this. But, well, I guess I don’t understand many things about me anyway.

Okay, so if you are reading this, you can see that I did finally make the decision. But, it was an impulsive decision, like always, and I can’t say what good will come out of it. Moreover, it really could have gone either way, just like the toss of a coin. The reason that it didn’t go the other way, is purely accidental, and therefore beyond any explanation.

I can see that this has turned out to be a strange post, very unusual for a first post of the new year. Don’t know what this portends.

Anyway, for now, I am back.