Saturday, December 11, 2010


  • Tired of walking aimlessly, and feeling hungry, I choose a place, aptly named Sidewalk, where I sit down on their roadside table and wait for my sandwich. From the nearby temple, I see three devout-looking, sari-clad housewives coming out, chatting amongst themselves. As they are walking by, they stopped briefly near my table, and engaged in some mild argument. Then one of them turned to me and asked in a rather crisp and confident English, "To go to Esquare, do we take a right or left?" I tell her the way to the multiplex, and she departs with a hasty thanks.

  • At the big store, I look bewildered at the rack of yoghurts various brands, big and small sizes, flavoured and plain. As I stand confused, a girl walks up and starts looking up the same rack, all the while chirping on her phone. She is so small-built, I almost mistake her for a school-going kid, until I hear her voice clearly, which is much mature and womanly. "You always think I lie, don't you? But I never lie," she speaks on her phone and then walks away, without picking any yoghurt.

  • A little detour from the bustling main road takes me to this neat residential area built around a splendid-looking lake. On the edge of this lake are inviting green lawns, leafy green trees, and serpentine walkways. As I walk by, I find this elderly woman reading newspaper. She is sitting on a low wall, basking in the mild winter afternoon sun, and her dangling feet making happy movements midair, just like a schoolgirl.

  • After my weekend vegetable shopping from the mandi, on my way back home, I pass by this narrow alley with rows of tiny cramped houses. In front of a blue-painted door, a frail-looking pregnant woman is slowly putting a bucketful of washings on the clothesline, her hands barely reaching the high-strung rope.

  • At the traffic signal, the girl on the motorbike stops abruptly and looks at her watch with evident impatience. No sooner that the light turns to green, she zooms past in a flash, her hairs flying like a running horse's mane.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


The kitten died. Probably, in its sleep, quietly, lying on the bundle of rags that served as its bed. In the cold morning, its tiny body was was stiff and its head awkwardly tilted. One of its unmoving paw was still touching the milk bowl.

It had a brief period of stay in the house from being an abandoned, wildly meaowing, tiny kitten rescued from the backyard to being a warm ball curled up at the feet when watching TV hardly a month.

Now it lies buried in a small pit, which will get swamped in the next monsoon, and then overgrown with weeds.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Post match summary

After the games are over, we lie down amidst the scent of wet earth and trampled grass.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


April has brought in several colors. Increasingly, I can see red, pink, lavender, and yellow flowers sprouting from seemingly unexpected corners -- by the roadside, in front of the apartment building, near the office building. Out on a walk this afternoon, I spotted these blooming gulmohars.

And some yellow flowers that I could not identify.

PS: I'm resorting to the old tactic of putting up photos when words are becoming difficult to come by.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sacred Games

In my recent effort to catch up on dust-gathering, neglected books from my pile, I picked up Sacred Games sometime at the beginning of the month. Obviously, I was being ambitious because running into 900 odd pages, Sacred Games is a mammoth book, and looked daunting in every way – more so because of the fact that my copy was hard-bound and wrist-spraining heavy. But, once started, I was surprised how the pages flew once, and how it made me eager for the unfinished pages. In fact, many a times, I found myself hurrying through things so that I could go back to the book and resume reading. This is something that doesn’t always happen.

After A Suitable Boy, which was even longer by a few hundred pages, Sacred Games has to be the only such big-size book I could ever manage to finish. And in fact, though these two are very disparate – not only in their settings, but also in their tones – I repeatedly found myself comparing them both. People argue that besides the voluminous size and the sprawling saga there are no common threads that can link the two books – while one is set in set in the languorous time of just-independent India, the other is set breathtakingly close to our time. However, the common thread to me lay in the detailing – each has narrative that are painstakingly developed, a very close and compassionate eye for fleshing out the characters, a subtle way of conveying emotions through nuanced gestures.

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a comparison (which I don’t like to do), so I shall stick to my feelings for Sacred Games only. Like always, I begin a book by reading the blurb first. And the blurb of Sacred Games described it somewhat as a cat-and-mouse story of a disillusioned policeman versus a gangster of organized crime, and how their stories intertwine in the backdrop of a metropolis. As it turns out, this description is hugely inadequate in telling us what the book is about. Yes, it does have the crime thriller bit, the occasional racy suspense, but at the end it goes much beyond. Although the metropolis and policemen and criminals occupy much of the space, it carefully traverses to spread into a big canvas interspersed with a mind-boggling array of characters and plots. So, you have the reference of small towns of the Hindi heartland, far-flung corners of north-eastern India along with its insurgency and border problems, the glimpse of secret service agents, life of illegal migrants from neighboring countries, workings of Naxalite camps, the spiritual gurus, and even the horrors of partition. Plus, there are the heartbreaks, betrayals, adultery, extortion, murder, smuggling, police-criminal nexus, and, in unusual ways, tenderness and love as well. In short, enough to get you hooked.

However, despite such a spicy concoction, Sacred Games holds on to its own – it says everything matter-of-factly, explores the inner workings by going beyond the superficial, and Vikram Chandra, the author, does this with compassion and style. A special mention should also go to two things I found compelling – one, how Bollywood plays a big role in the whole book, right from the songs, films, filmstars, to how the characters are often molded by this invisible juggernaut; two, the language, which so heavily draws from the language of the metropolis in which it is set, throwing unadulterated cuss-words, film song lyrics, names of food items, mythologies, and many other words of endearment, disappointment, and anger. In fact, Bollywood and underworld is so heavily used that, at times, the real and fictitious characters are found mingling delightfully close at hand. And, about the language, it suffices to say that Sacred Games may have lost out much of its charm had it not been the unabashed use of language.

And finally, as I closed the book, I realized how the book carefully entrusted me, the reader, with more knowledge than any of the characters in it had. All the protagonists see a picture that is essentially incomplete and there are many things that are not revealed to them; they do not see the undercurrents that flow underneath, the motives, and the reason that drives each other’s behavior. In that, the reader gets an elevated position from where he/she can make more sense of what is happening below. However, ironically, this privileged knowledge does not give us comfort; it only deepens our feeling of helplessness as we watch the game go on.

A much satisfying read and well worth the wrist sprain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love, scribbles, and margins

Sometimes, books borrowed from libraries prove to be rather interesting – you lay your hands on unknown authors and surprising topics. However, the book I’m currently reading, Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, is proving to be interesting in ways more than one. Of course, it’s a rather interesting book – a non-fiction in the guise of fiction – where the two central characters are essentially used to emphasize and illustrate the emotions associated with falling in and out of love. Love itself is clinically dissected and various philosophical thoughts are liberally used with much deadpan humor. I’m halfway through the book and enjoying it. Besides what the book is about, however, there’s another interesting thing about the copy in my hand. A previous reader (a much involved and love-struck, I assume) has, with his/her pencil, made marks in the margin (scribbled stars) where he/she found it rather affecting. What’s even more interesting is that the stars have grown in number (much like the movie star ratings) according to the degree of emotion the person felt at the time of reading it. For example, a line like “Stendhal believed that love could be brought about only on the basis of a fear of losing the loved one…” managed to get one star, but the line “Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally ‘together’ – when subjectively, we feel dispersed and confused.” managed to get three stars. At places, the sentences have also been underlined (which is probably pretty common), the stars have grown in size (this must be unique), and a smiley has appeared (a result of too much chatting?). And finally, as if to sum up, on the last page there is also a list of important page numbers that this reader has made based on his/her reading and scribbled a line above the list that read, curiously enough, as “time wasting proposal” (whatever that means!).

Needless to say, this reader’s antics have heightened my reading pleasure. I personally don't like scribbling in the margins, but I'm ready to waive off for this margin-scribbling reader who seemed rather besotted with the whole idea of love. The author of the book must have been happy to find such a curious and keen reader who he’d been able to affect in such profound ways. I, for one, would have been.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Someplace else

  • Standing near the timber bridge (from where I clicked the photo), you can see two distinct trees – a tall coconut tree and a rather dwarfish banyan tree – standing, rather forlornly, in a vast field. Except for them, the landscape looks flat, empty, and quiet. “There used to be another coconut tree, a pair, and the house was just in the middle of them,” my father said when I showed him the photo. He then went on and showed me where the small pond with blooming lotuses was, where the neighbor’s boundary began, and where, during monsoon, he put traps and caught fish. “Three decades back, there was a village here and this was our home,” he said.
  • The mango tree in their courtyard, my mother used to say, was of indeterminable age. According to her, it had the same old and gnarled look ever since she remembered – it neither showed much vigor nor did it die. Rather, this tree weathered many a storm and acted as a center of all household activity – during Summers, it used to provide cool shade; in Winters, the communal fireplace used to come up under this tree; on a flat stone near its root, masalas used to be ground; and the buffaloes used to lie around it at night. In fact, one of my mother’s favorite stories about this tree was (which she described rather animatedly) how during the 71’s Bangladesh War stray bullets flew and wedged on the very trunk of this tree. The tree remains till date. But, the courtyard is now empty and there’s no one left to tell stories about the tree.
  • The temple atop the hillock is modest by every standard. When we reach the place, there’s none of the hullabaloo that usually surrounds a busy temple. Encouraged by the lovely mild day of Winter, I walked about the place to explore more. Although never been to this place, I had heard many a stories related to this temple. For example, I knew the big entrance with statues of twin lions atop it, the adjacent pond where shoals of fish came up to feed on thrown food, the flight of stairs where rows of lights were lit on deepavali night, the little garden in front from where fresh flowers were plucked every morning, the nearby tomb of an exceptionally tall Mughal general who came here to conquer but ended up dying in a bout of malaria. It was funny how I knew the place without ever seeing it. And maybe because I had those stories swarming in my head, sitting on the steps I started conjuring up an image – of a young woman slowly climbing up the stairs, her bare feet dusty from all the walking, her hair still wet from the bath, her forehead glistening with perspiration, her slightly smudged vermilion bindi shining in the sunlight, her hands holding a puja thali, her face lit up with a smile – of my young mother.