Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An anecdote

I woke up really early today to catch that extremely early train they call The Taj Express. I was going to Agra to get some work done and I was a little nostalgic and excited to be back after four long years. I kept peering out of the window and wondering if everything was still the same or had it changed.

I arrived at Raja Ki Mandi (RKM for us), a tad inconvenienced and looking for a Prasaadhan(or toilet, for those of us who do not converse in such chaste Hindi). There was a long queue of gentlemen, all patiently waiting for their turn inside the facility. An elderly sweeper, who chanced to come in was so overcome by his love for humanity that he tried to do his best for us.
"Bhaiyya, baahar deewar per kar lo", he warmly confided to that noble group of Indian males who had resisted their primal urge to let go on the walls.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking a train to India

After a prolonged absence of four years, I finally fixed my date with Indian Railways again. I work in Bangalore and have my home in Dehradun (they are more than 2500 km apart), so usually I fly to Delhi but this time around I thought it would be an adventure to spend 33 hours on a train to Delhi. (Actually, I didn't, truth is air-tickets were too expensive.)

And an adventure it was, not it terms of exciting, adrenaline rushing moments but feeling the pulse of the vast nation that I call my home. I think if you really want to see India, you have to travel by railroad. Flying just whisks you up above the clouds, suspends your consciousness and then drops you right at the destination. It just abstracts the road you take to the point you want to get. Much like everything else we like to call "convenience".

Travelling on a train, is quite another matter. The engine and its retinue rush along the land, linking the various nondescript villages, barely known stations and huge junctions and big cities. With the airlines, you just get to see the big, important cities; with railways, you see India. And its heartbreakingly beautiful. When you live in a big city long enough, you lose touch from the rest of the nation. Nothing quite brings you in contact with the forgotton hinterlands as a railroad.

I sat all day at the footsteps of my compartment staring out at the settlements that passed; the tiny huts with reddish-orange shingles on top or mud huts with rough fences made out of twisted, dried shrubs. There were large wastelands, too dry to produce anything but there were families still tilling and cultivating and hoping for a decent price for their labour. Almost everyone on the field was burnt deep-brown by the unforgiving tropical Sun. This was their price of labour. Sometimes they would look up and see rest of the world rushing by ahead of them. Did they ever think they were missing out on life?

The land changed when we got to Maharashtra, the soil was darker and thicker, plants were greener. This was a fertile land and you could tell by just looking at it. The people were again something very different from me and you, who still did penance once a year for the local deity and celebrated harvests. There were numerous temples dotting the land, all flying a single, somewhat triangular saffron flag. And as the train crossed the roads, I peered at all those faces waiting across the gates and wondered what their lives were like. I wondered if they were interested in mine.

Somewhere after Nagpur, the light started to fade and then I could see men cycling back to their unlit homes and the faint glow of the kitchen fires that must have welcomed them. The land suddenly started rising and the train was running in between a bed of rock, there were three tunnels that darkened the compartments and caused the lights to be switched on. There were a couple of smokers who came out to the door but I held on to my spot, after all these were the dying minutes of my train journey. Come tomorrow morning and I would be the city-dweller again.

Friday, October 22, 2010


A Friday is one great day to spend in the comfort of a completely deserted office floor and pretend that your living room has grown to a size you would ideally like it to be. Hmmm...as I stretch and start typing the random tumble of letters and words, I realize that I quite like it here. There are no prying eyes or a boisterous group, and in the soft glow of the evening, the place seems cozy.

I can wander around aimlessly, and just stare at the clouds from my sixth floor station and the distant flashes of lightning that grumble and growl. Threats of rain, and it really seems like its going to break out pretty soon, but I don't mind. Not today, I 'm happy.

Sometimes, all that it takes to give you that nice, easy feeling is something as trivial as a phone call. Everything looks up and better when you get to talk to someone you have been waiting for, the ritualistic eight hours of office or the traffic marred ride back to the house. Everything is at peace. Everything is perfectly beautiful. And you have an inwards smile.

Something inspires you to be better than you really are, nothing competitive, just a man who wants to improve. You want to read poetry, and wish and hope that someday you could write as beautifully as Cohen. Someday. Yet all you can do is listen to him.

Ah! The world is beautiful today.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I got a call from an old friend tonight, and it was the most satisfying conversation that I had all week. Have you ever noticed that usually most conversations that we (guys) have with anyone, are impersonal and discreet? There are a very few people with whom we really open up and talk about ourselves, our lives and our fears.

Here's how a general conversation flows for guys:
1. You say hey to your buddy
2. Proceed with some usual, friendly expletives if you are close.
3. Ask him how's life.
4. He asks you the same.
5. Go on goofing about some irrelevant topic.
6. Hang up.

And that's standard guy talk anywhere. No one talks about himself unless he is in some kind of trouble. That's the rule. Its funny I'm writing about this, because this was pointed out by this same friend (who called me today) of mine. At that time I had thought that it was weird of her to make that observation. Nobody wants to know if you have problems, especially your guy friends. Emotions make us jittery and unsure, humour is the cure-all in our universe.

However, humour isn't working as it used to.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jack Johnson: Surfer, poet, film-maker and a musician

I think I discovered Jack Hody Johnson around three years ago, he was there on FM. I had no idea who the guy was, singing "I can't always be waiting, waiting on you". To be fair, it sounded like another of those break-up songs, poetical remonstrances which would in any other way sound harsh but was rendered seductively melodious here.

But the germ had been planted, I went back and searched Last.fm (please try it if you are a music freak, its AWESOME!) for Jack Johnson and found one gem after another. The quietly acoustic settings with Jack singing in his mellow voice paints a calm, blue Ocean. It was a very different dimension in contemporary music that I had discovered and have faithfully followed.

There's  no extravagance in terms of musical arrangement or lyrical poetry,  thats because I guess he wants his songs to be heard and the lyrics to be understood and digested. But above all, his songs are a reflection of the peace that he has within, a quiet place of Zen that he has discovered and from where his music flows to meet us wafting across the airwaves.

It,s weird that you can actually connect so deeply with another human being whom you have never met and probably never will, but it's his music that does all the talking to me. Of course, writing about it now is the only way that I can feebly try to reply.

I think he is an exceptional human-being in a lot of ways; he was a champion surfer by 18, a critically acclaimed documentary maker, a songwriter and a very successful musician. Finally its the fact that he is never into controversies or chasing that elusive byte of fame that completes his persona and makes him so likeable.

Album List:
Brushfire Fairytales
On and On
In Between Dreams
Sleep Through the Static
To the Sea

Some of my personal favourites:

Good People
If I had eyes
A pirate looks on 40  (cover for Jimmy Buffet's original)
Upside Down
Plastic Jesus/Fall line
Better Together
Holes to heaven

P.S. I have always had this weird idea that Jack must be a really good cook, will ask him sometime when we meet ;)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Everyday conundrum

Somehow my eagerly awaited weekends always turn into hours swollen with boredom and ceaseless worrying. If its not my career hitting a trough, it's my life not being lived to the fullest. I always think that I should be doing more, enjoying more, travelling more and smiling more. To hell with worries and numbing, worrying thoughts; if only I was occupying my mind with other things I might just find that evasive nook of solace.

Does it bother other people too, I wonder. At least, I know a lot of genuinely happy, contented people who are settling down into the cozy hum-drum of domestic life. Meanwhile, I keep vacillating from one idea to another. Should I go for an MBA? Or should I just stick to my job? Should I take my guitar more seriously? What about football?
 A thousand and one options, and no decisions. None, at all!

Its just frustrating to have the knowledge of your faults but have no will to correct them. Its a little like being blessed with good taste but have no talent of your own, just being a critic on the fence. Pass judgement, lament, rant, applaud but make no contribution.

There's got to be more life in me than the one that I'm living. It's a passive existence with a gnawing feeling of the dullness that is eating away inside. Someone told me it's "emptiness". Turn to music or poetry or anything; find a vessel that will resonate to your tune.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Freedom at Midnight

India is impossible to define or confine in a few sentences. Here the wheels turn, halt, wobble, break-down and then complainingly start rolling again. Its a vast melting pot of people all thrown together to co-exist. India is everything, its a metaphor for life. There is no distant way to say what it is, you can never understand it unless you have felt it.

Its frustrating and limiting and then being free again. Its a land of heterogeneity, of races and cultures so diverse that they could fit a continent. And ironically we have been called a sub-continent :)

I don't intend to write up a primer to understanding India, it's as I said, to be experienced. However, as it is Independence Day today, I could not resist myself from watching a few black and white,grainy videos of our Freedom Struggle. They still give me goose-bumps, watching them is unlike anything I have seen in my life. Scores of people marching 400 km just to take up a handful of salt? Getting caned in most brutal fashion but not retaliate or run away? They were a different breed of people, fearless and self-less, not defying or destroying but calmly and persistently disobeying the Establishment. Yes, we did have our share of revolutionaries and proponents of armed struggle, but people embraced Satyagraha overwhelmingly and the struggle remained famously non-violent. Thats what makes me so proud to be a free child of India.
The images and videos lift me out of the mundane existence that we have become accustomed to and take for granted. They give me belief in the strength of our country and its collective humanity.

And a prayer for peace:

"Om dyo shaanti, Antarikshagwam shaanti
Prithvi shaanti, Aapah shaanti
Roshdyah shaanti, Vanspataya shaanti,
Vishwedeva shaanti, Brahma shaanti
Sarvagyum shaanti, Saa ma shaanti-re dhi.
Om shaanti, shaanti, shaanti."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BWSSB ... may I have some water please?

If you live in any of the big cities of India, chances are that you would have seen such days. The days when the taps whistle, water supply boards are untraceable and the water tankers make a killing. Well, except for me it has been almost 365 days of intermittent water supply and consistent bucket-hauling trips to a gracious neighbour's.

Now its become even better with everyone in my lane getting plenty of water but not a drop for us.

Incidentally ours is the last house and the combined curse (supposedly) of extremely low pressure and an upward bend in the pipe, makes it impossible for that holy liquid to trickle down to our parched tanks. And boy, when it does, do we feel blessed! So each day, my friend checks the meter below and announces the bad news solemnly "Buckets tomorrow".

Is it Karma? I don't really remember what I did to upset the Municipal Corporation gods, this past year has been hell. "Pay the linesman", confides our helpful neighbour, she has a private well in her house! Pay him? I would rather string him up.

You know that the situation is going to worsen when you can spy 100 liter drums being sold at your nearest departmental store. Oh yeah, I watch out for the signs.

Time to change the neighbourhood, suggestions anyone?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The curious case of my degree and some rum induced rant

My parents instilled the fear of karma into me, "Reap as you shall sow!" So here I am, already at the end of  four years of my professional life and still have no news of my engineering degree. Its a constant source of entertainment for my colleagues and friends, and an obvious thorn in the flesh for me.

If only I had studied and got into a decent college. Another "if only", the god damned thing seems to pop out everywhere in my life like a flaming Jack-in-the-Box. Its my mom's favourite lament, "if only ......".

So why am I thinking of my B.E. degree at midnight? Must be one of those Rum and Coke moments. Aaahh ... yes, we did after all have a great time stirring-up the muck in our lives today over a glass, under the cool breeze and star-light of Bangalore skies.

Did you notice that nothing works like alcohol to set loose a spirit of camaraderie? "You are not alone", thats what the conversation soothingly says to you and you slip away into its arms like a willing child. Of course, some annoying people turn to their blog!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A farewell

A close friend of mine will be leaving Bangalore soon, marking the way that we all are going to live our lives separately. Four years out of college, and it still hasn't sunk-in that we are gravitating away from the back-slapping chumminess that we share with our friends. But now friends will go their separate ways, and I will take mine and hope that we keep in touch.

I'm not particularly sad or broody about him leaving, its just that he won't be near enough for me to drop into his place every time I feel like. I'm going to miss him just like I miss the Dehradun winters, wistfully and retrospectively.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Deutschland raft!

They say an opportunity comes dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work... umm, I don't know, it looks a lot like football to me :) The lucky bastards of  the SAPLabs India football team are getting an enviable chance to tour Germany! How lucky is that?
Heheh ... well considering that I have been working there for the past two years and never got a chance to go for work, this seems like a great offer. Fly to Germany with all your buddies, have no work hassles, play football in the evenings and just roam around Europe in whatever free time that you get. Oh and I forgot, drink all the freshly brewed beer. Awesome!
So, duly, I have my passport photo snapped and my Visa form filled and my fingers crossed for a first taste of Europe.
P.S. any suggestions for places to visit WILL BE considered seriously!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Quality Shoe

My past two weekends have been sacrificed to shoe-hunting. Man, I feel like a girl! My male pride is hurt, I have never ever been this fussy about anything in my life. I'm not getting any decent, wearable pair of shoes for even 3k. Its a travesty! Its unthinkable! And it has pissed me off completely.

What's more, the sales-people they have in these huge air-conditioned stores are so bored with their work that they can't even try to show you anything. Sir, its right in front of you, help yourself. 

Whatever I want is way too expensive and whatever they offer, is what I wouldn't be caught even sleep-walking in. So there's a classic example of Life, sermonizes my brain. Yeah, yeah smart-ass.
Then suddenly a known melody fills out the ensuing gap with delightfully apt words...

 " You got your
   toecaps reinforced with steel,
   sole and heel,
   Make those tired feet feel like new.

   Take your pick,
   black or Brown
  Great for the country
   or the man in town,
   You're gonna need a quality shoe"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

User name already exists

That's the story for most of us late starters to the Web, the address is already taken. And English, being the common denominator with a paltry 26 alphabets, doesn't help either. 
The story is that I was checking out the WordPress online blogging thing, and well, there it was. I couldn't get a goddamned user name. Let me tell you that I'm very imaginative with words and letters, and I tried a lot of awesome names and mythology references, but the Server God wasn't appeased. I was vanquished. All the awesome names were taken by all the awesome people. 
So what can a guy do? Rant against the civilization.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old Ink

I was wondering when was the last time I wrote a real letter to someone, with a real pen and ink. The days seem almost hazy, I remember furiously scribbling down the last letter in my English Language exam addressed to God knows whom.
Ah, and yes, I almost forgot those four years at Engineering College were spent in the drudgery of University examinations, scribbling for grades twice a year.

But I'm actually missing the smell of a freshly filled fountain pen, the scratch of the nib as it works across the sheet of paper. Its a world that we have left behind, a world of letters and handwritten notes, of pens and letter-pads. Its makes me sad, though I know that we are in a better world and times, of electronic communication and instant status updates.

I have had this idea idly germinating in my mind to take up writing by hand once again. I have no rational reason for it, only a heart full of vague emotions and the ever growing dismay for the easy, at-your-service world. I'm not old or incapable, I want to do things with my own hand, see the world with my own eyes. I want to travel and jot down my experiences.

Maybe evolution is playing with me, kicking up my primal urge of self-reliance. I don't know, but I want to break-off with technology at some point and assert my own existence on the power of my animal will and sinews.