Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A letter from Israel

Life has a habit of surprising us, I'm saying this because one fine day I received this bit of very personal information in an official communication from a colleague in Israel.

He, I imagine, would have been pleasantly surprised to find somewhat of a Jewish name in far-off India. And I was equally pleased to receive these following words -

"You might find it interesting that your first name "Shakul" means: a person who is responsible and gives a good thought to things before he/she makes a move. Shakul comes from the word "lishkol", which means to weigh stuff, like fruits for example. :-) I thought I write it to you even that it has nothing to do with the CSN."

Thank you Roy for taking the time and effort to provide me with something that I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life. And now I can tell my mom where the most probable origin of my name lies :)

The entropy of elegance

Can we say something without saying everything? What determines the threshold of words to express our ideas? And what is elegance anyways?

Haven't we all faced that time where we could have said something in a better way? A witty repartee, a quick retort. A swan gliding on a stream; watching as the interlocutors' questions unravel on themselves.

Somewhat like an implosion, eating up its dust. How beautifully unrealistic. Do you remember the scene where an expression says it all? No words could have expressed whatever that gesture did, not so perfectly at least.

Why do we still cling to poetry and aphorisms to express and understand the world around us? Does a limiting structure guide and compress our expression into a powerful idiom? I believe it does. Words in an insipid sentence lose their rhythm and convey a meaning that is bland to clerical precision.

How many times has a legal paragraph stirred you? It makes perfect, technical sense and yet it conveys nothing. It just trots along mechanically, without breaking a sweat, while our fallible minds and hearts respond to that mystic rhythm of line and metre.

An elegance conjured out of words, their placements, their meanings and contradictions and the apparent dissonance between them. A harmony from the entropy of alphabets.

I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

                   - Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An anthology of Urdu poetry

I have to admit it is one of  the most prized books in my collection, being my first and only copy of Urdu poetry, gifted so thoughtfully by Raj.

Urdu is a fascinating language, so delicate and graceful that you cannot go wrong with it even if you were to pronounce the basest syllables of it. It gives human speech a whole new dimension, an almost unspeakable aura of ethereal beauty. And to think that it was born in the military camps of the Persian rulers of India; a child of Pharsi and Hindustani.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My alarm clock

I just unearthed the alarm clock from my college days.It had been lying in a pile of forgotten belongings for these past five years, until I decided to rescue it. A battery change later, it's ticking off cheerily and has even assured me with its shrill electronic dual tone alarm.

Hmmm ... wonder why I feel so rejuvenated, so young because of a ticking clock. Isn't it supposed to work the other way? The clock running our youth down, grimly indicating to us the fleeting nature of time.

I guess it reminds me of my college days, when it would sit pretty on top my study table and when my life used to be regulated by its two unequal whiskers. All these years, I have been free of it, waking and sleeping and slouching as I please but today I have found that determined friend who will goad me to a schedule.

Its good to have friends.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

She left me with the kids

I had a feeling that she would do this, enter my home, use me and then leave me stranded with the kids. All my restless anticipation and even my caution couldn't save me from the situation I'm in, her three kids are on my hands now.

5:30 P.M. Well I came back earlier than usual from office, and there she was, sleeping with the kids. A small confrontation and she rushed out without a word. Out ... out of the window??! Left her three new-born kittens on my inept hands, all barely a few hours old and still blinking and mewing at the world they were brought in. Colossal!

5:40 P.M. My cupboard is in a mess. A couple of my shirts have crap all over them and I don't have enough milk in the house. Had to rush out and buy a dropper and a couple of packs of milk, just in case they got hungry and made me sit up all night. Though I know that felines are known to be less troublesome than their canine colleagues. But, just in case.

6:30 P.M. I have been locked out of my own room; I've switched-off the lights and kept her babies in a shoe-box lined with a used tee-shirt. They seem to be quiet and comfortable, no noise from their quarters. I'm hoping the mother returns to claim her babies, I'm not in a position to play a surrogate parent to them. Heck! I'm not even married yet.

7:30 P.M I do a quick check on the kittens, they seem to be asleep, oblivious of their missing mother. I start making dinner.

9:00 P.M. Just finished with my dinner, I peep in to find that two of the three have vanished. The mother had quietly slunk into my room, grabbed her kids by the neck and made good her escape from my first floor window. The single kitten is mewing and mewing and mewing for its mother.

10:00 P.M. I'm praying that the mother acrobatically carries off her third kid as well. I decide to check on the last kitten in half an hour.

10:30 P.M. I cannot hear the mewing any more, so I tip-toe into my room and switch on the lights and expect to see the disappearing act once again. Huh?! The last one is still there. Has she forgotten it? Doesn't she want this one? Hmm...I'm scratching my head.

12:00 P.M. Last check before I settle down to sleep in the hall, I can safely affirm I never expected to vacate my room for a kitten. You little packet of trouble :)
Ooh! Suddenly the shoe-box is empty! Mrs. Cat has successfully rescued her babies from the clutches of the evil Ogre. A toast to all the moms.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chooran waalaa

Its been a while since I last thought about that old man who we only knew as the Chooran waalaa. He was entirely unremarkable in his appearance; a small, dark, bald man who would always wear a white dhoti-kurta. In the 1990's he seemed an anachronistic relic of pre-Independence era. A man with nothing on him except a basket full of chooran and sweet and sour pellets that made your mouth tingle.

I remember him coming to where we used to play in the summers, calling out hoarsely in his guttural voice, selling to us his little joys of life. Two pocketful of goodies worth Rs. 2; there was nothing too expensive then. Not even fun.

Now and then I saw him walking along the road under the hot summer Sun with nothing but that basket on his head. He was a poor man. I often wondered what had happened to his family because he seemed too old for work like this. I don't think he ever complained about his fate.

We used to share our favourite spot in the canal near my home with him. Summers were just endless hours in the canal, thrashing about in  that cool water, trying to catch some fishes which somehow never survived more than two days at home. I still think that it was the tap water that killed them. Like the municipal corporation that killed our canal and overlaid it with a wider road.

His lunch was invariably in the old village temple near my home, where he used to put his basket down and chat with the man who pretended to be the priest. Though we knew he was no more than a refugee. Time was so simple then, you knew everyone around you and everyone knew you. Somehow all of it just went away; you went away - to college, got a job, started earning and lost him to memories.

And then you saw him again, still in his white dhoti-kurta, his skin still as dark as charcoal except for a huge scar on his chest, and you knew that this was the end. Somewhere a voice went silent, like your canal, covered, hidden and to be forgotten.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Namesake

I have always been a little uncomfortable with my name, it was, as a lot of people said, "unique". I had to spell and pronounce and correct a hundred other people whenever they would ask me my name.
Imagine my surprise when I was chasing around the ball in a football game and someone kept shouting for me . Confused, I looked up and saw that there was another guy in the opponent team with my name! Travesty? More of a release rather, because from that moment on I knew that there was another guy who would be sharing my burden.

Why write about it today? Well, because weirdly enough I shook his hand today. It was a bit surreal to hear someone introduce himself as "Shakul", and I was stupidly wondering that how could he know my name.
He smiled again and repeated, my mind rebooted in the mean time, saving me from some mild embarrassment. "Of course", I muttered and managed a retard's grin. It took us ten years to finally meet, and under such circumstances.

You see, he is the guy who will be doing the arrangement for the tent, lighting and music system for the various events in the four day long itinerary of my brother's traditional, Hindu wedding. He handed me his card and pointed out his name and number, and we talked about where to fix the tent and the lights. We again shook hands before he left, I suspect it to be some vague feeling of closeness. Anyways the good news is, I will be seeing him pretty often for the next few days.

P.S. He seems to be a pretty cool customer compared to staid old me. I flipped his card and saw DJ SHAKUL emblazoned across it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Happy New Year

Every blogger worth his salt has already done a special post wishing his readers on the turn of this millennium's first decade. Of course, not me. I have been neck deep in tasks to finish and deadlines to meet before I take off for my brother's wedding.

New year came and went and I merely nodded to welcome it. It had been pretty mundane till I got a hand-made greeting. It was a pleasant surprise to get a sentiment that had been expressed especially for me. I really can't remember when was the last time someone had so painstakingly made one for me.

After all, with electronic communication killing off the joy of having the postman ask for you, this is but a rare pleasure now. Nobody mails me except the credit card people sending those typed, impersonal mails once a month. So I'm going to keep it safe and read it whenever I'm feeling unwanted and small, it'll surely make me smile.