Friday, December 20, 2013

Part 5 - A Friday Evening, In a December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good

I am in no mood to move out of my house. I have no intention to meet this girl. Woman now, really. Why did I put myself in this situation, I wonder.

What's done is done. I am not the guy who makes plans and never shows up.

I am just the fool who makes some really stupid plans.

I get dressed quickly and pick up my stuff. I make sure I am carrying somethings that root me in my life. My watch and my cigarettes. These are the sole witnesses to my life. My totems, I guess one could call them. I am not sad. I am the fool who made stupid plans.

I pick up my overcoat trying to recall where I bought it. If it was with this girl, or worse still, if it was a gift from her, it could be construed as something it is  not. Try hard as it may, I can't recall. Forget it, I say to myself. It's not like I have any other protection against the December cold. I really need to go out someday and shop for some clothes.

And shoes. I realize, as I pick up my battered sneakers. The only good pair of shoes I have is the one I wear to office. And that's the case only because I get a hard time from the people who's sole objective in life is picking up a conversation. About anything. I have been part of the most inane conversations. Hell, I have started some too. I don't know the guy who goes to work every morning. That conformist is not me. I am me.

Every morning, while in the cab to office, I feel I go through a portal. The guy who enters that portal is me, but one who comes out is a version of me. I don't like him too much.

The one here with battered shoes, torn jeans (thank God that's not very unfashionable these days) and a single overcoat for protection against the Delhi winter, this is me.

With my faith affirmed in my identity (can't ever get enough of that, can you?) I step out of the house. My car is parked in some godforsaken corner. Yes, the city is struggling with too many cars. What surprises me, however, is that people say the city has a parking problem! Although that is factually correct, it doesn't paint the true picture. We can triple the total parking space in this city and within a couple of years that would fall short. So the real problem is the number of cars, isn't it?

I step into my car begrudgingly. In some parts of the world people love driving. I don't. In this city driving is a life threat. There are guys out there itching to pick up a fight. There is anger surging in this capital. Driving puts people in touch with their angst. It brings out the worst in people. All we need for peace, a simple minded person would say, is public transport. I am many things but simple minded is not one of them.

I drive to Hauz Khas Village (HKV). She is supposed to meet me there. I had offered to pick her up, thinking I should offer the deception of gentlemanly behavior. But the offer had lacked conviction. She has a keen ear (or eye, since we were chatting) for BS.

I reach HKV in 10 minutes. I park my car in 20. I am expected to get used to this. The day that happens, I will need a whole new identity for the new me.

I walk towards Imperfecto. Let me be clear. She chose the place. Not me.

Let me be clear, why I need to clarify that. It's a place that selectively picks up one dimension of conversation between two people and kindles it. It's the one called romance. The curtains, the candles, the moonlight, the wine, the tiny portions of food that you can't spill or make a mess with.

How do I know that? I have been there once before. With Karan. We ended up talking about our shared past. Quite sentimentally, at that. It was not a typical guy evening. It was really, really nice.

I see her walking towards Imperfecto, ahead of me. She hasn't seen me yet. In her dress, she looks exquisite. Her face, from afar, looks very different from how I remembered her. Or how Facebook shows it. She has gained a new composure in her strides. She exudes a confidence that was always so unique to her. If it was possible, the years have been very kind to her.

I better be very careful at this dinner.

I will look like a beast next to her.

Maybe then she needs to be careful. I shrug my shoulders and begin my march.

Mischief Managed

Monday, December 16, 2013

Part 4 - A Friday Evening, In A December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

As I am about to hit the "H" to start typing and say "Hi" to the guys, I notice a name on the chat panel on the left side of the gmail page. It's the girl I used to like back in my college. In a sudden surge of memories that cloud my mind, I start feeling a little disoriented. Meanwhile, the index finger on my right hand has run to hit the escape button, closing the current chat window.

So it's decided, I am not going for the movie after all. I ask my index finger. I have had just two beers but I could swear I saw the finger nod. It's not the first time I have had a conversation with my index finger. Check it here: A Promise to Die For

Any way, I ask my finger what does it plan to do next? I was hoping that the finger could rope in his other nine buddies and converse with the girl by themselves. As if reading my mind, the index goes down into my palm and asks his buddy on his right to stand up to greet me.

"Fuck you too, buddy" I say to my hand. I know it was too much to expect, but that does not justify name calling!

I stare at the name for some time. Choosing to delve deeper in my memories and relive the past. It provides me an escape from the boring present. A valve to let off some steam.

As if magically, a chat window with her name on the top pops open. My heart starts racing and I immediately check if any  of my fingers were being mischievous again. That wasn't the case. I look back at the screen and saw a "Hi" from the girl. She wants to talk to me too. I feel there is a warmth that starts spreading in my chest. Like a wide grin of the stupid heart. I shake my head to let the bugger know who's in charge. It's always my mind. I'll have it no other way.

"Hi," she is saying. The tab name on the top of the window is flashing her name intermittently with 'Inbox (0 Unread)'. There used to be a time when she was in my inbox, I think. The top page displays 20 emails at a time and of that 10 would be from her. We used to talk about all and sundry. There would be multiple conversation threads alive at a time. The to and fro of information from both us used to happen all the time. Now if I search with her name, the mailbox will take me at least two years back. In an inbox, that's a lot of time. 

I realize I am shaking a little. I haven't been able to resolve all the emotions from that time. Doesn't take a genius to figure that out. I had thought it was over it. It was way back in the past. Time, I believed, had healed me. But as it turned out, all that time had done was put a bandage over the wound. The moment that bandage was removed the wound down there was as fresh as ever. The raw, exposed wound stung like a thorn.

I pull my eyes from the blinking chat window with her name and stare at the wall. I know I am not poised enough to talk to her right now. I should just kill the window. I can apologize later that I didn't see her ping. I can say that I did not get a notification and it went straight to the archives. These excuses of bad internet connections still worked, I thought. They had somehow never vanished from our dictionary even after the internet had improved.

"Aah, what the hell..." said the voice of brashness in my head. The heart. I knew the devil would resurface. It has never conceded defeat to reason. 

"Hi," I wrote back.

Girl - It took you a while to write back.

Me - Yeah, I just saw your ping. Whatsup?

I refused to get on the defensive at the start of the conversation. Can't guarantee that for the rest of it.

Girl - No problem. 

I haven't apologized, I wanted to write. With one of the smileys that roll their eyes. I knew I wouldn't be able to find the smiley even if I had 10 minutes to reply. So I just waited.

Girl - I am in Delhi for a project. Last I heard you were here too. 

Me - Yeah. I am in Delhi. How long have you been here?

I knew the answer to that. I knew the precise date. But why let her in on that? 

Girl - I came here late last month. And I am here another week. At least.

Me - That's nice. Are you liking it?

Girl - Yes and no. But this isn't my first time here. So it's OK.

Me - Yes, of course. But it's just quite cold here right now. Isn't it?

Aah, weather. The quintessential small talk!

Girl - Not really. It's better than last year, I heard.

Me - Yes, that's true. I quite like the whether right now. It's nice and sunny during the day. I sometimes get to catch lunch outside. It's really nice.

Girl - Weather*

Oops. I thought.

Me - :P

Girl - :P you'll never learn!

That's the first time in the course of this conversation either of us has acknowledged our shared past. Not a good sign. Come on, think of something else. Quick!

Girl - Anyway, do you have plans for this evening?

I heard the hammer come down. This is the trickiest bit. I mean it's one thing to let your friends know you haven't got any plans for a Friday. But it's a whole another thing to let this girl know...

Me - Umm, yeah. I was planning to watch a movie.

I lied.

Girl - Nice. Hobbit? Who are you going with? Is there anyone I know?

What now? She wants to join in for the movie? No, I can't deduce that from that. Look at me, even my thoughts are less articulate. Brain freeze!

Me - No. I don't think so. It's not the college junta.

I lied again. Damn. Why am I doing this!

Girl - Ohh, cool. Let me know how you find it.

Me - Yes, sure thing. 

Then with shaking hands, I added - Anyway, what are your plans for the evening?

Girl - Nothing yet. I was supposed to be working late preparing for a meeting on Monday. But that got cancelled just now and my evening just freed up.

Damn it. Why couldn't I think of that! She's good. 

Me - Ohh, that's nice. And not nice. 

What am I saying! I shook my head. Not for the first time that night. Is it the beer? No, can't be. I've had just two.

Girl - I know what you mean.

Ok, so she still gets my gibberish. She always could look through the improperly constructed phrases and get the essence behind the words. Me, I am quite stuck up in this regard. I need the communication to be unequivocal and articulate. Normally I am that way. This is a special situation where my mind has slowed down and my heart and motor muscles are leading the way. This gibberish is exactly what happens when logic takes a back seat, I told my heart.

Girl - I heard Hauz Khas Village has really come up. I wanted to go and check it out.

Me - Yeah. It has some really nice places to eat now. You must check it out.

Girl - Yup, I'll try. 
Enjoy your movie.

Was she trying to get me to ask her out? It certainly does seem that way. Although, if I put it that way it does not seem right. She was never that way. But that was also a long time ago.

A sudden urge to see her gripped my heart. It could also be harmless. There would be nothing wrong in meeting her as an old friend. Would there? All horror stories begin like that... what's the worst that could happen? I have learned to not use that line of reason. It never pans out well.

But there is also the fact that I need to resolve the emotions pertaining to her. Clearly I had failed to do that over the last couple of years. Maybe meeting her would make that possible.

Me - Do you want to catch up for dinner?

Woah! I was surprised the speed at which that came out. Seemed slightly involuntary to my mind. I would have to go about explaining what happened to the movie. I'll manage. I have scraped through tougher situations in the past...

It made me wonder if the order of the chronological order of the 2 reasons above was reversed, what would the outcome be. 

This moment in the making, is one of those moments where destiny splits into two paths. But we walk only one. The other becomes hypothetical, but we often visit these moments when we look back at our lives. 

I wondered if the future me will look at this point with joy or regret.

Mischief managed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Part 3 - A Friday Evening, In A December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

I stub my cigarette and flick it into the distance. Watching it make its way, twisting and turning in the air, my gaze fixes on grown woman. She looks like the mother of one of the kids playing down below. She is watching me. Not looking. Watching. Does she have a look of disgust on her face? I'll never know. It's too dark to make out facial expressions. I find myself hoping she doesn't think me a pedophile. I want to explain to her that I harbor no evil thoughts. A man like me cannot and does not bring about havoc in other people's life. Only in his own.

I shake my head. Who cares what she thinks. Nothing I can do about it! 

I head back inside my study and shut the glass paneled door behind me. For good measure, I draw the curtains. I shut myself from the gaze of kids and their mothers. I can't stand to be judged by them.

It's late evening now. I click open the bookmyshow app on my phone to check what new movies are playing today. Hobbit seems promising. The first part was good, I think. But too formulaic after the amazing LOTR movies. Peter Jackson should find something more challenging to do. A director of his talent is wasted in the profit seeking production house economics.

Speaking of wasted talent... "Shut up!", I tell the voice in my head.

Should I go for the movie? I think pushing aside the pre-poned mid life crisis. Or is it an identity crisis? May be it's existential?

The movie. Yes. Should I go alone? It hasn't been bad experience by any means when I have tried that before. Many times before. Anyway I don't like talking to people during the movie. It's really random how people collectively experience movies. I will never understand the benefits of physical proximity in a what is otherwise a very individual experience by design.

It's too much of an effort to call up or email people to coordinate a movie viewing. But it is also very bullshitting to be judged by groups of friends, lovers in arms and families at the theater.

Indecisiveness. More than once I have been told by the few who care that I over-think and over analyze everything. Over-thinking leads to indecisiveness. Over analysis leads to paralysis.

People say the strangest things. Maybe it's they who need to think more before they go about the business of preaching.

Movieee? I hear the thought return with a renewed vehemence. Woah, I say out loud. Calm down brother. I am here. I have to allow myself a little bit of meandering with my thoughts. What's to kill time if not that? 

I log back into my laptop. Action, in any direction, helps calm down the thoughts. It's quite disturbing how the mind gets so easily fooled. All it needs is a preoccupation. Let it idle for some time and it starts going nuts. Or bonkers. I like that word better.

The gmail window is open on the browser. I start a hangout and add my friends on it. My fingers sway like a drunkard over the keyboard. To type or not to type? 

Mischief managed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Part 2 - A Friday Evening, In A December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

Slightly more comfortable in my bean bag now, I open Whataspp. Karan had made a group for us buddies a few months back.

I check the last post 29 September 2013 it says in gray font over the last post. It was Karan who had posted for trying to arrange for us all to get together for a lunch in Khan Market that Sunday afternoon.

"But their beer license has been revoked! Don't see what fun we could possibly have there!!!" Aman had replied. There had been no activity after that. I try to remember if we had met that day or not. It's getting hard to recollect such things now.

I drink up what is left of my second beer and light another cigarette. I step out onto my balcony and look out at kids running in the playground below. It's dark. I am reminded of the days when I would try and steal a few more hours of play, cursing the sun for setting too soon. Even when it was the longest day of the year.

I see the face of a little kid. He running is ahead of a pack of kids being chased or hunted down. His laughter comes out in gasps as he tries to catch his breath. He tries hard to suppress the laughing, but it only serves to tire him more. His face must be red with the blood rush from too much running, I think to myself remembering such days in the not so long, but lost, past. It's too dark and I am too far away to ascertain that for sure. There is sweat dripping at the forehead, which I am sure about, because he rubs his sweater  sleeve on his forehead more than once in the minute that I have been watching him.

The kid looks up to my balcony. I hide my cigarette below the opaque railing. Instinct.

I look at myself from the eyes of the kid. A grown up man in formal clothes. Alone. A cigarette for company. I know I wasn't successful in hiding the damn thing fast enough. Damn the slow reaction time. Damn the beer. My peripheral vision tells me there is a cloud of smoke around the balcony. It's a particularly cold post-evening with haze settling in over the windless city. The bloody smoke does not blow away as fast and as far as it used to in the autumn.

I had a vision of myself as a kid. A cool guy. No formals, always a smile on the face. Always a joke to be told. Always making people laugh around me. A disappointment attempts to set in begging the age old rhetorical - 'What have I become?' I shrug off the inane thought. I am too old to rethink the teenage dilemma over for the hundredth time. I know now that these dreams about self hardly ever pan out the way a child's imagination helps him hope.

"Bah, humbug!" I say out loud. Not loud enough for the child to hear though, I hope. He has now resumed his run and has probably forgotten about me. I am the ghost of Christmas past.

Mischief managed.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Part 1 - A Friday Evening, In A December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

I take out my new smartphone on a Friday evening. I had just got the GPS repaired in the afternoon. Google maps should work now, I hear myself thinking. I click open the app. Sitting in the cab, on my way home from office, I follow the blue dot moving on the screen. Inching slowly towards a location marked home.

I can't help but wonder how magical the idea is. Yes, magic! And I am not exaggerating. Well, not yet at least. It's the muggle world equivalent of a marauder's map. In my hands. A faint smile appears on my face. I know that because at the very instant, the driver of the cab looks at me in the rear view mirror and makes a face that says "What's that creepy smile for?"

Not letting the driver's reaction dampen my mood, I proceed to check out Google Latitude. I add a few of my friends on the map and I am surprised to see them accept my location sharing request instantaneously. I see new little dots with little images of their faces moving on the map. My map was now complete.

Ever since I have read the Harry Potter books, I have dreamed - on and off, sometimes in the day, sometimes at night - of possessing a wand, an invisibility cloak and the marauder's map. 1 down, I thought. 2 more to go.

As I get off the cab, I click off the display on my phone and wake up from the dream.

I climb up the stairs, thinking about the things I need to do today. There is some left over work from office that needs to be completed tonight and some leftover beer from last night. Seems like a good evening.

I open the door and walk into my apartment. I hook my laptop to my music system and hit the play button on the music player. It plays the playlist which I had prepared back in my college days and haven't had the motivation to update. A familiar song starts playing from mid-sentence. I don't bother to make the effort to play it from the start.

I head to the fridge to get the beer. To my surprise there is some pizza there too. I pick up the box and sniff. Doesn't smell harmful, my nose tells me. My stomach will tell me tomorrow.

I check the pockets of my jeans, carelessly thrown at the bed. I find some cigarettes and a lighter. This is a really really good evening.

In my study, I sit bent over my laptop finishing my work. The familiarity with the music does not allow for it to register to my conscious thought. The familiarity with the cigarette smoke does not allow for me to take notice of the burning sensation in my eyes and the irritation in my nostrils. The familiarity with the beer does not allow for it to make me high and the that with stale food does not allow for my stomach's rumbling noises to incite any reaction.

Two hours later, I have sent my work to my folks at the office. I have moved over to my bean bag with another bottle of beer in my hands.

I open google maps once more. Neither of my friendly dots are moving. They are all at home. Maybe I should call them, organize a get together. Maybe I will call them, I think to myself...

I shift on my bean bag to be slightly more comfortable. The bean inside has been dead for too long now.

Mischief managed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling: A Review

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

JK Rowling brings out her troubled and broken (physically and mentally) detective Strike in this first book of a series. I found nothing truly unique in the detective story.

That being said, it does endeavor to bring out the lives of modelling and the industry's burden on individuals. The conflicts within the individuals that come with the public and media eye on a chosen few at all times.

The book does not bring London to life, as well as I thought it could be done. As well as the back jacket proclaims to. Probably the only thing that I found could have been done better. There are no threads to pick on apart from Strike's personal life and the plot itself.

The state of mind of the protagonist, however, was very well written and I could relate to Strike as the story progressed. Even the mystery itself was well written but seemed contrived at some points. Also, a few loop holes suddenly turned the reading experience slightly sour for me.

However, the book has Rowling's stamp all over the book which is why I picked it up in the first place.

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How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia: A Review

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising AsiaHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First of all, I will caveat here that I have loved Moth Smoke and Reluctant Fundamentalist for too long and harbored a desire to read another one of Hamid's book for some time now. No wonder then that I picked this book at its launch.

The book lived, unread, in my book-shelf for sometime before it got its due. The self-help masquerade of the book prevented me from picking it up immediately and devouring it. It seemed to be slightly conceited from the couple of pages I had managed to go through at the book shop and it was only with a heavy heart that I made the purchase.

That being said, after reading it I found the writing in second person truly unique. It takes a writer of caliber to write authentically to put the reader as a protagonist. It worked well for me at least - an Asian boy. I am not sure how universal or contextual this authenticity is.

The self-help masquerade does not really work well, but if you consider that as a commentary on how self-help books rarely help the reader - I think the message is very well conceptualized.

Every chapter starts with a self-help-ish idea and then it goes into a variety of things not remotely related to the idea of the chapter! To me it seemed like a clever ploy in criticism of the genre. Every writer is coming from a unique life circumstances and his story will not have the answers for readers. Point taken, Mr. Hamid.

What struck me about the book was the honest to heart narrative written with a lot of, well, heart. Some of the things he says in this book seem like a rehash of things that he said so beautifully in Moth Smoke. But I liked it when I read those parts again. Like the contrast between the people of either side of the economic divide. The aspirations of the poor to pole-vault the divide to reach the other side. The trade-offs, the compromises and the death bed - where none of these matters but only what you loved, who you loved and whose love did you receive.

Maybe I am a sucker for this stuff, but I really enjoyed the short and sweet latest co-creation exercise from Mohsin Hamid.

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Man in the Dark: A Review

Man in the DarkMan in the Dark by Paul Auster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Paul Auster book. I loved how he interweaves several short stories, analysis into a single novel(la) - all of them bearing a common thread. Each of the stories holds a mirror to a major event in the protagonist's (August Brill) life. Things that he does not want to touch (mentally), like Pandora's boxes. Over the course of an insomniac night, he is compelled to reveal these extremely violent and gruesome events which have rendered him in this state of insomnia.

There is a lovely story about love that offers an anchor to the narrative and the protagonist. The contrasting personalities of the people involved and their shared motivations and purposes brings about a war, a tempest which Brill makes a lot of effort to rectify, but makes do with the broken shards of what was once complete.

The book strikes me as being anti-war, but very uniquely so. I couldn't help but draw parallels with Vonnegut's Slaughter House 5. That's a commentary on WWII, and this a commentary on the more recent war in Iraq.

The graphic imagery of the finale is not for the weak stomachs. I found it very hard to digest myself. But it makes sense just the way it is and I would not have wanted anything else in its stead. As he very aptly says - "...although it wouldn't be hard to find a less brutal outcome, what would be the point? My subject tonight is war, and now that war has entered this house, I feel I would be insulting Katya and Titus if I softened the blow... Piss on earth, good will towards none. This is the heart of it, the black center of the dead night..."

It is bold criticism since it spells out Bush's name as the chief architect of the war. Like Brille, he imagined the whole war in his head. Auster does not shy away from it and does not bother with creating a fictitious name. He creates an alternate reality with a civil war in America, orchestrated by Bush again. War is the only thing constant between the 2 worlds and the only thing different is where the war is happening.

I loved how he brings out the parallel between the insomniac nights he is living through (with another war, a civil one, in his mind) and the dark times of the American war in Iraq.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (A Review)

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was my first foray into African literature, leaving aside Toni Morrison's writings on the lives of the colonized community. I picked up the book with great expectations knowing the premise of the book.

I liked the simple writing style and the setting up of the context of the precolonial Africa. The various gods and the magic make the fabric of the novel extremely strong. The setting up of the conflicts of the central character and the initial development of his character were also well handled, I thought.

But what happened after that was a sheer let down. There no real resolution of the conflict of the mad man that the protagonist becomes. It became increasingly hard for me feel for any of the characters which somehow seem deprived of flesh and blood. They are mere two dimensional, caricatured versions of what they could have become.

The nuances of the culture, which could have potentially given the novel a great character were very few and poorly thrashed out. This element alone could have taken the novel to a level where a reader could have immersed himself in new knowledge and understanding of another world.

It seemed to me that the author just mandated himself to focus on the gray of all cultures - his and the west. In search of a neutral zone, he fails to make any point. Potentially, he could have made several amazing points but again, the novel fails to deliver on any of those.

What I found commendable was the writing in English. Choosing a foreign language to bring his writings to a wider audience is something I can both relate to and appreciate.

There are bits that work really well with the off-handed approach, which I found unique. The reference to bicycle as the iron horse was endearing. But I believe the use of local language was slightly excessive, specially given that there were no supporting glossary or footnotes in the edition I picked up.

On the whole, I found it to be a slight let down with Achebe losing the grip on his characters and the plot, especially after Part 1. The plot gets muddled with seemingly unrelated plot elements that do not necessarily bring out cultural nuances or add to the overall storyline.

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Monday, September 16, 2013


This is the first time I am blogging in direct response to a blog I read. The particular blog being referred and responded to is here - Airport City.

"I think we're meant to feel this way about life in general, every minute of it - that there is just so much to look forward to. An airport perhaps is the place where the mind is able to pause, stop being mindless, and reaffirm that there are potential new beginnings, all the time, and everywhere." - Manjot Kaur

The blog for me beautifully captures a moment of a happy trail in my mind when I am at the airport. Thanks to the writer for wonderfully articulating the promise that the unknown beholds and can almost be physically felt at the airport. There is excitement in uncertainty and endless possibilities await us.

But while I was reading the blog, it struck me that there is more. When I try to think why airports move me, I am reminded of the scene from Love Actually where the congregation at the airport is shown through the lens of a romantic. That image, which I saw nearly a decade ago comes back to me every single time I am at the airport - departures or arrivals!

This brings me to an observation - the amplitude of human emotion at airports exceeds any other place. People departing from a place they love, finding it hard to let go of an anchor. People reuniting with their loved ones. People traveling for work, lost in thoughts about the meeting they have prepared long and hard for - going over the final drafts of the presentation anxiously. There are others who love walking across the airport, exploring the various shops. Other who are lost observing the variety of emotions being exhibited before them. People waiting for their flights, with the longing of soon being in the arms of their beloved. A girl with thick glasses immersed in her novel, trying to put a leash on that fervor in her heart. A kid running care-free on escalators yelling, "Dadu, we are coming!"

The veritable vestibule of vivacity, that's what an airport is to me. It's a place where you feel more alive than most others.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Thousand Words (Review)

Loved the concept


The central idea of the movie, a magical tree with its life linked to that of Jack, that dies when Jack speaks a thousand words, thus forcing him to think hard before he says anything, forcing him to be predominantly quiet from a boisterous agent, is not only unique but also endearing.

The movie refrains from any slapstick comedy which has become characteristic of Eddie Murphy. It was this I was fearing the most and did not watch the movie for more than a couple of months even after downloading it.

It leaves you with these thoughts: are you introspecting enough? are you in touch with who you really are? do you know what makes you happy, or are you just going through the motions of life, doing what you believe the society respects and your family wants from you.

Maturely handled, the movie refrains from being self-help and sermonizing. It has a power packed messaged, wrapped in the capsule of entertaining fiction.

Easily one of the better Murphy movies.

Waltz With Bashir (Review)

A treat to watch


One of the more brilliant films I have seen recently. It is the first animated documentary film I have seen and the montage is so effective that it made me wonder why is this not a more popular medium.

The plot is kept gripping through the lens of the self-portrayal of the director who is searching for his lost memories of the war. It focuses on the psychology of the military men and the measures their minds resort to cope with the stress. The dealing of the actual massacre is not heavy handed and is approached in a balanced way, that leaves the audience with a burning desire to find out more about what transpired and how the collective failure of conscience of 3 groups of military men was brought about through systematic delegation.

The auto-ethnographic angle helps focus on the non-political and a more humane angle of Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, which to me was the most novel aspect of the film that experiments with a lot of ideas of movie making and pushes the limits of cinema.

Brilliantly pieced together with a comic-esque feel, Waltz with Bashir will stay in my head for the title sequence. A rash, callous and incomprehensibly inhuman act is described as a waltz. Accompanied with music that is befitting of the interpretation of the scene, it is among the best sequences in movies.

Salaam Bombay - Review

A Triple Sundae of Punch in the Guts

One of the 3 Indian movies to be nominated for an Oscar in over 50 years since the 'Best Foreign Film' category was created, this movie stands out as a tribute to the city of Bombay that houses Bollywood. Brilliantly shot, on a shoe string budget it brings together the 3 aspects of the city we all love and admire - its colors, its chaos and its children.

Brilliant camera-work, direction and cinematography clubbed with heart rendering performances from Nana Patekar, Shafiq Syed and Raghuvir Yadav make the movie a 'must-watch' for me. The decrepitude of the city with drugs, prostitution, lawlessness, corruption and apathy of the society towards the kids comes out brilliantly in the film.

Shafiq's near flawless portrayal of young Krishna / Chaipau showcases the determination of innocence.

The film could have done with some editing and retakes. There are a couple of poorly shot, distracting scenes in which the young actors accidentally stare into the camera, but that is a minor and pardonable flaw, in my eye.

The only problem that I see is that it labors a lot to set up the universe and does not move the story forward too much. This is more than made up for by the fantastic setting up of the universe. Another point I would like to make is that it tries to address too many minor themes, which does not do as much justice to the themes as one would have liked. The movie is Hugo, Requiem for a dream, Kaalia (1981) and much more wrapped into one.

Mira, however, does not let you lose sight of Krishna and his struggle to get back to his "mulak", which to me is a testament to her film making abilities.

Identity - by Milan Kundera (Review)

IdentityIdentity by Milan Kundera

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wonderfully thought provoking, typical of Milan Kundera's writing. A small yet powerful novella packed with questions over how we define our identity and what determines who we are. When the foundations of how we perceive and define ourselves begin to shake, Kundera suggests a chaos is bound to ensue. His depiction of theorizing, thinking and non-conforming characters captures the rationale behind that chaos brilliantly.

That's for the 3 stars.

The remaining 2 stars, no matter how much it hurts me, I would keep from one of my favorite authors on this book. Why? Just for the ending that I found too abrupt, too quick. Like driving a knife through the plot and bleeding its potency out.

Loved the dream sequence at the climax, but was just left asking for more of Kundera in the ending. Unlike his other works, where he labors tirelessly to tie in all the lose ends and take the final leap of theoretical deduction in human behavior, this one lacks a polished ending.

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The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg (A Review)

The Quiet GirlThe Quiet Girl by Peter H√łeg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Peter Hoeg novel. Really fast paced, action packed psychological thriller - a genre that I am surprised is still in its nascence! Although the writing is very complex with unspecified time jumps, magical realism, no clear distinction between dream, hallucinations and reality (a who-cares-for-what's-real outlook) made a book a collection of too many first time reading experiences for me. I would love to read the book again. I believe the book requires to be read at least twice to be understood in entirety.

The book is rich with details and in-depth knowledge of music, church, business, Denmark's law enforcement processes, geographic details, details of the underground sewage system and more. That is another thing that made it a very fresh style.

A must read for anyone looking for some mental exercise along with reading! And there is thrill / suspense to keep you going - the way the story unfolds will keep you hooked to the book. On the way, be prepared to be blown away with some amazingly profound writing from the POV a middle aged Kasper Krone - a clown, a musician, a fugitive, a detective, a superhero.

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Satanic Verses (Review)

The Satanic VersesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Before I started reading this book, I was extremely wary if I was just buying into the hype around the book. Once I got to reading it, I thought the same again since it demands a marathon-esque effort from the reader. I constantly checked the reviews of the book on good reads, trying to find a good reason to give it up. But I couldn't. I am a sucker for finishing books that I pick up.

There are some aspects of the book that rivet you to it, there are many more that will tempt you to give it up. But persevere, and it shall reward. It is a brilliant, controversial - to the point of scandalizing in several places - work of literature. Yes, it is literature and it has a unique voice. I am now tempted to read the Quran to understand a lot of references to the text and maybe someday re-read the book. Did I say maybe? I mean it has to be read at least twice to be understood in entirety.

If nothing else, the book led me to understand one 'ism' better, Rushdism!

Friday, August 2, 2013


Amina sat by the small fire she had built outside the barracks she was staying at. She took out her diary and started writing the day’s journal. It was a habit with her, documenting what she experienced, every day. She did not want to forget anything she saw. On her dull days, she read her journals and relived her past sojourns. She recorded what she saw, to one day be able to recite these to the one person she was looking for. She needed to tell him all that she had seen whenever they met. If they ever met.
Lost in her longing and hope of meeting the man she owed everything, she turned back to the first page. It had blotched patches of ink juxtaposed with a beautiful handwriting. She remembered how her tears had fallen over her words, immortalizing the pain she had felt.
As her mind drifted, she found her vision blurring. Or did her vision blur, so that her mind could drift? The eyes, they had always seemed to have a will of their own. Refusing to do their job, they forced her to indulge her nostalgia; forced her past to trespass into her present, riding the memory train. It brought back the horrid times when she had been truly happy - a fleeting happiness that destroyed her world in its wake.
Yes, she had been in love once. She had loved dearly. What they had together, what they shared were the most beautiful emotions Amina had ever felt. But that is what love does. It romanticizes and makes everything grander in retrospect, she heard her logical self argue with her true self.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. All I know is what I felt during that phase of my life. Everything was better, our handicaps did not seem to matter. We completed each other, not only by overcoming our physical limitations through the complementary nature of our defects, but also emotionally. How can you deny that? It is the truth…
It was around the time she had started her Masters in Developmental Studies, when she had met Gabriel. He was a quadriplegic. He had been in a war, in his country. “We had many wars back then. I don’t even remember which one or even whom I was fighting,” she remembered Gabriel telling her. The war had taken away his faculty of movement. He had come to Amina’s country, seeking refuge from his own. His surroundings reminded him of his athletic days and his love for all sports. He could not play anymore and watching the sports only heightened his bitterness. Amina was the balm to his pain.
She recalled how Gabriel used to lie next to her, reminiscing, for hours together: sometimes about his countryside, sometimes his war. His voice, his words painted a world for Amina. Her imagination took flight and she felt his country better than she had ever felt her own. She felt like she belonged there. She felt she belonged to Gabriel.
Her heart skipped a beat, fearing where her mind was going next. She shook her head and forced her eyes to focus on something to derail the memory train. Out of the blur, her journal materialized into focus. First page - at the start. When she had opened her eyes for the first time in the hospital. No, she hadn’t just been born, but the experience had been quite like that. It was the most eventful day in her life.
Gabriel had brought Amina news of her surgery. The most beautiful gift she could have ever dreamt of. Such joy she had experienced at just the thought of it. She had forgotten to ask any questions, fearing she would wake up from the dream. She had waited all her life for a donor and it had finally happened. Gabriel had come with her to the hospital. He was with her when she was being prepped for the surgery and left her side only after she was anaesthetized.
When she recovered from the effects of the anesthesia, she asked for Gabriel. She took in the reaction of the doctors and nurses in the silence, her heart sinking. The room stank of their tension. But she was fighting against her logical self and would dare not venture where it was taking her…
Amina was born blind. She, however, had learned to live, and not just manage, without being bogged down by an obvious handicap.
Her mental development had been acute, because her mind was extremely keen. It wanted to take in and process everything. “Vision makes the mind lazy,” a ten year old Amina had declared to her mother, “I have four working senses.” Indeed, she had an extremely developed olfactory sense and perceived most objects around her with an acute sense of hearing.
She could tell the height of the person speaking to her, through the angle at which the voice was coming from. She could tell the length of the car, and the speed it was moving at through the sound it made while passing her. With her sharp memory, she could remember where everything was, once she had sensed it.
Her world existed in a complex code of sound and smell signals. Even the inane objects, which we see but refuse to register in our conscious memory, letting them slip into the subconscious, drew her attention and affixed her gaze.
Gabriel was enamored with Amina’s passion. Her zest for life, because of her handicap not in spite of it, made her very different from Gabriel. Though healing, he knew he could never embrace life the way Amina did.
Her fingers involuntarily pulled out her only connection to the man she loved. Tucked between the pages, buried in there was a note he had left by her hospital bed.
“One complete life. Better than two incomplete ones.”
Amina felt the irony of having lived the darkest moment of her life with a brand new pair of eyes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

High Funda

Woh kaam kyun karein, jisse moh nahi
Waqt ki zayari hai, jismein humein jazba nahi

Moh toh in panktiyon se hai, jinka koi kusoor nahi
Kasoor toh hai is paapi dil ka, lekin ispar bhi koi zor nahi

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A tempo, a kutiya and something more...

"Since when have you been at this kind of work?" I asked Raju, as he offloaded the last of the wooden planks from his tempo. He was extremely slow and moved with a laziness that I had not seen in any other tempo-wala. As if he was sick, or worse! As if he was doing me a favor by offloading the wood!

"I have not been doing this since forever, sir. I just started this." Raju wiped the sweat of his forehead with a thin towel that he had wrapped around his head. He sat down under the shade of the tree in my compound.

"Ohh... that's why you are still rusty. Well, don't worry about it. You'll learn it quickly, it is not a hard job." I said, slightly callously. The callousness that middle class offers generously to the blue collared workers forming the unorganized workforce.

He did not seem to take offense from my remark and continued wiping the sweat from his chest and back. He was wearing only an undershirt and loose pajama. "Can I get some water? It's too hot!"

Raju was middle-aged, I observed. He had some grey hair sprouting from his copious head. They had the characteristic of having recently lost the color they were used too, and lay awkwardly on his disheveled head. His beard of more than a month, made it hard to see his facial features but he was slightly chubby. I was sure I wouldn't have been able to locate a cheekbone there. He had a paunch and his arms were swollen too. I was worried if he would be able to do the job, and I had asked him the question above.

I asked the maid to get him a glass of water. He gulped it down quickly and continued to wipe of the sweat. When a smile broke from his face.

"No matter how hard you wipe, it keeps pouring. I haven't sweated like this in ages it seems!" He continued smiling. It disturbed me. Sweating is nothing to be proud of! It's... disgusting!

"That's true. It's always this hot in Delhi though. But it seems like it is getting hotter every year. When did you move to Delhi?" I asked him, assuming he must have come recently from colder climes.

"I was born here, sir. I have been here all my life."

"Why did you say you haven't sweated like this before then? If you were here last year, you surely would have experienced this heat."

"I did, but from the air conditioned rooms, it didn't seem so bad. I could always bear it. It was not a challenge."

"But you must have stepped out of the office into the heat once in a while?" I  asked him, assuming he must have worked at some air conditioned office before. "How about when you got home?"

He just stood there and smiled. He stood to his full height and was at least 4 inches taller than me. He shook his head and said, "Let it be sir, why are you getting so serious about this trivial matter?"

It hit me that he might have been rich, or rich enough to afford an air-conditioner which I had gotten myself only last summer and that was not always as poor as he was now. I was hooked to his story now. I asked him to sit in my verandah a little longer and I asked the maid to get cold juice for the both of us.

"Tell me your story, please."

Raju laughed. "If I had a penny for every time someone asked me that! You think because I was rich once, some tragedy must have befallen me! It makes for good masala, right? Learning about how a king became a pauper or vice-versa has always interested us!"

I felt small and was thinking of asking him to leave when the maid came out with  two glasses of juice. He picked up his glass and took a sip, "Alright. I'll tell you..."

He took another long sip and set his glass down on the table. "I was born to a tempo driver in old Delhi. We were poor and he died of tuberculosis when I was 7. I started driving the tempo then, to feed my mother and myself. I had nothing then apart from a tempo, a kutiya in old Delhi and the love of my mother. I was happy and content. But everyone who heard about me thought I was extremely unfortunate. The way you think of me now.

"I started thinking that I was missing out on something in life. I wanted to get out. I wanted more.
I worked hard with the tempo and managed to make some money to be able to attend school through correspondence as well. I was a good student and went to college. I had to take a loan. I studied hard there, got a good job and worked with the company for several years.

"I drove in Merc S-Class, which has air-conditioner by the way, which I continued to call my tempo. I had a villa in the heart of Delhi - Lodhi Colony - which I called my kutiya. I was happily married and loved and was loved by my wife. I should have been happy, I had everything that should have mattered, no?

"I was happy for a very long time. Or I was in a state that I perceived to be happy. People, much smarter than myself, had told me through books, movies, media etc. etc. that when one has all those things that I had, one could be happy. I assumed that what I was going through was happiness. It had to be right, the whole world cannot be wrong. Can it?

"It was only a couple of months ago that I realized that happiness and joy is not an emotion that you are supposed to feel. In the Himalayas, where I spent the last year, I discovered that happiness is an emotion you experience. You can call that emotion anything, but what I call joy does not come from being rich and being able to afford the luxuries. It comes from knowing what you need, and what is greed. You can be satisfied and content with what you need. I had enough saved for my needs and I realized that I can do whatever I want. I won't starve, I will always have a roof over my head. I decided to small things, something new everyday. Something that makes me appreciate life and appreciate others.

"Today is the first day of the new life I chose for myself. Revisiting my old life, I thought, could serve as an anchor."

Raju gulped down the rest of juice and left, without another word. His words echoed in my head and tried to reach to my heart. I was hesitant. I resisted them from getting there, fearing how they could affect my life. But slowly, I lost the tussle as the wall of resistance broke down and acceptance stood at the gates, welcoming the idea to my heart.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Choose Your Poison

Someone mentioned today, for the nth time, that sugar is poison. I had to respond. 

1. Life is poison - It's an engine that ignites every morning, no problems most of the time. Gradually it loses shine and sheen and one day, it just refuses to work. Some people prolong the life of the human vehicle by replacing batteries or getting a new ignition spark etc etc, but the quality of life is never the same again. And then, one day, no matter how hard you fight it, it just refuses to turn back on. No one argues this hypothesis so there is no open research on it. But it would do you well to keep this in mind. No matter how long you get to live - Life Is Short. QED.

2. Time is poison - Well, it is killing you slowly with every passing second, isn't it? QED.

3. The air we breathe is poison - I don't hear arguments here either. QED.

4. The food is poison - Pesticides, artificial drug pumped vegetables and animals. Damn, who can argue that. Plenty of research here. .

5. Lack of love is poison - Lack of love, makes the quality of life so bad that I would refuse to call it a life. It's at best a poor simulation of life. So lack of love is poison.

6. Love is poison - Talk to the incurable romantics, who have killed themselves in the name of love. There are others among us, who die every minute in the name of love. Either missing someone makes us miss a heart beat, or watching them come home after a long time makes us miss it. Sometimes it is both. Only those you love have the keys to your happiness. They make you laugh to the point of hysteria - which damages heart and other bodily functions and they make you cry into depression cutting life short by days and months as time goes by. Poison.

The list goes on. Everything kills you. What doesn't kill you is a little bit of happiness, from the small things. And even if they do kill you, they are worth indulging in, worth savoring. At the end of all things, nothing really matters, but your memories, made of small cups of tea (with sugar) that make you happy...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Quote

"There is nothing wrong in theorizing and hypothesizing; a writer is not an escapist, he creates a world he would love to be in. A world he would rather be in."
- Kartik Sharma

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Javier - Who loved to live, to live on love

This is the story of our friend Javier, who was not like us. He had a zeal for life, unlike the rest of us. We were all tired, fatigued and always viewed life with an iota, or more, of distrust. We never could understand what life brings and what is in store for us but our lives, the part which had happened by the time we reached where we were, had taught us to be used to the rude shocks that inevitably come along to bring us down from a state of happiness or neutrality. We slept with one eye open, to catch life sneaking around in the shadows at night watching us. Waiting to strike, to deal its hand. But Javier, was a whole another being.

He loved to live, as we have already established. He was happiest when he was awake, and regretted when he was too tired to stay up. He wanted to embrace life and as many moments as he could. He said that what he'll be left with are memories, at the end of it all and he did not want to spend any time sleeping, which was the time he added nothing to his bag of memories. He traveled the world, refusing to work like the rest of us. Refusing to be brought down by life.

We all believed he could afford to do so because he was never hungry. Not, at least, in the way rest of us were. He never ate a solid meal, he didn't have to. For the longest time we wondered, how did he manage to stay alive and then one day over lunch, well when we were all having lunch and he was just sitting with us, we decided to ask him, and this is what he told us.

I live on love. I know you would find it hard to believe, but when I see love around it nourishes me, the way carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals work for you. It's my food, Javier told us as normally as he one would talk about a game of cricket last night. Nonchalant, yes that's the word that describes it. Matter-of-factly.

But how is it possible? we asked him, hoping to wrench the truth out of him or to catch if he was pulling a fast one, as the tweeting kids today say, on us. Well that's just how it is, I got no say in all this because my parents or whoever created me did not ask my opinion on how things should be, Javier told us. Well you have a point there, we told him not able to refute the plain and sound logic in his argument. But do you ever feel hunger? Yes, I do, all the time, Love is not that easy to find, you see. That is why I must keep traveling, in search of love, Javier was solemn, Does this love have to be directed towards you? Or does it work if you just see people sharing love, we had so many questions but we tried to do it as lovingly as possible so that, we could finally feel, as if he was also having lunch with us.

It works better, or should I say tastes better maybe?, when the love is directed towards me, but it works well when I see it between other people, between animals, in nature, It feeds me and I feel healthy and bright I fill out and my mater says it makes me look handsome, at least as handsome as one can look within the constraints defined by the creator, you see. We saw, we were beginning to understand. But there was no way the questions were going to end with beginning of understanding, this is usually the moment when the biggest and most pertinent questions start coming, So what happens when you don't find love, when someone hurts you or you see hatred around?

Well, the changes are slow and subtle in the beginning, like a gradual delta decline that is hard to notice in the beginning, but when it becomes too much the changes are noticeable, I start shriveling up, or at least that's how pater put it when he finally understood what was happening. The shine in my eyes starts to recede, the glow in my skin goes away, and that is what gives me that 'shriveled up' look that we discussed a moment ago. It weighs on my shoulders, as if I were carrying a physical burden, as if I was having a hard time lifting myself up, I slouch, much to maters dismay, And what I hate the worst is that I am unable to smile, it hurts me to try and laugh or smile, I feel like someone normal would feel if they were starving, yes, that's right, I think I starve for love.

None of us spoke a whole lot after that, we were all silent, thinking about what our special friend had just told us, wondering if were very different from him. Love, through its presence or absence, has always been felt by us in the same way, hasn't it? It's love that buoys us, and the lack of it that makes us triste, that takes away the shine from our eyes and smiles from our faces. With love, for love we can do anything, Javier's life seemed to be telling us. But without it, we shrivel up, as Javier's papa told him.

Javier died on December 16, 2012. Doctors said he died of starvation. When all the love was sucked up from the world and clouds covered the sky, so that we don't see that even the sun refuses to rise and shine. We were all engulfed with darkness that will stay with us forever, until we change and learn to love. We all love to live, well most of us do and Javier did love that more than anything else, but from Javier we need to learn that we live on love, that we depend on it, more than anything else.