Saturday, May 28, 2016

2319 : #10 lines

She spoke to me the other day and said, "remember once upon a time you would write me 10 lines in jiffy. 10 intensely personal lines, almost like a poem. Wonder where that ritual died?”, she asked wistfully.

I looked at her with a vacuous gaze and left it there. That night, as I was readying for sleep, my mind was wanting to hack away at a piece of paper. Here is what I wrote.

“Dearest C, there is a lot of things that I want to tell you, but here are the top 10 things on my mind. Here goes the #10 lines for today.

Ten. Yes, there are 10 fingers on me. On each of these fingers, I can count the number of things I have loved in this life. I started and stopped at 4. Could not proceed, What does that say about the unidimensional person that is me?

Nine. There are nine parts to desire. I have felt all nine of those, but I have experienced a lot lesser. Before this body could deal with the overload, it began winding down. In each of those 9 parts, there is a story of you and me that is decaying steadily  I am not sorry for my half life. The beauty of a radioactive isotope is that it lives forever. 

Eight. I was born on the 8th of the month, and my mom tells me, that Saturn governs my life. The angry Saturn, whose rings are light and fluffy, but causes mood swings that can unleash tornados. You were Jupiter. With my rings, and your size, we were like peacocks who are more involved in the ritual than the mating.

Seven. You and I were supposed to be bound for seven. I think someone forget to mention the time count. Was it seven births ? Seven eons? Seven millennia? Seven years? Seven months? Seven weeks? Seven days? Seven minutes? Or a simple poem told to the cadence of seven beats?

Six. There are six rivers in our land. In each of those six rivers, I see our story flowing in and merging into the larger continuum. When I partake a sip of the water, what I am gurgling is the shards of our own story. A part of us, that will live forever, flowing back and forth into these rivers.

Five. The five senses of mine, have numbed and died years ago. And yet, I can feel you in my soul. What do you call this, but the poetry of life. I rustle you through my hands, and smell your familiar whiff, peek into your soul, hear your echo in the corridor, and eat your spirit dripping through my cereals….all of this long after I am dead. Is this what Brahma prophesied as eternal damnation?

Four. Four times in my life you accused me of being a cheat. In each of those times, you killed a limb of mine. By the end of it, I was utterly paralyzed. I was a vegetable. How should I serve myself today? Sautéed? Grilled?  Vindaloo curry? Raw with thousand island drip? Paleo style?

Three. Friends told me three times a charm. Third time lucky!! But you were not the third. You were the second. And you in your wisdom, assumed the third is the perceived interference. Thats where you missed the charm and the plot. There was no third one. My luck has run out. Inhaling Godot, I wait for the coming of the third apocalypse. 

Two. It was supposed to take two to tango. But the two of us were far too heavy to tango. Weight control did not help. We carried the burden of unknown and imagined ghosts. There was always the heavy presence of someone else who intruded on our privacy. We were never a twosome. We were always too(two) much.

One. You had once asked me what would I miss the most if I could watch from the nether world. I would miss One. Which One? I would miss the One night of happiness that we always killed by the presence of what was absent. I would miss the One song that you promised to sing to me on my deathbed, but you completely forget about the deal. I would miss the One daughter that I never really had. I would miss the One slice of bread with my favorite marmalade. But most of all…I would miss happily miss this One life, and what could not have been possible, had you and I decided to stick as One.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2318 : Dying is indeed an art...

Dying for me is the process of living. We die every single day, one bit at a time. One cell at a time. One love at a time. One kiss at a time.

Its truly an art. Sylvia Plath who did the unthinkable with her own life, wrote these words, which haunt me often....from her poem Lady Lazarus

Is an art, like everything else.   
I do it exceptionally well. 

I do it so it feels like hell.   
I do it so it feels real. 
I guess you could say I’ve a call. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2317 : Why I dont lie, and yet sometimes I do

"So what? Why are you being truthful all of a sudden? Wasn't it a lie when you told the little man that they don't think much of you at Visual Arts? And wasn't it a lie when you told the little man that he had tried to seduce me? And wasn't it a lie when you invented Helena? When you've told so many lies, what does it matter if you tell one more and praise him in the review? That's the only way you can smooth things out."

       "You see, Klara," I said, "you think that a lie is a lie, and it would seem that you're right. But you aren't. I can invent anything, make a fool of someone, carry out hoaxes and practical jokes—and I don't feel like a liar and I don't have a bad conscience. These lies, if you want to call them that, represent me as I really am. With such lies I'm not simulating anything, with such lies I'm in fact speaking the truth. But there are things I can't lie about. There are things I've penetrated, whose meaning I've grasped, that I love and take seriously. I can't joke about these things. If I did I'd humiliate myself. It's impossible, don't ask me to do it, I can't."

This one is from Milan Kundera's "Lovable Loves". I am head over heels in love with Kundera, and its passages like these that make me adore him both as a writer and a philosopher.

This passage could be me talking to my love, telling her, why I sometimes lie. Not all lies are equal. All truths are not equal too. In the end, what matters is our values, our sins and our poems. Now who will explain that to the world I co-habit.

Sir Milan, take a bow.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

2316 : Of crime and punishment

I read with interest and alternating horror the story about the 3 Milwaukee teenagers. Read it here.

Why horror you say?

We are definitely turning out to be a strange least in my eyes. We have little or no tolerance for reform in our personal lives. So let me explain....3 random teenagers post their sex I agree that is deplorable in a context...but.... that enough of a crime for them to be admonished in mainstream media? that enough of a crime for them to rusticated from their schools? that enough of a crime to get the police involved? that enough of a crime for us to implicitly judge their parents and teachers as failures? Or even to judge the kids themselves as failures?

Reminds of me a true story in my life. When I was in the last year of my graduate engineering school. Our college topper and arguably one of our brightest minds back then was forced to leave the school - in a publicly disgraceful motion - where his parents were called to the school and he was almost maligned......his crime? He was petting his then girlfriend within the school premises.

Was that a crime? Yes in school terms? Did it show discipline issues in him or her? Absolutely.

Did he deserve what he got? You bloody tell me. I can tell you how I feel....I think we are the most inane and fked up social structure in the world. How can a 20 year old boy petting his 20 year old girlfriend be a crime in any real sense? Its the natural wirings of our dna. Agreed its inappropriate within school, but how inappropriate is inappropriate?

Slap him and her in private. Admonish them. Coach them. But, instead what did we do? We pushed our best brains and one of the finest human beings I had known then outside the school.

Finally at work. Most work places would fire you if they find you watching porn at work. So does mine. I don't necessarily disagree with the "no porn at work" policy. folks? Really?

Is "watching porn" a crime that hurts the firm or "is stealing intellectual or commercial property"? For the latter its a no-brainer. Fire, create a police case. For the former, isn't there a scope for understand the person and help him or her become better at dealing with their own inadequacies.

You know what bothers me the most? When folks like you and me judge in a similar way. When we look down at sex and porn as sleazy. When we decide to punish instead of reform. When we decide to rap on the knuckles of the fingers that typed

You and I will sit in our living rooms and lament that "Tihar does not reform". The "government does not invest in reform". Countries in war dont invest in reform.

And yet, when it comes to our crunch points....we are just like the world. We start the day or night by watching porn, fking our spouses, having EMAs and then we happily go out and chastise the 3 14 year olds who decided to stream their sexual fun. We dont just chastise them, which is probably the right thing to do....but we kill their future...which is what is worrisome.....we shame them publicly, involve the police and get them off the school roster.

So much for a sense of indignation against 3 horny teenagers. So much for our sense of code and moral compass.

I truly believe the world needs to take a step back and understand the deep inherent power of forgiveness. Dalai Lama has his job cut out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

2315 : The old man at (the) sea

(This one is from my archives. Written on 22nd Jul 2001).

Once she went so far as to try and transcribe the Indian part of her name, "Mira" into her Filofax, her hand moving in unfamiliar directions stopping and turning and picking up her pen when she least expected to. Following the arrows in the book, she drew a bar from left to right from which the letters hung; one looked more like a number than a letter, another looked like a triangle on its side. It had taken several tries to get the letter in the book, and even then she wasn't sure if she'd written Mira or Mara. It was a scribble to her, but somewhere in the world, she realized with a shock, it meant something. 
Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies, Sexy

To call this man old would be an understatement. He had this extremely wrinkled face, and his health was emaciated to put it mildly. I first caught sight of him some months ago. The building structure in which I live was undergoing a complex  reconstruction job, involving the addition of extra floors and all the associated functions that come along such as plastering, painting and so on.

The construction business is quite a labor intensive job, yet labor is possibly the cheapest component, due to its abundance. Workers are like (and are) nomads who travel from site to site, as the construction flows from structure to structure. Most of the time, you shall find these workers exist in a make shift adobe, where they stretch from one construction day to another, and this make shift adobe is actually the construction site itself. The story I am recounting happened in the same structure where I live, and the old man in question was a construction worker living on my premises. (I can't help feel flirtatious about the 'my', somehow sounds hollow isn't it.)

The man was old, must have been around 70 years old. Wrinkled face and emaciated, he was a frail short structure no more than four and half feet. Pitch black, in all probability he was from Hyderabad, since I have often heard him speak Telegu. 

I remember the first time I saw him. I was returning home from work, and it must have been around 10.30 at night, and as I entered my building, I saw this man in our compound. Did not shock me to see him, since I guessed that he was a construction worker. He was sitting in a slightly elevated bed made of bamboo and jute wires. He was playing with a small kid, who was in fact a girl. The girl must have been no more than 4 years of age. As I walked towards the entrance of my home, my eyes lingered on this sight, and for a brief moment, I found that our eyes met. Even he must have general inquisitiveness as regards a stranger (thats me).

In that moment, I detected a sense of fear in his eyes, the fear of the society. Possibly, for him, I represented that section of the society which he resented and had learnt to treat with respect and sacrosanct, a section he was afraid. There was some acquiescence about the whole look, yet there was no malice. 

As I thought hard, I realized with a shiver and shake that it must be so claustrophobic for the life embedded within that man. He knows that he is towards the last days of his life. At the age of 60-70 he still needs to toil hard for 12 hours a day to earn Rs. 100. (My dad is about the same age too.). At night, he eats roti's (wheat cakes) made without oil or grease on plain hot coal, with a few pieces of onion and green chilies (sounds filmy, but very true, I have seen that myself). This life which I am assuming is so similar to mine, does not crave for a Mercedes, does not want to have a rendezvous with J Lo, does not want to wear gold rings and chains, even to dream of these things would be perfidy for him. 

What is that which distinguishes two similarly capable lives. Birth and environment maybe....I don't know, but thats such an unfair brownie to be held by one life against another. 

What is it that I felt at moment. I could not help imagine what must be going through the old man's head. And I knew if I were him, I would have hated life, and run to death. Don't I do that already? The old man does not have a life, and is not allowed weapons using which he can fight for one. He is a slave, not to life, but to the society around him. I hate being a slave. 

What forced me to write this. Guilt. Nope. A man without a set of values and conscience cannot experience guilt, guilt as a concept in itself is alien to me. Philanthropy. I never believed too much in that, think in its common form, its more of evil than good. Anguish, a response to the pain around, like the Buddha maybe. Nope. I am surprised at the pain around, but nothing even close to the Buddha. What is it then. Despise...maybe. 

BTW, I spend Rs.100 daily on my food and travel expenses without a second thought, and Rs.100 is exactly the same amount the man fights to make after 12 hrs of grueling work. . For a person(me, that is) who does not believe in God, after life or any of that bull crap, its hard for me to reconcile with the fact that most of us are completely servile, puppets in the hands of circumstances, victims of some cruel experiment gone completely awry. 

Do I love life?

22 July 2001 

2314 : Kate Nahin Raat by Ustaad Sultan Khan

(I am sure I have posted of this sometime before...but worth a repost.)

I don't remember the other songs from the album, but in 1999 came an album named Bhoomi, in a brown colored sleeve of other forgettable numbers, in an assorted melange, there came an Ustaad Sultan Khan single named "Kate Nahin Raat"...

While the accompaniments and arrangements are by the Merchant brothers...Salim and Sulieman...

It has both, Sarangi and vocals by the Sultan :-)

Folks who know me, know that the Sarangi has to be my fav instrument, and Ustaad has to be the king :-). And this is how it has been for the past 25 years at least.

So when I heard this song, with the sound of rain splashing mixed up into the sound....I was hooked.

It did help that it has the gorgeous, truly gorgeous looking Smriti Mishra in the video. Infact, it has Smriti Mishra in white :-)

Last week, I was updating my daughter's playlist. I am getting her to listen to the songs that impacted me as I grew up. I was browsing, I chanced on this song....I immediately knew it had to be on her playlist.

So on it goes....and yesterday in that giant "shuffle" jostling with another 984 songs, this song blares itself through the house.

And I .....and mesmerized just like I was 18 years ago when I first heard this song.

The Sultan's vocals almost make you feel melancholic for a time and age (in your own life) which might never ever return. At least it evoked that for me.

And in that little emotion, lies the secret to Ustaad's greatness....lies the roots of the song's immense seduction.

Take a bow, Ustaad bhai :-)

Song from youtube below. Sigh for the music. Sigh for Smriti Mishra. Sigh for the genius of such a song.