Saturday, December 30, 2017

2370 : Vir Das's 2017 retrospective is hilarious :-)

2369 : Alfred North Whitehead on "what is progress for a civilisation"

I don't necessarily agree on this for a civilization, but do strongly believe this applies to a single individual. Everything around our brain is singularly focussed on how much deep learning has happened or can happen. More on that later.

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them.

2368 : Elizabeth Hardwick on travel

From Anthony Shahid's memoir - House of Stone....

By the time we arrived in New York, or Texas, or Oklahoma, or wherever, much was lost. “Your first discovery when you travel,” wrote Elizabeth Hardwick, “is that you do not exist.” In other words, it is not just the others who have been left behind, it is all of you that is known. Gone is the power of punishment of your family name, the hard-earned reputations of forebears, no longer familiar to anyone, not in this new place. Gone are those who understand how you became yourself. Gone are the reasons lurking in the past that might excuse your mistakes. Gone is everything beyond your name on the day of arrival, and even that may ultimately be surrendered.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2367 : The Haiku of becoming one

Drink from goblet.
The red is slowly becoming me.
Blood is on a high.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2366 : Fleeting sense of being in......

Whats that feeling when you read something, someone wrote 8000 miles away (yes she's in NY), and does not know that you exist at all.

And yet you read the book vicariously. (And no its Julian Barnes (because he is a he :-)) or Elena Ferrante (because she lives in Italy).

You read with rapt amazement, wanting those words to be yours (not in an ownership sort of way), but you wish they somehow originated from your keypad (damn the pen!!).

Is it a feeling of floating? A sense of complete disbelief. How could she write like this? How could any human write like this?
How could mere printed words (on a kindle!!) give anyone such a mighty intellectual rush?

I have started writing again in the past 2 months...and its torturous to see your own writing in such shambles and a young preenie, come up and shake your soul a Solyent blender (going bankrupt on skates!!)

I am going to write. I will mostly Trump, and I am indeed going to "Make my MacBook great again".

2365 : High on Dopamine

Possibly the only folks who will relate to this post will be my bibliophile brethren.

How many times have you read a book or a passage, and then closed your eyes....wanting to pause - not because the passage is dense. But more so because something in you hit a pot. Something stilled. Something stifled. Something sighed.

And in that moment, you dont want the book or the passage not to end. Its far too beautiful to pass away into transience.

I read about 45 books a year, and this happens to me less than 1-2 books in a year.

And today on the flight, I read one such book. I want to hold the book and clutch it to my heart as I doze off. (Funnily its a kindle :-) copy).

Well, this is perfectly explainable. Its only a simple dopamine rush. Thats what my rational brain tells me....and then a part of me says "really, is that all there is to this life?"

2364 : This too shall pass

I wear a simple wooden amulet from Tibet. The one that has about 12 beards, each with its own little inscription reading "Om mani Padme Hum".

Every time I look at or fondle this amulet (in my nervous brush moments), I of course think of "Om mani Padme Hum" but more importantly I have trained myself to remind myself of the phrase "This too shall pass."

Nothing is more important than reminding ourselves that life and the world around is transient. In a 100 years not one person will remember you and me. In 200 years no one will remember the pioneers of today like Elon Musk. In another 2000 years, even Jesus and Buddha might be gone. Possibly. In another 5000 years, the human race will definitely be gone....and this planet will be a lonely blue spot in the vastness we call as "space".

Rocks, metal, gold, all of it will be gone. And then the earth and the sun will be rumbling ahead for the next 3-4 million years while the sun extinguishes itself.

And in that realisation, lies the truth that we are not even noticeable blips in the ocean's ripple.

The human brain conceives the "separateness" with the world around it as a survival defence technique. How much Zen or awakening we need to be reminded of the eternal truth that "this too shall pass".

Me, I only needed a simple amulet to remind me every single day (especially in my nervous moments), that this story shall end soon.

And then the errors shall repeat themselves, ad nauseam.

2363 : Jaag ke Kaati

I have blogged about this song "Jaag Ke Kaati" from the movie Leela at least 2 times in the past.

There is something beyond awesome in this song. I have heard this song about 12 times on repeat in the last hour or so....

And the riff does not leave me at all. Lets count the blessings in the song :-).

Firstly, you have Jagjit Singh, at his zenith. He genuinely appears drunk and high on the song, but that just elevates his voice from a simple croon to a delectable recitation.

Then you have the unmissable judgalbandi between the acoustic guitar (dont miss the strain of Veena in the background) and the  vocalist. And the tabla on a heightened track (which means it is almost as if the tabla is playing in the foreground, instead of it being the background).

Gulzar doing the rounds with lyrics and the massive metaphors that usually accompany any of his songs.

Saagar take behte do Naina,
Rooh hain bandhan khulte nahin hain,
Daag hain dil ke, dhulte nain hain
Karvat karvat batik nakna

Then finally, we have Dimple and Vinod Khanna.

Do we agree we have a reliable receipe for an aural wet dream :-)?

2362 : Pausomatic....

As I wrote the "pause" wala post, I just remember "Kate Nahin Raat" by Sultan Khan. I have just heard that song on repeat n times on the flight.

I have posted about this song and the musician a few times. Sultan Khan (Ustadji) has to by my #1 musician for life. His music speaks to me as if he were part of my genes. I realize he is gone, but his music makes my everyday smile - just by their notes.

I don't think I have said this 1999, I was at one of my favorite startups....and I had just bought this album...and the start-up crowd (all in their 22s) loved it.

We used to play this song on repeat...of course not to forget Jagjit Singh and Pink Floyd on infinite much so that the music from those days is baked in my genes. Won't be surprised if one day my daughter hums "Hey you!!".

On a complete hyerplink, I met the founder of that startup 2 days ago...and felt as happy as I have been in many years.

Thanks R, S, A, S, R, U and the whole gang :-).

2361 : Men who pause...

I have always been fascinated by the power of the "pause" in music. The most notable examples in my head are from
- "Killer" by Adamski (The thump has a cadence, but you would probably not like it, if it was not for an unexpected pause that comes up in the cadence...after a 1000 listens...the pause still mesmerizes me always)
- "Killer - papa was a rolling stone" by George Michael which is nothing but a rehash (but at a genius level) of the first song we mentioned. In this one the pause, before the thump begins and the Wembley stadium fires something goose pimples live for :-)
- "Kate Nahin Raat" by Sultan Khan has the pause which just takes the simple love song to greatness levels.
- "Kuch tho hua hain" - Shaan and Alka from the Karan Johar classic....has Shankar Ehsaan Loy creating magic.
- "Kashmir" by Zepplin has the pause before the classic guitar riff.

Without these pauses, would you recognize the beauty of these songs? No, or so I believe. I have been introspecting....these pauses break the harmony (if present in the background), but just super amplify the melody.

Notice the pause, without the pause, you would never be able to recognize the greatness hidden within some of these songs.

2360 : Hulchul by super singer Ravindra Upadhay

Not many of you would have heard this, by "Super Singer".....He is a Sukhwinder clone but with a heart and a tone of gold.

Listen to this song...and be enthralled. I have heard this song at least a 1000 times and it never yet stops its mesmerizing lure.

A lost gem from the past decade. Do give a fair chance. The voice, the music, the lyrics and all of it will make you wonder....does the music industry really allow talent to foment....or does it push it to go stale and ferment.

Take a bow!!

2359 : Its movie time

I find folks who watch movies on their mobile phones unusual and amusing. I see these folks every week...and every single time I find it strange.

I am sure they find me odd too, sitting in the cramped bay, typing away on a largish MacBook. They must think  "he must be some crazy scribe type"..

But seriously, how much retinal stimulation is enough? Or does this modern version of the coke addiction never slow down?

2358 : Mitwa from Kabhi Alvida na Kehna

This song by Shafaqat Amanat Ali Khan from the movie Kabhi Alvida na Kehna. A massive orchestral composition - which has the song move from very high to very low (I think the voice spans at least two octaves...the tone deaf in me cannot validate) in the span of a few seconds.

The song invariably polarises the listener. Either he likes it, or she hates it.

One question that I have often heard in drawing rooms is - "would this song have been better sung by Rahat Fateh Ali?" And in my head, he would have quite literally "killed" it :-), belly up.

Rahat is the sugary types versus Shafaqat is the melancholic type. We need melancholy in this song. 

2357 : Chingari Koi Bhadke - Gulzar's genius

Gulzar's genius is in all glow, in the song "Chingari Koi Bhadke", which Kishore sings with so much emotion.

Essentially the song says, that if the healer assumes the role of the "perpetrator", then who shall save us?. A few sample couplets, which will be ruined by my translation.

Na Jane kya ho jaata,
Jaane hum kya kar jaate,
Peete toh zinda hain,
Na peete toh mar jaate,
Duniya jo pyaasa rakhe,
Toh madera pyaas bujhaye,
Madera jo pyasa rakhe,
Too use Kaun bujhaye,

Dont know what would have been possible,
Unsure what all I would have committed, 
I drink and hence I survive this life,
Without this elixir, I would be long gone
If the world keeps me thirsty, 
then its this wine quenches the thirst,
If this wine itself decides to make me arid,
Then who shall water my soul?

2356 : Mozart No. 41

Listen and be reminded of Sabira Merchant and "whats the good word?".

Our memories are strange hooks, na?

2355 : Margazhi Poove from May Madham

I am sure enough has been said of this song all over, especially since I am about 15 years late as I blog about this.

The suprabhatam (Kowsalya sup raja) riff played on the flute - that touch by Rahman is pure sublime.

Something in that song is quite serene.Those (as in the past) were the times when even Rahman was inspired.

As I grow older, like all other oldies, I crave for the older times :-). How old :-).

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

2354 : Watch this slowly and fall in love with Joan Jett again...

I saw this video and was mesmerized. One because I like Joan Jett, second it truly came as a surprise to me that she still rocks :-).

This is her and Debbie Harry doing a dystopian take on Trump. Watch the video slowly. There is so much hidden in the video.


If you are not a Joan Jett fan yet, then of course either you are too young or you are too busy.
Listen to her here, singing " I love Rock and Roll"....

2353 : Pooja Sachdeva - Haan main characterless hoon !!

I moonlight as a poet. Of course I write sweet abstract nothings. Usually - more nothing, less something. Really.

And then every now and then I read/hear something like Pooja. Awesome Slam poetry !!

But, is that enough acknowledgement? Really is this just Pooja's poetry? Or is this, the angst we help propogate in our everyday lives - as fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, friends - and not to mention disrespect(ers), if there is such a word.

Like yesterday - I spoke to someone newly married, who said - his wife is still learning cooking...but he is okay with that- he said the food sucks, but he hopes to get good food in 2 months from now. One part of me wanted to tell him "If you want to eat, learn to cook" and "learn it for yourself" not via a wife or hiring a cook.

BTW, thats exactly what I tell my son all the time.

Am I an equalist? Hell no, I am more criminal in this "business" than Al Capone can be....but I definitely know the jerk when I see one in the mirror.

Meanwhile, dear Pooja, I dont know you at all, but take a bow !!. Hope the universe delivers my heartfelt respect to you.

2352 : You have won Bronze

Was reading this link with interest.

While I did link some of the images, the one that appealed to me and called to me was the one with the bird and the hunched out man (replicated below...hope it is a not a copyright violation).

Something in it made me melancholic. The search for an escape maybe :-).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2351 : 3 children complete our palms

Picture this.
I meet someone who lives in our apartment complex on the porch leading upto the elevator. She and her husband are clearly coming back from a walk - with their daughter (must be around 3-4 years), a large dog, and a slightly smaller one (who has only 3 legs...possibly lost in an accident)

So I politely greet them with a note, and then smile and look at the child and dog. As the elevator arrives, I hold the door for all of them to get in before I can jump in too.

She looks at me and says “sure you want to travel with us and the dogs”...

I smile warmly and tell her something to the effect “ that dogs are family too”.

I think that breaks the ice. She beams.

Once we are all inside the box, I ask her the obvious “out for an evening walk?”.

She again beams her million dollar smile and answers with a genuine smile that’s so rare in times like today - she says “Yes. Walking with husband (who she looks at and smiles) and our three kids.”

She is referring to the dogs, and the daughter, that much is obvious. But then she says something completely endearing, she points to the daughter and says “our two-legged kid”, then to the 3 legged dog and says “our three-legged kid” and finally to the large dog and says “and our four legged kid”.

I smile back (my heart is beaming with is exchange) and tell her, “that’s such a perfect way to put it. Looks like one real happy family.”

Indeed 3 kids with ascending number of legs - does indeed sound like a happy wholesome family.g

2350 : The 7th horse of the 7th Sun

Suraj ka Satvaan Ghoda is a very well known book and movie. I have often wondered in the past - why the oblique reference. Its only in recent months that I have discovered the background to that title. Here is some interesting background. Read and be enthralled :-), or at least I was.


*Unlike the months of the year, weekdays have no astronomical correlations. It is an arbitrary division of time, believed to have its origin in Babylon from where it spread eastwards to India and thence to China and westwards through Rome to around the Mediterranean. Just as Romans attributed the first day of the week to the Sun, so did Indians who called it Ravi-vaar. Why was the first day of the week associated with the Sun, no one knows. It is one of those mysteries of history that remain unresolved. The earliest reference to Sunday in India comes from texts dated after 400 CE, and it is believed to have come with Sun-worshippers like the Huns, Parthians and Scythians, who entered India around the time of the Gupta kings.*

*Surya is an important god in Hinduism. He is the chief graha or celestial body around which revolve all the astrological grahas. He is the Supreme Father whose chariot is made up of 12 wheels, each wheels corresponding to the seasons, and which is pulled by seven horses. They say that while six horses are seen, the seventh horse is unseen. It is the mysterious horse of intuitive wisdom whose presence is felt but which remains invisible. Surya’s charioteer is Aruni, the god who is incomplete, of ambiguous gender, because his mother, in her impatience, broke the egg before he was fully ready to be hatched. Aruni shoots arrows that pierce the night sky, which is why dawn is so blood red.*

*Surya’s wife is called Saranya or Sanjana who gave her husband a pair of twins: Yama, the first man to die and hence the god of death, and Yami, who turned into the river, Yamuna, and to the night, Yamini, mourning for her brother. Unable to bear her husband’s radiance, Saranya ran away leaving behind her shadow-twin, Chaya. Chaya gave birth to Shani, the lord of Saturn, god who delays things. Surya realised that Chaya was a duplicate wife when he noticed that she did not love Yama the way she loved Shani. So he went looking for his true wife and courted her as a horse when he learnt that she had turned into a mare. From this equine union came the horse-headed twins, Ashwins, lords of the morning and evening star, who bring health and healing wherever they go. Scriptures refer to another son of the Sun, Revanta, the lord of the hunt, shown in art riding horses. Thus, horses are closely associated with the Sun-God.*

From ....

*The title is a reference to the chariot of the sun god in Hindu mythology, which is pulled by seven white horses. Towards the end of the film and the book, Manik explains to his friend that when all other six horses have become tired and weak, it is the seventh horse, the one that represents dreams, that gives us hope for a better future. Manik Mulla says it best:*

**** “And yet there is something; something that has inspired and strengthened our resolve to pierce the darkness, to challenge and change the social order, and to re-establish the simple values and ideals of humanity. Whether you call it our conscience, our soul, or something else. And faith, courage and belief in the truth, push forth this luminous soul, just as the seven horses take forward the chariot of the Sun-god.”*****

Friday, December 08, 2017

2349 : I do weed

I run a strange experiment in my little zen garden. I truly let permaculture and nature take its course. I let plants die and new ones be born. I let animals (yes we have rats) and tiny lizards and spiders and earthworms, dreamily live on their little planet.


That one particular plant, which is kind of a weed, with tiny leaves like the tamarind tree...I yank out....because once it settles multiplies almost every night till it takes control of the complete pot.

Every time I de-weed it....the thought does cross my mind. Who am I to kill it?

What gives me power over its destiny? Who am I helping? Why am I helping? I am adding entropy into the world. Why is that tiny leaf tree less valuable to me than the basil or Jamun tree that also grows there.

I play God. I don’t enjoy it...but I still play it. And every single time the existential question hits me hard - WhoTF am I?

2348 : Roaches

Picture this.

I was at a hole in the wall cafe with a friend on his birthday (on 15th Nov :-), so now guess who!!)

As he and I sat alone, reminiscing about Lawn tennis, philosophy, existential nightmares, our own battlefield weariness...and of course laughing off our losses.....

As he and I sat, we drowned beer (Bira of course) and Chivas (of course!!)....we both drank as if to drink is to set free.

The table next door, had two younger boys (probably in their early 30s)....drinking eating and reminiscing.

Remember this was a hole in the wall..and up walks a fully grown roach along the floor to their table.

I see it (and I am petrified of much for my skunky bravado!!) and so do they. My friend is drunk blind :-)

As I watch the roach inches closer to them....and eventually they start trying to squash it. But not in a petrified way, but in a way that they seem to be enjoying it. They are killing it, one leg or piece of its body a time....stamping its life one breath at a time with their nike sneakers.

Something in me had revulsion. I don't enjoy the spectacle of treating other life forms as lowly. Have I not eaten meat, then why cast stone? I have definitely eaten meat in my day.

But the Buddhist in me believes that killing out of fear or hunger is still something I can rationalize. Killing for the fun or mirth of it....makes me feel strange.....

Of course, I am no one to judge the two folks...I have committed grave heinous murders in my life...both literally and figuratively.

But....death is not a matter of light in my head anymore.

One day, we too shall cross the bridge. One day we too shall encounter our own delusions. One day we too shall be the object of someone’s mirth. That is the day, as my life passes by me in an the brain is erasing its RAM.....I will definitely see the image of the squished up roach.

2347 : On your dying away

I have seen two deaths in the immediate family in the last 3 weeks. Death as always is a big reveler. It’s levels, revels and moves heavens.

Yesterday and today I spent time with the mourning. Today morning was unusual, the family of the deceased, decided to do as much of the rituals as were needed by Brahmanical standards.

One of the rituals requires them to invite about 10-12
Brahmans and then serve them a meal, give them rice + banana and pay them.

Just so that you can picture this...these are avowed Brahmins priests, folks who might have other day jobs, but their primary focus is Vedic rituals and to help society be in touch with their spirit.

So here goes.....
As one of the priests was heading up the other rituals, the other 11 had nothing much to do, save watch and chant. But....

Some of these folks started playing games on their IPhone. One of them started checking YouTube videos of phones. A few of them started speaking and gossiping amongst themselves. And finally at least one of them started checking twitter and WhatsApp videos.

Overall, a sorry state. Why would avowed priests come to a place of mourning and create such chaos?

I don’t disrespect them, but something about them and the way they conducted the rituals makes me believe something in the truth of the moment was lost. Their allegiance and purpose were lost too.

They were not in mourning or helping us mourn. They were clerks who were part of a red tape.

And it felt immensely sad to me, to me who is a person who is very away from the meaning of these beliefs. And saddened me.

What has the world come to? Will the spirits in the other world forgive us for being such a callous lot? I don't know. Should we blame the phone or Facebook or Twitter? I don't know.

All I know is, sometimes a simple humble heartfelt prayer and a feeling of compassion for the dead is more than enough to set the world back in order. Alas we get lost in the maze. (We all do, including me!!)

2346 : Echoes

I have been listening to old ghazals and falling in love with poetry again. I remember when I was first trying to fall in love with ghazals...and there was a live album called “Echoes” from Chitra and Jagjit Singh (I love Chitra Singh too - I know most folks hate her - Listen to “Yeh na thi Hamari Qismat”)....

...and echoes is quite poetic.
Maybe its just nostalgic, but even back then it used to be one of my favorite albums.

And today...I am falling in love all over again...with the man called Jagjit, the lady called Chitra and the genre called ghazals.

Unhe yeh zid ke mujhe dekh kar kissi ko na dekh,
Mera yeh Shauq, ke Sabse Kalam Karta chaloon....

(she has this obstinate viewpoint that I only have eyes for her,
What can I do, the playboy that I am, I tho immerse myself in all the sights)

2345 : The Buddha who smokes

I am half a Buddhist. Or at least I aspire to be one. And while at Vietnam, it looked like over 50% of the country was practicing Buddhists.

I did not have much time, given it was a friend’s wedding that I had come down to attend...and it was a two day packed affair. And yet the evening just before my flight I managed to smuggle two hours for a quick walk across the once Indo-China nation.

I could not help native the proliferation of “Laughing Buddhas”, other Feng Shui symbols all over the place.

Almost every shop (including Coffee & Beans...yes the one owned by Coca-Cola had some very visible Buddhist symbols). And at most shops had an incense altar was a foreword to the symbols. Of course, the incense was not burning anymore....looked like it was a more of a morning thing.

And then....then.....I noticed something unusual. At one of the shops I saw some cigarette stubs in the ashes...and I politely slighted it...assuming that the “stubs” had found themselves there mistakenly.

And then....then.....:-)
I saw them in many shops. And later at a pagoda too.

I was mesmerized. Did the Buddha in Vietnam smoke? He seemed to be at least - unless I was missing some symbolism here.

How cool does a God have to be, for his fans to offer him a smoke? Now - I, even more, want to be a Buddhist. Makes sense na?

2344 : Serious Circus

On a recent trip to Vietnam some months ago, I had a strange experience. Picture this.
So I land at the airport and I am figuring my way out of the airport, onwards to meet the friend (who I had announced to with typical bravado that I don't need her help in picking me up...of course I am a global traveler!! Ha ha)

I finally walked up to the Airport Information Desk and want to ask them “where can I get a typical pay-as-you-go cab”....but...I have to wait my turn.

There is a fellow desi ahead of me. From his accent, he is in all probability a “gujju”, and he is asking the information desk - where can I get a “circus” ATM.

Now for folks who have never visited Vietnam - here is the dope - ask folks an English Question in slow, 1 word per second kind of speed, and in most cases, you will still not be understood by the other person. I think its the way desis speak with an accent that I presume does them in.

I am usually not hassled by having to wait. My view is, it is what it is. So I politely stand behind....and the conversation proceeds.

So the poor native is asking - what “circus”?
Gujju boy is going - “Circus ATM????”

I am spaced out, my brain is not processing. But hearing the word “Circus” incessantly I am now wondering - what is being spoken here.

A few repeated chats later, the gujju boy removes his wallet and removes a card and flashes the symbol to the “info desk”.

Ah...that’s when I get it. Like a flash the epiphany hits me...he is referring to the “Cirrus” image.

And yet...he continues to say “see”, “see”...”circus ATM???”.