Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vote of Confidence

In general, people have immense potential for good. Possibly, it is inherent in each and every one of us. However it lies untapped because of our lack of confidence in others. Our inability to say good things about them. Our inability to put our confidence in them. Our inability to confess to the transformations they have set off. Our inability to be frank, humble, and honest about it all. Our incapacity to confess to our weaknesses and emerge a better person out of the act. We choose to dwell upon the insufficiencies and derive conclusions from them. We spit spite and think that it can be justified because we have been blind to each other. We survive on the bitter concoction of jealousy and pride, our jaded appetites intolerant to anything more humane. As I observed some time back, the unease seems so palpable that we can taste its bitter tang in our mouths. We qualify humility as an obsolete virtue instead of accepting the truth and letting others know about the same. Instead of making others feel better because of it. Instead of at least sometimes ignoring those pitfalls. Perhaps, that is not how things ought to work. Perhaps, we need to be a bit emotional for once, without preconditioning misguiding our reason. Without ridicule leading us astray. Without indifference making us shrug our shoulders and settle for anything less than that. Let it not be so this one instance. If possible, hear me out.

Should we, thus, move a motion to instill confidence in others? A Vote of Confidence in their potential and not ours? It’s worth a try, if anything. If nothing comes out of it, we can all go back to being ourselves. No harm done. After all, we must walk down that road; the one which runs through ‘The Forest of The Night’. The one which compels us to face our demons. The one, which in turn, helps us in finding our angels. So, in order to start a process, I would use this platform to say certain things to people. Good things. So that they can take something out of this. Perhaps for the better of both of us. Yes, I do intend to be selfish, but not at all self-centered. I might miss out a few people and I sincerely regret that. Rest assured that shall happen only due my inefficiencies and not yours. Due to my inability to mould words around the good that is yours. Due to my blindness which has prevented such a disclosure so far. Due to my incapacity to see something that is inherent in you. Due to the foolishness that had prevented me from looking beyond perceptions. Due to everything me and nothing you. Please forgive the bias, if any, which creeps into this narrative. The order of this monologue is one which is the least biased of them all.

To Ghar Parivar – The debt that I owe you eludes normal statistics. So it is futile to even try making a mention of it. All I can say is that I am indebted to you for accepting me with all my weaknesses and strengths. For accepting my rudeness when it had seemed unreasonable even to me. For accepting my failures in the same vein as my numerous accomplishments. For accepting me for who I am, without any pretensions or complaints, whatsoever. I owe myself to you.


To Chacha Chaudhary – There is something in the composure that you carry about you that tells me that no matter what, everything will turn out to be well in the end. I have been inspired by the way you have donned your responsibilities, regardless of their repercussion on your own ambitions or desires. I would go on to say that you have been an idol of sorts. In some ways. It’s strange, thus, that I have been a mute spectator with respect to everything ‘you’ in this comradeship. Let me think about it. Your capacity to love has been a subject of conversation between I, me, and myself. Someday, I wish to emulate it in a fashion akin to yours, without being misled by any preconditioning whatsoever. But most of all, I wish you luck in your endeavours. I am sure you guys will see it through and emerge out of it wiser, even if harried.

I am glad that my initial impressions of you were proved to very wrong soon enough. The only reason why I have failed to describe you is because you remain something of an enigma to me. I have still not been able to understand why we got along well. Or maybe we don’t. Would you care to hazard a guess? You are one of the few people who have given me more than I have returned back to them. I appreciate your efforts in fighting for a lost cause. And I apologize for not being there when you might have needed me. But, please, keep at it. We need more of that. For there might be few people like you. And more like me.


To Gandhi Baba – I have known you as a pillar in my life from the time I understood the full implications of the term friendship. It’s another matter altogether that you have been at the receiving end far too often. The patience with which you have heeded to my grievances has been astonishing. Especially since it was never reciprocated with the same fortitude. Your advice always bordered on being labelled abstruse. However, with time, all of it has made sense. I have realized it was lack of comprehension on my part which prevented me from understanding your perspective. You were just ahead of your times. The support you have extended whenever I have needed it has not gone unnoticed. I have just been shy about accepting the facts. I love it when I can talk to you without even looking at you, something rare and special for me. I know you will understand everything. Thank you.

Your idealism might seem eccentric to some, even to me at times. But that is something you must pursue with all your heart. What are we if not the victims of our ambitions? I say victims because we suffer because of our aims, as you have. But please do not think that a battle lost is a war never begun. You know that even though you lost it out to her, it was not because she deserved better, but because maybe you did. Perhaps you should think about being a bit more carefree and gullible than you are. There is fun there that you are missing out on. I have heard stories being told about that faraway land. Pay a visit sometime. I am sure we will have a lot to talk about.


To Professor Saab – You have more potential for good than any person I have known. Unfortunately, I have not been able to imbibe most of it. Perhaps not even a tiny little bit of it. But that only speaks about my inadequacies and not yours. It seems that humour comes almost as naturally to you as grumpiness to me. However, let that laughter not be at the cost of others’. The support that you extend to others is something of a miracle in itself. The time, the patience, the effort, the concentration, and the impartiality. All of it is commendable. I have tried a hand at it myself, to no obvious gains of course. Your respect and devotion to family and friends has sometimes made me feel inadequate in the same perspective. However, you inspire, and so there is still hope. Let it never be otherwise. Your diligence inspires awe (and perhaps bits of jealousy) in me and I hope that one day you will get what that merits. Perhaps the desserts might come a bit later than expected. But they will. Have faith.

As far as everything ‘love’ is concerned, look no further than where your memory takes you. You dwell upon the past way too often for comfort. I am sure you deserve to find whatever you are looking for. It will find you before you do. For there must be someone out there with as much you in her as yourself. We can not settle for anything less than the best. Now can we? And remember, being selfish has become fashionable again. Perhaps, you should give it a try. Sometimes, and only sometimes, you can rely upon my fashion quotient as well. Take care and all the best. I shall see you around.


To Salim Sinai – You have been a strange acquaintance (friend?) in many ways. I have enjoyed the conversations, the generalizations and the abstractions we have indulged in. Often, if not always, I have wondered if I would miss out on them. It seems that self deprecation is an art that you have not only mastered, but also made contagious. I should refrain from indulging in it too often. If being disillusioned is cool, I wonder if you can take coolness to any new heights. There is this strange mix of worldliness and innocence in the way which you go about life. I love it. Honestly. Your inadequacies have amused me more than once. But only in a matter-of-fact innocent way. Perhaps you will be able to overcome them someday. Or maybe we can endure them alright. We will drink to that. And we will smoke to that.

I have a grouse as well. Something which I have mentioned a few times. You underestimate yourself way too often to realize your merit. So, I must quote Shakespeare here:

But what my power might else exact, like one
Who having into truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory,
To credit his own lie, he did believe
He was indeed the duke;

- Prospero, Act I, Scene II, The Tempest

Roughly translated, Shakespeare means to say that just like a usurper of the throne, by the constant wielding of power, begins to believe he is the king himself; when a person repeats a lie often enough, he begins to believe it is indeed the truth. You get the hint I presume. But then again, it is probable we have been putting up a charade. I say “we” and not “you” because I am as much a part of it as you. As much a culprit, for we look at it as a means for escaping out. A medium for reaffirming our worth. But no more on that.

You quote senseless psychics way too often. And probably you seek to find ratification for all that you do in their ramblings. But who’s complaining? As befits the scheme of things, let me do the same. For I share a weakness I am not willing to get rid of too soon.

Everyone I come across, in cages they bought
They think of me and my wandering, but I'm never what they thought
I've got my indignation, but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive.

- Eddie Vedder, Guaranteed

And do not worry. I am pretty sure you won’t go bald before you get married. Even if you do, you can always woo the lady in question by means of the pseudo-intellectualism and intellectual chutiyapa we have been practising and perfecting. Moreover, I have heard that ladies with an altruistic bent dig men with receding hairlines, a perspective on communalism, and a penchant for writers like Saul Bellow. Your Shobhaa De is safe. At least for the time being. We will drink to that too.


To ‘The’ Med – I have been inspired (affected?) by you in ways you can hardly imagine. If I were to start enumerating the changes that have crept into me because of you, I would perhaps do injustice to others I wish to speak to here. So none of that. I am sure each and every one of those changes has made me a better person. They have not only made me humbler, but more tolerant towards the insufficiencies that plague my character. Pushing me to improve and enhance. Your talent, and the humility with which you ignore it, has motivated me to reach its heights someday. Oh, did I tell you how ambitions have proven to be double edged swords for me? I must keep away from them. Now will I?

I have been a weaker person in your company, something I had not known myself to do. I appreciate the fact that the conversations have not come out of compulsion, but a suppressed willingness. Maybe it’s your skill, and not my inability, that serves the process. I will miss it if we were to part ways sometime in the future. But only in a good way. I would, anyway, have my ‘memory mines’ to serve me in its stead. I say so because I have come to believe that good things do not last forever. Maybe that’s why I have chosen to write about it. To perpetuate it before it fades into oblivion. But I have been known to be eccentric and delusional. Never mind.

The grace that comes so naturally to you has not only amused me time and again, but has also been a subject of thought. That being said and done, your ability to switch from elegance to tackiness with such practised ease has often engaged my attention. I sometimes wonder if the skill has been rehearsed, well in advance. The knack of dwelling upon tiny details in your life, and making the most of them, has amazed me and I wish to someday imitate the feat. Till then, I shall be content in trying, and failing. Compassion. I see it inherent in you even though you have oft claimed otherwise. I expect you will wake up to the fact, more sooner than later. Or were you pretending all this while? I wouldn’t know, right? As a parting wish, I hope that selfishness comes to you as a grace and not as a vice. I say so just because I want you to get whatever you had wanted out of life. Please do not let compromises get the better of you. Do not. We all deserve better than that. Be good. I shall wait and watch.


I steal some lines. Let it be so for all of us.

I'll take this soul that’s inside me now
Like a brand new friend
I'll forever know

I’ve got this light
And the will to show
I will always be better than before

To Everyone Else – I wish I were competent enough to mention all the people who have affected me, however subtly. Yet, as you might have realized, that is not possible. Not because I do not wish to do so. But because I stand incapacitated in such a situation. I hope you won’t mind, for that was never the purpose of all this melodrama. Would you like to carry on from here? Take care. Everyone.

PS – Yes, there IS a Calvin strip for each post one can ever think of.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Memory Mines

The past several days have been spent in stepping over several of the memory mines that had been planted a few ages ago. They were both familiar and alien. Some welcome, some not so. Few balmy, while most listlessly nostalgic. In the process, some new ones were also planted for future reference. They will prove to be like milestones in my life, amplifying the whispers when they become too weak to be comprehended. Rubbing in the wounds just when they have begun to heal. Blowing air over the cinders just when they have begun to die out. At least, that’s the idea.

Visiting home was like getting in touch with oneself, all over again. Being haunted by old fears, reveling in the familiarity of known furniture, getting ridiculed by well-known faces (and surprisingly not minding it at all), fretting over the same insufficiencies, and basking in the glory of a now alien success. What struck me as the most peculiar thing about my place was its absolute stillness. The afternoons seem to be so lazy that time itself appears to be dilating. I can look out the grilled windows and still see the banyan tree across the road, holding its ground. The leaves have been mostly shed. The ones that do remain offer a shade that is as inviting as an age ago. Yet, as before, the invitation remains unaccepted. Irony almost stands personified.

The pin drop silence is often shattered by the occasional horn of a passing motorbike. But that seems a part of the scheme of things. Not something incongruous. The motes dance around in the sunlight that has managed to escape the umpteen curtains in the room and trace abstract figures on the carpet. Dad leaves his things lying around in the same careless fashion. On the other hand, Mom gathers them with a recognizable unease that borders on being labeled comical. And while the friendly (albeit a bit mysterious) neighborhood dhobi continues to occupy the same nook in one of the streets of Vishesh Khand, the ghar-ke-diagonally-opposite-paan-wallah refuses to budge from his favorite spot on the main road. (Rumours abound that several young helps in the locality have fallen for him and, in turn, fallen from the grace of their employers. But that is way beside the point.) Things are best when familiar and better when rustic. Yes?

But even in the stagnation of the place, change is managing to keep up. There is this new shopping complex nearby which seems to have become the one stop destination for my mom’s provisional needs, from internet to raita masala, hair cut to plastic glasses, from betel leaves for puja to desi eggs for the yummiest omelets, and from Cetirizine to mosquito repellents. Then there is the mall close enough which, like a modern mela, is gheraoed every evening by an alarmingly high number of Lucknowites in halter necks, tank tops, and jeans. Often, there is a desire to become a part of the milling numbers and pay homage to a borrowed culture. But I try to reserve that opportunity for desperate times.

Closer home, I notice that the color of the walls has changed. Some lamp shades now add to the décor. The number of plant-pots in the garden (and around the house) has increased alarmingly and it’s slowly becoming difficult to maneuver your way to the door without knocking off some of them on the way there. The television has been moved to my room which means that I won’t be spending my nights in the dining room, watching late night movies on HBO. The in-house-temple, though, occupies the same reverent position in an auspicious corner of the house.

Bosky sleeps where Buddy used to spend her lethargic after-hours. He looks just like her, albeit the color and the size of course. There is the familiar patch of black skin over the eyes and the mole on one of the cheeks. Discipline in his life is conspicuous by its absence and its lack doesn’t fail to elicit a mention from Mummy every now and then. I take a liking to him and tickle his tummy just like I used to pamper Buddy. He rolls over and allows me to indulge him.

When rifling through the cupboard for some old paperbacks, I chance upon even older grade reports. They came in various colors – pink, yellow, white, green, and even blue. Regrets flare up with an alarming ease. Even now? Their persistence is both, surprising and pathetic. But I smile soon enough and disarm them. The art of doing so demanded nothing less than perfection (in indifference), something which had already been attained by means of relentless practice over the past four years. After all, we don’t want to live in an age gone by. We want to dwell upon it just long enough. Leaving that aside now.

The cupboard is a veritable treasure house. There is this box with all my sports cards, cricket paraphernalia, knickknack, odds, and ends. The green polythene bag with the precious letters still intact. They reek of the years spent in carefree abandon. I move on. Next up are the paperbacks. Ones Papa bought for me each time he went on a field trip to break stones and dig for exotic minerals in remote corners of Bhutan. They are all in there – Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Sinbad, Scooby Doo, and even Jules Verne and Swiss Family Robinson. Some of the thick, hard bound Reader’s Digest volumes (purchased after much persuasion because of their sky-high prices) have been pored over zillions of times, their facts and figures all memorized long ago. I turn the pages, but then soon shut them, lest a reverie start in mid afternoon. There are several other mines waiting to be disarmed. Moving on.

The photo albums are virtual disasters in the making. Mom can never bear to have a look at them without being on the verge of tears. So I smuggle a few into my room at night and pore over them. The yellow light in the room only serves to help matters. It’s a bit bright for my taste but is still better than the clinical white light of the CFL. There she is. Mom. Cradling a very small version of me in her arms. Dad looks on with an expression of suppressed amusement on his face. They are standing in front of one of the tombs in Lucknow. Amma dotes on each of us in turn while Baba is his reserved self. There is this picture with the entire family in it, all the kids very small and shitty looking, all the parents very smart and proper, and all the grandparents very smug and satisfied. Not much subtlety there either. My sister smiles at me from the confines of a few other sepia colored frames. She is looking silly in almost all of them and I long to tell her that. I long to tell her how much I miss beating her up and getting thrashed in turn. I long for a lot many things but instead prefer giving in to her demands. She speaks in hushed whispers. I just listen.

Her hair is looking so pathetic that I wonder how she agreed to getting a hair cut that obscene in the first place. Then she is racing and finally standing third, just managing to outrun the fourth placed. I see her on the podium (wearing a skirt so long one could almost mistake it for a gown) and smiling, positively beaming as she receives the medal. Often, I see her doting on me on each occasion I cried a bit too hard after bring scolded by Mummy. I see myself sulking in the rain just because she had taken my favorite Mickey Mouse umbrella. I see her holding onto her birthday present so that she was the first person I gave the cake to. There she is, all decked up in a red lehenga and dancing to the tunes of a track from Guide. I see her all dressed up for her first farewell, in the company of friends who are boys and boys who are friends. She is married then, and the distance mellows the discord that had seemed so unreasonable. She has a kid now and seems so grown up and responsible, hardly a shadow of the playful thing I want to remember her as. I see all this and I smile. I see all this and I try. To no avail.

I switch off the light and try to find comfort in Floyd. A lamp flickers nearby and sheds strange shadows on the wall. I try deciphering their pattern for a few minutes, probably inspired by Waters and Gilmour. Then I give up, realizing that even Freud must have abstained from such a pastime. I must be losing it. Why does Lucknow do this to me? Why does it engage me in a conversation that happened so far back in time that even the voices seem blurred now? Why is it so static? Why do I claw at those receding shadows and still strive to derive comprehension in their whispers? Why do those memories never fail to fascinate me beyond reason? Why do I always try to find familiarity in their alienation? Why has it been so hard to let go? The questions never cease to exist and their answers never seem to appear.

As we journey through time, new mines keep getting entrenched. The visit home did not prove to be anything different. New reminiscences evolved and were safely ensconced in the backwaters of my psyche through various means. Possibly for reference in a time less favorable. The gestation period of these memories always follows the same predictable cycles.

When actually living them in their entirety, we hardly notice their wholeness, blinded by a shooting star of the time ahead. Enamored by an eluding phantom. Wanting things we could have now and yearning for people whom we love instead of those who love us. But once there, we can not help but be fascinated by the innocence of the moments we have just lived. Our fertile imagination only assists the process, filling in the gaps in those memories with agreeable details, soothing the transition from now to then. Helping us to dwell happily on the past and always making sure that the present never seems that perfect. This when there and that when here. A vicious circle if you may (forgive the cliché). But perhaps, that is how it is supposed to be. Who knows? All that is needed now is a lazy winter afternoon with the ceiling fan creaking at the slowest possible speed. Rest is, as Barney would say, ‘legendary’. I wish you all the best.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Emotional Quotient of a Door Knob

Interesting excerpt from the movie Annie Hall. Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) has just quarreled with his love interest, Annie, and is walking down the street, looking for some answers, when he comes across a man, a ‘happy’ couple, and the Wicked Queen in quick succession. Here's a bit of the wisdom. Needless to say, it's overtly dramatized.

Alvy Singer: I have to ask you a question. Don't go any further. With your wife in bed, does she need any kind of artificial stimulation like, like, marijuana?
Man: We use a large vibrating egg.

{walks off}

AS: A large vibrating egg. Well, I ask a psychopath, I get than kind of an answer. Jesus!

{along came the happy couple}

AS: You look like a very happy couple. Well, are you?
Lady: Yeah!
Gentleman: Yeah!

AS: So, so, how do you account for it?
Lady: Uh. Uh, I am very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Gentleman: And I am exactly the same way.

AS: Aha! I see. Wow. That's very interesting. So you have managed to work out something, huh? Wooww. Thanks very much for talking to me.

To Himself: You know, even as a kid, I always went for the wrong women. I think that's my problem. When my mother took me to see Snow White, everyone fell in love with Snow White. I immediately fell for the wicked queen.

{In an animated sequence}

Wicked Queen: We never have any fun anymore.
AS: How can you say that?

WQ: Why not? You are always leaning on me to improve myself.
AS: You're just upset. You must be getting a period.

WQ: I don't get a period. I am a cartoon character. Can't I be upset every once in a while?

Me: Err. Aha! I did not know it was that simple. Hmm.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Venus and Venus

Let’s jump straight to the point this time. Without much babble about lyrics that are either abstruse or philosophical. We don’t want any of that. So. There has to be something about them. The way they have all the time in the world to not only look, but actually be concerned about all our worries and vices. The way in which they can advertise their weaknesses only because it makes you feel better. The way they have turned predicaments into something fashionable. The way they can take care of you better than yourself. The way they can keep you hoping for the best, and expecting the worst, all at the same time. The way they can remain silent just because you don't know how to talk. The way their pimples seem something exotic and worth emulating. The way in which they hop, skip, and jump, making each of those maneuvers seem like something only they are capable of. The way the words ‘mundane’ and ‘monotonous’ attain new connotations in their presence. The way they rest their chins on their hands in the same fashion, the world over. The way in which they don't change, but mould, you to become a better being. The way they always end up making you feel self-centered, no matter what. The way they inspire good, almost always. The way their gross inadequacies don't seem that inadequate after all. The way their dresses can flatter like no other. The way their love not only teaches you to love, but also hate in return.

Why the big deal about their eyes anyway? What makes us so blind that they manage to become a part of us, so integral that the very thought of coming apart seems unbearable? What makes them think they can make us feel special and neglected when they desire? Why do their little idiosyncrasies make us fall for them, time and again? What makes humility come so naturally to them? Why do we always smile when they crack jokes about us? What secret to happiness have they refused to share with us for so long? Why do they make us remember things we never thought we would? What prompts them to smile at our pathetic jokes and even worse choices? Why do they give us more than we can ever repay? What makes them do all this and then not want to do anything with us at a moment's notice? More importantly, why do their hair still smell so delicious after every bath?

Then there is the other side. Only more abstract and mysterious. It’s revealed in the way their eyes seem so innocent even when they divulge the worst of their crimes. In the way they can perpetuate the most mundane of gestures into fond memories. In the way their affection seems like a distant prospect even when they have shared their most intimate secrets. In the way their association takes you to the brink, and back again, as if it were a game. In the way you always end up forgiving them for wrongs you would punish yourself for. In the way they can fool you into believing that you know them. Yes, girls, they must be having something to them. Something much beyond our limited comprehension. Something special. Ah girls, they still do black magic and still get away with it. Damn.