Wednesday, December 28, 2005


when winter comes
I will be alone,
for it to snow
on the grass,
for the shadows
to desert me,

silence surrounds,
supine yet solid,
fragile, forlorn.
the nights visit,
I find
their company cold,
but welcome.
books freeze
in my hands,
their words tasteless
like ice,
I wait
for meaning
to thaw my heart
to life

poems form,
filling the vacancy
in my head,
metaphors dance,
images throb,
syllables sing in
an unreal rhythm.
but gloom descends
on the paper
as I write,
the ink dries
before it can flow,
and my words lie
for spring,
for winter
to pass me by

fences block
friendly paths,
as I try and venture
where I've not.
I stand and gaze
at the gates --
as evening
and dusk merge --
thinking of
an unheard music,
calling out
into the echoless distance,
for a voice
to vibrate itself
into my thoughts,
for the locks
to fall open

the flowers
have dispappeared,
and so has the cheer
of the sun.
the calendar hangs,
marking without purpose,
a futile existence.
the streets are quiet,
even the ghosts
stay away today.
I trudge
a thin line
between sanity
and superficiality,
for the courage
to stop,
and say


when winter comes,
I will be dead
and gone,
for it to snow
on a grassy grave,
for the shadows
to let me sleep,
to let me be,
for heaven

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Swimsuit Syndrome

I had a very middle-class upbringing. As middle-class as it gets. Nothing wrong with that. The sole drawback is that you are not exposed (and exposed is the key-word here) to a lot of things when you are middle-class. Like glitzy pizza joints with over-indulgent waiters. Like boring discotheques with their psychedelic lighting to discourage people from reading inside. Like over-hyped designer-wear with so many holes one would think we are in the middle of the next great depression. And yes, like swimming pools. But more about that later.
In the neighbourhood where I grew up, there was this girl who lived near my house, P. P and I were not exactly Susie and Calvin in that a) she was elder to me by one year b) I had no qualms about spending most of my time at her place, playing whatever that a girl and a boy aged 4 and 5 played, and c) we were good friends, if not great. But we fought. Oh yes, just about all the time. And we made up, all the time. It's just that we didn't know it was called making up then. Among the many things I remember from that time, her grandma's dosas still stand out, the crispy aroma still fresh in the folds of my memory.
Anyway, like most of the children in the colony, we attended the same school. And our mothers -- apart from being good friends in the best traditions of middle-class neighbourhoods -- were members of the same ladies' club (the villain of this piece).
P and I grew up together. With the regularity of the monsoon rain in Chennai (unheard of in recent times until this year) we got promoted each year at school,and I continued to spend most of my time at her place, indulging in my favourite pastime of devouring her grandma's dosas. Cricket, hop-scotch (every Indian boy has played it at some point of time or the other in his life, only to deny it vehemently in later years in a wasted effort to defend his manhood), rubber-band wars, chameleon tracking, taking apart the name it. We had other friends of course, but somehow we came back to each other in times of great trouble. Like whenever P had to hide her report-card from her dad. Or like when the audio cassettes in my home were found unwound mysteriously, the magnetic tapes cut and strewn all over the living room, like a sheep's intestines at the butcher's -- I would be at P's house, establishing a water-tight alibi (I've always thought CDs were invented by someone who had a very curious kid).
So, all was fine, and we were well on our way to challenging Sawyer and Finn as the greatest buddies of all time, until fate reared, or as in our case -- exposed, its ugly head.
The women in my mom's laides' club were a dying species. They were an adventurous and enterprising sort, you see. You have to remember that I'm talking about a time, a dark period in the uncharted history of Indian middle-class women, before housewives discovered that intellectual salvation lay in predicting the daily twists of convoluted television soaps. So, the members of my mom's club, deprived of grey-matter-stimulating-execise decided to go on an outing. The proposed place -- a then newly opened amusement park in our city.
Yippee, I thought, when Mom told me this, for theme parks were still a novelty then, unlike now. And I looked forward to the trip, mentally crossing off the days on the calendar on my return from school everyday.
D-day arrived. Packed, and dressed nattily, all of us -- moms and kids -- took a bus to the park. It was a short journey, and alighting from the bus in front of the park, I looked around for my other buddies. I found all the boys huddled in a corner, much like the Indian Cricket team these days, engaged in animated discussion about world affairs. I barged in, only to be confronted with worried faces, looking at me as though Apocalypse had decided to pay a surprise visit.
Upon further enquiry, I learnt the bad news. The agenda for the day included a couple of hours at the swimming pool. And the pool meant we boys could wear nothing but trunks. In front of the girls! My little, 10-year old heart sunk in a deepening pool of despair -- I was in no mood to show off my under-developed anatomy to members from the fairer sex . You must understand that all of us boys were around a decade old, an age when our minds weren't pre-occupied with four and three-letter words.
I looked around to see where P was. And I found her amidst the girls, all of them huddled together, their faces worried, looking as though Apocalypse had decided to pay a surprise visit. I gathered they were not keen on strutting about in their swimsuits in front of us either!
On the other hand, our mothers were chatting busily, blissfully unaware of our predicament, looking forward to relaxing in the pool, away from the everyday rigours of family management.
The day went well, really. Ride after ride was taken in gloomy anticipation of a watery destiny, where we would all be stripped, literally, of our manliness even before it had a chance to bloom. And all the time the girls carefully kept away from our path and we, from theirs.
The fated hour came, and we boys headed for the locker, our rented swimming trunks bunched in our hands. We changed in a jiffy, but none of us were keen on coming out, until our moms started hollering out for us from the pool.
Swimming pools, by nature, are not replete with hiding places. And we 'men' needed to hide our lowly selves before the 'women' saw us. Think about it. There was the locker and then there was the pool. And of course there were a few bushes scattered around the pool, which meant a lot of boys were suddenly displaying a newfound interest in the local vegetation -- especially those whose trunks were on the shorter side. The rest of us resorted to testing the elastic limit of our shorts -- pulling it down below our knees, only to find the hem sliding down, which was even more dangerous -- finally ending up performing a perpetual pull-down-pull-up act.
And then the girls came out of their lockers. Dressed in their swimsuits. And I saw P, even though I really didn't want to. And she saw me. At about the same time. I must admit, she looked pretty, but right then the only thought in my mind spelt C-O-V-E-R. And we passed each other, not daring to look up, to diagonally opposite corners of the pool, so as to get as much distance between each other as possible.
It took some time before I recovered from the shock of being seen and having seen, before I realized that the best cover at the pool is the pool itself -- the water rides be cursed, I decided I wasn't going to leave the water and risk being exposed again (now you know why that word has had a profound impact in my life). I took to the water much like a hippopotamus -- ever saw the rest of the hippo's body at the zoo?
That fateful day was when P and I contracted the swimsuit syndrome. Whenever I met P after that, I would see an apparition of her in her swim-suit. And I'm sure she had the same vision of me. We could see it in each other's eyes. Which meant our conversations from then on were reduced to the following:
Me: "...hi..." So, you saw me, huh?
P: "...hi..." You saw me first!
Me:" some homework to finish...see you later" Can we not talk about this?
P: "...umm me too...bye" Yes, I agree totally.
Needless to say, P and I drifted apart -- the indelible memory of that tragic day was too much for our tender hearts. Our budding relationship was nipped by fate -- fate always has other plans. And it was some time before I could get myself to frequent any swimming pool.
You know, T.V. soaps aren't that bad, after all. Think about the bond between a little boy and a little girl which could have been saved the next time you curse soap operas on the box.
On the other hand, may all ladies' clubs be damned!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Wall

She woke up feeling lost. Like a reluctant little girl led astray into the alluring woods, and then abandoned abruptly.
She got up. The harsh sun, already high, was exploring the house leisurely, entering and exiting through the open windows, discovering it anew, chasing away the remnants of sleep from its drowsy corners.

He was nowhere to be seen. The tell-tale signs of his presence were missing. His side of the bed was made-up, probably never slept in. She looked at the clock. It was time for his favourite show on radio. Yet it sat mute, like a sage in meditation, waiting for the lord, offering her no answers. Another premonition.

Her eyes scanned the place slowly, like a huntress who knew where her prey usually hid. But she was looking more out of hope than certainty.

His black shoes -- gone. So were his other footwear. The shoe rack now held only hers, looking incomplete, half-naked.
The first brick fell in place.

Sounds from yesterday drowned her mind in the chaos of their noise. Sounds from the fight. 'Did you...' 'What's this about...' 'Are you...' 'Now, don't start...' 'How could you...' 'I did not...' growing louder...'What does this mean...' 'Whatever...' 'But then you did...' 'That's what you think...' 'Didn't you promise...' 'No...' screaming now...'Why won't you see...' 'I cannot...' 'Did you ever...' 'I might have...' 'Does nothing matter...' 'No...' 'Do you love me?'... quiet, but just momentarily.
She shut her ears forcefully. But the voices continued to grow. Hers, questioning, disbelieving, pleading. His, refusing, rebutting, hurting. She hated him. No, she loved him. No, she hated him.
The bricks of her hate continued to fall in place. Slowly, steadily, the carefully inflicted pain of his unfeeling words cementing each in place with unerring geometry.
Desperate, she tried bringing the wall down. But every effort of hers to bull-doze it only resulted in it continuing to grow. Like a parasite that fed off her growing negativity. Her hope would smash one brick, but then the reality, and the truth, of her pain would replace it, unfazed. She could see herself on one side. Her voice calling out to him. But he stood afar, unlistening, moving away from her. And the wall -- it continued growing.

She checked his wardrobe. Empty. She half-expected to find his shirts there. Even as she was opening it, she had hoped that his clothes would be in there, and that she was only being paranoid. But no. It was empty, staring up at her blankly. Gloating at her angst, she felt. She slammed it shut.

More sounds from yesterday. Now the scenes bloomed as well, like in an old T.V. where the screen flickers to life a few seconds after the audio has come on. Sound is faster than light sometimes. She saw him sitting on the bed, flicking through a cheap fashion magazine, unreading, acting, paying rapt attention to her every word, refuting with sadistic rationale. She saw herself standing a couple of feet away from him, screaming like a mad-woman, demanding and imploring by turn, alternating between anguish and anger. Her emotions for him lost their identity, love and hate mixing in an incestuous union, her pain their unlawful child, leaving her confused and drained. She felt the first of her tears ease itself out of her eyes.

She looked about for his briefcases -- gone. She wondered if the house had been burgled. But then all her things were there, in their lawful places. She started to wonder if burglars were choosy, but then managed to stop herself from going crazy.
Her gaze continued to skim across the room. Searching in despair.
His CD collection -- gone. She whirled around. His books -- gone.
She saw him everywhere through his absence, through the sounds of his familiar movements about the house that she could no longer hear, through the smell that he left on her clothes, through the traces of his existence that he had so clinically wiped away. But for the one in her heart. She saw him everywhere, and yet, nowhere.
And the wall continued to ascend, each brick more certain, more precise, than the previous. She no longer could see him, but for his head above the wall, and that too only if she craned her neck. Her tears began to rain down on the wall, and she couldn't see him very well at all.

The wind whistled through the house, wailing. It felt hollow without him, she thought. Her life felt hollow, she realized. She wished they hadn't fought, wished she hadn't asked all those questions, wished he hadn't hurt her so that she could now convince herself that he still loved her. She caught herself, feeling ashamed of her own thoughts that had betrayed her, feeling disgusted of her weakness for him.
She didn't need him she told herself, her pain now dominating, the wall now rising upwards, the rain now pouring. She didn't need anyone, she consoled herself, but found herself opening the door to the bathroom, hoping that he would be hiding inside, waiting for her, and that all this was just a prank to make her come around, and that they would make up.

But no. He was gone.
And then her eyes fell on the dresser. His half was cleared. Like a verse with its rhyming lines missing, no longer making sense. Instead, there lay her gifts. All of them. Like exhibits in a court-room serving to prove a crime she didn't commit. From the first 'speaking' greeting-card to the portrait that she had painted of him to the calendar with photos from their vacation together to the violin that she had bought for him three days ago. Every one of them.

The pain that she had been holding back for so long hit home swiftly. Like a weakened dam, she broke down before its force. She fell to her knees, sobbing, her tears now a torrent, her hate now violent, her pain permanent.

He had left. Forever.
And this wall, tall and grim, would stand between them always.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

First time

Like a thief too noble, the night lay waiting, afraid to intrude between them. The air-conditioning in the room hummed in a low murmur, almost self-effacing. The lights from the street peeked in through the blinds now and then, their curiosity abounding, but polite enough to refrain from trespassing.
They sat on the couch, the moment heavy with anticipation, their bodies numb with the common knowledge of their love.
He felt the staid air quiver with the imperceptible thumpings of her tiny heart. He felt her unhurried pulse speak the poetry of her soul into the small of his palm, its meter perfect, its rhyme effortless. And he felt it match with his.
They were breathing in an even, easy rhythm, she exhaling when he drew in his breath, and he likewise, as though each was afraid to rob the other of breath. The night was a creature now, alive around them, moving around in circles, feeding off their breath, pushing them closer.
He felt her draw closer, her head seeking refuge in his arms, and he let her be, his left arm around her. A wandering draught, cold and cunning, crept in through the slit under the door, and sought them out. He felt her shudder, her delicate body trembling under her clothes. Feeling protective, he hugged her tighter. And as he did so, felt the pressure of her ring against his chest. The ring he had given her. Today. This evening. When he had asked her. When, for one moment, he felt the world had stood still, bereft of its usual purpose, uncertain of what would follow. When, for the longest of seconds, he felt a million eyes upon him, upon them, a million breaths together held bated, a million hopelesly romantic wills, along with his, bidding her to say 'yes'.
And then she had nodded. Ever so imperceptibly. No, the answer had reached her eloquent eyes first, before flushing her high cheeks with the red of 'yes', before it became a smile that surprised her happy face, before she nodded. Before she mouthed the word, 'Yes'. And the world breathed again, along with him, content that love was alive, and went about its business.
He caught himself smiling. That moment seemed distant now. Yet so near.
She looked up at him, sensing him smile. A question started in her uncertain eyes, before his reassuring eyes answered, and then no words were needed. She smiled in return. And then they laughed. Not that boisterous laughter, but the quiet one that is a secret known only to those in love.
He held her by her chin. Their eyes locked in a moment of perfect ocular acrobacy. Not searching, but seeing the rest of their life in the other's eyes.
And then he kissed her.
For the first time.
The night erupted in joy, and stole into the spaces between them, cloaking them in its magic, feeding them with the life it had taken to sustain itself for this very moment. A light wind blew the blinds apart, and the lights crowded into the room from the street, silent witnesses to the story that nobody can tire of.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


The ticket flaps about in the breeze. Restless. Its reality imminent and ominous. The clock strikes 7. It's evening and it's raining outside. Another hour before I leave.
I'd stowed the ticket away when I'd come home. Consciously erased its memory. Didn't want any part of it. Didn't want to look at the date, didn't want to look at the flight number. Didn't want to think of going back. But now it lay upon the coffee-table, its red cover flapping joyfully, laughing at me and my folly, like a bad dream coming back to haunt.

I place my cell-phone on it. Silencing it. If only temporarily. Ah, my cell phone! Friend, lifeline, confidant...funny how inanimate things are until you attach a tiny bit of emotion to them, and they suddenly spring to life, acquiring a whole new dimension. I will miss the short-message-service chats, the late-night phone calls, her ring-tone...I think I'll miss my cell phone. Just because of all the emotions connected to it. Emotion. Isn't that what we are all built of?
I feel thirsty, but I don't feel like drinking anything. I look up at the clock -- 30 minutes till the cab arrived. I look at my suitcases -- neatly stacked together near the door. I'd spent a couple of hours packing them earlier today. Filling them with the smells of home and the hurriedly made memories. The smells won't last long, but I hope the memories do. Life is about making memories, apart from other things of course. Memories...of hours spent at R's place catching up on the movies I'd missed out on and pondering over where life was taking us; of those long walks down the beach with Rex in tow, sniffing at the snails on the shore; of that night when I told Mom about her; of the silence that followed when I felt like the loneliest man on earth.
I look at Mom. She's reading a book -- like always. She always sat reading a book before someone left. I wish she would say something -- say that she loved me, that she wished I didn't have to leave, that dad would have been proud of me, that she approved of my choice. But no, she continues reading.
15 minutes left, and I get up from my couch. My couch. Another memory. It even remembers my shape. I head for the balcony. It's here that I'm at my most peaceful. Our flat is one of the luckier ones in that the balcony looks out onto the sea. I lean on the parapet and look out. The night feels sad, and the rain makes it look as if it's crying. Rex trots over to where I stand, nuzzling against my jeans-clad legs, leaving traces of his fur. I wish he wouldn't, because I'll not want to wash the jeans later. I guess I'm stupid. I shoo him away, and he looks at me dolefully. Quizzical. I shoo him more and he walks away indolently.
The sea is peaceful, the waves calm, a gentle breeze drifts by. Oh, how I'll miss this! Trapped inside my lab at night, hearing the processor of my desk-top whirr itself mad, there is only one sound I want to hear -- that of the sea. And when it snows and I lie snuggled deep in my blankets, all I want is to walk on the shore, my feet sinking into the sands, the heat stinging my soles.
The door-bell rings. The taxi is here. Mom calls out to me. I walk quickly to her, and hug her. I take the ticket -- its reality imminent and ominous. I pick up my suitcases and walk out the door.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I liked it when I could look and not feel.
But you are everywhere now

The subdued drizzle
A night of rain.
The surrendering waves
A quiet shore.
The false freedom
A doomed dawn.

The spirit of a speeding stream,
The ghost of a fallen leaf,
The moods of a sunset stained sky,


The corners of my room
Flee from.
The watercolour canvasses
December and May.


The weak words
Forget to utter.
The pause between words
I lose myself.

You are
The deepest of my emotions,
The secret behind my thoughts,
The hand shaping my dreams...

You are
The pride driving my creations.

You are

I walked into office a few days ago and was doing my daily round of bloghopping when I noticed my counter screaming at me for attention -- a 100 more hits than usual! A little tracking and I found this and a mention at a friend's blog. Gee guys, you just made my day that day! Like they say, a little appreciation goes a long way. Thanks Ash and Ravi!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Home. Fabulous word this. Amazing what this four-letter word can conjure. Two days left for Diwali and I sit here, in the office, working, when all I want is to be at home. Ah, home!
This post has its genesis in a conversation I had last night with a friend. But a little rewind of the memory, and I zero down on two months spent in a foreign land -- alone -- not so long ago, and to the true birth of this post. Two months during which I believe -- in hindsight -- I grew a lot emotionally. Two months during which 'home' metamorphosed from a nice word to be reserved for special poems, to a much-missed sense of belonging, to a place I derived my personal identity from, and then to an abstract idea of the mind in which I seek comfort.
Home to me, like with everyone else, always has a pysical connotation to it. When I was young, I would always feel this warm, fuzzy feeling spread through me when I returned home after a month-long vacation at my grandparents' place. The familiar roads with the route home mentally mapped out, the welcoming houses on my street with their unchanging, reassuring shapes, the smell of the sea in front of my house, the milkman with a 'welcome-back-missed-you' smile plastered on his face -- all these reinforced and moulded the physical entity that 'home' came to represent for me. And on a quiet day, when I close my eyes, all these images come flooding back, and I feel the same warm, fuzzy feeling spread over me...Over time, I've come to understand that 'home' -- on one plane -- has associated with it, an unstated sense of belonging, which I tend to take for granted at times.
Cut to four years ago. I moved from my 'home' of 17 years to a 'house' near my college. That was when I lost touch with the concept of 'home'. 'Home' became a place where I lived with my family and returned to every day from college. It meant nothing else. To be fair, it was a lovely place -- nice and quiet, but I just didn't feel at 'home'. What followed was a mundane existence, and even though I lived with my family, I didn't feel I belonged there. I would sometimes argue that I was biased towards the city -- where I lived initially -- and that I was dumbing down the countryside -- which was where we had moved to -- but I knew that this was not the case. I have been to places much better than the city -- in aesthetic terms -- but never felt quite at 'home' there either.
The more I thought of it, the reasons for this disparity became apparent. When you spend so much time at one place, like I did, you become a part of the place. You carry a part of it in your consciousness -- the air, the water, the trees, the streets, the people, the colours...every element is ingrained inside you until it becomes difficult to separate it from your being. And when you shift 'home', the new 'home' often pales in comparison to the true 'home' and in our desperation to cling on to our sense of belonging, we seldom let the new 'home' take over. I've found the same to be true with friends too -- some of my best friends are the ones I've known for a long time, from my childhood. They are my "identity-recall", as I like to classify them -- they remind me of what I was before I became what I am today. So, the 'true home' continues to live inside us, even though we go in search of newer and greener pastures. This could possibly explain why a lot of people come back to their roots to spend the last days of their lives. The pull of the 'homeland' is strong.
Of late, however, I've realized a newer dimension to 'home' - the mental one. 'Home', on certain occasions, has to come to mean a mental situation or an environment, where I feel comfortable in and am free to be myself without reservation. A classic example is when I'm on the streets or in a playground, playing Cricket. I am possibly closest to my true self only when I'm playing Cricket. I've always believed that you can know a great deal about a person from the way he behaves on the field -- it's a pity that not a lot of women I know play Cricket! Anyway, to quote Ayn Rand, "No man likes to lose" and I'm no exception. On the field, where my abilities -- physical and mental -- are probably optimally utilized, I feel at 'home', I feel a sense of belonging, a primitive sense of familiarity...I feel everything that the physical 'home' makes me feel in this 'virtual' 'home'. I call it 'virtual' because I could be playing on the streets or on the computer or even watching the sport on T.V. I am comfortable in this 'jungle' and I know my way around. And it is exactly this feeling of comfort on which my 'virtual' 'home' is founded.
Another example - Working with the Aussies in their premises, I felt at 'home' because their values and methods -- when it came to work -- matched with mine, and I didn't have to play any games to learn from them or get my work done. A quest for perfection was what bonded us together. It is such a pleasure to work with such 'like-minded' people, and I don't think I can say the same of certain people I know. It is this 'like-mindedness', this matching of 'wavelengths', that my virtual definition of 'home' rests upon -- an abstract idea of the mind I seek comfort in.
These days I find that my yearning for 'home' has begun to lean towards the the 'virtual' one, shifting away from the 'physical' one. Ideas have started replacing places. And this shift, I firmly believe, is the beginning of my journey, a journey which I'm sure is going to lead me to some very interesting places and, I hope, people.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Even now, they take me by surprise. The questions, I mean. After all these years of constant confrontation, of retorting with unambiguous answers and convincing arguments, they still come back, a renewed vengeance in their voice, a sadistic purpose underpinning their queries.
Every person I know has his/her questions. Questions that appear superfluous, but deep down, the answers they demand define the purpose of one's existence, answers that will shed light on the remainder of one's days on this planet. Some people are unfortunate - they are only too aware of what these questions are, and the nature of the answers that are needed to counter; while some are lucky enough to spend their days in a state of blissful ignorance. And some others are so scared, they seek refuge in outright denial.
Quite often it doesn't matter to me what these questions are. The only worthy consequence of having to face these questions day after day is the struggle that they cause on the inside. A struggle that is fuelled, rather than suppressed, by the stop-gap answers that I'm enlightened with from time to time. Because an answer often means the mushrooming of more questions, and I find myself back at square one. And it's this constant question-and-answer cycle that has resulted in an evolution of my psyche. More so in the past year or so.
I remember saying in one of my earliest posts that it's the simple things that I find difficult. I think it's because of this need to justify everything to myself -- even the tiniest of acts. And it's precisely during this process of trying to reason out my motives that my questions take form. And what was until then a simple act becomes a moral monster. Because I would know that I was wrong if I erred in weakness.
It gets tiring at times, this search for answers. Mind-numbing too. And it's changing me, slowly but surely. I've begun to scare myself these days. When an answer is denied or when the solution-seeking process is lengthy, out comes this mask I wear to shield myself from the world until the puzzle makes itself clear. And I'm getting good at this mask game, and this is what scares me. I can be anything that I want; I can be anything that others want me to be, expect me to be. And I shift between the two with such consummate ease that it scares others too. I can see it in their eyes whenever the real me takes over from the fake me.
Case in point: I've always hidden the rebel in me from my family. I've played along as this nice kid who would never give his parents sleepless nights. But last Sunday, he came out. Had to, I guess, in hindsight. We were at this meeting where a discussion on should-parents-be-emotionally-dependent-on-their-kids-in-this-age suddenly turned into a heated argument over arranged-marriages, duty, obligation, freedom, independence, dating, live-in relationships etc etc. And being one of only three participants under 30 (the other two were my brother and sister) , I was asked to voice my opinions on the issue. My sister had just made an insular argument, while my brother chose to follow the silence-is-better-than-valour route.
Now, at home, I'm the youngest of three. And some time ago, I realized that I was never going to be taken seriously. Another reason, why I never rebelled - because there was no reason to rebel! Anyway, never one to shy away from an intellectual war, I told the audience -- demographically on the wrong side of 50 -- in no uncertain terms about how I felt on all these issues. Needless to say, it was totally 'anti-establishment'. I spoke about everything that I'd never spoken to anyone at home about, because it was always thought I'd toe the familial line. I could see my arguments drop like bombs on the audience. Uproar ensued. Vehement counter-arguments were issued forth. But I held my own, and stood the tide. But that was not to be the end of it. Like I said the real me took over and it scared everyone, including my mom -- especially because I said parents should learn to let go of their kids, and not hold on to them for emotional support, and instead make something out of the rest of their lives. On the way back and for the whole of that day, my mom and sister looked at me like I was a stranger whom they didn't know. They kept talking in hushed tones, and would stop when they saw me approaching. Things improved the next day, and were back to normal the day after. I guess I finally broke out of the 'youngest child' mould.
Whatever I said in that forum is not new. Every principle I hold dear, every opinion that I voiced that day, has evolved out of this question-and-answer process. Every answer has been questioned thoroughly till I'm satisfied it is watertight. And this knowledge that I'm right and that others don't want to know they are wrong, is exactly why I'm forced to wear my masks. Because, at the end of the day, I prefer to play along -- as long as it is harmless -- than hurt people by showing them what they really are. And my questions will continue. Becasue the answers are -- at times -- not complete enough. Which reminds me, the earliest question that I had was whether I wanted knowledge or wisdom, and guess what I chose?
I'm aware that this blog is beginning to look like a diary these days. Maybe it's time to start a separate one...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Photos from Oz - 1

Thought I'd start a new photo series to share some of my photographs from time to time. Oz -- apart from the reference to you-know-where -- is the name by which I call my own little private world (which is now quite contradictory I guess).

This photo is from my last trip 'down under' in June. My colleagues and I used to frequent an internet kiosk near our hotel. It was run by a local, but there was this guy called Rohit who was in charge most of the time. Nice chap. A bear of a man, with a pony-tail to boot. Told me once that his grandparents were from Rajasthan, but that his parents had migrated to Fiji, and now here he was in Australia!! A man of many parts - no pun intended!

Anyway, the story behind the photo is -- as is obvious -- we went shopping on a lazy Saturday and saw this 'notice' on the door of the kiosk. In some ways, it symbolises everything about Perth and its people. A relaxed attitude to life and the Ayn-Randish I-don't-live-for-anybody-else 'air' that I so loved.

Wish I could stick a message like that on my PC during my off-days!!
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Mom looked at me -- pleading. I shrugged my shoulders, walked over to where the bell hung and gave it a resounding twang that echoed through the temple. Mom smiled at me -- she always had problems with the high bells at temples. And she was always proud of how I could reach places 'normal' people couldn't.
We strolled over to where the priest stood. It was Friday. Mom had asked me -- out of the blue -- if I would accompany her to the kovil. I would have said 'No!' on any other occasion but since I was leaving tomorrow, I didn't want to break her heart and so agreed, albeit grudgingly. But now that I think of it, Mom had timed it perfectly, perhaps knowing I wouldn't refuse her. Mothers are crafty you know.
Mom handed over the flowers that we had bought, and asked the priest to perform an archanai for my well-being. I waited. She turned to look at me -- that pleading smile on her face again. My questioning eyebrows, raised in mock anger, lowered into their places and I shook my head in resignation.
"Innikku mattum da," Mom begged. Just this once.
"Seri, seri," I relented. Yeah, whatever. I must admit she's getting good at having her way with me.
Pleased at having won the battle, Mom proceeded to pay her undivided attention to the pooja. I tried too. But two minutes after trying to understand mantras being chanted in a language I didn't understand, I lost it. The incense, wafting from in front of the idol, was overpowering. Images flitted by. From a past I thought I would not revisit. I could see everything like it was yesterday...
Bicycle left unlocked outside. Slippers slung into a corner. Bare feet and a prayer list. Unquestioned faith and blind devotion. Mumbled entreaties. Hurried steps.Expectations heightened. Divine intervention sought. Blessings received...
"Edhuthukko paa." Take it son.
I snapped out of my reverie to find the priest accosting me with his divine deepam and sacred ash. I didn't refuse him, and out of the corner of my eye I caught Mom smiling satisfactorily as I applied the ash on my forehead.
"Ellam nalladha nadakkum," he said. Everything will be fine.
"Hmmm," I nodded.
I left Mom to chat with the priest while I took a look around the place. Not much had changed. The walls and pillars were now alive with a fresh coat of paint. But I liked it more when it was being built. When it was still sacred. Those grey walls, with their incomplete figurines had a certain naivete to them that was honest. Unlike now. Now, it was just another temple. For just another God. The thoughts quickened and the images started again:
Mid-day sun. Artisans at work. The Gods in their hands, taking shape, acquiring Life. Gods some of them wouldn't be allowed to see. Uncomfortable questions. Unconvincing answers. Submission and sufferance, or refusal and rebellion...
I came to my favourite part of the temple. This was where there was a statue of the resident Lord in all his resplendent glory. I remembered the two craftsmen who had spent hours perfecting this figure. Nice chaps both. Polite. Wise. Humble. And now as I looked up at it, the sun catching its head and making me squint, I didn't see Him, but saw those two instead. Man? God? Work? God? Reason? Faith?
"Vaa, 3 suththu suththanum," Mom interrupted from behind, clasping my hand in hers. Come, we have to go around the temple thrice.
I looked down at Mom, still plying that please-do-this-for-me routine. And I looked up at Him. A foxy grin spread across my face as I looked back at Mom.
"Seri, polaam." Yeah, let's go.
There's God. And then there's Mom.
Thanks for those comments and all that traffic when I was away. Sometimes my faith needs a little reinforcement.
Have you ever heard a song you couldn't help falling in love with? It's happening all over again with me (the first time was with "Snehithane" from "Alaipayuthey"). Oh yes, and I'm going giddy! Ah, no it's not one of those out-of-the-world songs, but it's the "Suttum Vizhi" number from "Ghajini". It's what I call my-kinda-song. Steady, melodious music, strengthened by wonderful lyrics, backed up by some good singers. That's all I ask really! The music is very simple, although it sounds familiar, but I don't mind that at all. But it is the lyrics that are amazing. If you're a sucker for Tamil lyrics like me, then you'll love this one. Again really simple lyrics with quite intelligent metaphors and emotions running all the way through. And what's to note is that, at no point of time does it rely on the "physical technicalities" of love to make a point. Add to that perfect diction from Sriram Parthasarathy and Bombay Jayashree, and my cup overflows! Brilliant! And I don't know if it's just me, but I could actually feel it raining in the song! Perfect listening for a rainy day and I've been playing it in an infinite loop all day long for the last week :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cold water morning

sleep slinks away.
strange dreams
in symbols foreign,
drowning me
with meanings
I deny.

old man at the door -
will I be you?
and where?
oh boy in the yard -
was I you?
and now?

a music plays
in my mind.
no notes,
no tunes,
only inchoate voices.
some, my own.
some, others'.
what they say,
I pretend
not to fathom.

sleep leaves -
a lover lost,
but memories morph,
into dreams,
into lies,
into truths?

in its
vexed vividity,
the imperfectness
of sleep
I seek,
this cold water morning.


Seems like I can't stop myself even if I want to :-) -- back again, but yes, posts will be sporadic till work eases up. Thanks for missing me ;-)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Away for a while

Work just caught up - won't be posting for a while. Will be back soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


claims the soul
a pagan God, benign;
the sacrifice survives,
lives, listens, lives

throbs the being
a gentle storm,
ship and sea
soar and crash as one

numbs the mind
a pain-killing drug --
psychedelic realms
revisited repeatedly

Friday, July 22, 2005

Not anymore

The archer stood on the mound. Alone.

Every man learns to be alone. In preparation. Readying himself for the final eventuality. And over the years, with every battle he had fought, the archer had learnt this lesson well.

On this day -- one of many ends -- he stood looking over a plain. A plain that had been green with grass. Now it lay red, dirtied. Dirtied or purified, depending on whose side you were on. The wind picked up. It sought the archer, whipping his ragged battle-robe about him in a frenzy, rattling his chain mail armour, his quiver, and the few arrows left in it.

The archer's eyes came to rest on the lone knight still left on the field. He saw the knight see him. At that moment, time stood, as realization played catch up. For both of them. The archer reached over his shoulder for an arrow. The knight egged his tired mount towards the hill. And time moved again, as reality caught up.

The archer moved slowly, bringing up his long-bow, his motions now resigned. The knight charged steadily up the track to the top. Sometimes Death is all that is common. It didn't matter which side you belonged to, whose oath you had taken, what colour your flag was. The archer picked up his bow for what would be the last time. At least the last time for today. He saw the knight's scimitar glint, its purpose never in question.

The arrow lined up with the bow, the archer squinted as he took careful aim. It was now like breathing, aiming was. He adjusted for the wind expertly, and then let go. Aiming and letting go had become a form of meditation for him. It was what he did. It was what he was.

He lowered his bow and heard the arrow splinter the wind as it hissed single-mindedly towards its target. The knight heard it too, though he couldn't see it quite as well. Yet, he charged, his sabre held firm, his grip on the reins unrelenting. Confronting Death was second nature to him. It was what he did. It was what he was.

The archer heard the arrow hit home. He saw the knight fall. The plain was empty once again. If the corpses were discounted, that is.

"Game over - Restart? Y/N" the window popped up abruptly, breaking my thoughts. They don't make these games like old anymore, I sighed, stifling a yawn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Recounting numbers

A soul. A singular silence. The first time, when nothing is known, and everything is sublime, untouched.

Creaky doors swaying in the wind, their hinges loose. Soiled sneakers. Wet, evanescent footprints on the mosaic floor suffused with light from the slanting rays of the evening sun.

Maple leaves, falling in slow motion. Traffic lights that don't work. Two lies and a truth.

Walls. Hands. An ignored alarm.

Dawn that filters through the curtains. My senses that lay overwhelmed. The final dimension, now realized.

Six dried roses in a brass vase. Twilight. Red dice with white dots, showing twelve.

Unreal weeks. A sad sonnet stopped midway. A rainbow imprisoned by the rusted bars of a cobweb-ridden window.

Spiders on the wall, eavesdropping. Chess. Black coffee at 8.

Separation. Cats at home, waiting. Work and routine.

Nothing. Everything. Infinity inversed, but still infinite.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


there is joy
then there is sorrow
and then there is us
in between

there is silence
then there are words
and then there is conflict
in between

there is the shallow
then there is the deep
and then there is turmoil
in between

there is the search
then there is the discovery
and then there is disbelief
in between

there is the actor
then there is the dreamer
and then there is me
in between

there is you
then there is me
and then there is us
in between


I'm back home now -- arrived on Sunday. Lots of stories; will share them in due time :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Train, Of Thought

He yawned his sleep away, wiping the tears from his tired eyes. He never could sleep on trains, and didn't on this one either. He looked out the window, his cheek resting on the grill. Dawn was forming, the promiscuous sky welcoming her new lover, looking forward to the new clothes he would bring...he would get off soon. Looking at the sun prepare his canvas for the day, he smiled, remembering other days, other trains, other journeys, other dawns.

He scanned the compartment he was in -- empty except for the tramp snuggled against the toilet door, and the college kid in the next booth, with loud music filtering out of his head-phones. Newspapers lay strewn along the aisle. Some had been read, and then thrown away, used. Some had served other less noble purposes. The stories, the reports, the cartoons -- now shunned for the latest. Occasionally, a swirl of wind would catch the papers and spin them around in an eddy. The papers would play along, happy for the momentary respite from lying around, feeling used. Some memories were like that. A forgotten emotion would come by and swirl them around, examining everything that had not happened, everything that had not been said, before leaving those frames from yesterday in their resting places, along with others of the past...Yesterday was fleeting, fading, and today never stayed. Tomorrow is only what everybody has. The next hour, the next meeting, the next station...

The train trundled along steadily. The wind ran its fingers through his travel-weary hair, parting it in newer patterns, almost as if fascinated to see how he would look if he'd combed it differently. He felt the chill of the morning in the hollow of his prickly, unshaved cheek. He pulled his collars up and hunched deeper into the corner of his seat. And in doing so, felt the pressure of the ticket in his pocket against his chest. Instinctively, he reached inside, feeling for it, reassuring himself from the coarseness of the paper that it indeed was the ticket. Everyone took care of their tickets. Except the ones who never bought one, of course. Some got good seats, some didn't. But everyone took good care of their tickets. At least, they tried to. Until the journey ended, that is. The tickets would then be thrown away, used. Then all that remained was to buy the next ticket, wait at the station, board the next train, and look forward to tomorrow.

The sun had climbed up a bit now, striving for a better look of his land, checking if something had changed from yesterday. He wondered if the sun ever got bored. But then it was perhaps the hope of change that kept it going. Like his hope that these rail tracks did indeed lead to a better place. Travel itself is a great exercise in hope, he thought. Of newer lands, newer dreams, newer tomorrows. Better tomorrows. But then, so is Life. So is Life. Even though we convince ourselves with iron reason that something is worth doing, we hope that the fruit tastes good. If we get the fruit, that is. And until we taste it, we never know if it will.

The train turned a bend abruptly, and drew into the station. He had to get off. Tomorrow had become today.

Monday, June 20, 2005


She looked ruefully at the unforgiving sky -- believing, yet disbelieving. She felt like a smile. She felt like a cry. It had happened. Like he had said it would, leaving her wondering if it was all real.
He got into bed quietly. A warmth spread across his body as he wistfully replayed snatches from the conversation they had had. I just want to hear you breathe, she had said. Sometimes Hope is cruel, yet he hoped.

To stand on the shore and look as the river passed him by, or to plunge into it, had been the question. He had decided to lose himself. He had decided to gift his dreams to the night, so that she would see them in the morning.

The digits on the LED clock glowed in the dark, reminding him of the morrow and the mundane.

He didn't want to sleep. But he wanted sleep like never before.

He didn't want to dream. But he wanted dreams like never before.

He didn't want to wake up. But he wanted to wake up like never before.

He felt her words in the cold draught that had somehow slipped into his room -- just like her.

He felt her words in the soothing darkness that lay around him -- just like her.

He felt her words echo in the memory of all the days that he had gone sleepless.

He closed his eyes, and heard her coy voice again, with the pain hidden so well, he had almost missed it.
He wondered if she was the mystery that he didn't want to solve.

He wondered if she was the wave that would take him out to sea and never bring him back.

He wondered if she was the woman he had never dared to put down in words, scared of tempting Fate.

He wondered if she was his past come alive to be moulded into his future.

He wondered at how she was everything he was and yet everything he wasn't.

He wondered if this was how it felt to be weak, to be vindicated, to be Alive.

He wondered if eye-shadow could be more enrapturing, silence more resonant, pain more poetic.

He saw her in the playful darkness -- pleading at him to explore.

He could see her in the dissolving shadows -- waiting for him to throw light her way.

He saw her in the demure streaks of sunlight -- brilliant and pristine, so full of Life.

He could see her in the rain, in the lightning -- revealing, hiding.

He fell asleep, dreaming of dreaming about her.
She looked ruefully at the unforgiving sky -- believing, yet disbelieving. She would await his dreams in the morning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Clouds confer,
Their demeanour grave,
Their heads heavy,
As they ponder
Thoughts of rain.

Umbrellas unfurl,
Their faces eager with colour,
Their owners pensive,
Summer's first rain.

Trees tremble,
Their manner changes,
Their leaves whisper
Tales and secrets
Of rain and afterwards.

Pen poised,
Paper ready to wet,
Words in abeyance,
I await
The rain on my window.


It's been raining ever since I came here, and like any water-starved native of Chennai, I'm loving it.
It happened to me: The you-wait-all-day-to-talk-with-'someone'-and-then-when-the-moment-arrives-you're-tongue-tied thing - Damn!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


My days so far...

Today - 7 June

Today was perfect. Just perfect.

As in rain washed morning, drippy trees perfect.
As in woke up before the alarm clock woke me up perfect.
As in couldn't wait to catch the train to office perfect.
As in the traffic just stayed at home perfect.
As in drowned myself in the silence of my work perfect.
As in the radio kept playing my favourite songs perfect.
As in a smile stayed on my lips all day perfect.
As in solved the crossword perfect.

As in wanted to run till my lungs burst perfect.
As in wanted to make everyone around me happy perfect.
As in write that book I always wanted to perfect.
As in wanted to go on a sailing holiday perfect.
As in wanted to be nowhere else, doing nothing else but this perfect.
As in happy for every moment I was alive perfect.
As in wouldn't have mattered if I died just like that perfect.

A perfect day. And I lived it well.

Yesterday - 6 June

Yesterday was a rotten day. Really rotten.

As in gray skies, murky weather rotten.
As in plane couldn't have landed more roughly rotten.
As in nobody came to pick me up rotten.
As in the taxi driver couldn't keep his mouth shut rotten.
As in didn't have enough local currency rotten.
As in all the money changers were closed, public holiday rotten.
As in had to adjust and eat soggy noodles on my first day rotten.
As in jet lag, no sleep on the flight, work tomorrow rotten.

As in didn't want to answer any phone calls rotten.
As in wanted to hang from the nearest tree rotten.
As in I could write a book about my day rotten.
As in wish I was on a sailing holiday rotten.
As in wanted to be somewhere else, doing anything but this rotten.
As in cursing every moment I was alive rotten.
As in wouldn't have mattered if I died just like that rotten.

Rotten day. But I lived it well.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Off to a new place

...well not entirely new, but yes, a change of scenery.

In case you've not noticed it in my profile, I'm in Perth (actually in Singapore now) - I've been sent on an assignment by my company and I'll be here till the 2nd of July.

I did well the last time I was sent here; hope I do well this time around too. There's just this wee bt of anxiety - not entirely unlike that before an exam or a cricket match.

Also plan to do some more travelling this time and catch up on the sights that I'd missed last time.

Last but not the least, will try to keep the posts coming.

Well, here's to me and Perth!!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Speak out

Love lurks,
Behind latched
Grass covered
Let it out.
Let it out.

Love stays hidden
In the pages
Of a secret diary,
In the colours
Of an unfinished painting.
Let it free.
Let it free.

Love lies troubled
In doubting
In questioning
Let it live.
Let it live.

Documentation woes

Life has this way of laughing in your face.
It's been more than a month since I started blogging - mostly as a means of sharpening my writing and to keep the creative juices flowing. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I must say I've been impressed with myself - the last two posts being a case in point. I wrote them both on the same day - within an hour of each other.
So, some time back as I was floating on cloud ninety nine - overjoyed at the rediscovery of my writing prowess, I was brought crashing to Earth by a small incident that happened in my office. As my profile says, I'm an Engineer, and my job also involves writing technical documents - usage instructions, design specifications, test reports...I try to make it interesting but at times it gets really irritating, especially when there are stupid standards to follow.
So, this is what happened. A couple of weeks ago, one of the documents that I'd written came up for review:
Boss - "You know, I was reading through this 'thing' that you'd written, and generally wanted to speak with you..."
Me - bracing myself, "Yes sir...", thing???
Boss - "The document by itself is good, I'm not questioning the contents..."
Me - Go on, I can handle this. Deep breath now.
"...but it's the way you''s too ..."
Me - Here it comes...
"...see this..." - he showed me a document a colleague had written - "...this has everything in black and white. Only what needs to be there is there. But yours seems to be..."
Me - "...long winded??...", incredulously.
", no, not long-winded at all..."
Me - phew!!
"...but it's just that you give too much importance to the little things..."
Me - Whaa..., come again?? Isn't that supposed to be good??
"...I mean instead of only the essential being there, you also put in a lot more which are not necessary. I don't want to spend my time looking for the important stuff. I want it to be easily visible...blah...blah...BLAH" - he went on but I had had enough. My 'writer' bubble had just burst. My self-esteem, as an aspiring writer, took a beating. I broke the record for the least time taken to perform a free fall.
In short, what my boss wanted me to do is what I call "bullets writing". You know, use all those stupid bullet points that MS Word offers you, and write documents cynically, without sentences, without neatly laid out paragraphs, just to the point, without life or blood. I felt lost that day. Life had lost its meaning - at least momentarily.
So, from that day, I started writing like 'them' and not like 'me' - the documents, I mean. No adjectives, no beautiful turn of phrases, no imagination, nothing - just plain writing.
And my boss is happy.
And guess what, the colleague - nice chap, I hold nothing against him - whose document my boss had showed me the other day, got pulled up, and was shown one of my 'new' documents as an example of the areas where his documents could improve.
Talk about getting beaten at your own game. Take that!! I could make out what my colleague was thinking when my boss was giving him 'tips' - Life has this way of laughing in your face. Exactly buddy!! Exactly.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Old clothes

Old clothes
Evoke memories


Grandmother and curly grey hair,
Aunts and antiseptic,
Christmas and cakes,
Cousins and cricket,

Birthdays and red balloons,
Masquerades and dead friends,
Cupboards and hide-and-seek,
Marbles and touch-me-nots,
Scraped knees and seashores,

Sunlight and school,
Colour pencils and crayons,
Dictation and wooden desks,
Bells and books,

Forests and campfires,
Pine and streams,
Butterflies and wet soil,
Snakes and pumpkins,

Winter and wool,
Rain and rhubarbs,
Coughs and colds,
Doctors and drugs...

Old clothes.
New memories.

Not ready

Guilt stabs my
Conscience deep,
Its unfelt dagger
Rending bloodless wounds,
Plunging, twisting,
Accusing, as it descends.
But I'm not ready
To repent
Just yet.

The battlefield awaits,
My armies stand beside -
Sharpened swords
In weighty sheaths,
Bodies eager for combat.
But I'm not ready
For war
Just yet.

Memories fade,
Of unwanton words,
And anger, and betrayal.
Yesterday's pain reposes
In a corner of my soul,
But I'm not ready
For peace
Just yet.

The night sings softly
Its daily lullaby,
Of dreams,
And hope, and tomorrow.
The bed is made,
Inviting rest.
But I'm not ready
For sleep
Just yet.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


He leaped over the low wall and onto the wet grass stealthily, landing with the agility of a jungle cat. Without getting up, he looked around. He grinned at the uninterrupted snoring emanating from the guards' cabin. 'Suckers,' he whispered.
Slinging the strap of his satchel over his shoulder, he strode across the sweeping lawn, unchallenged, towards the main building. The night was cold, biting into the skin under his sweater, his urgent breath condensing in front of him. He removed his leather gloves, blew into his numb palms, and then rubbed them together vigorously -- there was no point in catching a chill. He put his gloves back on and started to whistle softly. Tonight was going to be good, he felt it in his bones.
The building was ahead, intimidating in its majesty, ivy draped across its grey, towering pillars, giving an impression of a domineering matron scowling at errant boys. More so in the darkness of night. He marched up the steps at the entrance insolently, in his rubber shoes, secure in the knowledge that there was nobody between him and the goodies. He had done this before, and every time he was amazed at the folly of the authorities and the slackness of the security around the place.
He bounded up the broad flight of stairs, three steps at a time, eager in his pursuit -- he didn't have time to waste. He was heading for the first floor, more specifically, a small window that he had left open earlier in the day, when he had done his 'preparation'. He found it open, and muttered a silent thanks. Sliding the glass shutter up, he eased himself into the hallway, and pulled the window shut.
It was dark and quiet, just the way he liked. He felt some of the tension leaving him, now that he was inside. Taking his torch out of the satchel, he flicked it on, scattering the darkness. He was amazed at the quality -- and the quantity -- of the stuff that lay before him, stacked in shelves that ran for -- what seemed to him -- miles. Nobody could assess the value of all of this, he thought. But he was only interested in the one thing that had made him risk this operation, and it lay in its place further down the hall.
He broke into an easy run -- the soles of his shoes making only the slightest of noises -- scanning the shelves as he ran. He turned into the rack where he knew his treasure lay, and caught his breath. He slowed to a walk, looking eagerly. And there it was, gleaming in the light from his torch. He stopped and laughed contentedly.
Taking it out of its resting place, he felt its weight as it lay in his gloved hands. Flipping the torch beam to 'high', he sat down on the floor, and commenced his work. He never quite understood why they didn't let him borrow more books from the library.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A "memory"

Last Sunday I was chatting with a couple of my room-mates, and among other things we talked about the experiences that each other had had in school. It took me on a nostalgia trip, and so while I'm stuck in 'school-mode', I thought I'd write a post about it.
For a lot of people at my age, college is what evokes a lot of memories, but for me, school is the place that I will have trouble forgetting. It's not that college wasn't fun, it's just that school was a place where I spent fourteen wonderful, unforgettable years, and I tend to look back upon my experiences there with more fondness than upon those I had in college.
I don't know why or how, but I have a long memory, and I tend to remember all sorts of things. Like my first day at school. It's burnt in my memory and every time I remember it, I'm surprised at how vivid it is...the bus trundling down my street - funny how buses are 'huge' when one is small, my Grandma telling my Mom that I was too little for school, and friendly, 'ice-cream agent' 'Jayanthy aunty' - my neighbour - suddeny turning into strict 'Jayanthy Miss' - turned out she was a teacher at my school, and then my first 'friend', D. D and I were the only kids in kindergarten who took the school bus, and since school was just 'half-day' for us, we were the only passengers in the bus during its noon rides. We used to have a rollicking time, jumping over the seats pretending we were 'Superman' or some other super-hero who was in fashion at that point of time, sprinting along the aisle, exploring (yeah, exploring a bus!) and generally making the poor driver's life miserable. And, hell, now that I think of it, I even remember the driver's name - Ramakrishna. Good man. Was so punctual and regular that he never gave us a chance to even dream of a holiday because of the bus not coming to pick us up. Some people are born to be school bus drivers, I guess.
I fell in love with my school. It was a small place, without the 'air' that characterises most schools these days, with simple and honest teachers who believed in the righteousness of their profession. A one-storey building housed the seniors, whereas the kindergarten classes occupied a small thatched-roof hut. There was this 'giant' Gulmohar tree, which used to be quite a sight in full bloom, at the northern end, an abandoned well at the western corner, and then a small playground, which was witness to a number of 'epic' football matches over the years. All us 'tiny tots' (yeah, that's how the teachers referred to the KG kids!) used to spend the whole of 'lunch-period' throwing stones into that well - probably an aftereffect of too many sessions of the 'thirsty-crow-and-pebbles' story - and our Physical Education master was permanently preoccupied with chasing us back to our classes. Was that man evil or what! There used to be a bunch of classmates whose lifetime ambition was to grow up and take revenge for all the 'injustices' he dealed out to us.
'Sports day' also features strongly in my memories. On that first 'Sports day' of many, we were herded out of our class, and were briefly explained the rules. Not that all of us understood what the teacher was explaining but then we were all sensible in the way only kindergarten kids can be. There were two 'events'. 'Running race' - a short sprint - and 'frog race'. Looking back, I cannot help but admire the ingenuity of my teachers in thinking up the latter. We had to sit on our haunches, plant our hands on the ground, and then make like mad to the finishing line. A few of us had trouble hopping in a straight line - one 'frog' would 'collide' with the nearby 'frog', often with hilarious repercussions. That I managed to come second inspite of all this is a matter of pride to me and amusement to my family. I still have the prize certificate with me, carefully preserved.
Math class was a favourite in KG. Not that I liked the subject, but it's because we had these snazzy, chequered notebooks to scribble on. And the teacher - Vasantha Miss, the name comes flooding back now - used to give us small, wooden numbers to 'kindle' our 'interest' in the subject. Little did she know that these 'innocuous' things often doubled up as missiles when things got nasty between us kids. 'Won't share your homework with me? Plonk! Take that...' And some of us became so skilled at this 'sport' that we were never caught with incomplete homework.
I also remember the first time I got injured 'officially'. The thatched-roof over our classroom had these flat bamboo sticks - with sharp edges - protruding into the walkways. I somehow contrived to split the webbing between my thumb and my forefinger on the left hand (I've conveniently forgotten how), and I saw blood. The other kids saw it too, and a few of them promptly fainted as well - what do you expect of 4 year olds anyway? Luckily, one of them - again I remember the name, Babu - had the good sense to call a teacher (I myself was too dazed), and I was taken to the 'Office Room' - the Principal's office - where the peon bandaged my 'wound' and gave me royal treatment - cold drinks, biscuits, a couch to sleep on...the works. What more could I ask for? Later that day, when I went back to class, I was given a hero's welcome (especially by the girls, and I was truly embarassed, girls being uncool then), because suddenly I'd become the first to venture into the 'ogre's territory' (the Principal's office) and come back alive to tell the story. And what a story! I lost a lot of credibility when I told them about the goodies that I'd consumed. Nobody would believe me because the rumour at that time was that the headmistress had a dog which ate up truant children.
But my favourite memory from that time is of the 5 minutes I spent every day rolling all over the floor with my dog - Tiger - after I came back from school. I was his favourite 'master'; maybe it was because the 'master' was the only person around who was his size. Every day, on my return, he would jump all over me, drowning me in fur, and would give me a good licking. I would be literally tickled pink! He was a handsome fella alright; his 'girlfriends' on the street used to go crazy whenever we took him out for a walk. But I was secure in the knowledge that I was the sole object of his attention. He stayed with us for a good fourteen years before 'passing on', but the memory of those 5 minutes is always something I cherish.
There are a lot of things about school and kindergarten that I remember and want to write about- like the picnics that we were taken to, the 'fight-club' that we had in our class, the dreaded rhymes period etc - but I think I'll save them for another post and stop this one right here. And yes, can't help but say, "those were the days..."

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Mysteries to my mind -
Friendship and love and life.
Peace is an elusive pearl
When the ocean is in perennial strife.

Every clue complicates the case.
Every bridge leads to a new ravine.
Every relationship is a maze
With a secret I just can’t divine.

Each day is a rainbow of emotions.
Yellow, red, blue, even green.
Wisdom and enlightenment are
Lands this traveller has not yet seen.

The vine yearns in vain
For a sun that was always out of reach.
Every futile day spent in silent pain
Only furthers the breach.

I’m an actor without a mask.
I’m a painter who’s blind.
I’m far but near; near yet far
From solving
The mysteries in my mind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Pregnant clouds
Pour drops
Little leaves
Soft rain tunes.
And thunder
Drum together
As Love comes by

The heart hums
A forgotten song -
Dead words
Now alive
With meaning anew -
As Love comes by

Friday, May 13, 2005


The sea lay ahead, roaring out a boisterous welcome, as he trudged heavily through the sands, carrying his shoes. He liked it by the seashore and had never cared to reason why - a simple acceptance of a simple reality in a complex life.
He shirked company on these special visits to meet his old friend - the sea. Bringing someone along, he felt, would break the unsaid trust that had evolved between the two - he would come visiting during moments of crisis, and the sea would yield answers. The last week had brought about another. And he knew he needed help. Desperately.
He liked the sand clinging to his feet, leaving behind a fine film of grain as it fell; he noticed how the film grew finer with every step he took forward. He chuckled involuntarily, as he remembered telling a bemused friend that the sand was actually cleansing the feet before the water touched them. To him, the walk was a sort of preparation before a sacred ritual; a chance to clear his mind before confronting the truth - whatever that truth was.
He sought his hideout - a small cove surrounded by sea-weed. The cove changed shape with the tide, but he always found it. He slowed his steps as he strode towards what he had come to consider as home, and a faint smile broke out on his lips. Throwing his shoes aside, he fell in a heap, settling down as if on a couch, and brushed the sand off his hands on his trousers. He felt the damp mud give way under his weight and throwing his head up, he took a deep breath. The wind had that tinge of salt to it which he had come to like - another stage of cleansing, he told himself. The sea never failed to fill his senses - the cerulean water, the eternal song of the spray, the lingering taste in the air that was an exotic, eclectic mixture of sea-weed, salt and sand...The sea was always a total experience, of which he could never have enough.
After a while, his thoughts turned back to his crisis. He had to make a choice. Between two things he loved. Equally. He had tried to fool himself at times that he was more passionate about one of the two. But during those rare minutes when he allowed himself to see the truth, he knew in the deepest of his hearts that he loved them both. Equally. All his life, he had evaded making choices; waiting, holding on, until the choices resolved themselves. It was a trick he had learnt well. He had tried it this time around too, but it seemed like Life had finally decided to test him.
He saw a lone catamaran on the water, scything through the waves as it bounded towards the shore, its narrow confines overflowing with fresh fish. He watched the fisherman, his ebony body glinting in the evening light, struggling to steer through the stubborn waves. Life and Death on the same boat, he thought to himself. It was always like that. Life derives greater meaning in the proximity of death, he mused. And Death had many forms.
A crow cawed somewhere, splintering the silence, breaking his thoughts, and forming them to focus upon his crisis. He remembered the thought he had had a few days ago. What if every day was actually two days in itself. Then he would live one life one day, and another life the other day, pursuing both his passions. A double life, he joked to himself. Life was full of 'What-ifs', he philosophised, and he was facing the biggest of them today. 'What if...'
A wave broke upon the shore, and swept towards him. He welcomed it. The tension that held his body tautly together left him momentarily and he stretched his feet out. The foamy water lapped about him, wetting his trousers as it retreated half-heartedly, the sand changing colour with the receding wave. He liked the rich brown shade of wet mud. It had Life to it; a Life that drained rapidly as the water evaporated. The water lent a certain pride to the sand, he felt. It was no longer the servile sand that he had walked through, no longer subservient and clinging to his feet; it had Life which could be given shape and form. Life always took form, he observed, through the choices that one made. Better the choice, better the form it took. Like the sand that had chosen to be by the water, rather than further up the shore. The choice mattered, he knew. And he feared to make one now when more than ever he needed to. 'What if...'
He looked about him. The evening was fading fast into the sea and dusk was descending. He perceived a certain melancholy about dusk, quite unlike the arrogance of dawn. Maybe it's because the day is dying and it doesn't want to, he thought. A death it did not choose. He saw the stalls on the shore come alive in the distance as the hawkers lit lamps to keep alive their day. What choice did those people have? Living a life in which there never was a choice. Swimming in a river where the current of their destiny always took them to a waterfall. Should one be lucky to have a choice at all?...He was more puzzled now. He liked the confusion. It was always a sign that he was heading for a solution. He smiled as he realized how well he had to come to know himself. Getting up, he shook the sand off his clothes and headed for the cool of the water.
* * *
Lying awake on his bed that night, he marvelled at the ability of the sea to inspire wisdom in him. He had finally realized that when it came to choosing between things he loved, the actual choices didn't matter. They never do, he reasoned. What is important, however, is that there is Life in every choice. Whatever one chose, one always had the chance to discover Life through it. One only had to have the courage to choose, the faith to take that first step in the dark. That - the act of choosing - is what counts for more. As for the choices left behind, Life always has this funny habit of throwing others like them one's way at a later stage. Again, one needed just the courage to choose and the wisdom to recognise the choice. Life never cheats. Life never 'sucks'...His thoughts trailed off, as sleep threw its cloak over him. He had chosen, and he was not going to look back.