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 :-)