Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Maybe it wasn't your fault, maybe
it wasn't mine either.

Maybe, one day, the dress will fit,
and it won't lie crumpled
in a corner of the cupboard.

Maybe, one day, I'll fit in
with your crowd, and you'll
learn to leave me alone at times.

Maybe, one day, the coffee
will taste better, and the sports
pages will make more sense.

Maybe, like you said, the sky
is indeed schizophrenic,
just like all of us.

Or maybe, like I said, he can't
decide what colours to wear,
just like the rest of us.

Maybe, like you said, every door
is to be opened, looked inside,
you never know what you'll discover.

Or maybe, like I said, some doors
are kept closed for a reason,
sometimes you shouldn't discover.

Maybe, one day, we'll go walking
and I'll fall in step with you,
an unforced rhythm to our strides.

Maybe, one day, I'll remember
the important dates, and you'll
not forget the important words.

Maybe, one day, we'll dream
the same dream and decide
to watch the same channels.

Until then, let's keep trying.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On printers and other problems

Not so long ago, my workplace was a 15 ft X 10 ft lab crammed with 10 Engineers. And every time one of us needed to take a print-out or a photocopy, we had to walk up to the first floor where we had a printer and a xerox machine.

All of us in the lab were scared stiff of the printer, primarily because even though it was brand new, it had this proclivity to jam and give out noises like it was a schoolgirl and we were molesting it ("We just want a print-out dammit!"). So much so that if one wanted to use it, we would often take a colleague along for moral support ("No! I didn't touch anything! Ask him!"). To make matters worse, the bloody machine was located in a particular section of the Product Engineering department where all the senior engineers sat. And the last thing any of us wanted was to be stared down by ten pairs of eyes wondering what we were doing poking our heads around the printer's private parts.

Anyway, one day, being engineers, we found the user manual. Of course, some sadist had stashed it away in a corner of the store-room, but we found it. And that was that. Under the pretense of working, we spent the better part of an afternoon mugging up the "troubleshooting" section (part of the "learning curve" you see). The world was suddenly an easier place to live in.

The point of this post being, fear is like that printer.

There's a user manual lying around somewhere.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Euphoria and Melancholy

Note: I have zero knowledge about music. Will be grateful for any errors that are pointed out. Thanks.

Not "learning" music is something I regret a lot. Something I intend to put right someday. But then I guess I never was the musical type when I was a kid.

So anyway, having an interest in music and there being not a lot to choose from, film music occupied -- occupies -- a lot of my "music time". The following clips are two of my favourite pieces of Tamil film music.

But if you're going to hear them, I suggest you get a pair of good headphones/earphones, crank up the volume on the PC and the headphones, and really listen. The effect is totally lost on speakers.

Now that that little technicality is out of the way, here you go -

powered by ODEO

The piece, of course, comes from the song "Rakkamma", in Mani Ratnam's movie Dalapathi (1991), composed by Ilayaraja.

And it's the closest I've come to finding a musical meaning of the word 'euphoria'.

The guitar starts the piece and sets the raw tone and mood that then continues till the end (Again this is where I suck. Is it the guitar? I'm sticking with guitar for the rest of the piece. Let me know if I'm wrong). The sound has this unoiled quality to it (you can actually hear it whining as it strains) just to make sure that the perfection of the violin isn't overshadowed. I particularly like the way the guitar hovers in the background all throughout, keeping pace, taking over after the violins have climaxed. Brilliant.

Euphoria is never an abrupt emotion. It builds up. Slowly. And one is aware of this process of building up. Almost as if joy keeps increasing in tiny little increments and suddenly everything boils over and you're drowning in euphoria. Like how the first four in your innings is encouraging, the second reassuring, the third convincing, the next dizzying and before you know it, you settle into the zone. Euphoria is never gentle, always dizzying, always aggressive, leaving you on a peak you are reluctant to leave.

That piece of music is precisely how euphoria should feel. First the modest guitar, establishing base camp. Then the two violin strains -- the first one steps up the tempo, you're climbing the first of those steep ravines, gasping for breath. And just when you sit back to get your breath back, Ilayaraja nails you with repetitions, each more violent than the one before, the crescendo taking you higher and higher up the precipice of joy, finally leaving you with the guitar again as you plant your flag at the summit, all sweaty from the climb, looking down superciliously, condescending at mortals wallowing in misery. And you feel like saying, "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

In fact, the song, the lyrics I mean, not only matches the music fabulously, but also the situation in the movie. Mani Ratnam is indeed a master in using the song as a narrative device.

Anyway, after the euphoria of Ilayaraja, Rahman -

powered by ODEO

That piece is from somewhere in the middle of the song "Chinna Chinna Aasai", composed by A.R.Rahman, from the movie Roja (1992).

I've always felt that there was more pain in Rahman's music than in Ilayaraja's. To me the latter always strikes a hopeful chord even in his saddest pieces. Maybe it's their personal philosophies, Ilayaraja making his name in the '70s - '90s, when life was probably simpler and hope kept people going, while Rahman is a product of the global '90s, when futility and hopelessness came to stay.

Anyway, I digress.

The song itself is an all-time favourite, both for the nostalgia that it evokes and the simplicity that drips from the words. The song was meant as a girl-growing-up piece in the movie, a supposedly cheerful, pastoral composition. But somehow it's never been that for me. It's nothing if not melancholic. Every little image the words draw up, every little note in that song -- especially that interlude in the clip above -- leaves me sad. I guess the past makes us all sad in one way or the other. And if you notice, there is this clear dichotomy between the video and the words. The video shows the girl doing everything she talks about in the song, but the words have this "I would love to do this, but then ..." feel to them. Almost everything that is sung about is frustratingly out of reach, almost as if the protagonist is being prophetic, proclaiming "This too shall pass."

Back to the piece. I absolutely love the transition that it brings about in the song. Until then, you're there, enjoying the words vicariously, and then Rahman chips in with his absolutely heart-wrenching "Elelo", and you know he set you up. Almost like how the sanguinity of childhood sets us up nicely for the bear-trap that adulthood really is. You want it, you got it. I can almost hear A.R.R. chuckling, 'There, so you thought this was another of those everyone-gets-what-they-want pieces eh? Take this!'

The transition starts with a kind of "stick music" (please tell me what instrument this is! I have no idea what to call it) accompanied by sounds, I imagine, of stars twinkling. That's where Rahman invites you to take this brief ride on a magic carpet, asking you to leave behind the idyllic world suggested by the lyrics. He then shows you sweeping valleys, broad, meandering rivers, brooding hillocks, all coloured in the scarlet dusk of twilight, cloaked with the sadness of the evening, the earthy drum and the rueful veena pinning you firmly to the ground, not letting you escape to the skies. And you begin to realize the enormity of everything about you. And of course, that solitary fisherman singing "Elelo", the perfect metaphor for Life itself.

And then, suddenly, smoothly, seamlessly, just like how it all began, Rahman drops you off right back where he picked you up, and leaves you to enjoy Vairamuthu, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he speeds away on that carpet of his.


And to think, it was his first movie. Oh, well ... I'm probably over-analysing as usual.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Untitled - 3

an apple on the table.
round, and not too much;
red, and then not too much;
and left to rot.

a puddle of muddy rain water.
devoid of velocity,
smug in its pothole.
'Careful'. Step in - slosh! -
with pants pulled up.

a story in the sunday paper.
sad and short,
in black and white.
to be continued
next week.

a window over a cerulean ocean.
an empty home inside,
pictures afloat on the alabaster walls.
a curious breeze,
and the drapes billow.

a million images
play merry-go-round
inside the chamber of my heart.

their wispy fingers
teasing emotions from
the veins in the walls,

their little feet testing the floors
for strength,

and I know I am
apple, puddle, short story and window.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Camus and Einstein

In The Myth Of Sisyphus, Albert Camus says that suicide is the only really serious philosophical problem. True. But then it's based on the fact that the scope of Life -- as we know it -- is defined by Time. Would suicide still be the only philosophical problem if we had infinite time? I know all this sounds ridiculous and childish, this gibberish about infinite time, time itself having as much meaning as we give it. But it's a thought. And I guess Einstein might have had the same thought. To me, both -- Einstein and Camus -- were trying to answer the same question. In their own terms. One came up with Relativity. The other, Absurdity.