Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sleepless

He stands in front of the windows, looking down at the sprawling city.

It's three in the morning. The rain had woken him up, the drizzle easing itself in through the windows. Sliding off the bed, he'd staggered to the windows and shut them forcefully. By the time he trudged back to bed, sleep had left him stranded; incomplete dreams rapidly shrinking behind his eyelids.

He stands in front of the windows, curtains drawn apart and peers into the night, past the pattering rain, at the glistening road twenty floors beneath, at the occasional traffic slithering into the distance. He's grateful he can't hear the noise up here.

He looks up, his gaze sweeping across the sleeping city, his eyes moving from window frame to window frame. Neon landmarks punctuate the dark landscape; the lights ghostly and electric in the rain. Concrete spires reach into the sky in search of a capitalist God, one who will reward ambition and achievement. Office lights flicker in the distance all around him. Dish antennas mark the terrain; milestones marking individual progress.

The city never ceases to amaze him. Another symbol of a civilization's narcissism, an offspring of its obsession with itself, with the ideas of optimism and progress. He's never comprehended these concepts completely but he likes being here. Likes the anonymity that shrouds his existence here. Likes the relief that comes from realizing that he did not have to hang on to his identity. Likes discovering himself without any biases. Unlike a few other people, he relished his rootlessness, this sense of drifting that comes from living in a city and letting its routine overwhelm you.

The city somehow encouraged him to have a certain bent of personality. It fed and nurtured in him a set of virtues that permitted him to thrive here. The ones who flourished here, he often thought, were those who seemed comfortable with these ideas of rootlessness and anonymity, accepted them without questions, people who inculcated a self that sought itself in everything that it came across, people who were cool with the concept of an identity that is as much gushing sewer as it is languid shoreline. In that sense, a city was an evolutionary culmination as far as civilizational constructs went, a compromise between between complexity and utility.

MS distracts him as her voice rises above his thoughts. Kurai ondrum illai plays softly on his laptop, the blue glow from the screen lighting the walls of his apartment. He should switch the monitor off, save energy, be a conscious citizen, stop global warming, but he lets it be for now and listens to the song, paying attention to the lyrics, sleep slipping away into the distance ... Kurai Ondrum Illai ... his life has been like that for sometime now, without complaint. More importantly, without being conscious of the need for complaint. He smiles as he wonders why anyone would want to thank the Lord for that. But then he would take anything as long as it was sung by MS.

A plane sweeps in from the north. He watches it descend slowly. Again, he can't hear anything. Just the muted experience of watching a plane sans its defining sound. What is it about identity, about personalities, that makes people cling to them? He watches the plane circle the city. The rain must be making it hard. Must be a long night at the control centre. Control. Chaos. A city, he thinks, is man's best attempt at the impossible -- large scale chaos control. Every council regulation is ostensibly to control, but then it is a desperate attempt to accommodate more deviation. The framework keeps bulging as a city grows. And as cities evolve, this framework of rules and control dissolves into a polite, gentle anarchy that everyone learns to live with.

The rain gets heavier. He draws the curtains shut, walks away from the windows and settles down on the bed. The city will soon awaken and he tries to get some sleep. But then his thoughts claim him again. A city also represents that ultimate challenge which man is confronted with in these troubled times: the reconciliation of individual with society. The more he thinks of it, the more futile such an attempt appeared. If at all there is a pattern to civilization, it is one where individuals came together to form societies, societies from which they later detached themselves to retain their individuality, an individuality which later broke the societies, a pattern which is easily decipherable in the motivations of most cities. And that detachment marked the beginning of the end.

The next song comes on. Another favourite.

(to be continued ...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

This.

And this.

I never knew a search to better understand Bayes' Theorem could be so rewarding :-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

He stands on the terrace, stripped to the waist, hands on his hip, looking up at the sky with eyes closed.

A cloud covers the noon sun, lumbering from east to west. He can feel its shadow sliding across his face, as if someone was conducting a slideshow up there. Evaporating detergent from the clothes hanging nearby tickles his nose. Wet tiles underneath remind his soles of the storm yesterday.

He waits, counts the seconds, his lips mouthing the numbers, eagerly anticipating that energy bursting through from the sun, imagining the heat on his face.

The city revives itself all around him after the rains. Like a gaint clearing his lungs after a cold. Dry streets, noisy schools, scrubbed docks, pavement stalls back in business, packed buses purposefully commuting from suburb to suburb ... he senses all this around him as he waits expectantly.

The shadow leave his cheeks. And then, light. Warm uninhibited proud clean light.

He feels it on his forehead, on his freshly shaved chin, on the curve of his stretched neck, on his chest, on his back, on his feet ... on his soul, on his mind ... feels it everywhere. Sacrifices begin to make meaning.

He opens his eyes and squints.

Sunshine never felt this good.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Two stories

Hell-Heaven.

Excerpt:

... while I was at a Girl Scout meeting and my father was at work, she had gone through the house, gathering up all the safety pins that lurked in drawers and tins, and adding them to the few fastened to her bracelets. When she’d found enough, she pinned them to her sari one by one, attaching the front piece to the layer of material underneath, so that no one would be able to pull the garment off her body. Then she took a can of lighter fluid and a box of kitchen matches and stepped outside, into our chilly back yard, which was full of leaves needing to be raked. Over her sari she was wearing a knee-length lilac trenchcoat, and to any neighbor she must have looked as though she’d simply stepped out for some fresh air. She opened up the coat and removed the tip from the can of lighter fluid and doused herself, then buttoned and belted the coat. She walked over to the garbage barrel behind our house and disposed of the fluid, then returned to the middle of the yard with the box of matches in her coat pocket. For nearly an hour she stood there, looking at our house, trying to work up the courage to strike a match. It was not I who saved her, or my father, but our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Holcomb, with whom my mother had never been particularly friendly. She came out to rake the leaves in her yard, calling out to my mother and remarking how beautiful the sunset was. “I see you’ve been admiring it for a while now,” she said. My mother agreed, and then she went back into the house. By the time my father and I came home in the early evening, she was in the kitchen boiling rice for our dinner, as if it were any other day.

My mother told Deborah none of this. It was to me that she confessed, after my own heart was broken by a man I’d hoped to marry.


Once in a lifetime.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Long personal post ahead. Read at your own risk.
I had a brief but interesting feedback session with my manager and my VP the other day. It was part of a performance assessment ritual that happens now and then. More to the point, it was my first such session at the new place having joined the company in February this year.
Among other things, they told me that I had a lucid structured thought process, that I communicate well and report early, that I seem to lead my team by example, that they are happy with the rapport I share with my superiors, my peers and my juniors, and that, in their opinion, I've gone beyond the call of duty when it came to maintaining good customer relations (the customer being our collaborators in Hannover). They didn't have any negative feedback and wound up the session asking me to raise the bar a notch.
I somehow downplay achievements and tend to obsess over my failures to the point of losing sleep. I think it's a throwback to a middle-class upbringing where one was told not to 'think too much of oneself' and that failure was always around the corner. To be fair to my parents, I think it probably was their way of instilling humility in their children (and God knows my brother and I needed to learn that quality!). And there have been times when I've regretted not feeling good about things I've done. So I left the cabin with a grin plastered on my face and a warm feeling climbing up my back (no, it wasn't the difference in the AC).
I guess what made me happy is that a few months after I started working three-and-a-half years ago, I came to the painful conclusion that my thinking wasn't as good as it needed to be, and that despite being good at my job, I sucked when it came to communicating (not just talking and arguing, you know). More importantly, I could never fit snugly into a team. I guess it was due to my inability to take sides, my commitment towards being unbiased and a strange principle that personal relationships at work could only hinder professional output. My team-mates tended to look at me as this humourless guy they could turn to for help but not someone they could feel comfortable with.
Introspection and self-improvement are something I'm big on. Looking back, I think my interest in philosophy seems to have paid off in other areas of my life as well. Being an engineer, in my opinion, asks you to play the devil with yourself on a daily basis (which is not to say other professions don't; I'm just talking from my experiences and from a purely personal viewpoint). It somehow is never enough to solve a problem. You need to solve it in the right way. And at times, the most beautiful way possible, even if 'most beautiful' is synonymous with 'cheap' (or 'cost effective' to use jargon). One somehow needs to cultivate the dual ability to tirelessly generate solutions (De Bono anybody?) and choose between them without being sentimental. Philosophy, to me, seems to ask of you the same. To look at various truths, see if there are any others that have been left out in the bargain and evaluate them objectively purely from a need-to-use basis. This is where people get it wrong when they say philosophy is such an arm-chair science (or art, if you want) and that poetry is for the jobless. If poetry is about acknowledging human frailty, philosophy is about the human ability to gather the courage to find ways to live with that vulnerability. Philosophy is all about practical usage.
This blog seems to have affected me in ways I can't quantify. If anything, I've learnt to communicate, to write for an audience logically and clearly, to listen and argue patiently, despite the few occasions when I've lost my cool (For a SWOT analysis at my first job, I wrote 'Weakness - inability to tolerate fools'; I think I've improved on that too :)). I can't overstate the importance of keeping an open mind, to acknowledge that you were wrong (and stick to your guns when you're right) and to understand that the point of a debate are the perspectives that one comes away with. But then again, I've learnt to be ruthless when dismissing trite, poorly reasoned arguments. It's a tricky balance and one I struggle to achieve on a lot of occasions. I've learnt that when communicating, it's not enough to be professionally blunt but that with every word you speak and with every line you type, you are building a relationship that will help you do your work better (I know that's a very capitalistic way of looking at it but let's not give in to romanticism here). That, in many ways, is the single most important lesson I've learnt. Anything that will help you work better without sacrificing your integrity needs to be worked upon.
Leading is something that comes naturally to me only under certain situations -- either on a playing field or where there is an established hierarchy of authority. Whenever I find myself outside these "set-piece" situations, a social outing for example, I'm a very reluctant leader. I think I like it when people don't have a choice but to obey. But if it comes to coaxing or cajoling people or using one's charm, I shy away (too egoistic you see). It's not something that comes naturally to me. But then like everything, it's something I've worked upon. You see people like Ganguly and Dravid and you learn that charm and man-management are as important as leading by example. One without the other is useless. Grovel when you need to grovel; yell when you need to yell. Like I said, anything that helps you to work better without sacrificing your integrity. Earlier, in my first job, my boss used to like me because I would "call a spade a spade" and that I would not think twice about "challenging people outright". While I still think those are qualities one must have, I've realized that the "packaging" matters. That you need to take people along with you. Iniya ulavaaga innaadha kooral / Kani iruppa kaai kavarndhatru.
While I'm glad that I've been able to break out of a 'personality-shell', I can't help but think if I've lost a little bit of myself in the process. Like I was telling a friend the other day, I seem to have lost the ability to write poetry spontaneously (not that those poems were any good but still ...). Whenever I write a poem these days, it's with a lot of effort and exertion of every nuance of the craft that I've learnt. I used to be able to sit back, not let pressure get to me and generally be lax. But now I'm running all day to meet some deadline or the other, professional or personal. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. I think the trick with self-improvement is to indulge in it only as long as the marginal utility of improvement remains high and let go once the law of diminishing returns sets in. That is something I still need to figure out. But in the meantime, there's a bar I need to keep pushing higher.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A poem discovered recently.

***
No Matter Where We Go - Henrik Nordbrandt
No matter where we go
we always arrive too late
to experience what we left to find.
And in whatever cities we stay
it is the houses where it is too late to return
the gardens where it's too late to spend a moonlit night
and the women whom it's too late to love
that disturb us with their intangible presence.
And whatever streets we think we know
take us past the gardens we are searching for
whose heavy fragance spreads throughout the neighborhood.
And whatever houses we return to
we arrive too late at night to be recognized
And in whatever rivers we look for our reflections
we see ourselves only when we have turned our backs.
Translated by Alexander taylor
***
Found this poem in "The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry". The reason this poem appeals to me is the quiet sense of existential anguish that it's dowsed in, the realization that life lies tantalizingly close but perenially beyond one's fingertips and that it's always too late.
What is more important, I think, is the realization that -- for some of us at least -- the possibility of something -- dreams, an alternate world, love -- will always appeal more than the reality around us. This conflict, this emotional tug-of-war between yearning for a distant possibility and settling for an immediate secure reality, this confrontation of the abstract with the concrete is a theme of many lives*.
What I like is the way Nordbrandt brings about the insufficiency of this mortal life, how meagre it is compared to the substantial human appetite for experience, how there is never enough time to know anything completely -- even yourself (And in whatever rivers we look for our reflections /
we see ourselves only when we have turned our backs), how one cannot love as much as one wants to (the women whom it's too late to love), how no search will find what it set out to find and how knowledge as we know it is completely useless because it can never ever be complete. I like the way he does not over-dramatize but instead chooses to just simply say, "disturb us with their intangible presence". Intangible indeed.
Oh and the loneliness that runs through this poem like a quiet stream gurgling through a forest -- one cannot but quote Bertrand Russell, "...an individual facing the terror of cosmic loneliness". It is rather discomforting to come home and realize that nobody recognizes the real you. But then the lives we lead don't afford us the luxury of such truths and before we know it we've plunged headlong into the delusions that sustain us. Because, at the end of the day, one somehow has to find a way to remain content, to continue with life and believe in the possibility of happiness.
Another poem by Henrik Nordbrandt - Sailing.
* - Including my twenties thus far.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The honesty argument

In response to this post, a few comments talked about how honesty is a virtue. That it can't be a vice. My opinion is that "a virtue is simply a form of systematized behaviour that helps one to live life in the way one wants to", a means to an end. A vice is simply something which doesn't help the cause.
So let's suss this out.
Claim - Virtues can't be vices.
Counterclaim - Virtues are relative. Or, they can be vices depending on the "climate"[1].
One of the first interesting puzzles that one comes across in logical reasoning[2] is the "door-puzzle". A popular version of it goes like this - you're a prisoner awaiting execution. In front of you are two doors, a sentry guarding each door. One door leads to freedom, the other leads to death. The guards know which door leads where. You also know that one of the guards lies. But you neither know which door will keep you alive or which guard speaks the truth. You are allowed to ask only one question to one guard. What question will you ask? And which door will you choose based on the answer?
The key to solving the problem is consistency[3]; that the guards won't deviate from their behaviour; that both the guards are capable of virtuous behaviour based on their own moral code; that you can use your understanding of their moral code to your advantage.
What if the guard who speaks the truth speaks a different kind of truth? A truth which believes that the prisoner (who is actually guilty of theft) should be punished, that the guilty should not escape. According to that truth, he would actually lie (so that the prisoner chooses the wrong door and dies) but still speak the truth. What if the guard who lies believes in a different kind of truth? A truth which believes that theft is a demonstration of superior physical and mental ability. According to that truth, he would actually speak the truth (in terms of the doors) but still lie (if lying meant any act that helped the guilty escape).
I hope you are thoroughly confused now.
The point is, in the problem -
1. Dishonesty is a virtue as much as honesty is. That is if one looked upon a virtue as defined in the counterclaim.
2. Dishonesty is the opposite of honesty.
3. So what we are essentially looking at is something like -
Let's assume that, as per the claim, A is a virtue and A' is a vice.
Therefore,
A' = (!A) {inverse of A}
But as per the problem,
A' = A {the argument that lying/dishonesty is a form of truth in itself}
=> A = (!A) [4]
Or, if A can be a virtue, A can be a vice as well.
The problem with terms such as virtue, vice, truth, lies etc is that these are all dependent on the prevailing moral climate. The virtue (pun intended) of reading Nietzsche is that he awakens you to questioning the basic premise of society as it exists today -- why should the weakest survive? Why should the strong have to relinquish their strengths just to fit in with society? Protecting the weakest is the basic rallying call of society today. And honesty -- as a virtue -- is based around defending the weak. Defending the weak then becomes the way society wants to "live its life", and honesty is a form of "systematized behaviour" to achieve that. If society were to focus its efforts towards ensuring the survival of the fittest (fittest in any form), then the form of honesty required in such a society would be different. Why did the SS thrive during the Nazi regime? Why was betraying the Jews seen as honesty? Were they all so brainwashed? I don't think so. Just that almost all of them believed in the moral code which Hitler espoused.
To conclude, 'honesty' is just a term to denote a form of behaviour which helps society achieve its goals. What is important to note -- and think about -- is that there is no intrinsic value difference between protecting the weakest and ensuring the survival of the fittest[5]. They are simply two different ways of organizing society, each with its own arguments.
1 Climate being moral, social and political
2 A certain three-lettered exam should come to mind right now
3 Now is consistency a "universal" virtue? ;-) Answer to the problem somewhere on this page
4 "A is A" anybody?
5 Which is why I will always consider Pudhupettai a fabulous movie.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This made my morning. I'm no Aussie hater and I have a lot of respect for them. But every pre-match sign they gave out spoke of a lack of interest and maybe a sniff of over-confidence. This should get them to "start respecting the game ". They might have been rusty and over-confident but I wonder if they were smart enough.
I grew up in a sizable colony with a lot of kids my age which meant every evening saw an army of us playing cricket. Every now and then we would be chased off the streets by somebody who had enough of us breaking windows or trampling their garden, snooping around the crotons, searching for tennis balls. And we would shift to a new street with a totally new set of dynamics. If the earlier "pitch" was long and narrow, the new one would be short and wide. More often than not, one had to develop new strokes to utilize the spaces in the new "ground" and also shed old ones which no longer fetched optimal returns. The bowlers had to rethink their areas and the lengths they would bowl. More importantly, in the first few matches, the captains never knew where exactly the balls would go to place their fielders and what scores to set if they batted first.
Those first few matches were when you needed to be tactically capable and adapt quickly. It no longer made sense to have a good long-term strategy in place. Rather, a clutch of tactics became strategies for the time-being. It made you streetsmart, literally and metaphorically.
Point is, the T20 promises to be entertaining. Although the format appears to be more swashbuckling than scholarly, what will be interesting is the kind of tactics the teams use when they know that they have a whole new set of simultaneous equations to solve. This is as short-term as short-term can get. Australia have always been strategically strong -- have the best bowlers, fielders and batsmen and play the game hard. But the T20 is like hit-and-run guerilla warfare (although that might be stretching the metaphor too much). Strategic strength might not be as vital as it is in the other forms of the game. Each side has more resources than it can spend. It looks like an interesting couple of weeks.
Sun Tzu would have had a field day, I imagine. As would have Garry Kasparov.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dil Se

Yesterday being a holiday, one sat around revisiting Bollywood favourites, namely Dil Chahta Hai and Dil Se. As a few friends know, the next best thing to the Chinese Water Torture is to hear one talk (endlessly) about DCH. Hence, in all magnanimity, one has decided to spare you that ordeal.
Dil Se is a totally different matter. What a screwed-up movie. One wishes one was in close proximity to Mani Rathnam when he was shooting the script; one would have promptly kicked his rear end every time he messed up the screenplay.
But then one likes it for a few reasons -- Ladakh in Santhosh Sivan's eyes, Manisha Koirala (yes, yes, one can be irrational) and one scene that loiters in the mind, long after SRK and MK (sound like a pair of monkeys, don't they?) blow themselves up (Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! One always wanted to say that).
This scene is the one where Meghna (MK) comes to meet Amar (SRK) at his office, asking him to get her a job at the All India Radio station in New Delhi. This is right after, as the world knows, Meghna walks into Amar's house in the middle of his engagement with Preeti (Preity Zinta) and he decides to accommodate Meghna and her crony in his house without any questions.
Moving on, there they are, standing in a dimly lit corridor, with people going to and fro. Amar, after having postponed his conflicting feelings, confronts her and asks her why she's there, what she expects from him.
That's when this door at the end of the corridor opens and shuts as people pass through. The camera focusses on Meghna, an eerie light from outside the corridor illuminating her face one second and the door swinging shut, eclipsing her in its shadow the next. This keeps happening, the door opens and shuts. Amar feverishly asks Meghna if she ever had any feelings for him; Meghna's face goes alternately from light to dark as she evades Amar's questions, refusing to answer.
And in that precariously balanced moment, when you feel like thwacking Amar on his head and drilling some sense into his skull, when you want to shriek out and remind him of Preeti and her endearing dimples back home, in that eternally oscillating moment, as Amar's voice pleads, cajoles and threatens Meghna, you understand; you understand the pain of a doomed love, of how the mind questions because it can't do anything else in its desperation when the heart has already lost; you understand how Amar will not learn the truth about Meghna until it's too late; you understand how it feels to be trapped in the temptations of twilight.
Finally, when Amar gives in to Meghna's evasion and accedes to getting her a job, one can only curse and shake one's head in disbelief.
What a screwed-up movie.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

India Vs England, 2nd ODI, Bristol, 2007-2008

  • England's bowling looks healthy even without Harmison and Hoggard. Anderson appears to have sorted out his rhythm problems and is carrying on his fine form from the Tests. I particularly liked the way he bowled at the death; yorkers and slower balls, disguised between just-off-a-length deliveries. Stuart Broad seems to have a good head on his shoulders; he just needs a little more experience. Tremlett had a bad game yesterday but I like what I've seen of him so far -- hard-working and sincere. And what can one say about Flintoff? Even on a pitch like yesterday's, even on a ground like Bristol, it was tough to get him away. If he continues to bowl like this and stays clear of injury, he's all set to become one of the finest defensive fast-bowlers ever of this generation. Though one Mr. Mcgrath would have something to say about that, I imagine.
  • There is a warm feeling that I get whenever I see the Ganguly-Tendulkar pair in full steam in a ODI. There's something about the way they build partnerships that makes me want to believe in marriage. They seemed to be very conscious of the run-out at Southampton and were keen to not repeat it. Tendulkar seemed to sense that Ganguly was having a bad day and took on the responsibility of scoring. What was nice about Sachin's 99 yesterday was the way his feet moved -- swift, twinkling and purposeful, like a samurai; made all the difference. Two paddles for four off Mascarenhas had me grinning. And did you notice those bat-twirls? Looked very deliberate.
  • The most significant statistics, for me, were -- Flintoff 10-0-56-5 & Powar 10-0-43-1. I personally thought Powar would be taken to the cleaners, but looks like he came good. Powar comes across as very gritty, but I don't think he'll last long in this side. Dravid is just looking out for a younger, fitter off-spinner to come along.
  • Dravid's 92 will go down in my memory as one of the finest ODI innings I've seen by an Indian batsman in recent times. I'm not taking anything away from Sachin; he was very good and showed that he still has it in him to go back to his old ways, if he wants to. But Dravid was imperious, like a tall, Mathematics professor, strutting about, expounding on geometry; his batting was all subdued straight lines and acute angles that frustrated Collingwood's field placements. And he kept running his runs all through. He drilled his drives, flicked fine for fours and in one memorable moment, splayed his legs, made room and sliced one over the point boundary for six. You could see that he knew India needed more runs, that he preferred a 340 over a 320. In the end those runs of his seemed to make all the difference. One other shot that stood out was how, having moved to leg and seen the ball pushed wide on the off, he loosened the bootom bottom hand, and played a left-handed backhand slice to sneak the ball past short third-man for four. Simply brilliant. The next time someone accuses him of being slow, they're going to get it in the face.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ode to bicycles - Pablo Neruda

Another day, another favourite.

***

Ode to bicycles

I was walking
down
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
the
earth
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
passed
me by,
the only
insects
in
that dry
moment of summer,
silent,
swift,
translucent;
they
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
factories,
giving
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
hard
beetle backs
of the whirling
bicycles
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
stilled,
because
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
humming
through summer
but
a cold
skeleton
that will return to
life
only
when it's needed,
when it's light,
that is,
with
the
resurrection
of each day.

***
I tend to read a lot of Pablo Neruda simply because I locate his sensibility at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared with someone like Auden. Where Auden is flighty, form-perfect, obscure and intellectual, Neruda is rustic, free-flowing, grounded in reality and direct. It is precisely for this, this difference in perspective and approach to poetry, that I like Neruda. His poems inform my intelligence and mould my imagination in a totally different way than I'm used to.
Ode to bicycles is one of a collection from the 'Third book of odes' which includes, among others, another favourite called Ode to a Village Movie Theater.
Ode to bicycles starts with a few compact lines setting the scene up. I like how, in the first stanza, Neruda immediately creates an expansive feeling of oppressive afternoon heat so much so that you can almost feel yourself squinting your eyes. The usage of the verbs -- 'sizzling', 'popped' and 'blazing' -- is perfect simply because a) they suit their objects wonderfully: 'sizzling road', 'popping sun' and 'blazing maize', and b) these verbs are made to work a lot; they are physical verbs "that paint a definite picture" (see section 6). And they work well with "field", "infinite" and "empty" to create a visual effect of sun, sweat and a rolling countryside thrown open.
It is in this setting that Neruda introduces his posse of bicycles -- "insects" -- and within a few lines elevates them to a surreal status -- "silent ... translucent" -- ensuring that we'll never look at them the same way. I admire the placement and the use of the metaphor "insects" because it somehow captures the mechanical, oiled and creaky quality that a bicycle has, bringing it to life while keeping the proportions intact -- bicycles are insects on a scale measuring means of transport; small and unobtrusive. Metaphors can make or mar a poem and this is one which immediately raises the quality of the poem by a significant notch. I particularly like how Neruda maintains a) the narrative of him walking and the bicycles passing him by thus retaining the sense of time in the present, and b) that hot sensation ('dry' and 'summer') which conjures up images of muscles pedalling and battling friction. Moreover, the most important adjective, in my opinion, 'translucent', in addition to tying up well with "insects", brings the poem alive, instilling on paper an image of a bicycle glinting in the sun.
Having focussed his poetic camera finely in the first two stanzas, Neruda zooms out, adding other incidental elements to the picture -- workers, girls, factories and other vegetation. This seems to be important in maintaining that magnitude of space introduced in the first stanza, of a sweeping landscape where the eye can see till the horizon, unhindered in its vision. He also seems to say that these other elements are not quite as important as the object of description, the bicycle, which has now gained momentum and whirs as compared to barely stirring the air previously. Neruda also cleverly builds up that thirsty feeling, using "summer" and "midday" quite intelligently. One also gets a social sense of the bicycle -- that it belongs not to the rich, but to the poor, to the young and the physically fit, not to those suited to a pedantic form of life. Another thing to note is the "hard / beetle backs" which sustain the thread of the "insects" metaphor and also lend a quality of hardiness to the lives of those who cycle.
Tightly reined in so far, Neruda now lets go in the coda. He makes a few quick switches: from the reality around him into his imagination -- "I thought"; from the sweeping landscape to the confines of an imagined house/ common room (as hinted at by the door); from day to night. That carefully built up feeling of sun, thirst, sweat and grime is now rapidly quenched, extinguished, with words such as "evening", "wash" and "wine" which seem to instantly cool the poem down, descending it to the lower temperatures of the after-work hours. Neruda facilitates this by evoking "love" and "life" which slow the poem down after the marching motion of the first few stanzas. Having cooled down, Neruda again focusses back on the bicycle and closes exquisitely, knitting it with the "insect" metaphor, bringing it back to life in our eyes, even if it is to show that it is now lifeless, at least temporarily. He infuses a notion of sadness and abandonment -- the bicycles now "waiting / at the door" and then "fallen". The last few lines, in particular, are exemplary, especially "the bicycle, / stilled, / because / only moving / does it have a soul, / and fallen there / it isn't / a translucent insect / humming / through summer / but / a cold / skeleton". The rapid back-and-forth shifting of contrast is breathtaking: "stilled / moving / fallen / humming"; "soul / skeleton"; "summer / cold"; "insect" (alive and warm) / "skeleton" (cold and lifeless) -- a fabulous flourish at the finish.
One misgiving I do have with the poem is regarding the line-breaks. There appears to be no logic to them. Maybe it's got something to do with the translation, but they make me one very unhappy reader.

Noticed ...

... this on a girl's t-shirt on my way to lunch -

I'm rich ...

I'm single.

Pink short t-shirt. Glittery lettering.

*Sigh*

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The O word and Goosebumps

Song - Jalsa (Remix).

Movie - Chennai 600028.

At least in two places, once in the second minute and once in the third minute, you can distinctly hear a voice chastely uttering the O word.

Postmodernism - 1, Censor Board - 0.

***
Saturday and I finally got around to watching this earache of a movie. But no this isn't about the movie.
A few of us were at Santham, settled in, when a slide comes on saying "Please stand for the national anthem". The audience stands up; the Bharat Bala video comes on (I hadn't seen this before). I start mouthing the words, more out of an attempt to see if I remember them than anything. Bhimsen Joshi, Balamuralikrishna, the Mangeshkar sisters ... one by one, a line each, all clad in pristine white.
And then, just when I was wondering when Rahman would come on, he appears to conclude, singing 'Jaya he' in that boyish voice of his.
The way he lets that first 'Jaya he' hang, the earnestness of his patriotism ... goosebumps. Totally*. Especially if you're standing in the dark with all your senses tuned to the screen.
* - Found the link while I was bloghopping; forgot from where.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unforgotten

your words lie
littering the floor,
like newspapers
flung here and there.

they lounge lazily
on the couch, crowding,
cramping
the spaces of my soul,

confusing
the way i see myself.

my patience bends,
sweeps them up,
stacks them in a corner
of my memory,
to read later, at leisure,
when i’m tired of us.

i close the door
on you,
slip the latch in place,
locking within
a roomful of anger
that could burn
photographs and promises.

i cook lunch,
wipe the windows clean
of our arguments,
watch the news, and
take out the trash
from my mind.

when evening balds,
i stand on the porch,
anxious for you
to return
your love
at night.

but up in the attic,
newspapers lie
piled up,
awaiting
a whiff of disillusionment.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The perfect metaphor is not that which insists upon a new way of seeing things. It is one that reveals a connection which was always there but never noticed. And having revealed, quietly recedes into the background, never drawing attention to itself but the connection.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sunset

raindrops slice
this sodium-vapour evening,
impaling
unassuming pedestrians and
black-and-white pavements
with tears from heaven.

soda-orange sky
hangs above
spotted with labour-union crows --
raucous wings
quarrel
with impassive statues;
voices caw dissent
against the statutes of time.

under a shy moon,
waves flourish
water-carpet merchandise
on shore markets,
trading foam
with salty ankles
and bare calves.

night, meanwhile, seeps ink
from underneath the sea,
drawing its blanket
over another day
of a hyphenated youth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Neighbour's Grief

we gather like wolves at dawn,
clad and clawed;
grief rises early.
we hunt in the clouds
for lofty words,
hungry for meaning --
like starved vultures
pecking at a festering corpse,
constructing careful combinations,
rummaging our vocabularies,
pilfering phrases from books,
composing eloquent speeches,
seeking the aristocratic elegance
of that balanced sentence --
i'm so sorry ...
bad way to go ...
my condolences ...
fate --
whose polished weight would appear
neither hospital-maudlin
nor fossil-dry.

*
we hug, pat and

shake grave hands,
doused in a post-lunch psychedelia
of soberness and sorrow;
when tears spill,
we let them bounce
on our generous,
laundried, silk shoulders.
we speak whispers,
tracking conversations,
noting down a phrase or two
for next time,
preening when others struggle
and stutter,
gloating over the skeletal awkwardness
of their gawky emotions,
keeping score --
Oh! She was over the top;
What was she going on about?
Why was he so cold?

*

mourning, we walk out,
backs hunched from the exhaustion
of everyday grief,
gathering our slippers
and umbrellas -- what if it rains?
in time to catch the 6 PM bus,
pondering take-away pizza and
the office meeting tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shudder

It is a little petrifying when right after this (where mention was made about a "value-vacuum"), one should read this (err ... don't judge a blogger by the url of his links) -

To assume the right to new values - that is the most terrifying assumption for a load-bearing and reverent spirit. To such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
Nietzsche talks about how the spirit metamosphoses from camel to lion to child. One can see how this is the basis of his argument towards the √úbermensch. But somehow I have this nagging feeling that both Nietzsche and Camus had a similar end in mind while propounding their respective philosophies -- an end where man lives "non-destructively", despite the realization that life is futile and meaningless.
With Nietzsche, my problem is with the child phase.
But tell me, my brothers, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes. For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred Yes is needed: the spirit now wills his own will; the world's outcast* now conquers his own world. [Emphasis mine]
Consider a spirit having shed its camel tendencies and adopted a lion form. Now what is more easier? Creation or destruction**?
Nietzsche outlines three stages towards attaining the √úbermensch -
1. Destruction of already existing "weak" societal values.
2. Creation of new values (purportedly anti-nihilistic values).
3. Continuous improvement or self-overcoming, so as to repeat steps 1 and 2 above.
But then the problem with the idea of a Superman, in my opinion, is in step 2. What is to stop these values from becoming destructive? What justifies creation? Why is creation morally superior to destruction? Even Nietzsche argues for relativistic values i.e. one man's virtue is another man's vice, which is in fact the founding basis for a Superman. So it is not hard to imagine a Superman who seeks values contrary to those of Nietzsche's idea of Superman.
In other words, why not a destructive Superman?
Jesus F Christ.
Tyler Durden all over again.
* The outcast or he who is lost to the world. Very tempting here to draw parallels to Camus's The Outsider -- should the Meursaults of the world go on to become Supermen? Where Camus seems to advocate an indifference and apathy which is, to go out on a limb, characteristically French, Nietzsche is all for progress and creation, which, at the risk of generalization, sounds wonderfully German.
** On a moral plane. It all fits in now -- why Ayn Rand had to go out of her way to paint Ellsworth Toohey as a sissy, at least physically.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Filler

Since we are indulging in fillers until I get writing again, a poem from W. H. Auden. Yes, another all-time favourite.


*
The More Loving One
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
*
UPDATE - Thought I'd put down some of my thoughts as to why I like this poem.
There is no breathtaking sweep about the poem and neither is there stunning imagery. The language is all the more conspicuous by its lack of disguise. No, this is a poem straight from the heart, without any gimmickry of the literal sort.
Auden asks us to keep our expectations at the door with the first two lines. No, he seems to say, it's a simple one this time, listen well, and oh, in case you didn't notice, I'm still rhyming*.
Indifference is nothing, Auden posits. What's more difficult is dealing with feelings of affection and admiration -- even love -- when the object of those feelings does not reciprocate in equal measure. Hence, the title. No, this is not about indifference. No, this is not about unrequited love. This is about distance. And pride. And that's where the reference to "stars" comes into the picture. Why "stars"? Why not something else? Auden perhaps wishes to tap into the notions of distance and exaltation that we commonly associate with stars. Perhaps the object of his affections is not distant in a physical sense but is more immediate and out of reach, out of his league maybe, and he can only stand and admire from afar.
I like the poem for the way Auden stands and reflects on this emotional precipice, threatening to plunge down into self-pity. In the end, he restrains himself nobly but for the two lines that mark the poem out - If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me. He gives in, acknowledges that he's the one at fault for seeking an "affection" that cannot be "equal" in the first line, and then in the very next line, redeems himself by asking permission (in a voice that would be quiet and soft I would imagine and without melodrama) for a subsidiary position, which in fact places him on a higher plain plane, morally and psychologically.
The rest of the poem is about how Auden, having voluntarily relegated his feelings, sustains his pride despite the blow to his self-esteem that such an acknowledgement would obviously deal have dealt. He says how, despite admiring his stars, he cannot bring himself to "say / I missed one terribly all day." There is something about the words he uses -- "go to hell" and "don't give a damn" -- which gives us a clue about the true nature of these stars of his and where he stands with them. We've all been there, where ego takes over and seeks to heal the wounds of the heart. How we don't say what we should lest we appear "clingy". Confessions are to be private and even then only within the closed confines of one's conscience. Communication of such confessions to the object of one's affection (especially when they "don't give a damn") are not to be engaged in, lest the self injures itself further. No, one can't afford to appear needy. It is beneath one's dignity, despite what one feels otherwise. That seems to be Auden's stance.
Finally, Auden seems to conjecture - what would happen if the stars were to "disappear or die" and concludes that even if it takes "a little time", he would "learn to look at an empty sky / And feel its total darkness sublime". That, all said and done, all affection is ephemeral -- stars do die, for whatever reasons -- and we have to live with our selves, even if it takes time and patience, and that solitude sometimes is neither refuge nor escape but the only way to live in a complicated world.
Brilliant pithy poem. Shows how an emotion should be carefully examined and nurtured into words.
* - A friend once told me that he looked down upon poems which rhymed. In his opinion, a rhyme scheme always forced the poet to settle for effect rather than concentrate on meaning. Of course, he liked free verse. But I wish he would read Auden. If not for anything, for the effortless ease with which Auden rhymes and makes it sound all so natural, without compromising on the content.

Monday, June 18, 2007

P & C - 2

Calvin - So this Radha girl ...

Partha - Yeah?

Calvin - You have feelings for her?

Partha - Hmmm ... maybe.

Calvin - That a yes or a no?

Partha - Actually, NO! Why don't you go update that blog of yours? Idiot.

Calvin - Who you kidding huh? I've seen how you shape around her, playing Pink Floyd on your flute.

Partha - Argh! I don't "shape" around her. What's wrong with you? And it's kambakth ishq, by the way, not Pink Floyd.

Calvin - Whatever. She's kinda cute though ...

Partha - Hmmm.

Calvin - What do you think?

Partha - Why do you ask me? How should I know? Somebody's left a comment on your blog. Go check.

Calvin - But you know what they say ...

Partha - What?

Calvin - [with an evil grin] Get to first base before you think of a home run.

Calvin - Par rehta hai jab tak yeh kambakth jannat dikhaata hai ...

***

The strip that's linked to is an all-time favourite. The more I read it, the more I admire Watterson's genius. The way he slowly builds up Calvin's irritation (and equally, Hobbes' curiosity) using the wheelbarrow's momentum as a metaphor reeks of class. And the look on Hobbes' face in the final panel is absolutely priceless. To appreciate the idea, think of the same strip with the two walking at a slow pace, like they do in the more philosophical strips.
UPDATE: A friend writes in to say that "Partha" is not you-know-who. All I can do is smile knowingly in my eternal wisdom and say simply, "Postmodern".

Friday, June 15, 2007

P & C

Partha - Learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation.
Calvin - Hmmm ...
Partha - Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle.
Calvin - Hmmm ...
Partha - Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your destiny.
Calvin - [blinks]
Partha - Calvin? You there?
Bhagavad Gita quotes from here. And ... umm ... pun in the title entirely unintended.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I'm not sure how many people noticed but this page completed two years of existence on the WWW a couple of months ago. Been an interesting time so far. Like I told a friend when I started blogging, "It's not simple."
I started this blog to get myself to write. To see if I could do something with one of the few talents that I have. I kept a journal in college where I would put down my thoughts now and then. But after I started working, the journal took a back-seat and writing ground to a halt. So when I started this blog, it gave me sufficient impetus to start writing again. And through two years of largely sporadic writing, I've had a good time here, met a few interesting people, exchanged lot of ideas, indulged in comment-wars and in between, managed to improve my writing skills as well.
That said, in the last three months, I've come this close to shutting this blog down on at least four occasions.
I think it's primarily because I find myself in a netherworld of sorts, a phase where I seem to have a lot of ideas but no port to anchor them in. I find myself in a value-vacuum where any piece of writing that I come up with is not me, so to say, simply because the emotion seems to be slightly insincere (which might be because I've been grappling with issues of identity for a long time now). And whenever I've managed to write something that's intellectually honest and not deluded, it's taken a lot out of me. Besides, considering the fact that I have no illusions about my mediocrity (please let it be; I'm not being modest here), it's become very tough to get myself to publish anything.
There are other reasons, like my life in the offline world and certain things that I dearly want to accomplish in the coming months, my poor time-management skills and the beating that my other interests have taken as a result of constantly having to spend time thinking about what to write.
Simply put, I've not been enjoying blogging. I need a break. Until I find myself again.
I don't know how long this will last. Maybe you'll come back tomorrow and find a new post up. Or maybe never.
Until then, thanks for all the comments and the traffic.
Bye.
PS: musafirblog[at]gmail[dot]com, in case you feel like a shout.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

55 - 1

He enters and realizes something's amiss.

He knew his apartment like a lab-mouse knew its maze.

Curtains open – too much light.

Sneakers slotted into the rack – too orderly.

And then in the kitchen, where she knew he couldn’t miss it – “With all my heart”.

He had to talk to the cleaning-girl about the hand towels.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rahman Mornings

One of the things I've learnt to carefully bypass is any "Raja-Rahman" debate I'm confronted with. I guess it's primarily because I'm not comfortable with my music know-how to even qualify to adopt a position and also because I believe one need not take a stance always. Another reason could be the fact that I enjoy both of them, albeit for different reasons.

I listen to Rahman mostly during the mornings, when I'm up and running for work, when I need to reaffirm my faith in the world and its ways. You know, just to tell yourself that "Yes, this place is going to the dogs but hey, it's a new day and you never know what's gonna happen". Ilayaraja (IR from now on) is reserved for the night when I need to lull myself to sleep -- his songs have this pleasant way of soothing frayed nerves and bringing the night quickly to an end.

It's not like one can't listen to IR in the morning or Rahman at night. It's just that my preference seems to be that way. Any inspiration I can milk out of IR's music in the morning seems insipid, jejune and foolhardy and not the cautious optimism that Rahman espouses (I do agree that the lyrics play a part too, but still ... ). On the other hand, Rahman is too angsty to listen to just before you fall asleep, whereas IR is just about perfect.
Anyway, here's a list of five Rahman numbers I enjoy listening to almost every morning -
  1. Nila Kaigiradhu, Indra, 1995 -- I prefer the Harini version to the Hariharan one. My "Wake-up playlist" has this on number one. Ideal ambience would be to stand on the terrace and watch the sun rise while Harini's voice pierces the ears, rubs the sleep off your eyes and gently welcomes you into the day. Favourite line - indha vaazhkaiyae seedhanam adhil jeevanae thaeyudhae ...
  2. Vellai Pookkal, Kannathil Muthamittal, 2002 -- Rahman as a singer is very under-rated. I agree he kills a few songs with that nasal voice of his (that's more the exception than the rule) but the depth of feeling he manages to summon makes each and every song that he's sung very special. This one is number two on my list. A sort of personal prayer to start the day off. "Hope is a good thing" (Shawshank Redemption anybody?). Favourite line - koadi keertanamum kavi koartha vaarthaiygalum thuLi kaNNer poal arththam tharumo ...
  3. Endrendrum Punnagai, Alaipayuthey, 2000 - The dude song, as I like to call it. The undercurrent of youthful masculinity -- and it's not just the rap -- is so enthralling I would be very surprised if any member of the female species has a soft corner for this song for reasons other than Madhavan. I like to loop it sometimes, especially when I'm walking to work, because there's this mall abounding with women that I need to go past to get to office, and the song suits the situation to a T. Always brings a grin to my face. It was an anthem of sorts in college but then Camus came along and changed all that.
  4. Margazhi Poove, May Maadham, 1994 - Very sophisticated lyrics. And as feminine as it gets. I used to skip this song as one of those "suppressed-woman-gone-mad" when I bought the cassette, but then Rahman is nothing if not insistent and the song grows on you. Moreover, Shobha's voice is so contrary to the kind of effect that the song aims at, it ends up complimenting the music and the mood. And yes, December mornings have never been the same again. Favourite line(s) - aezhai manam kaanum inbam naan kaanavillai ...
  5. Anbendra Mazhaiyilae, Minsara Kanavu, 1997 - A rare evangelical song, and Anuradha Sriram's full-throated yet tender rendition melts you away. It is difficult to come to terms with the song ideologically but the promise that it holds of a saviour is too tempting, so I eventually give in and end up listening to the song a few times continuously. Favourite line - Like the entire song, but if I were to pick, then it will have to be: poarkonda boomiyil pookkaadu kaanavae pugazhmaindhan thoanrinaanae / ... / nootraandu iravinai nodiyoadu poakkidum oliyaagath thoanrinaanae / irumbaana nenjilum eerangal kasiyavae iraibaalan thoanrinaanae ...

An interesting biography of Rahman is here -- a tad too long but fabulous collection of anecdotes and quotes.

Contemplation

Snapped during a weekend trip to Copenhagen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Untitled

Bing!
He wakes up. Looks down at his watch. Ten thirty. "ETA 15 minutes" says the monitor up front. He reaches sideways for the seat-belt, breathes in and buckles himself up.
"There, that's the city," the girl to his side gestures at her grandmother. The old lady sits up to look out the window. He leans back so that she can get a better view.
The plane turns to port, homing in on the airport, breaking through the last of the clouds. The city looms up slowly. All is quiet inside the aircraft. No banter. No calling out to the airhostesses. No watching tv. No talking into cell phones. Even the babies have stopped crying. If silence is prayer, then they were all believers now. Very soon, they will be back to being people, back to their quotidian lives, back to the numbers and words that populate daily existence. But for a little while longer, they will remain passengers, deprived of their egos and the security of their bounded imagination, forced to exchange faith for convenience, rebellion for conformity, time for thought.
He reaches into his jacket and starts his ritual.
Passport. Check.
Did Icarus have a checklist? Did it have a bullet point saying 'Beware the sun at all times'? Was it just testosterone, a fatal transgression committed in the fever of youth? Was it because he wanted to go to heaven without dying that the Gods sent him back? Or was it just disguised suicide? Pity. Someone should have told him. The sun never lets you near. Maybe that's why we glorify him. Flaws shine in intimacy.
He takes his passport out, flips to the visa, looks at the immigration stamp.
That's when they take your identity away, don't they? That's when you take a break from existing, don't you? That's when you become a position on the plane, a statistic curled up inside a spreadsheet, that's when your life remains suspended in this aluminium coccoon where hope is neither absurd nor a refuge, but a compulsive state of mind. Suspended until you land. Suspended until they stamp you back into the assembly line of existence, returning your self to you whereupon you drive away into the welcoming morass of your life.
Wallet. Check. Ipod. Check. Paperback. Check. Ipod. Check.
He smiles when he catches himself double-checking the primary source of music in his life. Music removes him from the mundane, heightens every moment, shades his life with colours he would otherwise not perceive. Music is what he uses to negotiate with the world.
Terms of negotiation. Give and Take. Give, give, give, or take, take, take. At times slave, at times master ... every moment you trade with the world, but then you like to play games on the planes of your consciousness, you don't like to believe that you don't barter, that you are above and beyond human need. But then you need. All of us need. Love, hate, solitude, communion, power, submission ... it pays to adopt an attitude to help you get through your days. As long as it helps you trade.
"Pretty excited huh?" the girl asks him. He smiles at her and nods his head. "Yes."
He'd helped her board her grandmother. They'd got talking. She was touring the continent with the old lady. He was on business. Strangers thrown together for the duration of the flight. And like it happens sometimes in such situations, a common chord had been struck ... You get on this plane or bus or train. You meet people. You strike a conversation. Sometimes you like the other person. At other times, you keep politely skirting the fence of personal contact and decline to venture further. Sometimes you bid goodbye and remove these people from the vicinities of your memory. Sometimes you exchange phone numbers, fall in love, marry, beget children, die. Where is the excitement in all this? Excitement exists in those shadows where the light of consciousness cannot penetrate, in the deluded mind which thinks but does not realize it thinks.
And yet, when people ask him if he's excited, he almost always says yes. He cannot understand why. Maybe it's wonder, a sense of intirgue, a need for confirmation that he feels, but he cannot bring himself to accept that since these, in turn, would spawn excitement. Or maybe he realizes that the glaring light of awareness is too much to bear and that people are better off living in darkness.
So, either way, he says yes. Because he's undecided.
The plane starts dropping. His ears pop. Another reminder of the imminent confrontation with reality. He can feel the plane tense, the metal plates pull together as the aircraft plunges through the stratosphere. All pretense is up now. Anything could happen. The earth zooms up rapidly, streets and houses whiz by in a blur of urban colour. The overhead cabins get rickety as the plane picks up speed. Faster and faster.
And then the feel of rubber on tarmac, the bumpiness of the earth below them.
Touchdown. Deliverance.
Relief in the air inside the cabin as the passengers let out a collective sigh. The plane taxis down the runway to the gates. If it were not for propriety and seat-belts, he believes they would all get up and let out a cheer and pat each other on the back. It brought to his mind a conversation from the past.
So did you like flying?
Depends. I don't like to fly for long. I like the earth too much.
Poor Icarus, he thinks and reaches up for his bag.
***
In Hannover, Germany on work. Expect posting to be sporadic (as if it already wasn't).