Thursday, December 20, 2007


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


And this.

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