Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The drizzle returns....

... to early morning bangalore. Riding through the morning air, fresh with the scent of the rains.... a new sense of aliveness all around, as if everything around you has been washed clean...the roads, the roadside trees, the vehicles, the people moving into a new day of work, even those who're blissfully idling on park benches---everything is fresh, new and life-affirming.

My penchant for good cinema must've started wayback in the days of Doordarshan, when every sunday afternoon, DD would telecast award winning regional cinemas. Two movies that remain in memory even today---Ende mammati kutty...in Malayalam, about a couple who give up their adopted daughter to her rightful mother who's become a wreck after losing her daughter. The other (don't remember the name) was about two mentally challenged youngsters who fall in love with one another and get married. These arty movies struck a chord where dishum-dishum and romantic bland stories failed. Then apart from some brilliance from Maniratnam and a few good movies here and there, most of my movie watching was confined to hollywood blockbusters and some hindi romances. Tv5 asie would telecast good french movies but we lost the channel when our satellite tv provider changed.

Imagine my delight when I found a movie rental shop close to my office, which stacked the best movies from all over the world. From Kurosawa to kshelofski, from coppola to tarantino, from age-old classics to the latest award winner at Cannes....Cinema paradiso has the greatest movies made in every culture, in every country.

The first movie I took home last week was Salaam Bombay, India's entry to Oscars two decades ago. And all of my favourite movies are available on the shelves, which means that I'll have to keep aside a chunk of time every weekend for them.

Reading a novel or a piece of writing and then going back to it after sometime---it gives a different feeling. Like Lord buddha's words--'You don't step into a river twice'---you never read a story twice. You change, your world view, your attitude, your personality changes, and with these your perception of the story changes.

Maybe this applies to all our interactions and relationships. You never meet the same person twice.

Reading what I wrote around this time last year---about Lord Ganesha and the fantasy I formed about him at a young age-- it gives a similar yet different feeling. Similar because the sense of separation still haunts when the festivities are over. Different--how I know not!

Days of anxiety, of excitement, of a new fear, of renewed hope....a great turbulence within!

Emotional distancing is something I price very high, yet it's terribly difficult to achieve. To be free of your emotions, to watch them from a distance, knowing fully well that they aren't you...YOU are a witness to these emotions------ I wish I could do that.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Reading stories and novels, watching movies are past-time pleasures, most of the time. But at times they enrich your understanding, widen your horizons and give you a new perspective. To borrow a phrase, 'Reading literature is as important as studying philosophical/mystical volumes. Great truths would've been expressed in simple, everyday situations!'

I think this happens when you read hemingway, rushdie, camus--not the rowlings and dan browns. Or when you watch kurosawa and satyajit ray, not 'kabhi alvida na kehna' or superman.

A character in Naipaul's novel says--' When my father was on his death bed, his nature changed. From a gentlemanly person, he became a wicked character. He would insult everyone--even my mother, brother, his business associates....Whatever he thought about them, he brought out. He held nothing back. Proximity to death gave him that license and made him fearless, I suppose. He had nothing to lose....'

For me, this is an epiphany. Encountering this situation in the middle of a story rings a thousand bells in you. The effect touches somewhere deep within you, where even a hundred self-help books do not reach.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Past and present

Journeys have a magic in them. Whether you move from one town to another or you grow from one state of living to another, a journey never leaves you the same. It enriches. Like a flowing river you not only remain fresh but also gain a lot. We are on journeys all the time but if it is a conscious and deliberate one, we can decide the degree of enrichment.

I'm on one such journey--a physical one--travelling to chennai to attend the birthday function of my nephew and niece. The second class compartment is overcrowded. The seats are uncomfortable, more so for archana who is into her 7th month of pregnancy. I'm irritated at Dad who's sitting in the opposite seat, blissfully dozing inspite of the rickety journey. He was the one who insisted on a second class journey when we wanted to travel comfortably in an AC compartment. Dad's touchy about spending---between quality and cost, he'll opt for the latter. Anything at a lesser price and he's likely to go for it. His impoverished childhood and difficult upbringing have ingrained these qualities in him and makes him careful in spending matters. I understand all these yet I'm fuming within. I know I'll have a backache by the time we reach Chennai.

My sister stays with her inlaws in their ancestral house. This house is nearly 80 years old. When it was built and the occupants moved in, India was still ruled by the British. Gandhi, Nehru, Bose were the role-models--not Shahrukh, Ambanis and murthys of today. The way of thinking and living must've been different, the atmosphere could've been special. An oppressed people, coming together in great unity to break the back of the tormentor, finding inspiration and hope in outstanding leaders, abandoning their easy life and normal routine ----just for one word. Freedom!

This house bears testimony to that era. It's not just a structure. It has those special energies, that special mileu.

'Omkaara' is based on Shakespeare's Othello. There are good reviews, which means I'll somehow endup watching it. The trend is slowly changing in money-success hungry bollywood, where movies of substance are being made nowadays. Shakespeare's world was intimate during my study of Julius ceasar in college--but I've missed his other works and movie adaptations.

At lunch the topic of discussion is the number of movies my sister & brother-in-law watch every week. They say, they watch every other Tamil movie--mostly popcorn type, commercial, run-of-the-mill stuff. I suggest they watch 'Omkaara'--say it's based on Shakespeare. They stare at me as if I'm a relic of the past.

I'm reading 'Magic seeds' by Naipaul. Four days of rest and a mini-vacation in Chennai means that I can eat through this book's world. This looks more of a journal than a novel. It's as if I've written down my memoirs in a blog and then made a book out of it. The protogonist, 'Willie chandran', a perpetual outsider who joins an underground movement, searching for meaning in life, seeking and losing himself--this guy is Me. I should've read such books earlier instead of browsing through crap.

Chasing the horizon--something Nick pointed at in his comments makes me ponder over my everyday motivations. The horizon captivates only from a distance. When you reach there, there's no horizon. The illusion would've moved further, prompting you to go for it. You never reach it, you're always moving towards it.

Blogging douses my creative thirst-- it satisfies my need to give expression to my thoughts and share it with others. I have no more dreams or aspirations to write and publish. Feel it's good, in a way.

More notes

A lazy afternoon. I'm lying down on the sofa, gazing at the swaying branches of the coconut trees at a distance. Varied images flood in--from the novel, from the french movie I watched last night, scenes from yesterday's birthday party--and soon everything starts getting mixed up. I begin to go in an altogether different stream. Gazing at the ancient wooden cupboards and ceiling, imagining the sounds and silence of a different era, I feel as if I'm living in Pre-independence India--nearly 80 years back in time.

I'm a young man living in that momentous time, fresh out of college and into a job. My people are already into the freedom struggle, my dad's following the footsteps of the mahatma in some part of India. Everyone expects me to give up my job and secured life, and take a jump into the movement. Many of my relatives and friends, who have strong patriotic feelings are unhappy with me-- a lousy fellow leading a comfortable life. In social gatherings I'm looked at like an outcast, like a specimen.

Slowly I feel guilty for not joining the movement, and one day I give up everything and jump. Not just because I'm answering a social obligation but also because this environment changes me--it morphes my inner self, my aspirations.

Maybe without the environment I'd have continued my easy life. Or maybe, on my own strength I'd have taken a jump.

Cut back to august 2006. My environment wants me to lead a normal, balanced life. A life lead by everybody else-- a straight line from birth to death. And I'm a good boy who's answering to that social obligation. Yet there are occasions when an inner urge surfaces, a restlessness arises asking me if this is the life I want to live for another 50 odd years.

Most of the time I brush aside the restlessness, with an assurance that it will be answered in some future. But the future is a horizon. And the answer has to be found in the Present, in the now. It involves an unsettling of a stable world. It means a lot of explaining and convincing to be done to everyone else in my life. And that's something which creats discomfort--the very thought of it creates discomfort.

Am I, or are we, strong enough to listen to our hearts and follow our passions? Is it possible to just ride that wave of pure inner urge--minus any sentimentality or drama--just listen to yourself and live the life that you want to live? Can this restlessness give you the inspiration to break out of your old self, dash through all social obligations, and move on to a new life?

The answer is elusive at present.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dreaming up a future....

There's an important celebration in your house or in your community. You make preparations for several days, get involved in the work, co-ordinate with others, work hard to make everything a smooth sailing...and one day the celebrations end. Your have a sweet sense of exhaustion. And strangely, you also feel a bit empty. As you sit back resting, you feel you've achieved something but you're also sad. Something that kept you engaged all along, something that you enjoyed thoroughly is no longer there. These events have no life on their own; it's not that you're seeing off a dear friend---but the feeling is similar somehow. If you've experienced it, you know what it means.

It's a bit stupid but I feel all these as the project that we'd been struggling with for the past 4 months comes to an end. Another project starts soon and after a short break, we'll be back to the grind mill again. A small goodbye to four months of tension, misery and victory!

I get the kick for the first time. Then I talk to it mentally. She says, 'He's kicking even more vigourously. What did you speak? He seems to be very happy!'

A funny incident. I'm at the railway reservation counter. As I hand over the form to the guy behind the counter, he looks over and tosses it back. 'I'll not take this. You haven't written your address and phone no. down here.' I fill them up. Later when I hand over 800 Rs., he gives it back with, 'Give the exact change.'

Maybe he's had a hard day at the counter, yet there's no reason for this arrogance. He's joking with his colleagues. I hand over the change and come back.

Half an hour later, the phone rings. It's the same guy. 'I've 100 Rs. less in my account. I found your phone no. in the form. Can you please see if you've paid less while getting the tickets, sir?'

No, I haven't. But I do appreciate it when life instantly brings down a high flying snob to his knees. Good!

Lazing around on the net brings me to this blog with lots of readable stuff. And an interesting article here.

As I drive back home on an overcast evening, this line from a movie rings inside. 'I'd seen people who went to the gallows, crying. I'd also seen those who went towards death in utter calmness. Then I met the third kind. Those who greeted death in laughter.'

A British warden writes this about the revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle-- Bhagat singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and others. The movie is 'Rang de basanthi'

Me thinks, this applies everywhere. You see the same three kinds of people everywhere. Those who approach something in terror, those who approach in a dignified silence and the third kind-- those who enter dancing. Where do I fit in, in different aspects of my life?

What does it take to move from Terror, to Silence.....and ultimately to Joy.

More notes to myself
( I enjoy scribbling these notes. When I kept a journal during my ambitious years as a wannabe storywriter, much of my writing was personal and without any form, style, meaning or purpose. Yet, it was enjoyable to write and also to read later. A writing which is spontaneous than a pre-meditated or built-up passage is more lively, I believe. These notes are similar somehow and if none understands what I blabber here, it doesn't matter. I'm just loosening up and shouting at myself. )

Get to meet fascinating individuals these days.

One guy's leaving the company-- he's got a job at Infosys. Infosys was The Company we were lusting for but not anymore these days. The pay's good but the work breaks your back. We know people who have quit Infosys, unable to bear the work pressure.

Anyhow, this guy's a bit weird--tremendously cynical but jovial too (he manages it somehow). He's at the end of his one month notice period and will be quitting in week. Someone asks him if the countdown has started. He says--'For what? Death?'

The guy who asks the question says---' That countdown has started the day you were born. Every moment the clock ticks'.

By itself, this has no meaning. It's a general statement. But it takes different shades when you ponder over your purpose, on what you're doing, and why you do things in one way knowing fully well that your heart's elsewhere.

Half an hour later, when I'm lunching out with a friend, I remember it.

We're discussing about a life changing step that's confronting a few of us. We talk about confirming to the society and about rebelling, coming out of our boundaries, and doing the thing we think to be right--without jeopardizing others.

Death and what others think about you ---these things become important in this context. The end of everything is death (at least, with the life that's familiar to the majority). A person who leads a routine life and someone who follows his passion, both end up at the same place. Whether you live your dreams or you slog for someone's dream, you know that what matters most is what you feel within and how you feel about yourself.

Yet, why do the majority continue to sleepwalk through life? And why am I a part of that majority?

The bottom line is--you have no godgiven passion for the things you care about.

If you are passionate, you don't bother about others' opinion about you or your choices. You make your own roads and let others praise or curse you--depending on their inclinations.

Maybe they'll understand and appreciate things when their awareness raises above the mundane.
Maybe you don't understand fully that which you love. You make not much efforts to understand.
Nor do you try to kindle the passion within. You are content to live out life as it comes, within your boundaries, within your comfort zones.

To dream a future and to actualize that dream, it takes courage.

To jump off a cliff, you need tremendous faith in the hands that are waiting to catch you!