Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random memories...

In the middle of a cold winter evening, we're sitting in a small room and chatting, when he arrives. It's a close-knit extended family, consisting of uncles, aunts, daughters-in-law, grandchildren.... When he enters, everyone gets up automatically, show him to a warm corner, wait until he settles down and then they all sit. It's a simple and natural response but the gesture is truly heartwarming.

Months later, I suddenly remember this and ask his daughter about it.

'Everyone in the family have a high regard for Dad. It's because he respects others and hardly interferes in their affairs--so they have the same love and respect for him'.

And I don't remember him waiting for this response from others; he never seems to bother what others think of him. Reminds me of one of Hugh mcleods dictums 'The best way to get appreciation is by not wanting it.'

I've had my share of solitude and loneliness. While Solitude enriches, Loneliness kills your spirit. The difference between the two could be subtle at times. You're away from human company in both--in solitude you wish to be away and your focus is turned inwards, you are in communion with your deeper self, either in contemplation or in silence. Not worried about past or future, you're savouring the present moment. The opposite is the case with loneliness. You feel uncomfortable for not being with others, and crave for that association.

Anna's posts on Solitude makes me ponder about the desire we all have-- to enjoy one's aloneness amidst a never ending barrage of human association. And also walking the delicate line of not allowing it to slip into loneliness. Balancing!

A magical morning. A hazy drizzle. Misty air. I want to stay in bed a bit longer but it's already 9 . I send a message to my team lead, tell him that I'm not well and will arrive a bit late. I laze. Drink tea leisurely, play with my son, read randomly, go out and pay a bill or two, drink another tea at a roadside hotel and finally reach office at noon.

Fayaz asks,'How're you, what happened?'

'A minor headache' I blurt out and wonder a bit later if that was a good enough excuse.

The bewildered look on his face will remain in memory for long.

One of my most loved books in childhood was Mahabharata, written by Kamala markandeya. A huge book of 600 odd A4 size pages it was thoroughly entertaining and rich in detail. My love for reading and an interest in mythological tales must've been watered well by repeated readings of that book. So it was a matter of surprise and delight when I stumbled upon a similar but diverse rendition of another Epic--The Ramayana, in a blog. This is a four part review of Ashok Banker's Ramayana. Well worth a deeper look.

He's a small boy--barely an year old. Untouched by the pretense and diplomacy of the elders in the house. When he gets angry he shouts. Fearful and hurt, he wails. Bored, he ignores and goes off. Maybe he laughs silently at the demands made on him by the elders.

'He has crossed one, yet he doesn't walk independently.'

'Not enought if he just blurts Daa-daa. When will he learn to speak?'

His granny brings her face close to his, asking him to plant a kiss on her cheek. He gets irritated and whacks her. Gestures wildly to be left alone.

'Arrogant fellow,' she retorts. 'You don't know about granny. Wait, I'll show....'

Reminds me of similar incidents in my childhood, when I too wanted to whack people, wanting to be left alone. Such small incidents, such tiny gestures have a subtle impact. Like, 'What's so great about his smartness? Even my son used to do these, when he was much younger...'.


We want him to grow up strong, unhurt by these retarded gestures. Allow him to be joyous and playful inspite of a hundred unconscoius impacts on his growing self. Give him an atmosphere of Unconditional love and freedom to explore and learn. Not force him into any mould we think best suits him, not push him into retardness, narrowness, confirmity. Not to put any obstacles in his path to become the person he's meant to be, he wants to be.


'We'll see how you bring him up....'

A strong and nagging thought hits again and again-----everything that's happening at this moment is perfectly fine---no problem at all. It couldn't have happened in any other way. I'm here and at this moment I'm supposed to be here and doing what I'm doing right now(noting down these thoughts--no problem with that). Life is perfect and in a wonderful harmony. There ain't a bloody need to worrry, to fret, to pull out one's hair in exasperation....

If I'm unenlightened as yet, that's fine. If I've to spend the best hours of the day, funnelling all my energy into a job that appears utterly meaningless, that's fine. If I'm far away from my wife, son and family, keeping them company only for a couple of wakeful hours everyday, that's fine too. If there's non-awareness and pain, no problem, it's perfectly acceptable. What's more, not being aware of all these, not having this feeling of 'Fineness' is also okay. Nothing wrong with that!

I know that this thought will not stay forever, and with that, the sense of peace and carefreeness will also recede soon and will be replaced by anxiety or forgetfulness. Even that's fine. Accepted.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seven deadly sins....

Val tagged me with an interesting meme; To express seven random/strange things about oneself. While I can write a hundred quircky things about myself, these are the seven that pop up, immediately:

* I have a random belief that enlightenment is just around the corner, for everyone. Given that we all have to make efforts to qualify, to positivise, to shift awareness but my gut says, it'll happen, in a click, any moment. Suddenly things will explode and the next thing is that...we're at a different level of consciousness. How this correlates with making efforts to reach enlightenment, I don't know!

* I became a better son after becoming a Dad. Not that I was irreverant earlier but suddenly there was more openness, more communication between me and my parents. And this happened, as if out of nowhere once my son was born.

* Years ago, for a period of seven months, I smoked like crazy. Cigarette dangling from the lips, pen in hand, eyes looking nowhere--this was my ideal of a genius writer. One afternoon I burned nearly 25 cigarettes, one after the other and got so nauseated by the smell that I left it, for good.

* A girl was my classmate for nearly 11 years, right from class 5, all the way to graduation. In these 11 years I changed school/college thrice, and coincidentally, she too joined the same school/college, same class. We both were shy, reserved and probably spoke to one another, only once, in all those years.

* Movies fascinated/still fascinates me, like good fiction. But the influence nearly went over the top, when, in early adolescence, after watching a few action movies repeatedly, I got so hooked up that I decided that I'd become a mafia hitman once I grew up. Joined a gym. Got enrolled in karate classes. Responded to an ad in a local newspaper for a revolver.

* Right from childhood, I've always felt awkward expressing emotions. The only time I forgot this awkwardness and wept aloud in public was when my favorite pup got killed in an accident.

* Death is a fascination on top of being scary. I've veered close to the edge, maybe half a dozen times.

Now I'll extend the invitation to :

Nick, Edu, Jen, Karan & Anna

....and request them to pass the meme to seven of their friends in turn.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Zen .....

From Sunbeams

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.....

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pay attention...

Walking around near the parks in the evening, after a bout of hectic work, I come across a groundnut vendor. He's in his late 40s, maybe. Stands near his push cart and fries peeled groundnuts on a small stove. And once they're fried, he transfers them to a small hotcase, fills up the container on the stove with raw nuts and begins to fry them. I stop, buy nuts for 5 rupees which he packs into a small paper role, and continue my walk.
He stands there, almost all day long, doing the same thing--fry, gather and store, fry, pack, fry... Since months on end. Battle weary face.

Dramas happen almost all the time and it's very rare that I stand away, a bit far away from the dias, to observe how things unfold, how deeply I get stuck in the dung yet never smell anything bad. A guy calls up and chats. Discusses nonsense. I want to shut him up. Tell him to f*** off. Yet I pretend as if I'm amused, as if his blabbering and joking is good humour. Put up a show of modesty, of good behaviour. What'll happen if I speak my mind? Tell him that he's not the hilarious hunk he thinks he is but a pathetic loser.....

'Relax. Don't carry it ahead.' Fine. That's a good payoff---bear and avoid discomfort.

Or it's like I'm too close to others around me. It's rare that I offend anyone, consciously. Seeing them in discomfort creates the same feeling within. Maybe I'm not offensive just to not feel uncomfortable doing that. And if sometimes I'm the cause of that uneasiness in others, it gets all the more troubling. Many times I've gone out of the way to make the other person feel relaxed, make him less apprehensive, less fearful, more at ease. And invariably the strain occurs.

When I see this 'treat others like shit' action in others, it's amusing. I want to do that. Blast someone, not worrying about anything. Of course, do it justifiably and not in a sadistic way. Do it without feeling a bit of strain, without getting hurt within. Have that basic detachment first.

Midnight! Well...an hour or two past midnight. I'm supposed to be sleeping yet I sit here, scribbling, made aware of the cold wind that creeps through the open window(the damn thing can't be closed--the cable wire runs through it). The gale is furious one moment, violently shaking the coconut branches. And then it falls silent for some time. I wait for it to howl again. How's it supposed to behave? Who sets the rules? And whose rule is it that I should be sleeping at this unearthly hour and not sitting huddled in a blanket, scribbling unbridled thoughts in the dim-light streaming from the nightlamp?

A few minutes ago I read The lazy man's guide to Enlightenment--of course, the first chapter. And one concept stands out--that this physical reality is a game we've chosen to play at this moment in time. And that it's a joyful play. Mmm....This pricks. It may take sometime to remove this thorn or to come to terms with it. Until then, it bleeds.

A mild uneasiness. It grows, starts gnawing at my being(how's your meditation....nill.....and no guilt...Mmm?). And then, a sudden burst of realization. A feeling of calm descends on you when you suddenly know everything, when you realize the truth, when all the loose ends are tied up conveniently, when everything is just in your grasp--you only have to open your fist and have a look. That's it.

But you don't have it yet. No. You realize when the chaos returns, almost immediately.

One such moment of clarity comes when a thought arises--that I'm living through several dramas, all at once, participating in all of them, and all these occur within the boundaries of a bigger drama--Life. Such innumerable big dramas before and more of them coming my way but I'm aware of only the current one. And yes, all the shorter sub-dramas within this....!

The family drama(or dramas). The one with friends. The drama of self-realization(or the attempt of it). The drama of writing. Of blogging( a mini world in itself). The drama of career and its growth. Innumerable plots swirling in the head all the time--in the form of thoughts and day dreams. The drama of being a part of the society. Of being a husband. A son. A father. A wage-slave. A friend. A layman. A writer. A disciple. And the drama of self--what I think I am.

What happens when all of these collapse? What if there's no such drama, no stage, no part, no story, nothing? You aren't fragmented into different roles, enacting numerous episodes, getting bewildered and lost every moment, searching for meaning and sinking deeper with every struggle....suddenly you want to just watch things as they are. You want to stop everything and just sit back. Observe. Breathe deep.

Words. Not the reality. Not the actual experience. Just concepts floating here and there. Not the real hunger but the fantasy of not eating. Real hunger sinks in deep and wakes you up. Fantasies don't.

Waiting for the hunger.

Occasional jolts remind me of the temporariness of everything, the fragility of everything. A colleague who worked in product development, with whom we had bitter sweet fights and reconciliations(workwise) for over two years comes up and shakes my hand. 'Got a job in Hyderabad. This week's my last here. You're invited for lunch tomorrow at.....'

Tejas is one year old. Now getting up, walking, learning syllables, shaking hands, responding in his own way, learning mischief, catching our jokes and reacting, guffawing out aloud, wailing and asking to be given attention. The soft, cuddly, cute infant, he ain't anymore. Up on his feet and stumbling toddler. When he was in my arms I thought it would be permanent. Or, never thought he'd leave the warmth of my lap and jump out....

What's wrong with temporariness? With the fragility? If temporary, so be it. If not strong, if not permanent, if fleeting and gone in moments, so be it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On labels

One fine morning, I catch myself in the usual process of labelling things. Work sucks! Being free of the obligation to work is cool. Mondays are tension filled while Fridays are fantastic. Writing is tough. Reading interesting fiction is a waste of time. People who don’t meditate are unconscious morons. Those who blabber in English with an artificial accent are pathetic show-offs, craving for attention. Those who shout at their kids are fucked up bastards…….My boss is a know-all corporate hunk. His boss is a superman(and at times, both are clueless dumbledores). The guy in the next cubicle is the emerging whiz-kid of Information technology. That particular blogger is none other than God…..

When and where did this habit of labeling began, I’m unsure. Maybe in childhood. The guy who always stood first was the one who knew everything under the sun. The guy who was academically worst but who excelled in sports was an invincible Achilles. Mom and Dad had all the answers. That movie star who danced wet in the rains(though farting noiselessly all along) was overflowing with beauty, romance and lust, 24/7, all through the year until eternity. Public speaking was worse than eternal torture so those who did it effortlessly, and gave an appearance as if they were having an orgasm, were divine personalities. The smart guy who captured the attention of the bombshell of our class was….mmmm…

Calling this art of labeling as bad is another label. So when I decide to be free of these tags and allow things to be as they are, suddenly there’s a simplicity. Things appear different. The tension relaxes. Job sucks no more. Nor is joblessness an irresponsible situation or liberation. These are situations I’m experiencing and have experienced. Nothing is absolute. You look at things and they exist, for you. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter whether they exist or not, whether they’re favourable or not. It’s a subjective world out there and if you’re screwed up, that’s what you get.

The world existed before you came here and will go on after you quit as if nothing happened. You are important yet you’re a nobody.

On the road to sainthood you first get rid of headaches.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Those wings are mine....

'Your recurring headaches must be because of your irregular eating pattern. Also you need to change your diet.'

I nod. He's wafer thin and pale--- looks like a patient himself--take him out of this setting and you'll have a hard time believing that he's an alleged expert in ayurveda.

He asks questions, matter of factly, in a cold-blooded way, as if he's a crime investigator. Long after, I wonder how frankly I spoke, how I trusted this stranger, just because he was a doctor we'd chosen to visit. If it were someone else, would I have spoken about myself, unhesitatingly?

From where does this trust arise, towards complete strangers....

I follow his suggestions and the headaches reduce. 'When you sense one, check if you're hungry. Eat something.'

Yeah, it works.

'And, eat only when you're really hungry,' he says.

Plenty to chew on three decades of irregular eating patters. Or an irregular living pattern!

Our little hero has an indigestion and he throws up, the whole night, every hour or so. We wake up everytime he vomits, clean him, pat him to sleep and then fall asleep, only to be jolted after an hour when he cries. A never ending night.

He looks weak, exhausted, sleepy--unable to respond. Then somewhere towards dawn he breakes into a gentle smile and begins to babble. Sleeps well for another two hours.

Reminds you of one night when you too threw up every hour, the whole night, shivering, waking up with a jolt, falling back into a never ending drowsiness, not knowing whether you wanted to die or survive.

'When you meditate, you grow so strong that the problems remain, but you'll laugh at them....' She reminds. Mmmm. I want to grow to that level--have that strength. I want to be that, in the face of any problem. That's the ideal, or the first ideal....

No, the first ideal is to meditate and find a few moments of stillness. Experience silence. Stand up first before thinking of running a marathon.

Watched 'Samsaara'. Good movie. But I watched it more so because friends whispered that there were a couple of intimate scenes. Frankly they weren't as steamy as expected. A slight let down.

No, I don't want to think deep about these fantasies and obsessions--when, how and whether these need to be overcome. Some other day......

What occupies my thoughts now is this.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

One year later...

'He's the centre of attraction, wherever he goes,' She observes. Yes he is. We go out on weekends, to the nearby mall, or to the temple and quite a few people stare at our kid. Someone smiles at him, someone else caress his cheeks, a young couple gesture at him. The man at the counter hands over a small chocolate bar and Tejas has a big, big smile--his face lights up. He tosses and turns the bar with a grin, looking at his gift with much awe and wonder.

A year has flown past. The wailing - sleeping - smiling tot we'd held carefully last year is now an armful-- babbling, bursting to jump out and run around. He falls, bumps into things, rolls down the cot, gets his fingers in the car door, bangs his head against walls--inspite of us being careful to the point of getting admonished, he gets hurt. And then breaks into a wail. We fret, worry, make a fuss, glare at one another but before long he's smiling again.

'It's natural--all this falling and hurting oneself. They're a part of his growing up....'.

Yet his pain shakes us.

And then...

'No birthday cake? No party........!'

'No, We want a quiet birthday for him. Visit the temple on that day, offer prayers. And a dinner party for you all', I blurt out, a bit timidly.

'That's all? You're a silent person. Not your son. Don't make him so,' they don't say it but the expression says.
'What if he wants one, tomorrow? What if he asks about his first birthday?'.

'When he wants one he'll get it. First birthdays are for parents and we want it non-fussy. No circus.'

Dad insists. He wants a celebration for his darling grandson. Invite all the kids of the locality. Decorate the house. Cut a cake. All that drama which I find nauseaus and funny. 'We'll do everything. You just stand and watch,' he says as if I'm a stranger. He doesn't want his grandson to be left out when every other kid gets a bumper first year birthday celebration, these days.

'Now you don't start fighting again,' she's apprehensive. 'Respect their feelings. If you don't like this parade, reject it---mentally. But let them do it the way they want it. They're a part of us. Should we hurt anyone?'

No, we don't intend to hurt anyone. Nor do we allow others to take our decisions. We know that this is the beginning-- if you don't confirm, you face resentment, hostility. Be a black sheep and you face ridicule.

I take a day off on his birthday. Wake up early, get him dressed up. Birthday wishes from friends and family. A small puja. Prayers. He's a bundle of energy, jumping around, as if he senses that it's his first birthday and people around are happy for him. We go out in the evening, to a nearby hotel and eat contentedly, while he watches, bewildered, clamaouring for the spicy food which he can't eat.

What if your son disagrees with you, once he grows up? 'You think he'll remain obedient and sweet?'

'Let him rebel. I'd rather he be independent, decisive and strong, even if he incurs my or anyone's disapproval. Let him carve out his own path'.

'He will be dignified and silent--strong.' she remembers an interesting dream she'd had, before he was born. 'I know it. He's a Leo.'

And he's dynamic, exploding--full of laughter. His initial shyness with strangers seems to have abated. Every morning he stands near the gate, waves and chats with anyone who passes down the road.

When he was born, Jen wrote,'Tejas means, those who are friends.'

He is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trying.....to make sense

Nazeer rushes upstairs to the cafeteria, whispering 'Got a message from a friend. There's been a bomb blast in Majestic area.' He returns in 10 minutes. 'Nothing's on tv. Must be a rumour'.

She looks worried as I tell this to her after she puts Tejas to sleep. 'Never trust him. Not any muslims. He might be a good friend of yours but Muslims are Muslims. Tomorrow he'll give you a bag and tell you to keep it in the office.....be careful'.

She has a terrible mistrust of that community. Maybe If I'd been a kashmiri pundit who was driven out of the homeland by islamic terrorism, like her, I too would've developed that rage.

Reading through Annie zaidi's post about her experiences of growing up as a Muslim, I reflect on my views..... and there's a blur--a greyness. I'm not sure--whether to trust or dump the whole community.'Urban, middle-class double-standards' said a friend, long ago. Maybe. I've had muslim friends who were just everyday people--untouched by the stupidity of their religious fanaticism. 'That's on the surface. Deep down they're brought up as jehadis'

Mom hesitates once before asserting, 'When will you get your son's ears pierced?'

I've already told her but still.... 'No Mom. I have no faith in those rituals.'

'Are you not a hindu?'

'No,' I feel sick with this argument.

'You're a member of this family, this community. You need to follow these, just as you observe festivals and pujas...'

'I follow a spiritual path, but have I ever insisted that you too follow it, or Meditate? You shouldn't impose your faith in rituals on others. I want to stay away from dogma, as much as possible...'

Mom argues. I counter-argue. Tejas looks up at both of us briefly before returning to his toys.

'What's the issue?' says archana. 'What'll go wrong if you allow your mom to follow a simple ritual, for her satisfaction?'

You never escape religion. Or maybe religion is a facade. The issue is more about deeper, hidden insecurities, fears and barbarism--finding an outlet through religion. If not religion, it comes out through language, gender, race, caste, social status.....

Day to day life...I forget that I was born in a particular religion, in a particular caste, speaking one language, belonging to one community--my struggles, fears and triumphs have nothing to do with any of these. Yet these shadows are there, always lurking behind the back, ready to pounce upon you and remind you where you belong to.

Like, 'When will Archana learn our language?'

She doesn't need to. She can manage with Hindi and English. No communication problems.

'No. She must learn and speak Kannada...'

Bull shit!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not over...Not yet.

Butterflies flutter within. I shiver-- although it's an irrational fear, it doesn't allow me to breathe easy. There were similar situations long back when, unable to face my own fears, I caved in. I escaped them, thinking that they'd go away. In the absence of my attention, they've grown strong but I remain where I was then.

I pray, ashamed to ask, knowing that it's selfish to pray in danger and forget once the storm passes over ('You never pray' she says).There's no difference between me and the devotee who pledges money to the temple if he gets a better business deal--we both are bribing God--he, with the money and I with a promise of devotion and dedication to the journey if the storm passes. In silence, I meditate and ask for strength, not sure if my faith is real.

When the storm arrives, it's a whimper. I'm still alive, I've saved face and feel truimphant. Did my prayers work? Did the higher forces pull me out of my fears or did they instill strength and focus in me? Or was I just imagining horrible possibilities and shivering silly? What happens to my faith now? Does this incident wake me out of my slumber and set me again on my journey towards light? Or will I go back to my sleep, only to be shaken up by another storm?

And does it makes a difference to the 'Whole', whether or not, a small speck wakes up from its dream? Does the Universe bother if a tiny grain of sand on a beach starts moving?

Maybe it makes a difference to that grain of sand--that speck--which is I.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


What's the most important day in the year? Your birthday!

Suddenly you wake up and realize that, many years ago, on this very day, you brought joy to your parents just by becoming present. They held your tender hands and taught you many things, cuddled you in your fears, celebrated your truimphs, wept over your falls, assured you in darkness. Over many years, they silently watched you grow up, stronger, wiser, more mature, responsible and capable. You went out into the world with their wishes and came back truimphant. When humiliation came your way, they stood by you. When you returned with a burden of failure, they let you be, without a word. When you dreamed of reaching impossible heights, they advised but never stopped you. When you realised your folly and made amends, they overlooked without the didn't-I-tell-you-so look. When you shouted at them in impatience, they accepted and absorbed your outbursts. When you set up house with another soul, they rejoiced. And when you brought another soul here, they celebrated.

Birthdays belong to the parents. I feel good having turned 32 today but more so because I'm alive, healthy and hopeful-- filled with dreams, energy, enthusiasm and love. I wish the same for my son and know well that this is what Mom and Dad always wish for me, in silence. I feel happy to be with them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Reflecting, Watching, Just staying alive........

We sit by the window and watch the rains lash through the night sky. There are occasional lightening and thunders-- Tejas turns to me with
wonder whenever the entire landscape lights up.

'He responds to Music, you know,' she says.

Put on some rythmic beats and he starts swaying, moving, nodding. 'Maybe because you listened to a lot of good music from WorldSpace radio, while carrying him. You remember, many times we went to sleep listening to soft music on Moksha and the music played the whole night!'.

'And he's beginning to understand things--he communicates in his own way.'

There's a book on the Desk--'The toddler years'. It's a guide to parenting a toddler and there are benchmarks--what most kids are supposed to do in their 10th month, 11th month etc.

'At 10 months he's doing what a kid is supposed to do in his 14th month-according to that book.'

'He isn't a prodigy. Let him not be one. He's sharp, probably like all kids his age, maybe a bit more, who knows. Let him enjoy his childhood like anyone else. Ask any parent and he'll feel his child is special.'

Soon he falls asleep in my arms. I place him down on the mattress carefully lest he wakes up. The downpour continues unabated. I watch it for hours before falling asleep. First time in recent years.

It rains. All through the morning.
I want to sit back at home and read 'Lost horizon' by James hilton. I want to play with my son. Watch him blabber. Go up, open the internet and read again this fantastic article by Seth Godin. See if I can make use of it, apply it in any way. Or just sit motionless, as the protogonist of a french movie I saw long ago does--he stops suddenly, drops everything and becomes motionless, not even moving his eyelids--he calls this 'witnessing'. I'd like to do that. Or read the translation of the world's best stories on Magic realism. Keeping aside the wishlist, I step out in the drizzle.

'Ramzan's from today.' Pavan says, sipping lemon tea. He's a mix of cynicism and jovialness. And he's always at odds with Fayaz, the team-leader.

'Fayaz is on fast. He's crazy for tea, he'll have atleast 10-15 cups in a day. I wonder how he can stay without tea. I think he'll go mad by the end of this month.'

Fayaz is out of hearing distance. A year ago he was a team member before being elevated to the team lead position. Once you become a leader, the dynamics change. I remember the casual friendly exchanges I'd have with him then. Now he's different. Like all uninspiring leaders, he's an asshole.

'He'll hold his life until evening. At sharp six, he'll be near the pantry door, asking for tea. And know what, the pantry guy tells me that he'll save at least 5 litres of milk everyday, because Fayaz is fasting.'

I remember my fasting episodes long back, when I was seriously pursuing Yoga practices. By evening, there'd be a fire burning my insides.

'Practice anything for 40 days. Anything. And it becomes your nature.' says Nazeer. He too is fasting.

'Does every Muslim fast during the Ramzan month?'

'Yeah. Each and every muslim, young or old, male or female, they observe roza.'

'Because they're devils,' says archana, once I'm home.'That's where the dedication comes from. All devils are highly motivated.'

I stumble across amazing literature on the web. And whenever I find something worthwhile I mail it to all friends. I bookmark all of them on my Stumbleupon site to read them sometime later. Some, I keep aside to read fully and understand before sending it out. Like this one.

And this article on Creativity.

Long back. 'Anyone can take you for a ride, you fool.'

I get disturbed although I know, that person is just frustrated at things not going his way. Words that evoke sorrow in me also make way for rage. Iwant to hit back with tremendous force, with all my strength.

Today morning another guy says, 'It's been very gentlemanly of you. You came all the way while I was thinking that you wouldn't.'

I know that it's not entirely true, he's just flattering me because he got compensated, and I had no intention of obliging him. Or maybe he means it genuinely.Yet I can't stop smiling as I ride to the office, even in the downpour.

Words affect us. They decide our mood and subsequently our action, behaviour and attitude. A single word or gesture has spoiled my mood and made me act irrationally. And a nod of appreciation makes me do something else, changes my posture and outlook, gives me unbridled confidence.......

Is it possible to be totally unaffected by words--whether they come from outside or even from within us? Can I be cheerful even if someone attacks me with the choicest words? And can I remain calm even when my manager howls at us for missing a deadline? How?

'Why do you blog?'

'Because writing makes me feel good about myself, expressing myself gives me clarity. I love to write and read what I've scribbled. And I've learnt from other bloggers, been inspired by what they've written--I've enjoyed reading about their lives, their perceptions. Maybe others will find my scribbles enjoyable, informative. So I share it here.

'You think it's worthwhile'.

'I give no shit.'

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stop amidst the flux....

Death is on my mind for a while but it isn't depressing. I'm pondering over the fact that Death is inevitable yet how we carry on with our lives as if it didn't exist. I know that I'll be no more some day--that day may not necessarily come after another 50 years, but it could be this very day. And I also know that all those around me will be no more--that I may actually be alive to face their absence. Yet I live, oblivious of the existence of Death.

I don't want to talk about it nor give it a serious thought. I'm not
interested in finding out where I was before I came here. I don't care where I'll reach once my heart stops beating. I know very well that I'm on borrowed time, but am totally unaware how much of it is still left. Yet I spend this precious time in pursuing mundane things, in cherishing silly ambitions. Much of my energy dries up in the desert of short lived pleasures/successes or in escaping equally silly anxieties. I don't want to know why I'm here, for what purpose, and whether I'm pursuing it or not!

And I carry on my daily life as if the whole eternity stretches ahead of me, waiting like a loyal servant, ready for-ever to pamper me!

The phone rings as I rush to the class. It's an old friend. I cut the line. After a while there's a message. 'Call me up when you're free.' I don't call up.

I'm reminded of this whenever I watch a latest commercial(I don't recall the product), which goes something like--'Age goes, children go, home goes, hope goes...........only friends stay.' No, friends don't stay. Even friends go away, friendship goes away. And it doesn't take much to lose friendships, to lose people...... Nothing remains as it is in this world where everything is in a flux. And that's the beauty of it all.

Evening. I walk over to the roadside vendor of bhajjis, hand him a five rupee coin and point to the heap of golden coloured, roasted, fuming onion bhajjis. He pulls out a piece of paper, plucks five from the mound, wraps them carefully. I cross the road, walk through the park towards my office, munching through the delicacies, observing the slowly descending mist around me. The cool breeze that laps up against me gives an added flavour and punch to the hot bhajji that melts in my mouth before descending into my belly, carrying a warmth with it. One of the things that makes my day is this short walk to this vendor every evening and the half-dozen bhajjis that I gobble up on my way back. And yeah, work sucks horribly. Period.

He opens his heavy eyes slowly, looks up from where he's sleeping, rolls over abruptly and sits back. Then looks around bewildered. If neither I or Archana pay any attention, he grunts once and slowly breaks into a wail. Usually one of us get up and greet him. He smiles and cackles. Beats his hands and mumbles something incoherently. Crawls towards me and lifts his arms. I gather him--at nine months, he's chubby and has a healthy weight. Kiss him--soft cheeks with a buscuit aroma--- and hold him tight. There's still some sleep left in his eyes. He rests his head against my shoulder and soon dozes off as I slowly pat his back.

Everything that happens, happens Here. Everything that happens, happens Now. I can do something, think something else, feel or grumble, hate or love....only Now, only Here. Not somewhere else, Not at any other time. Now!

Tea on a lazy saturday morning. Some work's pending so I've to go to the office for over two-three hours. All tv channels carry the breaking news of the five-year jail term for actor Salman khan and his preparations to surrender to the police. There's a swarm of media personnel outside his house, waiting for him to come out, eager to capture his depressed face, waiting for a sound-byte or two from him.... He looks lost, totally lost, as if he's staring into the eyes of death and there's still a great hunger for life left in him. Is he guilty? Not guilty? Is the verdict harsh? Will this serve as an example for the rich and famous that they aren't above the law? Is the judicial system going to save our country from going to the dogs? Tv anchors bark hungrily and commoners on the streets mouth stupid responses.

Amidst all of this, Salman sits huched up on a chair, staring into vaccum. Rich, famous, successful, role-model, spoilt, arrogant...and human.

After thought

'He's a 4-door, brass-plated, air-conditoned, 5-speed, 12-cylnder, turbocharged asshole!"

Scott adams has a post on Cuss phrases. The 700 odd comments that I browsed through had me rolling in fits, trying hard not to roar laughing and attract unwanted attention from busy-pretending colleagues.

Humour can be decent and civil but the punch felt in a non-veg, profane joke is beyond parellel. Like this one, to end a crappy week:

I worked at a gas station when I was 14 years old, and one old fart once asked why we were closed on a certain day. He told me he came by and "the place was locked up tighter than a bull's ass".

Friday, August 24, 2007

A short prayer........

It's a special friday. We're worshipping Goddess Mahalaxmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu who's the caretaker of the entire creation. Mahalaxmi is usually associated with wealth, with material prosperity. Or in New age terms(maybe borrowing a quote from Peale), she represents all the positivity and affirmative energy of the Universe.

Indian households worship her as a giver of bounty, of wealth, of a long fulfilling life. In worshipping her, we also recognise the positive intent present within all of us, and make a resolution to strengthen and nurture this aspect in us. And also express our gratitude for the grace bestowed by Mother nature, for the sunshine, the rains, dew, every breath we inhale, the trees and flowers, the mountains and rivers...And at an individual level, for all the unqualified and undemanding love we receive everyday from those around us and all the lessons and wisdom life imparts us every moment.

And we also pray...that we may rise above merely noticing this positive intent and ritualistically worshipping it through a form. That we may go to the next level of probing this deep mystery called life and experience the field of energy behind all forms, in all its splendour and vastness. Let us seek and know the 'truth' directly, the way one knows the rains when it splutters on an upturned cheek. And let's live this truth, this positivity without the burden of dogma, without the shackles of rituals, the way one inhales and exhales, without following a breathing religion.

Let the primordial intelligence of this positive energy field(call it Goddess Mahalaxmi) guide all humanity to the realization of its true nature.

Let there be Light!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Between here and there!

'It's like this', He said. 'I wanted to just travel north. Stay at a place. Teach those around me something that I know, something I've learnt. Then after a while move again. Stay at another place and teach. Again move ahead. This was the ideal. We were thinking of this possibility....'

Somehow we're excited. I jump up, almost interrupting him,'It happens in a movie sir, Japanese I think. There's a govt. official--honest and incorruptible. The higher ups cannot put up with him and his sincerity, so he's frequently transferred. What he does is--wherever he goes, he educates the simple folk around him, spreads a kind of awareness to resist corruption and to stand up to one's rights, so on. He's shunted from place to place but with that, he goes on spreading a movement....'

'We used to do small experiments,' He continued after listening to me keenly. 'We'd set out, without any money. Just board a bus or something like that, and with a firm faith that God would somehow take care. And actually it would happen. Someone would help us, give us something, take us to the place where we wanted to reach, etc. The thing was, we were experimenting with our faith....'

I have a distant relative who set out like this from my native village, travelling all over the country by foot, visiting the sacred sites of piligrimage. One morning he woke up and said that he had a divine inspiration to do so. When the news came of his impending departure, my dad rushed to persuade him to stay back. I was a kid then and I remember wondering why anyone should stop him. What was wrong in going away like that? The fact that he was in the thick of a family life, with grown up daughters never occured to me as a cause of worry. After all it was his life and if he felt it right to live it like this, why should anyone bother?

Eventually that guy went away, paying no heed to anyone's advice, threats or pleading. He left without a penny, travelled on foot far and wide, and returned nearly after a couple of years--probably much mature, wiser....Or maybe he was just escaping the drudgery of family life, we never knew. But whenever he came to our place, he'd narrate stories of his travels, all the fascinating stuff he encountered, the dangers he had to face etc. That was also the period of my growing aloofness and Dad worried that I too would follow suit someday. To top that, an astrologer had warned Dad that I'd leave home and go away; and Dad would've to travel north to find me....

The urge to do what pleases you against the obligations-responsibilities you've agreed to shoulder-- and balancing this in a short span of life--this theme fascinates and haunts me. How we crave for security, for the status quo! How we fear change or any upheavals! Not even daring to think beyond our boundaries, worried about opinions, secretly hankering for validation even
in our daydreams!

All these disjointed thoughts come flooding after reading this in Sun Magazine.

* * *

Many thanks to Val for passing on this hat. The kind words and enthusiasm shown by friends like her have made these two years of blogging worthwhile, enriching and more enjoyable! A lesson from childhood--food that's shared tastes better than when eaten alone! Isn't that true always?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Days, unending yawns
Moments, shiver, fear
Darkness surrounds

A faint glimmer, distant
Awake, a fresh morning
Dew drenched breeze
Tears. Smile.

Missed chances
Regrets, wet wounds
What if, What if not,
Blindness, hatred

Anywhere but here
Wanting to be someone
Searching, fumbling
Lost nowhere

Fighting, hard, with oneself
Aspiring, slipping, falling tired
Will I do it, Can I

Clearing mist, Open
Warmth, a healing touch
Struggle no more,
Familiar whispers

Into wide arms
Comfort, Joy
Arrived but never left
Learnt but knew always

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time and again

Time is on my mind for quite a while. When I was pondering over the apparent lack of time in my workaday, I came across this article by Dave pollard. He argues that time is just a concept, a figment of imagination. Could it be so? How do animals and plants calculate time? Do they get stressed over the lack of it or feel relaxed and lazy about its abundance?

Spiritual texts tell us about different worlds and dimensions of existence in which time moves at different speeds. Thus time moves incredibly faster in our human world when compared to a higher plane. What it means is that, in a matter of one day in a higher plane, thousands (or millions) of years could've elapsed on this earth. Since we're sceptical of such knowledge unless it comes from the science community, here's an article that describes a similar phenomenon of time shifts.

I suspect that this time-gap exists even in this earth, for different living beings. Thus a mosquito which takes birth, completes a life-span and dies(within days of human time) could actually be viewing time differently--what a day is for us could be decades for a mosquito. Many organisms take birth and die almost immediately--as seen from our angle. But from their view-point? Maybe they're leading a life of a hundred years or so--and we see it as only a few moments.

Thirty two years ago, I came here, as if from nowhere. I grew up, learnt a hundred things, got schooled, got lost, found myself, got a job, married, kissed my child, read hundreds of books, watched countless movies, quarrelled, loved, learned, ate, slept, dreamt, fell and climbed, thought about a million useless things and a few worthy ones---and when I'm thinking what a long life this has been and what a long life stretches ahead of me--someone looking down at me from a higher level of existence remarks to his friend--'Look what this guy's been doing for the past 32 seconds. Let's see what he does for another minute'.

The enormity of time and space is overwhelming. We're stuck within their confines. How would it be to stand outside both time and space? I wonder, what would that experience be like? Is it possible and if so, what does it take to get there?

Friday, July 27, 2007

After the evening drizzle...............

A thin veil of soft mist hangs in the evening air. The downpour has just tapered into a drizzle before stopping. It's as if the whole world has been washed clean by the rain gods.

Freshness...a new life--everywhere. People move around briskly, with a spring in their steps. Evening walkers and joggers, students holding on with all their life to their notebooks, giggling couples, a shy boy and a worried girl, a busy executive barking on his mobile, a groundnut vendor, a little girl who walks around with a photo of God, asking for alms, an old man sitting alone on the park bench, a wide-eyed baby looking over his mother's shoulders.........this microcosm outside my workplace has suddenly come alive. I spend a little while longer walking through the parks and residential streets on my usual evening stroll. A strange silence amidst an active atmosphere. A freshness within too.

'I don't give a shit anymore.'

'Don't get antagonistic.'

'No. I'm not. It's just that I'm clearing some debris'.

'How're things otherwise?'

'Life's getting screwed up. I'm sick of the same routine that plays on and on, day in and out. There's no meaning ......'

'Have you tried to search for some meaning? Are you seriously on a quest to seek out this meaning? What do you want, honestly'

' First, to get rid of this nagging feeling on wastefulness--that there's no bloody purpose to my daily life, that I'm just drifting along....'

' I guess, you're running away from anything that's unpleasant. And all that you're interested in is some pleasant experience, something that gives you a thrill, a satisfaction even if it's shortlived. You want to feel wanted, feel important.You're after success, running like mad away from any notion of failure. Or you're oscillating between things you've labelled as Success and Failure, irrespective of their true nature. If you're stuck between these two, then there's no escape from your drudgery. You'll run in circles for the rest of your life, feeling satified when there's a kick, blaming the world or yourself when shit comes your way and deluding yourself that things are going to be fine some day in the future...'

' What'm I supposed to do, then?'

'Ask yourself over and over, in silence, in calmness. What are you searching for? What's that you want, truly? Where does your frustration with yourself and others stem from? Ask and keep asking until you feel you have a glimmer of an answer. You'll find it, soon. But begin to ask. Begin introspecting. Watching.'

'I've had these introspections earlier.....'

'Do it again, without seeking a pleasing answer,without expecting something familiar, something that fits in with the known pattern. Search for answers, even if they rattle you. Keep searching until something rings in from within as authentic.'

'Mumbo jumbo....'

'Never mind.'

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


An ant crawls close. You push it away. It comes back, determined to cross the floor only in this direction. You push away, harder this time. Ten seconds later it's back again. You clench a fist and thump it hard....and throw away what's left of it.

Madness. Self-hatred. Squemish. Stand your ground. Take a deep breath. You'll not die, c'mon.

I'm not myself. I don't like it.

Unfinished...but started after so long....

The boy was unusually silent that morning. His favourite uncle was leaving and the very thought would fill up his dark, round eyes. He remembered his mother's words, 'Boys don't cry,' again and again but couldn't help shed a tear or two, as he sat in the courtyard, working out the math sums.

The Man checked his luggage one last time. The sky was overcast and the weather sullen. 'It shouldn't rain until I cross the mountains,' he thought, as he looked around one last time. Everyone in the household were carrying on with their work--even the little boy looked busy with his homework.

The mountains stretched from one end of the horizon to the other, encompassing 15 villages in its belly. Morning mist hung on the densly forested peaks, where only the largest birds could perch.


'Are you going away forever?' the little boy asked feebly.

The man thought for a moment and, not wanting to make him cry, assured, 'No, I shall return next winter.'

The Mist got denser every minute. The mountains stood cloaked in ....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This is good



'Grow up.'

'I have.'


'I'm not angry anymore.'

'You shouldn't feel hurt at all.'

'That's difficult.'

'But possible. Try it.'

'Next time I'll watch out.'

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Through the haze

'He's a fantastic leader. We loved to work under him. Somehow he took care of everything and we never felt any pressure, any stress. And when he left, I wondered, how'd I stay here? I too wanted to follow him and work with him.'

I'd read 'Waiting for the Mahatma' in our college library, long back and this novel remains fresh in memory as if I'd read it yesterday. It narrates the story of coming of age of a young man, in the backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle. And his evolution happens in the company of Mahatma Gandhi--a man of collossal stature, yet one who attends to the minute details of the lives of his followers--a true leader who inspired an entire generation to brave all odds for a great cause.

A friend forwarded this amazing video of the Mahatma --about what could've happened if he had communicated to the entire human race. Maybe we'd be living in a much better world, with more awareness and a greater self-reliance. The fountain of positivity, strength and wisdom is present within each one of us. Until we find it, maybe we all need leaders like Gandhi to remind us of these possibilities.

And the opening quote is what a friend told me about our CEO.

In one moment of clarity, I seem to sense the futility of my everyday life. I stop for a moment to ask myself where I am heading and what I am doing with my most precious commodity--time. Many activities appear futile and monotonous--devoid of joy and meaning. I want to go deep into this, deep to the root of this frustration, and find how to free myself, find out the true purpose of my life and begin to live that purpose. Before I can do that I'm back to the treadmill, back to the flow of everyday life, lost amidst the never ending rush of thoughts.

'Catch it. Hold on to it the next time you face that moment. Drop everything and pursue that thought.'


' I said, he recognises that you've arrived, just by the sound when you keep the helmet in the corner.'


' And look how he springs up, how he smiles now, after not having seen you for the whole day.'

Tejas lets out a loud shriek and guffaws. We make faces and he laughs uncontrollably. I begin to fake a hiccup and he shrieks again. We continue to tickle him until Mom scolds. 'Don't overdo it. Not good for him.'

'By next November, he'll be one year old.'

Where was this kid--two years ago? And now, he's so much a part of our lives, a part of our being. He's growing up--crawling, shouting, learning to recognise, eat, refusing to eat, indicating when he wants to piss, wondering at new faces and new sounds---the way we grew up. He'll learn a thousand things, become independent, make friends, discover life, experience the world, earn his living, find his purpose, create his destiny....and one day, he'll hold his baby in his arms and wonder similarly. Cycle of life.

'His first birthday is nearing.'

'Yeah, what's the plan? I don't like that drama-- cutting a cake, inviting all the kids of the locality, make them sit like dolls, give them something to eat---somehow it suffocates.'

'Then, how do you celebrate it, meaningfully? You can't ignore those around us, your parents, your people. The kid should not feel neglected. There has to be a celebration and if you choose, without formality, without artificiality.'

'Let's think over. We're used to one way. Maybe there are a hundred other ways. Something wherein the kid feels important, cared for and blessed. It should be a happy occasion for all the near and dear ones......'

Friday, June 22, 2007

Small talk....

The drizzle is now a steady downpour. Occasionally there's cold spray from the open window.

'Do you feel scared?'

'No pappa, I...I don't'.

'It's okay to admit your fears. Nothing shameful about it. Even if you don't express it to anyone, it's enough if you admit and acknowledge it within, instead of living in self-denial. To see that it's natural to be afraid, to be fearful of certain things. Making your peace with it. And then doing whatever your fear stops you from doing.'

'Pappa, are you scared of anything?'

'Constricted places! When you were a baby, there would be newsreports about small kids falling into open borewells. Some kids came out safe but quite a few weren't so lucky. I'd imagine their plight--stuck inside the belly of Mother earth, unable to move either way, gasping for breath, hungry, tired, bleeding, scared--it'd make my hair stand on end. I'd imagine myself in their places and it'd choke me. I don't think I'm over it yet, but it doesn't bother me.'


'And of falling from heights. Not exactly the fear of heights. I'd hold you tight whenever we climbed up the stairs to our room, fearing at times lest there be a slip.......! And again, street dogs. There were incidents of kids getting mauled by streetdogs. I had a tremendous fear of these animals because there were a few dogs in our locality and all the kids would play on the streets every evening.'

'Is it okay to be afraid?'

'To be afraid means that you're responsive and alive. It means that you have an active interest in something. And as long as your fear doesn't choke you, doesn't keep you in a rut, it's fine even if you don't overcome it. For example, you may fear the dark. But if you can still walk across the dark passage from your room to the living room, without screaming, it's fine. Only when this fear makes you curled up in a corner should you take notice.'



'Then what, pappa? What do you do then?'

'Figure it out yourself. One thing you're sure, you can't live with that fear anymore. It'll stop you from living a normal life, doing what you must do, what you've always loved to do. So either you choose to live with your fears or you decide to eliminate them completely and live fearlessly, live a fuller life.'

'But how? How do I get rid of my fears?'

'There's no one size fits all answer. Each fear is unique, each person is. You figure out your own answer, you carve your own path to freedom.'


' I'll tell you what a friend said, long time back. Each fear arises at a particular level, he said. And once you contemplate deeply on the root of this fear, you'll come across something you're attached to. Practice detachment at that level. Try and get rid of possesiveness towards that thing. Accept that that thing doesn't belong to you, that you came here alone and will eventually return alone. With this detachment arises fearlessness. But it takes practice. And dedication. And the result--the freedom from fear--is far more worth than the effort that goes into it. The joy of fearlessness. The adventure you'll have!'


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Leaving your nest

'It's the migratory season,' says Fayaz, with a sly smile.

A cold wave constantly circulates above us--you lift your hand and you feel it. This must be the coldest part of the entire office. A few months
back, not a single day would pass without one of us calling up
maintainence, telling them to reduce the chill from the Air-conditioner.

There are dreary faces all around. The pay hike was announced two days back, and 99% are dissatisfied. It's more so in our team, after we broke all previous records and set new standards in the number of defects detected in an application. The hike in salary is grossly disproportionate to the performance. The only guy who's all smiles is Fayaz, the team leader. He must've had a good raise.

Coffee arrives. The boy is clean shaven and looks different without his stubble. He smiles. 'I'm leaving. This is my last month here.'

There are tiny droplets on the window pane. The drizzle outside is barely visible. A feeble song from someone's system--a chartbuster. Here now and gone tomorrow. Then another popular song will capture the hearts and this one fades away. Nobody misses anything. Nobody misses anybody. And why do you expect to be missed?

'Are you looking for a new job?' The colleague in the next cubicle whispers, after making sure that Fayaz is out of hearing distance.

'Planning. Need to brush up a bit on basics. There's no more growth here.'

The guy who'd joined this company along with me, two years back, left for a multinational barely last week. We talked about him for a day and then forgot. Almost everyone around are pruning their feathers for a new flight.

'Don't be in a hurry,' says Archana, as I hand over the revised salary papers. 'Think before you decide to shift.'

Tejas is busy with his new toy-- a small baby elephant which squeaks if you squeeze it. He got scared the first time he heard the squeaky sound. Then slowly he's made friends with this new toy. He picks it up, examines it thoroughly and then puts it into his mouth before throwing it away.

'He's growing fast--more than the kids of his age,' A natural pride in her voice.'He wants to stand up and run around. Now he's learnt a new syllable---ooooo.'

Tejas looks up at her, then at me and cackles up. A whole life stretches before him--an adventure filled with perils and triumphs, learnings and mistakes. As he grows up, he'll be joining new nests, leaving behind the old ones, and building his own nests in the process. And that's part of his growth--shifting from nest to nest. You'll stagnate if you fear the adventure and stay inside your cocoon, inside your safety.

'Bring him new toys tomorrow.'


Friday, June 01, 2007

Walking alone

My native village is a small picturesque place, nestled between a curving river on one side and the gigantic expanse of the Arabian sea on the other. It bakes in the summers and soaks wet in the fiery monsoons. The people are lazy, humourous, opinionated, contented, city-bound---like me. My childhood was, to a large part an anticipation of the one month every year, wherein we'd finish the annual exams, hop onto a dirty bus one hot april night at Bangalore bus-stand, and wake up the next morning smelling the fresh aroma of the salt-soaked air of Kumta.

For one month we'd forget all worries and lose ourselves in joyful abandon, pampered by granny and grandpa, swinging under the sapota tree, hurling stones at ripe mango fruits high up in the trees, building caves and canals and watching them get washed away by the approaching waves of the sea, sit by the silent river and listen to the never-ending rustle of the peapul leaves as birds returned home against darkening skies......sit around a fire where grandma prepared rice rotis, waiting to be dipped in hot, succulent prawn curry, listen to the local 'real' ghost-stories from uncle's friend and scream after waking up to nightmares, get up early and get dressed to attend the local fair, throw ripe bananas at the huge chariot of the Goddess, bring home a ripe jack-fruit and fight over who gets the most pieces, fill up a small tank with water drawn from a well, remove all clothes and jump into the tank and swim around until mid-noon.....

Of course, there were moments of pain and humiliation but they were obscured by a seemingly carefree time, filled with fun and frolick.

All of these came rushing into memory when a close relative from that village visited us last week, bringing with him delicacies, a simple dress for our tiny tot and an unspoken affection. And reminded me that it had been six years since I last visited his village. And told happily that his daughter had finished the tenth standard exams in flying colours. And long after he left, I suddenly realized that I hadn't sent any gift to his little daughter, whom I'd cradled in my arms when she was a child and who now has grown into a shy girl who makes her dad proud.

And when Archana reminded me last night, not to lose myself in my work and pursuits, not to lose my connections with relatives and friends, not to be stone-like.........


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Imagine this....

Your maid does all the household chores. She cleans your utensils, brooms and mops your floor, washes the heap of dirty clothes of your entire family-- she does this almost throughout the year--rain or shine, with no holidays, no annual leave, no sick leave. And all of this for a modest sum a month, much less than what you probably spend at Mcdonalds every weekend.

And one day, she tells you that she's four months pregnant. What's your immediate response? What's the first thing that comes to your mind?

Do you think--How will she be able to manage this work with a growing baby inside? How difficult could it be for her in the coming months, doing these chores? And she'll probably be back to work within months of delivery--can she handle it?

Or do you think-- God, how can I manage this burden when she stops coming after a few months? Will I find someone who's willing to work for a similar pay? And how many sick leaves will this lady take before she moves out? What to do on such days?

What's your first response? Not the rationalizations you provide later, not the second thougths that flood in. The first and foremost impression!!

What? Honestly.

If not me then who...If not now then when...?

Midnight.......The building next to my house is due for inauguration in another 3 days, so the final work is still going on, even at this hour. I browse through 'Radical simplicity' and pick up the above sentence, and begin applying it in my own context-- regarding my faltering meditations and unsure career growth. This book, which appeared damn boring and pedantic just yesterday, now looks wonderfully interesting--I was horribly out of mood yesterday. There are urgent lessons for me here. Maybe for others too.

Last week I rummaged through my dusty cupboards and spilled out all the books and dust that'd accumulated there for the past two years. Then I rearranged the books, divided them into those I've already read and will never touch again, those I've read once but will probably go through a few times more and those that I'm yet to open. Amidst all the jumble, I found a small bunch of sheets I'd scribbled nearly 7 years ago.

Those were the days of unbridled carefreeness and aimless living--and these notes reflected every bit of that mentality-- melancholic, slightly irresponsible and a tad worried too.

With my ears on the silence of the night, I glance at this paragraph from 20th sept 2000.

'Drizzle outside. The song from the radio mingles and loses itself in the whistle of the howling winds outside my window. A slight pain shooting up my spine. A distant rumbling of an approaching vehicle. Worried about tomorrow. An uncertain today. An eternal defeat.....

'There's a strangeness everywhere, wherever I look. Maybe all of this is an illusion! My attempts at creating fiction, my failures because of a gradual erosion of my personality, my pursuit of success, these rains, this moment, this night, a face that comes to memory over and over, a loss of innocence---what if all of this is an illusion? Then what is reality?'

That moment will probably never come again. It's a piece of eternity, momentarily glimpsed but remembered and recorded in a few sentences. And it has a very deep significance and importance, at least to one person on this earth---me. I wonder at all those other moments that were captured in such hurried scribbles--that were lost forever when I threw many of those sheets away...... Man!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A great explosion awaits.
There are faint hints-- a clue here, an assurance there.
A mild fear that overwhelms at times.
But what shines through all of this is a tremendous hope for an extraordinary tomorrow.
I thought I was a worm, but no.
I thought I was a miserable fly but no.
What I am is beyond any thought.....

Life has fallen back to the same routine but now it's different. I follow the daily ritual--get up, rush to office, test code, try to understand more
than what I need to get the job done, get thrilled occasionally amidst getting anxious and bored, return home, play with the kid, discuss things with archana, watch tv, hit the bed..... Nothing seems to have changed. But still there's an undercurrent of a fresh outlook. A new confidence. New perspectives. The 'I'm different from what I was until now' attitude. A positive arrogance that's creeping up slowly!

In between, I manage some time for Meditations, for a quiet contemplation and browsing through a few books.

Purchased 'Tipping point' and 'Blink' on the roadside--for a throwaway price. Will get Gulzar's biography today evening. And waiting for 'The right to write' and 'Radical simplicity' from the couriers. When will I read all these? Starting today!

Found something simple yet unusual. All the kids in our family are comfortable with Dad, but not a single one with Mom. Even Tejas follows this trait. Dad picks him up and takes him for a round in the evening--he babbles, smiles, splutters or just watches everything around with great curiosity. Mom can't do the same with him. He grows restless within a minute if she holds him. Not that this bothers her. She's more than happy to be the strict one whom everybody fears or watches.

You can either do something or not do it. No other way. Looks stupid. It also implies that what you can do or can't, is largely dependent on your perception of yourself. If you think you can wake up early, meditate intensly, open up your faculties and enter samadhi, if you think you can leave your dreary job and become an entreprenuer or become financially independent, if you think you can sit down and write a fantastic story/novel, if you think you can learn how to stand in front of 1000 people and deliver a stunning speach, if you think you can make a list of the most fabulous places on earth and visit them all within the next five years, if you think you can discover your purpose and spend the rest of your life living that purpose instead of fantasizing about it....... You are right. You can do it all. And if you think you can't do these and other things? Or worse, you're too lethargic or occupied otherwise to even think of these possibilities...............

Look deep into the kid's eyes. He too does the same. No movement from either side for quite sometime. Then a faint hint of mischievous relaxedness on his face. Look down and a water spring arches into your shirt. A smile on his face.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crawling through India.............!

I'm reminded of many similar journeys undertaken all these years. And with those journeys are entwined innumerable bitter-sweet memories. But maybe, this is the first time I'm traversing almost the entire length of India--South to North--by train. And all alone.

Evening platform. Lively. Noisy. A young couple, maybe newly-weds on a honeymoon trip. Their seats are far apart. The husband walks up to me and requests for an exchange of berth, so that he can be near his wife. I politely refuse--I can't afford to spend two days on this train, stuck up between noisy families. My seat is aloof and distant.

The train slowly chugs out of Bangalore. I pull out a book-- a compilation of literary essays, written with more life and lightheartedness than any best selling novel I've read. As I try to grasp a poet's dilemma and conflicts, my mind drifts. A recent exchange of emails with friends over a trivial matter--the bitterness still lingers on within.....Tejas is 6 months old now. I've missed nearly 3 months of his childhood. Maybe I won't send him away for such long durations until....until he's into his teens. Maybe!.....Mom's arm is healed now but she's sullen and detached. I'd asked Guruji about this, about how one suddenly loses interest in things after retirement, after old age sets in-- when a feeling of purposelessness dawns upon you....Fayaz is upset because I've taken a 10 day leave in the middle of an important project. Would I be relaxed in his position..... Moments escape into eternity and a poet watches them helplessly. From the womb of that helplessness, poetry takes birth....Janaki column. Who the hell is this Janaki?

'Are you alone or is there anyone travelling with you?'

She's an elderly lady travelling with her husband. You might've seen them anywhere, in any town, any neighbourhood. They're your typical next-door neighbours.

'I've a sore knee, my berth's up there, difficult to climb. Would you mind if we exchanged our berths?'

Refuse now, let me see. With a gesture of magnanimity and false smiles, I pick my bag and climb up, trying hard to subdue a grumble.

Nightfall. The compartment rocks gently. Two kids nearby chatter. An infant bellows at a distance. Most of the people in the compartment are lulled into a deep slumber.

Early morning. Glowing tree-tops. Forceful breeze from the open door. The train trods on a long bridge creating hollow echoes--the riverbed deep down has all but dried. Wasn't it that journey long back when you stood at the door, gathering courage to jump into the river below? What stopped you? How many times did you approach the door, ready to jump, holding back at the last moment? Looks funny....from here.

Two books keep me company. Osho defines Trust beautifully in his book on Intuition. 'If you accept that there are things beyond reason, beyond what your senses can perceive, then you are a believer. You have trust. If you refuse to accept the things beyond logic, you're a non-believer. You're closed!'

Atheism was and is fashionable. You're an intellectual, a man of scientific temper if you're an atheist. A rational man! Rubbish. You're plain stupid. Not allowing mystery, holed up inside your ego, you're a miserable idiot!

A short story I once wrote comes to mind--about a woman on a train journey who loses her purse and then pockets a dying oldman's money and begins to justify her actions. It was an amaeturish story but ambitious, with just two people, time-shifts, character build-ups, attempts at subtle nuances, changing view-points, compelling settings...Where would I be now if I'd stuck to writing and not decided to test code? A dozen published short stories, a couple of novels, booker-list---freedom and money. Or on the streets, depressed, lost in oneself. Or worse, stuckup somewhere in between. Or maybe at peace with oneself and ones art. I'd give anything to know about the road not taken.

North Karnataka. Maharashtra. The Sun bakes these parts though you don't feel it--the compartment is air-conditioned. Read somewhere--the climate defines your attitude, your behaviour. Sun-scorched, harsh climate breeds aggressive, arrogant mentality. Cold atmosphere makes you peace-loving. Maybe true, no idea. Islam originated in the sands. These parts are desert like; the people, harsh and rough.

I'm in the corridor, talking to the hot breeze of the afternoon. At a distance, I spot the guy with whom I'd refused to share my berth, reading a book on 'hacking'. I'm tempted to walk up to him and borrow the book for a while but he might just snap. People move through the corridor, chattering, laughing. Vendors stream in and out continously. Inside, some are dozing, a few reading, a few staring nowhere. A kid nearby plays chess with his grandpa. He's sharp--after a while he shouts, 'Mummy, check-mate!' If my sister had seen this, she'd first chide her son and then put him into a chess school once she got back to bangalore. No, archana won't do that, I hope!

The lady on my seat smiles.

'We're from Calcutta, now settled in Bangalore.'


'You said you're from Bangalore. How do you speak such fluent hindi?'

'Picked up a bit by watching hindi movies'

'By the way, what's your caste?'

How I love to tell her that I don't belong to any caste, or any religion. Watch her squirm. Out of politeness I mumble something.

She smiles uncomfortably. What would be her response if I'd told her that I was a brahmin? Or a Muslim? And then told her about the delicacies prepared out of beef?

Evening sets in. The nearby family is going on a North India trip. They discuss Agra, Taj, Hardwar...Baba Ramdev. The woman on my seat is also going there, to get medication for her knee from Ramdev's ashram. The next hour's talk is all about foodhabits--pancakes of millet and besan, fried fish from native villages. About daughters who went to Canada for higher studies and settled there. The atmosphere is richly family type. A bit comforting. A bit nauseaous.

The train halts at some station. An urchin lumbers in. He removes his shirt, cleans the floor with it and then extends a hand. A few drop coins. He's skinny and jovial. He wades to the other end of the compartment, gets up suddenly and comes back running and sprints out of the door. A policeman comes walking by, lathi in hand. What if he'd caught the lad and beaten him up in front of you? Would you've protested? Asked him not to do it? Face up to him? Recently someone caught on film a policeman thrashing an urchin and pocketing his money, in a busy place. Nobody protested.

Dinner. It's awful. No choice. Two weeks back, I was dining with Karthik and Guruji. 'Spirituality means wiping away all that you've accumulated until now and starting afresh,' Guruji said. 'An elderly person, who's finished all his responsibilities, who has learned and gathered so much over a life-time will find this difficult. For a young man, the spiritual journey could be easier.'

Munching the half-baked rice, remembering the sumptuous meal of that evening, I ponder over those words. Easy? Arduous? Takes a life-time to unlearn and begin ones journey into light-- afresh?..... Worth the challenge!

Midnight. Noises. Someone has forcefully occupied the adjacent berth. Soon the TC arrives. Negotiations and threats. The rightful occupant tells the TC: 'Look, I'm a goverment employee and I'm going to lodge a complaint against this fellow. And if you support him, I'll lodge one against you too.' After a while everything settles down.

Dawn...... Mathura. Reminds me of Jayanth's experiences here. The inhabitants consider themselves as the descendants of Lord Krishna and they emulate his qualities (stealing and promiscuity). Because the Lord stole butter in his childhood and courted 16000 women in his teens. The dungeon where the Lord was born 5000 years ago is now a temple. Just adjacent stands a mosque built 300 years ago by Aurangazeb and the site's now controversial--communally sensitive. Divine mischief. Sick people.

Agra..... Early morning. The landscape is bathed in a golden hue. The lady on my seat sits in a lotus posture and practices Ramdev's pranayam. In between, she gestures a hundred times about various things to her bored husband who's browsing yesterday's newspaper. Maybe it's her day of silence, but I have a hard time controlling myself from bursting out laughing!

A caterer stops by with a heavy bucket of bottled cold water. He's from Bihar and his family lives in Delhi.

The lady reads his badge carefully and decides to break her vow of silence.

'What's your name? What's written there...is it...Mum...'

'Mumtaz,' he says.

'How much do earn a day?'

'Depends. Commision system hai. 17%. If I sell goods worth Rs.100, I get 17. If I sell a 1000, I get 170'.

He's resting on a nearby seat. Half of the compartment is still asleep and the others, half-awake. A portly man and his son brush teeth near the tap on the platform. Sipping hot tea, watching the brightening surroundings, I listen to his exhausted words.

'How's the temperature in Delhi?'

'Very hot madam. Crosses 42 degrees.'

'Do you get free food here?'

'Yes, in the pantry. We get to eat something.'

'And you travel only in this train--bangalore to delhi and back.'

'Mmm. When this reaches delhi today, it starts back by evening towards bangalore. I'll be travelling again.'

I interrupt. 'Do you have an off on sundays?'

He chuckles. 'Saab, kya holiday? Have you seen a donkey? That's our life. Sometimes we take an off. But need to ask the manager. He may agree or may not.'

New Delhi. The train crawls into the station slowly. People get down without much of a farewell. They're busy finding coolies, ringing up waiting relatives. A few urchins outside on dirty tracks pick up used bottles and rummage through leftover food.

Boiling air. The station blisters with crowds. I have another train to catch in the evening before I reach Jammu by next dawn. It's a long way amidst pushing men and women before I stumble into the reservation counter.

Ticket's yet to be confirmed--my name's still on the waiting list, and the reservation chart will be pasted an hour before departure. I find my way into the upperclass waiting room. The hall's spacious but seems to house almost twice its capacity. People are sitting all over the place and many are standing, with their luggage suspended in space. I spot a vacant place on the floor and as I sit down, a man on the nearby seat taps my shoulder.

'That place's taken. The lady has gone to the washroom.'

'Fine, I'll vacate once she arrives.'

She arrives too soon with a bewildered look. I get up, make way and she squats hurriedly.

A comfortable corner which many of those standing on one leg have missed. I jump, swerve, trudge, hop and reach the corner,dump my luggage and sit on the cool marble floor. This must be heaven!

Delhi is hot and humid. But there's a dust storm and lashing rains by evening--adding all the more to the chaos at the station. A huge crowd begins to gather at the reservation chart. People jump on top of one another and nearly tear apart the chart, desperate to find their seats confirmed. When I'm beginning to think of leaving the station, brave the heavy rains to the nearby bus-terminus and hop onto a bus--I spot my name in the confirmed ticket list!

Shalimar express. Reminds me of the novel-movie 'Shaalimar', by Manohar Malgaonkar. And Zeenat Aman. The epitome of beauty and lust.

Another noisy family. And an old man beside me, from hyderabad, visiting the hill-shrine, Vaishnodevi. Outside on the platform, a man hobbles on one leg. How did he lose his leg? Road accident? Mine blast? Maybe he was in the army? Or got into an altercation with the local toughguys. Two sadhus in orange robes walk briskly, silently. I'm one of them, I know.

I rest back in releif as the train leaves New-delhi, which is now washed clean by the sudden evening shower. But soon the old man next to me goes to another seat and a woman, maybe his daughter-in-law, arrives. And soon enough, there's a plump man in his mid 30s, standing nearby.

'Your seat is also alloted to me,' he grins. 'We may have to share the berth'.

Three of us on a mid-sized seat. The lady's not happy with this plump guy. He's a don't-care brutish-mannered jovial person. And she's reserved and seems to think that this fellow's making passes at her. As I rush through the final pages of Osho's book, I try to enjoy their strange chemistry and non-verbal duel--all the while worrying about having to sit the whole night, without a blanket. It's getting colder.

'We'll talk to the TC,' I suggest. 'Maybe he can arrange an extra berth and we'll get separate bedding.'

'I'll talk to him,' the plump guy says, munching a chocolate bar. The lady plays a stupid game on her mobile and every 15 seconds, the mobile sings a 'game-over' tune.

The man gets up, vanishes and returns after a while. The noisy family is from Maharashtra--typically upper middle-class--happy and josh. One of them farts and they begin to speculate and guess who did it, and there's an uproar of laughter. It's a nasty fart! I feel like getting out and stand in the corridor for 15 minutes until the odour subsides. But if I leave now, they might just guess that I'm the culprit.

Soon enough the TC arrives. The Plumpy collects his baggage. The lady is enormously relieved. I ask him. 'Got a berth?'

'Kya yaar! This is India. Throw money and you can get this train itself. What to say about a berth!'

I call up Archana. Talk a bit. Call up Mom. Tell her about my whereabouts. Wait for dinner to arrive. Feeling sleepy.

The old man comes back to his seat and the lady returns to where she came from. This guy begins to bother the TC and the TC is on the verge of losing his patience. The old man says, 'My nephew's in the second class compartment and there are four army men sitting along with him on his seat. Can't you do something about it?'

'What can I do?' the TC explodes. 'They're armymen!'

We pierce through a never ending dark space. A million stars doze far above. The silence of this landscape is tremendously overpowering inspite of the deafening whistle of the train. There's a slow glow at the horizon.

Jammu! Waiting at the car-park for Archana, who said half an hour ago that she'd be there in 10 minutes. A lazy morning. There's a heavy presence of the army here. Just a few hundred miles across lies Kashmir. And then Pakistan. Life, death and dignity have different meanings and newer shades over there.

She arrives. Gets out of the car with the little angel! He looks different. Completely! I hug him and he slaps me. Chubby cheeks. Pure eyes. 'You've become thin,' she complains. And breaks into a broad smile. He blinks at the new arrival.........