Monday, August 15, 2016


 His name was KC Balakrishna--KC for short. My best friend in school days, probably at an age where my son is right now. I think we shared every damn thing. School gang fights--he would be my side. Lunchtime, we would share food. Comics, Yes. We probably got beaten up by the same school bully, got punished together at the same time by a strict teacher, etc. In the school pic over the years we stood side by side. But there was just one instance where my friendly instinct got over-ridden, and I let him down.

And the reason for that was a piece of chocolate. Cadbury's 5 star chocolate. I just loved it. And a good bar cost a few rupees. I had saved up the amount over a few weeks leading up to August 15th. The plan was to finish the Independence day celebrations in the school, then get the 5 star bar and walk home munching the delicious chocolate.

So the day arrives, the drill and flag hoisting and singing is done, and we're off home. KC comes running to me. In the sweltering heat of August, an icecream vendor is doing brisk business in the school premises. KC doesn't have money but knows that I do. He perhaps needs 50 paise or something, for a small icecandy bar. 'Get me one,' he says.

That's the most horrible lie that I utter. 'I don't have money,' I say, even as my heart sinks. He is disappointed but more than his crestfallen face, I remember the conflict raging inside me. I'm torn between my love for the favorite chocolate, and the urge to give away the money so that he could enjoy his ice-cream. 'Hogli bidu,' he says and departs. I have my chocolate bar, and I walk home eating it, but the chocolate doesn't taste that good. It tastes bitter. KC's dissapointed face haunts me with every bite I take.

The incident was soon forgotten and we were back as usual. Then, as we shifted to a new house, I changed schools. Went back once to see my old friends...and then, it was a yawning gap of 8 years before I met KC...just once. And we got pulled away in our own tidal currents of life.

Independence day celebrations today...and KC comes up from memory. His disappointment and my guilty bites off the chocolate bar. I love the bar to this day. Wondering...where is he now? Does he remember this incident the way I do? It's strange, the way people reside in us, as a part of our memory, our being. Or the way a part of us remains in all those we come across.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


 had this colleague....we both joined my first IT company on the same day. He was, in one word, 'irreverent'. A kind of don't care person. There were shitty bosses who bullied us, and we would squirm uncomfortably. Not this fellow....he was just cool around them, as if their bossyness didn't affect him one bit. It was interesting to see how he gave no shit to their pressure tactics. Or say, there's this girl who thinks she's a super-charmer and tries to act funny, and everyone's going gaga...and this fellow...he would talk to her as if she were a nobody, and put her in her place. I would think, Wow!
He carried the same attitude everywhere, dealing with people on the road as if they were lesser mortals. His fearlessness was kinda inspirational to me because I would be awkward showing rudeness to a stranger. I would wonder how he could do this. I wanted to learn it. And if there was a small function in the office cafeteria, this guy would coolly walk on the stage, grab the mike and sing a lovely song...and then engage the audience asking which other song they wanted to listen to. He was totally in his skin, super cool and comfortable, in front of an audience
He had, however, one mortal fear...and when I realised what it was, I was dumbstruck. He was petrified of Dogs! Terribly scared and shivering to the bones. Sometimes I would drop him off on my bike, and say, there's a small Pomeranian puppy at a distance...and this guy would start trembling and squirming from a mile away. He would be on tenterhooks until we passed by that dog! " I was bitten by a dog when I was a kid," he would explain. And then would go on at length at how people die of rabies and how life is uncertain etc etc. I would laugh at this irrational fear of his--maybe because I never feared dogs--and I would think, this guy is super confident of so many things that make me anxious, yet here he is, mortally scared of something which I'm totally comfortable with!!!
I unfailingly remember him whenever I contemplate 'fear'. This fear...any fear, I think it holds a key. What we're scared of, what makes us tremble, what gives us sleepless nights, what stops us in our tracks and dictates our also carries something, some message, something unresolved deep in our marrow and cells. The usual thing we do is to push it away and pretend it isn't there until it shows up in our face, and then we have no option but to start shivering and see how we can escape it. We carry it throughout our lives, sometimes, not bothering to resolve it and get to the other side, and see what paradise(or hell) it leads to.
Everyone's fear is different, maybe because everyone's story in their cells is different. But I have no doubt, with my own triumphs over a few small fears, that this Fear---is a beautiful doorway to a more enriching and rewarding existence, right in this moment.
And the only way to claim such an enriching experience, is to step right in the direction of the fear...not away from it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Two scars

  'Show me,' she says. I raise my leg and place it on the small stool. Just above the left ankle. Two marks. She examines it keenly. 'Does it pain now?' 'Yes...a bit.' She presses the area around the marks, slowly. An imperceptible shiver in the leg. Don't like it.

 'How did you allow it to happen? I mean...were you not careful?'

 Of course...I wasn't careful. I was mesmerized and lost....watching the aggression, the ferocity. Thinking that no matter what, I wouldn't be harmed, I wouldn't be hurt. the other. A strange amorous feeling... even in the midst of the attack. Careful not to hurt her further even after she sunk in her teeth. Wondering...whether to save myself first...or save her from my survival instinct which would kick in any time soon. Scared of my own aggression that's seething under the surface.........  I don't tell all of this. Just smile. The doctor must be 25 but acts as if she's a senior surgeon with decades of experience. A bit arrogant. Looks good on her.

'What do you normally do when there's a bite, doctor?' Addressing her as 'doctor' looks silly. As if she's a matron or a senior lecturer. A small badge near her left pocket...rayirath. I look up before she catches me reading her name. She's multi-tasking...attending a phone call, instructing(yelling) to a nurse, signing some papers, listening to me (catching my eyes all along). Restless, and focused. Sharp, sensual eyes. It must be the dark kajal...she looks like one of those models from Coskun Cokbulan's black and white pics(minus the nudity, of course).

'The anti-dote isn't available in all hospitals. Only a few stock them...the supply is less, and you need to change them every six months after keeping them in deep refrigeration. So not panic....tie a cloth just above the bite, tightly...' she examines the marks again. 'Ya...tie a cloth. Then go to any nursing home and get precautionary injections to prevent the spread of venom. Then rush to the hospital that stocks anti-venom medicine.' She's already instructing the duty-nurse about another old lady with a heart-attack, her weeping young daughter outside.

'!' I tell her my name. 'Ya...see...normally its advisable to kill it and bring it to the hospital so that the doctor can see if its venomous or not.' Impractical! Tamaashe na? 'Our place is teeming with these things, doctor(a small pain down there, like a nibble). We lost a dog recently.'

'Ok...take this chit to the counter and get it billed. And then the nurse will administer the injection. Come again on this and this day. You should be fine.' She turns away...and I catch her first name from the badge that swings along with the coat.

Crazy life.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


 Alex. He wrote about Alex. Most of the time. The antics of Alex. His Cat. Sometimes I'd get bored reading about the cats adventures. And then slowly I discovered(my assumption, dunno). This old man, living alone in a city in US, blogging almost everyday, commenting on each and every blog post of mine....this old man was terribly lonely, perhaps. With nothing but his cat for dear companionship. I would wonder about his life, about his friends and family and others, about how he lived there in the land of plenty, yet hungry for human companionship, away from his near and dear ones...

Loved his jest for life. His witty comments full of love and compassion. Subtly guiding sometimes. Blessing me on important occasions. Writing about his past and opening a window into a beautiful, eventful life. Of course, writing about Alex and his other cats, subsequently.

Then I lost touch with his blog and got busy in my own world for a couple of years until Karthik pinged me one day, and asked me to checkout his blog. Nick was in deep poverty, suffering from neglect and bad health. A few of us gathered some money and sent it across to him. He was immensely grateful and ecstatic. A few hundred dollors of long could it help him? What else could we have done, from here?

Then it was all downhill. Ill health. Cancer. Obesity. An operation and loss of ability to walk. Isolation in the hospital ward. Perhaps the biggest blow...being cut off from Alex and other kittens. Yet....except for the last couple of months, his joy towards life and optimism was intact. He regularly posted on facebook about what was happening to him and what he looked forward to.

I sincerely wished for his 'passing on' a few times, praying for a peaceful end to his suffering. And it has come about, a few days ago. Nick has moved over.

Heck...this passing over, this continuing the journey....sounds good to hear. Except that, those who continue their journey, they don't send back a post card from their new land. You're completely cut off from them and can access them only in memory. Wish it wasn't so. Wish you could connect to them at will. Wish....

 Can't be detached about it. Terribly missing Nick.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

On a shore without footprints...

‘Where are you?’ asks Madhavi. ‘She wants to see you.’

I can’t attend the function—full busy. But post lunch I can meet. ‘illa…she will not be here by that time. And she’s been asking everyone about you. Baroke aaguttha? Try mado…’

Aaagalla. A twisted feeling within. I feel like dropping everything and rush there but… And the next two hours, I’m floating in and out of the past. To a particular time period. For some reason, that part of the history is popping up again and again. As if it holds something to be healed, to be revisited and sublimated.

Teacher’s pet. I had no intention of becoming one but from day one, I went deep into studies. And the next three years, there was only one goal. To excel in studies. To be the very best. To score the highest marks, higher than anyone and everyone. A bit of football. Karate. And studies, studies, studies. Nothing else.

She was a gentle lady. Our class teacher for the three years of high-school. In the beginning of the term, when the first test results were out, I had scored extremely well. And after that, I started sucking up everything that was taught, as if I was a camel away from an oasis. Loads and bundles of appreciation from the teachers. Particularly from this lady who handled the English classes.

She was affectionate…loved by everyone. And when someone is a class teacher, you have an additional dose of belongingness towards them. Like you’re in a big joint family, and this woman who’s in charge of you all, she’s your Mom. An invisible, almost intangible feeling of warmth that flowed between her and the entire class, for the whole duration of three years.

High school ended. And we flew away. I went back just a couple of times to my school after that, to invite all the teachers to my sister’s marriage…and another occasion. Saw her once and she had a big grin. Enquired after me. ‘The world is competitive, you have to work hard to succeed,’ she would say. 

And then…it’s been almost a quarter century until today.

I go in the afternoon and meet up all the classmates. No…she isn’t there. A high school teacher…she must’ve seen thousands of students pass through her gaze, her teaching, her nurturing. Like a rock which bears witness to the flowing river across eons. I get sentimental thinking of them. A fine bonding lasting just a few years. Then more children…again they pass out. You embrace them for a while…and let go. How many faces do you remember?

‘But she remembers you…she repeatedly asked everyone about you.’ I see her in the photo, aged and frail. There’s warmth within…to be held in someone’s memory across decades. Wish I could meet her. Maybe I should’ve. Just dropped everything and rushed.

There’s this passing fear…that she wants to see where I’ve reached, for all the promises I raised in those years. And I have nothing earth shattering to show. Will I be a disappointment? Will I falter before her, in my hesitation and awkwardness? Or…is it just to look at me as I am, without expectations, with nothing but a gentle affection towards a once shy, stammering, studious guy? I would love to believe it’s the latter.

I may not meet her again. Or I may. But today brought the beautiful gift of remembrance towards a long forgotten soul, and also a satisfaction of knowing that I’m still being remembered. A gentle bow!

Saturday, May 28, 2016


The count is three !!! Today he butchered and killed the third snake. A full grown cobra. I think he has taken birth to hunt down snakes, liberate them and send them back to their source. That's his purpose.

His ferocity in greeting strangers is also increasing. Even the morning walkers get cautious when they spot him approaching.

And his playfulness and joy in interacting with us is on an upward swing. Mock an attack and he lies down in surrender, only to spring on you when you step back. Loves the human touch. Scratch his head and neck ...and he gives the most pampered satisfied expression.

Gentle towards his beloveds....ferocious towards enemies. Thunder!!! He needs a new name...something that accomodates both qualities.


While I'm about to post the above...eeshu comes running to say...that Thunder is lying near the gate...frosting at the mouth. The snake might have bit him in the fight. He is no more.

Such a brief association...a few months. Intense and intimate. His eyes...the innocent love gushing forth from them...unable to shake off the memory.

Friday, May 27, 2016

on the threshold

‘Ok tell me, how are kids born?’ he asks.

I’m not yet familiar with the human anatomy and the biological processes although I’ve had a small inkling about the desire part. But I’ve watched one hell of movies…and I blurt out, ‘Nodu….on the first night, there’s a glass of milk. The man first drinks it and then gives it to his wife. When he drinks it, sperms are released from his mouth into the milk…and then when the wife drinks the rest of the milk, the sperms go into her body and meets the egg and….’

He was already on the road, laughing his guts out and I was staring at him wondering what on Earth had I blabbered to evoke this reaction!!! After a while he composed himself and then gave me a substantial account of the process and procedures. I was like…umm….good, is it? Ok, etc. First sex education session. I was in Class six at that time.

His name was parikshit…we called him porke. Terribly naughty fellow….he kedsd the entire class with his naughtiness…the girls drooled over him, and the boys, they learnt things from him. Before he arrived, we all were bhai-bhai, girls and boys, laughing and joking and sharing things together. Baddi maga…once he came and began tutoring, everyone became self-conscious…became aware that they were biologically different species. Something like Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. He brought the forbidden fruit. The very first sex guru. Mini Osho.

Maybe the wet-dreams and fantasies started around that age. The urge to release. But something else arrived simultaneously. The first stirrings in the heart. Purely platonic. Untouched by a physical desire...purely romantic. Overshadowing the lust. Entwining lust and elevating the primal desire by a small notch.

There was Angel. And there was another one who arrived like a whirlwind, mesmerised with a hundred dreams and crashed out, leaving deadly deep scars of humiliation and shame that would take a decade to heal. The scars that were deep enough to push one into a shell, unwilling to open up to the beautiful song that was playing very close by in all those years.

Adolescent years. So magical. So fucking brutal.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

 Mom and dad built their house 30 years ago. At that time, dad brought four coconut trees from his native village and planted them at the four corners of the house. Two perished and the other two...they grew into tall trees giving shade, rustling in the wind, providing coconuts for years and years. Soon many houses were built around our house and the concrete jungle pressed that much closer to these two beings. When our house was being rebuilt 10 years ago, an excavation machine was brought to dig up the earth so that pillars could be added. It was then we saw how deep the roots had gone--perhaps deeper than the foundation of the surrounding houses and encompassing the earth underneath. Mighty roots which would create cracks in the compound walls, and sometimes break through the hard concrete. Falling coconuts breaking things underneath, creating tensions with neighbours. Minor irritants but...

Now, the time has come to say goodbye to them. They will be cut down tomorrow. It's difficult to imagine our house without these two guys, standing tall like guards, like companions, like friends. I wonder at them, at their emotions, at how they feel--to be felled. Do they weep? Do they feel sad at this sudden decision to cut short their lives? Or do they have a sense of resignation and acceptance? Maybe they'd have survived if there was a bigger space. Do they feel pain when they are cut? I'll miss their murmur which would greet me every time I climbed up the terrace. The sky, watched through the green leaves, will be poorer now without them.

But yes, their 30 year association with us, with our house ends...and there is a deep gratitude and an immense love towards them amidst the lingering sadness at their impending departure. I wish I could talk to them. Yes I can but I wish I could listen.

Kokkre the name that comes to mind everytime I watch kokkres(white storks) on my evening walks. Elegant birds, walking around cautiously, quick to peck at insects and lizards, ready to take off and fly. Kokkre belluru is famous for these migratory birds flocking around in thousands. Want to visit. And RanganaThittu!!! Travel....Travel...Travel...lots and lots of it. I'm waiting for something to explode into this aspect.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

playing around with time....

Lying on the terrace and gazing up at the night sky, it suddenly occured....I am staring at a 'past' that no longer exists. No...I am not remembering the past but just looking at it, in real time.
We are able to see something only when light from that object hits our eyes. The Sun, moon, stars....or even an everyday object becomes visible because of this. But these celestial objects--they are so far away. The Sun is at such a distance that sunlight takes 8 mins to reach us. Which means that, when you look at a beautiful sunrise, you are actually witnessing how the Sun existed 8 mins ago....and not as he is Now. For a moment, you are looking at the Sun's past that has passed away!!! Wow!
Now think about a star. It could be hundreds or thousands of light years away. So the light from that star has taken years and years to travel across space and reach you. That blinking star over are actually looking at how he blinked and winked 'years ago'. He could be in a pensive mood right now at this moment, when you are thinking that he is winking grin emoticon
Or.....someone on a planet orbiting the star Sirius B takes an ultra powerful telescope RIGHT NOW and looks at our Earth...and zooms on India...and doesn't see you reading this post on your device....but sees a large group of people following a frail old man...shouting, 'quit India!', and the year is 1942!!!
The farther you are away from something...the more of the past of that something you are likely to see!
I like the philosophical and mystical side of this whole thing....applying it to your everyday life. The present is here, happening right now, but we are trained to be fixated on the beautiful and brutal past. By the time you finish savoring the past the present slips away, leaving behind a shadow of its past..which you start savoring. You are a hundred steps trailing behind the vibrant, throbbing present moment when your gaze is always on the past that has long gone away. Life is ever flowing....we can choose to flow with it or keep looking back.
There is something else. Can a moment be preserved if you can somehow preserve the 'light' of that moment? Say, you look at the Sun and observe a solar flare. That flare happened 8 mins ago and you are seeing it just now. You call up your cousin who lives on Jupiter and say, ' hey, did you checkout the latest burst in the Sun?'...and she says, ' What burst! I see nothing'...and 30 seconds later she calls you back and says, 'wow...saw it just now. It's amazing'. Then you both do something climb a spaceship and zoom to Jupiter, pick her up...and zip across to your grandma's village cottage on Pluto, at a speed 10000 TIMES FASTER than the speed of light, and you both sit near a stream and wait. Then....a few minutes later....voila!!! there you see the solar flares...fresh.
So, an event that already yet to happen or is still happening FOR YOU if you can beat the speed of light!!!
If you climb a spaceship RIGHT NOW, and zoom off into space at a phenomenal speed that is gazillion times the speed of light, reach a distant star, turn and focus your telescope towards could be seeing a bunch of kids dancing in the rains....and they are your childhood friends! And one of them with an unkempt hair and loose nickers...God damn! that's you!!
Manipulate and play around light...and you start bending and playing with past-present-future....with time...with memories. Is that how things are stored in the 'Akashic records?' As light capsules?
All of this is about 'seeing' something across the barriers of time. How about 'immersing' yourself into an experience without the limitations of time? Time travel? Can you travel back in time and enter the past, like entering a river? 
How about moving ahead in Time? How about the various timelines and possibilities that arise every moment when you take decisions? Can you move ahead in time and enter any of these timelines? Is life occuring on all parellel timelines...and you just have to figure out how to jump these timelines and enter alternate realities?
And...once your awareness shifts to these realities and you become capable of navigating them seemlessly, can you exist simultaneously in all of them? it that you are already existing, and you just become aware of it once your awareness begins to shift?
So many penetrate, to explore, to become.
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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Days of Thunder...

 Nobody knows who named him 'Thunder'. Maybe it's because of his ferocity! He's a stray dog who became homeless when his owners shifted out of this place and decided to abandon him. There are a half a dozen strays over here along with another dozen pets. The competition for food is fierce among the strays. I saw him once, desperate for food, hungry, weak. Went to the bakery and got a few sweet buns. He gobbled them all up and continued to look at me, asking for more.

 He followed me to my house and started to loiter around. I started getting him buns every time I visited the nearby bakery. And that's how he found a permanent unconditional basic income(the likes of which I salivate for :) ). He became a permanent fixture outside our house--loitering around the whole day, but keeping our house as his base. And once his hunger pangs got extinguished, another trait surfaced in him-- his territorial instincts.

No dog can enter our lane when thunder is around. He's absolutely ruthless! Doesn't hesitate to face 3-4 dogs, and with a little prodding, doesn't hesitate to attack and land a bite or two--just like a movie hero who takes on multiple goons at the same time. And he has another habit--to invade others' territories and stamp his authority over them. This happens when I go on a walk, at dusk or dawn. He yawns once, dusts himself and starts following me. As we cross the political boundaries, he lifts his hind leg and makes fresh markings. Invariably other dogs come barking, and thunder stands his ground, staring at them, assessing the situation. One prodding 'swish' from me, and he lunges forward, attacking the unsuspecting dogs and sends them packing.

Of course, there are times when he gets subdued and mauled but they are few and far in between.

What's even more troubling about Thunder is his suspicion towards anyone who dares to walk towards our house. 'Guilty until proven innocent' is his mantra, so anyone, be it the paper-boy, gas delivery fellow, cableman, internet-guy or any worker...they are welcomed with a ferocious, attacking barking stance. He bullies them and makes them freeze on their spot. Then one of us have to rush and shoo him away, apologise to the human, and allow them to pass. 'Good, in a way,' says a neighbour. 'Now, no thief will gather muster to come over here.'

 Thunder has a sensitive side too. He isn't nasty with everyone. When a friend came visiting, I was on my feet, worried that thunder would attack him, but he was most subdued and docile. 'He gave us a warm welcome,' said my friend. So was it when my relatives came visiting.

 * * *

 One morning, a few weeks ago, Thunder let out a volley of ferocious barks. We rushed out, wondering which unfortunate person needs assistance this time, but no. It was a snake! Not a full grown reptile, but not a baby either. Maybe an adolescent. His hood raised and hissing. Must be a cobra. Thunder was furious, so was the snake. They were trying to attack and land a blow on each other. I screamed out at thunder, trying to dissuade him, but he mistook it for an 'attacking swish' and got more encouraged. The snake was equally agile, trying its best to escape but thunder wouldn't let it move. Sensing trouble I ran down, picked up a stick...and before I could shoo thunder away, he caught the snake by its tail, whipped it up in the air and struck it down on the hard ground twice!!!

That's the way a snake is handled...and I had seen it done in my village. Catch hold of a snake by its tail, raise it in the air and swirl so that it doesn't bite you, and then slam it hard on the ground, breaking its head. Thunder....bloody fellow, he must've been a villager from my native in his previous birth, because that's how he tackled the snake. And before he could bite the snake, I shooed him away, allowing the injured snake to escape and find refuge in a nearby bush.

 The snake escaped with a few bleeding wounds. Thunder was seething. I called up a snake-catcher. The snake lay coiled on a bush, bruised and too weak to slither away. Someone had to keep the dog at bay until the snake-catcher arrived, so we kept vigil for a couple of hours. And before the guy arrived, the snake escaped into the thick jungle surrounding our house. Thunder appeared tired but
victorious. There were silent applauses for his bravery and dare-devilry. More food and delicious crumbs came his way.

* * *

The snake arrived today morning...perhaps by accident, or maybe to take revenge. Was it the same snake? It looked so. They say, an injured snake will not forget its enemy and will lay in wait even for years to exact vengeance. The snake...perhaps underestimated Thunder. A few warning barks, that's all. 

And then....he grabbed the snake's head in his mouth and ripped him apart ruthlessly with an extraordinary ferociousness. We could dissuade him a bit, but the snake was finished by then. Thunder destroyed the lifeless body of the snake and threw him out in the under growth.

 An vibrant dance of death and life. Thunder was lucky this time. If it were a fully grown snake, he would've found his match. Or maybe....he would've summoned his dormant primal survival and attacking instinct and thundered down to rip apart the reptile.

Maybe such battles await him in future, while he munches on his cream buns and gulps down cups of water in the sweltering summer heat.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A small dream...

Suddenly, one fine day I decided that I would become a cricketer! Where did that idea come from? I wasn’t extraordinarily passionate about the game—I would play with friends in the evenings for an hour, a little more during weekends. I was approaching 25. You can say it’s an age where the best cricketers are peaking. Certainly not an age where you start dreaming of a career in the game and kick-start your vehicle. To play at the international level, you gotta start young, in your teenage years, and gradually play at various levels and climb up. There’s a luck factor, a natural talent factor. I believed that I had the second one. Maybe there are exceptions where someone is a late-bloomer. I wanted to be that late-bloomer. Wanted to be that hero who walks into a losing game and turns it around 180 degrees.

And I wanted to play at the international level! Audacious dream. The one thing I had in plenty was Time. Studies were done with. I had stubbornly refused to get into the career ladder. Days and weeks and months lay stretched before me. Also, there was a parallel dream of becoming a short-story writer and making money out of my creative pursuits. A cricketer who’s also a wonderful writer! Imagine Sachin Tendulkar and Khushwant Singh rolled into one. Sexy combination. Maybe it was the testosterone that was driving all these dreams, because there were plenty of lithe girls in my day dreams, showering admiration, and me ignoring them and walking like a saintly hero. And yeah, the spiritual pursuits had also begun, so add in a dash of Osho over there. Sachin-Osho-Khushwanth. Unbeatable combination.

I borrowed a wad of cash from Mom and got a cricket kit. Dressed up in the gear. Mom and Dad had a hearty laughter that day, looking me all decked up and raring to go, but they didn’t object. (Wonder how I’ll react if my kid declares this Sachin-osho-khushwanth ambition at age 25). Maybe they had given up hopes. So off I went and joined a cricket club in a nearby play-ground. Practiced diligently for 2 hours every morning for the next 6 months. To hasten up my progress, I even joined another club for my evening practice and sweated it out for a month.

The enthusiasm lasted roughly for a year. Of course, there was progress. Lots of scars. Self-doubts. And before I dropped the ‘sachin’ part from the Sachin-osho-khushwanth ambition, I got to briefly live my heroics for a day. A club match against a stronger team, and we had almost lost the match. I was sent in as the tenth man. There was nothing to lose and I just went ballistic, hitting continuous sixers and boundaries for a brief 10 minutes before we lost the match. I was applauded, and a small news item appeared in a corner of the next day newspaper announcing my name against my fighting-in-the-death score. Mom saved that paper-cutting for quite a while, promptly announcing to visiting relatives that her son’s name had appeared in the papers.

I wonder how passionate I was about that dream in the brief time during which it visited me. Would I have succeeded if I had pursued it? If not at the international level, I might have played at the club levels, the Indian Premier league or State levels. I might have made good cash and retired by now, probably employed in a bank or railways under the sports quota, hardly working, just representing them in charity matches. A nice little time-line, with various possible outcomes.

Or maybe, the dream came with an expiry date of one year. And blazed intensely before returning back to the skies.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From a distant shore...

An uncle visited us from my native village. Thin, wiry, beaten flat by life—but he’s a survivor. Not just that, he has a wicked sense of humour, a sort of dark humour which shines through unexpectedly. ‘Throw him in a desert and he’ll thrive there,’ says Mom, which is apt for him, although I’d say, ‘throw anyone in a desert and they’ll thrive’ because humans are designed for resilience which comes to the fore in the toughest situations even in unlikely candidates.

 I spent some time with him, chatting him up on the usual affairs, enquiring about the impending marriage of his second son, etc., and soon he left before urging me to come visit the village more often. ‘Come at least once a year,’ he said. ‘You don’t know how long we’ll all be alive.’ That was kinda enough to make me sentimental for a while but all along I was moving from the past to the present then back to the past, reminiscing on many events surrounding him. It was as if he had pushed a button, a trigger inside me, unleashing many obscure memories which were lying dormant from ages.

I was probably my son’s age when, on the way to school I would stop at this uncle’s shop and he would pass me a ten rupee note. Ten rupees!!! In the early 80s (probably 1982), it was like a bloody 100 or 200 rupees and I honestly didn’t know what to do with that kind of treasure except eat a delicious masala dosa in a hotel, then save up the rest for more delicacies later on. This guy was that generous, not just in handing over a 10 rupee note every single day to a 8 year-old kid, but in every other way, with many others around him. But then, there were roller-costers that awaited him.

He almost tapped on the door of death, and returned safe. I remember Mom carrying me one night, waiting by the roadside outside our house for Dad, and suddenly start wailing aloud looking at me, wailing for her brother who was almost on the verge of death. I distinctly remember my acute embarrassment and bewilderment at her outpouring of grief, not knowing what to do, how to respond or what to say. Why should elders cry their hearts out in front of kids who’re unused to such intense emotions, was a question that remains fresh even today. When I look back at anything traumatic in my childhood, one of the incidents that stands out is this—the grief and helplessness of elders. Strange that this harmless gesture leaves such a mark in ones psyche!

What’s really remarkable in this whole back and forth episode involving my uncle is that, a whole set of memories and impressions have started to come alive. And all these memories belong to a small place—a rented house in a locality on the southern outskirts of Bangalore city. We lived in that house for around 5 years. We grew up there before hitting pre-adolescence. There were friends, neighbours, an owner, his wife who died of jaundice leaving behind a small daughter, his second wife who ill-treated the girl, her stories of Mandya, her affair and dalliance with a relative who would drop by when the husband wasn't around. Then there was Venu. His parents and their orthodoxy. His first son-in-law who was a sleazy flirt, whom we suspected was eyeing our maid, the very maid who saved me from getting kidnapped once, and who was giving out lusty feelers towards him. There was Abraham and his television, and how we would go to their house to watch movie songs, and how they made us sit on the floor while they sat on the chairs. Another friend who got bitten by our dog. My school. The friends and bitter sweet memories over there. The rains, flooded streets, the sweat. The utter humiliation and happiness. Ganesha festival and deepawali. Standing in long queues in ration shops. Preparing delicacies on the eve of festivals. Sitting on a compound wall and singing ‘Akleshi Makleshi’. Fracturing an arm and then going with Mom at night to her colleague's place-- a house with a lot of young girls, and then to a hospital and having my arm in a sling for months. Then realizing, years later, that Mom's colleague ran a prostitution ring with those girls. The fights with local bullies and the trauma. Hearing sacred words like 'amman', 'akkan' for the first time. Dad and his anger. Calling sister as 'bewarsi' and getting thoroughly washed by Mom.

Like a million colours exploding, it’s a riot of memories, a sort of flood-gates opened rush of events, people, their lives and their imprint on me. That place—it exists no more. But it continues to live as a piece of vibrant past, as if it has an eternal existence in a parallel universe, and the life over there continues unabated even now. 

And it seeks an expression-- as a memoir, a novel, or a series of non-fiction write-ups.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I want to reach out to him. Amble beside him on his morning walks—hand on his shoulder—and tell him that things are going to work out just fine. That the world hasn’t and isn’t going to end soon, and that there is so much more beauty and joy around, only if he would shift his attention a bit…just look up a bit. The fog of uncertainty that surrounds him isn’t the only reality; there’s a clearing beyond although he can’t sense it right away.

I want to tell him all of this and much more.

There’s a pattern. A period of cluelessness and uncertainty which, instead of brightening and clearing out leads into a deteriorating disaster zone. Then comes a huge blow which shatters his already shaky self. He spirals down into self-defeating behaviours lasting a very long period before hitting rock bottom. And then comes the redemption. And recovery. And a gradual rise back to surface.

It happened once. And it’s happening again. Except that this time, the recovery will be faster, resulting in unimaginable glory and beauty. Things are different and vibrant now unlike the bleak cycle he encountered two decades ago. He is different unlike his former self. And when he breaks through, I see him emerging into the finest version of himself—dazzlingly beautiful and radiant!

I want to talk to him and remind him of his roots—fierce yet gentle, wise yet curious, sturdy yet vulnerable, passionate yet detached, relaxed yet adventurous, confident yet humble, ecstatic yet peaceful. I want to point him towards so many things….yet I allow him to pass by, allow him to walk with his quiet ruminations, allow him enough space and freedom to lick his wounds into wholeness. Allow him to lighten the heaviness bit by bit, at his own pace.

The night air is stifling…. but the fresh breeze of dawn is nearby. There will be light. I wish he senses it.