Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chhod do aanchal

Somebody please tell me why a geriatric actor, whose pedigree can be best described as Punjabi-raised-in-Bombay, and an even more geriatric-actress from the South are swelling with pride for a part of the country at least a thousand miles from their own land?

By the way, if this state is ever made, it would beat even Bihar in is glorious la(lu)wless days.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Better than coffee

Research has confimed that you jolt awake 23% faster if you smell the post-binge barf you forgot to flush last night, over the coffee.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

welcome to the nineteenth century

my sms' automated word-finder does not recognize the word - damn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rajni jokes

Is it just me, or is there a desperate apologetic note in the lame Rajnikant jokes?

I got a joke today regarding Oscars being nominated to the Rajni awards - and it reminded me of that Lalu and Japan joke  - Lalu retorting to a troupe of Japanese delegates, telling him they can make Bihar like Japan in three months, that he can make Japan Bihar in three days - and I was wondering if the joke was really on the Japanese who cannot understand where Lalu comes from, or just Lalu.

In those who see the northie snub here, I think Rajni is only one among many super-celebrity hacks with little talent  across industries. It's just the relentless lame jokes being forced down my throat.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

From Don Quixote

...a story known by heart by the children, not forgotten by the young men, and lauded and even believed by the old folk; and for all that not a whit truer than the miracles of Mahomet.


Of course, it is to be remembered that the tale was written four hundred years ago, at the time of the crusades or, at least, immediately after them.

Depite the hype...

The Beatles were really quite good.


You just cannot hear some people out.
They will never stop.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kazi, man-mauji

A pastor who claimed that Facebook was a ''portal to infidelity'' has revealed that he had threesome sex with his wife and a male church assistant.

The Rev. Cedric Miller's secret past was exposed after he ordered church leaders to delete their Facebook accounts or resign.

He blamed the social networking giant for causing married couples to have illicit affairs and igniting ''old passions''.

Full story:

Something remembered from Kesavan - 'Stridency is loudest in the face of guilt and complicity.' (Actual construction might differ as not quoted verbatim but from memory.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

thanks for the statutory warning

An intelligence long suspected

It was Aniruddha’s birthday and we had been invited as a couple. It had been a few months since the day I had bumped into Sandeep, now twice the size and all but bald, and just as I jokingly asked him whatever happened to that girl he was dating from preschool, she joined us, pushing Aniruddha ahead in a pram. ‘What do you think?’, he gathered and squeezed her to his side, ‘She is the mother of my child now!’
Nidhi had to work late that night and I turned up alone an hour late. They had booked something like a conference room for the party, a large hall, darkened at one end, where a projector spilled their story on a wall –of growing together from school-bus to Anirudhha – as the ladies sat on sofas and chairs, and dutifully clapped now and then. I paused at the steps: the space was packed with suits and dazzling saris with kids racing and lacing between them like bees. I understood now what he meant when he had emphasised twice on the “something formal”.
 ‘I am wearing a shirt, dude’, I half-joked. Over jeans and sneakers. He smiled tightly and with a brisk pat on the back, returned to fawn over a huddle of bosses.
‘He’s very nervous about the promotion’, she smiled apologetically, ‘He should have got it last quarter, you know.’ I nodded.
‘Where’s Aniruddha?’
‘Oh, he was running a mild fever. So I put him to sleep in another room.’
I walked to the front and leant against a pillar to watch. A passing waiter brought me my whiskey. Three fat wives who could only belong to the middle-aged honchos I had seen him sucking up to, were spread in the middle sofa , bedecked and sporting enormous beehives, ignoring and cackling loudly over the slideshow. Some of the younger wives spread around them smiled and chatted between themselves, some sat alone, blankly staring at the screen. All of them wore an inordinate amount of jewellery for a kid’s party, but tasteful – all of them were very pretty. A particularly young woman, who reminded me of a girl I had once known, rocked a sleeping infant across her shoulder.  
Krithika came hurrying, still the harried wife – dabbing at her perspiring face with the end of a sari or a dupatta, scurrying to the kitchen every five minutes, and apologizing about Sandeep’s last minute cancellations – underneath the makeup. I braced myself when she paused one her tracks suddenly, expecting her to turn around, something forgotten, and come rushing into me. But she remained rooted at that spot, by my side, watching the photograph like she had never seen it before. Them together in a school snap, the boys standing and the girls seated.
She blinked and turned and saw me watching her. She laughed embarrassedly and shook her head. ‘Is there anything left to know after twenty years?’, I asked. Anirudhha was born on the very day they had first met: the undiminished magic of their great love.
I don’t know what it was but I felt something change in her then. A slowness entered. She turned to stare at the photograph again. A stillness. ‘Sometimes you can spend a lifetime with a person and still not understand him’, she spoke flatly.
A slide clicked in place, the light on her eyes shifted. I turned to see the very snap Sandeep had kept framed over his desk, curls and lips. ‘I was a hopeless romantic then. I really believed us when we said we were different, that we had learnt from the sad mistakes we had seen our elders live in, that we would never become like them.’ I watched her profile, lit like a Vermeer from the reflection on the wall, and realised how young and beautiful she herself was. A group crossed before us, bustling and laughing, their gaiety hard and coarse like a callus, casting a shadow on her. When they, and it, passed, she was looking at me, for the first time in the eye. Something had changed – between us.
‘When are you two getting married? You are almost a couple already!’ She laughed.
I hesitated and looked away. ‘Not now. We are happy as it is.’ As always, I was pretending that it was me who was tarrying; paraphrasing her.
‘Spoken like a man, Gaurav’, she spoke evenly again, ‘You want to love but not be bound.’
It stung like vinegar. I watched the whirr of another slide click into place and then turned and told her. ‘It’s her. She does not want to.’

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Love is...

From Nadine Gordimer's The Pickup

... it's one of the tranquil pastimes of lvoing: he reads (newspapers) as if his life depends on what is there. The book she has been reading lies on her breasts, open face-down at a page where she has come upon a sentence, a statement, that seems to have been written for her long before she came into existence and came to this space in the time of her life. she has read it over again and again, so that is is written, read, on the air around her, around him and her, on the sky looking down upon them. 'I decided to postpone our future as long as possible, leaving everything in its present state.'

Monday, November 08, 2010

Salut Laxman

The old phrase - we don't know when to start, we don't know when to quit. Most cricketers retire horribly. Denial of course is one of the foremost reasons... but I do not intend to discuss that.

This is the last stage of cricket that I am probably following. I do not enjoy organised sports on television at all anymore and much of the cricket that I follow is to do with the lot I literally grew up with. I have a very vivid memory of the news headline which announced the inclusion of sixteen-year old Sachin in national squad and see him speak for the first time, gauche and with that horrible fuzz on the lips that is the bane of male adolescence, in a brief clip. 

Sachin is, of course, having the most glorious run right now and we can assume that this is the beginning of the end. A run denied to the other greats who have, in brief patches of the "golden age of Indian cricket", even eclipsed him - Dravid, Kumble, Ganguly. A little of this is the timing of the lady luck also though everything goes to the man. During the last stint of his career, the great Kapil out swinger just never came. A year (or a couple) down the line, in an exhibition match I remember seeing him swinging it by a yard. If only, it had come to him back a year ago.

 Which bring me to records, something he is shattering seemingly for eternity or as far ahead we can envision it with current stock of cricketers.
There is nothing I know of Hammond and Hobbs other than their records. The little of Bradman that I know beyond his records is from the Bodyline series. In cricket, a seventy in time can be more vital than a double century (or even Gooch's horrible triple ton) when everything is on song... a five wicket haul depend on a wicketless, but more importantly, runless spell from the other end... but all this sadly gets lost in the dust of re-laid pitches year over year. All that survives is records.

I belong to the old school which judges the five-day format as the true test of cricket. In that sense, I feel that the one cricketer who has really come on his own in this year - a genius of the golden generation who never quite rose to the rank of the fab four - is Laxman. Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand.  

There are Sachin detractors and apologists - most of it is unfair. The one reason why there are endless debates on the "truly" greatest someone of all time is that greatness comes in flavors. Who we ultimately pick from a pool who have achieved greatness in different forms (some like Sachin straddling more than one form)  is ultimately which single definition we want to strain all these forms in. 

Sachin is one of the greatest in many senses, but he is not god.  There are no gods and whom we call gods are those we revere bribe and feat but not exactly.... like. Every tale of a hero, needs a tragedy. Like superheroes, our heroes need a fatal flaw to be human to us. Sachin is perhaps the all-time greatest as far as records and consistency go but there will always be space at the top for the Laras who might have not been as consistent but who batted for a third-rate team and singlehandedly carved some of the greatest innings ever; for Bradman who batted without protective gears and in an era of different sensibility; for Gavaskar who came when there was no Gavaskar before him and a few others.

Laxman's career, like that other hyderabadi great, has been chequered. He has half the centuries Dravid has and a third of Sachin's. But Laxman as the man who came good when it really mattered and clinched tests for India, consistently, needs no apologists now.  To paraphrase Sambit Bal, he created symphonies, again and again, when sirens went all around. His fatal flaw – that weak bat dangling four feet from the body when the sirens haven't sounded yet.

The fact that Laxman was denied a century today does not matter. As I said, he will end up having a third of Sachin's centuries and his greatness never be attested on that basis. But with this year, for me, he would be at par with Sachin (and Dravid) as the greatest test batsmen of this golden generation. 

There are things which can never be captured in records. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Risky risk-management

From an ad on FB:
The biggest risk is not taking it: Yea, yea -but isn't risk management about minimizing risk and not adding to it?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A clarification

(As appeared in CNN)
Except for...
बप्पी दा अलग ही हैं !

Friday, September 24, 2010

epiphany of the morning

For frustoo bachelors, Utopia is a hand in the morning on the shoulder, gently shaking them, and whispering - 'Utho-pia!'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010


The first smoke of the day is usually a ritual –a gathering at the pantry at ten, the vroom of the machine and the spurt of brown caffeine in white paper cups, the jostling, the how-was-the-weekend moving through the week to any-plans-for-the-weekend, the procession to the stairwell to gossip over fags. I usually arrive earlier than most of the gang and have a joint downstairs – the narrow alley between the back of the building and the high wall where nobody ever comes. Right now, I just feel like a fag and head for the stairwell. A couple of unknowns hang there, their eyes dull and listless, telling themselves perhaps that they should have chosen more dangerously when they could have. I move towards a long dusty window beside the service elevator where a needle of light cuts a pattern of broken sticks on the flight climbing to the upper floor. I take a deep breath as I shake out a cigarette from the pack and look out of the window as I light; the dusty clumps of unclaimed wastelands rolling to a blue skyscraping horizon. The smell of the cigarettes, phenyl and the garbage which shuttles in black plastic bags in the service lift is sharp in this bare cement-and-steel space, bleached of the musty human smells trapped in the gray-blue carpet and the foam of the panels. I let out a puff and feel the heat break sweats underneath my shirt. Soon the sun would climb higher and the needle would shift and swell to a box here, hot as a bubbling cauldron.
I have a half-hour of work to spread over the next eight hours. One by sixteen – six point two five. I take a deep drag and try to think beyond – but all I see within is a concrete wall an inch away from my nose.
For a moment, the silence is absolute and I hold and savour it like a sip of single malt.  No one on a cell phone pacing the corridor, no huddle of laughs two floors below, no guard shouting at another, no squeak of shoes, no thuds and wheezes of someone climbing up the stairs, the lift inert: no rumble of its ascent and descent, no rolling of its doors. Not the silence which passes for a quietness in the camp inside, still contaminated with the whispers, murmurs and shuffles of colliding intimacies. A barren and lifeless desert-like silence.
She loved me for my silence – that’s what she said. We joked that she did all the talking and worrying for the two of us. Every night, her head on my arm, she would tell me everything that happened in her office, the strayest of conversations, the blandest of jokes – suddenly, she would break away and ask me what I was thinking. “Nothing.  Just listening to you and feeling your weight on me”, I would kiss the top of her head. One night, after a long silence, she whispered, ‘I sometimes feel like I’m talking to a wall.’
Someone clears his throat behind me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Humour and tragedy explained

Break a thing into a frame made of its underpinning assumptions.
Turn one of the assumption on its head. That is humour.
Remove one of the assumptions. If the frame still stands, that is tragedy.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The never-ending cycle

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray has blamed migrants for the outbreak of malaria in Mumbai.

In 1348 there appeared in Europe a devastating plague which is reported to have killed off ultimately twenty-five million people. By the fall of that year the rumor was current that these deaths were due to an international conspiracy of Jewry to poison Christendom. It was reported that the leaders in the Jewish metropolis of Toledo had initiated the plot and that one of the chief conspirators was a Rabbi Peyret who had his headquarters in Chambéry, Savoy, whence he dispatched his poisoners to France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


The door to his studio flat is open as far as it can on the rough arcing groove, etched over the years by the frame sagging on its hinge.

His room; six-hundred square feet of it. A small hall, a closet-sized kitchen at the back, and a three-steps bathroom along the passage leading to the kitchen: a step forward to enter and approach the mini-washbasin, a step sideways to the right to stand under the shower, and another with an about face to drop the pants and squat. The bed, lumpy and greasy mattress-pillow-quilt, lies rolled neatly in the middle of the hall and the books have been stacked against a wall in three canting columns rising to my shoulders, the built-in cupboard at the back bolted. The floor, a debris of books ash and plastic cups the last time I was here, is bare and glistens in the light streaming from the old newspapers stuck on the windows and blotched with the penumbral mottles from the letterings of a large headline; freshly mopped: damp patches still dry at the corners and the pail peeps from behind the door, the mop floating limply in the brown sludge. Even the smell of cigarettes is gone.

I walk to the end of the passage, to the kitchen. The sink is scrubbed and empty, only the kitchen rag drying on the ledge and a wet green soap. The thin supply of utensils – a pan, three unmatched mugs, a skillet, a spatula, four steel plates, a smattering of cutlery – are stacked hurriedly on a shelf. The electric stove stands alone on the rough four-by-one granite slab, two polythene bags filled with refuse under it, and the small window over it is thrown open. But despite the open window, despite the absence of clutter and smells in this narrow confine, I feel that anxiety again and walk back to the hall and look around as if I expect him to materialize in a corner any moment now. I notice the lump of the laptop under the mattress and hunker down to pull it out. My hands discover the rolled bundle of notes underneath it. I do not have to count them.

The man at the shop tells me that he did not see him go anywhere. ‘Bhaiyya cleared his account today’, he adds as I turn to the stairs. I turn to look him in the eyes but they do not tell me anything.

A thin ledge running along the parapet leads to the wide space at the back of the room where a black metal ladder climbs along the side of the open kitchen window to the roof and beyond, to the top of the water tank. A man in a vest watches me climb up with small, incurious eyes from a balcony – weight on beefy arms gripping the railing – of the building opposite, the building one amongst an uneven row of matchboxes standing on their edges, some of them tipping forward dangerously like drunks. He turns his head and goes back to his staring at a spot where there is nothing to stare.

I reach the top of the concrete tank and, after a moment of hesitation, walk to the edge where he sits. He has grown even thinner, vertebra poking out of the thin Tshirt on his hunched back, the shoulder seams dropping to the arms. I take a tentative, vertiginous, peek of the choked honking alley over which his knobby knees hang. The wires, like scratches keyed on a lift-door, would break his fall but probably electrocute him, leaving him hanging upside-down, wings splayed, a dead bat.

I light a cigarette and still see nothing of his face but the hair, grown to his shoulders now, skeins of silver running through them; not even the tip of his nose. I snap my fingers and offer the cigarette to him. He turns his head and looks up.

The man pauses at the gate and looks inside. I imagine what he sees –the tree lined front lawn, the driveway curling around it, the jut of the portico, the bungalow – but not me, sitting on the roof, watching him. He lifts the latch and steps inside, leaving the gate open behind him. The guard-room is empty – Gopal has stepped out to pee behind the alleys.

The man. Matted hair like a nest containing the wild eggs of his eyes; hair spreading to a shaggy beard and mangy tufts on the naked torso; a sooty rag wrapped at the loins; large bare feet, the rinds chapped and torn, the soles ashen.

He strides along the driveway, a cocky swing to one side, and leaves it to follow the path that cuts through the side of the house, separating it from the side lawn, and curving to an intersection where one path leads to the servants’ quarters and the other to the flimsy wooden double-door at the back of the kitchen courtyard. I follow his progress silently along the parapet, placing my feet in the bald patches where the gravel has been torn out of the tar, to make no scraping sound. The man pauses at the intersection and then takes the turn to the door and pauses at its doorstep – it is flung open. I crane my neck a little forward, hiding behind a black tank set at the corner of the roof, and see chachi sitting alone on the takhat, sifting grains on a chhaj. A rumble from the man’s chest startles us both – a clearing of the throat, a sharp admonition, a loud guttural belch. Chachi looks about uncertainly and then gingerly gets up.

She gathers a few handful of grains in the hem of her sari and rises from the takhat. She crosses the elevated courtyard shaded by a slab of roof, like a card resting on the bridges of the rooms spilt by the space of the courtyard, descends the two steps to the cracked stone floor of the lower courtyard, crosses the stacks of utensils piled on the square brick-lined basin under the tap – a sluice cut into the basin which gurgles with scummy brown water when Ba washes the utensils as it runs along the wall to disappear under the door beyond which the man waits. I watch the approaching black of her neatly oiled, centre-parted hair, peeping out of the half-crescent blue of the pallu, pause at the grey-brown ropy strands falling to his shoulders. I imagine the grease-smeared eyes holding her lowered gaze; of having unwaveringly followed her progress. Her hands rise, holding the hem of her sari, and diffidently offer the wedge of grains rolling and shuffling in its folds, waiting for him to bring a bowl under its tip. After an eternity, the man moves a hand below the rag at his waist and brings forth something – a dark tamarind pod.

Chachi turns and runs away – the hem abandoned, the grains scattering on the stone like beads from a broken necklace. No shout of shame or horror escapes her lips, even when she almost trips over her fallen pallu on the steps; only the slam of the inner door to the house. His palm opens, pink and callused, and the pod falls and disappears in the folds of the loin-cloth again. The head jerks, turns and lifts, and his dark eyes pin me at my spot. I lurch backwards, my legs, fallen asleep, buckling under me, and I fall on my back. A terror seizes me and I wriggle on my back, my shirt tearing on the gravel, my skin scraping, till I find the strength to turn over, rise and scamper away.

The smoggy skyline thins to a red strip over the straggly antennas-crammed roofs; the air dense and sticky.

‘It’s going to rain.’

He rises without comment, my hands poised ready behind his neck lest he stumble, and I follow him down the ladder to the room below, to the mattress where he squats to pull out the laptop and rolled bundle. I stand at the door, my arms folded, as he approaches me and offers them to me.

‘I told you I don’t want them back.’

‘No, take it – I can’t’, the words come in thick glottal stops as if snagging and tearing on phlegmy cobwebs. I do not unfold my hands; after a long pause, he crosses me and lowers them on the floor outside the edge of the jamb.

‘What about your book?’

‘There is no book. I do not have any story to tell.’

‘You are coming with me.’

‘No’, he steps behind the door, a hand resting on the edge of the open door, and declares with finality, ‘I am not going anywhere. Please go.’

I shake my head and my arms tense, expecting him to slam the door on me any moment. He does. I block the swinging door with my shoulder, and after a struggle, he flings himself at me. A long fingernail slashes under my eye and I pin his arms to his side as he pushes me with his head under my ribcage. I repulse him, his arms held pressed to his sides under my palms, his push hardly even makes me sway back on my feet. His feet climb over mine and he heaves again and again, but I do not yield. He collapses suddenly, his legs bucking under him, his head falling on my stomach, and I grab and hold him up by his bony arms. We stand like this for a long time, the sweat pouring from his hair from the struggle, soaking slowly through my shirt, my vest, its wetness reaching my skin.

‘Let me pack some clothes’, he mutters blankly.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Death and the mother - passage from boyhood: Coetzee

this passage from Boyhood - Coetzee which i am rereading ( one of the best books i've ever read) evokes a memory. almost to the last nuance.
this is truly great writing. that can find that chord that exists in everyone and touch just the right notes.
the words in red are superfluous - otherwise, great passage.

He is a liar and he is cold-hearted too: a liar to the world in general, cold-hearted towards his mother. It pains his mother, he can see, he is steadily growing away from her. Nevertheless he hardens his heart and will not relent. His only excuse is that he is merciless to himself too. He lies but he does not lie to himself.
'When are you going to die', he asks her one day, challenging her, surprised at his own daring.
'I am not going to die', she replies, She speaks gaily but there is something false in her gaiety.
'What if you get cancer?'
'You only get cancer if you are hit on the breast. I won't get cancer. I'll live forever. I won't die.'
He knows why she is saying this. She is saying this for him and his brother, so that they will not worry. It is a silly thing to say, but he is grateful to her for it.
He cannot imagine her dying. She is the firmest thing in her life. She is the rock on which he stands. Without her he would be nothing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seven Deadly sins

The man says it all.

How did I never hear this before?

The Seven Deadly Sins are wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

A paragraph worth a biography

This is how 10 year old Paddy Clark describes a friend's aunt:

His auntie was nice. She walked from side to side. She said God the cold or God the heat, depending on what the weather was like. When she walked across the kitchen she went Tea tea tea tea tea. When she heard the Angelus at six o'clock she'd be saying The News the News the News the News. She had big veins like roots curling up the side and the back of her legs. She made biscuits, huge big slabs; they were gorgeous, even when they were stale.

Paddy Clark Ha ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

Sachin even in Murali's retirement

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I was just about to buy the book before I read this review.

"Someone who has spent as much time wandering through construction sites around the world should know that a scaffold is not a support or bridge."



With inception, Nolan returns to his favourite, and well-mastered, themes of time and memories.

Memento was about a man who remembers for only three minutes – his tale told backwards. Prestige was a tale of two men told from somewhere near the end, and weaving and cutting through their lives before and after in no particular chronological order. (The mere lyricism of it makes me rate it as his best.) There was little room to experiment with time in the franchised Batman series but Batman Begins dwells on Bruce’s repressed memories more powerfully than any movie before.

Inception is, on the surface, about the architecture of dreams, and from there out subconscious – and the memories embedded in it. Though fantastic, there is little of the dream within a dream concept that I haven’t seen and read of before – but here (to my limited knowledge) Nolan adds the concept of expanding time as dreams unfurl within one another. Hence, between the fourth level of the nested dreams being played in real time, at the first level, a car is plunging into a river in ultra-slow-mo. Decades to minutes. Very interesting.

Inception is going to be one of the most talked-about movies of the year but just misses cult status as it’s an amalgamation of themes that have been visited before.

Somebody compared it to Matrix and I could only shake my head and sigh at how time compresses memory. First, Matrix revolutionised sci-fi in movies like T-2; even after eleven years, the stunts, special effects and cinematography can stand up to inception and in portions look better. Second, Matrix brought the possibility of our world being unreal in a way Jurassic Park made dinosaurs alive for us. True, there had been similar movies before but our imagination was never fired so before. If people didn’t walk out of the hall shaking their heads and asking what it was all about, it was so because of 1999. People might have forgotten but the now seemingly-simple theme of Matrix left first-time viewers visually overwhelmed but totally at sea about which world was what.

But that was just a hyperbole that had to be shot down.

Inception is brilliant and worth a watch. I don’t know how far it could have still gone without Leonardo. And that, I feel, was the movie’s biggest flaw – the casting. Having Michael Caine do a cameo playing himself from a zillion movies, a clueless Ellen Page in a role similar to OmPrakash to Amitabh’s Sharabi (“Yeh aadat chhod de, Vijay. Yeh tere ko aur baaki ko bhi le doobegi.”) and Leonardo. It’s the lesser cast that shines and fires the movie. I like Leonardo but there is no difference of the Leonardo from Shutter Island to that of Departed to here. An anonymous weather-beaten protagonist (why does my mind always wander to John Cusack in his days of relatively lesser fame?) would have brought the freshness, and unexplored dimensions, that DiCaprio never brings. Sad for a guy who gave us Christian Bale; and could imagine Ledger as the boy to fill the giant shoes of Nicholson.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BGO of the month

BGO = Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious

Monday, July 05, 2010

Should I?

Interest received today:

"hi iam *****i want to good lucking patner & self depend honest educated family soft nature understanding he believe in family values."

This is it.
Not a word about who she is, besides the name; not even a photograph.
It's like applying for a company you know not the name of, the industry and what the job entails - a sweeper or a CEO.

Word for the day - patner
partner - someone who partakes a life with you
patner - someone who pats you on your bottoms, usually when you're in formal company

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

None shall pass!

how people moan
when time passes too quickly
but not when
the stools don't.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rachel Maddow on Art

A country without an expectation of minimal artistic literacy, without a basic structure by which the artists among us can be awakened and given the choice of following their talents and a way to get to be great at what they do, is a country that is not actually as great as it could be. And a country without the capacity to nurture artistic greatness is not being a great country.

Blame it on Psmith

We all know the English are poor losers but this is ridiculous! Crying foul over a goal denied when they were thrashed by three.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Searchers

I come home one evening and kicking off my shoes crash in the bed. Another nightout followed by a hard day of work where I had yawned and excused myself every five minutes. I lie with my hands spread at the side staring at the ceiling, too stunned with exhaustion to close my eyes. The mobile buzzes. I fish it out of my pocket and bring it to my face to read the SMS informing me that someone has expressed interest in me. The hand drops and holds the mobile loosely to my chest. After a few minutes, I rise, the mobile slipping away and falling on the floor with a clatter, and lurch towards the laptop.

A beautician from Allahabad, twenty-seven, a turned-away profile with heavy lipstick and sleepy eyes. “i know person who educate, self depend, resposible and support. i like govt. emp. person who located in good city.

I blink at it and reread. My hand lingers on the mouse after declining her interest and moves towards the icon inviting me again to search for my life-partner.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


‘Doesn’t it get lonely?’, I’d asked Krithika after she’d tucked Ankit to bed and joined us in the balcony. A life – and a child – shared only over the weekends. ‘That’s what his job is like and, seriously, after a time it becomes a habit.’

Nidhi and I had turned to look at one another and behind our backs sought hands. We were still young then, the dullness of the hours at the office had not numbed us down yet and the novelty of being together was still fresh in us: we still made love in the morning and greeted each other with a kiss when we came back.

Habit sounded almost tragic then.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Splendidly funny article on Pakistani cricket

The anarcho-syndicalist splendour of Pakistan


A friend came and was unreasonably snapping and angry at everything. My first instinct was to shoot back but I desisted.

Now i realize he might have been like that because he thought i was the only person he could be angry with.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chronicle of a slow death

For months, I would know what to write and yet no words would frame around the thought. And then an imagery chanced carelessly and they would spew forth.

The imagery that inspired this piece was this - one of Mary Cassatt's beautiful portrayals of mothers with their tots. I chanced upon it while reading about her late role in the Impressionist movement.

The passage of death through photographs is also inspired by Cassatt's chronicle of the slow death of her sister, Lydia.

The answer, in case any of you wonder, to why he took the photographs is the same as why Monet painted Camille on her deathbed - because he could not do anything else.

When we asked Ba about her life before us, she told us that her mother had died a long time ago and that her father was always drunk and in his rages would beat her and the new mother who was retarded and there were goats to take out to graze and there were the mountains and rocks she would scamper over before evening fell and then the scattered flock had to be herded and brought back. We accepted the unfaltering finality of her monotone, unbroken by a pause for breath, and asked nothing more. The idea of her life before us was not without a tinge of jealousy, suffered only with the consoling reasoning that she had to be somewhere till we were yet to be born. In fact, the brevity which summed her life before us sounded reassuring, very much like the waiting which it ought to have been.

Ba’s story for us began with the unspoken story of mother’s slow death.

Much of this story I came to understand from the cache of albums I discovered once in a storage loft in one of the rooms of Windsor Manor that I reached by climbing over the grill of the window-frame. These were not like the few photographs I had seen of her –sticking her tongue out as a young girl, holding a dazzling smile in place for the photographer in a gathering, laughing as she posed in a group in front of an excavation site, the Bear crushing papa and her in with a giant paw, the wedding album. There was no self-conscious posing in these discovered albums, no smiles and laughs held in place. Instead, they seemed to chronicle unconscious everyday intimacies where she would be combing her short hair in front of an oval mirror, chewing at a pencil as she frowned at a book laid on the easel of her raised legs on a chair, or raising an eye from a book, cheek resting on the palm of a propped elbow with the other hand holding the place in the book, to look straight out of the photograph to me, the smile suggesting not a coquettish flirtation with the lens but a serene assurance – of heels dug firmly in place and the reins of the life they were building firmly in her grip.

I never saw the albums again – they might be lying buried in the rubble somewhere or perhaps they really got lost – but all my imagined memories of her got overwritten by those photographs that day. When I would develop enough sensibilities, I would realise that they were brilliant portraits, even though all I saw papa ever click with the Pentax were artefacts. But at that moment, and for many days after, I was overwhelmed by a grief that seemed larger than myself, and understood, even as a child, why the adults had interred these albums here. And I asked myself again and again, through silent rage and tears, why? – why had papa taken these photographs? Because they were not only the narrative of their life together but also her slow painful passage to death.

I had always imagined her death as something which had happened to us suddenly, something from outside which had come hurling and caught us all unaware. The albums told another story. Even as Preeti entered the albums, even as ma suckled her beneath a blanket, bathed her, put her to sleep over a shoulder, buried her face in her tummy and made her cackle with delight – even as she grew in her arms – it was clear that she had started to slowly wilt like a flower in a vase. Her eyes widened at first, with fatigue, and the surprise springing perhaps from the first brushes with the idea of her fragility and mortality, as each bout of infection left her weaker and weaker.

It is here that Ba entered the photographs. Her first photograph showed her as a little girl standing behind ma’s chair as she held out the bowl in which ma dipped a cloth, probably sponge-bathing the infant Preeti spread on her lap, Ba’s other hand resting lightly on ma’s shoulder. Slowly, she shifted to the foreground as Preeti grew – combing her curls, feeding her from a spoon, washing her legs on a basin, drying her after a bath – while ma watched from a divan on which she rested heavily, a hand on Ba’s shoulder if she happened to be sitting below her on the floor, playing with Preeti. In another photograph, she held out Preeti to kiss ma lying weakly on the bed, Preeti’s tiny arm wrapped around her neck, the blur suggesting a nuzzling of cheeks and many kisses, a long exposure, a night time and a goodnight kiss – papa never used flash.

The surprise slowly waned to tired resignation as she seemed to sink deeper and heavier into the divans and beds she would rarely been seen out of now, the eyes drooping and closing. In one of the last photographs, ma lay in bed, covered in white quilt, her head resting on a big soft white pillow; her hair, which I imagined must have grown because sitting for a cut took too much toll on her fragile health now, seemed to be tied in a loose bun behind. A cup rested on the side-table beside her head and an arm fell protectively over Preeti’s lap, who sat in a chemise beside her, her loose curls spilling over her face as she appeared to peer at something in her hand. Her tired eyes watched Preeti, the mouth slack and without a smile. I imagined Ba must have been nearby, waiting to catch Preeti if she tumbled down, but she’s not in the frame. The palm of ma’s other hand was cupped loosely over the swell of her belly underneath the quilt, discernible if you were looking for it.

It was the only photograph I tore from the album and brought down with me, hiding it in the pages of a colouring book.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Painting serious sorrow

Reading the letters of Van Gogh, came across this -

'As molting time -- when they change their feathers -- is for birds, so adversity or misfortune is the difficult time for us human beings. One can stay in it -- in that time of molting -- one can emerge renewed; but anyhow it must not be done in public and it is not at all amusing, therefore the only thing to do is to hide oneself. . . .

...On the other hand, there is the idle man who is idle in spite of himself, who is inwardly consumed by a great longing for action but does nothing, because it is impossible for him to do anything, because he seems to be imprisoned in some cage, because he does not possess what he needs to become productive, because circumstances bring him inevitably to that point. Such a man does not always know what he could do, but instinctively feels, I am good for something, my life has a purpose after all, I know I that could be quite a different man! How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside of me, what can it be? . . . '

[Letter #133 (to Theo), July, 1880]

...So you see that I am in a rage of work, though for the moment it does not produce very brilliant results. But I hope these thorns will bear their white blossoms in due time, and that this apparently sterile struggle is no other than the labor of childbirth. First the pain, then the joy.

[Letter #136 (to Theo), September 24, 1880]

I want you to understand clearly my conception of art. One must work long and hard to grasp the essence. What I want and aim at is confoundedly difficult, and yet I do not think I aim too high.

I want to do drawings which touch some people...

In either figure or landscape I should wish to express, not sentimental melancholy, but serious sorrow...

This is my ambition, which is, in spite of everything, founded less on anger than on love, more on serenity than on passion. It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is a calm pure harmony and music inside me. . . .

[Letter #218 (to Theo), July 19-23, 1882]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Willy Loman of Facebook

I resist the first temptation to block a thinly-remembered friend who clutters my wall. Instead, his streaming updates slowly engender a perverse compulsion to keep refreshing the newsfeed. He wakes up in the morning and duly informs me of the coffee he’s had. During the day, he tells me he’s missing so-and-so, that he just had another coffee, questions if we really need a politician in office, forwards a jingoistic appeal, gets nostalgic about the simpler times, declares that he’s proud of his identity, looks forward to the weekend, sings along to a song on an iPod, gleefully awaits a car launch, plans a trip to a pretentious restaurant, reviews a movie offering that the direction could have been tighter – peppering the updates with borrowed quotes and puns. No one comments, even when he marauds through the news-feeds of his 400 friends – “lol”ing at their witty statuses, vigorously nodding and adding “True!” to the introspective ones, “liking” each of their photographs and links, and intercepting their wall-to-wall exchanges with his own comments; but they do not reciprocate – even when he offers his witty two cents on a topical scandal they are commenting on elsewhere.

Through one of his updates, I discover his blog titled “Randomly Arbit Ramblings”. There I discover painfully constructed diagrams classifying Facebook users, more movie reviews, a blow-by-blow account of a trip to the top of some hillock, fierce ranting after another terrorist attack and only one comment and ten profile views in its six-month history; I wonder if the ten includes my own visit.

He turns argumentative – questioning the worth of the contribution of a cricketer when someone hurrahs a milestone; esoteric – “Never was a time.”; woefully desperate – “I feel like crying.”

One day he declares that he’s planning to delete his profile. We wait with bated breath when no comment still comes in and the updates actually stop. Just when I start believing that he has left, he limply hobbles back. The updates stream in again, albeit not the bubbling brook they were once.

“I hate fb”, he confesses. I almost decide to “like” it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Facebook and the protagonist

Around the same time, I join one of the popular social networking websites. Hundreds of faces and names suddenly bloom marking the disremembered motifs which had marked my life since Windsor Manor – corridors, truancies, football, picnics, borrowed bikes, canteens, photocopied notes, binges, lectures, politics, night outs, messes, beer cigarettes and marijuana, fall outs, uniforms – competing narratives snagging chafing and bending against eachother – and yet all bereft of their underpinning now; the intimacies which had defined these shared lives forgotten like shifting dunes.

I peek into the pages of these separated lives, read the comments they pile on each other’s photographs and statuses and flip through the albums marking their passage from ranging bachelorhood to domesticity – a wedding, a spouse, a honeymoon, rearrangements for better for worse, a bundled newborn, visiting greying parents, a toddler finding his feet, reunions, another child – gathering along the way the trappings of new-found prosperity. Their footprints criss-crossing the globe from Goa to Las Vegas to the seven wonders of the world to the thousand places to see before dying; some of them pinning and sharing their conquests in maps. How far we have travelled – and yet never strayed.

The eyes in the photographs suddenly swivel and pin me down behind the peephole. Friendship requests pile, I get tagged in a few photographs, poked, notified, receive invitations from groups around start-ups indie-bands communities books, launches applications links are suggested, howdy where’ve-you-been messages stream in. The vortex sucks me inside; briefly I resist; but the ache to belong is stronger than the anxiety. Within a week, I have added a hundred friends and more eyes swivel and more requests and invitations rush in.

A friend surprises me with an intimate message. He tells me about a failed marriage and how depressed he is and how he remembers the times from college as the best years of his life and how he was thinking of me only the other day – I take a day to frame a reply but instantly decide against posting it when his next message informs me that he would be in Gurgaon the next week and looking forward to catch up. I do not respond in the end and after a reminder message he also falls silent.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

the life of a building

A scaffolding anticipates a building, framing the slats along the path it grows - not to constrain, but to bolster and direct; setting its ascent from one stage to another. The higher the building, the higher it is to be, the stronger.

A building, ignored, undirected, collapses within from the weight of its own ambitions .

(Painitng by Turner)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sneak peek into my stock answers for the matrimonial quiz

'Are you a tee-totaller?'
'No, I am an all-rounder.'

'Are you a virgin?'
'No. Aquarian.'

'Do you do drugs?'
'Never by prescription.'

'Would you cheat on me?'
'I don't play cards.'

'Do you respect women?'
'Oh yes. I call them my daddy.'

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The professor

‘Why have you come here?’, his bloodshot eyes bore into me from behind the bush of unruly half-hennaed beard spewing out of the brown monkey-cap, donned even in this airless heat. He sits across the cluttered desk, half turned, a hand crossed across the chest and tucked under the armpit, the other holding an open book close to his half-moon Dumbledore glasses. ‘First time since you left?’


‘You did not come before because you thought that I would ask you what you have done with your life – and you would have no answers.’ I remain silent. ‘What do you do?’

‘I am a project manager.’

‘You’re not planning to embark on a campus caper?’, he waves the fresh copy of the bestseller at me, ‘He was your batch-mate, right?’

‘No, senior.’ I noticed the parcel it must have arrived on, a gutted yellow-brown affair embossed with the name of the publisher, scraping on the floor with the occasional wind.

He flips the pages with a coarse thumb, ‘How is it – crappy or awful?’

‘There is a generous reference to your character.’

He scoffs and starts to cough, ‘Hah! I – cough – wish – cough cough – he’d spared me the ignominy!’ His coughing eases and he throws the book on the littered desk upsetting a few files, pages fall from them onto the floor in muted shuffle but he doesn’t glance at them. ‘Do you still paint?’


‘Pity’, he raises himself with some effort from the old armchair, ‘You had some talent there with colours.’ He shambles to a corner, soot stain rising like volcanic ash, and places a kettle on a stove. The battered copper kettle with the turned wood handle on the Primus spattered with years of rust and burnt tea; I look around – everything in the clutter the same, only timeworn. The stove rests on the TV trolley instead of the shaky tripod I remember. He catches me looking.

‘I stopped that bloody film society after one of the girls complained of pornography to the dean.’ He mentions the name of the movie – ‘Used to be your favourite’. He turns to add water to the kettle from a jug. Behind the greasy panes of the lower shelf, I can still make the out the old Akai VCR and the stacks of VHS tapes we watched, their tapes mouldy and crumbling now I’m sure. I imagine the old television finally kicked the bucket one day, beyond any more resuscitation by generous thumps at its side, and he threw it from the window.

The afternoon sun streaming from the window behind his desk, arrested by the grime of the panes and the hanging dust, tints the room in sepia. Only a burning slit of it sneaks from the crack between the sash and the sill and saws one of the bookcases. The weather-bound books I had reverently perused through once now gather dust on them. Dust pervades – spinning under the slow creaking blades of the begrimed fan, gathered in the corners in balls and stirring under his shuffling feet, sitting in a film on the books on the shelves, the reams of files and sketch sheets tossed on the desk and the side table, only sparing a rectangular patch on the desk, and on the mildewy paintings scattered on the walls. The domineering abundance of paper in the room, in books and notes and lines, piled on the groaning bookcases, their shelves buckling under their weight, lends this tableau an air of fragile weightiness.

He complains as he adds the tea – the usual problems with the authority, the ever-increasing stupidity of the students, curtailed budgets, the times – pausing only to sniff at the milk in the packet. The moment, tentative and unsure, in the gentle blurry haze of the dust, comes as a mirage – the steady hum of the mini-fridge the singing sands –a world at its brink, doubting itself. The tenuous dusky shadow of a world already disappeared.

He limps to a book shelf, shuffling violently through piles of scrapbooks neatly stencilled with a name and a batch on the bottom right corner of their cover – diaries of our everyday experience with art around us – a newspaper cutting, a dead flower, a photograph, a sketch, a scroll, a muse. He pulls out a term book – that’s what we called it – and tosses it at me without looking at me, rising with a grunt and shuffling back to the kettle nearing boil. I flip through a few pages.

‘What do you make of them?’

I say something about the violence of the strokes and the overabundance of yellow.

‘What would you say about the artist?’

My eyes pause on a painting – the last of them. ‘Deeply disturbed.’

‘His name was Mukund Sachdeva. Tiny bastard with owl-eyed specs. He committed suicide shortly after this painting’, he turns and nods in the direction of the page spread between my hands, ‘Perhaps the last thing he did. I later got to know that he had dropped from every class but this. Perfect attendance – quite a thing for my classes. And I hardly ever noticed him there.’ He sieves the tea sloppily, spilling much of it in the floor, and thrusts a chipped mug at me. ‘What’s he written about me, your friend? Am I one of those endearing professorial buffoons, or an eccentric? I remember the bastard well enough – beamed at me like an idiot sitting over there’, he jabs a finger at the chair adjacent to me, ‘Trying to suck up to me, spoke straight from the notes but knew as much about art as a machine’, he settles back against the backrest, ‘Or perhaps, I am the villain in this junk – I did give him the only B out here, after all. Broke his perfect ten – and his heart too, I guess.’ His broken-toothed grin is a weak attempt at wicked levity. I leaf through Mukund’s sketches again. Despite the honesty, there is nothing in them but desperation; a doomed Icarus jump into the empty air. Any value there is to them now is in the fact of his death.

‘Is the company you work for big?’

‘No, quite small.’

‘What’s it called?’

‘You wouldn’t have heard of it.’


I offer the term-book back to him but he careless tosses it away to the same corner of the desk where he tossed the bestseller; it falls away taking a bundle of files with it.

‘That’s what I do now – to all of them – just throw them away at the end of the term and let my TA grade them.’ Another noisy slurp. ‘Every year, I put the same questions as the last year – they all know it now – How does the impressionist connect with his subjects? Discuss the inspiration and significance of Picasso’s Guernica in less than five hundred words? – my faithful TA tells me that even the answers are the same every year.’

‘I should have done this long time ago. I shouldn’t have wasted my breath on you slimy bastards – just taught from the text and let you waste the night mugging and be spared from sifting through your puke. Pity’, he points to the best-seller, ‘he would have scored a perfect ten if he had been here now.’

He stares at a spot on the desk, ‘It was a mistake coming back here. A mistake. You boys want to become what these places make you become. What crap you guys write about yourself these days! How unashamedly you crown yourself. Crème de la crème! The best! The brightest! What do you know of genius – you yellow-hearted runts! Afraid to struggle, to stand and fail for an idea!’

I light a cigarette unflinchingly like old times. The smoke trails lazily across the desk and a strand reaches his nose; he coughs. I stub and throw the cigarette away.

‘Are you married? ‘


‘Some rich pathetic kid I don’t even remember now sent me a snap from somewhere once – New York, I think. And all I can remember now is that I wanted to do his wife real bad. Why did you come to see me this time?’

‘I heard that you were sick.’

‘You thought I was dying!’

For a while, I had stood in this empty room deciding whether I should wait for him or check him out at his quarter – retiring for the day leaving the door to his office open would not be unusual from him. A faint rustling sound and I cocked my ear. I moved to the door, leading to the inner room where once he would secretly paint, and knocked. I heard something stir, a creak and a thin croak that I decided meant to summon me inside. I pushed the door. He sat at the edge of the folding bed, his body slumped forward, the blanket crossing a shoulder and tumbling from his lap like the robe of a Greek god in a painting, his hands clutching the edge of the bed. I remember his eyes, big and frightened as they took me in with the jaw hanging loose in a half-gape, the sparse hair on his head in disarray, the sunken cheeks – he looked around with the same befuddled terror – it was not me alone he was trying to place but the room and himself.

‘Are you?’

It took him a few seconds to recover before he was smothering his hair with a hand and scowling at me as if I had disturbed him in some deep thought.

‘Hah, it would take a hell lot more than this to kill me.’ I smile, and so does he, for a brief moment. ‘Why did you turn it down?’, his eyes soften with pain. I lower my head – I cannot look him in the eyes. I had been desperate when I wrote to him – I never really expected him to do anything about it – with his reputation for fights and my grades, what chance could have been there? And yet, against all odds, he had pulled it off. And I had failed him then.

‘Because of a girl’, I mutter.

‘Are you still with her?’

I shake my head.

‘Good. The canteen would be open now. This tea tastes like shit!’, he barks at me like I was the one who’d made it.