Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Are You?

Three words. Stumped, I stare at the screen over and over again. I sense my mind zoning out, helpless I watch the words unsettle my universe. I have the cosmic mute button pressed on my face. What do I say? What is there left to say anyway.

I am reminded of the hot Adyar Sunday afternoons. Sweltering heat, narrow sticky walls, brown steps stained with beetle juice. And you at the end of it, smiling, waiting for me to come after class. Cycle rides. Honks. The Sun. Weary faces caught in their routine. Distracted flower sellers carelessly sprinkling water on their wilting roses. My feet inches off the burning tar. Sweat spreading on your back slowly like a coloniser’s army. The uncomfortable steel poking my bottom. Saltiness. Why do people say love is sweet? It fails to make sense to me. Love is salty like the sweat you broke giving me cycle rides when there wasn’t enough to spare for an auto. Like the finger tips, dusty, tired. Like tears we coaxed out of each other. Like blood. If love has to have a taste, it has to be salty. Not sweet.

Love is given so willingly when it is given. No complaints, no resentments. I would have come walking, or shared a ride and felt the same about you as always. But I suppose that is where love hides, in that extra mile, that extra bit of trouble that is no trouble at all. The chappals that were mended. Photostats taken.  Deadlines met. I was the scripture, you were the religion. Purpose, meaning, the crux of life, the summary. 

Where do feelings go when they die? Where are the bones I can bury? The ashes I can blow over the wind? I see the narrow line between death and disappearance. But I don’t know what is easier to handle. If there was a way one could squeeze out meanings from words, what do we call what is left? What do we do with all the alphabets sticking on our fingers like obstinate chunks of glue? The phrases broken in half, shapeless. 

This old city must have witnessed countless encounters of that which is believed to be love. A million cycle rides over 100s of years. A thousand smiles flashed on a faceless mass that is all those of who have ever fallen in love here. Patriots. Britishers. Workers. Kings. Theosophians. Over years. And so the wind that blows here tastes salty like love. A saltiness that is beyond that of the Besant nagar beach or the sun broken sweat. All that love forgotten and fallen into oblivion. Two more people into that endless nameless pit. Where now only forgetfulness kisses obscurity. No more warm embraces, no impatient waitings. 

My mind races back. Eyes narrow down on the words on the screen. From a stranger that was once you. Somebody who knew how I was better than I myself did. Somebody others asked how I was when they wanted to know how I really was. So strange. I am now estranged from my own words. Stranded on an island. With a lonely smart phone. Not smart enough to wheedle a word out of me.

Friday, June 12, 2015

About That Which Didn't Kill Me

The last year of my college was pretty much spend in isolation. Me alone with my illness and worried family members unknowingly intruding into my solitude with their impotent concern.  As a child, I was never prone to sickness. Even the once in the year fever was never prolonged for more than a day or two. So the whole hospitals-doctors-injections-xrays-multi coloured energy draining tablets thing was a pretty new scene for me.

I was terrified of injections back then.  Was till two years ago, to be more truthful. I remember getting into IIT and wishing I hadn’t when I saw the list of medical tests and precautionary vaccinations I had to get. And the look on the nurse’s face when she was about to inject me and I already had tears  rolling down my check. It looks so funny in retrospect. The illness changed things. Gave me plenty of opportunity to fight the fear. Got injections  even on my neck. LOL. I am not scared of injections anymore. That’s the best part, the only good part I sometimes feel,  about having fought and recovered. I am still scared of spiders though.

One never knows when the seed sprouts and the sapling sees the sky. Or when the minute hand moves from five to ten. Changes happen when we aren’t looking. Things that grow in our absence have a surprising power to change the course of our lives. So many things happened while I was in college yet it was the things, the invisible litte roots and webs that grew in my absence that choked my peace to a sudden and violent death.

Confined in the four walls of a room it is hard to measure the distance that grows between you and the things that matter to you. ‘Cause inside your head, in your memory they are only a touch away, waiting on the other side of the wall for you to return. But when life is disrupted and then you return to life you may not find things that you left behind as they were.

To me it changed so much that after the return I often found myself wishing I had given in. That a peaceful sleep was better than a broken reality. Like the proud emperor who won the war and returned to find piles of dead bodies waiting for him in the battlefield pointing to the emptiness of his victory. I wish I could turn to Buddhism or any ism that would take me far far away from the battlefield I was forced to return to.

But walking out on life and freeing yourself from everything that define you is hardly ever that easy. When you come back physically drained from an illness and see that solace is still far away it can weigh very heavily on you. Last year has been so difficult for me. I deserved  a treat for having overcome my fear of injections. Instead life gave me a year to teach myself how not to fall into depression. I don’t know how far I have been successful. But from where I stand now,I feel have come a very long way.

I am more than healthy now. And thinking of ways to shed  some extra health specially around the waist lol. And I am not really sad, though occasionally I feel bad about things. But I am drained. Drained is what I am but there are so many things to be done. Exams comings. At least 50 books left to be studied. Fuck. People are going to be asking me what the hell I have been doing the past one year when they see my results. Which I can pretty much guarantee will be awful. Everything is so easy when you look from the outside. 

I know this is a rant and I shouldn’t be doing this considering I want to be a real writer someday. But when thoughts pile up in your head writing gives you so much clarity. Helps you be fair. To yourself. To others. And to life. On days such as this I feel less bad about not being able to sing or dance. Everything has its perks. Even the setbacks that life throw on your face. I figure it’s true you know, what doesn’t kill you, really does make you stronger.

What Is India?


Things of greatness are often hard to decipher. Understanding India therefore is an exercise that echoes the upanishadic story of the son who is asked by his father to find the tree within the seed. Will Durant, the American philosopher, while showering praises and acknowledging contributions of India to philosophy, science and religion concludes that “Mother India in many ways is the mother of us all”. However, for an Indian on the other hand it might be harder to conceive let alone articulate what India actually is.  For someone who dwells in the belly of a whale, while knowing its essence, and being in many ways, one with it unfortunately misses the bird’s eye view.

Everything that India is now is a culmination of over 5000 years worth of History and the meanings and contradictions that come with it. To understand India, therefore one must dig deeper than ‘India’, deeper that ‘Bharat’ and stand at the doors of the Indus Valley Civilisation. From there on the veins of our history like rivers spread into the ‘Saptasindhava’- the land of seven rivers, the cradle of the Vedas.  Like a canvas that has been painted over and over, again and again, India witnessed a splash of colours through multiple invasions, immigration and fusion of races and ethnicities. The Aryans, Scythians, Parthians, Huns, Turks, Mughals, Portuguese, Dutch, French and finally the British came to India, enriched India and in return were enriched by India. Until in the end the painting abstract and indiscernible, glowed in the enigmatic beauty that only blurred boundaries and shapelessness can give. 


Demographically, India is 29 states and 7 union territories with a population of 1.2 billion people who are mostly harmless. In geometric terms India is a quadrilateral. The gleaming white Himalayas on its upper end can put Colgate to eternal shame. Down south, on either side the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea caresses India tenderly while in the West the sands of the Thar await the footprints of weary travellers. The scenic East is home to the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills and happy tribesmen who are really into flute music and rice wine. Rivers and mountain ranges run across the Indian heartland. The age old Aravallis, the Vindhyas, the Eastern and Western Ghats stand tall and proud, silent spectators of the many stories that played out on this soil. With the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Godavari, the Narmada and many more rivers flow centuries of faith, belief, customs and worship. Indians share India with some of the world’s rarest plants and animals such as the Crinun lily, Himalayan snow leopard, the Bengal tiger and the great Indian Bustard. Apart from the rare and the exotic we also have the monkeys, lions, buffalos and crows. While it is true that the geographic and the bio- diversity of India adds to its splendour as the French historian Ernest Renan says, mountains hardly carve out nations.  

India resides in the heart of the multiple races and ethnicities that dwell in this country. It is a cobweb of religious, political, racial and linguistic identities. A confluence of celebrations and conflicts. India celebrates Diwali, Holi,Pongal, Onam, Bihu, Christmas and Eid. India also fights about who worships who, whose God is the real God, who speaks the best language, how much river for the neighbouring state to drink and so on and so forth.

 India is Hindu. India is Muslim. Christian, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist. India is black, and white. Dravidian, Mongoloid and Aryan.  India worships Cows while a good percentage of its population feasts on its delicious God. India venerates the Shiva Linga, the symbol of cosmic birth while those of ordinary men are things of great taboo. The temples of Khajuraho stoically watch as the couples get beaten here on Valentine’s Day. India claps when women their clothes off on screen and frowns at the slightest display of skin in real life. India tucks in Giordano nicely and preaches how the Vedas are the home of all knowledge. India is the speeding BMW and the sweat broken on a rickety horse cart. India is rasmalai. India is thairsadam. India is also chicken biryani. 


On the surface India is another country in South Asia holding a lot of promise on the path of economic growth and political strength. The erstwhile land of snake charmers and elephants now replaced by IT professionals and BPOs.  In the international scenario India is definitely the next big thing. To the world, India is the land of yoga, the soul of Mahabharata, the origin of shoonya (zero), the inventor of Chess. To the average foreigner India is where Gandhi comes from and one of the quintessential places the Hollywood protagonist has to go to for spiritual uplift.  India is all this, the legends it gave birth to, the stereotypes plastered all over it. 

While it is true that India is inside the head of every Indian, India is more than what Anderson would call an imagined community, a social construct. It is more than Renan’s collective memory and collective forgetfulness. Finding India requires more than an atlas. Maps can’t lead one to a nation. India is a feeling that dwells in the sultry April heat and cold January mornings. The fine balance between overcrowded trains and empty school buses. India is Mangalyaan, India is also the coconut that is broken for the safe journey of the space shuttle. It is honour and honour killing. The majestic peacock and also the crow that idly sits on an ox. The glorious tiger and the hungry street dog.