December 31, 2007

December 31st was very angry.

It woke up everyone rudely on its morning, gnashing its teeth, in the wounded hope that someone will give it the due respect it deserves. After all, it believed it was as inclusive and as full-blooded as any other day. Sadly, the only thing that everyone looked forward to on the morning of December 31st was to celebrate its end.

November 07, 2007

View from the sidewalk

By the time you were born, much had already been decided – The names of places. The colour of things. The names of colours. (Why is red called red and not ‘pefit’?) The twenty six letters. And their symbols. The seven musical notes. And their sounds. The Charter, The Constitution, The Act and The Law. The code of ethics. The rules of grammar. The grammar of love. The figures of speech. The metaphors of life. The aesthetics of realism. That E is equal to mc2. The demand and supply theory. The indifference curve. Things that are good for us. Things that are bad for them. The capital of Denmark. History. Pronunciation. Little-known worldviews…

The answers to the big questions.

You arrived in a perfectly baked world. And then as you grew up, you found out how imperfect it is, birthday by birthday, bruise by bruise, promotion by promotion. However, in this imperfection lies our redemption. It comes not from where we align ourselves, or the choices we make from among the universe of things that have been pre-decided for us. It comes from what we do with them.

What will you give the world?

A trail of words?
Sepia toned photographs?
A last name?
A book?
Or a song?
A path-breaking research paper?

Or maybe, the 27th letter of the alphabet?

May 24, 2007

Last Tango in Orbit

Meanwhile, Moonchild was trying to cup his ears with his hands to shut out a terrible, ghastly noise. A noise he was all too familiar with. There, in the suffocated air between his palms and eardrums, all the memories were trapped. But the noise was the queen of a planet called Obstinate. She found her way (she always does) through his fingers and entered the wormhole of his cochlea.

And then she danced. She tore the cement membranes of his ear apart with her graceful pirouettes. She mangled the remaining vestibule in seconds with her acidic choreography. He felt a dark pain. Darker than the colour of Infinity’s eyes. But he didn’t move a muscle. He stood still and waited for her to finish her dance. And finish, she did. After which she took a bow.

Now that he was clinically deaf, it was time for her to leave. She proceeded to find her way out through the wormhole, oblivious to the fact that a cosmic exit point was as unattainable as Contentment.

The noise got stuck in the throat of the wormhole. And has been stuck there ever since. Sometimes, on certain viscous days, she tries to get up and dance again in the hope of finding a shortcut to the opposite side of the universe.

On those days, the cosmos reverberates endlessly.

May 16, 2007

Sunshine City

Pune, The Protagonist. Pune, The Paradox.

Turn Pune upside down and shake it hard. The part of the city to fall off first would be its swanky new malls and its recently baptized monuments of commercial enterprise – their glue's still wet. Next in line would be the multitude of students who converged in the city not too long ago with pockets full of hope, in search of that elusive degree and some fresh air. They will be followed in their free fall by the jaded Pune-ite. The one who was born there, went to school, fell in love, took up a job, quit, re-married, had children, opened a restaurant, got a club membership, burnt down a library, changed his name, bought another car and perhaps inaugurated yet another housing society.

Keep shaking.

Gravity’s next prey would be the ones who don’t belong in Pune. (Don’t belong to Pune?) The ones who’re there simply because there was nowhere else to go. For whom Pune’s not home, but a refuge. For whom, Pune’s not a city but a job. Pune, The Profession. And yet, somehow, the city seems to need them more than they need it.

And finally, spiralling downwards reluctantly would be a million hearts. Abandoned by the bodies that once assumed them. Rhombic hearts. Oblong hearts. Hearts of those who might have been to Pune only once. Hearts discarded by those who loved Pune once. Hearts with Pune-withdrawal-symptoms. Longing hearts. Bleeding hearts.

And while you're at it, do shake it one last time. Let me know if you see a handkerchief soiled with cheese and bread crumbs falling to the floor.

March 22, 2007

Art of Living?


Are you sure it’ll work?

Absolutely. Let’s start. Breathe in.


No. Take a deep breath.

How deep?

Deeper than Thought. Breathe in your whole world.

Are you sure it’ll work?

Absolutely. On the count of three, breathe in. 1…2…

My whole world?


But I’d suffocate.

No you won’t. Do you trust me?

I don’t know. Could we do this tomorrow?

We? WE are not going to do this. YOU are.

Alright. I’ll do it.

Be careful. 1…2…3…Breathe in.


Good. Now, breathe out. How do you feel?

I feel like going home.

Which one?

The one with tin walls.

Interesting. See, it’s already working.

What’s working?

The Art of Living.

Can we cut the proprietary crap out please?

Alright. Let’s switch to Yoga. Close your eyes and…

I’m serious.

I’m sorry. But I’m only trying to help.

What do I do?

When nothing works, just ask yourself.

But isn't that exactly what I'm doing?

March 16, 2007

I was walking down the road and bumped into a phrase.
It was called ‘Stuck in Time’.
We shook hands.
Before I could say anything, it turned 12.

March 12, 2007

Red coloured day

Sundays are different. You know it’s Sunday even before you wake up. Unlike other days, you can feel Sundays on your skin. Even before you squint at the watch to check the number of hours by which you’ve overslept.

A steaming cup of ginger tea. A window. A lone palm tree. Savouring them all. My mind is devoured by reckless thoughts. Sunday morning thoughts.

Breakfast at a filmmaker’s home. He talks passionately about his desire to portray the post-coital Indian film Heroine. Also tries to explain the difference between ‘exceptional’ and ‘present day writing’. His gooseflesh speaks louder than his voice. All this, over a spread of old-world hospitality.

Empty minutes spent in an auto with a colleague. The roads are near empty. I see a blue VW Bug. It makes my day. I travel from the West to the East, but remain geographically numb.

All the shops are shut. Even the ones that don’t sell anything. Except the malls and the fast food joints. What a waste.

Chatting with an old friend. Remembering the old times. Ignoring the Change. Discussing an old school project we once did together. Chromatography? Yeah, something like that. School was good. Science is better.

The Sunday newspapers. Sprawled in front of me seductively. I ignore them. I clean up instead. How could I?

I’ve encountered Sundays of the lazy variety before. I’ve also lived through Sundays of the 48-hour variety and the hung-over variety. But this Sunday was none of those ones.

And something tells me they felt it too. Each one of them. The smiling auto rickshaw driver. The cashier at the Mall. My school friend. My colleague. Neil Diamond. The filmmaker. The guy behind the fast food counter. And the driver of the Beetle.

May 31, 2006

May 27, 2006


9:03 am. Your maid wakes you when your last dream has just reached its climax. You were standing on a wet staircase made of unpolished black stone. There is no banister. The staircase leads you out of a house, into the rain. You don’t want to know who lives inside. You lived with him once. But still, stand rooted to the wet stone floor, unwilling to move, resisting the echoes of a voice asking you where the detergent is.

You open your eyes and the weather changes instantly. Your feet are no longer wet and a beam of sunlight is tickling your neck. For an eternal moment, your mind is utterly empty. A nano-second later, millions of impatient thoughts, raring to fill up the void, flow into your mind at a speed that is inconceivable. They jostle. They fight. They scratch each other. Each wanting its share of prominence.

You stretch and yawn. The thoughts don’t matter. Not today. You sit up and stare unabashedly into the sunlight. Then you shut your eyelids and the world turns into orange. Slowly, shapes appear and start floating randomly in the orange universe. The shapes twist, turn and distort over and over again. It reminds you of a kaleidoscope. The only difference is, these shapes don’t have the imposed symmetry of a kaleidoscope.

You start humming a song. It’s the same song that changed your life last night. And the night before that. And the first time you ever heard it years ago. You just can’t get it out of your head. It makes you do things. And you wilfully surrender. You remember. You forget. You abandon. You choose. You achieve. You let go.

And then you write.

May 16, 2006

Lonely or lucky?

X or Y?

Fertile or sterile?

Honeymoon or 50th anniversary?

Love or rape?

Original or clone?

Leica or Carl Zeiss?

Caucasian or Asian?

Bed or kitchen table?

Premature or caesarean?

Banker or writer?

Husband or lover?

Wife or hooker?

Inside or outside?

29 years old or 9?

Image or painting?

The Emancipation Of Mimi

"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

- Mariah Carey.

May 15, 2006

Warm up.

When you work in an advertising agency, there are some horrors you have to be prepared for – your creative ideas getting stolen, insecure cohorts, reporting to people with an intellect slightly less than that of a prawn, ‘I-want-this-yesterday’ deadlines, clients who want to put a child in every ad, microscopic increments and overly effective air-conditioners.

Ok, it’s like the plague. The air conditioner in the agency I work for has successfully managed to abolish human productivity. It’s a 40 ton central-cooling monster that is no doubt well distributed, but someone forgot to attach a freaking thermostat to it! It starts humming at 9 every morning and doesn’t stop unless you p-p-p-plead with th-th-the office boy to ttturn it offff. No really, the air conditioner was invented by man to rid him of excessive heat, not to find out the temperature at which blood freezes.

The devastation this contraption has caused is not just frightfully bad ads. (How can you think of great ideas when your brain is waiting to thaw?) Its worse. The loos are always engaged. People’s wardrobes have changed. Coffee has replaced water. The cumulative sick leave of employees has increased. And if you don’t have constant goose flesh, you are abnormal.

The next time you laugh, cry, get indigestion or don’t get syphilis on seeing a hoarding, press ad or TV commercial, you know the brutal conditions under which it was conceived.

Technology and its various manifestations have been the hallmark of our generation. But technology has an alter-ego. It is that part of technology that man hasn’t been able to conquer. It is what happens when technology solves a problem but creates another as a by-product. The alter-ego of technology embodies the risks of technology. It is when your ipod suddenly refuses to come on. It is when you can chat with your boyfriend who’s 2000 kms away, at the same time sending him a virus. It is when you cannot switch on your mobile phone in a flying aircraft…

Ok I’m philosophising. Didn’t mean to. I do that when my fingers get frozen.

May 09, 2006

Five-second food rule fails microbiology test

(Source: CBC News)

CHICAGO - A high school senior in the U.S. has dealt a blow to the gastronomic principle known as the five-second rule.

The rule states if food falls on the floor and remains there for five seconds or less then it's fine to pick it up and polish it off.

Jillian Clarke of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences put the rule to the test.

Clarke says the rule was started by Genghis Khan. He apparently considered food safe to eat so long as it had been on the floor for 20 hours or less.

As part of her seven-week internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she tested the five-second rule around campus.

The researchers tested how many microorganisms transferred onto food from rough and smooth tiles. Gummy bears and fudge-type cookies were tested – the two-most commonly dropped and eaten snacks.

The campus floors were actually quite clean. They found fewer than 20 so-called colony-forming units of E. coli on the floors. The lower limit for detecting the microbes is 25 colony-forming units.

When the researchers purposely inoculated food with bacteria, they found it doesn't take long for the bugs to contaminate a morsel.

"People think if it made contact for only five seconds then it is OK to eat but it's false because if you do drop anything full of microorganisms such as E.coli, it will transfer and transfer immediately," Clarke told CBC Radio's As It Happens.

The texture of the food and floor tiles also made a difference, she found. Microbes transfer faster on smooth foods like gummy bears falling on smooth tiles compared to rough tiles or fudgey cookies.

May 07, 2006

The tea seller

The tea seller around the corner is an old man. He sits at a shack with an aluminum kettle and a cold stove for company, waiting, for people with caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And if someone comes up, he lights up a stubborn stove with his wrinkled fingers, blackened with soot, to heat the tea he made in the morning.

His favourite T shirt is faded pink and has an embossed logo of an Italian clothes manufacturing brand. Below the T shirt is a pair of thin, eager legs, wrapped in a short skirt made from an old table cloth. A prominent pair of bifocals competes for your attention with an equally prominent pair of incisors.

The flavour of every installment he brews is characteristically erratic, with the quantity of milk, tea leaves, water and ginger having varying degrees of randomness. The only thing constant is an unfailing overdose of sugar.

The tea might be inconsistent, it's cost isn't. Rs. 2 per glass on a pleasant day. Rs. 2 per glass on a humid day. Rs. 2 per glass when he’s happy or even when his young son didn’t come back home for weeks. Rs. 2 for every quantum of brewed imperfection.

I do not see him everyday. But whenever I’m at the paan-shop near his shack buying the odd strip of gum, he walks up and offers me an unsolicited glass of cutting chai: an act of voluntary generosity that makes up for the tea that is deficient in all that it’s supposed to be.

Its been this way for over two years now. And in the last two years, all I’ve always said to him is “ek chai” or “kaise ho?” Wonder what his story is. Somehow, I’m afraid to ask.

April 21, 2006

Copywriter’s Block (in not so Iambic Pentameter)

When unfamiliar laughter was reason enough to kill

When the world looked the same upside down

When hunger pangs butchered the atheist in me

And tea cups were big enough to drown…

When genius simmered in a shallow pot

When The Ego reached the finish line before ID

When the pen refused to follow my command

And music was consumed with greed…

When paper smelt the same as Russians

When batteries died out sooner than rage

When perfumes made me feel miserable

And I was still on the same page…

When the keyboard was overworked

When the rain was hot and the sun was cold

When statutory warnings were shown the finger

And the body grew another fold…

When characters in my head attended their own funerals

When fun began on a lost highway

When ideas froze like a Friday-evening-climax

And started from there the following Monday…

I took a coffee-break.