Saturday, December 30, 2006

6 weird things about me (tagged by abbagirl)

1. I am moody. I could be effusive this week and look through you the next. Or cheery upbeat this week and pessimist the next.

2. I hate- just hate- to dust.

3. I like what I like, quite completely. All of an authors’/ musicians’ work. All Rehman. All Maugham. All Cronin. Once I like what I like, I do not really care what the trend is.

4. I will go the last mile to be there for a friend. Some of this is really strange- take a midnight train to reach a wedding in time, pick a fight, fly down for a day, reach the airport at 4 in the morning for about 5 minutes of being able to say hello. I know some of this is overdoing- I don’t care.

5. I *like*remixes.

6.I am a news junkie. I will read last month’s business papers too.

6 people to tag?'re tagged!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Pretty trees, half-a-foot tall and some.
Decked with cotton wool, crinkly leaves, a bit of red.
Stars with a hundred-one corners. Silver, red and gold paper chains , a-flutter.
Something in the air; now you reach out and touch it, now you can’t.

2007, they say, is the year of fire over water.
Sweeps clean, I tell myself.

The making of Happy Feet.
Tom and Jerry.
Ah bliss.

Can you match the colors of the band over the horizon at dawn? Break it up into cmyk, key in the percentages? Can you capture the hiss of a receding wave at high tide?
Feel the wind on your face.

Laugh, a child races the waves.

Pics on flickr in some.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Radiocity 91.1 fm, music-e–azam, 8 am
(yes, I have switched station loyalties, for a while)
Featuring the masters.
Shankar Mahadevan is RJ with Manish Paul and has so far, interviewed:
Zakir Hussain saab on Monday.
Ghulam Ali saab y’day.
Sonu Nigam, this morning.
(Haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Mr Nigam is a precise mimic. Even when he’s nasal. Hilarious tangents to their conversation.)

Some anecdotes were awe-inspiring.
Zakir Hussain saab’s recounting of how his tabla practice sessions would start at 2 or 3 am in the morning when his father returned from his concerts. Percussion beats, the pin-drop silence of the night, learning about life and music at his father’s feet.
(That tritaal stayed with me all day, starting with the simple and getting ornamental with flourishes as it progressed. Brought back memories of collaborative covering up, almost missing out the sam and then fighting, practicing so many afternoons after school)

Ghulam Ali saab’s recounting of how he was initiated into precious tutelage by Bade Ghulam Khan saab- I could see the scene, a congregation of wise listeners by Lahori gate some winter morning, the maestro resting attentively on a charpoy and a young boy (who'd traveled a long distance from his village in a horse carriage and coal-fueled bus), presenting his first tentative notes.
(Khansaab’s trademark kataar thumri stayed with me all day, that and a hameer tarana).


Monday, December 18, 2006

This is about looking back.
One of those end-of-year things.
About one of those times when the scale changes.
So what is the point in revisiting?
Prettily masochistic. Driving in the knife and checking if it still fits. Curiosity?
The edges have long sealed, serrated shut. But you can just about see a faint line of a maw, of once upon a time.
And you have a pattern of behavior sitting in your subconscious , labeled bizarre.
So there are initials you won’t use. Terms of addressing you won’t use.
Politeness is a sweet armor. Nice.
This is like one of those physics conundrums where you are in the picture, but you are not actually in the picture because you are not you, the moment has moved on.
So that before and after are never mirror images.
No, I never did get those tests right either.

2003 was long ago, I remind myself.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Poinsettias are a flash of red against green by the bridge, a nifty sunshine print.

The man in the next seat traversed continents to rest his father’s ashes; after forty years away this river, sky and land are still home. Just as the corner badam, mango by the wall and the jui creeper on the porch will witness mine someday.

From the plane, the window frames a perfect abstract at dawn, a red band dips past a peach background clean cut to the horizon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A traffic jam on j j flyover is not the best place for a bout of sudden claustrophobia. For watching the minutes tick by. Watching cars huddle four deep in space designed for just three. Watching the curtain billow on a tiny lit-square of a window next to the flyover. Glimpse, if you must, for a brief moment the spotless kitchen inside. Wonder idly if the bridge was designed to take this sort of wear and tear, bumper to bumper on idle. Not much left past a cement cloud should it crumble, or so one thinks. Next time take the train, and appearances be damned.

The saga continues re water pipes, concrete roads and pneumatic drills that thunder ratatatatat past midnight. Voila, no dusting required. Step out and walk past a makeshift huddle, curly-haired dimpled baby playing blissfully on a tar road, custodian seven-year-old brother and dark skinned labourer mother watching from a distance. “Naam?,” I ask. “Rani,” he says bashfully. “And you?” “Raja,” he says looking down. As simple as that.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Grey squares

MMRDA is widening roads in my part of town.
(MMRDA has pulled up water pipes to widen roads in my part of town.)
I knew I make a little last, a very long way.
Now know that works as well for a few buckets of water.

Go, Neha, go.
To a new city, new job, new people.
A move triggered by that nasty bout of c’gunya that hit you, your mother, and on and on. By turns.
Suddenly, it made sense to have a support system
(But you were part of my support system. Alas)
“Keep away from the politics,”I tell you.
“Keep to the work, and don’t bother,” I tell you.
You found a house to rent.
Haggled with the packers, transporter
Did the hundred and one things that have to be done.
All by yourself.
The choices we play are the choices we have.
That square patch of sunlight between the crisscross shadows on the ground?
You found your peace there.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evening settles to a blackgreen.calm A flock of white birds wheel over a field. Seagulls can’t be this far inland. Perhaps a migratory flock. Tripping in from who knows where, on an annual NRI ritual. A mango tree, splendid and majestic in the space it has to grow, reaches skywards. Intertwined branches lining the road form a filigreed canopy overhead. Palms stand tall, sharp profiled- origami craft. Past the chattering picnic area, the lane ambles and dips, meanders past the temple to the gaondevi on a densely wooded hill; “next time, we’ll pray-we live under her jurisdiction by the pincode, don’t we?” Even if sprawling residential complexes and glass chrome sharp-angled office buildings have replaced village clusters that once belonged to farmers and fishermen. In a few minutes the black green hill is outlined, shining sci-fi like, all glowing orange red by the setting sun. The undergrowth springs alive with the hum of umpteen insects. In the distance, the ratatat of a pump is interspersed by a birdcall or two, and with the sudden nip in the air one recalls strange tales of leopard sightings. A few miles beyond as the crow flies, cars zip by on the expressway, past flyovers, billboards and shiny malls.

It’s late on the promenade. Dusk tending to blue black. A soft sea tinged breeze, and a difficult-to-describe sense of “as is”.
Crowds loll. Stroll. Some briskly intent. Laughter. Mobile chatter. Lives closed in, shuttered.
Couples huddle on the parapet. On the rocks far out to sea. On the wall, hidden by the palms.
Silvers. On their regular benches. Toddlers, unsteady on their feet.
Children at play in the tiny sequestered area, swings, slides. Mothers fuss over, cajole.
A bevy of dogs on the cordoned lawn. Alsatians Dobermans Labradors Retrievers. Strays amble outside the fencing, friendlier. A man selling splendid firkees off a bamboo, dismay at the lost photo op. (Next time) Roadside vendors selling Bhel. Corn on the cob, icecream. “I want…” says a toddler beguiled, his grandpa leads him away.
“Is that a boat?” Baba asks, surprised at a strangely styled column. “No, its Titan’s way of showing the time…” “Are you sure?” he checks, not entirely convinced. No, this once the boats are all out at sea, but you can’t spot the lights bobbing in the distance. An almost full-moon hovers overhead, by the flats with the full glass frontage and dim lights.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Overhear conversations. The hum of a jet overhead, readying to land. The calm is like a wash that suffuses. On the ride home, talk about places called home and the price of 10sq ft patch of real estate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Three Things Tag
(tagged by parlancheq)

3 Things that scare me: communal mobs/ terrorist strikes, insanity (blues, the big D), market meltdowns (and having to say that scarlett o’hara speech looking skywards clutching a fistful of dust)

3 People who make me laugh: Lalu Prasad Yadav, the scriptwriters on Ba Bahu Baby (weekends primetime Star Plus), the wonderfully predictable dialogue in the weekday K serials (the mother-in-law / daughter in law and joint family set up serials that begin with K for reasons of superstition)

3 Things I love: my 83 yr old baby, lush green with branches so intertwined you can’t see the ground, my Sunday afternoon nap, the tempo of life (mkts, festivals, the hullabaloo of the city, the space of the desert, the rhythm of the countryside, thunderstorms and lightening) ..ooh more than three, was that?

3 Things I hate: I don’t hate per se. I just withdraw, thank you very much. No, you wouldn’t know, either.

3 Things I don’t understand: most of maths. Politics. Ppl who intentionally mess up their karma.

3 Things on my desk: huh? If I knew I’d tell you. Maybe.

3 Things I’m doing right now: thinking on three parallel tracks, all piecemeal: Trying to fathom if some numbers seem all right or silly. Typing this. Trying to decide whether or not to submit a writing exercise this week

3 Things I want to do before I die: go to Istanbul (strange but I have to visit this lifetime- I absolutely must), walk to Mansarovar (Chinese visa or none), deploy assets adequately (yes, whatever that means- sounds nice)
3 Things I can do: multitask (how else would I read a July n’paper in November), sit still without doing anything at all, be pleasant and even-voiced when I’m being mean

3 Things I can’t do: party for long hours (an hour is the outside limit), withstand the bumper to bumper 2 hr ride into town, present without being self conscious

3 Things you should listen to: your own mind/ intuition (yes, I know Siemens skyrocketed and I %$# missed it), action not goody intent (this is vague), open on the third choice

3 Things you should never listen to: Hot tips. Rabids. Someone who has messed up their standing once

3 Things I’d like to learn: to dream. to laugh with husky merriment in an attention -grabbing kind of way, to make traditional pickles stored in huge earthenware jars (the way my aunts make them)

3 Favorite foods: Panipuri. Ras- dhokla. A crisp, shallow-fried to perfection mysore masala dosa.

3 Beverages I drink regularly: Tea, water, aloe vera juice

3 Shows I watched as a kid: Telly came to my part of the world much later- 9th grade or something- grainy B&W and “move that antenna a bit to the left, nah right, a teeny bit to the left now.. the darn picture’s scrolling”. Buniyaad, Chitrahaar, and there was one that was based on a classic of tragic undying, unreciprocated devotion but I forget the name.

3 People I’m tagging: Abbagirl. Prerona. ManuJI

Friday, November 24, 2006


I let you in close. I tell you parts of my life that others won’t ever know. I let you see the soft underbelly, the flops, the blunders and dark misery of the night. The shams. The fake glitter, the cheap triumphs. The victories. The gray areas that I peel apart, bit by bit, and gleefully jump on to claim, Columbus-like. The half-baked hypothesis that simmer and froth, raw. The truth behind a goody-two-shoes façade. I tell you what is posturing, and what is not. Sometimes you know it without my having to say it. Maybe when I said something first I waited and watched, marking your responses, but over time the need for this cross-referencing tapered off. Possibly you know me better than anyone else, and so you will know there are parts of me that you will never know, too. Soft underbelly, I said? Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m not. I don’t look back to see if you reciprocate. Sticking my neck out is a choice that I opt for, willingly and in full control of my faculties. Double, or quits.

I write. I put words on paper. I write as I think. Yes, sometimes I think in circles. Sometimes I mumble. I keep away from heavyweight words that I can’t quite pronounce, oh la! That I need to look up, quizzically. I don’t try to play pretend. I proudly italicize words that I use, words of the marketplace and soaring humidity and matchbox homes and traffic-packed streets. Full bodied, with the aroma of flavours, spices, sweat and a whiff of sea breeze. English that preens and postures, with curlicues and appurtenances, leaves me cold. Attempts at foreign accents and appearances of usage, without comfort for, or confident ownership, reminds me of cucumber sandwiches at tea, bobbing curtseys to the Lord of the Manor, and frankly confounds the hell out of me. You may be a cursory reader, or you could have been reading for long. Maybe when I first wrote something first I waited and watched, marking responses and the hit counter. But over time the need for cross-referencing and positive strokes, tapered off. There are spaces within words, words within words, a glimpse at a world that you will never know. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. Hitting the keyboard, putting black on white is a choice that I opt for, willingly and in full control of my faculties. Double, or quits.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

new Roughpad updated.
flickr updated- S'pore.

An act of thanking that goes beyond the merely formal starts with an act of appreciation. But appreciation isn't easy. It requires perspective. You have to get outside yourself, turn off the endless mental scribbling that covers everything with cheap verbal graffiti….
…The central myths of our culture, religious and secular, are about redemption. When Scrooge wakes up after his dark night of the soul, he rushes to the window and is overjoyed to realize that he is still alive and that it's Christmas. And Dickens tells us that he celebrated life for the rest of his days. We want to believe him, but the truth is most of us, even after getting the horrific guided tour from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, remain clanking Jacob Marleys, bearing the chains we forged in life…


Monday, November 20, 2006

In his usually incisive column (Sundays , Janmabhoomi Pravasi) Suresh Dalal writes about the traces of yaksha and yayati inherent in each of us. Yayati as in the thirst for everlasting youth, for life, for a reason for living, for change, for new, for a glimmer of hope and seeking a reason, no matter how fragile, for tomorrow to be better than today. Yaksha as in emptiness; that feeling of being a spectator, of watching from the outside looking in, clapping where appropriate and saying the right lines on cue. A feeling of transientness, playacting-".. and they have their exits and entrances..". The word he uses is “ jhoorapo”, quite useless to try and translate, but somewhere it hints at that sudden no- reason emptiness that hits you unannounced. You then hear the raging song of the bitter desert wind, and walk on, listening quietly to the dips and soars and singing along in your mind, for you too know the notes of that song too well. And you know in your skin that this is right, for this is the way it is.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

what has happened is horrible.
no- i dont want to talk abt it.
no fake words.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Sometimes it hits you with a whoosh.
Then you get up and do what you have to, correct/tally/close.
Then you walk.
A transparent grid overlay against your usual passive acceptance of “as is where is” life.
So you force-apply the grid.

Then you say- this stays, this is out.
For a forced return to reality I’m not sure if the price was too high.
That it has been paid, is a fact.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

always they go together, light and dark.
when you have your schedule planned to a T, an unexpected turn of events.
dancing shadows; then you remind yourself this is the way it has always been.
will try post Monday. Else Friday.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Now I know what I want to be like when I’m 70 years old. What a brilliant mind, the $’s fine but only secondary or so I think. So alert and sharp a mind, fantastic antenna, rapidfire q’s. Seriously gawkworthy.

corollary to RAMBLE
Yes that is possibly true too, a feedback loop on automode to correct/incrementally adjust the basic premise. Fits in with the state of equilibrium theory, reversion to the mean as in chemical equations, neutrinos and the flash state/baseline, even biological systems such as autoregulated hormones, up/ down regulation of neurotransmitters at synapses. It makes sense.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RAMBLE: Thinking about reality, dreams and places in between

For sometime I have been thinking about these. This thought process has certain givens, which are predefined. While this precise uses or is based on a specific instance, it does not restrict to this, I believe. The bare bones hypothesis in this paragraph is that for any reality to sustain and move ahead beyond existing boundaries of current time, space, existing constraints (plane related boundaries, as in physics); it will require an element of dream (or fiction or wish, call it what you will). Likewise, for any dream to sustain, there will have to be a supporting from real life. You can’t have one and not have the other, its not mutually exclusive, but in a sense complementary and each half prodding the other on. To look at dreams in an isolated fashion is a fool’s paradise, if I want words I must practice and polish my p’s and q’s and live that bloody painful drudgery, hitting the keyboard and shudder at the outcome, but this has to happen in real time. If any event/ conversation in real time has to go beyond the inanities of what did you eat for dinner, and what did you do next; which is as real as it gets; then somewhere some wish or dream or whatever you term it, has to come in- I’m not even defining what this is. But without that dream or wish to reach towards, however fragile or wisplike it is, what is real today would crumble apart. Yes, balancing real/ unreal is a thin line, the kind of stuff that DSM is made up of.
So I think.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

(Before I forget.)
Guru parab was on Sunday,
Drumbeat, the lazy rhythm of lazim, intermittent crackers, a mad tempo
A saint-messenger feted with burgers, savories, dry fruit
The crowd dressed in their best;polyester and stilettos,
Chanting in procession by the silver chariot.
So much of pomp and show
In memory of such a simple man.
That evening the gurudwara is quiet
Just the blanket of lights on white marble
Your footsteps echo on a winding staircase
The crowds are elsewhere.
To the chant of the shabad, forehead to the ground
So much white, dazzling
Nothing to ask for, is good too.

Monday, November 06, 2006

new Roughpad updated.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

“The prognosis is bad"; I blurt out, then look away
Pin drop silence
Power suit, solitaire; but yes; you're a daughter too
Past the plate glass window
A parrot scoots off a bay of neem trees into a clear sky

A roundabout with yellow flowers
Wide, smooth roads, (no potholes!), clean pavements
A jumbled forest in greens right out of nowhere,
A neem tree, just so
"So much space" I say with envy
The country's showpiece
And this is the nicer part.

Chill arctic
Three people talk in a room meant for fifteen
Abstract art on paneled walls,
Light filters, glazed windows
That orange wavy line, past hectic blue and jade brushstrokes/ Ajay Akki
-is daybreak
-is the sun glinting over merry waves
- is energy, peace, something hoohaa metaphysics
-is dawn over the Himalayas, ascetic
8 hours of art appreciation
Draw succor from the warm tones, shiver
(A google search leads to Bollywood stars. Sad. )

Inside- hushed tones,
The clink of teacups, pages turned, voices cleared
Outside, far below;
Green lawn, blue pool embroidered in white
At the shallow end a child gambols, laughs
Her mother, amused
Watches through outsized sunglasses
The sun an orange orb, van gogh.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Seems to be a week for meetings and conferences.
Will post on saturday now.
(from Oct 17)

If you want to gleefully cuss, make faces at the traffic, then you walk. Each time I go to Juhu Crossword it’s almost like a pilgrimage, hiking double pace to cut past the traffic snarl-ups. The last trip was 45 min brisk and done till you reach JVPD. Then you navigate that labyrinth for the quickest way out as you put film stars’ names to dimly lit homes sitting pretty in obscenely huge compounds. But yes, attending a book launch that features the dialogues, in translation, of Mughal E Azam is worth it. Specially if one has spent most of the preceding evening trying to piece the dialogue together, while watching the classic on telly, “ uh huh, what exactly did she say?” And the redoubtable Mr Akhtar is worth it, silver haired or not. For once I’m not late.

Mr Akhtar, quite at comfort with the use and tone of words, spoke about the dignity of human relationships that is the fabric of the film. That is an interesting concept, I trhink, as concepts go. He then spoke on a number of issues and the point he made about translators/translations is interesting, about immersing onseself totally in the original language across genres to be able to any sort of justice. He drew a parallel from music, stating that S D Burman could compose as brilliantly in Hindi, because of his mastery over the forms of Bengali music, from folk to classical shruti. As an ideal this is great, but if one was to read/ study/peruse the classics of gujarati literature, Meghani and Tripathi and Munshi to begin with, it is too much. Just imagine battling past the 4 volumes of Saraswatichandra, probably it would take a lifetime given one’s speed and no actual translating would get done. He also recited a critical dialogue, where Emperor Akbar asks his heir to choose between the kingdom or his love, he has a tremendous presence and made the words roar.

The strangest part was helping out a distraught man with photos, only to be told later that he was the director’s son, and realizing that one’s clumsy point and click endeavors would reach the man responsible for this creative extravaganza. Of course, one bought a copy, duly autographed by Mr Akhtar and the translators, to gift- but I think I shall keep it afterall.

Funny world.

The Immortal Dialogue of K. Asif’s Mughal E Azam
Nasreeen Kabir, Suhail Akhtar
Oxford University Press

Monday, October 30, 2006

Old and new roughpad updated.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

will post in bits and pieces

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


The security guys were shocked to hear me ask, isn’t there a shortcut that ways down the hill? Turn a corner and it seems quieter, away from the hum of the industrial area. No road exists, just a frequently trodden path of sorts on empty scrubland, past a gate set in a rock-hewn wall, probably from the time that the rest of that (no doubt) heavily forested hill existed, past a well where a kid was valiantly trying to fly a kite. Jump over an open water line, looking askance at the bleached rickety boards placed across. Briskly march at the double through a village where the walls are painted blue and homes, shops tailoring establishments, sheds with lathes and vegetable vendors all exist cheek by jowl, where there is just enough space for one not too broad vehicle to pass else there’d be a traffic jam. Edge past the shed with the placid buffaloes, and you wonder at the price of this patch of real estate abutting the highway, and then voila! , the stream of unending traffic and glee at avoiding traffic jams at four signals.


the kindness of strangers
A one line request to someone whom you’ve long admired, oohing and aahing over comfort with words and turn of phrase, the dancing lines inducing you to read, merrily leading you on to an end that closes just right, with a punch. So much done for a stranger, just on request. I’m left speechless and I must admit- a little teary.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On a blog break for a week.
take care, all.

Yesterday you had a day of psychopharmacology lectures, 9 to 6, and done.
Uh huh. Have fun. That didn’t quite convey the disbelieving laugh.
How on earth can you fit in everything that’s under DSM- I forget which edition it would be about now- in a 9 to 6 day…
-the rage of mania, distanced, you watch that pyrotechnic outburst of stupendous energy
-flickering wisps of alternate reality, an avalanche of babbling strange tongues,. quick images seen on a screen in a lantern play
-the unending spiral of the big D, sinking lower with each repeat phase
-the unpredictable swings of bipolar, ricocheting from high voltage mania to dull ennui
- the tsunami of panic
So much more, the millions of ways in which these cross cross and overlap
The medication to handle it all
The awesome switch-like action of rauwolfia serpentina when it was first discovered.
Haloperidol decanoate, the gold standard for oh so many years, bringing in a measure of sanity into gone cases. The beauty of the right modicum of dopamine precisely where its needed
The newer ones- aripiprazole, quetiapine.. so beautifully engineered these atypicals, inch by inch setting right drawbacks with previous therapy
And the whole gamut of antidepressants, restoring equilibrium at the micro synapses
Instant action tricyclics, with instant SE.
SSRTIs, inching back to hullo sunshine, inch by inch over a fortnight. The amazing grace at seeing a loved one move away from a catatonic state and check latest skirt length trends…Then the dual action ones, so smart-so very smart.
How can you fill all this in a single day?

Monday, October 09, 2006


Dor is beautiful, best watched in a wide screen multiplex, but then ours is a beautiful land. To say that the photography is striking is not true- it is tremendous, but then the whole product comes together quite flawlessly, trademark Nagesh Kukunoor style. A million and one dancing greens and sparkling streams in Himachal, the stark splendor of Rajasthan, each life with its own story and boundaries, yet intertwined in the manner life sometimes is. A wispy gossamer thread that links, a fine line that runs through an intricate embroidery. From what was till now a page 3-quality glamour cast- Gul Panag, Ayesha Takia, Mr Kukunoor has extracted a fine performance, most of it make up free and easy on the glycerine. A storyline that is pro- hope and entirely believable, stuff happens, you get up and walk, life goes on. Shreyas Talpade excels as the bahurupi, exceptionally good as a gag- a-minute mimic. Mr Kukunoor in a cameo as the lecherous Mr Chopra is miscast, he looks too decent to suggest a pass, let alone a live- in arrangement. The end could have been slicker, but that is about it. Watch, sigh your heart out as the desert winds whip up a mindstorm, put on them walking shoes.

On Saturday night I’d gone to Prabhadevi, reveling in the feeling of speed on the expressway; that ferris-wheel sensation as you confidently zoom taking in soaring flyovers with ease, the glee at acing traffic with clear green signals, noticing how the darkness is a coverup, and how those distant lights seem quite pretty if you’d half close your eyes. I returned by local train, happy to jump in before the train braked to a halt, senses alive at the hustle- bustle at key stations, glad but reassured to recognize Bandra with the arches and art -deco girders, amazed at the variety of goods sold with finesse in the compartment that hour of the night- candy, purses, trinkets, vegetables, T shirts and keychains from China. Both trips were fun in their own way, making me speechlessly happy with the world for no reason. Was this because it was a change from routine? I don’t know, but I felt more alive than I have in a long time.

Friday, October 06, 2006


The hedge is bright with a million and one yellow-greens, and you realize it seems prettier than it has for a long time. But it is the same hedge, unevenly cut, lining the same slightly pebbly walking track that is soft in places where you have to watch your step. It’s the rare sunshine, perhaps; filtering in past the clouds. Or trying to see what this swarovsksi shrub or that rough-hewn rock with the chiseled surfaces would look like on a tiny lcd screen. Yes, the same hedge, but it dazzles.

The workshopped story has been shredded with a sharp knife. We shall persist. I wrote and pestered -as in asked politely-someone for a review- am shocked at this rather brazen behavior. Or perhaps not.

The markets continue to thrill and shock, by turns. BRKA crossed 100,000 y’day. Did I get those zeros right?

Thursday, October 05, 2006


The other day someone gifted me a book with an autograph scrawled on the flyleaf, the first two initials capitalized with immense vigor and the t slashed with a flourish. Rather than an unending text in serif, this is an intelligent conversation that stops you short because it forces you to think. No, I haven’t read beyond the first page as yet.

People, episodes and ideas are elements of a good conversation, so the very first line reads, and rates ideas as the most intense. Conversations that center around inanities have a short half life, you say something and you’re done; or you say something and seek something else between the words, till one day you say nothing and you’re done. Ideas may or may not begin life all capitalized with inverted commas and neon lights. Nuances don’t exactly come to life with an announcement, but if the thread is to continue there is a dissection, a casual stroll around the bylanes, perchance intricacies- viewpoints examined, perhaps the conversation progresses to the next logical link.

But this is where I differ- for the exchange to move to ideas, first the groundwork has to be prepared, with events, people, and “what did you eat for dinner?” kind of small talk. This scaffolding needs to be put into place, a frame of reference built for words to mean what they indeed do.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Seven blackbirds buzz overhead. Angry waves scream at a jagged shore. A secret never told. No you can’t go there. No one can. There is no there.
A harsh spot on the sun. The last sigh of a tree butchered, sinking to the ground. A raging desert wind sweeps empty miles to the bitter horizon, where dry heat bleaches skin to bone. A young child, bent, broken boned, silent with an empty extended belly. Crumbles of brain sprinkled on tar. An angry duststorm, tweaking mighty sand dunes in play. A furious flood rages through desert lands, submerging hopes and dreams. Faith is a joke. A supercilious smile. A dog cries hideously at the moon, a non-stop loop. Sink to the cold floor, flail at the heavens, tear your hair out, weep empty sobs from your gut, curse the skies with no-meaning words. Cry, cry at the wailing wall. A flood of mumbled laments. Gasps. Oaths.A flood of incoherent sobs, the words running into each other, a shorthand saga. Of treachery, of loss, of betrayal, a wail. The overwhelming sorrow of generations past. A cursed legacy. Deadening. Dead hope, acid pain seeping seething in drop by drop in the DNA. A fractured genetic code plays out. Wailing, flailing at the immobile. Unheard. In a black void with cold stars aglitter, the planets play at planchette Deafening, this howl of the banshee wind at the artic. Icebergs gloss, groan like a dying animal. An overcast sigh, driving ice rain. Searing sorrow. Piercing. How normal, how trite, passé . A startle reaction. Cursed to tremble and shiver at sound. A chair moved. A phone bell. The hum of airconditioning walks upon your nerves. Block out sound. Nothing lasts. Your mind shrieks. Cry. Cry for the dead. For the unborn. For virii that mutate, that wreck the embryo unborn, for the sins of their fathers. For the blast shattered, the limbless, the amputees, the widowed, the orphaned and suddenly deaf. For new clothes with shiny price tags thrown out. Cry for the curse ,the wealth of the land, for black gold, for metal veins ferreted underground. For lines thrust upon a map. For overflowing granaries and hunger deaths. For color, for race, a dice throw. For shame of it all, for the weight of living. Soul cages.
(title courtesy-Sting)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

So! It was a jamboree. That Google Wordmasters challenge in Bandra yesterday morning..
Good fun, just getting there, and good fun too, to laugh and shout in a chorus and feel decidedly collegial for a while. A max. 200-word essay to be written using 20 given words, in 45 min or less. Not very objective, especially when you have an all-seats-occupied- standing-space-only auditorium full of people of all ages- teenyboppers to silver-framed grandfathers biting at their pencils, tense and raring to go. I would have expected a TOEFLish word-usage screen to set the bar for the first level, perhaps an essay to follow for quality. But perhaps they know better. It was good fun to do, although I clocked in at about 160, without much sparkling expression. I realize I have become dependent on using a keyboard, and need the space to change words around or press shift f7 at whim, make word messes on whim.Dim lights and cramped seats where one sits sort of slanting to get the arm space right, no thanks. The auditorium was impressive, with several large monochrome prints of stars from the silver screen by Gautam Rajadhyaksha lining the foyer; and posters from the Shakespeare Globe Theatre setting aspirations at the spotlights. Yet beyond all this, 6 person strong queues haggling for forms for the usual science and commerce courses. and I wonder about the roads we take and the ones we don't.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

In all these years, you’ve never told me this before, and I haven’t asked, it worries me a little you are sharing this now. I haven’t asked, skirting memories, like old sepia-tint photos with scuffed edges and patterned butterpaper covers, that rest snug in old tin trunks never opened. “Dr Roger insisted she stay in hospital from the 7th month itself, so they could control insulin before every meal. We were willing to try anything” Yes, I recall silently, remembering that this pregnancy, her seventh, was the only one to last full term, after fourteen years of being married, and after several rounds of doctors, saints and temples. “Wasn’t it a general hospital?” I ask, trying to visualize the dirt, chaos and bustling so very unlike her cosseted routine “Yes, a general hospital, but it had the best doctors in town. There was no space in the general ward so she slept on a mattress in the common corridor”. “oh…tough.” “But no complaints! They were strict about visiting hours so we were made to wait outside. She cheerily waved from the wheelchair when she was taken to the OT at about ten”
Under a tree in the dusty compound? With a cycle stand in a corner? A tea stall? Was it very hot? Was the hospital regulation-yellow painted, with rusted windows? Did S kaka sweat a lot, since he had just returned from London? So many questions, but I keep quiet. “We didn’t tell Dadaji. He was furious when he found out later that day. But he would have raised the roof, fretting, pushing his doctor privileges and interfering with everyone” “then?” “ By afternoon, he cooled down. Suddenly declared at tea, that you would be named ***, and that was that. Of course, he was adamant about holding you and they wouldn’t let you out of the incubator”.

Suddenly I’m proud of my snub nose.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Remember when you make marble paper? You take a sheet of plain white paper, not too thick that it’d never fold, nor too thin that it would crumple crease. Not coarse- the colors would run or get washed out like misshapen blobs, but paper that’s just right.
Then you pick the colors, rich colors, maybe pastels- one or two, not too many. And you put the colors together in a waterfilled tub or something, with just a hint of oil, and wait for the colors to mix magically and separate, fine lines and whorls and swoops and swirls and lines you don’t have the names for, and layer the sheet just so, so that it floats.
And a fraction of a minute before you remove the sheet, you wait with excitement and nervousness and just a hint of unease, you don’t really know what you’ll find, it could be a masterpiece or runny colors, smudged, voila!
Which is how I feel today, Rich colors. Some black, maybe a hint , maybe more.
Swirls, swoops, a dash and a splash. Impressions with a personal flourish on a plain sheet of paper, who knows what is around the corner.A whole year of fresh new days.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

As I stood there at the reception, wishing you, you know what I saw? That air conditioned room, bejeweled women in gracious silks, the hum of conversation and plush carpet underfoot – all of this fell away to an image of a lush field, past it the chimneys and sheds of that other factory beyond the concrete wall, but yes, lush green dotted with a placid cow or two and generous with sunshine to hurt the eyes. You were seated in that cubbyhole of an office on the mezzanine with the low roof and bay window overlooking the green, a somnolent drone of a wall-mounted fan that barely made a difference in that nasty heat. Fitting in somehow and scraping together the time for your studies along with your work as steno. The workload was horrible, but you managed, taking paper after paper as an external student. First graduation, and then that MBA. Of course I did cajole and wheedle, boss and tease, heckle you several zillion times. And despite the rather long hours that each promotion brought you, your smile remained as calm. Today, your bride wears a radiant smile, you are beaming, all dazzling sunshine. I hold back from breaking into a Cliff Richards number and hold in that catch in my throat as I realize I want you both to be as happy as happy, always.
But of course I didn’t say this, hitting you hard on the shoulder instead.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Midnight sounds. A train, dusty and weather-beaten, disgorges its passengers to the metallic clang of a tea vendor on a sleepy platform. Shouts of recognition, running feet, metal on metal doors slammed shut. The whoosh of airbrakes before the wheels take up their song. The scrolling neon on black signage with tempting names, hints of long distance journeys that stir the blood- Gauhati-Bhuj. Chandigarh- Kochi. Red and blue lines crisscrossing the country. Dust . sweat. Boredome. A promise. Blurred voices over the announcement system, at an everyday job. You shake someone awake and claim your berth as the train ambles out. It’s twelve minutes past midnight.

Red eye. Suddenly it’s not something that happens when fist connects with said eye. DSCW 30, basic basic but oh so beautiful. One flounders, an edgy all thumbs, marvels at the ingenuity and frets about being able to do some sort of justice.

Virii mutate. That’s basic science. Overflowing private hospitals, temperatures readings that start at a hundred three, symptomatic treatment for the want of anything better to do, patients four to a room, crowded beds in corridors and too early discharges to accommodate the rush of new patients. Is C’gunia an epidemic yet? Not so, according to the powers that rule. Let them eat cake.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


An orange streak ~fluorescent extravagant breaks free past the heavy gray of dawn, a wavy sharp line past the white hum of the plane window

The swoosh of takeoff, the ferris wheel-like thrill of disconnect, gravity defiant

A many-striped (but mainly carrot) cat- non-disdainful, non-feline; mews joyfully, rubs and stretches in delight when you coddle her with precocious cat-talk. Proudly leads you to a tiny pink white bundle of fur cowering in a corner

Hibiscus and clemantis border a lush green lawn, a classical masterpiece sets the background score to a morning of small talk and tea by the porch swing

A street side stall – skirts and odhnis, colors sequins mirrors aglitter in the bright afternoon sunshine past a white colonial bungalow

Nudging open a gate on its last hinges, a cow ambles to a moss lined corner under the badaam tree to birth, a good luck sign, so I’m told

Roughpad updated- grist to the mill.

Monday, September 18, 2006


She looked into the mirror speculatively, past the reflection of the peeling green wall. Standard Indian features, nothing spectacular, “Nothing that a tint wont improve !” she mocked. Thank God she’d been spared her mother’s snub nose. From the shop a glossy pout, for sure, and long curving eyelashes. The forehead was a tad too broad, but now she’d stop hiding it behind a jaunty cut, instead let her tresses ripple down her back, medusa-like. A determined chin that firmed when she was defiant or angry- she must stop being so transparent. “This will have to go” she said, pulling the demure neckline of the cheap cotton print a good inch below the v of cleavage, tugging the dress so tight she could hardly breathe. “Not bad”, she admitted, clinically examining first one angle, then another. Arms next. Tinkling bangles. Or chunky silver, like in those tattered Vogue backissues she’d hoarded off wayside secondhand bookstalls. No more full or three quarter sleeves. Slender limbs she had, slender limbs she’d show. Minis, or micro micro minis, just the minimum.She had replaced her rather pedestrian name with something that sounded musical and soft. Her laugh now pealed prettily just with a hint of promise. Blahniks, or till she got there pointy tender toed heels from the street that went tick tack toe, turned heads.For that was the entire point. “Play it again, Sam, she said softly with a smile.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

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