Monday, August 06, 2007


Silent sadness like still humid air
in the valley between hills,
heavy and moist, with nowhere to go,
nowhere to go but here.

Oh Sun, shine down bright on me
and take my tears to the clouds,
Bring me a breeze to my face
Make me light and enlightened.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The f-word

This is the story of chalk and cheese. According to myths some people don't believe, the first cheese did not give an apple to the first chalk while they were both not in the garden of Eden. Many thousand years later, some people believe in a magical f-word, or more appropriately, a c-word, just to keep the story buzzing and away from the censors. Some others, like me, don't think much of it.

All very well. Trouble is, nobody knows what the f-word means, although the consensus amidst the chaos seems to indicate that all is not well between chalks and cheese. As per informed sources, at the very basic level, the problem revolves around whether cheese and chalk are equal, or equivalent or any related comparitive qualifier, whether physically or mentally or some other splendidly inappropriate adverb. There are as many definitions and interpretations of the word as there are people who don't know what it means. I will admit, first and foremost, I don't know what it means either, but with people celebrating a carnival of sorts of the f-word, I figured I could add to the noise as well. It seems that there is this whole-hearted personal connection and inclusiveness built into this f-word that makes it impossible for some people to understand yet irresistible for some others to comment on. This makes every person's interpretation acceptable (shhh! so long as its a cheese's personal interpretation.....or, a chalk's sympathetic interpretation if it is not wholesomely disagreeable to a insignificantly large majority of the cheese-folk). One of the more simplistic (and profound?) and most-commended interpretations to come up recently asks people to judge for themselvs if they are f-nists (believers in the f-word) based on their answer to the question, "Are you white?". The preposterous idea being that all things white being equal, if a chalk believed it was white, it was suddenly forced by default to become a believer in the f-word, lest it be known that it was probably black!

Some say there is a quiet movement taking place as well (with the aforementioned carnival supposedly most likely taking its rightful place as a part of that process) with the the modus operandi taking multiple grotesque forms. Some of these forms include perpetuation of the ever-growing repository of of existing interpretations, publication of inflammatory propaganda and anti-chalk rhetoric, confounding the uninformed and provoking unrest among chalk and cheese alike who would rather prefer hear George Bush talk on the pressing need for democracy in oil-rich countries. Needless to say, the views expressed in such propoganda are predominantly comprised of cheese-folk describing in varying levels of detail their chronicles of the systematic abuse, discrimination and violation of cheese-folk by the more-power hungry, dominating chalks. Their leit motif is a graphic tale of cheese-folk hitherto being chained to the lowly confines of the kitchen seeking escape and liberation in the chalk-bastions, those glamourous black-boards in offices. Some words often thrown in for good measure are freedom, respect, esteem and such. While some displays of emotionally violent rhetoric often make personifications of tradition, religion and society as the preferred scapegoats, there are more extreme advocates who want nothing less than making chalks redundant and inconsequential to cheese. It is no surprise, therefore to note that the all-encompassing circus of the f-word reeks of ridiculous hypocrisy, both in idealogy and practice. The righteous fight against oppression, exploitation and violence have been entirely consumed by jealousy, covetousness and self-gratification. With no clear purpose, unity will mean nothing. To gain something, you lose something. Equality is an abstract ideal, it will remain elusive for as long as you have incomparable entities. To the more practically oriented, the world is a marketplace - even for chalks and cheese. I couldn't care less if the f-nists don't buy that. In the end, strength and character come from within. A test of fire may help, perhaps.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The glorified myth of the right decision

In life, we are very often obsessed with taking the "right decision". Be it something as mundane as buying a car or a house, or something more important like a career move, the myth of the right decision consumes our collective psyche.
Imagine a journey. You are at a fork in the road. Even if the roads are well laid out before you, and you know how each road is spread out, and assuming you know exactly where you want to go, it may not possible to say for sure whether going left is better than going right.
In life, it is a lot different. Most of the times, we do not know where we want to go. Even if we do, its definitely not enough to know how the roads are laid out in front of us. Knowing each path does not mean we can foresee the journey on the path. And that's where the right decision becomes a myth. There is no way you can tell before hand that one decision is right and the others are wrong. You just make a choice at each point of time, and in the end the choices that you have made are all you have. You cannot undo these choices or their consequences. You can retrace your path, traverse along the opposite direction, but time waits for no man.If you make a different choice the second time around, and you like the journey better, it no way makes the first decision wrong.
The myth of the right decision is a representation of the fixation of the human mind with assuming arrogant ownership of these choices, and assuming a certainty in the way things will pan out in the future. Its in our nature to be proud of the choices we make; to take credit for the consequences of these choices. It is our ignorance that makes us feel we have all the information, perspective and the intelligence to be able to take the correct decision, where no such thing is possible.
Take this experiment. A and B are at a cross-roads in their lives. A goes along path 1 and B goes along path 2. Firstly, A enjoying path 1 and B enjoying path 2 are not mutually exclusive. Lets say that is what happens. Now, typically, A will feel his decision of going along path 1 as opposed to path 2 was a master-stroke. He will talk to B on the phone and express his immense satisfaction on having taken the right decision. B will no doubt say something similar. The concept of the right decision assumes that A knows exactly what it is like to traverse path 2 and path 3 and path 4, if he is to say that path 1 was the right decision. If A wishes to conclusively prove that his decision was the correct one, he cannot because the overall system (for want of a better word) has changed since the time he made the choice to go along path 1. The decision of going along path 1 at t1 cannot be compared to the decision of going along path 2 at time t2. Furthermore, the experience of going along a path depends on many more factors than one can simulate in this experiment. The overall experience along any of life's paths depends on the experiences we have with others whose paths we cross, when we cross them among several other things. To say that we know for certain that we will have come across a multitude of random experiences along a path we know little about, whose overall effect on us would be better than another path is at best speculation, but to be honest, arrogant foolishness.
In essence, it is good and reassuring if the choices we made in our lives have held us in good stead. On the other hand, if the choices turned out to be not so good, there is no assurance that another choice would have turned out to be better. There is just a lot more happening beyond our control than the choices we make. In the long run, everyone ends up where they ought to be, our choices and right decisions notwithstanding.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A beach tragedy

A lonely man stands pondering
At the edge of land and ocean
These waves, they come and go,
One after another in tireless motion,

Indifferent to my heart's feelings,
Embracing and retreating on the sand
To end my dreams of love abrupt
When I wake up after a one minute stand

The receding wave is in tears too;
As she keeps returning to the shore;
Still looking for the man she loved,
She can't find him there anymore.

In disillusionment, she thinks
These heartless men, they come and go
Seeking only the pleasures of the senses,
Of love and affection,what would they know?

It wouldn't be this sad or true,
If only more people knew,
In every single rendezvous,
There are two points of view.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A face to remember

I have a very forgettable face. A little like the kind you see in badly drawn cartoons. Typically, this is what happens when I meet someone for the first time:As I approach him, he will see my face and feel completely unaffected. He will then try to take a moment to register my face in his mind, and fail miserably. So, he looks up at me a second time. Then a confused, third glance, even as I flash an awkward smile and say, "Hi, I'm Rajesh". He tries to succeed where probably hundreds have failed before. Absent-mindedly, almost apologetically, he will figure he hasn't introduced himself, and proceed to finish the avoidable formality. Avoidable, because after all, he is never going to recognize me if we do meet again - even if he runs into me again in the next few minutes.

It's another forgetful day of my life today. If only I could forget how easily people forget my face. I get up from the table where I was pretending to read Einstein's relativity. I walk a few steps to the mirror and look straight into my face. There's nothing missing: a large nose flanked by two blank eyes wide open on either side. A thin upper lip overlooking two pairs of teeth protruding above a bulging brownish lower lip. A few pimples dotting a greyish stubble, and two perfectly normal ears. Now, I begin to think, the fact that there's nothing missing on my face makes it so regular, so much of the ordinary and the average that there is nothing of it that one could remember, much less recollect.

Satisfied with this explanation, I walk over to the balcony lazily. As I stare into the evening sky, I see a few birds fly across right in front of the perfect circle of the orange sun. In that instant I also see a face: a bird with wings spread wide make the shape of a nose on the face of the sun, two birds for the eyes, two for the lips, and the rest of them for hairlocks. A face at once so beautiful in its natural formation that I captured its startling beauty in my mind to remember it for ages to come. The bird that formed the nose of the face was probably a millionth of the radius of the sun. Yet in my mind, it wasn't. Relativity, I told myself. Life's lessons come to us not when we are poring over tomes, but when we allow ourselves to get lost in utter admiration of what the world has to offer.

Back in the toilet, I wash my face, and for the first time I observe that my left eye actually is the right eye of the face in the mirror! It was shocking at first, sort of phantasmagoric. After closing my eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, I look back and run the index finger on my left hand slowly over my left eyebrow, and watch the face in the mirror trace the movement just the same, only with his right hand on the right eyebrow. I'm sweating now, oh God! The face that I see in the mirror could not be the face that people see when they meet me. A terribly simple realization. I walk out slowly as if in a daze and hear some music playing from my brother's room. I push the door and see him sleeping on the floor. As I turn around to go, I see a small hologram on a sticker on the closet door that reads: Use your illusion.

Is the mirror an illusion? I wonder. I walk into the kitchen to drink a glass of water. The small stainless cup feels oddly cold against my nervous fingers as I fill water into it from the water filter. I would have most certainly gulped it down with my eyes closed as I always do, but no!, today, I wouldn't. I see grotesque forms of my face approach me menacingly as I bring the cup closer to my mouth. And a string of rumbles and a final glug later, I am no longer thirsty, still every bit as confused.

I try to rub it all off! Mom and Dad must be coming back home in half an hour, I realize. A cursory look at the clock tells me I have about twenty minutes to play cricket and get back home before them. And the next thing I know, I am running down the stairs. Three leaps to a flight. Four flights to the ground floor. Nineteen minutes and five friends to play with. Thirty runs, two wickets and a diving catch in twenty-eight minutes sure sounds like an all-rounder to me. Need to rush home now. I sprint out of the park and just as I run around the corner, I quickly glance back a moment to see if my parents are anywhere in sight. Thud! And I am lying on the ground, and so is a small girl. I ran straight into her. I get up, dust my elbows and knees and get up to see if she is allright. She is not crying, only a grimace on her face. I lift her up, and say sorry. She looks beautiful, I think, but she is not looking at me. She says an involuntary "Thanks" and bends down to the ground groping. "I'm sorry", she says, grabbing a small stick in her hand. That's when I see she is blind. I'm in a shock. She quietly taps the stick on the ground firmer now, and walks on smiling. I stand there in disbelief. Not because I ran into another person who will not remember my face. Maybe because I realized the beauty in her face would stay with me forever, and yet she could never realize how beautiful she was. Or perhaps because, she finally taught me how to forget the fact that I had a forgettable face.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A coffee-shop story

He steps into a coffee shop.
I come to the US chasing the American dream.
At the coffee store, he is asked what he would like to have?
As I live the American life, some friends ask me about my plans for the future.
"Small, medium or large?" they ask him from across the counter.
I usually mumble that I need a life.
He doesn't know what to say, can't make up his mind.
I fall silent, a bit too dazed myself.
He looks around and there's already a small queue behind him.
I wonder briefly what is meant to happen next.
He says a perfunctory "No thanks!" and walks out awkwardly.
Wish I could take the next flight to India.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I love you....because

I love you

we share common interests like gardening, and crosswords,
where I like the words that go down, and you the ones across

I love you,
I love you because,

although marriage is a not-for-profit institution
its simply better not to make a loss

I love you, oh so,
I love you because,

you're rich and I'm gorgeous, and together
we can hear them say the oohs and the aahs

I love you, I do,
I love you because,

our love will be like a roller-coaster with remote control;
so we can skip the lows, and in the highs we can pause,

I love you,I love you,
I love you because,

Though I don't like your siblings,
your parents will make nice in-laws

I love you,I love you,
I love you because,

you're impatient and I'm understanding,
and if all the world's a stage, our play can be a farce

I love you, love you, love you,
And I love you because,

you'll lead your your life, and I'll lead mine
there'll be total independence and nothing to call ours.