Friday, July 31, 2009

There and back again!

Okay, let’s get to the point. I shall act as if I haven’t been away all this while, and this post, along with the ones in the future, have been written right after the previous post.

Let me bring you up to date on the events till the date where this begins:

I started working for Schlumberger, a Paris-based oil services company, mid-September 2oo8 onwards. It is the biggest and the most respected service provider in the Oilfield business around the world (operating in over 8o countries) but, having always kept a low profile, very few have heard of it outside the industry. Currently, I am a Field Engineer, working in Mumbai High Offshore.

The job involves a lot of travel for training and business purposes. The company also believes in working in a multi-cultural environment for a more competitive workplace and to aid in the overall development of an engineer, which means that I have been to quite a few interesting places in the past ten months, and met more people from different nationalities than I have from India. Nearly half the number of engineers in our office are expats, which leads to interesting discussions and a very different work culture.

We started with an induction course at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had just been to KL and Singapore a month before my joining, and in the second trip, I could act as a tour guide to most of the new recruits who were visiting Malaysia for the first time. It is an interesting city and worth exploring for its contradictions. At one end we have these suave, ultra-expensive malls and hotels on Bukit Bintang, which speaks of luxury and modernity. On the other, there are the burqah-clad women not allowed freedom or education. Although the predominantly Muslim population is supposed to abstain from drinking, downtown KL boasts of a Hard Rock Café and numerous nightclubs that belie the stringent cultural laws that apply to the nationals. As usual, though, good old Bollywood has its impact and everyone from a taxi-driver to a business executive is equally fond of Hindi movies and music.

Back from KL, I spent a couple of months in Mumbai, learning about this absolutely new job about which I was utterly clueless, interspersed with crazy weekends of fun. I was then sent to a small town in Andhra Pradesh that goes by the name of Rajahmundry for about ten days in early November. It is relatively close to Vishakhapatnam, and from Mumbai, we first fly to Hyderabad and then take a connecting flight to Rajahmundry. It was my first visit to the Hyderabad airport and it has truly rendered itself an international status. I have not seen the old one, but this was big and classy, by far the best amongst the ones I have seen in India, replete with bookstores and coffee houses, merchandise and gift shops. The flight to Rajahmundry is an experience in itself. Only propeller planes ply on the route and the recently operational airport at Rajahmundry is more of a makeshift option. As you fly into the outskirts of the town, you observe that it is an island in a sea of greenery. So much so, that you fly over vast fields and as the plane starts to descend, you can hardly see anything besides the vegetation. This was a moment of consternation for me, for the plane constantly kept losing altitude but I could see no stretch of tarmac or the airport in general. I was under the distinct impression that we were crash-landing in the fields and the pilot had decided not to announce it to minimize panic. Yet, it landed perfectly safely on the runway, and emerging from the cabin, I realized that in the name of an airport, it was just a room, and in the name of security, there were two, exactly two, policemen standing with lathis. There was no conveyer belt and our luggage was distributed to us by two porters right on the runway just beside the airplane. The exit door was about fifteen steps away from where the luggage was distributed and stepping out of it, you stepped into the parking lot. They sure did save a lot of space.

I shall skip the details of the stay there for now. There will be time for it later. I came back to Mumbai after a few days, and having witnessed the horrors of the Mumbai attacks, left for Livingston, Scotland for a three-month training. Livingston is a half an hour drive from Edinburgh, a pretty desolate and boring place. It used to be a big oil production center in Scotland about three decades ago which is when the training center there was set up, and by the time I left it three months later, it was housing its last batch of students. All Livingston’s shortcomings were made up by its proximity to Edinburgh which is a peach of a place. Training continued from December to February, and I stayed back for another two weeks to travel. We got about eight days off during the course of training as well, where we managed to visit some cities nearby.

It is these travels and anecdotes related to them that I will talk about in the next few posts. All it all started with our first trip to Edinburgh on December 8, 2oo8, I will start off with the two weeks at the end of the course where I set out, alone, for the trip and talk about the smaller trips earlier in subsequent posts.

Just to bring the reader up to date with the present day, I returned to India in mid-March, and after a week, was sent to Baroda, and to Barmer, in Rajasthan, thereon. We have a contract with Cairn Energy in Barmer, and working for them was a big challenge, given their very high demands of us for both efficiency and service quality. I spent just under three months there, working seven days a week for my promotion which I got on the 1st of July. I had planned to visit Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, but I was not given any time at all during my entire stay. I came back to Mumbai in June-end and after a short vacation at home, am here in Mumbai for good.

So here I am, with a little bit of time on my hands and trying to finish what I started. Let’s begin.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Glossary of Scottish Terms

As much as the Scots like visitors, they like to confuse tourists and make them work hard for their pleasure. The simplest way to do it is to call everything by another name - almost always it is the Scottish Gaelic term for the word - but it does take time to sink in. On the contrary, it did give me a sense of excitement as I'd end up thinking that I'm going to see something very special!

Some of the terms that I'll be commonly using in future posts are as follows:

Loch - Lake
Glen - Valley
Strath - A wider valley
Ben - Mountain
Doune - Castle
Blair - I'm not quite sure but as far as I remember, it refers to an area
Trossach - Roughly translated as the bristled country

These are the ones that'll come up the most. If I think of any more, I'll add them here and also explain them wherever I mention them.

The first travelogue coming up in a few hours!

Long time! And back with a half century from the UK

Well, I've been gone a long time and finally I've found, or rather made, some time to write here. For those who don't know (presuming that I haven't lost all my readers anyway), I've just finished a three month training in Livingston, Scotland that is situated 20 miles west of Edinburgh and now I've got about 12 days off in which I'm traveling around the UK.

During the initial 3 months, I managed a couple of visits to Edinburgh, one day trips to Stirling and Glasgow and a two day trip to London. Apart from that, we didn't really have any time to travel. After we finished our course some 4 days ago, I started my travels in earnest and first of all visited the very beautiful Scottish Highlands, and now I am in Oxford and loving it here. Plans are to go to London from here, then to Cornwall and after that, probably to Cambridge or explore more of Edinburgh. It's still undecided.

After constant reminders from mainly Amiya and Misha, I'm actually going around with a writing pad, taking notes as I go around for the benefit of everyone. I'm not yet at a stage where I can think of writing a story from the material I have, but I can definitely blog about it and keep you all happy. I've got loads of interesting stories from the locals, sprinkled with a fair bit of history that you might or might not know and there'll be pieces of pure information at places. I'll try and make it as interesting as possible and break up my trips into smaller stops and anecdotes but bear with me if you start to get bored and comment about it. I'll try and spice it up. Also, I think I can begin to write about it because I've been here for just long enough to get used to think of fries when I read 'chips' on a menu and not of 'crisps'! Other pleasures of being in the UK include pronouncing 'Z' as zed and not zee, and at the end of meal in a restaurant, asking for a bill and not for a check! So much for Americanisms. ;)

Oh and incidentally, this is my 50th blog post here, and though it was a long time coming, it's still welcome to me. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Felt Like Writing in Hindi

अर्थ, काम, देह सब नश्वर है|
रूह को छूने वाला ही इश्वर है||
वो अतुल है, पावन है, वो पृथक है|
उसका मर्म, उसका ही जीवन सार्थक है||

पृथ्वी और अम्बर का अजब नाता है|
रूह की गहरायी शायद दर्शाता है||
आत्म का अस्तित्व तू ही है|
खुशी, चंचलता, हर्ष रूही है||

तेरा हर लफ्ज़ ज़िन्दगी के नए मायने सिखाता है|
करुणामयी पलकों को जैसे प्रेम से सहलाता है||
सरलता, सुमति, सौंदर्य का तू संगम है|
माया से मुक्त, तू ही खुशी, तू ही ग़म है||

Of Taglines and More - 2

Mohanlal Sons
Finest Menswear
Now at DLF City Centre Gurgaon

Now, all that being good, the point worth considering is that it could be read as Mens-wear or as Men-swear. Not that one would tempt the men more than another, but if the finest men swear and they happen to be all Mohanlal's sons, shouldn't the rest of us stop worrying about grooming our children?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Religion of Science

This piece of news had me hooked.

Makes one wonder how different Science and Religion are, or if Science is turning into yet another religion, not in terms of faith, but blind faith.

This statement in particular was very revealing: "I brought my baby to touch the wall, so that the power of Darwin can purify her genetic makeup of undesirable inherited traits," said Darlene Freiberg, one among a growing crowd assembled here to see the mysterious stain.

I wonder. I thought Science was the answer to the 'miracles' that took place in the mystical world.

I'm back!

Well, okay, the hiatus continued a tad longer than I'd expected - couple of unplanned trips and some work. I'll try and be more regular now and come up with more innovative posts that'll keep you hooked.

Later, then. Everyone.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The First Ever PJ Post!

The uninitiated, please read the previous post first.


Q: What does an author, distressed at the fact that his books aren't selling and he's running short on money, say to his books?
A: Damn! Sell(, I'm) in distress.


Q: What's the female counterpart of the infamous "male gaze"?
A: A female gazelle!

So, there you go. That's my two cents. Start with your own PJs in the comments section, or email them to me. I'll put them up in future posts with appropriate acknowledgments.

A New Feature!

Yes, yes, I know I'm supposed to be on a sabbatical and leave my workaholic ways behind. I just had an idea and I thought I'll write about it as the last thing before I leave.

I''ve been told over and over that I'm a PJ person and that I have horrible PJs. Must really thank Manisha for bringing it to my notice. But, that's the point, no? They are supposed to be poor.

Anyway, so I've decided to start a daily PJ feature on this blog. It's a big demand on such a creative pursuit and I'll try to follow it as rigorously as possible.

We'll also make it contributive with people leaving their PJs in the comments section and I'll pick out the best and put them up in the next PJ post. They can also be emailed to me at

I start with it in the next post, with, not one but two, yes two PJs as the opening offer. And we'll tkae it steady from thereon once I'm back from my trip.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blogging Sabbatical

I'm off on a vacation, a 10 day trip to Kuala Lumpur & Genting in Malaysia and Singapore and will be back on the 19th of August.

If you happen to visit my blog in the meantime, please do leave some comments (!), and have a great 60th Independence Day, nice, relaxing couple of weekends, and a (for the girls) financially uplifting Rakshabandhan.

See you soon, with reports from the lands that'll be blessed by my esteemed, revered, distinguished (you get the hang of it) presence.


Poor Ol' Me and Politics of Correctness

We finished with the British Council course today. By the end of it, I was told that I am nothing like a true Saggitarian, whatever that is, and I didn't really mind that. I've never really fit under any stereotype, not much anyway.

Another thing they said was that I'm too politically correct. I see where they are coming from but I still tend to disagree. When, in my defense, I claimed that I was just a nice person, I was given an answer which was amusing and probably even true: "Saying that you are nice is just a politically correct way of saying that you are politically correct."

So much for all my niceties over the past two months! (See, see, I'm being mean now, I'm not politically correct.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Flipside of Reincarnation!

From Terry Pratchett's 'Mort', fourth book in the Discworld Series:

'Yes, but, you see, I have what you might call a season ticket,' the abbot explained.

Light dawned on Mort, but very slowly.

'Oh,' he said, 'I've read about this. Reincarnation, yes?'

That's the word. Fifty-three times so far. Or fifty-four.'

Binky looked up as they approached and gave a short neigh of recognition when the abbot
patted his nose. Mort mounted up and helped the abbot up behind him.

'It must be very interesting,' he said, as Binky climbed away from the temple. On the absolute
scale of small talk this comment must rate minus quite a lot, but Mort couldn't think of anything

'No, it mustn't,' said the abbot. 'You think it must be because you believe I can remember all my
lives, but of course I can't. Not while I'm alive, anyway.'

'I hadn't thought of that,' Mort conceded.

'Imagine toilet training fifty times.'

'Nothing to look back on, I imagine,' said Mort.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Keeping The Flame Alive

"You know, it's like the difference between a sonnet and blank verse. Marriage gives my life structure, and this way it's always two people on my side."

It's an interesting take on marriage, reproduced from here on Meenkashi Reddy Madhavan's blog. The words belong to Shakti Bhatt, an editor who worked at Random House India, Brackett Books and more, and died suddenly on 31st March 2007, an untimely death at 27, a shock to all her friends and acquaintances alike.

I came to know of her just today because the inaugural Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize shortlist for debut novels is out. A blog created and run remembrance has continued since her demise, and though sporadically now, it is still active. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the blog, and her dreams, witness a contribution, directly or indirectly, from a major part of the publishing industry and it is heartening to see that. I didn't know her then, I was just getting to know the publishing world in early 2007, but I might have met her briefly had luck wanted it, but I didn't know of her existence till today.

Yet, what's important and what's comforting is that friends remember and acknowledge her, that a project (the First Book prize) that was conceived has seen the light of day and that the passion, the vigour has not diminished with the passage of time.

I will not go into what a great person she was, for one, because I knew her not, and secondly because the others have done a much better job of it on this blog. Go read.

Paulo da Costa: Magic Realism and Metafiction

I was reading a short story 'Turn The Page' by Paulo da Costa (Luso-Canadian author) and it really struck me as something brilliant, the idea at least. I've come across metafictional works before but this seemed different (rest assured, it isn't a marketing pitch for a Bollywood movie). The story itself is a part of a collection 'New Writing 14' published by British Council in association with Granta, so I'm not sure if you'll be able to find it elsewhere, but the idea is as follows:

The book starts with two characters who have been abandoned by the writer. They have to look for their own destinies, figure out their role in the scheme of things. They sleep at night and when the male character gets up, he realizes that the female character has been 'deleted' from the script. He wonders how it would have been in the pre-computer era when they would either be together because there wasn't an option, or simply be torn apart. Today, through cut-copy-paste mechanisms, their characters, their lives could be modified. He moves out of the 'white room with paper-thin walls' and is thrown in the 'real world' where his quest for an identity begins. He constantly wonders if his author has abandoned him for good, or if his story has been told earlier and he is just following the script, or if this exploration, this abandonment is his story, so he really hasn't been abandoned (sorry for using 'abandon' so many times, I just can't seem to abandon it! :P). Beyond that it gets into the usual realm of the meaning of his life, his purpose in this world, etc. etc. as he takes a more material shape from a nebulous, rather ephemeral existence and ultimately ends with him being slashed by red lines by the editor.

I fell in love with the idea of a character and/or characters being abandoned (again!) by the author and them trying to figure out their own lives. Would make for an interesting writing exercise, if nothing else. I realized that towards the end, the story had a more philosophical bent, but I missed that meaning, and would have to go back to again a few times to understand that. If I do, I'll share it with you.

I found an interview of da Costa here. Do visit the link. He talks about magic realism and how he has been compared to Allende, Marquez and the like. Also, his take on writing, the life of a writer, primarily after a million Creative Writing programs have cropped up in the past decade and how it has become even more difficult to break into mainstream publishing as they all flock to these programs (Creative Writing MFAs, but for Columbia and Iowa, have seen rather low publishing success, and even there it's more related to 'contacts' rather than creative brilliance - that's basically his point - it's forming a nexus that excludes more than it includes, and gives primacy to a certain sort of brilliance, often referred to as MFA Fiction as opposed to literary fiction or just fiction).

Maybe we could have our own Writing competition on this theme (of abandonment of a character by his/her/its progenitor) right here!

Fabricated Societal Needs

In yet another short story, titled 'My Mother Lived on a Farm in Africa' by Abdulrazak Gurnah, there appears the following two sentences:

In the day, she was expected to stay close to Aunt Amina, and wait for chores to be given to her. She understood it was really to keep an eye on her because she was fourteen and a girl.

It got me thinking, as usual. I've always been vaguely disturbed by the idea of keeping girls 'safe', forbidding them from going out late at night because they might end up being raped or molested, and generally being asked time and again to 'be careful'. Yes, the continued threat of something happening is disturbing, so is the mankind at large for propagating such fears, but what has disturbed me the most all through, with respect to this and any other similar situations, is that the girls are being asked to sit at home (or need to be watched, or carry device some sort of a defense mechanism or various other acts of safety that ones sees or hears about) because someone else might harm them. My issue has always been that why should they suffer for the actions of someone else.

I've always been told that yes, it sucks, but there isn't a way out. It's a necessary evil and precautions must be taken since there's no other way out. That argument would shut me up for the time being because it seemed to make sense, but it still rankled and left me unsatisfied. Reading that line got me started on the issue again, and suddenly I saw a solution, simple, obvious and crystal clear. I don't understand why such an obvious answer had eluded me (or the population in general) till now. It's infeasible but it's just.

If we realize that girls aren't safe in the vicinity of boys in certain places or at certain times, and their presence must be compartmentalized, so be it. But, if the concern is the girls' safety after all because of the untamed carnal instincts of the male population, why restrain girls from going out at night or to places that are unsafe. It should be guys who should be asked to stay at home because if they go out late at night, the world would become unsafe. In this world, the girls would roam free and live without care, stay at home or go out, as they wish and as their needs demand. Since it is the guys who propagate this dystopian outlook, they should be the ones suffering, not the ones they target.

Yes, it needs a radical change in societal needs and outlook for this to happen but isn't it fairer to all? Does it not serve the purpose as well?

It isn't? It's not!

Roy Robin's short story 'The Caretaker' ends with the following sentence:

'It isn't the responsibility,' my mother said. 'I mean it is, but it isn't just that.'

Good story, nice ending, but that isn't why I'm writing this post. After I finished reading it, I was replaying the last sentence in my mind over and over again, and I realized I would have never written it isn't just that. I'd have, instead, gone with it's not just that. Both are valid contractions, but I never thought such differences could exist.

I don't know why this is so, if it's just a personal thing, or has it got anything to do with 'Indian English' as compared to 'British English'. Thought it was an interesting observation nonetheless.

Linguists. Others. Any opinions?

History to Astronomy/Astrology?

When one drives from Dhaula Kuan towards the IGI Airport, on the right hand side, there's used to be a Maharana Pratap Dwar, one of the entrances to Delhi Cantt. It was a mildly imposing gate and looked good.

Of late, its name has been changed to Taurus, Gate 3, in big, golden, stencilled letters. I'm not sure, but I think even the structure has changed a bit from the top. It looks bad.

I'm no part of the brigade fighting to save Hindi (though I support the sentiment), but this just doesn't make any sense. If nothing else, aesthetically, it looks and sounds much worse. Wouldn't their (whoever's doing it all) time be better utilized thinking over and changing something that would actually make a difference?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Games People Play

From the story "Independence" by Romesh Gunesekera in the collection New Writing 14, published by the British Council in association with Granta:

[T]hey were giggling over one of Nara's stories about snorting on the beach. 'I thought the Italians wanted to go snorkeling, so I took them down the south coast. How the hell was I to know...'

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stranger than Fiction?

Well it amazes me to see how many things in this world never cease to amaze me.

Just one tiny example. I received an email from Schlumberger HR asking me to make a dossier of 20-odd certificates which I will be required to carry during my induction program in Abu Dhabi. It included probably every certificate that I'd have obtained since class 10 (except for the birth certificate, which would be way before that) and the birth certificates of your parents, spouse and children, wherever applicable. I would like to presume I was born only after my parents were born, and how does it really matter what their dates of birth are or whatever else they are trying to gauge from those certificates.

The topper, though, was to carry a marriage certificate or a concubine certificate, if and whichever applicable.

Now, I've seen and heard of a very many things over the past few years, most more enlightening than not, but I really never imagined I'd hear of a concubine certificate! Do such things as these exist? Why would one want to be a certified concubine? Prostitutes, I can imagine, but then they wouldn't really be working in Schlumberger, or wouldn't be prostituting of they were earning in excess of $50,000 per annum. This is, of course, going with the prejudice that this is a profession borne out of necessity/depravity/force or various other such undignified reasons, and not out of choice. Even so, I can live with that certificate from countries where prostitution is legal.

The only sane explanation I can come up with is that SLB is a global company with a strong focus on the Middle East where the Islamic customs dominate, and it is allowed to keep multiple wives. The second and third and fourth wives would probably be the concubines with an official concubine status as opposed to married, though if they are wives, why so? I can't really think of anything else.


Monday, July 21, 2008

From Wordsworth's 'Lines Written in Early Spring'

To her fair works did nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Came across a name, Apexa Sharma, on Facebook news feed. I tried to pronounce it as Apex-aa, and it didn't sound right, even for a Western name. It was a few second before I realized that it's Apeksha or अपेक्षा, spelled with a difference. Why? WHY? Even the pronunciation isn't correct, strictly speaking. It would be अपेक्सा.

Flights of Fantasy

A dialogue between a call centre executive and a stewardess.

“Good Morning, ma’am. I’m calling from ICICI Prudential. Your number has been selected for a special scheme on our life insurance policies. We’d like to offer you a reduced premium on all our schemes. It’s a completely hassle-free process, with the least amount of time requirement from your end. I’ll be glad to read out the benefits if you are interested,” rambled the call centre executive on the phone as Tanya listened.

“Is this offer open irrespective of profession?” asked Tanya.

“Why yes, ma’am. Most definitely. Our only concern is to serve our customers and their interests,” said the executive, elated at finally having found a customer who was interested and listening.

“I do think I need insurance right now. I’m an in-flight attendant with one of the international airlines. Just this morning I got back from a, personally, highly eventful flight.” She hesitated, but decided to go through with the entire story. “I was complicit in a regicide, having poisoned the King of Brunei’s drink for a healthy sum. The autopsy reports are out, I have been in hiding ever since I stepped off the flight, and I have no clue how you managed to get this number.” A couple of deep breaths later, she continued further. “Every country has issued a statement denying me international immunity, and as soon as I’m found out, I shall probably be hanged, if not murdered by the King’s retinue of vengeance-seeking loyals. Yes, insurance would truly help my husband at this stage,” finished Tanya in a harrowed voice.

The executive realized he was wet. Sweating all over. Forehead, palms, armpits, groin, all the places where the sweat glands offer their fealty rather too generously. “I shall call you back in a moment, ma’am. I have some urgent business to attend to,” he managed to blurt before jamming the receiver back into its cradle.

“Hey! At least sell me a policy before you go,” screamed Tanya, howling with laughter, as the Bruneian head of state fondled her breast, the gleam of gold in his eyes.

It's Called Civil Humiliation

The new Star Voice of India 2 started airing on Star Plus this Friday (18th July) onwards. For the past month or so, the promos had been boasting of featuring participants from all 24 Indian states. It was unnerving for me to realize that the number of states in India had shrunk to 24 without so much as giving me a perfunctory warning. I had been trying to work it out mentally which states had been deemed unimportant enough to be left out of the competition - would it be based on economic considerations, geographical placement, political considerations, size, population or some other factors - none of which seemed to be valid enough for me.

The clouds of mystery cleared when the first episode was aired and the bright sun burned the very vestiges of respect I might have had left for TV producers. The 7 northeastern states were being referred to under one name - the seven sister states. While the other participants were from Bihar, Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, those participants were from the 'seven sister states'.

Why the alienation, why the blanket nomenclature, why deny them their individual identity and a spot each for themselves? Why must they be clubbed together under one banner of location, culture and heritage while every other state gets full leverage? Isn't it this cavalier attitude and insensitive treatment of the north-east that has led us to this day when they demand their basic rights, and are treated as foreigners in their own land.

My sister's just started going to college in the Delhi University. For years, I have read reports of female students from these states being treated as 'easy meat' and being molested on buses, on the roads and being a general target of ridicule. During the ragging days, most attempts are directed towards them and my sister has confirmed these facts first-hand. They are forced to speak in Hindi, made fun of and generally not accepted as one of our own.

It hurts. The low level of understanding and innate prejudices in young students still in their teens, the blatant publicity and corporate undermining of sections of the population for... for what? I would still understand, not agree but still understand if they were to make financial gains from such a gesture - but how would acknowledging seven states with their real names have affected their capitalistic aims is utterly beyond me.

Off To The Past

The new session at IITK begins in a week. I've been out of the place for nearly three months now, and it still feels strange that I won't be going back to it. I already miss the energy, the excitement of the new academic year, the expectant faces of the newly admitted students, the assured walk of the seniors, the smiles at meeting friends after three long months, the chaos, the noises, the warm hugs, the formal handshakes, new hostels every year, classes, new courses, the plans of starting fresh and studying this time around - I miss all of it.

I gave four very important years of my life to IITK, and although initially I was unhappy and dissatisfied, I came to learn to like it, and now, IITK defines a major part of my identity. It has given me more than I could have imagined, or hoped for and for that, I shall be eternally indebted to the institute. I wish to go back there, for the freedom that it provided me, to pursue any and everything that I liked. I want to roam around on the impeccable campus roads in the evening when the faculty kids come out to play, past midnight when it is all quiet and breezy, in the sultry afternoons when the walk became more purposeful.

Yet, going back would mean giving up on a lot of new things that await me. More importantly, it doesn't seem worth it to go back to a campus devoid of the people who made it worth every moment. No friends to go to, to talk with, to crib to or fight with - how intertwined is the sould of the institute with the people that reside in it. I feel I have lost something if I go to the campus but there are no friends. I feel equally cheated if I go to Mumbai where all my friends are but the campusis far, far away. I have always lived in the past. It is what I am still doing. I want the time in my campus back, the way it was, with the people that were there, when they were there, the way they were there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

The guy who teaches us Creative Writing wears checkered tweed pants in shades of brown, all the time. They go with his long blond tresses, I'll give you that much. Creative license, eh?

A Mate Date

A hilarious, stomach-achingly funny thing happened today. If the person who this is about reads it, I'm sorry, I shouldn't put this up here since you will be embarrassed but I'm leaving no names, and it's just too good to not put up.

Four of us (two guys and two girls) were sitting in the Subway in CP, talking about sex, what else. So this guy I'm talking about, he tells us how girls who smoke and consequently have bad teeth, are a turn-off for him. To elucidate the intensity of his point, he said:
"When I was in Europe, I was trying to mate with this girl who had really bad teeth... and I couldn't."
Three times we asked him, "You were trying to do what???!!!" and three times he answered it the exact same way, completely oblivious of anything being amiss. Oh, how we laughed (well, one more than the others but we are not taking any names here, remember?). And laughed. And laughed. And died.

Afterthoughts from afterlife:
"Dude! You could nail a girl, have sex with her, bed her and forget her (as the saying goes, not as an ideology, mind you! Well, maybe.), make love to her, violate her or do a million other things, but please leave the mating to dogs and monkeys. Seriously. Please."

Disjointed thought: Guys who wax their arms (and probably shave/wax their legs) freak me out. I like to believe I'm a very open-minded person, yet, this is something hard to digest for me. I can live with manicures and pedicures, but waxing is going too far. Too far. It's just freaky. Call me a sexist, if you will, but I stand by it.

Compassionate Delhi?

Today when most eateries, food joints and restaurants strictly prohibit outside eatables within their premises, it came as a pleasant surprise when I could easily sit on a (plastic, Neelkamal, to be precise) chair in an open restaurant at Bhikaji Cama Place and eat the food my mom packed for me without being asked to leave. I was a little apprehensive initially that they'd ask me to move away even though I had ordered two soft drinks, so I pulled a chair in a corner and sat with my lunch. As for the plastic chairs, to their credit, all the chairs they had were plastic, and the same quality, so no discrimination there either.

What was surprising, and pleasing, was that three different waiters came to me within the duration of 15 minutes that I sat there, offering me a glass of water, while two came and asked me to sit at a proper table for four and eat my meal in peace. I declined their offer for I felt guilty of robbing them of a place for genuine customers, but just the gesture was so endearing. The owners, a Sikh father-son duo, were equally accommodating. It was the best part of my otherwise terrible day.

Wasn't Delhi supposed to be rude and mean and heartless? What happened suddenly? It reaffirms my faith that stereotypes are exaggerated and more often than not, not applicable. Also, there's more good in people than we like to believe. One just has to give them enough time to show it, or give oneself enough time to see it.

Mistaken Identity / Star Power

If you are having a phone conversation and the person at the other end of the line says, "I was talking to Salman a few days ago and he has no plans of coming to India anytime this year," would you ever think that the person being referred to is Salman Rushdie, even if the conversation was in the context of a literary festival? Since when did Rushdie become Salman?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Is this postcolonialism?

Monty Python at work.

Arranged shag?!

Of Alternate, Unintended Meanings

WARNING: Adult content

My short story Kaleidoscope begins like this:

Expanse of green. Sheer silk…white…flowing. A pearl necklace. Pearl earrings.

I gave it to Mat, our instructor at the British Council for some feedback. Apart from some pretty useless comments (e.g. it's a horror poem!?), he marked on the phrase "pearl necklace" (adult content - think before you click) and asked me to look it up on Urban Dictionary, if I dared. Of course, I had to check it out once he'd said as much, though I wished I hadn't. "Pearl earrings" carried a similar meaning. Even though I found it pretty disgusting that instead of telling me something useful, that was what Mat was doing with my piece, but it is also strangely fascinating with respect to the people's imagination!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

God of the Gaps

Excellent concept, this. It's always a surprise what all is classified and documented and argued upon. Love Bonhoeffer's argument, irrespective of the fact that I may or may not believe in God:

" wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know. ..." [Source: Wikipedia]

In extension, Argument from Ignorance, somehow very valid in everyday life if we consider ourselves and our limited acceptance of the world, is another well argued concept. Two very common statements being examples of this being:

1. "You can't prove God doesn't exist, so God exists."
2. "You can't prove God does exist, so God doesn't exist."

Darwin's birth must really have been a shitty time for God(s). He undid most of the work they had done over the millenia in just one lifetime. Maybe it was Satan himself, born to spite Him!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Key to Friendship

From the story Artists and Models in the collection 'Delta of Venus' by Anais Nin:

'... Someone told me the delightful story of a crusader who had put a chastity belt on his wife and left the key in care of his best friend in case of his death. He had barely ridden away a few miles when he saw his friend riding furiously after him, calling out, "You gave me the wrong key!"...'

Gagging Rushdie

On the occasion of Midnight's Children winning the booker of Bookers, BBC has come up with this competition where the entire 672 page saga has to be retold in 67 words - yes, 67 words. Rushdie does have a way with words and language is his forte, but he also tends to overdo it at times. Can you cut out the gibberish and tell us the story of Salim Sinai in 67 meaningful words?

I'm thinking of Amiya right now. She has both the inclination and the talent to do it, and it helps that this book is one of her all time favourites. Go, girl!

The others may try too, of course.

Bound by Boundaries

Over the past couple of years, I've come across the phrase 'blurring of boundaries' a hundred times, with respect to literature (merging of genres, less high brow attitude to high vs low lit, acceptance of literature from various countries and cultures into the literary canon, etc.), films (lesser distinction between art and commercial cinema with the advent of multiplex culture, intertwined genres again, diaspora movies attempting to 'bridge' the gap between the East and the West), nations (globalization, the European Union, internet) etc.

The same is now being said about the sexual preferences of Indians - the LGBT pride parade being heralded as an example of how India, or at least Delhi, Bangalore and Calcutta are 'ready' for a change and are more understanding and accommodating of people with different orientations. The boundaries between the two extremes - male and female - being blurred by transgenders, hijras, et al. Such an open outlook may exist, or may not exist at the moment.

Yet, the boundaries still exist. And some are very difficult to erase. Relationships for example, and their nomenclature. We are so used to fitting every relation neatly into a category under a specific name. When a name does not exist, or multiple options present themselves, it creates problems. To quote from innumerable Hindi movies, what was the relationship between Lord Krishna and Radha. If we keep aside moral issues for a while, for the sake of hypothesis, if a father begets a daughter from his daughter, what relation gets primacy? Is father or grandfather more acceptable. Is mother or sister more prominent a link? How about the man's wife? What relation does she have with the newborn. This is a relatively simple and straightforward example. There exist a million such cases all around us (including the famous Khushwant Singh joke). As long we stick to the boundaries of definitions etched out long, long ago, we will run into problems - increasingly so as the society propels forward at breakneck speed.


I judge people by the kind of footwear they buy and wear. I don't know why I do it but I do, and sadly, most people disappoint me. Horrible, horrible taste in footwear. I've only come across a handful of people who impress me with their choice of colour, design, style and appropriateness for the occasion.

More often than not, it's hard for me to look at people's feet for more than a few seconds, and it's even worse if they are the sort that do not cover the foot completely, showing dry/dirty/unwashed feet with yellowing nails that haven't been cut for a long time. Just completely puts me off.

Do GODS disintegrate?

When I was in school some 5 years ago, GODS - Group of Delhi Superbikers - used to be a huge craze. Haven't heard of them in a while.

Is the group still active, or have the GODS shunned their godliness? And what exactly do they do in the group?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Literally Confused!

I used to be pretty clear on the subject, but I've been confused for the past few days. Can anyone clarify for me the exact difference between pathetic fallacy and personification as literary devices?

And since we are at it, what exactly is a bathetic fall?

Hunky Dory!

I've been seeing advertisements for the relatively new Hero Honda bike 'Hunk' for sometime now, and have also, on some occasions, seen the bike, mostly in red.

While it seems pretty good, look-wise, to me, I really wonder why a guy would buy a bike names Hunk. What guy would want to claim with pride that he rides a hunk?!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

High on Haiku

Some attempts by yours truly. My motto is:

We shall invent new forms of pain, and then find ways of inflicting them upon the world.

Dark, damp, humid night;
A drop trickles down the neck.
Red! Equality!

House on fire, flames leap,
Smouldering, scorching, savage.
Intertwined bodies.

The word haiku reminds me of the 90s song 'Hai huku hai huku hai hai...'. :D Makes me want to write a haiku using that.

Can you get any more pathetic than this? Try in the comments section.

Chidiya Choon Choon Karti Hai

Awesome, this! As Amit Varma mentions, some of the best scenes include Jeetendra's sweaty armpits when he sings 'Happy Birthday To Me', and his drunken walk under the 'Gateway Of Necking-Camels'.

It's amazing how many times the 'Chidiya' line is used in the song.

Cricketing Woes

In an ongoing Asia Cup match, Arun Lal in the commentary box, and a wicket is taken. Imagine!

"Bangladesh really needed to pick up a wicket at this point, and (batsman) has been picked up by (bowler). What a breakthrough."

They could have taken part in the LGBT Pride Parade!

From Cricinfo:

Once on a square turner, as Viv Richards faced the last over before tea, Saleem Yousuf kept appealing every ball without a reason. "I was fielding at short-leg," Ramiz Raja recalls, "and when we were walking off for tea, an irritated Viv asked me the Urdu word for chicken, and I told him.

"So Viv rushed off towards Saleem, and when in his earshot, started shouting, 'Murgi, murgi, murgi'."

Man of the Match awards have, for the past so many years, been mindlessly given to the batsman even if he scores a 50 or a 60 over a bowler who takes 3 wickets at a good economy rate. Witnessed this in most of the IPL as well, and the most recent case was in the recent England-New Zealand Natwest series. In one of the matches, Styris scored 80-odd runs as Gillespie and Vettori took three wickets each to take NZ to victory. Vettori, also captaining the side, deserved the award but Styris got it instead. I wish the concerned people would be more open and fair in their approach.

From Alfred Tennyson's 'Maud'

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near;'
And the white rose weeps, 'She is late;'
The larkspur listens, 'I hear, I hear;'
And the lily whispers, 'I wait.

SO cute! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Of Taglines And More

* At the Spencer's in Pacific Mall, Kaushambi, noticed a perfume a few days ago:
Cool Girl
For Women
The men are still alive. Mostly single. And desperate.

* At Akshardham Temple, New Delhi, a month ago, on a tourist bus:
Jain Travels
So? So do I. And the Sharmas, Talwars, Singhs, Mallyas, Agrawals etc. etc.

* On the paper towel dispenser in the restroom at the British Council:
While pulling out a tissue, I vaguely happened to glance at it, and my brain registered the words with the last two alphabets of both the words transposed. What I read was:
Does put things in perspective.

* On a wall in East Patel Nagar, New Delhi:
Yahaan par peshaab karna aur poster chhipkaana manaa hai.
Interesting to note that the two have become synonymous. Peeing in front of the walls is as much an advertisement of our culture/sensibilities as putting up awful posters in senseless places is defecating on the walls.

*On a hilly road to Shimla:
Please be gentle on my curves.

- On a different note, saw a book "The Mapmaker's Wife" by Robert Whitaker in the British Council library today. Have also heard of it somewhere sometime earlier. The blurb sounded very interesting. Must read it sometime. Go google.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Charming Charbagh

There’s a regular din of traffic from behind the roseate walls that envelopes the subconscious. The drizzle, accompanied by the wind flitting past, sprays my face with tiny droplets. I squint my eyes to keep the water out, then relax, closing them completely and losing myself to the invigorating concoction of air and water, and that musty smell of raw earth. The ground blushes as some of the drops rush forward to embrace it with a splatter, and then slowly disappear, imparting a tinge of rosy hue. I walk barefoot on the textured floor, a pebble pricks the toe, turning it a beetroot red. The breeze turns to wind, the vines swing and sing. I run my fingers along the wall, feel the crests and troughs on the uneven surface, quietly exploring the vertical terrain. I draw a little closer, tentatively, putting my ear to it, and hear the wall humming slightly, a dull vibration, a silenced thunder concealed under the stony bosom. The fountain makes one valiant attempt after another but sky-high is an ambition too tall for it. It rises a nimble foot, and plops back into the reservoir, an orchestra, a symphony of bubbles bursting to order.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Promise Unfulfilled

I had promised myself to start this blog with a pensive post, the one I’m posting now. I didn’t really get about to writing it properly till today. Thanks to Pritha who kept nagging me and reminding me of my promise to myself. I have not gone into the details but share briefly the anguish and despair at the apathy that prevails. I do not know if I could have done anything to improve the situation. If I could have, and didn’t, I am as much a culprit as the ones I insinuate in this post.

A synopsis of various viewpoints

“She was a morphine addict.”

“No she wasn’t. She was under immense pain.”

“She never let anyone in on her secrets. She never shared. There were no prescriptions found.”

“She shared with me. I knew she had ovarian cists, possibly leading to cancer. She told me, and a few others, about her desires, ambitions, issues at home and everything else.”

“She had no prescription. She was faking it. Why weren’t her parents involved?”

“Her parents were involved. The doctors were the ones who didn’t want to operate on her at this (st)age. Issues of pregnancy later.”

“She didn’t take our help when we offered it. She was too arrogant.”

“She wasn’t. She liked to stay independent. It wasn’t pity that she sought. You offered her help, not friendship.”

“She never attended classes, lied at home, and didn’t even interact much with her batch mates.”

“She couldn’t attend classes because of her health. Whether she lied at home or not is not your concern, and something that cannot be determined anyway. Her interaction was limited to the girls’ hostel as she couldn’t go out a lot due to her physical weakness.”

Official intimation by the Director to the campus community – numerous emails and announcement at the beginning of the convocation (paraphrased)

We sadly announce and deeply mourn the tragic demise of one of the bright students, Toya Chatterjee, Roll Number *****, B.Tech. student of the department of Biosciences and Bioengineering on the night of 30th May, 2008 in her hostel room. Ms. Toya Chatterjee, Roll Number ***** was a bright and promising student, and is as great a loss to the academic community as it is to her near and dear ones. May her soul rest in peace.

Press release/interviews, talking about the worth of a student of IIT Kanpur, B.Tech. with a GRE score of 1560, an admission offer from Cornell (I think Cornell – the name is irrelevant), and calls from ALL the IIMs. (paraphrased)

Ms. Toya Chatterjee, Roll Number ***** was a weak student and her performance in her courses was not up to the mark. She had failed two courses and was not due to receive the degree at this convocation. Her performance has been a matter of concern for her teachers and friends alike, and repeated attempts to improve the situation had failed.

Talking of ends, some bring respite, some melancholy, some longing, and some simply suck out every feeling, every desire, everything, leaving nothing but a hollowed feeling of emptiness, of helplessness and despair. That was how Toya’s end was. Most of us would have read about it in the newspapers. Toya Chatterjee was a final year student of my batch at IIT Kanpur who committed suicide on the eve of our convocation. I will not go into the reasons behind it. I have given a sneak preview into the various versions that were given to us by friends, professors, administrative officials, and co-students. There is too much speculation and hardly any consensus. We may never know the truth. The certainty with which people enumerate the reasons of her suicide irritates me. Hers was the 7th suicide in IITK in the past 3 years, and the first suicide by a girl in the history of IITK. It’s the frequency that bothers me as much as the fact that the administration is doing nothing about it as far as I know. Yes, they do take some apparently visible reformatory steps, but they’re all useless, tangential to the real problems that exist. I am not suggesting that those were the problems behind any of these suicides, but if we are trying to weed out problems, we might as well get rid of some real problems along the way.

What hurt me most is the attitude with which the administration at IITK received and projected the death of Toya. I knew she existed in the vicinity but didn’t ever get a chance to talk to her during my 4 years at IIT, yet I think of her as a real person. That’s not how they think of her. In all email notifications regarding her and in the official announcement at the beginning of the convocation, it was always ‘Toya Chatterjee, Roll No. *****, department **** was...’ She is a mere statistic for the institute, one more to the list. Every time in the two days I was there and thereafter, her name was suffixed by her roll number and department, which I found extremely annoying. With such gruesome suicides – she hung herself from the fan in her room while sitting on a chair, another one had lain on the railway tracks at the IIT gate and was beheaded by a train – I would think that they would take some personal interest in the students’ lives, not as administrators saving face of the institute but as humans, teachers, friends. Isn’t the extent of infliction of such pain upon themselves a statement of the fact that we need to change, doesn’t it feel like they are trying to convey a message by taking such drastic steps? Yes, it is a difficult task to bring about change in as big an institute as this, with ways as set as it has, with so many things that could be changed. But we need to make a start somewhere, sometime, and isn’t the effort worth it? It is an institute for the students and if they are not happy, and not just the ones committing suicide, then the entire purpose of the existence of the institute is lost. I couldn’t think of one reason why we shouldn’t start right now.

I sincerely hope that they will treat students like humans and not institute records to be filed away and milked for money as alumni. I don’t know how they will manage it with 4 more IITs being opened when even the land for those has not yet been finalized. IIT Rajasthan is being mentored by IIT Kanpur which means that its students will stay and study at IITK, stretching its already thin resources, and that, when it hasn’t yet been decided which city will be home to IIT Rajasthan. If political pressures, or aspirations, are going to take precedence over human lives, God save the premier institute of education in India.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poetic justice? Or pros(e)aic justice?

From Samit Basu's blog:

"...not even the worst excesses of Bollywood SFF filmmaking could match Lollywood's International Gorillay, the climax of which features arch-fiend Salman Rushdie being laser-skewered by four lightning-emitting flying Korans..."

A Poned Post

A few days ago, some of us were having a conversation with Suchitra ma'am about our convocation and she mentioned that a student had emailed her saying that he was about to be 'convocated'. She said that she hadn't thought of the word before but that it had a lovely feel to it, as if someone was going to be beheaded. Sice then, she said, she was having visions of the convocation with a lot of decapitated heads lying all over the auditorium. I completely share her views on the matter.

The conversation then steered to the word 'prepone'. It was her father who brought it up saying that the MS Word editor gave it as an error and that was the first time he realized that the word did not exist, after confirming it with the dictionary. I had known for sometime now that there's no such word as prepone but did not know the reason. Suchitra ma'am ventured to explain it to us based on a conversation she had had with someone else. He had explained to her, as she did to us now that prepone would be a valid word if 'post' in postpone were a prefix so that 'pre'pone becomes its antonym. For that to happen, there has to be an independent word 'pone' with its own meaning (a synonym of schedule) that can take prefixes which alter its meaning.

Since pone clearly doesn't exist (as our flights are never poned at 2 pm and our doctor never pones an appointment), and there doesn't seem a possibility of it happening in the near future, prepone, though a very convenient word, is not a part of the Queen's English, or American English, for that matter. Use 'advance' if you are finicky, or simply prepone your usage of the word till it makes an entry into OED! :)

Edit: Just googled a bit and read through a few discussion thread on the topic. Most Indians think that prepone is a logical opposite of postpone. It certainly does appear that way, I must admit. While the Americans prefer to use 'move up', I came across a really interesting entry where a person claims that a more appropriate and logical antonym to postpone would be, wait for it, antepone, as opposed to prepone. I bow to this person. After this, there's nothing left to write.

Must go to blog:


I was going through a collection of essays, "Because I Have a Voice - Queer Politics in India" edited by Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan, and published by Yoda Press, and in the introduction to the book, the editors were discussing the scope of the word 'queer' - of relationships and sexualities that extend beyond those encompassed by the words gay, lesbian, bisexuals, transgenders, hijras, kothis etc. and at one point they said "Where do we draw the line between intimate friendships and queer relationships? How do we understand a concept such as masti - a term that refers to the sanctioned space for sexual activity between men - in our framework of sexual desire?"

I always knew that the word masti had sexual connotations but I had always presumed it to be a heterosexual one. I always find it interesting to see how words change meaning or grow to an umbrella term that comes to tolerate a lot more in meaning than just male homosexual activity, or simply sexual activity for that matter. I tried to google the word in a million combinations to find some references or the original meaning but the internet is cluttered with Bollywood and masti phrases clubbed together. Very annoying. Couldn't find a single relevant site.

An Ego Booster

Some ten months ago, I had done a book review of the six book Ramayana series written by Ashok Banker in a Harry-Potter-meets-Lord-of-the-Rings Science Fiction-Fanstasy genre for our campus newsletter, Vox Populi. The same, I had put up on my earlier blog here. Today, while browsing through Banker's website, I saw that a couple of days earlier, he acknowledged my review on his website and has reproduced it in full over there (without informing me, though. Edit: The review has been removed by him, probably after reading this post.). It might have been a little polite to drop me a comment on the blog, or an email, but even so, it made me happy. I really like that guy's writing and it's an honour for me that he liked the review (I presume he did, or else he wouldn't have posted it on his website).

Thinking of that, and rereading my review reminded me today that although I wasn't happy with his portrayal of Sita in the book in the sense that he is unable to create the character of a paragon of purity and chastity as we know Sita, but he did something really important. I realized that he created a woman of action. From the introductory scene onwards, Sita is shown to be a warrior princess, whose swordsmanship rivals the best in the business. She's fearless, witty, decisive in her actions, fleet-footed and nimble-minded, very different from the image of Sita that has been given to us over and over again, without compromising on her ideals. I liked that. I really liked that.

This thought led me to another one, that of the Taj Mahal. We have been brought up being told that it was built by Shah Jahan in the memory of Mumtaz Mahal to immortalize her. If so, why did he name it the Taj Mahal. Does it symbolize his eternal love for Mumtaz or his eternal love for Mumtaz. All it has done is put him in the history books and rendered him immortal. I, somehow, have always been uncomfortable and unsatisfied with the origin of the Taj Mahal and the explanations that have been provided to me thereof. On the contrary, I find a valid reason for Rama relinquishing Sita after he heard the washerman's comments. Banker is quiet on the issue. He said that he couldn't relate Rama's character to this incident (or something to that effect). I can. If Rama had kept Sita with him even after a seed of distrust had taken roots in the mind of his subjects, as the rumours grew, he would have become the bigger person, one who accepted Sita unconditionally, with her follies. Sita's purity would have been a matter of constant scrutiny with Rama rising above all debate. By sending Sita to the forest, Rama diverted the public's sympathy towards Sita, took all the blame upon himself, making sure that all the accusations ever made in the ages to come (which they continue to be till today), were hurled upon him and not his wife. He made Sita into a revered goddess while he himself stepped down the pedestal. This is not a religious interpretation of the story, it is an attempted literary analysis where the coherency of a character is maintained.

I once attended a talk by the famous Hindi author, Narendra Kohli who has written another six book series on the Ramayana (sadly I haven't read those as yet) and he spoke on a similar issue. We all know that Lord Krishna had 16000 wives, and he has been a subject to constant ridicule (and envy) for his flirtatious nature and the excess of his paramours. What Kohli revealed was that not many know the story behind the secret to his 16000 wives (apart from Rukmini). These were all women who were captured by the asuras, raped and kept in captivity. Krishna went on a mission and rescued all of them. Being 'impure', these women were shunned by the society and no one accepted them in marriage. With no other alternative, they turned to their rescuer, Krishna, some with plea in their eyes, others with accusations. It was then that he decided to marry all of them to validate their place in the society and grant them the respect that they deserved. Yet, a sin had been committed with each one of them and that had to be paid for. By marrying them and liberating them from their misery, Krishna took the responsibility of those 16000 sins upon himself, and that is what he pays for till date by being ridicules by the common man unable to comprehend the immensity of his action.

It doesn't matter if it conforms with the actual epic or not, or if it comes under the purview of people's religious beliefs, but it is a valid interpretation and an interesting take on the whole issue. These two incidents always remind me not to judge in haste, and not to judge with incomplete information. There are always more reasons, more thoughts, more leading circumstances to any action or event than we can ever find out. That jigsaw will never be complete.

Friday, June 20, 2008


There's a Ghazal by Jeet Thayil that I'm reproducing here. It's one of my favorite pieces of poetry, mainly because of the flow. It's such a pleasure reading this one aloud.

Listen! Someone’s saying a prayer in Malayalam.
He says there’s no word for ‘despair’ in Malayalam.

Sometimes at daybreak you sing a Gujarati garba.
At night you open your hair in Malayalam….

…Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues.
Someone’s endowed a high chair in Malayalam.

I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists.
My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam.

Jeet, such drama with the scraps that you know.
Write a couplet, if you dare, in Malayalam.

Here's a link to a page with two short stories of Angela Carter. Both of them are rewrites of the 'Little Red Riding Hood'. I had read the first one a couple of years ago. While looking for it today, I came across the second rewrite, which is a little longer. Haven't yet read it but I can bet it's going to be as good and innovative as the first one.

If anyone's interested in a review of the linguistics in Amitava Ghosh's new book 'Sea of Poppies' by Jai Arjun Singh, it can be found here. Click here for Ghosh's full-length interview with Singh.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


As a second exercise in the Creative Writing course, we had to come up with the names of our top 10 books (thank god it wasn't coming up with good titles). I’ve tried to compile a list of the books that have made some sort of a lasting impression on me, but the problem is I cannot recall the names of so many books that I have read. It might have been easier if we were to make a list of top 10 books in each genre. There are loads of others books that I have immensely enjoyed but they’re not the top 10. My list is displayed in the panel on the right hand side. To this list, I must add two plays – Betrayal and The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, and three short stories – Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, The Dead by James Joyce and The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol.

These pieces of literature would constitute the best I’ve read, or at least the ones that I’ll remember for a long time, with the disclaimer that some of the works might have been left out simply because I couldn’t recall them.

Mat gave his own list of top 10 books. These were:

  • The Hobbit – J R R Tolkien
  • Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson
  • The House at Pooh Corner – A A Milne
  • Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Cider House Rules – John Irving
  • Flashman – George Macdonald Fraser
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • The Sandman – Neil Gaiman
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

What are your top 5 books? Looking forward to interesting and unusual titles. See, this is how I make my reading lists. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Feels Like Shedding Skin

I’ve recently finished college, attended my convocation, received my degree in a temporarily exciting but very colonial setting, and am all set to join my job at Schlumberger in Mumbai this September. With such major changes occurring in life, I went to my old blog and found that I had outgrown it. It was, for quite some time, my most beloved belonging. I would at various times of the day go to my blog and scroll up and down, reading and rereading my own writings, good or otherwise. But today, for good or for worse, I don’t feel connected to it in the same way. I feel it is time to move on and hence this blog and this post. There are quite a few new beginnings as some things come to an end.

My earlier blog, where I put my last entry today (go read), will always remain special to me for a variety of reasons, the most important being that it was my first blog. It was the first place that gracefully accepted my tentative forays into ‘writing’, and was instrumental in getting me the much needed inspiration and encouragement from friends and fellow bloggers. It provided me the anonymity of the internet yet it was a strong reflection of my identity. Both the blog and the first attempts at poetry were inspired by Akhil, and that one thing has snowballed into something so big today that it seems almost surreal that there is always a bigger picture, hidden from us, revealed piece by piece over an agonizingly long period of time.

That blog is invaluable to me for having given me some really good friends that, I hope, will last at least one lifetime, if not more. Akanksha was one of my first readers and though we generally share a mutual liking for each other’s work, it has been her world of dreams that has given me the courage to really go and do what I like rather than falling in with the herd. She’s been this ethereal angelic person always hovering somewhere in the subconscious, ever present yet not imposing. Then there was the SRCC group, Amiya, Richa, Ishani, Jayant and Vidur. There’s Rohit, and there’s Sinjini, and then there’s the indomitable Sayandi. I have been lucky to have stumbled upon so many amazing, friendly, talented people, each of whom I adore and respect for their set of qualities, and all of them have unfailingly taught me so many things about life in the course our interactions. It’s been a real pleasure.

All this wouldn’t have been possible but for Akhil. He’s one true role model that all of us should have, and it’s not just the blogging. I won’t write a testimonial for him over here, but suffice it to say that I hold him in the highest esteem. In an age and time when I have a million issues with people in our age group, he’s one who has set higher standards than I’d have thought of. It’s beyond words, so I’ll just shut up.

Welcome to the new blog everyone! :)