Monday, June 27, 2005


I have been waiting for today for quite some time. Nothing special about today save the decision to finally create the blog associated with the literary journal I was talking about a few weeks ago.
Feel free to visit the official blog for Alvibest. :-)

So, what are we planning to do?
Alvibest is a literary journal which will contain within its folds various art forms captured with the magic that words are known to create. After several discussions with various people, we decided to be non-restrictive and let Alvibest create her own image. We intend to paint the beauty of life with ink.

How do we intend going about it?
Alvibest is a quarterly journal and we hope to get the first issue out in the first week of August. Alvibest will present to the reader various literary forms in variegated styles. The content that one can expect from this journal would surely contain the following genres:

1. Fiction (Short stories, serials)
2. Non-fiction
3. Articles
4. Poetry
5. Book reviews
6. Translations
7. Art work (sketches, paintings, photographs, etc.)

Articles include all works which are not fiction, non-fiction or poetry. This is very vast in what it encompasses. Here we would have articles raising general awareness, description of various art forms like music, dance, architecture, etc., articles related to the art of writing, etc.

How will the journal be presented?
The journal will be compiled and distributed as a colour PDF document. The initial year (first 4 issues) will be rounds of experiments. We would be playing with layout, content, format, etc. As soon as the issue is ready, we will distribute it to a few people and encourage them to distribute it to anyone who might be interested in the same. Those who have subscribed to the journal, will also receive the magazine issue. We will not be putting the articles on the blog, although snippets might be put up in order to make the reader aware of the contents of an issue.

What about the finances?
Currently everything is free. For the first year, there will be no role for money. Once Alvibest beats to a chosen rhythm, we might pay writers/contributors and those desirous of a printed version of the issue might be charged! But these things aren't yet firm. Frankly, finance is not an issue.

What can we do for Alvibest?
We looking for contributors as well as people to help us in getting the issue ready and out. We would need a small number of submission reviewers, designers et al. We would encourage people to submit their works to be published in Alvibest. We aren't accepting material published on someone's blog. We would also be glad if you could rope in the right talent for this effort.

So, how is this going to be any different from other literary magazines?
In India, there aren't any purely literary magazine (not to my knowledge). Some of them are highly steeped in politics/economics and their quality of fiction/non-fiction/poetry leaves a lot wanting. There are plenty in North America and some in Europe. We aren't competing with anyone. All that we promise is a wonderful compilation of very good to excellent quality works, ensuring that the reader picks up Alvibest for getting her/himself a wonderful journey through the world of words.... And then, there aren't any advertisements!! :-)

Would there be anything else that a reader might want to know? Feel free to put it as a comment.

Come in ... join us on this journey!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Steve Jobs says

I am sure many of you must have read this, but I wanted to share it with those who haven't and those who would like to read it again. This man was my hero at one time... till I parted ways with all heroes in my life. He made sense then, and he still makes wonderful sense... Read on. The original is available at:

Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says
This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

And it caught my eye...

I was reading my daily share of words and I came across this:

"Bear in mind that you should conduct yourself in life as at a feast.
Is some dish brought to you? Then put forth your hand and help yourself in seemly fashion. Does it pass you by? Then do not hold it back. Has it not yet come to you? Then do not stretch out for it at a distance, but wait till it is at your hand. And thus doing with regard to children, and wife, and authority, and wealth, you will be a worthy guest at the table of the gods. And if you even pass over things that are offered to you, and refuse to take of them, then you will not only share the banquet of the gods, but also their dominion."

Epictetus (c. 55-c. 135). Greek Stoic philosopher. Encheiridion (1881).

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dark shadows...

As I watched him stand by the lamppost with the collars drawn up to keep the cold and peering eyes away, I realised that along with the misty breath he let out into the dim light awarded by the street and a lone window above, which housed a familiar quarrelling couple, so familiar that one never stopped and looked around with an attempt to pin the source of the sudden noise which could have been a gunshot, if we still believed that people owned muskets, or a vessel thrown to span a few meters and the dawning worthlessness of a marriage which was intended to keep them happy, in all that countable sources of light, Brince's breath stood heavy and grey and at places yellow where the heaviness managed to hold the lightness of sodium vapour lights, for that breath carried all the force of his patience and belief that she would come, although they all said she wouldn't and even those who mocked at him so long and sharp had left to find better and more responsive entertainment, although he knew that she was at a party tonight, although he knew that the silhouette he saw outside David's house was hers as it bent forward and kissed him and followed him into his house, although he knew that she had broken up with David and was seen on Sly's arm yesterday, Sly's silver covered arm which also helped cover those hit marks, although he knew it all, although he knew her promise of coming was in the same tone with which she had promised the pastor his twenty hail Mary's, he waited and would wait as long as his breath could hold itself up in front of him in the light that shone from above, for all that lay beneath that breath was dark and dead and he feared walking away from under the post, feared that he might find his heart amidst the morbid remains of his life....

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


He turned away from her and stared at the painting she had made for him. She had blurred from his life like the sanguine painting lost in the reflection of the madly spinning ceiling fan. Then he noticed the cobwebs near the corners of the frame and the cracks on the frame itself. He had loved the teak frame with intricately carved leaves and cherubs on it smiling at the painting.
Now it was cracked wood and the crack ran through the face of those little angels.
"Sorry, Kamala. I can't take it any more" his voice cracked to the shape of what lay on the frame.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Matters at hand...

"Far is such a thought from my mind," exclaimed Siddhartha. "I wish that they shall all stay with the teachings, that they shall reach their goal! It is not my place to judge another person's life. Only for myself, for myself alone, I must decide, I must chose, I must refuse. Salvation from the self is what we Samanas search for, oh exalted one. If I merely were one of your disciples, oh venerable one, I'd fear that it might happen to me that only seemingly, only deceptively my self would be calm and be redeemed, but that in truth it would live on and grow, for then I had replaced my self with the teachings, my duty to follow you, my love for you, and the community of the monks!"
With half of a smile, with an unwavering openness and kindness, Gotama looked into the stranger's eyes and bid him to leave with a hardly noticeable gesture.
"You are wise, oh Samana.", the venerable one spoke."You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!"
[Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse]

Not often do I come across a short phase in my days where I am confronted with a singular matter brought forth with least design and cunning. It is interesting to watch, in a span of few days, intricately related matters bloom before my eyes and make me wonder why? Why do these things come forth to me? Am I supposed to do something? Am I supposed to realise something?
Such a bundle of days started out with a post on an acquaintance's blog where a small discussion about choices and one's worth in the context of the world ensued.
Later, I saw a post on Meera's blog about mediocrity and the like.
Dheepak Ra's blog had this post about love (why? oh why? :-) and there was some interesting points being raised there about expectations and reciprocation.
Misha's blog had a post about nothingness and doing things for their sake.

If you are wondering where the link is, here it is. The link is about volition and how we see ourselves in the context of the world. I suppose this is very essential to our thought process as well as our lives. It isn't as glamorous as "Ego" or "Esteem" or some of the other stuff that fills volumes of books on "philosophy", but I think it is most essential to our understanding of things around us and our purpose, or rather the absence of it, in this world.
I shall try and present this step by step, ever mindful of the growing dissent against lengthy pieces of writing!! ;-)

1. Why do we choose?
2. Why do we wish to walk our path and not just some path?
3. Why do we need to have an ambition?
4. Why do we think we have a unique purpose in our lives?
5. Is expecting inevitable, given that we choose?
6. What is a successful life?
7. How do we affect the world through what we do?
8. Should we live in order to create an impact on others, on the world?
9. Hence, what is the point of living?

Oops!! I think I would need to spread this across a few posts. There is no way I am going to manage all of this in a few lines and one post! Let's flow.
I would request the reader to enquire along with me. It is quite likely that I may learn something new or gain a new perspective. We aren't dealing in theories here, nor do we wish to proclaim and accept ideals. THAT I would be able to do in a few lines!!

1. Why do we choose?
I would start with 2 other, but related, questions. When do we choose? and what do we choose between? A very important thing we need to remember is, we aren't talking about trivial choices like "should I have Honey-Nut-Crunch or Choco-Rum-Delight." I don't think people fret over such incidents of choosing. What we are considering are incident where choices seem to be disturbing and/or have far reaching consequences. Are we together on this? So, what do we choose between? We choose between equally desirable things, is it not? If you were asked to choose between living in Switzerland and living in a cave in the Himalayas, there might not be much of a choice. If you were asked to choose between a life of wealth and pleasure and a life of ill-paid work in a cement factory for 17 hours, there really isn't much to choose from. We aren't going to argue for the heck of it, so don't flip over and tell me that "Why? Maybe a life in a cement factory for 17 hours everyday and earning 200 rupees a month is paradise for someone." So we choose between equally desirable things. When do we choose? Would I be wrong in understanding that choices are made to ensure a desirable consequence (usu. in the future)? If the consequences were to be the same, the choices might be of little relevance, at least the choice itself wouldn't trouble us for long. If the choice was between a career as a fighter pilot and a mason and both of them give you the same thrills, security, job satisfaction, etc. although you might hold a penchant for flying now, were you to become a mason the consequences might allay your ephemeral disappointment of not flying. This is usually not realised in a couple of days or months but usually over a longer period of time. Hence, (if we nod together on this) we choose when we need to ensure the circumstances and environment of our future. Basically, ensure security (not merely monetary) of our future lives. I shall leave this at that...

2. Why do we wish to walk our path and not just some path?
It is often heard from people who have chosen that "I'd rather choose and be wrong than be stuck with someone else's choice". It seems that the suffering is not a primary concern as much as who is the perpetrator of the suffering. If you hurt me, I don't like it, but if I go and hurt myself, it is ok. This seems to be irrational to me. I am interested in tackling my pain. How does it matter who caused it? I think I want to be a painter, my parents coax me into doing engineering. I get a job and soon I realise that I have no mental peace and long working hours and no job satisfaction. So I blame my parents and throw a tantrum. Had I become a painter and spent endless days without money and borrowing money to buy canvas and trying my best to put up gallery shows and being forced into selling my paintings for Rs. 500 so that I can pay off my debts, then such a life is fine? Now I am not suffering? This suffering is acceptable to me? Does the path matter so much rather than what we do on that path? If the goal is being happy, then does it matter which path we take? If the goal is being financially successful, then does it matter which path we take? Is the mind tricking us into identifying ourselves with a path purely on the basis of being the designer of that path?

3. Why do we need to have a goal, an ambition?
I am yet to figure this out. I am a criminal too and while I indulge in this I keep wondering (and this is ever since I stepped into my teens) why? What is the point? When I ran for the school and state athletics team, I wanted to be the best; when I got on stage, I wanted to be the best actor; when I did my homework I wanted my teachers to announce that my submission was the best (I still remember once when we were asked to find out the value of 2*2*2, everyone said 6 and I had said 8 and the teacher said "No, 6 is the right answer". When I proved it to her that I was right, she didn't bother to announce it. Notice that I still remember something that happened in 2nd or 3rd. I was so intent on being noticed then!!); when I got to sing in a choir, I wanted my voice to be recognised as the clearest. Fortunately I never felt that way about the writing that issued out of my pen. Even in wanting to lead a simple life I wanted to be the best. The point is: How does it help at all? Why do we need an ambition? Is it to fill the lack of passion for the task at hand? Is it goad us on towards stardom or perfection? But why? I am passionate about teaching and philosophy (amongst a hundred other things), and the passion is so overwhelming that there is no place for praise or criticism. Honestly. The prizes I won for my essays on pedagogy didn't affect me at all. Its like when you are running away from a lion; you do not want to run in the most elegant fashion nor would you care about whether you are the fastest person on earth: you need to be faster than the lion! Simple. And that is not ambition, that is pure necessity, urge, passion. The analogy ends here. Please do not take it further. If I am in love with something/someone I wouldn't measure it nor attempt to surpass anyone else in their love for a similar thing/person. If accolades and recognition is your thing, then do we agree that you do not love the task/object/person as much as you love yourself and exalting yourself in the eyes of the mass and the intellentsia/elite? When there is no love, why should you be recognised for something? When you truly don't love music why do you wish to be the greatest singer?

Let us spend some time on our discussion about these matters before we proceed with the other 6 concerns that we have raised...
It was a pleasure talking to you.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

In a new avatar

Breathless stretches of mud and grass raced beneath our nimble feet which barely touched them as we chased one and another, shorts chasing shorts or shorts chasing skirts and frocks. We called it something else but, like true joy, I only remember the experience. It would be fun to corner a little pigtailed girl and she would start screeching as if the commotion had the effect of making her invisible and hence safe. Some of the guys would have mercy and chase another kid. Some prolonged that hunt and moment of accepting the trophy. I would explain that it is a game and then make them "out".
Elsewhere a variation of it is called Tag.
Now we have a similar game being played in our midst, like armchair hunters. I was all tickled
and excited to hear about it. I have been tagged by Meera and Krish. As stupid as I felt when I was hunted down in my days of bruises and scars, I felt elated to be picked in my present days of deadlines and emails! :-)
Without much ado I shall proceed. But (damn it! control yaar, control) I would like to recount a quick incident of this game with a friend of mine. we played this game and what I recount is not about the sweaty twists and dodges of the game with her, but the memory it brings of her. She is a very talented girl but has a great problem with apologising. She would try to make up in many ways, but would find it difficult to pick up the phone and call or send an email. Many a time I let her out of her predicament of not being able to break the ice. Once I decided not to so that she get a chance to learn how to do so. She hasn't yet made contact with me. She stills talks to others about me and, in indirect ways, maintains communication with me, but is still finding it difficult to break out and say "Hi Eroteme! Long time...." :-) This post is to that little brat with whom I have had a wonderful time. What do you say I do with her? :-)

So here goes:

Total books I own:
I stopped counting a few years back. The very act of poking the spine of each book and call out a monotonically increasing sequence of numbers with each jab has stopped holding my fancy. If one were to include the books that I have printed out (and bound in maroon rexine... hmmm smells wonderful) I would easily count about 200+ books. I do not seggregate between technical and non-technical books (Have you read Peter Van derLinden's Expert C Programming: Deep C secrets? You wouldn't call it a technical book. It is the finest example of a focussed book on a particular topic (aka technical book) which can make you laugh and read it like a novel. Brilliant book. Most of my technical books are interesting reads as well (even the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 1975).

Last book I bought:
Not 1 but 3:
Mistress of Spices: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Corrections: Jonathan Franzen
Drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci: A.E. Popham (A rare book which I got at a good discounted price)

Last book I read:
Mistress of Spices

Currently reading:
Can Humanity change? Jiddu Krishnamurthy in dialogue with Buddhists
John Updike: Early Stories 1953-1972
Poems by Wordsworth, Longfellow and Basho
Immediate Fiction: Jerry Cleaver
Short stories from various journals

Books that have had an impact on me:
Honestly, every one of them (which I completed) has had an impact on me, so let me paint a scene in a bookstore where you ask me "E, I have less than Rs. 1000 with me. Give me 3 books which will make me sit up and read them and would be worth the moeny spent on them". Hmmm...

1. The Tao Te Ching: This is a compilation of 81 verses. It is not a new religion nor is it something that converts you from Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or whatever you have trained yourself to follow. Its impact on your religious beliefs is the same as that of the South Beach Diet. In 81 verses, Laozi (or someone) has extracted the finest essence of philosophy and wisdom. I like this text because I was drawn into it, nay, I beat to the same rhythm as it thumps. Not one part came to me as new nor was it ever so clear before. In not knowing and knowing I relished this compilation.

2. Stories by Saki: I have read (as others have) this author since my schooldays and loved the way he played with words. He would make you read and re-read the sentence ensuring that your smile grew wider with every fresh perusal. Saki had the ability to be verbose without tiring you down. I hear many people say that he indeed was tiresome, but I never found him that way. His sentences were all read in one breath and when I ran out of it, in the inhalation came fresh air, purport, beauty, a tinkle of bells and ecstacy. I would play with words in my head ever since I read and relished his works.

3. Truth is a pathless land: This is the first public speech given by JK. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was truly shaken up by this (I read it when I was 18). His other works didn't have much of an impact (which is different from being impressed) on me as this single piece had laid me bare and I revelled in the nudity it brough forth. Try as much, I couldn't be clothed thereafter.

4. Tarzan (Edgar Rice Burroughs): I grew up wanting to ride Jadbalja (if I remember right) the
golden maned lion. I would practice jumping from branches onto the nape of a predator and press its head to the mud and bite into the jugular vien. The predators, rest assured, were imaginary, but the branches and the twists in my ankle weren't. I use to run around the house dressed (rather, undressed) like Tarzan (hold your wild horses! I stopped doing that when I was about 10). The impact this book series had on me was the power of imagination it opened up to me. I created sequels to the books and enacted the scenes.

5. Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha: Every Indian child who enjoyed reading has been ensnared by these little thin books. Dasavathara, Tantri the Mantri, Mahabharata and others. They were the first I read and loved them. And the impact of the first love is not spelt out in words!

6. DC War comics: I was crazy about them and gobbled them in matter of minutes. I loved the scenes of war and the rat-a-tats of Uzi submachine guns and subs and... In loving these books I learnt to despise war. That was their impact.

"Damn it, E. I said 3 books. Now, do I have to buy all of them?"

Now whom do I tag?
I would love to hear the choices of Atanu, Uma, Toeragz, Ammani and SensiblyStoned (I was told to stop with 5 :-( ).

And a few more books:
I was asked recently by a few people to recommend/suggest/discuss good books. What follows is a quick list of my likes. I would like to break that list into 3 parts, viz., pure joy of reading, thought provoking and great amount of information. Some books would cross borders and cannot be contained in any compartment created with such wide sieves.
I would point to many books on this page. You could search for these on your favourite online bookstore (was planning to link them all, but decided against it).

Joy of Reading:
1. John Updike: Early Stories 1953-1975
2. Mistress of Spices
3. The Lady and the monk
4. Collected Stories by Nabokov
5. Lolita
6. Any story by Saki
7. Mrs. Dalloway
8. 21 stories: Graham Greene
9. On Writing (Stephen King)
10. Don Quixote (pronounced as Don K(w)ee-o-they)

Thought Provoking:
1. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
2. Siddartha
3. Narcissus and Goldmund
4. Truth is a pathless land (JK)
5. Peopleware
6. Catcher in the Rye
7. This matter of Culture (JK)
8. Art of Innovation (IDEO)
9. Razor's Edge
10. 1984

Wonderful source of information
1. Serious Creativity
2. How would you move Mount Fuji?
3. Expert C Programming (this book is a joy to read as well)
4. Lateral Thinking
5. Nature of Order (all 4 volumes, Christopher Alexander)
6. Organisational Behaviour (Robbins)
7. Programming Pearls (Bentley)
8. Pragmatic Programmer: From journeyman to master
9. Drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci
10. Design of the UNIX operating system (Bach. Brilliant)

I have an idea for another tag series. Will be putting up the details soon... :-)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

And what life gave him...

It is a confusing day to which one opens tired, aged eyes looking around searching for those who helped define life which was being celebrated that day. They say a man is blessed to be able to celebrate his 60th birthday with kith and kin around to relive a few scattered moments and at once make him feel six, sixteen, twenty six and then with their gifts and chapped smiles remind him of the 60 years he has lived.
But his father was no more and his mother was too old to hug him like she did on that sultry morning when he was six and still in knickers while she had had her bath and wasn't supposed to touch anyone. She had brushed back his hair with a loving hand, before she went to have her bath again. He had lost most of that hair and she had lost most of that courage to display affection openly. Now he had his wife and son to hug, although his wife didn't and his son wasn't around.
And confusing days are surprisingly bright in a diabolic attempt to make you lose your guard and expect a wonderfully pleasant day. But he was wise by instinct and of years. He woke up and headed for the prayer room and bowed his silent 30 second reverence before he went about preparing for the day's activities. I remember once asking my mother: "Amma, why doesn't mama say as many prayers as we do? He seems to complete it all in 2 minutes but it takes me a shifty-legged 10 minutes to complete it all" She replied:"Its not how long you stand before the lord but how sincere you are." She still insisted that I say all my prayers for the gods might excuse her brother who, she hoped, was as loved by them as she loved him.

He came over to me and said: "You need to take care of a lot of things today." I was suddenly red with excited blood running to my head and all ready to run around even if there wasn't work. It was an honour to serve him. I never thought he would ask me. He picked me. I was smiling through most of the hodiernal work without regard to the heat and sweat that ran down between one curved lip and another.

And then I watched him go through the rituals like he had walked through most of life; with sincerity, attention and complete dedication. As I watched him live his life again for the next 3 hours I let my ears pick odd conversations which went from one tilted grey-haired person to another.
"Were it not for Kanna then it would have been so difficult to manage my children's education."
"Is the sweet dish ready? Kanna would like it hot."
"Why are those leaves dangling like that? E, come here. Go straighten those leaves. What will mama think of your work?"
"He could have conducted this in a big hall with hundreds of people coming in. But..."
"He doesn't cut down on any of the formal expenditures. Even now. God alone bless him and take care of him."
"Well, it seems that only god has been taking care of him."
"You like this chain. 22 carat. Haan, it was A~ choice. She and Kanna had gone to pick it up for my birthday."
"He has grown thin, no? I wish I could do something for him. But he won't accept anything from anyone. He still lives by the old code."
"Kanna and me were close once. Then I got married and he got married and... Everyone has to take of their own family."

In the midst of all this, mama would call me and give me some instructions which I enjoyed doing. He performed the sacrificial rites without a smile and I hoped no one noticed it.
"Mama, smile! One snap, mama. Please."
and that smile would carry the weight of 60 years on either ear which had stood recipient to praises, accolades, pleadings, accusations, death chants, birth cries of grandchildren of his siblings and a lot more.

As he was completing his sacrificial rites, I went to sit at my grandmother's feet. She placed a hand on my shoulder and I held it lightly. I turned to look up at her, but she was looking at her son with the same love she had once held him on that sultry morning. And in that gaze she hoped to take it all away from him and into herself. Her son didn't deserve what he had been through. None of her children did, but definitely not her son. And she watched him while each tear bore a tale:
An angry boy in torn knickers
A boy afraid of his father
A short tempered teenager
A loving brother.
A boy who climbed to myriad temples praying for this child to be a boy so that he could play with him.
A boy who loved to take care of his sisters and laid down rules for them.
A boy playing in dust while watching boys his age ride a cycle. Should he ask his parents? No, there were other things to be bought.
A boy diligent in his studies. He had to get his sisters married off.
An admission into IIT Madras.
Sideburns flanking a serious boy-man face.
How he held back his tears when his younger sister got married
How he helped ease out troubles in the married homes of his younger sisters
How he waited till he was sure that he could afford to get married
How he prospered
How he shared his prosperity with all
How he gave his wife everything
How he gave everyone nearly everything
How he prayed for a child
How he thanked the gods for the son they gave him
How he spun dreams into the soft downy blanket he draped over his son's chest
How he took care of his ailing sister
How he took care of his dear brother
How he heard jealous remarks but never flinched nor stopped helping those vile tongues
How he loved life
How he took everyone into the life he loved
Those toys and chocolates he bought everyone. Save some money Kanna! What use amma? Look at them. See how happy they are?
How he rose and then...
How he took care of his ailing father.
How he never let his father apologise for anything and let him die with his head held high. At least to others...
How he never fought with anyone, not even his wife and child
How he made sure his son got the foreign education he so sought
How he bore the brunt of time and misfortune but always greeted everyone with a genuine smile.
How he forgot to smile
How he forgot to love life
How he stoops under the telling of time
How he still holds on to the basic tenets of a good man
How his trembling hands perform the sacrifice earnestly
How I wish I could hug him like I did in the kitchen that day...

Amma, today is my birthday, amma.
Kanna, may you live like a king that you are to me and to all who know you truly. May you find peace. May you find joy. May the gods stop torturing you. May you get your smile back. May you find that bounce in your step. Kanna, may you be my son again. In this life and in every life of mine.

Her grip tightened around my shoulders and I turned to look at my uncle. He poured the last offering into the sacrificial fire and he seemed to ask: What am I celebrating?

I hope the fires replied thus:
Hear perfect man, you shall celebrate the lives you have touched and infinite be they although only a few gather around you today to be a part of your life as they have always been and to make you a part of their life as you have always been. Hear son, you shall celebrate the joy of giving without plot and design. Hear dear son, you shall celebrate the joy of instilling happiness in many lives although they forget in the midst of their reveling. Hear dearest of sons, celebrate the joy of having so many eyes turn toward you although I burn brighter.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Parental guidance should be sought
For this scene in the bathroom, shot

(We need more warnings and disclaimers of this sort!! :-)

Laa laa ri ra...
Laa laa ri ra...
Laa li ra ra ra ra rum
Laa laa ri ra...
Laa laa ri ra...
Laa li la la lum

Ooooooh Yeah!

Bin badal barsat ho jaise
(now I am scratching my chin to figure out where that came from)

Jaaaaaaane Jaan
Doondtha (muffled by soap) raha
Hoon tumhe raat din, mein yahan se wahan

Dhoom pichak dhoom, pichak dhoom,
dhoom pichak dhoom, pichak dhoom
di-di di di-di di di-di di di di di
Dhoom pichak dhoom, pichak dhoom

Vaathaapi ganapathim bhaje hummmmmm
Vaathapi ganapathim bhajeyyyy
Varana-aasyam vara-pradam shree
Varana-aasyam vara-pradam shree
VAAAAaaaaaaathapi ganapathim bhajeyyyyyyyyy-eeyyyyyy hum

jing chak jing jing chak jing jing chak
ta da nu dheem taree ta ja nu dheem taree thaam takita thaam ta da nu-uuuuuuuuu

Dil se mere door-na jaana-aa
Dil se mere door-na-jaana
Tum meri zindagiiiiii
Tum meri ho khusheee

Friday, June 03, 2005

And I felt her leave...

Three little fingers held my thumb like earth does, the first rain drop. They were cool against my cheek... the coolness of receding life.
She licked her lips.
She was tender in my hands. How could she leave before her first blush, before she wore braces, become a woman, giggle at those cute boys, ... how?
I let my tears fall and mingle with hers. I bent to kiss her and watched her body slowly ebb away from me as if a kiss would break the resolve to depart. Would her little torso lift against the weight of death?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A pleasure indeed...

I realised that I hadn't visited a few blogs which I like. Did that and then I stopped doing that once I reached Dheepak Ra's blog

He has one of the most splendid blogs I have seen in a long time... Most of us weave in wonderful words and images and news tit-bits and opinions... He blends pictures, quotes and little colour of personal experience and presents a tapestry like I have never seen before. I find that wonderful. I owe him the smile that I carry today. Thanks D. I owe him other things of which he is unaware but that is better left that way... :-)

I wasn't planning to blog today, but couldn't help it...
Please do visit his blog when you find time...

(Naah, Dheepak didn't pay me for this!! ;-)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Those fakers...

I simply hate it when they fake a Western accent. I called some person and I hear an annoying feminine voice go like this:

"The Hutch numbuhr you have cawled is currently unavaiylabillll, pleease try again laytuhr. Thaiink youuu."

and she practically sang it out!

I don't believe that I have an accent, but whenever I go to Madras (nothing against Madras, but this was noticed mostly in that city) and ask someone at the bus stop which bus goes to Adyar or something like that (in Tamil) they would reply in English and the younger (25*365 days or lesser) ones would do it with a fake accent. Why? Why oh! why? I can notice the sharp change in accent when someone talks to another person in English ("No, daaa. He did it chumma only...") and then turns around for a conversation with me ("Oh! yeaaah. What they did was sooo coool. I really dig it.") ... Hurrmmmpphh. Annoying.

Recently at a bookshop in Bombay, I couldn't help overhear a bunch of schoolgirls (lesser than 14*365 days on earth) discuss some book and intersperse that with discussions about some girls in school. The accent was atrociously faked and the language had a liberal sprinkling of all the four letter words which one would refrain from using in front of one's parents! Cute kids, though :-)

My sister's doctor's kid and her cousins/friends went on a trek to some place near Delhi. So they stopped over at my sis's place. She had sent a small parcel with the kid. When I went to collect it, I thought it sensible to enquire about the trek and whether they enjoyed the stay at my sister's place (you know, the pointless but essential things of life!). Her accent knocked me over! She called my sister "funky" (my sis is a little shy of 30*365 days and this kid was all of 14*365 days or so) and called my nephew (< 210 days. Now you know why I was measuring age in days? Poor kid feels bad when he is the only one to be counted in days) something which I am glad he can't yet understand! FUNKY? My sister doesn't have a bull's nose ring nor does she wear her hair in pink and blue spikes! FUNKY? :-O

If being modern and hep (what on earth does that mean? Where did it come from?) and cool are the in things, then why is it that people achieve them only by faking and aping?

Wait till I catch that Hutch woman! X-(