Friday, February 25, 2005

A little roll of memories

Looking around, I searched for some interesting thing to serve as fodder for my next blog post. I envy those who simply find something which transforms itself so nicely into a blog post. I think I was actually looking around for stuff in my room; stuff worthy of mention. Its an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you go to bed without finding one, I'll give you that.

The morning came into my room like any adolescent child sneaking in after a night's revelry. Quietly looking over and through the window, tiptoeing in, hushing all the disturbed birds for disturbing those around and finally caught red handed with sneakers in one hand. I dare say it is the smell of socks that wake a wary parent like the smell of warming leaves and music from the temple that woke me. Nothing special about this day, or so I thought. What could be special about a day which held a huge chunk of itself for work in an office? I woke up the way I always did, but I give you no assurances for the way the sheets were wrapped around me. Its a new pattern everyday; one that I am too dozy and disinterested to notice...

I went on with my usual daily ablutions and walked over to my desk which I keep telling myself that I will replace with a solid oak or teak (or a nice combination) monolith with hand crafted griffins and berries along smoked columns and sides, with a slab of black granite or a leather top. Well, I at least know what I want and what I have, for what I have is a nice table made of 12 mm plywood with a teak like vinyl cover. It presently also held something which I had preserved and forgotten until this very moment brought it back to me like only an old memory can.

It was a black and yellow casing of an Ilford PAN 100 photo film (B&W) which I had shot using a now missing Yashica (one of its kind). I smiled.

This was my second B&W roll. The first came out good, although it revealed my amateurish transition from colour to B&W. Its a whole new world through a B&W lens. Anyway, this roll held fond memories. I had used this to capture my day with a wonderful woman, whom I didn't love, but didn't know what I had with her. She was a good friend and still is, as she is getting used to being someone's wife. We had shot this roll when I had been to Bangalore to visit her there. She had chopped her hair short and wanted to show it to me. She knew how much I hated it. For a woman as beautiful (and I also mean fine looking) as her, short hair was ... I don't know. I never wanted her to cut her hair, but she went ahead to do that. She walked in to Gangarams while I waited. I always wait for people in a book shop. That way, their delay goes unnoticed. She walked in, and the old days walked in along with her. We chatted for a while. She had the chocolate assortment I had got for her and I had them too (yeah, try managing not eating chocolates). We sat at Barista and caught up on old times and gossip. Every bit of news was caught like a passing wiff of breeze and presented in order to make her laugh or make me throw open my eyes in disbelief, like the toys we dig out one after the other to bring a smile to the angel in the crib. We spent a lot of time commenting on all those who passed by and wondering about when she should get married. I had always wanted to be at her marriage and deck her up. It was a secret wish of mine to decorate her and present her to the world and then slide away...

We finally decided that we should leave before they threw us out. We decided to walk down the road.
Where to?
Nowhere in particular.
Ok. Let's go.

We kept walking and talking and laughing and the road vanished. It was simply our voices and her eyes and my shadow which I carefully placed over her, lest the sun be too harsh. That walk is a blur in my head, and several attempts bring nothing more than the embroidery work on her lilac kameez, to me.

It ended with her asking me: Where do we eat?
Anywhere. Your pick.
Hmmm. Fine, but I will pay.
Come on. When I come to meet you, I pay, when you come to meet me, I can't let you spend anymore, so I pay.
We laughed at that silly joke.
No, let me pay. You paid the last time.
That was several months ago and I was suprised that she even remembered. I let her have it her way.
Then lets go to some classy restaurant.
She hesitated for a minute. She was too proud to let me in.
Like this one. What is it called? Angeethi? Cool. Angeethi.
She was relieved. We walked in and continued with our chatter. She was considered to be the quietest girl way back in time.

We had food (which again is a blur to me) and decided to go to her office. It was a nice space and we spent some time in the cafeteria and at her desk and reading the notices on all the walls. I got her to pose for some pictures. We hung around for some more time and then she had to go home.

I dropped her home and went on to my place.
The whole day was captured on roll. Every 30-40 minutes I would take a picture of something or of her. In the hotel, I let a waiter take a picture of us together at the table. There were scores of pictures of her office and her in her office.

Fond memories. I never developed that roll. Don't plan to.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Zen Koan

I read a few Zen Koans over the past few years, and re-read them over the past few days. Funny how time and effort sometime don't correlate.

Here is presented an unpublished Zen koan.

It was the morning when the snow and dew argued on the leaves of the cherry tree. The tree never participated. The leaves never participated. The sun was warmer than she had been a few weeks ago when the snow had won. Makoto was a bright boy and disciple of Kazuo. Unlike most boys his age, he wasn't admitted into a monastry, but brought under the aegis of Kazuo. Everyone in Kyoto regarded Kazuo as an enigma and spoke with two tongues about him. Makoto heard neither.Makoto watched the sun rise and melt the snow on the branch that dangled outside the zendo. With every falling drop his mind grew anxious. The cherry tree had borne her tears far too long and was gladdened at the sight of the golden orb. Soon she would blossom into a shocking bunch of pink against the azure sky and the white of spring afternoons. But the future wasn't present in Makoto's mind. When the remains of the defeated snow dangled dearly to the sallow leaves he jumped up and ran to his Master. His footsteps made no more noise than the fall of the now melted snow.

He waited outside his Master's chamber. His Master was deep in meditation. He sank to the floor and touched his head to the tatami within the chamber. Kazuo opened his eyes and softly shut them, before Makoto raised his troubled head. Kazuo's eyes shone with a smile none could see. The sun was up above the house and Kazuo was still in meditation. Makoto waited as he knew not what else to do.When the sun lit the other side of the house, Kazuo opened his eyes and nodded his permission to Makoto.
"I am sorry to disturb you Master."
"I wanted to know what is love?"
"Hmmm. I need some tea."

Makoto took permission and rushed to make tea. He picked the finest herbs and jasmine and prepared tea for his Master. He wasn't allowed to taste it before his Master did, so he carefully smelt the snaking fumes and decided that it was appropriate to serve it to his Master.

Kazuo had his tea. He sipped every drop and let it run on his tongue. Makoto realised that he was hungry too as he hadn't had his meals. He gulped while he covered the teapot with the black woolen cloth. Kazuo finally replaced the cup in the tray.

"Master, if I may ask you something?"
"What is love Master? In all its forms?"
"Hmmm. Do we have sufficient rice at home for dinner?"

Makoto excused himself and rushed to the kitchen. He checked all the containers and bowls and made sure that the sounds of emptiness of the vessels and his stomach were well concealed. He paused to gather the right words and rushed back.

"Master, I haven't done used my begging bowl today. Please let me go out and get some rice."
"Hmmm. Saburo-san had promised to offer the food to our household. Maybe you could save time by going there."

Makoto requested permission and grabbed his begging bowl and ran out. The evening made his feet frigid and the straw sandals were no protection from the steely pinch of the early night breeze. He rushed to Saburo-san's house and knocked on the door. Nobody answered the door. He knocked again and curled his toes into a fist. A soft voice came from within.
"Who is it?"
"Bhiku Makoto. Master Kazuo sent me to ask Saburo-san for some rice. Not much. Just enough for two bodies."
"Father is not at home. Can you come later?"
Makoto wasn't sure. His Master might not like his unsuccessful voyage.
"Rice enough for one person, is all I ask. I shall wait here while you get it for me. Rest assured."
The door opened silently to one of the most beautiful girls Makoto had ever seen. Her eyes were wide open before they demurely turned towards his sandals. He slowly hid them under his habit. Her hair fell straight on her pale delicate forearm and such a union of the blackest black with the whitest white was divine, or as some in Japan say, the handiwork of the devil. Her voice was like the gurgling of the stream that stretches from the yawning caves of the mountains yonder into a widely awaiting parched earth. Such lips were those that cherry blossoms divided the redness amongst themselves and still failed to be redder than the pink that the world loved. Her kimono grew from a gentle ivory near the nape of her neck to a soft pink near her elbow, much like the blush that grew on her cherubic face having realised that she was now held in rapture. The scarf she wore made her skin seem more pale. She looked up to see a handsome bhiku with eyes as passionate as her tender heart.
"Please come in"
"Uh! A little rice is all I need."
She bit her lower lip till he decided to step in.
"I shall bring you rice. There is fish too. Would you want some?"
"No, rice is all that my Master asked."
She shuffled into the kitchen and returned with a large bowl of steaming hot rice. She placed it beside him and proceeded to fill his bowl with a small cup. Her hair and the scented rice mingled to intoxicate Makoto. He rose sharply.
"Thank you. You are very kind."
He turned and left.
He ran into the dark night as fast as he could to get away from those eyes. From one black dream into another.

He entered the house and filled his Master's bowl with rice.
"Master? Rice. Saburo-san's family was very kind."
Kazuo smiled.
"Hmmm. It took you a while."
Makoto hesitated.
"Saburo-san's daughter had her reservation in opening the house to strangers."
"Hmmm. I forgot her name."
"I am sorry Master. I hadn't enquired."
At length, Kazuo finished his bowl of rice and rose to leave for his inner chamber.
"Master. Pardon me for disturbing you."
"Master, I wanted to know what is love."
Kazuo smiled.
"You still don't know?"
Makoto looked up and smiled. He bowed his head on the tatami and left the chamber.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Babies before marriage??

Where can I find a dinner (1636) after sleep (1358)?
How many people accept placing their mother (332) before their girlfriend (6366)?
Weren't we (as nice boys and girls) supposed to place you (14) before the I (11)? I the donkey...
How many of you agree in placing the devil (4802) with a feminist (4803) (or what be worse still, conversely)?
And who the hell uses blakelock (39893)?

This is the one of the most interesting page I have seen in the past few days. Simple count of words which are commonly used in the English (not American) language. This is what they have on their website:

WordCount data currently comes from the British National Corpus®, a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent an accurate cross-section of current English usage. WordCount includes all words that occur at least twice in the BNC®. In the future, WordCount will be modified to track word usage within any desired text, website, and eventually the entire Internet.

A very nice experiment which doesn't really produce much but presents itself very well. Do spend some time playing around and you might find some really interesting insights into our vocalising and writing of a commonly used language.

How else would you know that money (227) is more important than God (376) and sex (1236) is far better than marriage (1314) or fidelity (14729)? ;-)

Monday, February 21, 2005


It is funny how people accept certain things as default human behavior. Funny in no derogatory sense but in being sufficient to amuse me to a fair extent. People have accepted that charity, forgiving, kindness, honesty, etc. are the right things that every human must have, and those who question or do not subscribe to this are "bad" people. They even have forgiveness organisations, sessions, therapy and projects.
Geez! This makes me sick. I need to rush to the basin!

Why am I rambling?

I had a recent conversation with a good friend of mine. She (oh, most of them are she's) was of the opinion that a slight should be forgiven. I was of the opinion that when a pardon wasn't sought, who or what am I forgiving? She added the following to her opinion: well, not always must a pardon be sought nor must everyone go to Canossa before they are pardoned. In the exclamation of a non-Indian friend of mine "Ooooh weeee" (need to be tony and quick while saying it).

I do not believe that my friend was judgmental about me nor deemed me fit for a JDC (well, I am not juvenile either, so they wouldn't take me in).


Why do we forgive?
What makes us think we are in a position to pardon anyone?
What makes us think pardoning someone undoes the act itself?
So if the act can never be undone, why forgive?
If we assume that forgiving is essential, then how can I forgive when it is not sought?
Is pardon not something that has to be sought?
Isn't the basis of the Christian confessional built on "asking and ye shall be given"?
Isn't the Hindu basis of a "prayaschitta" based on realising and seeking pardon through specifically ordained acts?
I shant go into the schemes of other religions (and we know and see enough), but forgiving world-over seems to be a dialogue. You ask, and you get (rather might get). So why should one forgive whether or not one is requested of it?
If I should pardon always, asked or otherwise, then what is the significance of a pardon?
If I shouldn't forgive always, then when should I forgive?
Should I forgive only when the pardon sought is grounded on earnestness? Truth? Genuineness? How do I recognise truth, earnestness and/or genuineness?
Is our pardon a recognition of that truth/earnestness/genuineness or what?

Which brings me back to my first question: Why do we forgive?

Enough asked.
Before I proceed, I would like to add a clarification. I do not subscribe to the religious tenets of seeking pardon and will detail this in a later post.

I was telling her that I don't usually forgive because I am not sure it is truly wanted and sometimes because I do not know whether the reasons arrayed as a part of the apology is indeed true. That makes me a bad guy (though she hasn't said this in words or noticeable gestures!! :-))

So what should one do? I have a standard answer to such questions: Go Figure!

But let me indulge my fingers and my keyboard.

I don't really think anyone seeks my pardon. No, really. I don't occupy such a position in anyone's life. If someone seeks my pardon, I might give it. This is where I am flawed. I do not have a perfect scheme of judging the sincerity in an apology. I usually prefer to forget the incident and go on, and if such things repeat and become intolerable, I quit. Ctrl+C.

Now, do I expect that someone apologise? Yes, if they want me to forgive them, yes. If they don't want or care about my forgiving them, why should I forgive them? I can't forgive someone who doesn't realise her/his mistake and feel sorry about it. It's like feeding someone who isn't hungry.

But sometimes, it is quite likely that I see something as wrong and expect them to apologise whereas they wouldn't have registered their act as something inappropriate. Hmmm. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation here.
How does one handle it?
If there isn't consensus on an act being inappropriate or not, then what should one do?

Beats me. So let me think while I grease my knuckles.

Aah. Grease tastes good!! :-)

I remember a time way back in kindergarten, when I was placed in the role of some king in a play and like most kids doused in rouge and lipstick. I was a little bored as I had spelt out my dialogues well and sung my song to the right meter, so the teachers were focussing on the other kids. I started eating lipstick. Actually, it was tasty. So I stuck to it. The teachers noticed it and re-applied another fresh coat of paint to make my lips shiny red with matching, though milder, orbs on either side. Wasn't the earlier coat tasty? Let's try this one. And the teachers and me kept ourselves busy with this game till they decided to call my parents and tell them that I was eating into their supply of lipstick (literally). I suppose they couldn't have explained it to their husbands about the fast depleting lipstick stock (I suppose, "a kid ate them", gets the same response as a hippo blaming the fish for all the bubbles that rise in the water! Uggh!).

Where were we? Aah, knuckle grease. Forgiving. Bad guy. Nice friend. Amen.

What say to the idea that s/he who finds the act unacceptable by some weird book, bound in lizard skin and heavier than the rack which keeps it away from others, lets the other person know about it? Come on, this is an open world and communication, I was told, is the key (to what?). So I am the cranky guy, and I find what you just did, unacceptable, so I tell you. How? By spelling it out, by being cranky (or just being me), by not talking to you, or changing the tone of conversations, etc. So you say what? Well, if you cared about what we have (which might be nothing much), you would say something like, "Really? I never really thought of it like that. Hmmm. Sorry if it offended you. Will be careful", (which doesn't mean that you agree with me) or something like "What? Man, you are a gonner. You are so nit-picking. Well, won't do it if you didn't like it." If you didn't care about what we have (which is fine, BTW) you would cock your head back with the the-milk-just-curdled-in-my-gut look and say, "Hard luck. I disagree." I suppose other reactions are also possible... :-)

Thus ends my short treatise on forgiving... Do forgive me if I promised you something dramatic at the outset!

Monday, February 14, 2005


That which is innocent, whatever it does, is always chaste; but innocence is not the product of thought.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


They said that life is never boring at a bus stop. One rainy evening in Bombay I waited for them, those who spoke those words, so that I could rattle their bones into changing that statement into something else. Something like "Life is never boring at a bus stop outside a girl's college". I was also waiting for the bus number 63. In the Indian script, 63 look pretty funny. Like two people sitting on benches with their knees dovetailed and looking into each other's eyes, all the while they sit in a glass casing on a double-decker bus, oblivious to the multitude of eyes looking up at them and alternatingly being glad and turning away in disappointment for having to wait longer for the right numbered bus to pull in. I always wondered if 63 were two persons then they would have lost their lives and the rights to it to Hallmark or Archies, especially around Valentine's Day. Anyway, I hadn't seen that number arrive at this bus stop after it slipped away faster than I could run to the bus stop after paying correct change to the man in the pan shop. And that was over an hour ago. Buses have their own sense of humour. They rush in when you do not want them, and pull away before you want them to leave.

Well, where were we? Aah. The rainy-day-bus-stop-sojourn and my waiting for those people who said weird things and 63. There weren't many others at the stop. A silly schoolgirl with ponytails, sucking on a milk ice cream which was made wet by her tongue and the rain in a pattern which seemed to strictly follow an understanding I wonder about. And then there was this fat Gujarati lady whom her umbrella couldn't cover, and if she kept growing like that, no insurance company would either. There was a man with a red and white cane standing outside the shelter of the bus stop. He kept wiping the water from his brow and sticking out his tongue, catching rain drops which found his tongue a better place then the water ways alongside the pavement. And there were these fisherwomen who had brought their fish out of the waters near the Worli seaface only to titillate them with the water from the heavens. It was such a sad sight to watch those fish in their dull colours lie so, unable to enjoy the water they so wanted and begged, before their tails had stopped beating about. In spite of this irony, the bus stop was boring. And I so wished that ice cream ran off its stick.

The fat lady's mobile started ringing in a painful reproduction of some latest movie song. She enjoyed it for some time before taking it out of her handbag. And then started a conversation, which could be accomplished without the phone. Maybe the person at the other end wasn't so loud. A bus slid in and missed the fish baskets by a couple of inches. The women promptly got up and started shouting at the driver and started quoting well-practiced stories about his family. He decided to pull out and the gent at one of the windows decided to empty his mouth of its red fluid load it was carrying since the last stop. The fluid canon was aimed at the unfortunate fishes and the women ran back to shout at the gent, who withdrew from the window. Stories about his mother and sisters spilled out faster than the driver could shift gears. The fat lady realised that this was the bus she was waiting for and ran, rather rolled, towards it, but the driver had had enough. She kept shouting out to the bus and then into the phone, before returning to the shelter and her conversation. The ladies with the fish decided to pull in the fat lady's support against the driver's clan. They busily cleaned the fishes in the water that ran noisily in the water ways. The tongue continued to dart out capturing water like a frog does flies.

I looked at him and wondered. How would he know which bus was for him? He didn't ask anyone about the previous bus. Did he know it wasn't for him? Would he ask me when the next bus rolled in? I moved a little closer to him preparing for a chance of helping the least noisy human at the stop. The ice cream was quickly replaced with a lollipop from within the raincoat.
"Which bus are you waiting for?"
I waited for him to draw in his tongue before he could reply to me.
The tongue feasted on its bounty of water drops, before darting out.
I withdrew and decided that this man was rude. His disability hadn't quieted his attitude.

63 rolled in and slowed down when it realised that I was waiting and not many games can be played with a man well prepared. I slowly closed my umbrella and turned to have my last look at the frog-man. He abruptly turned to the left and started walking and tapping his cane in front of him. From a distance of over a hundred feet, a pretty girl walked looking up at the skies and an active cane taping away in front of her. Their pace quickened and the canes were a blur between them. They nearly bumped into each other and laughed. He shook his head wildly and she playfully backed away from the rain that the heavens had stored in his shock of hair. They folded their canes and hugged each other. How did they know it was the right person from hundred feet away? Her perfume must have drowned in the smell of the baskets, and the fat lady had done her job well in killing out all taps from her cane. How did he know it was she? They walked past me while talking to each other in chaste Marathi.
"Did you wait for too long?"
"Not at all."
"Must have gotten bored."
"Well, the rain played on my tongue."
They laughed as that statement beckoned some old private joke of theirs.
"And this man", he looked towards the stop, "kept me good company."
She smiled at the shelter, and that smile carried a sense of gratitude for caring for her friend while he waited for her.
I watched the bus pull away from the stop with a merry laugh of succeeding yet again. But I couldn't take my eyes of the couple who walked in the opposite direction. Their canes spoke when they didn't. The rains, having lost their purpose, stopped and I turned to watch the fat lady at her conversation and the ponytails hiding the yet unfinished pop. 63 hopped and skipped away while they sat lost in each others eyes, knees dovetailed, in a glass casing. I watched the shrinking numbers and felt joy for the first time in missing my bus.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What is Poetry?

I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose, --words in their best order; poetry, --the best words in their best order.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Read this and let me know whether this is prose or poetry:
"I remember the night my mother was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours of steady rain had driven him to crawl beneath a sack of rice. Parting with his poison..."
I have been running this question in my head ever since I read Nissim Ezekiel's Night of the Scorpion (quoted above). I really never liked it then (I was all of 12-13 years old). I haven't changed my opinion much, since. Then I was in love with Daffodils and The Listeners (Walter De La Mare) and in all my revelry, Night of the Scorpion seemed to be one man's plea to call his handiwork a poem.

A couple of days ago I read a translation which seemed to support Ezekiel's idea of poetry. I fail to see the reason behind it as much as I fail to see reason when young girls tell me that jeans are the true expression of their self and salwar kameez or the South Indian paavaadai-davani is so crass. I do not say that they are wrong; all I wish to appeal is that Indian wear is not crass.

Read this page. I disagree with all the statements on that page except Samuel Johnson's statement (its tough to disagree with him!).

If poetry must sound like prose cut across several lines, then I'll be damned. I prefer poetry which has the meter and lyrical rhyme of the poetry of yester-years. I would like to hear these modern "poets" define prose for me. Doesn't seem to make sense. If one studies Urdu or Japanese poetry, they have rules. The need is not for rules, but for creating something that is unlike others. The uniqueness of the piece is what makes it what it is. If poetry and prose sounded alike, then we are purely appealing to a man's decision to call it one or the other. In Urdu, a ghazal has rules and exceptions (gair-muraddaf ghazals are an example of the latter) and the beauty of the ghazal is its realisation within the glass walls of the definition of a ghazal. Such lyrical constraints exist even in English poetry (usually categorised under closed form
poetry of which a sonnet is an example), although they are most often forgotten.

I read the following on a university's course site and had to beat myself out of the shock:
This worksheet is designed to give you some information about the structure of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poetry and how this structure fits together. By the end of the class, I hope that you will have the necessary skills to compose an Old English-style poem.

Compare that to a potter's statement to his apprentice:

Here, sonny, is a cartload of clay and hay and there is a wheel. Spin that, splat this on that, sit steady even when the bee gets to your backside, and you can make pots.

I agree that the potter had more right in his gambit than the professor on that page. This premise, that a little reading and little more course work, can make a poet out of anyone seems to me the cause of downfall of poetry as I have come to love it.

Anyone can write poetry. Anyone who can feel his toes can write about the feeling. Anyone who sees the sun rise and pulls the soft blanket over her ears can write about the early morning warmth. She who holds a child and watches it wake with a smile, can write about happiness cupped in one's hands and he who shields a scared angel from a lizard on the wall can write about his pride. Ask a mother of a ten year old who owns a new pen and she'd tell him, "Of course, you can write poetry."

Now lets re-visit what was written:

Anyone can write poetry.
Anyone who can feel his toes can write about the feeling.
Anyone who sees the sun rise and pulls the soft blanket over her ears
Can write about the early morning warmth.
She who holds a child and watches it wake with a smile,
Can write about happiness cupped in one's hands and
He who shields a scared angel from a lizard on the wall
Can write about his pride and all.
Ask a mother of a ten year old who owns a new pen
And she'd tell him, "Of course, you can write poetry."

This is poetry in the modern sense of the word. Well, give me one reason that this isn't while Night with the scorpion is. I definitely feel that "can write about happiness cupped in one's hands..." is more poetic than "May the sum of evil balanced in this unreal world against the sum of good become diminished by your pain." I do not call the above poetry. I believe that the urgent egotistic need to be a called a poet has pushed lazy souls to banish the necessity of lyrics and meter in order to suit their needs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I could liken this urge to that of inept painters who wished to summon great accolades for their canvas covered in swishes of an errant brush.

It is far more difficult to compose a poem capturing all your sentiments and emotional washes about something, than it is to write about it as it comes to your mind. I don't believe that wonderful poems like Daffodils or Abou Ben Adhem or Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening or Youth and art, were written without pain.

Consider me not a Stoic,
For pain means less to me,
Where words can charm and,
Red roses abloom can be.

That was merely my answer to a possibly floating doubt of an undercurrent of Schadenfreude wants to assign poetry to works steming from strife and a hundred pages yielding but one.

Am I building a case in favour of gradiose? No. Not at all. Study Daffodils, or If, to realise that simple words can do magic too.

We need to distinguish between poetry and prose. A philosophical take on that would be "Why bother? Anything that makes your heart sing is good enough. Call it poetry or prose." Yeah, and as I was saying, we need to distinguish between prose and poetry. Why? Because we have two words being abused (I shall assign another post to the abuse of prose as well). If everything was called wrote (the new noun form denoting something written) then I have no qualms. I have no qualms if you call everything as poetry, too.

I propose the following:
Stream of thought (called SOT by those who love abbreviations)

Modern poetry will fall under SOT. Sonnets, quatrains, haiku (recently even this has been corrupted to allow varying number of syllables) and all that was called poetry before some wiseacre decided to write modern poetry, will fall under poetry.

Prose is beautiful writing which can convey the emotions of the characters and the scene through brevity or grandiose without resorting much to flights from the real and actual into worlds made of beautiful words and lyrics.

Please find time to read the Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and if one finds it tiring to the mind and eye, the prelude shall suffice to convince the reader of the care that goes into composing a poem and how one stands criminal to deviations.

I find poems, and I find them often in the least and most likely of places, of contemporary pens to lack the lyrical quality in their quest to sound modern and unlike a limerick in a child's game.
Poetry must express what the author wishes to, but not as a mere conversation chopped across several lines. Pray, tell me why does that requirement not die to the modernity demanded of poetry? Why shouldn't we write poetry in a paragraph, as I fear it might be while I speak to me children and grandchildren, and not cut across lines devoid of meter or reason for their lengths?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The difficulty of simplicity

I was discussing this matter of simplicity with many people and I am amazed at the different connotations associated with it. I was aware, and expecting a few, but these many? I suppose they were different shades of those few that I was expecting. In short, simplicity appears to be a complicated affair.Being utterly simple is the most difficult thing. It is not this difficulty that I referred to in the previous paragraph. There it was the meaning of simplicity, which seemed difficult. Here it is the understanding and essentially the being of simplicity which is very complicated. Ask any man how to become famous, and they have a hundred sound means to recommend. Ask them how to be simple and they give you broken paths. Ask them more, and you realise how difficult simplicity is. Simplicity is not a matter of a decision or process, unlike it cousin, fame. Fame can be achieved through a well practised method. Simplicity cannot be arrived at through any path. Simplicity cannot be achieved or arrived at. Simplicity fills an individual. I do not think there is any design which can make you simple. If someone says, I will give up all riches and titles and I will become simple, god save her/him. At the end of a few years, s/he is going to open her/his eyes and look around and ask "So where is it?". A rigorous process and determination can make you famous and rich, but simplicity has to fill every cell in your body. The need to be simple cannot co-exist with simplicity, for need and simplicity cannot co-exist.
Being simple is the most difficult thing! To not want and be satisfied with everything cannot be a decision; it has to be a natural propensity, something like breathing. To be devoid of pretense is very difficult in a world where images interact with each other. To view something and not categorise it as good, bad, desirable, not so desirable, is very difficult. Try this exercise:
Sit silently on your terrace or on the beach and close your eyes. For 10 minutes, do not let any thought run through your mind. If you hear a noise do not recognise it as a sound of a child. If you hear a bell ring, do not recognise it as a doorbell, or from a cycle or snything like that. Do not focus on any image (thereby cutting off all thoughts) because that is equally uninvited. For a stretch of 2 minutes (120 Earth seconds), keep your mind blank. Listen to whatever falls upon your ears but do not recognise it (imagine if you were asked to listen to a new musical instrument and asked to name it. Would you be able to? No. You would simply hear it as long as it is available). Infinite trials are allowed. Don't ask me what is the purpose of this exercise. If you manage 2 minutes of a silent mind, then you will know yourself.
This is not spiritual you-know-what. This is not even pop philosophy. This is merely a quest to understand simplicity. We award degrees to people who master a few theories and equations, so why not allow a quest into simplicity.
I am reminded of a story told of a Chinese Philosopher, Yang Chu:

It seems a gent approaches Yang Chu (hereafter referred to as YC) and asks him thus: "My parents are ambitious for me. They want me to pursue success. Should I obey my parents in this?" YC replied: "Most of your life will be spent in things other than pursueing success. Your childhood has consumed a significant portion and old age will do the same. The active years will be spent partially in sleep, eating and maintaining yourself. Inspite of this you will fall ill. So very little of your life is left to pursue success." The gent continues, " Should I pursue pleasure instead?" YC replies, "You will spend most of your active years in searching for means of pleasure and means to maintain them with you, so you will spend very little actually pleasing yourself. No point." The gent presses further:"What about status and reputation?" YC replies:"Respect entails that you depend on those whose respect you so desire and you will be nodding your head to their whims. Not worth it." The gent (who I am sure must have figured out the right question to ask such a "pessimistic" person!!) continues: "Then what should be my aim" YC replies:"To have no aim."
Having no aim and being aimless are subtly different. I would have prefered YC saying "Your aim should be to embrace a state of no aim", for aiming for having no aim is ambitious too.

I look at my nephew. He is very young- a couple of months old. What does he know about the world? What does he care about the world? He knows nothing, or at least he cannot prove to me in an acceptable way that he knows something. He has simple requirements: food, sleep, someone to carry him at times, clean him up (though I don't think he would care). He doesn't try to impress anyone and doesn't wonder about anyone's opinion of him. He has no ambitions for he knows not what is more desirable than a good night's sleep. He doesn't recognise (yet) black from green or his father whistling versus a bird outside. He enjoys them both or gets irritated by them both. He looks in the direction of the sound and keeps looking. If a new noise comes from another direction he turns his head in that direction. Pretty simple.

(Picture above is ©

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On Becoming...

Life as we know it, our daily life, is a process of becoming. I am poor and I act with an end in view, which is to become rich. I am ugly and I want to become beautiful. Therefore my life is a process of becoming something. The will to be is the will to become, at different levels of consciousness, in different states, in which there is challenge, response, naming and recording. Now, this becoming is strife, this becoming is pain, it is not? It is a constant struggle: I am this, and I want to become that.

--Jiddu Krishnamurthy

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Another Blog

Finally I managed to create the blog I always wanted to. Honestly, "Like a feather...." was an accident. I wanted to create a blog where I would discuss Daoism and other stuff close to my heart. I seem to be doing everything but that (not exactly, but...).

Those of you who are interested might find this new blog here. It would be fun seeing you guys there as well...

How do they do it?

I really envy those bloggers who manage a few posts a day. I was browsing through Emergic and saw a few posts per day on a regular basis. I kept wondering as to how do they manage to do that. The availability of content is not my source of wonder, for there is enough to blog about in this world, but the effort and the energy to sustain that effort, that leaves me astonished. I immediately decide that I will write a couple per day too, and then realise with equal urgency that if I continued with that, that might be all I will be doing!!

I suppose I could salvage a lot of wasted time and dedicate it to blogging. Hmmm. Or I could find solace in other blogs which are hardly updated... ;-) Naah. I enjoy blogging, but I haven't found a singular purpose for it. Most of the active blogs have a single theme and are packed with information. I mostly write about my opinions, experiences and thoughts, so there is less to instruct or offer to other than there is to simply note down in digital medium.

A new look...

Managed to get a new look for this blog. Been wanting to do this since a long time, but never found time to sit down and do so. Had to learn CSS for this. Aaaarghh. Really painful. Hacked out a lot and have kept notes.

I stumbled across an OSHO site with his comments on Lao Tzu. I was really impressed by the depth in his understanding of a lot of what Lao Tzu said. I had a a very negative impression about him (I still remember my mother instructing me long ago, when I was going to Pune, to do anything and go anywhere but the OSHO ashram!!). Nearly everyone I spoke to dislikes him. I never could figure out why, but I postponed my investigation.
Yesterday, when I read his articles, I said to myself, "He doesn't seem to be so bad." Later last night, I decided to find out more about him. I read a couple of reports about him and all the activities (as facts and not opinions) he was involved in. Going by what those reports said, he surely didn't manage his life well.

Much like Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, in life we can treat everything as "straw dogs" and not be affected about a person's personal life and/or lifestyle. If once in a blue moon, what they say is meaningful, so be it. Grasp that and move on. If once in a lifetime they are kind, so be it. Acknowledge that and move on. People love to cast judgements. I love to do so to, but I go back home and sit with my journal and realise how silly I have been (not because it supposed to be silly, but because I find it silly).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, people enjoy making gods and devils out of people. I am sure the manufactured gods enjoy it too. Very few, care a damn and to me, they are the gods, for the gods would treat a compliment with the same eye as they treat a rebuke. People calling themselves Bhagwan, making silver and gold thrones for themselves, ascetics celebrating birthdays with pomp; "simplicity" has become glamorous.

I am done...

I wanted to write more about last Saturday's events as well as the fun and toil I had on Sunday, but the need and urgency has ebbed away...
What was really wonderful about those 2 days?

1. Hriday: A compilation of compositions by Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute and percussions). Brilliant collection. Must buy. Definitely must hear.
2. A friend I met for the first time. We spoke about a lot of things. Had a wonderful time in a office and personal accessories (where they sell watches, pens, etc.) shop. Spent a considerable amount of time discussing her future career plans.
3. A reunion of friends at a friend's function.
4. Curiosity and the flutter in the eyes of a few kids. Aaah, to be a kid again.
4.5. A disturbed night at a friend's relative's place.
5. The flight to Pune and the incessant quarrels of an aged couple sitting behind me. I was planning on making an entire post out of their conversation which I, then, had dutifully recorded on a paper napkin, much to the surprise of the air hostess and my companion beside me.
6. My work and my disappointment in not being able to meet a friend of mine, who had changed plans in the last minute. She called to apologise and then got angry and put down the phone. Wait wait wait. Wasn't I supposed to be the one angry?? God save me from women.
7. Hot vada pav.
8. The trip back and a wonderful conversation with my colleague.
9. Back home and a headache as I hadn't slept properly for 2 nights!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ride on the iron dragon

For reasons I cannot put my finger on, I prefer travelling by train and, if I am travelling alone, I prefer sleeper class. One of the reasons is probably my need to reassure myself of something. Another reason, in this case, is definitely the different shades of people I get to meet. People in the sleeper class tend to be less pretentious. They are noisier and less considerate but definitely not pretentious. People in the 2 and 3 Tier AC (which are the other compartments I occupy at different times) tend to act their class (AC?). I get to see people in all their human-ness in the sleeper class. This time I dragged my mother along. We were going to Madras (Chennai for you but not for me). We did expect a lot of Tamilians to be on board, so that assured my mom some conversation. Or so she thought. She always says that no one talks but she herself would pick a book (from the many, both of us carry) and reads. Of course, no one would disturb her and she proves her point that no one wants to talk!! God save her.

I usually wouldn't want to talk to anyone unless the anyone is a kid or an interesting girl/woman. The determination and urge is stronger if it were a kid and visibly so if it was a girl child and more so... forget it. None of them occupied my cubicle (what is it called anyway?). That was for the first 15 minutes of our journey. At the first halt, a young girl of about 24 walked in. Nothing attractive about her beyond her eyes. Beautiful eyes. I went back to my book. I was reading A lady and a monk (Pico Iyer). A very interesting book about his trip and stay at Kyoto, Japan. I have always had a soft corner for Japan and try to imitate her characteristic lifestyle by bowing my head whenever I get a chance. I know. Silly plagiarism. I would love to say "Hai" too, but people always reply to that with "Hi" and wonder why I am repeating my earlier greetings. Last thing I would want to do is explain to them.

This girl, whom we shall call Doe for this conversation, decided to climb up to the upper berth. I was on the other upper berth parallel (or nearly so) to hers. That was when I noticed, that she had a nice skin tone. She was dusky complexioned and her skin was well stretched over her creating the image of a ripe grape; succulent but not sagging. Slightly oily on her face, but wonderful in toto. She had draped herself in red and blue salwar-kameez in a very careless fashion and it never seemed to inhibit what she wanted to do with her bag and walkman and magazine in the upper recesses of the compartment. For people like me, every space is too little. She managed well enough. Would I call her attractive? Hmmm. If you take her in parts, maybe. As a whole she was pleasant.

I continued with my book (and I am sure you wonder how I could, with a girl lying beside me separated by a chasm of about six feet). It took me through the lanes of Kyoto and the mannerism of her inhabitants (which I religious likened to mine, thereby feeling glad that I was inherently Japanese. Hai) and through their attempt at English as a spoken medium of communication. The story of the monk and the woman, which Mr. Iyer creates for Sachiko, was interesting. I loved the description of the various scenes whereby, Mr. Iyer carries you with him and demands you listen to him, which you accede to.

I had an uneventful dinner and decided to retire early. The lady (not Doe) in the side upper berth decided to study just then and kept the lights on. No way was a going to sleep with that. I somehow managed to doze a bit when the group in the adjoining cubicle realised that it was 22:00 hrs and time for laughter, the really deep belly laughter, spewing pickles and rice over all those who didn't join in.

The lights went on again, and my pretty Doe decided to read her magazine. I waited long enough before realising that it wasn't the magazine which held her interest but the discomfort of the berth. Well, whatever the reason, the light had to go. I jumped down (I never climbed down since I was 10) and looked up into those beautiful eyes. Of all the things I would have liked to say or ask I chose the most significant and pressing one: "Are you reading, or is it ok for me to switch off the light?". She simply smiled, a demure one, and nodded (or shook; I don't remember. The choical world around those eyes was a blur). A stare held any longer and she would have thrown that magazine at me.

I couldn't sleep for some time, and before I realised that that time had passed and I was asleep, the lady on the side upper berth decides to resume studies and more seriously jot down notes!! For crying out aloud, where is the sense of decency? Pretense shitense apart, why can't they be more considerate?

Madras is beautiful in the morning. It should vanish from the surface of the earth after 7:00 hrs only to reappear around 18:00 hrs. I enjoyed the view while the train pulled into irrelevant station after irrelevant station. The sun is very partial to the skies above this city. Actually it seems to me that the sun goes through this emotional ride everyday. He (you must read Mr. Iyer's piece on why the Japanese call themselves the children of the rising sun, while they actually love the moon, which supposedly is 3 times bigger from Japanese soil) starts out being partial and paints the sky in crimson and gold sfumato and around 8:00 hrs he realises that "Oh oh. I can't be so partial. Let's do a jig and make everyone believe I am not." Then he burns down the sides, front and rear of every creature in Madras throughout the day till they clothe themselves in light cottons and sweat. By 18:00 hrs, he has convinced himself that he hasn't been partial and mellows down. He picks his brushes and daubs the sky with lilac and vermillion. Humans being humans, fall for this
softening at dusk and smile and forget the gory heat of the day.

We had told the driver not to come to the station. Actually it was my mom's idea. She seemed to be getting into the trekker's mood!!

The autorikshaw ride was uneventful like the last dinner, and both did a number on my stomach!! :-(

The events of that day will be related in subsequent posts. A post for each day...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The weekend that was

The last weekend of January was a mix of interesting events including a headache. I shall relate the whole affair in parts over the next few posts...

Destiny vs Technology

I wrote story twice today and lost it once to a power outage and another time to a god-knows-what! All I did was select the entire text within the box so that I could copy it before I hit the post button. Ctrl+C made the text disappear (no, the ctrl key was pressed, else there should have been a C in the text box).
Maybe the story was meant to stay with me....

Power of a power cut

It is most frustrating to write a post, deeply involved in every word, and have a power outage jump in and mock at you...

Will try to recreate that post though I don't think it would be the same....