Friday, November 30, 2007


Today will be the last day of this sincere performance, thought Raman. The wet cloth clung to his loins, and the air trapped beneath it drew sinuous veins along his thighs. With the occasional shudder of his shoulders, Raman managed to repeat fragments of the meaningless mantras that the priest was rapidly pouring out.

The sacred fire crackling in front of him occasionally hid the photograph of his father. He tried not looking at the picture, as he was sure his father would sense his intentions. Raman was not interested in the rituals except for one thing that one of his garrulous aunts had mentioned while she was consoling his mother. That had stuck to his mind and often, in the midst of the chants, kept echoing down his conscience. Then he would dart a look at the photograph hoping his father hadn't heard it, too.

The priest handed some rice, sesame seeds and instructions to Raman.

"Son, you need to perform this thrice, repeating the mantra that I will tell you. Hold the sesame seeds and water in the palm of your hand. Once you finish chanting the mantra, pour it down along your thumb to the side."

In his mind's chamber he heard the low rumbling voice of his aunt: "Don't worry Meera. Your husband would surely re-incarnate as Raman's son. Just you wait."

"Son? I know it is disturbing, so, if you want, we could wait for a few minutes before..."

"No, no. Nothing like that", Raman hastily replied and felt embarrassed that some stranger was sympathising with him. They proceeded to perform the rituals and Raman avoided glancing at the picture thereafter.

His head was a bedlam of talk from the past, most in the intonation of his father's voice.

"This is how you wish to study, huh? 89%, our son gets in Mathematics!! You are good for nothing."
"I tell you, he won't play the guitar properly. Why waste so much money on this? I'll get you a silk saree, Meera, and it would be worth every rupee."
"Chemical engineering? What else could you get for such a horrible score? Look at Mr. Parthasarthy's son, IIT top ranker. Now, he makes a father proud."
"Why do an MS in the US? Stay here in India. It's your turn to earn some money for the family."
"With a salary like this, what life can we lead? Look at Mr. Vasu's son. He is earning in dollars. They bought a villa recently."

"Son... son?"

"Yes, Sir? I am sorry. I was lost in ...", and Raman let that end in a manner which didn't require him to speak the truth but let people infer the socially acceptable connotations.

"I understand, son. I was twelve when my father expired. I was too young, but my brother was inconsolable. But all that is God's will."

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted his pregnant wife inch her way into the room.

"Revathi, please go back to your room. Now."

"Raman, why are you shouting at her", his mother asked.

Raman breathed in deeply before replying, "The doctor said these fumes aren't good for the baby."

Revathi was escorted back to her room and Raman sighed.


"Yes, son?"

"Aren't these rituals performed to ensure that my father's soul has a safe passage to the heavens?"

"Indeed, son. With these rituals, the Lord is pleased and He..."

Raman had no time for the religious banter and he quickly interrupted.

"So, if done properly, there is no way that he will come back to earth, right?"

Why I don't write letters

Dear God...
People call me an atheist, and I don't protest. I have known God but I don't pray or write him letters as I used to. I don't receive any, either. That is not unexpected, since I possess his pen. Actually, the day I received it, I stopped having anything to do with God.

I remember the first time he had cycled up to our gate. I was sitting in the mud turning snails on their back. I collected the letters from him but continued to stand there.
"Postman-Uncle, do you deliver letters to anywhere?" I asked.
"Anywhere, son."
I lowered my voice before asking him, "I have a letter for God. Can you deliver it to him?"
He laughed and said, "Of course, I can."
"I will give it to you tomorrow, ok?"
The remaining day and a generous portion of the next found me under my bed, carefully preparing the first letter to the Gods. I wrote a common one for all of them. I drew the "Om" in one corner and some tiny pink flowers at the bottom. I wrote about how History was boring and the pet dog I wanted to have - why didn't they come in red? I also told him that I love him and didn't mean to steal the sweetmeats on Diwali before they were offered to him.

The postman arrived the next day and took the letter from me.
"Where is the address?" he asked.
"I thought you knew it."
He smiled and took out his pen. He wrote,

Dear God.
Heaven: 1234567890

"Such a big number?"
"All the numbers are there in his pin code, son."
Somehow that made sense to me and I nodded with the seriousness of one who approves fine logic.
Every day I sat by the gate waiting for him. On the fourth day he arrived and handed me a bunch of letters. There weren't any with the name "Rahul" on it. I looked at him sadly. With a flourish, he produced a long white envelope from within his jacket.
"Ta da!"
I grabbed it from him.
I whispered a "Yes" and rushed to my room under the bed. God wrote short sentences unlike in my textbooks. He wrote in gold. I liked God. He told me why History would make me good because I will learn that wars and bombs are bad. I nodded in agreement. He also said that he was happy that I ate the sweetmeats because he had a toothache on Diwali.

Our correspondence grew very regular. I discussed school and Cartoon Network with him. He liked the same shows that I did. We gossiped about Gods and my neighbourhood. The postman said that God was very happy to receive my letters. He leaned forward and asked, "So, what do you write to him?"
I clutched the letter tightly and half turned away.

On my birthday a different postman arrived. He handed me a bunch of letters and asked, "Who's Rahul?"
"I am Rahul."
"Parcel for you."
God had remembered my birthday. I felt something long inside. A magic wand?
"Where is the other postman?"
"Kishore? He... He went to heaven."
"I know, but why didn't he come today?"
He simply stared at me. I didn't hand him God's letter. Somehow, I felt he wouldn't know God's address.

I wonder why God gifted me his gold-ink pen. My postman never returned from heaven. God and I never discussed anything, thereafter. I miss them - both.
So, you might call me an atheist but I wouldn't protest.

Sri Aurobindo's Savitri

I was reading this (amongst several other tomes) last night, and couldn't help but recognise the beauty in it and fall asleep peacefully.

All is too little that the world can give:
Its power and knowledge are the gifts of Time
And cannot fill the spirit's sacred thirst.
Although of One these forms of greatness are
And by its breath of grace our lives abide,
Although more near to us than nearness' self,
It is some utter truth of what we are;
Hidden by its own works, it seemed far-off,
Impenetrable, occult, voiceless, obscure.
The Presence was lost by which all things have charm,
The Glory lacked of which they are dim signs.
The world lived on made empty of its Cause,
Like love when the beloved's face is gone.
The labour to know seemed a vain strife of Mind;
All knowledge ended in the Unknowable:
The effort to rule seemed a vain pride of Will;
A trivial achievement scorned by Time,
All power retired into the Omnipotent.
A cave of darkness guards the eternal Light.
A silence settled on his striving heart;
Absolved from the voices of the world's desire,
He turned to the Ineffable's timeless call.
A Being intimate and unnameable,
A wide compelling ecstasy and peace
Felt in himself and all and yet ungrasped,
Approached and faded from his soul's pursuit
As if for ever luring him beyond.
Near, it retreated; far, it called him still.
Nothing could satisfy but its delight:
Its absence left the greatest actions dull,
Its presence made the smallest seem divine.

Complete text available here:


I am sure you think it silly that I do, but for reasons that are best not told (for constructing them from within the labyrinths of my mind is not the most joyous exercise), I feel I should apologise for being lackadaisical about the management of this blog and breaching the blogger mense. I hope to be back in action starting today (well, I just finally got my broadband connection at home and... well, I said I wouldn't go there, right?). Hope you like what you get to read here...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beat the (ear)Drums

Call me a sissy and I would stick you in a 3'X3' room with lots of them, but pray tell me why does Diwali have to have noisy firecrackers (in India, we just call them crackers, which happens to be an edible commodity in the West)? Bangalore is even more silly in having 3 days of Diwali!! People were undecided about whether Naraka Chathurdasi or Amavasya or (what was previously unheard of) Prathama should be considered as Diwali. So why waste the little grey nut upstairs: let's make noise on all days.
I don't know what the obsession with noise is, but as is generally observed, ruckus is considered the (in)sensitive index of human revelry. Be at work or at just about any place. Go to a coffee pub to have cuppa and you simply have to listen to the noise that some stupid bloke chose for the day. At work, screeching Marthas (or Mariammas) define the level of fun a particular group is having. A cool guy at work decided to play music at a loud volume. I remember a time when I was made the DJ for my team and I think I enjoyed guessing the mood of the team and playing songs from my PC while others worked or grumbled under their breath. Now I realise that some guy who wasn't cool enough to blog about it must have also wanted to wring my neck.
Amongst children it is an unwritten code that the louder something gets the more excitement it provides. Kinda makes me wonder whether we (human beings) are wired to be like that and prefer noise to tranquility. I see monkeys jump, chatter and "chee-chee" to exhibit their excitement and hence, I think we haven't changed much, but we can, right? I really wish Diwali was lesser noise and more colours and light. I saw very few houses with diyas but lots of "bombs" go off and scare the daylights (daylight-nightlight-fanny-by-the-gaslight) out of humans and animals alike. We should probably sell CDs with firecracker recordings, but I am sure every tea-shop will be playing them on their boom-boxes.
Wouldn't it be fun if someone could invent a noise-canceller?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sonnet - 4

Light my way
Shall I call me misfortune's chosen blade cleaved,
Or Divine's frail leaf eddying to shores calm?
Here I stand at Life's fork with no choice thieved
Twixt the eye and soul in a life on alms.

Why cloud the seer on a path needing no eye
And hearken to Sirens on one, deaf to Truth?
Is it but romance to see fog and gold ally?
Why mute, my Friend, whither your words to soothe?

When the start and end be the sods same,
Why anneal Life's pains into coffin nails?
Why what beckons me, not do by my name
That I, for poison, all nectar shall fail?

What I will, is the road where shunpikes fade,
Led far from rasorial days, unafraid.

Happy Diwali

Wishing all of you a very very happy Diwali. May your joys multiply and may you find peace.

Happy Diwali

Saturday, November 03, 2007

When we danced...

This post is dedicated to that little darling I call my nephew. He turns 3 today. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. This is the design I had printed on his birthday T-shirt.

Happy Birthday


Avuncular pleasures are few but, aah! Such pleasure be they, that any more and hedonism would be redefined. Recently my sister and her four-month old son visited us and then stayed with us for a few months. Amongst the many things we – my nephew and I – did, there is this one ritual which grew to be very dear to me. Before I get into that, I would need to detail certain things which facilitated the birth of this activity!

My sister loves to sleep, so much that we were worried that she might go into labour while she was asleep. She stays awake till way after I have fallen asleep and stays asleep for many hours following my diurnal rise. We haven’t noted a single day which serves as an exception.

My mother likes to get all her work – prayers, cooking, cleaning, chores, etc. – done in the morning. No, she doesn’t have her dinner then, but a significant portion of her work gets completed by 11:00 a.m. And while she says her prayers she will not touch certain “things”, which includes babies.

My nephew, for reasons unknown, is a lot like me in his schedule. He rises early, goes to bed early (well, if you skip the occasional going-to-bed game of his), must have his food on time and burps exactly 48 seconds after his last mouthful. He is good, I must say, for one tends to morph flaws into benign goodness with the able hands of sophistry.

With all the characters set, and it is a fine feeling of a theatre director that I have now, we shall now study the ritual. I really wouldn’t want to call it that (and I have no clue what my nephew wants to call it) but for the lack of a better word. So ritual it shall be. We designed various rituals and regularly changed their forms to introduce variety for him, but this one was serendipitous.

It all began one deceptively common day with his cries, gurgles, and finally a bear hug which thrilled him more than the noisiest toys in his kitty. My sister dreamily handed him over to me. I took him out asking him about the weather and what he thought about the recent evacuation initiative in the Gaza Strip. He stuck his tongue out for both. We really need news reporters like our man here. Iwalked him up and down the length of our house discussing a variety of things and pausing to obtain his expert expression on them. Soon he got bored, which I believe has little to with me or my conversations but with his sense of time; matters of the world can occupy only thirty minutes of his morning.

I decided to strap him to the car-seat, which is basically a basket-like contraption to house a baby, and, when babies are unavailable, can contain washed socks and sundry. He demanded some entertainment. Rattles and soft toys and spinning tops and musical ones were brought out one after another and were operated, sometimes, simultaneously. He sulked at the little bouncing toy, whichrepeated its trick of the past few days and then looked up at me. I took him off hisbasket and he was excited about what was due in the next few minutes of which I surely had no clue.

I walked him up and down the house again, until I reached the audio-visuals room, which is nothing more than the room, which houses all appliances that make usually pleasant controllable noises. With him wriggling on one arm, I picked the DVD with the widest choice of songs and pushed it into the player. Out came a “Long, long time ago, I can still remember” in Don McLean’s voice! Our man straightened his neck and – thank god – stopped squirming. He looked all around him and then again at my mouth. I kept it pursed with a “guess-what” smile. He looked up into my eyes with his head still unsteady on a rock-n-roll neck. When the guitars picked pace, our man smiled. Hmmm. This was interesting. Then I turned him to face the player with all its coloured bands flaring up and falling to the beat. When I turned around, he quickly spun on a still supple axis and kept looking at the rainbow band singing in a man’s voice with some nice guitar tracks.

I slowly started swaying him to the music and he shrieked with joy. It was such a delightful reaction from him in the morning. His laughter and such shrieks are pretty much the only things that make the mundane task of babysitting a shade better. He loved it when I sang the “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie” blowing some air in his hair on the “bye” and “pie”. Slowly the dancing got a little bit more like Volkstanz and he was delighted when I spun him around my no-longer-supple axis! His shrieks transformed into “Encore” and he kept pumping his fists!! The song changed to “Summer of 69” and the young rocker was busy head banging – well, not really, but kept moving himself back and forth by pushing against my chest. To a more mellow “Annie’s song” and “When you say nothing at all” he glided well on the “floor” and enjoyed the slow dance.

I was tired sooner than the 4th or 5th song started and I sat on the cane hammock. I made him sit on my lap with his back well cushioned on my stomach. We beganswinging to the Tamil number “Thoda Thoda malarnthathenna” from the movie Indira. Soon he was sleeping like, well, a baby.

This was just the first day and I happily shared this with my sister who was excited to know that her son had an ear for music. My mom had watched some portions of the various dances we had performed in the room and was happy without much reason! My sister started envisioning the days when he would learn music and croon like Kishore Kumar and funny scenes of him serenading to women, who for all practical purposes weren’t born at that point of time. He was busy sitting in his basket making spit bubbles.

The next day was to herald similar fare until he grabbed hold of my jaw with both his hands. I rubbed a really fast swivelling nose against his and after his laughter subsided he held on to my jaw. I looked at him through narrowed eyes and then let a smile grow with the beat of “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai” from Roja. I shut the door and slowly started humming the tune to him. I placed his head against my chest so that he could feel the vibrations. Humming turned to singing and singing turned into a full song with instrumental interludes mouthed to something quite distant from the real note of the instrument. We swayed together and I held him aloft while trying to impress upon him the beauty of some lyrics. Then we were back in the cane basket, the one that held adults and now, held the bond that had grown between us, and swung around till he fell asleep.

The following days let him hear other songs and now he could clearly specify which songs he liked; he basically reached out to the music system. If he didn’t like a song, he would look vacantly at me and slowly frown. I would change the song. His all time favourites were “American Pie”, “Annie’s song”, “Bantureethi Kolu”, “Vaseegara”, “Hungama hai kyoon barpa” and some others, which I have forgotten.

Soon he started making sounds to match what he heard. It was difficult to believe that a child so young would do that. He would try to sing, or so it appeared. We would put him in his basket and then place him in front of the TV. In the mornings, some channels broadcast Carnatic music and we would let that play to him. He would listen with rapt attention and then draw in his breath. He would let it out with what seemed like a cry but turned out to be an accompaniment to the piece being played on TV. I even recorded a few of his recitals. Very interesting.

After he left, I haven’t played that disc again. Nothing sentimental, but merely didn’t find enough drive to play it. Maybe I needed someone to dance with me. Maybe I needed him around. Those were fun days when he danced like a baby possessed by the most cherubic and frivolous devils, though I am sure he would deny all of this once he grows up; like how I deny that the reasons aren’t sentimental!


Sonnet - 3

To the One and only who matters... :-)

What Love has set on me when Life smiled sweet!
A mind so rich, a soul so complete, so starkEn Uyir Poovinn Ondrey Thenee
A difference. Should Love fall to such conceit?
What use be such a world in lost Love's dark?

Carefully tread your path, with love held close.
So rare a gift, 'tis called a God's sad whim
To let His breath seek another from those
Who hold in their void your love to the brim.

But the twain shant meet in your stained yards,
Of beliefs, hopes and misunderstanding.
How bloom a Rose amidst society's shards?
Why bloom a Rose on this Earth so scalding?

For you are to be but in my heart's beat
Where love for Love's sake leaves our souls replete.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ye Raat Ye Chandini

Such a night, such moonshine (shall we ever see) elsewhere?
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

On the boughs a drowsy moonlight
Lost in your thought a moonlight
In a while tired, it shall vanish
This glorious night never to return
For a moment or two is the life of this tapestry
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

On the lips of waves rest a dulcet tune
In the moist breeze blazes a fire
Come and enjoy burning in this fire
And change the tune of life's melody
Set free the tongue of your heartbeats
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

Beauty shall pass and youth shall well
In the shadows of stars shall remain our tales
If having beckoned you should they leave
Never will they return those infidels of Spring (the prime of life)
Come, for life is still young
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

(Wouldn't it be better had D-A strummed the guitar a shade more convincingly? :-)

Koi Hota Jisko Apna

Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.

Sleep failed my eyes
They'd swim in tears
I'd lay awake in my dreams
Someone to soak in my grief
Someone to be by my side.

Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.

Some forgotten promise
Some memories passed
Loneliness retold them through the night
Some solace to be found
Someone to call my own.

Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.