Friday, December 18, 2009

To a Pinker World

Pinkness
Nothing to do with Steven Pinker!
In the midst of all that I am drowning in (which spells work work work), I read this article about how "Instead of trying to change the women who do not relate to the stereotype, our research suggests that changing the image of computer science so that more women feel they fit in the field will go a long way to recruiting them into computer science" and I felt like throwing up! I can't believe that there are so many jobless people out there trying to figure out why some sex/race/creed is not interested in a particular job! As long as there is no legal and bureaucratic constraint, I think the reason why people don't get into a job is because they are not equipped for it or are not interested. Pretty simple. Why don't most men become cooks (though actually most chefs are men)? Because they are not interested or can't be creative enough! Someone who truly loves food will go and do it. Similarly, someone who truly loves fashioning clothes will go ahead and do it. If women don't like computer science they simply don't. This is also true about Math as a subject. Why should people who love computer science change their ways for those who don't in order to "change the image of computer science"?

I have been in the software industry for over 7 years and I have found only a handful of women truly interested in their jobs. We don't have coke cans or science fiction memorabilia in our cubicles. Most women are here to supplement the income of their house or make some money for themselves. They don't care about software or computer science. So be it with a lot of men, too, but when I assemble all those who love computer science and love hacking and coding and designing and coming up with new ideas, women are a minority (if present). Not because of coke cans and Star Trek. I am part of the invention evaluation team at my organisation. How many inventions come in from women!? You can count them on a pair of hands. Why? Not because of Star Trek and coke cans. Sheesh!! I can't believe this is a university professor (and no guesses, she is a woman). I would love to see women in software industries. It can lend perspective to design (esp. UI). But if they don't like it, I will let them be. It is like forcing the women in your house to fall in love with a Man U game by watching it on a pink TV or having the players occasionally enact a scene from "Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi". The content is the same, for Pete's sake!!

These sort of lame studies ruin the technical edge and vitality of organisations and departments. How? Let me give you a personal example. Last year two papers of mine got selected at two very prestigious conferences. I was excited and applied for travel permit. My "illustrious" organisation refused citing curbs on expenses. Sounded fair to me so I kept quiet. Then I got to know that a female manager was being sent to CA, US to attend a "Women in Technology" conference (which was internal to the company and not even a worldwide conference) for which she was just an attendee and contributing nothing beyond her weighty presence! Here is a technology company that prefers this gimmick to actual technical vitality and participation in IEEE and ACM conferences. All in order to claim a tag of a "women-friendly" company or some such crap.

If the women were mature enough, they would go visit software companies and computer science labs to see what reality is and form their own impression rather than live off stereotypes. Frankly, it is often difficult working with some women who play the sob story and try to get away with actual hard work. Not all of them are like that (and I know of one who can put any guy to shame) but a lot of them will capitalise on their being a woman with "so many roles to play" and sob their way out of real work. Frankly, we need people who can work and with brains and who are self-motivated: sex/age/race no bar. I can do without people who want me to grow a beard in order to feel more welcome or prefer floral wallpaper in the office. Most east coast (US) companies have the worst interior decor in all their worldwide offices. Try convincing them to invest dollars in better decor!

And what then happens to a guy who likes to have the coke cans and pizza crumbs on his desk to feel more at home and in the peak of his form? He has to clean up so that some women can join his office? Coming to think of it, he might just agree (till they join)! Guys!
I would like Ms. Sapna Cheryan to try this recommendation on the annual Harley Davidson gathering. I am sure we will have an article that says:


"When people think of computer science riding bikes the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek bearded man in black leather surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food boots, babes and beer," said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes. We need to have pink bikes with wider seats and a place to keep pet poodles."

Given that Harley Davidson lovers frowned on the introduction of the V-Rod 7, I can only imagine their response to this!!

Rule of Thumb: If you don't like it, find something you like to do and do it. Don't ask the world to change for you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Something To Say

I have been here for the past thirty days. They needed help in setting up the turbines for the power plant and they couldn't afford to blow the coils on this one. When I had decided on playing with wires and electricity, my dad thought I was going to be a great physicist; my mom thought I would be on the radio, my brother never thought about me and hence, stole the wires and sold them for his cigarettes. He still hasn't departed from his barter mentality and the biggest problem in that is that he thinks everything in life is a fair exchange, till he fell in love. No exchanges there.

I ended up manning turbines and laying the induction coils in them and I thought I was going to be someone great. I didn't know that all they would want me to be is the guy who would fit things in the spindle housing right. This takes me to odd places like this one. They say they need me and can't find anyone like me but they also don't want me to become anything else. Like the man who wound the city clock thrice a week, but that's a different story.

He wasn't one who would create problems but he was still not allowed here. He managed to get through the chicken-wire fencing before he was thrown out and convinced that he should not venture beyond sitting on that rock and watch the entire grand activity below. Metal and instructions sparked the space beneath where he sat and watched. No one knew who he was and in that ignorance, he gained identity amongst us. I didn't like him because he watched us work with genuine interest and curiosity. HushEven children got bored on the third day. He made me feel embarrassed about my work and its plainness. I soon started working with my back towards him. He would sing a variety of songs while we worked or ate our lunch. When we were about to leave, he continued singing and we knew he had left when we couldn't hear him anymore.

Today he smiled at me and I wasn't sure what to do. I pretended as if something had fallen into my eye and rushed to where my colleague was and asked him to blow hard into my eye. We soon started chatting about his brother-in-law who lost his eye when iron filings had fallen into one of them. It was a while before I thought of our man up there.

He began singing again and it didn't seem like this was a song anyone could sing as it was probably never written down.

You will find something to say, my love

When you heart beats faster

And your nerves tremble a tune.

When your eyes water for no death

But for something that is dying within.

You will find words to shout out, my love

When water dries every green plant

And a man's truth is the dagger that stabs.

When what you thought won't, has happened

But it has already happened, already.

You will find words to fling sharply, my love

When your breast will burst, if the mouth

Doesn't spill what belongs to the world.

When your feet tire from having walked all along

And only words can cover what remains.

You will speak and cry out loud, my love

When what you believe in is raped

And hurtled amongst the felled trees.

When love is the seed for all hate

And pain is the bowl which gathers joy.

But why speak then, my love

For words are but beats

That left the drum

Never to return

And marry the fingers

That thumped the skin.

Why sound your mind, my love

When they never reach

The hand that cracked the whip

Or your soul which sells itself

For a sliver of moonshine

For an ounce of joyous moments.

Why talk and groan, my love

When you could be silent

And die nevertheless.

Why utter your private thoughts

In a public concert?

Why speak, my love

Why speak.

What is there to say anymore

Why speak, my love

Why speak!

Hush!

Hush!

Silence is the tongue you should speak.

Hush!

Hush!

He had left for the day, and if there was more to his song, we didn't hear it. I looked around at all the people who had heard the song and I knew that I didn't know them as I had when we met in the morning. We continued our work in silence and left a little early for the day (the manager, who had also heard the song, didn't say a word). 

Some say he was run over by a truck that was speeding down a hairpin bend. Some say he went back to where he came from. Whatever be the truth, none of us ever looked up at the rock again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Different Messages

Knowing differently

I stretch my hand out -

Five wet fingers assure me

My world will see rain.



Fishes stretch their fins

And chase widening circles -

It will rain beyond.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Willingness to Make Mistakes

I was the chief guest at a rather holistic and invigorating school's Annual Talent Day. I was a misfit from the very outset. I thought chief guests were typically top businessmen or people high in the government offices or people who had done something entirely unique to deserve standing there, up on the stage with clueless kids assuming that they were in the presence of someone noteworthy. But I wasn't. I was just another software engineer who had qualified himself to be a computer scientist but had grown hoarse declaring that software engineering and computer science are quite different. My being well versed in a dozen other things doesn't count if I haven't done anything with them and haven't chiseled an exalted crevice for myself in the limestone walls of the Cathedral of greatness. I am just someone walking around that Cathedral running a solitary finger on the walls of the edifice, writing poems describing the falling flakes as they land on the washed flagstones, creating, in my poems, towering manors for ants. Soon my finger tip wears and I realise that walking around the Cathedral doesn't bless one with entry. What is there to speak of alcoves and crevices?

I was told that I need to speak to children. I was delighted and never bothered asking whether it would be to the tiny tots in kindergarten or the ones who are slightly more grown up, shy and faltering as I would speak to them directly. Children are beautiful in every size, I believe. I said yes. One day before the actual Annual Day celebrations, I was brought to the piece of news that I would need to be chief guest and the first thing that screamed in my head was, "But, I have done nothing. Honest!" I suppose this is also what an innocent man says when imprisoned for the wrong reasons. I presume that the impulse is the same - neither of them belong to where circumstances derail their life's trains. Undoubtedly, mine stopped at a school and hoisted me out: "There you go, E! Now be a chief guest!"

I kept wondering how I should conduct myself. I was numb with the sheer weight of being something I have never been nor prepared to be. I knew I would have had no problems with the children, but their parents! They would look down their nose (though that would be physically impossible for one attempting to look at me) and scoff, "A mere computer scientist!? Why, I am certain we could have found at least a dentist who had done the most number of molar extractions in Bangalore city to be the chief guest. Surely, my child should receive an award from a better man!" The child, of course, would have had no problem taking her certificate from any pair of hands and rushing off to sit on her father's lap. I would have also had no problems except when expected to rise and face individuals beyond the mental age of 15.

Hence, I decided to address only those who felt comfortable in belong to the club of the Un-Aged. But what should I speak about!? Kids are very clear when asked that question: nothing. They'd rather have me play with them or watch cartoons than hear me speak. Parents on the other hand expect me to redeem myself by providing some profound insight (neither of these words are understood by kids) into the business of living or making one. I really had nothing to say. I usually do, but most often with intimate company. I can speak to an audience I have known in a rather involved fashion than to an audience I am meeting for the first time. How do I know what they want to hear? I don't even know their favourite colour!

Perhaps all of this, running amock in my head, went silent in the face of one true terror: what if I goofed up and said something I wasn't supposed to!? I recall once doing something like that in school. Back in school, each child had his/her day when s/he would walk up in front of the entire school and utter a quote of great significance by a person of renown. It was my day and I realised I had nothing in my kitty. I dug deep and recalled one by Einstein. So I walked up in front of everyone, adjusted the microphone (as I have nearly always done) and said "When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it's only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it's two hours. That's relativity." (I realise there are several versions to this. I have no clue which one I chose). My teachers asked me to stay back after the assembly and thought I was being cheeky. They also thought I had no respect for the quote-a-day activity (which is perhaps something that can be inferred else I would have come prepared, though I think the true reason was that I forgot). A couple of teachers laughed (like kids) and thought I was quite funny. I had to say something noteworthy the next day and I did. I think I quoted Mahatma Gandhi or someone equally serious and who had very little sense of humour.

So here I was, meeting customers and talking to them about software strategies (which is not what your average computer scientist or software engineer does) and corporate visions (as well as software products) and cracking jokes and delighting them with the realisation of how intuitive the entire thing was, but still drawing a blank at the prospect of having to address a whole school of individuals expecting something intelligent, profound and deep from the chief guest.

I landed in the school at the appointed hour, spoke for a while with the wise principal and his wife, looked up at the clouds for some sign (either rain or the script of my speech) and kept on walking. When I had to hand out the certificates to the students, I was at ease congratulating each and every one of them for their individual noteworthy trait (for which they were being recognised) and addressing them by their names and not "Son" or "Young lady". Somehow, I feel an instant connection with people of my age group though they look cuter walking up to receive certificates!

After some wonderful performances that the students had put together, I was to get on stage and make the speech. I walked up there and the lights were glaring into my face. I do not have a clue about what I spoke, but I will soon put down what I wanted to say. Those few minutes (and I ensured that I didn't speak for more than a few minutes) are nearly entirely lost to me. When people (parents and children and friends) came over later to tell me that they were immensely impressed with the speech and thought it was wonderful I had no clue whether they were just being nice or they were truly touched. As I said, I have no memory of that speech (but that is true even about the posts I write!)

I think I spoke about the willingness to fail and make mistakes. Those who heard that speech and are also reading this post needn't strive to find correlation for there might be none.
The quest for perfection is not flawless
We are taught to respect correctness, completeness and success. These aren't mispronounced virtues but they are given undue importance. It is vital to know when to be correct and exacting. One cannot be otherwise while performing a surgical operation ("Excuse me! You have a hernia!? Why, I thought you were waiting for your leg to be amputated! No? Oops") or driving a bus full of living creatures or nuclear waste (no, I don't equate them). One cannot be casual under misplaced sanctions of being allowed to fail occasionally. Being frivolous is not what I am discussing and it would do well for the reader (and thinker) to dispel that at the very outset. No matter of life can be prescribed an application of an uncaring casual mind and effort. Nevertheless, to consider a serious mind and an ever-successful industry to be one and the same is the progressive failing of our society.

To me, permitting mistakes and failing is not a benevolent act nor something to be served to make a soul more noble. These aren't policy decisions to make a better society. I shall explain why I urgently wish to depart from such hurried conclusions. To me the willingness to fail and make mistakes is personal and individual and doesn't call for sanction. The willingness to fail and make mistakes is not the same as tolerating or accommodating mistakes and failure in society. I wish to impress upon the reader that these are different though we all know that it is always preferred to play lawn tennis in the cool airs of Northern France than in the sub-Saharan venues. What I mean is that it would be easier for an individual (who is willing to fail) to carry on with his life in a more educated society than in a brutish and oppressive one.

The willingness to fail allows one to be open to possibilities as well as imbibe true intuitive learning. Intuition is not about mere hunches and gambles or soothsaying. It has to do with the visceral connection to Truth (in its various forms including material knowledge) which makes understanding and gnosis possible without having to adopt artificial mechanisms of picking and choosing a subset of accumulated knowledge to apply in a given situation or matter under consideration. If I am focused on succeeding, I will only adopt the time-tested or hyped methods available to do anything and perhaps, everything. If I am interested in learning and growing, I will understand the subject under consideration, explore, experiment, test limits, approach it from various points of view and learn. There is no place for failure in here as everything that appears to others as a failure or a mistake is essentially a deeper understanding. In having found different ways that do not work, one understands why something does work. In finding the myriad ways one can be mistaken about something, one realises the Truth about that thing. Sometimes, this realisation comes without making mistakes and that is welcome as long as that intrinsic clarity/genius is not made the touchstone of all living.

In understanding this, it is important that parents who had the patience to raise their child long enough to get them into schools show a lot more and educate their child into retaining that spark of humility, that willingness to be in the wrong purely in order to learn what is Right. If the child doesn't remember it and repeats a mistake, find different ways of helping your child remember and realise the Truth in various things that surround her. One's laziness and lack of time cannot be an excuse for reprimanding the child while she is learning. Once the child is comfortable in truly learning, she will enjoy seeking Rightness and not treat it as an ordeal. And please do not compare your child with another. You probably wouldn't like it if your ward started comparing you with whom she thinks is an ideal parent. Work as individuals to a collective sense of goodness and Rightness. And, frankly, the other child is as important as yours. So, if you feel that your child is doing fine then spend some time with one who is having some difficulty.

With lesser censure the child ceases to distinguish between success and failure though progressively gains an understanding of clarity and ignorance. When a child grows to being comfortable living and learning through her life, she is less likely to subdue that beautiful voice in her head which in its untarnished golden timbre can help her be happy and at ease - the voice we sometimes call intuition. With that voice as your best companion, your creative and vibrant spirit will make Spring of all seasons. The joy of living is truly bequeathed to that soul.

I think I ended my speech thus (and the harsh lights screaming into my face were switched off and hence, I have a vague memory of this): I have no clue why I was considered to be a chief guest at this immensely important function, but I would like to console myself into believing that I was chosen because I am most comfortable making mistakes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Keeper of Shadows

Perhaps all which followed was meant to happen. There can be no better explanation and the machines of this world are oiled by no other unctuous belief. For its credit, it does offer tender sleep to many who walk around trying to reconcile that which is with what should be. I was merely walking with Henry V and Don Pedro as I have been doing for the past few years now. Henry V treats this as his sole opportunity to impress upon onlookers the sheer beauty of his breed and lineage. Don Pedro, on the other hand, took this as his only opportunity to connect to me. As crafty humans often do, I take this event as an opportunity to shower my attention on Henry V and make it difficult for Don Pedro to have my attention. Somehow, the evening hands each one of us what we want. Today was no different and hence, I am convinced that what followed was merely meant to happen. On all accounts, it happened anyway.

We walked past several trees and tired men and women pushing themselves to walk faster in order to keep their metabolic rates where doctors recommend it must reside in order that the believing soul reside longer on earth. Henry V had his nose up in the air and was slightly frightened when a rat shot suddenly out from under an overturned slipper. He barked his reprimand and we continued. That is when I spotted the bench. It was already laid there because it was meant to be there for the events to happen. On the bench was a large and largely immobile bundle of dark shadow, as the lights weren't in my favour of recognising more accurately. I stopped, much to Don Pedro's delight as he placed his paws on my hip with the "Will you hug me now? Scratch me?" look which is probably his most common and effortless facade. I tossed a "Down" down at him and he obeyed, impatiently pedaling his front paws and bobbing his head slightly in uncontained excitement. His tail swept a loving arc on the dirty walk. Henry V was already seated with his face towards the group of teenaged excitement behind us. They were already commenting about the cute dog and I am sure Henry V must been thinking "Dog? Pedigree!" The lump hadn't moved since I had stopped and I tried my best to understand what this large blackened mass could be. Before I could decide on one of many things running in my mind, the ugly mass cytokinetically split with heart wrenching slowness into a pair of beautifully recognisable lovers, her hair softly wafted in the wind from the river. They came together again to place the top of their foreheads against the other, perhaps the inevitable drawing together of beings used to being together and finding it gaspingly alien to be apart for so long a duration as a few breaths.

They slowly pushed against their heads and stood up. I noticed that they were young and hence, seemed to carry so much of humanly possible emotions and dramatic feelings. He was still holding onto her reluctance to leave, shaped as a little finger on her left hand. She was looking at his feet clad, perhaps, in patent leather and definitely less worn than his eyes looking at the top of her head. She slowly nodded her head and began pulling herself away part by part along the length of her being, head first. Don Pedro also noticed the weeping fingers which had once held hers. He should have lowered them, but he might have kept them aloft in the hope that it would be easier for her to find her way back just in case. Don Pedro, let out a soft whimper as she walked away further before trotting off.

The Capacity for Aloneness

He sat down looking in the direction she had left, and I got down on my haunches to be licked by Don Pedro. Henry V also moved closer because a dog which is close to his master is considered to be cuter. I watched him taking in the warmth still clinging on the strips that made the bench. How long could he have known her to feel that way? How long had I known Arundhati before she left? And Kamna? Somehow love realises its essence in departure. In the prospect of separation, it rises and swells, and like autumn clouds, it promises more than it can sustain. At the end, departure chips at the edges that love's mirages create, leaving us with ourselves: to be loved because we think we love. Don Pedro loves and so does Henry V, but they had the edge of being dogs from the beginning.

Henry V looked at me and I nodded my head. He tugged at the leash and I released him. He rolled down to where the man sat before steadying into a casual walk up to his bench. The lover smiled at the golden retriever and scratched Henry V's head. Henry V placed his snout on his lap and began a man to man conversation. I decided to wait for a few more seconds before walking over to put my errant dog on a leash and strike up a conversation. It always started like this before we became friends and he would speak his heart out. I have known various kinds of women in the process: workaholics, ambitious, greedy, slutty, disinterested, bored, unwilling to fight their family and society and the occasional ones who left for the guy's good. Whatever they were made of, the guy who stayed behind was always the same - saddened, unsure and wondering why this happened to him. That is where I would come in, telling him stories about Henry V and Don Pedro who have outlived Kamna and Arundhati, about my business as an architect and about Goa where I had a farm. About life and about how being alone can be as beautiful as being with someone though less subject to their immaturity. About how life is insulted the minute you are in pain.

I grabbed Don Pedro's cheeks and whispered, "Get thee a wife, get thee a wife!" before walking over to my man.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alvibest Part Deux



I think it is high time Alvibest came back. A few others agree. Most others go, "Alvibest? What's that?". I have none to blame other than myself. Its like having a child and keeping her away from her grandparents long enough to make them forget they had a grandchild. I know, I am blabbering, but it helps to blabber at times. Blabber, don't blabber; noodles, don't noodles... :-)

So Alvibest will be back shortly. The periodicity might change. Or not. The content will be new (there's no "Or not" to that statement). Anyone who reads this and feels that they should contribute, should refer to the flier above. If you know some friend of yours who might like to contribute, you still need to refer to the flier above. For those who weren't part of the history of Alvibest, those little squares in the flier were the cover pages of some of the earlier issues of Alvibest. Sniff. I know, it is such an emotional moment! Sniff! :-D

Friday, October 16, 2009

God The Designer

I like to imagine myself a designer: of spaces, of electronic gadgets, of software, of clothes, of food, of furniture, of products, of chance meetings (between 2 friends) changing into a romance which I can hum to (much better when they come to thank me for it), of chance meetings of ingredients commonly believed to be poor neighbours in a bowl of dinner's arrangement, of posters, of names, of stories and similar excursions into the preferred real versus the stale fare we call life.
I like to imagine God as a designer, too, of similar interests and more (though I am not sure why he would spend time designing a tarantula, but then hey!). That is one of the reasons I can look up at a cloud formation and go "Hmmm. Nice one. Modeled it around a bumblebee wearing an apron?" and watch it for a while as it fades into an apron and then an apparition! But, as I always study works of other designers, I have some issues with certain choices He made (so there! Women can be happy that God is now referred to as a "He", but He still gets points for making a dewdrop!). Here is a tiny list of things I thought were ok to put down in public (oh! There are stuff I simply cannot understand but which I can only discuss with my shadow along the toilet bowl).

  • Nerve endings for teeth: As in, God! Really? What gave you that idea? They gnash, and masticate. Job over! They don't taste, they don't burn (no one's eating volcano droppings) and they make too much noise when they chatter in the cold. Why nerves!? And then there is a root canal surgery that one needs to go through! How much easier it would have been if there were no nerves there! Tooth extraction becomes as simple as (the current scene of) watching someone else's tooth extracted. I hope Human 2.0 comes without it.
  • Burp needs another outlet: I was in the middle of Blanc Manger and the input and output (carried on the memory-wings of a delicious Lasagna) collided mid-palate. Not good, not good... mostly for others at the table. No amount of French or pouts (and French always seems like spoken with a pout) redeemed me or the lady's Arabian Sand coloured blouse (now seeming more Chowpaty beach sand). Poor design, I cried. At least the waiter stood long enough to listen before raising his eyebrows to the bill on the table. Poor design, My Lord. You should not have separated the two gaseous phenomena... I mean the one that missed the elevator and the other we call a burp.
  • Re-Sequence: I will have to give it to George for wording it the best. You sure got the order mixed up. Frankly, we think we peak and then we definitely wobble our way to the end. So wrong but universally believed like the story of Adam and Eve (seriously!? Just one rib!? Well, I'll give it to You, then). Would anyone buy such a tour package? Poor design, Sir, poor design.
  • Hair! God! Why on earth do I need hair? Women spend half their fortune (or sometimes more, esp. when it is their husband's fortune) on removing it anyway! Check with them. If they don't want it, don't give it. It needs to be a runtime variable and not a #define HAIR "YES". And look at those poor men! They so want it on their heads and you take it off and get some clueless jerk to give it a fancy name of MPB. Seriously, what am I going to do with a name? And help me understand, who asked for hair out of their ears? Really, who? Advani is not a designer! Why did you ask him!? Laloo!! God! Get real! Clear. Hair on head is always a yes. That's it. End of hirsute story. No! Only head. No! No! Ok fine... eyebrows! But that's it.
  • Growth: While on the topic of hair... why do I have to have it growing? Shouldn't my hair (which resides near my brain) be more intelligent and know what style I like most and stick to that length? As in, you don't have my hands and legs grow longer by the day and have me shear them! Brain growth is welcome (oh! but so lacking nowadays in the world around me) but you thought it would difficult to manage that!?
  • Ewww: Umberto Eco wrote a rather interesting piece on ugly and he gave ratification to my perspective on the design of the urino-genital system (at least the endpoints). They are ugly, smelly, oh-so-sensitive, poorly designed (very unaesthetic) for something which has moved this Earth around for millenia and created most of Hollywood's content and Freud's popularity, not to mention the dismal collection of papers sold as books (MnB) and created you and me. Sad! Surely, You could have done better. No, you don't need to make it like a Vegas billboard, but still... We should meet to discuss possible designs. I have a few drawing that might interest You. At least separate their utility value, for heaven's sake! Overloading is best left to C++.
  • Other coolant designs: I know the purpose of sweat, but I am sure there are better strategies for cooling down the system. Look at dogs (I know You created them, too. Damn good job! Perhaps your best work...). They just hang their tongues out. I don't mind doing that as long as you can wipe it out of that woman's head that I am doing so because she thinks that I think that she is gorgeous. Urgh! How about... ummm... cracking your knuckles to plunge the internal temperature to... then make the Sun less hot! God! I have to tell You everything!?
  • Stingy breath: Why just two holes!? Of course, I am referring to the nostrils. And so small (well, as nostrils they are aesthetic when not too big but as air inlets... too small)! Maybe the pores in the skin should be able to breath. Then small nostrils are ok. And again, why connect it to my mouth!? What made you think I would want to taste my own cold!? Or have soda come out of my nose!? Yes, I agree. We should meet.
  • Women: Well, they are wonderful. Aesthetic, at times, filling the air with varied wavelength and amplitude sounds. Not sure what else is aesthetic about them. Tresses!? Orlando Bloom also looks pretty in long hair and we also wish he would shut his mouth. There are nice noses, and chins and eyes amongst men (and if there aren't nice enough ones, that is another point of partial design which is basically, poor design). So I am trying to understand why women!? Or you could say why men (as in, let me be. So it's suddenly me in a world of women!? Wow! Nice)? From a design and manufacturing PoV, why two (or three) of a lot? Is there any added benefit? And then why make one so complicated in her thoughts and communication and hints!? If she wants you to like a dress, why doesn't she simply say so!? Why do I have to be told that this is a dress that she thinks will rock the show (which I am not sure means good or bad) and then ask me to vote for it but she will drop it if I don't like it only if I am certain that no one else will wear it and if they do, they will sink like a rock (see? "rock" again and hence, confused) and all my verdict built on the one thing that I should love her!!!? Why do I need to love anyone to know that that shade of green resembles the stuff under the fridge!!? Oh! So now I don't like her and have no sensitivity for her feelings especially because her mother gifted this to her!!? Fortunately, I have never had to run through this in my life (nothing grows under my fridge), but I have seen guys who would simply call me to know what to get their wives or girlfriends! Not because they are dumb, but because they are scared like the man in the middle of a train tunnel, clueless about which side of his will be crushed first! It helps to fall in love with books and music etc. Simple logic. And then there was always Bruno, wagging his nearly absent tail. You need to simplify that design (no, leave Bruno alone). Oh god! You so need to do that.
I could go on, but it doesn't feel fair to be the critic especially when I am still admiring your design of the brain and the musculature of a hound. Brilliant piece of work. You sure messed up human beings. Or did they offer advice while you were working!? ;-)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Tour Through Himalaya

Actually, it wasn't what people ordinarily think of in a tour through the Himalayas. Nope, no crunching on snow, now goggles to protect me from the reflecting ice, no slipping on glaciers, no Yeti (or her husband, the Yet), no frozen fingers breaking in brittle painless pieces (but I assure you my derriere was nearly there before I jumped into the Taptkund in Badrinath) and no Shangri-la experience. Of course, I will detail all the fun I had in later posts. Till then, I hope you enjoy the pictures. Do let me know which ones you liked and I might send you a framed copy of it! :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why-oh-Why

To those who asked and to all those who didn't bother to, I am still alive, though I can't say the same about my net connection. Repeated moving and change of location has left me with several computers but no connection to the Internet. No, I didn't get a proxy to type this out. I managed to find a net-cafe. 

So I have been busy and mobile and been doing a lot of fun things which I couldn't for several months before. But all of that has taken a toll on my writing and reading. I'll be back. I have a good number of pictures from a recent trip, I have stories to tell, I have adopted 3 kids (see? Already started with the stories), I have been invited by an army subhedar to his village in Punjab-uh (you never go to Punjab; it is always Punjab-uh), a pretty young girl preparing to be an air-hostess led me into the mountains (and I dutifully followed her), a man found pleasure in oiling me up, I have had my derriere freeze and chip off everytime I bumped into someone, another girl is planning to take me into the Amazon forests, I won a dinner for my team, I hiked 13 steep kilometers, I met a girl who is proud to be from Khajuraho (when she told me, I laughed and then had to sheepishly give another explanation), I had a horse wallop me between my legs and I think all I will ever father is jellyfish (not as a punishment for having laughed), I broke a fast, I disappointed a girl by telling her that all I had for dinner was bread and cheese (it seems she calls me to ask me about my dinner and gets a kick out of the elaborate spread that I describe) and a lot lot more has happened in my life. Yeah, all good things (or so I keep telling those around me).

So stay tuned (I know, I am talking just to myself) for a few posts, poems, pictures, piranhas (I had to say something starting with "P"!).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The say of hands

She sat achéval on her father’s leg, her two doll legs swaying to the tell of the train. She was listening to him intently though the occasional vendor who walked past her often claimed greater interest. She was wrapped in a tiny jacket with a leopard-print fur lining – probably synthetic – and her colliding heels, beneath her father’s thigh, made no noise. Her father leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and she received it casually. Her two cousins came over and enthusiastically played with my little one. She enjoyed their company.
The cousins – two girls – were probably of seven and eleven full years. The younger one was adorable with a lovely mouth the size of a lipped pinhole. Her senior was caught in an age which was neither cute nor curvaceous with a mind juggling between wanting to be cute while being called “grown-up”. She would cast a glance my way and when our eyes met, she would slowly look away while correcting the lock of hair behind her ear. She’d quickly look back to check whether I noticed or not and then check a smile before crashing into her seat. The younger one, wouldn’t bother because I was way beyond her age and hence, unlikely to be fun company.
Three girls and a few women dimmed out the remaining passengers who accompanied me on my trip though the trio formed the cynosure. They held in them a vitality which every woman seems to trade for vanity. Thus, they grow older.
I watched the youngest one play with everyone and wondered whether she was aware that she held the potential for being a woman. The younger of the cousin too didn’t seem to be aware of that while she innocently tugged her knickers into convenience. Her sister, a decaying reflection of her, seemed to invite vague notions of being a woman and would probably smile at someone who called her “finely blossoming young lady” (though I doubt people speak thus) without knowing what actually made her happy and warm in her chest.
All in your hands

In my mental journey between the youngest one and a woman who was lowering a bag from the racks above (clumsily unmindful of her brassiere strap showing) I couldn’t help be amazed at the entirety of life contained in a single human being. The woman – now struggling to balance the bag on her finger tips as she lowers it – once sat on her father’s knee too. She had once let strange hands hold her in loving embrace. She had once looked around and thought women are so strangely shaped and she definitely wouldn’t grow into being one of them with baubles of flesh hanging from everywhere. She had once let her mother change her clothes in front of everyone while one of the older siblings teased her with “tchee tchee”. And she had cried that day, not because she was a woman but because someone teased her about something that is probably not nice. Today she has a husband and kids and I have her just for this minute as I watch her scold her husband for not distributing the weight amongst the bags (he continues to read his magazine).

Often I have held a young girl’s palms in mine and wondered the world of touch that is promised to them. Those very hands will hug her parents and hold her “bestest” friend’s hands while they skip down the school corridor; they will hold a large sandwich while they dig a bite one centimeter into the bread and groan that their mouth is full and giggle, sputtering potato crumbs everywhere and laugh at that too; they will run those hands over pink dresses and beg their parents to buy it for them; hands that will run through their hair while they change shampoos in the hope to find that right one; pulling or pressing their suddenly odd shaped chest, subject to the urge of either ending their “girly” days or postponing the “embarrassing” ones; trying on makeup, holding their hips while they twirl in front of the mirror, some going on to handling chemicals and equipment while others happier with their Mills & Boons novels and mobile phones and then their first crush and leaving that magical hand of their in his, imagining the entire world to be made of only such happy moments and then happier ones when she would hold his face as he kissed her deep enough to cause her stomach to somersault with joy, hands that would soon carry a ring and ring in responsibilities that annoy or trouble their fairytale world, hands that would direct him into her carefully, months before their first child whom she would hold to her breast and once the babe is asleep, she would slowly worm a finger into that tiny fist – yes, she is holding it tight which means my baby loves me the most. And I smile at those hands now impatiently placed on mine, occasionally withdrawn to scratch her cheeks or dig her nose, and bend down to kiss them – several decades of life cupped in my hands.
“That’s ok uncle E, what do my hands say? Mom said you can tell the future by looking at hands. Will I become an actress? A model?”
“A princess?”
“No, dad’s not a king.”
“Cinderella?”
She gives me the you-can’t-be-serious look.
“Ok, ok. So you want to be an actress?”
“Yes or a model.”
If acting out all that I saw in her hands would be her life then she surely would be, as others would be, an actress.
“Oh! Most certainly.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do the Do

Sorry for not responding to comments or posting new material. I am in the process of doing what I am known best to do (no, not cooking.. NO, not eating, either): moving cities. Hence, I will be away for a while (ranging from 10 min to a week). Hope to return with a new surge of joy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aachoo

More than a post about H1N1 or swine flu (though the porcine relation is now diluted: it is a quadruple reassortant virus. But swine flu is easier to spell!) this is about how we cannot entirely trust the sources of information we think we can rely on and how it is humanely infeasible to verify the truth about everything we hear. There has been a panic about H1N1 in India. I don't watch TV and surely not news channels. Hence, I get to know about Britney Spears and H1N1 through friends (and the news givers sift themselves into personas!). I do read the newspapers sometimes and read enough to know that I am supposed to panic. Those who know me, know that I don't ever panic. I didn't even now but I took this rather seriously and wore a face mask while travelling in the bus. Yesterday, I was in the midst of coughs and clearing throats and realised that I noticed these more than I would on any other day. I even came home and had a bath. Then I decided to collect info for myself.
If I told you that up to 500,000 people died per year due to a disease and that is mostly in the developed countries, wouldn't you take it seriously?
If I told you that this disease occurs twice a year wouldn't you take it seriously?
If I told you that the disease causing virus keeps getting "better" nearly every year and vaccines have to be continuously modified to accommodate this development, wouldn't you be worried?
If you answered yes to all of the above, then why aren't the news channels and newspapers making a hype about the seasonal flu which has struck nearly every one of us every year? The WHO provides some good information about H1N1. You could find a lot of info about Seasonal Influenza, too, on their site.
Media has made us believe that H1N1 is unusually fatal. This is not true. Media has probably made us believe that this is not curable. This is not true. Media (in India) has made us believe that medicines are the only recourse. This, I believe, is not true (I will explain shortly). Media has also made statements about the inadequacy of medical supplies in India. This appears to be false.
The primary cause of concern is the newness of this virus. Had this been around for a while, people would be less worried. Why? Because the health industry would have come up with a hundred tablets and a couple of vaccines. WHO mentions that standard drugs which are inhibitors of neuraminidase can work, as H1N1 belongs to the family of Influenza type A. There are enough drugs in the market which belong to that category. Don't pop pills. The novelty of this virus has created a panic attack for misplaced reasons. My point is, in spite of the seasonal flu being so common and treated for so many decades, it still kills several thousand people per year! Hence, flu (of any sorts) can be fatal: some for known reasons and some for unsolved reasons. That is the truth (factual).
So why panic about H1N1? Because our helplessness with it is more than with normal seasonal flu. Which means that we can only be worried about the lack of medical advancements. Which implies something that I will not get into in this post.
I have had flu quite a few times in my life and my most commonly employed cure is to do nothing. I would let the fever come, shake up my schedule and go. Most ailments have been handled thus in my life. Doesn't make it the best approach, just something I do. It appears that H1N1 too could be tackled in a similar manner. There are Swine Flu Parties which take this approach to the next level! Has any news channel/newspaper mentioned this possibility? But it is fairly common treatment for seasonal flu. I agree that H1N1 is fairly new (though it also struck in 1918) but most strains of flu are.
I cannot deny that the media has created a wide awareness about H1N1. Nevertheless, I feel that the panic that it has instilled is unwarranted. To report merely on the deaths than all the number of people cured and statistical information creates panic which is pointless. It is important to maintain hygiene but wearing masks is taking things a little farther than required. There is always going to be a virus around. Are we going to wear a mask always?
WHO has marked this pandemic mild to moderate in severity. Medicines exist for this disease. Simple hygiene suffices. It is very easily and methodically curable. The fatality rate is probably on par with any other kind of flu (avian flu is an exception). So, why panic? Why hype this one disease to levels that make it seem as dangerous as an Ebola fever!?
So whose responsibility is it to provide factually correct and educated information to the public? In whom do we place trust? Should the media have a protocol about presenting potentially inciting (for the wrong reasons) information? I still recall the manner in which the Taj hotel incident was covered.
Point is, if our only sources of information are hyped, biased and/or inaccurate, then what do we do?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making Mama Proud

video

I was and still am extremely proud of my little boy going up on stage, confidently adjusting the microphone and then reeling out Urdu the way it should be. Ain't he adorable!? So my mom and his mom (who also happens to be my sis) get to argue about who's son was better on stage at this age! Little boy and me ignore them and watch cartoons! We both agree I was a lot cuter though the brat looks at my collection of his pics and tells me "Mama, I am so cute, no?" Runs in the family, I suppose! :-D I will write a post about how I took to the stage and ate all the lipstick sticks that the teachers had brought along.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Understanding Duality

A recent post found Pingu quote from the Hua Hu Ching (supposedly an unknown work of the Lao Tzu) and Parvati present her views on it. For those who find it tiring to look through the comments, here is the quote:

How can the divine Oneness be seen? In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe- inspiring miracles? The Tao is not obliged to present itself this way. It is always present and always available. [When speech is exhausted and mind dissolved, it presents itself. When clarity and purity are cultivated, it reveals itself. When sincerity is unconditional, it unveils itself.] If you are willing to be lived by it, you will see it everywhere, even in the most ordinary things.

Portions within [...] were not quoted in the comment though they form part of the original text. Lao Tzu is by far the only historic individual whom I shall ever consider to be a true teacher. There might be others but I don't know of them.

Writings on the Tao tend to stick a knife in their selves. By claiming that knowing the Tao cannot be described or constructed, they have made themselves open to ridicule, but Chunag Tzu would proclaim that state of being ridiculed to be a Taoist state. Let's not complicate things.

Parvati-ji responded as follows:

If I may intrude with a response to what you have said, here, Pingu,which essentially proclaims that all is the Divine, there is another quote from the Gita where the Supreme declares that the Divine on Earth is what is perfect. Perfection here, as clearly stated in all the verses starting from the 20th to the 40th verse of Chapter 10. Do read all of them starting from this link to later ones.
http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-10-18.html -

To give just a glimpse,

" Of the Vedas, I am the Sama Veda, of the senses, I am the mind, of the commanders I am Kartikeya, of the reservoirs of water I am the ocean, of all the divine sages, I am Narad Muni, of lordly elephants, I am Airavatha, of humans the King, of all the animals I am the lion, of the birds, I am Garuda, of the swift I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons, I am Rama, of the flowing rivers, I am Ganga, of the poetic metres I am Gayathri, of the seasons I am spring, of the Pandavas I am Arjuna, of the sages I am Vyasadeva etc etc.

" Certainly wherever and whatever is majestic, beautiful or magnificent, you must certainly know that all these manifestations arise from but a fraction of My Glory."

# I suspect that there are two fundamental truths of spirituality,
one is what you have quoted from Lao Tzu as all is the one Divine Consciousness, and the other is that on Earth and in manifestation this Divine Consciousness is a constantly evolving perfection in time and in space, whereby a present state of 'imperfection' can be criticised or if not criticised or condemned, its inferior qualities as exhibited by its errors and ill consequences in rightness and fairness can be discarded and fairer means that lead to a better harmony, but in truth and rightness can be expounded.

1. All is the Divine. This is an essential fundamental truth and an absolute
2. All becomes the Divine in the most outward and external manifestation too. This is in time as a growth from a lesser way of being to a more enlightened way. God too becomes in matter and material life.

The second fact justifies every single thought, discussion, debate that elucidates more and more, better and better ways to actually enable the Divine that is everything to actually be seen thus in matter too.

If mentally I understand that all is the Divine, and hence keep silence or kill my soul when I see ugliness or unfairness, assuming that evil too is the divine, then I disable a chance for me and my context to be redeemed in a greater light.

# Maybe the fact that I see unfairness and want it to be mitigated or annulled is also the divine and hence justified...

# Sorry, Eroteme, about this too long a response, maybe repetitive too, in your space. But Pingu's comment evoked such a comment from me. Do bear with me...

No apology required, Parvati-ji.

To summarise, there is one perspective where everything is the Divine and another where somethings are the Divine (or tending to the Divine) and some not of the Divine. The latter notion is also the source of the God-Devil duality. In the grand scheme of things, perfection and imperfection are both necessary parts of the whole. What Pingu quoted states just that; what Parvati-ji clarifies is a response to "Ok! So what do I do with that idea that all is the Divine?" Her words are a response to an often reached conclusion "Since everything is ok, let me do anything and everything and then simply call it the Divine and get away with it."

The Tao resonates with me and hence the notion of good and evil seem illusory to me at times. But there are so many moments when I see the vile clearly and am repulsed and propelled into action, thought or reflection. The Tao is not against action. The Tao is not against anything. To be one with the Tao (a state which seems so impossibly near to be true) implies a clarity and a freedom from conflict. The Tao guides the sword as it does the wind.

The problem arises when the ignorant mind clings to the notion of "All is the Divine" and then suffers the daily travails of facing the "bad" things. We want to believe that everything is the Divine but what do we do with this wretched liar who just robbed me of all my life's savings? What do we do when the immoral politician has taken over my piece of land? What do we do when someone jumps the queue? How can all of that still be the Divine?

Here we need to visit our notion of the Divine (which Pingu has quoted and Paravati-ji has elaborated on). We still believe that the Divine is beautiful and only the beautiful can be the Divine. Perfection is considered to be the Divine while imperfection isn't (though the Zen notion of wabi-sabi looks at things differently). We seem to view that all things imperfect are not-yet-Divine and in the movement from imperfection to perfection there is a move towards Divinity. Even the Gita says so!

Who then created the imperfection that seems to be more abundant than perfection? Why? Then is there a creative force on par with the Divine force? And questions keep pouring forth once we go down that track eventually ending in a conclusion that the Divine "itself" has been incapable of creating a perfect world and has created a world full of imperfect entities which need to continuously move towards perfection, or the Divine! Many souls are comfortable with that notion because the "worldly" acts of tests, challenges, missions etc. resonate with that idea of separating an entity (at the outset) from its perfect state of being and then making it difficult for that entity to become perfect.

But notions are just that: convenient beliefs to provide solace or security. They are convenient because one needn't dig deep to understand the duality of the Divine and the non-Divine. One needn't have to face Truth, least of all, deal with it. Who has the time, especially when one is busy trying to get that promotion, or that apartment or something equally important? Who has the time or energy when juggling a million tasks and responsibilities?

So we often tend to take one of two sides: The Divine is beautiful and all things ugly aren't (yet) the Divine (and the common Japanese view of individuals born with physical disabilities is one such example) OR all is the Divine (like the various new age gurus and cults say though they essentially end up creating a following which believes that their guru or their God is the true Divine and the rest is all humbug). The first category face lesser questions (not because there are fewer question but because there are fewer people willing to think deep enough to ask questions) and the second category face the questions like the ones Parvati-ji hinted at: If everything is the Divine, then is raping someone also a Divine act? Hell! no.

Confusion arises in actions and events (that seem to be related to an action). People see something happen and aren't able to explain it. Be it rape or thievery or the IPL cricket matches, we aren't able to explain how someone can do something like this to another person. Hence, we either call them all evil or smile over clenched teeth and repeat endlessly that "All is the Divine".

Action which stems from clarity is different from action which stems from ignorance. In the latter case it is one's own pettiness which drives action. When there is clarity then the action to protect a child from a murderer is as effortless as breathing. Once in that state, action and thought are not different nor motive forces for the other. In that state, the Divine is not a goal but the Divine simply is. In that state, when one is one with the Tao, Pingu's quote is obvious and clear.

Since most of us are not in that state, we seek ideals and goals which we can work towards. Krishna's words jar in my head more than they create resonance. Such a tone is the root of all misunderstanding and ill-formed thought and action. A lay man will shun all assuming that only that which Krishna said He is, is worth looking at or possessing or coveting. In the hands of fools, threads of gold will either be sold for a view of the Sun or they will be futile ropes to tether cows. Krishna is talking to a rather confused person who in the middle of the battlefield is busy raising queries which takes people a life time to understand. Krishna is immensely crafty and knows exactly how he needs to deal with a gentleman like Mr. Arjuna Pandu. After having told him so much and clearly that there is nothing in this entire universe which doesn't stem from Him and doesn't return to Him, Arjuna still asks Him for the "glories" of Krishna. To me, Krishna's bit after that sounds like pure pep-talk. He eventually ends it with saying "Amongst the Pandavas I am Arjuna" which hopefully did the bit! At the end He still wonders (perhaps with frustration): What necessity is there for you, O Arjuna, of such detailed knowledge and so many examples? (When I have been telling you that) I support this entire universal manifestation situated in but a fraction of Myself.
To miss verses 2-5, 7 -11 (yup, all prime numbers) and only focus on verses 21-38 (though I love what He says about feminine graces in 34. I really wish I could ever meet a girl who had those!!) is presenting oneself in a manner no better than Mr. A P. To invoke the Divine grace for a pep-talk is rather shabby. Had Krishna told Arjuna that "Well, I am the Divine and am the cause for everything. I am you and Duryodhana. I am the cause of your birth and of this war" then I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Arjuna ran back to Kunti telling Krishna to fight it himself and end it also by himself. Arjuna needed to know that he had the Divine on his side and that he was part of a worthy cause. Neither did Arjuna know nor did Krishna care to tell that to fight was being one with the Tao, because the war was meant to happen. Krishna with all his claims also died an anonymous death at the hands of a hunter who mistook his heel to be a deer's face! Krishna didn't simply vanish into thin air (like Master Ugway did). He died the way he was supposed to. Krishna wasn't without conflict (he actually charged Bheeshma when Arjuna let loose excuses for arrows, only to be calmed by Arjuna who was a few days earlier calmed by Krishna). He was surely one with the Tao for most of his life on Earth. So one cannot and should not take Krishna's words out of context, the context being

If we leave Krishna and Arjuna alone, we need to still come to terms with the following questions:
  • Is it possible to stay without an awareness of what happens around us?
  • Once we are aware, is it possible to be without recognising it as good or bad?
  • Once we recognise something as good or bad, is it possible to not react?
  • If we react, is it possible to figure out whether it was meant to be or not?
I will leave the reader with these questions, because it is sometimes best to live with questions than have answers.

How else could I know?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Interesting, no?

I recall watching a program where a rather old gentleman won an award for the loudest snorer. It seems he snored as loud as a chopper bike's engine or something like that. None of this was interesting to me till the anchor mentioned that his wife was growing deaf due to the constant noise every night but the old man wasn't. Isn't it interesting that the same noise served to two individuals produces different effects on them perhaps due to the fact that one of them is causing it? It would be like a drummer playing his loudest music but only his neighbours growing deaf. So why does our body react thus? I am inclined to my view of life where most ailments and problems come about only due to resisting what happens rather than accepting things.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I love you?

Things left unsaid...
Through the winter night
To a fading moon I ask:
Why did she think so?

Friday, July 31, 2009

When Things Get Irrational

Frankly, its not just at work but nearly everywhere that I am confronted with gross irrationality and this strip made me nod my head vigorous enough to watch it roll off towards my laptop!



Damn it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dark Delights

"What will it be tonight, my Aakah", she asked me in chaste Arabic.
Turkey, for me was the colour of her skin, alleys marked like her slender fingers, the pulsating domes curved liked her body with promises never uttered beyond the spell of her eyes. Turkey lived in my mind with the name of Yasmine; Yasmine who brought to me delights untold.
"Have I ever known what to ask, my love?"
She smiled through the veil and soft harp strings were plucked. Yasmine's is the world where singularity is an alien unless garbed as ecstasy.
"Would my Aakah prefer to sit down?"
With my will puppeted by her voice, I sank into the ostrich-feather couch. Like the reticent tear of happiness, she dropped with the rustle of silk to near my feet. She removed my shoes and placed them on hot lava stones while I shut my eyes. The walk of warmth up my body sang deep through the throb of my tired flesh. When I opened my eyes she was still at my feet but had produced a large shallow trough with special water (and how did she manage to not have a single ripple on it?). The candles swayed softly in the distant alcoves of her chamber, reflected by little mirrors appearing out of nowhere and rotating into a void. The floor danced to the long orange accompaniment of lamps housed in crevices in the wall and floor. One could walk on a flame and not be scorched while another step in a promising cooler corner might whisper an unexpected heat up your leg. Yasmine's world was not meant to be guessed.
With her hand supporting my heels she moved the stones aside and let my feet sink into the trough of ice cold shock. I lurched forward a bit and she immediately held me back with a firm hand.
"Aah, my Aakah is impatient?"
I leaned back with a smile. Her hand was still on my torso and she slowly let it move up to my collar bone.
"A tired day doesn't call for clothes, my lord", she said and with one deft snap removed the first button of my tunic from its eye.
"Or were you merely playing to entice your love?", and another.
"Could I ever forget the veins of my master?" Another
"Or are there new ones for me to play on the lute of my bosom?" Another was off and her palm rested flat on my navel.
"My ears do lust for new tunes, my Aakah." Another fell off obedient to the masterful flick of her wrist. She leaned over with her light breath falling on my earlobe.
"My whole body awaits your song."
I continued to feel that breath snake down my neck over my shoulder till I heard her voice from a distance.
"Would you prefer burgundy to black or red to emerald or ...?"
"Black"
The large candle she was facing glowed deeper with her smile and shook a wispy orange finger at me. She brought the silk scarf and extended it to me. I held it with both hands as she walked slowly to stand behind me.
"Black holds it all, my lord. All of it. The Gods created nights so that they could enjoy it all while we mortals groped around and fell asleep."
"Your world is not of mortals, is it?"
"Nor of the Gods, because their delights are written down in books."
She bent over, her long hair brushing my cheeks and the musk of her cleavage filling my being. While my body rose to meet that softness, the scarf was over my eyes and tied securely. Her feet whispered around me as she stood in front of me.
"What the eyes see is all the mind sees and hence, it is the Devil that leads man away from imagining, which is the seed of delight. Why do you need the Devil when you are with me, my lord!"
I smiled at her voice and she placed two finger on the scarf over the near corners of my eyes. Camphor? Whatever she had on her finger tips, seeped through the fabric and cooled my eyes and eased my entire being into a calm. While still holding the bridge of my nose her little finger traced the outline of my lips.
"How beautiful they are, my master! They spell lovely poems and tales and draw wet sagas along my breasts without uttering a word. One minute of sapping my breath with your verses and another of leaving me breathless."
My tongue oozed out to meet her finger, but there was none. She gently held the tips of my earlobes and said, "What's the hurry, when night such as these never end?"
She rustled to a distance and began playing her harp. I sat with a broad strip of nudity exposed to her with my hands lazily dangling on either side of the couch. As the tempo of her soft music increased, I felt something crawl up my shin.
"Don't move, master. For your own good. It wouldn't do well to be found dead in the house of Yasmine."
I stiffened as I felt something long curl up and crawl up my thigh. Its sheer weight told me what it was and it was then that I realised that the room was warmer than usual. It lazily moved up my chest and with every contraction of its body my hair stood taller around my neck. It casually moved up to my shoulder and I think it lifted its head. I felt a wet hair flick my earlobe before a long motionless hour seemed to elapse till the next movement. The chant of the candle flames grew loud in my ear and the harp strings sounded like from a previous birth. The scarf separated a worried and perspiring head holding a spinning mind within, from a stiff face which was thoughtless and entirely watching the being on my right shoulder. It gave one last Dark Delightslick to my earlobe before slowly slithering away. The candles grew less loud and harp seemed more present.
"The scent of the Yarabahi flower draws snakes to them but the taste of them is not interesting. So it is with any woman other than Yasmine."
She lifted my trembling hands and dipped them each in a jar of something which felt like soft wet flesh. I tried holding it between my fingers.
"Oh, you feel like pinching today?" and she laughed a tender cascading one.
Before I could say anything she rustled away.
"It wouldn't be fair if you are the only one naked, my lord."
I heard the soft sigh of clothes fall to the ground and felt every cell of my body alert and awaiting the next contact.
"Would you like to try this drink, my Aakah?"
She leaned over, resting her knee on the flesh of my thigh, and her breasts slowly grazing the hair on my chest.
"Na, na, na. No taking your hands out of the jars."
I let them sink into the gel which seemed to slowly move around my fingers and cool and warm them alternately. She placed a wet finger on the corner of my mouth. I licked the fluid. The sting arrowed to the roof of my head and I jerked and tried to shake off the shock. She kissed me on my forehead and placed another wet finger on the other corner. I was reluctant to try it now but it was seeping into my mouth. It was fruity and cool. I licked it all and her finger. She licked and smacked her finger.
"Now open your mouth, my lord"
I did finding it difficult to hold back a smile. She slowly poured a liquid which tasted different from the ones I tasted earlier, but a little of each was there too.
"Now pinch with the thumb in middle finger of your left hand and then with the thumb and ring finger of your right. Alternating."
I did as she told me, for who would not want to be led by the mistress of delight. As the liquid slowly fell into my mouth, each side of me gushed with a tingle as I released the pinching fingers. The liquid cooled in my mouth as it warmed down my throat. Yasmine slowly moved her hand and the liquid poured down my cheeks and chin, down the length of my body, pausing at my navel before moving further down. The throbs increased and I pinched vigorously. The marriage of the liquid, the warmth of the room, the gels in the jar, the nerves clenched with each pinch, my skin heating the wine as it rolled down and above all, Yasmine, yanked me from one high to another making me suddenly aware of each muscle and fibre of my being. The sweetness of the drink chimed in my tired chambers as I felt each drop of it sear my skin on its way down. As my breath grew shallower, I heard gentle flute notes waft around me. Yasmine was playing a tune which was vaguely familiar.
"Have you heard this before, my lord?"
"I... I think... I have."
She continued playing the tune and I could smell wild orchids. I leaned back with my hands out of the jars and my feet out of the trough. The liquid was drying on my front. The gentle notes soothed my heaving torso. I wasn't sure whether the smells of the flower were real or from the vague memories the tune evoked. She continued playing it while gentle faces rushed through my blackened mind; faces, mountains in the backdrop, tinkling laughter and children playing in the dirt, young women carrying pots of milk or river water, men working near large fires, soft yellow sunlight bouncing on every puddle and this tune from nowhere. People were busy selling their wares and having small market fights. Goats and chicken walked amidst them, occasionally startled at nothing in particular. Young boys grabbed their girls wrist and pulled them behind trees and resting carts. Elderly folks either shook their head or smiled in memory of days past. I was there watching all of this from above a huge haystack, writing in my notebook, when someone called out to me. I refused to acknowledge but the calls grew louder.
I know my bed without having to open my eyes. I smiled as the contours of my room drew themselves more clearly in my mind. She had managed to do it one more time.
"Come down, its already well into the morning."
"Coming."
I pull myself on my elbows and undo my tunic. She has left just a little of her drink on my chest. I scrape it and lick my finger. I spit it out in disgust. I look at my inner thigh and see the mark of a pressed knee. How did she let herself be so careless this time? I pull out my journal to recount what I can, but Yasmine did say that these were not to be written in books. But what use is delight when it cannot be one's trophy? What happens to a joy once it is put on one's window sill beside the rose bush? I put my journal back. Yasmine!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sonnet 11 - A Lover's Wait

She'll come
I paint her name in wine on ebony
Glistening fluid ropes to draw her near.
Hundred nights passed since, and yet her journey
Will bring her to me, or so I adhere.

The sigh of the leather couch whispers fresh
Where she had simmering sat, knee on knee.
Impassive wooden edge kissed her breast's flesh
While full lips drew in a goblet's sherry.

It has been hundred nights, why wait, you say
Such a delight is but a night's mirage.
One night's fate would be futile Fortune's lay,
Sans one more from life's diurnal melange.

So wait I will, living on recall's fire,
Till Time shall yield to the tell of desire.

Convenient Dichotomies

I am often confused with a misogynist. It is as much a tragedy as my frequent association with being a misanthrope. I love women too much to ever hate them and I have immense faith in mankind (not human beings) to despise them. But fairness rules and my role of a paladin brings me brickbats. All in good cheer!

A recent trip with friends (mostly acquaintances) convinced me that women find it extremely convenient when guys fawn over them and will receive every act of subservient yielding, with gusto though quick to proudly claim that they don't ever seek favours from men. I am fortunate in being allowed the escape of a not-so-mute observer and thinker and hence am rarely called upon to perform the job of a lackey or to bestow condescending favours. The women in the group were delighted to have doors opened for them (innocuous) and bills picked (cheap) and luggage hauled (dainty) and errands run (too important) by the boys that I found the whole thing decreasingly obnoxious and increasingly amusing. The girls actually had the boys fetch their shoes from the shoe rack outside the temple. The boys had no sense of self-respect and were more than happy to be at the beck-and-call of their ladies. The ladies, without bothering to wonder whether they were taking advantage of the "niceness" of the boys, enjoyed their well-served existence. I imagined reversing roles: If girls were ordered around and tossed off when the job was done and made to run errands and taken "advantage" of because the guy knew that she had a crush on him, how would the "forward" thinking world look at it? They would call the men chauvinists, brutes, old-fashioned, conservative and few other things depending on their mood and mettle of their tongue. But these girls are just called cute (though amongst themselves some are bitches and some are desperate or more, again depending on the pH level of the tongue).

One thing that I never understand is the notion of footing bills. I pay when a woman accompanies me (tragedy lies in the fact that I even pay when some guys accompany me) and if I don't then I am cheap. If the girl was not earning a living or something like that, one might even consider that as a passable case (but then how do you explain the ready money available to her when she has to buy things for herself like trinkets to hang from her ear or that mobile which rings in so many tunes?). I find it immensely pointless that women who earn their income believe that they should never foot the bill. If the assumption is that their mere presence has paid for their share of the evening's expenses I can't laugh enough. I have rarely been with a girl who leaned over, slapped my hand off and took the bill (one girl was from West Bengal, the other lives in Bombay and one potentially solid girl now resides in Mysore). I always wondered whether they never felt cheap walking out of a restaurant without even offering to go dutch.

Pampering a girl is different. I think it is merely a special case of pampering someone you like (love is a convoluted topic). I pamper my nephew, my kid (I call her that because her parents call her my kid), my dear friends, a few wonderful women whom I have met (and they are genuinely few enough to count on one hand) and most children. My lovely friend who has been with me since we were 11 and 9 respectively, and who now is a father to lovely little girl, is someone I love to pamper. Pampering in these cases is not a stereotype and is hence, treated differently.

A dear friend of mine said, "Come on, E. Guys enjoy doing these things for girls. It is one of the small pleasures of life." I think he meant "small pleasure of the Mating Game". I had written a long article (and I am accused of never writing anything short!) about the Mating Game when I was in school. It is lost (because I wrote on loose sheets of paper) though you surely don't need an article to bring to light what is commonly available to an interested pair of eyes. I accommodate the Mating Game as an inevitable ritual performed at various levels (from Casanova to Seth Ganshyam Das of Tijoriwali Gali in Allahabad whose Mating Game starts and ends in a burp) but when it becomes a stereotype, graduating into a sense of etiquette and hardening as a norm of social life, then, my dear friend, it becomes annoying to my senses. I have lent my jacket to a girl (and I still have a picture of her) though I cogitate that I would have done the same for a frail framed guy, too. I have done things which clearly fell into the bucket of the MG (btw, that is not what M.G. Road in Bangalore, stands for) so the issue is not about the MG. It is about what groups of people are "expected" to do.

Recently, on a trip, I noticed how women (on the train) assume that they will be treated specially. They assume that someone will surely help them load their luggage or give them their chosen seat. A woman had actually occupied my seat and when I arrived told me to take the other one elsewhere because she wanted to sit with her family. Of course, if I don't mind. Point is, isn't it decency to stay in your seat and then ask instead of occupying first and then offering an option to me!? Even in queues (and once at a petrol station) women seem to assume that it is ok to rush ahead. A friend once told me "Come on, E. Try standing throughout the day on high heels and waiting in a queue!" What? Women were born with high heels? So if I wore riding boots with 3 inch heels, I will be allowed to the front of a queue?

There is no questioning that women are not often built for physically strenuous jobs and have to juggle (often, though not always) multiple roles and responsibilities. But these are individual choices. As much as a child cannot be delivered without the due gestation period so required is the necessary physical, mental and psychological abilities for a job. Dagny Taggart didn't use her womanhood to get the job done. It was sheer ability. I simply adore women who can do a job the way it should be done without acting cute and batting eyelashes. It is, hence, an individual's choice. If work in the quarry is not your cup of tea then don't go there. To join the quarry and insist that women should be given greater privileges and shorter work hours and lesser loads to lift is ridiculous. So be it with a job as a scientist in a lab. I will not give you the culture in my petri-dish just because you are 6 months pregnant (what is growing in the dish is at least my effort). If you can't juggle many things, choose. There are tonnes of women who give up a family for the sake of a career and conversely. There are men who also care for the family and buy the grocery and take out the garbage while putting the baby to sleep. Does the woman of the house get up to give him the only chair in the room?

So a woman likes to have doors opened for them and seats on buses offered to them but will not tolerate a man saying, "They are weak humans." They want men to be chivalrous while they cry sore about women's lib.

A woman will love to have her dinner paid for, and her movie tickets bought but will hate it if she were told that she needed his money or was dependent on his money.

A woman enjoys receiving gifts and baubles and surprises but will not accept that she can't even think of getting her guy some nice gift as a surprise. After all, "What can you get a guy? They are so boring!"

A woman likes to quote the traditional role of the male as protector and provider till he has expectations of her; then she quickly chants the virtue of the modern liberated man who doesn't hold old-fashioned notions of roles based on sex or creed. Equality is, then, something that makes sense only when it is in favour of one person.

Men are not to be pitied as long as they enjoy being fools. It is when women assume that men are there for doing their work or earning for their entertainment or free for their whims that the otherwise simple acts in a relationship appear vulgar. So be it when men make similar assumptions of women (though most men don't think that their wives earn for their entertainment, some think that their wife is entertainment!). At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is about a sense of Rightness. When there is respect for the other person, when there is a genuine affection for the other person, when there is respect for oneself, when one truly cares about the relationship and the various facets to it, there is action borne out of a genuine goodness and Rightness which doesn't crumble to petty convenient exploitation or, as a girl aptly said, "timepass". It would be such a delight to be with a woman who would take me out to dinner, too. Or help me pack my luggage or let a guy sleep on her shoulder or lap (has to be some other guy because I can never do that!). Or bought me a bottle of ink because I have just exhausted mine.


Samam

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rajasthani Miniature

"The skill is in highlighting each minute details and hence it is called miniature art", explained the tobacco chewing Madan Lal. He confessed to eating a heavy breakfast followed by nothing till late in the evening so that he could spend a lion's share of the waking day dedicated to his art. Learning Rajasthani miniature art from him was a pleasure. The weekend was spent in anecdotes about how he would create various details and how his ancestors have been involved in this art for centuries together. He told us of an elaborate painting that he sold in Delhi for over a lakh (but by then we were so much in awe of him that a lakh sounded like pocket change).

He was glad to have me in his class because I was the only guy! The coordinator of this workshop expressed her surprise about finding a guy sign up for a painting workshop ("only girls have signed up till today"). With great pride I cherish that moment when Madan Lal-ji thought that a particular piece of painting in a picture was done by him when actually I had done it. He kept insisting it was his work till the fine ladies in my group had to show him the canvas on which he had actually done it. That, was accolade enough for me! Pretty Bina, from Nagaland, added to my joys (in more ways than one) by proclaiming that my first piece was better than the sample artwork (which was up on sale in Madan Lal-ji's shop). I could have hugged her just for that but I had to keep telling myself that this is Madras! Having gone for this workshop without any expectation it was easier for the Master to mould me in the way he wanted and for me to emerge with great satisfaction and a sense of joy.

Rajasthani miniature is not something to be learnt in two days. Any claim to having mastered the technique in such a short duration is ridiculously stupid. Two days into this art form and I realise the great amount there is to still learn and master. I have become comfortable with only two techniques: flattened brush shading, jaali-work. We worked with delicate squirrel-hair brushes and my wrist and every tendon in my opisthenar cries in pain! Madan Lal-ji is available in Dakshina Chitra till 4th of Aug 2009. It would be worth your while to stop by and learn from him.

If I may bring to your notice, note the jaali (something like a mesh but supposedly made of fine silver threads or similar precious metal) bordering the elephant's howdah (blanket). One can actually see through it what lies beneath. The background colour is textured to give it a feel of mural (with chipping plaster, etc.). Rajasthani art (the way they draw their figures and objects) is not meant to be realistic (would an elephant really have such a bump on the forehead? Would its nails be collected in the front? etc.) but artistic-fantastic-realism. The human figures have elaborate eyes and lips but the women are mostly flat chested though the roundedness of the breasts is depicted. Clothing is transparent and that is a technique. I would share the other work in my possession which provides a sample of the detail work that can go into landscape, but it is incomplete and would add it to this blog once complete.


Rajasthani Miniature

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bangalorism

Bang-a-lore has always provided a bang for my lore. This is one city which never ceases to shock me. Today I pick up the paper (Bang-a-lore Mirror) and what do I see? No, it is not in Kannada and that wouldn't have shocked me because it is rumoured that all programmers from Bangalore must code in Jave which is the Kannada version of Java. I saw a Bihari programmer being beaten up because he wrote "import java.lang.*" instead of "import java.lang.kannada". Biharis seem to be manufactured to be beaten up. 

So back to the BM: The front page carried the headlines "VAIKUNTA SAMARADHANE ON JULY 6". For those who aren't familiar with ceremonies, Vaikunta Samaradhane is the Kannada tourism package for a 11 day trip from Samarra to Vaikunta. This ceremony is planned for the great and late Michael Jackson. Man, I am going to miss him. Once he was all of Western pop music to me. To think his was the second song I sang on stage when I was 7 or 8 (the first being La-Isla Bonita). May the Gods keep his soul well and happy.

Back to BM again: The amazing Kannadigas plan to conduct the 13th day ceremony for MJ. For once they seemed to wake up in time but I wonder what's the point! Technically it would be a flawed thing to do and even if not technically inclined the man probably doesn't want to go to Vaikunta (he wouldn't want to do the twirl and toe stand or moonwalk on the ocean of milk in front of the reclining Lord).

Bangaloreans (and maybe not all of Karnataka) are quite a clueless bunch. Be it in food, sense of patriotism, current affairs or anything else, they are rather slow and hence, late. Let's study the psychological inclination (their incline is usually zero degrees).

I recall when Saddam H died and Indians said he would go to Vaikunta because it was Vaikunta Ekadasi. Point is, he didn't want to. He was Muslim. I don't know where that was missed on all the tour plans. I am sure Vishnu wouldn't have a hassle (though if the signboard on the gates was "Maam Ekam Sharanam Vraja" then we might have a problem). Bangalore woke up after 11 to 13 days and there were riots. An autorikshaw was burned (as an offering to appease the Gods and allow S H into devaloka) for sure (I saw it happen and had to tell my driver to rush from the spot and not peep outside the window!). All this after most of the newspapers had stopped running articles about him. 

Several years ago when BSNL had the notion of quarter, half and full rate for STD calls, I was in Bangalore visiting my cousins. I had to call my mom (who wasn't travelling with us) and decided to utilise the half rate (quarter rates require Bombay-like business drive) slot. Bangaloreans had mistaken half rate to mean the amount for which they can sleep and usually woke up by the end of that slot. Not a single shop would be open and I was told that they would open only by 10:00 hrs only to be shut for lunch and then opened again till they closed for sunset (which would have happened whether they closed or not)!! Being a Mumbaikar I would travel late but Bangalore buses (I was told) then shut service around 20:00 hrs! That is when I learnt that Bangaloreans were probably awake for the same number of hours that we folks slept and that was structured around their meals!

Some people blame this relentless lethargy on the climate, some on the Kannada script and most others on the way Bangalore is spelt (hence, the urgent move to spell it differently: Bang-a-loo-roo). I blame it on their sugar levels. Once upon a time, when God (or Chacha Nehru) was chiselling out India from a block of land, he decided to do draw Karnataka. He figured that these people are least likely to be creative as far as food goes, so he placed them in the midst of states which had their own cuisines (and far from the states which didn't want any damage done to their sarson ka saag and makki di roti). Then he gave them bags of sugar. Karnataka dishes are predominantly other state dishes with a scary amount of jaggery or sugar. Namma WhateverIt is like they are all half-blind and confuse sugar for salt or crushed jaggery for chilli powder (colour blind). They think they are being creative: Let's take an idly and do something with it... hmmm... let's add sugar. Let's take a bonda and do something with it... hmmm... let's call it Mysore bonda. And then they get confused with similar looking liquids: sambhar, kozhambu and rasam are all the same to them and true blue Kannadigas mix soup into their rice because, you guessed it, it is a brown liquid too. And then they create their own flavour by adding jaggery to it. So picture Kannadigas looking over their shoulder into your dubba and taking home your dish only to bring back the same thing the next day with sugar or jaggery in it calling it their own huli or gojju or saaru. Everything which is not a gojju is a huli until you dilute it and then it becomes a saaru. That is why Kannadigas never have Bengali friends. What more can you do to a rosagulla!?

Everything Bangalorean is Namma (if you are in Bangalore) and everything that is not work is a habba. Everything that is too much for you is sakath and if you are Kannadiga too, then you are maga. You can combine them in various forms and you know enough Kannada. Namma sakath habba, maga. Namma sakath maga. Maga, namma habba. Or the radio repeat: Sakath hot maga! It goes on. Another simple way to manage with Kannadigas is adding a "maadi" at the end of every English sentence. Sounds very Kannada to a lot of people.

Why do you need to learn Kannada? Because many people out here speak just that. Buses carry information in Kannada and all of them go to a place which resembles a poorly untangled jalebi. Karnataka ministers are striving hard to make everything Kannada. All government office forms are in Kannada so you basically have no clue whether you signed on your own certificate of death or marriage certificate (but does it matter?). 

Then we are left with the urge to be a part of everything: software, gay parades, software, beauty pageants, software, traffic congestion, software, pub culture, software, flooded roads because someone emptied a bucket of water, software, rising hemlines, software (no, no, not related to the rising hemlines), world cup matches, software, rock concerts, software and the IT industry. The movie industry is ultra-sad with all actresses top heavy and actors top-light. 

In summary, if you can "swalpa adjust maadi" then it is a fun place as long as you are not Bang-a-lored! No, lored is not a person.