Thursday, April 27, 2006

no more ulta-pulta

imagine the hues brighter and distinctly different from each other, and you'll "get the picture"!

anyway...this is my attempt at depicting ardh-naareshwar.

panchatantra ki kahaaniyaan

i remember my dad narrating these wonderful stories to me many moons ago, and me listening to them in rapt attention. some, i also read through the lovely "amar chitra katha" series. perhaps the warmth of my dad's embrace as he took me on many exciting journeys with all sorts of animals, and the imagination these journeys fired in me, led me to revisit them.

visnu sarma's "the pancatantra" is a fascinating collection. it puts together not only the fables themselves, but also an exhaustive introduction that brings out the depth of knowledge this precious work embodies. it is replete with translations of the original sanskrit verses, some of which do not even seem to belong to a body of 'animal stories for children', as the panchatantra is often categorised. the book is like a key that unlocks the door to a magical, long-forgotten world, one where the child and the adult can be equally mesmerised. as i read through some of the stories, they slowly come back to me from the hidden recesses of my mind, but with new meaning. this book reminded me that the most powerful thoughts in the world can be conveyed in the simplest and most unpretentious manner.

there are many many stories that i would love to share...but for now, i will instead quote a few verses.

"How did Ravana fail to consider
how wrong it was to steal another's wife!
How too was Rama unable to see
that a golden deer could never be!
And how did Yudhishthira as well fall prey
playing game of dice, to calamity!
As a rule, in the face of adversity
that causes men's mind to whirl in a daze
the intelligence loses its clarity.
Fettered fast by doom's deadly coils
the feeling heart fate-burdened,
the judgement of even the great
goes with twisted, crooked gait.
Though caught in the throes of calamities
if a person's wits do not forsake him,
he will safely cross to the far shore
and enjoy supreme happiness and more."

i always wondered why ravana and yudhishthira did what they did. especially yudhishthira..i could never come to terms with how a righteous and respectble king could objectify his own wife and pawn her like a possession (ravana, i reasoned, fell prey to lust). this verse does not yet give me a straight answer, but offers at least some consolation.

and also:
"What is not to be can never be,
what will be comes effortlessly;
what one is not destined to have
is lost even as it lies on the palm of one's hand."

i only wish that i had learnt this without searing pain. many other verses and stories are swimming in my head. in time, i hope to construct my own understanding of them.

the world of desperate housewives

i was recently introduced to ''desperate housewives'' by our friends the hungarian tornadoes. having first ignored the hype aruond it and then shrugged it off with utter disdain without even having watched it once, i must now confess that i am hooked. as u probably know, the 4 main characters have impossibly super bods. they all look 22 (even if one of them has 3 small kids and 2 others have teens) and live in swanky houses. despite this, the serial strikes a chord. it raises questions pertinent to our life and times, and does so with humour...sometimes wry, at other times morbid and often ironic.

consider some of the events: oh no, today my kids disappeared on me and i don't know where to look for them! oh no, my hubby is home early and i'm in bed with the gardener. oh my god, the new man i fancy is just like my ex-husband! oh hell, my son drove over and almost killed a person and feels no remorse.

the questions raised, i think, are mostly to do with value-systems. how does one cope with the transition from a hot-shot corporate star to a harried mother of 3 who fails to get her kids even to buckle their seat-belts. why is there a lack of trust and respect among spouses? how does one find a lasting, fulfilling relationship? how does a mother ensure that her teens are not walking the wrong path?

the serial may communicate these events in a casual or even comic way, but i think it is underpinned in serious and complex issues. at its core, it deals with the daily madness in people's lives: the challenges and fire-fighting, the inability to cope effectively (or effectively enough), and the consequent sense of failure by the end of the day. and then again, the next day's challenges & fire-fighting...the anger and dishonesty portrayed are mere manifestations of a cumulative sense of failure and dissatisfaction. but why is it that people are increasingly unable to respond appropriately, or healthily, to a given situation? in short, how and when did we get into such a sorry state? the serial forces the viewer to engage with this very bald fact, and it is here that it hits out at the very heart of the problem. it offers no answers, of course. but it encourages the search for it.

of course, the mystery element is a big hook as well. but this is different from a regular spy-story or thriller, or even the X-files variety BECAUSE it plays out mundane and daily insanities of life rather than the aberrations. also, this everyday insanity of life and its repercussions are not experienced by housewives alone. the jet-setting CEO, the college nerd, the beach bum, the boy/girl-next-door, all experience their own insanities, their own fire-fights. perhaps this is why its popularity has crossed all segments: its ability not only to talk to but dialogue with a much wider audience. it just may be that housewives ostensibly need the greatest sympathy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

song of the day

it's like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife

it sure is ironic, alanis! and like u said,

life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
when u think everything's ok and everything's going right
and life has a funny way of helping you out
when you think everything's gone wrong
and everything blows up in your face

life has a funny, funny way.

learn to be still

artist: partha bhattacharya

it's just another day in paradise
as you stumble to your bed
you'd give anything to silence
those voices ringing in your head
you thought you could find happiness
just over that green hill
you thought you would be satisfied
but you never will
learn to be still

we're like sheep without a shepherd
we don't know how to be alone
so we wander around this desert
and wind up following the wrong gods home
but the flock cries out for another
and they keep answering that bell
and one more starry-eyed messiah
meets a violent farewell
learn to be still
learn to be still

now the flowers in your garden
they don't smell so sweet
maybe you've forgotten
the heaven lying at your feet

there are so many contradictions
in all these messages we send
we keep asking
how do i get out of here?
where do i fit in?
though the world is torn and shaking
even if your heart is breaking
it's waiting for you to awaken
and someday you will
learn to be still

- the eagles


we went for a fun trek in the forests of ardennes. well, they call them forests though they're more like woods, just like they call the rolling hills there 'mountains'. so i should've guessed, that when they said 'castle', it wouldn't be like the many rhine castles that i'd marvelled at recently. but the trek itself was very enjoyable. for once, god decided not to play party-pooper, and refrained from covering the sky with his favourite grey blanket. the sun was out and shining, and it was a lovely day. we had a map, and made our way through pretty patches of trees and budding flowers and gurgling brooks.

the amusing bit was the castle. someone pointed towards it, and i turned to look. a ruined fort (more like a baby fort) stared back at me vacantly. it was probably one-tenth the size of the fort in jhansi, but it obviously took itself very seriously. it had a formal entrance, where a sombre looking chap charged us for entering the premises and for visiting the museum below. We were each handed a leaflet with a plan of the 'castle', and we began with the museum. down we trooped, along a narrow spiral staircase, to find ourselves in a dark room about 5m by 5m. proudly displayed encased in glass were a few bones, a model of the origianl fort, and some broken pottery. that was the "museum". then we walked around the castle, which had certain parts of the structure neatly numbered from 1-16. each part was explained in the leaflet. typically, it would read something like this: "1 - door to private room', '2 - keep'. '3-kitchen area'. it was meticulous though not detailed, and as one found one's way around the place, it helped imagine what the place must have been like in its glory days.

i came away amazed at how, in europe, the smallest bit of history/culture is preserved, amplified and marketed. and how when one visits these places, there really is nothing great about them, but they still draw tourists and even appreciation. i think back to the palace and bhool-bhulaiya in lucknow, and the smells of urine in the corners makes me recoil even now. of course, there are enough places in india that ARE well-maintained and visited and admired (eg. the main palaces, wild-life parks, monuments etc), but there are SO many more pieces of heritage that have been lost or lie rotting, unknown . thankfully, though, i believe that efforts are on to preserve, clean and beautify at least some of our cultural and historical architechture. here's hoping that we do half a good job as the europeans have.

"balle balle" and "she doesn't have any best friend"

we spent last evening at a friend's place. it's a family of four, with two lovely daughters, aged 7 and 3. the two are simply adorable together. expectedly, the younger one mimics every single thing her elder sister does, bobbing around her, after her, and on top of her, all the time.

neither girl speaks hindi. i of course am mortified about this, but it's a non-issue for both parents. yesteray, the mother said that i was free to talk to them in hindi if i so wished. so i went one step further, and taught them balle-balle, complete with the shoulder and hand movements. after we'd danced around saying balle-balle a few times, we decided that they would greet their dad with the same, when he arrived from work. since there was still some time to go before he would come home, every 10 min or so, i refreshed their memories by repeating it. the 7 yr old easily remembered both the phrase and the movement, while the younger sibling could focus only on either one initially, but soon perfected it. the bell rang, and the girls' little worlds were mad with excitement. the reception party comprising both girls could barely stand still and stay quiet, behind the door...they had planned to jump out at their father. as always, the moment stretched forever, until finally the dad arrived. at the right time, they leaped out, shouting and dancing. the dad, used to a jubilant welcome, was not taken aback by them jumping at him out of nowhere, but they would not stop doing balle-balle until he did it too. so there they were, a party in full swing, while my friend and i couldn't stop laughing. it was a moment of simple and unadelterated joy, one that i hadn't had in a while.

another episode. the elder one had drawn and cut out a mask, a girl's face, and used bright pink feathers for ears. her face had been coloured pink, she had long eyelashes and a smile. and on the paper was written ROSIE. i thought it was really original to use feathers for ears (if i had to use feathers on a face, i'd have unthinkingly used them as hair), and i told her so. she was thrilled, once i'd explained what 'original' meant. then i asked her who Rosie was. and she said, "my best friend" (the mother quietly told me it was the name of her favourite doll). then, "no...actually, jenny is my best friend". the little one was quietly observing all this, and probably felt left-out. she chimed in, "i also have a best friend". to which pat came the response from the elder sis, "she doesn't have any best friend". all eyes and ears were now on the little one, who was suddenly feeling intense performance pressure. she bravely said "i have". the 7 yr old continued, "who? who? you don't have any best friend.". this was said with a flourish that meant "and that's the end of the conversation". the little one, not to be beaten, piped in, "mallika". i said, "yes, mallika!! malika's your best friend.". for tthat, i was granted a beaming grin. the elder one, slightly sheepish now, turned to me and says, "she has only one best friend. i have many". the mother, who was busy making coffee all this time, said gently, "but best means only one. you can't have many best friends...only one best friend". the elder one, full credit to her, recognised the logic of the comment without seeing it as an assault. the 3 yr old's beam had now reached her temples. the elder one then said, "but mama, anni is also my best friend." anni took this as a cue to jump into her sister's lap and give her a hug, and eveyone lived happily ever after!

thank you so much, A and I. and yes, you can have as many 'best friends' as you like, and remain best friends for each other.

tra la la

artist: shravan gopal gurav

i won't ask
i won't ask
but listen, i will

to your silent enjoiner
your gentle reminder
your voice so still

and as i pantomime
to your script
i won't lose myself
or sail adrift

my yen and me
will both dissolve
as we dance together
to your resolve.

simply love this one

artist: nikhil chaganlal

just wish the artist had signed at the bottom, or in black! but then again, it's his painting...

rheingau und shwarzwald

just returned from a lovely 3-day jaunt to the rhein valley and the black-forest. for the longest time, germany never really featured in my list of "charming" or "must-visit" places. but the last few months have changed that. have only been to the south-west, and that too, mostly, places along the river. almost any village that lies on either side of the rhein is simply gorgeous. around 30 castles & fortresses dot a 70 km stretch of the riverside, and each one is out of a fairy-tale. the valley is the source of a fair amount of german history and folklore, and also plays host to numerous festivals during the year, especially in spring and summer.

yet, more than history, politics or mythology, today, the place is known for its wine. the reisling grape, grown only in this region (though exported everywhere now) is the pride on the rheinlanders. for two people who "know" precious little about wine, the wine-tasting was quite an experience. my knowledge of wine has now widenend beyond its colours :). though i'm certainly not turned-on by it...i mean, ok. so i can learn to appreciate the subtleties of flavour and aroma and blah-blah, but theek hai yaar...i don't get what's SO great about it ki you must have a cellar and store different types from different years etc etc. we know some who do, and i love seeing there eyes light up when they talk about their wine-collection...i just know that my eyes won't light up talking of wine! too bad if that's uncool.

we had only a day in the black-forest. at the cost of sounding repetitive, it's gorgeous :) it definitely merits a longer trip, at a sunnier we can go hiking. and have you ever heard of green garlic? i hadn't, and we had a green garlic soup that was delicious!

and while we were there, s pleasantly surprised me with his knowledge of the german language...very impressive!! each time i wanted to thank the waitress, i ended up saying "merci" instead of "danke"!!!! so there i was, wishing the earth would open up and swallow me each time i made the faux pas, (which means every single time we ordered something to eat/drink), and there was s, charming the waitresses and never failing to get a smile out of them...for not only saying 'danke' but also placing his order in german, changing his mind and asking for something 'ohne' something! this, when i'm the one who learnt the language briefly 15 years ago :)

PS: and i finally tasted "appel strudel"...this is what julie andrews was on about? it's clearly apple-pies for me.

the blogosphere

my experience with blogging has been a bit like moving into a new city. the first thing one does is find one's place. here, it's more like defining your space. slowly, the newness sinks in, you soak up the environment and before you know it, you've established your own comfort zone. you get to meet new people, most of whom welcome you warmly. some you never see again, and others become a part of your regular circle. you start visiting people, some more often that others. and through your interactions, you form a sort of 'relationship' with them.

i find this kind of relationship quite fascinating. it is honest, allowing absolute freedom of expression even if the identity of one or both parties is unknown. there is a lot of learning and intellectual stimulation, as well as fun (at least for me there has been, thanks to you interesting people who have been nice enough to offer your views). it is detached, yet caring (more than evident in the case of a co-blogger who is going through a hard time; if you know who i'm talking about, you'll also know the extent of concern that people showed in their own way). and what i like best about it is the absolute lack of expectations. i don't expect either your visit or your comments, but of course i'm happy that you do.

the most intriguing aspect, i feel, is that what i share here, i actually would not share with many people in my 'real world'. even if i did express my thoughts on a particular subject, i'd definitely never do so in the exact form. and no, i don't think this has anything to do with the anonymity the cyberworld permits. some co-bloggers may be good friends, but i'm still not likely to come up either with such a range of ideas, or their creative expression with them BEFORE i began blogging. perhaps this is because i know i can ramble, rant, rhyme or ricochet on my blog without needing to think about judgements being passed, because i have nothing to lose. i can just be. in this sense, at least some other bloggers, if not many, also "just are" on ther blog. consequently, i get to know those i already knew in a new light. and others whom i didn't know, in a way i think they are.

in addition, i get to rediscover myself, with some objectivity. it makes it that much more fun.

thank you, my blogfriends.

thought for the day

Desire, ignorance and inequality form the trinity of bondage.

- Swami Vivekanand

the halcyon

You fill the sea
with a lake's quiescence,
that Dusk never thought
Dawn could bring.

You fill the void
with your luminescence,
that Day never thought
Night could bring.

"hey, it's mine"

artist: vasudeo kamath

i race with the moon
the stars in my eyes
i'm blinded by your light
the path's a surprise

now i pull the kite
now the kite pulls me
either way i'll touch you
for you'll be there for me.

for auspicious journeys

for me
from me
through me
i ask you
to come alive

for you

artist: ramesh gujar

thamm gayee hai dhadkan meri
thamm gayaa hai aasman,
tu jo mujhse milne aaya
jaaoon ab main aur kahaan.

ghumm hui thi dhadkan meri
ghumm hua tha aasman,
seher jo tune hai dikhaayi
mera mann ab mast yahaan.

sunn rahee hai dhadkan meri
sunn rahaa hai aasman,
har lavz jo tune hai sunaaya
dauhraaye tera jahaan.

wordless and stunning

artist: arvind kolapkar

oil on canvas, i think.

the four-letter word

visa. yet again. i can't believe that r has been rejected a schengen. a true globe-trotter, this is a shock! he was supposed to attend a conference in paris. and then, come to visit me. not anymore. r, it must have been your snap...why didn't you shave ??!!

and of course, the french embassy has not deigned to offer a reason for the refusal. i mean, REALLY, what's the matter with the world ?

many calm, deep breaths.

but again, REALLY, what's the matter with the world ?

worse, what's going to be the implication of this rejection on future travel? r, will you EVER get to come here? like, in this life?

so visa officer,
now you have done
the blackest deed,
you're the pits indeed.

now how is r
to live in this world?
woes are he and she,
and woe is me!

one of those days

when the stillness in the air weighs on you like a ton of metal, cold and hard.
when the tick-tock of the clock reminds you that nothing has changed, really.
when your reality casually drops in, smiles, and leaves.

it's time.

bok of the day

shantaram - by gregory david roberts. a book that brings alive the soul of bombay, and indians in general. here's an excerpt from the 1st chapter -

The first thing i noticed about bombay, was the smell of the different air. i could smell it before i saw or heard anything of india....i was excited and delighted by it, in that first bombay minute, escaped from prison and new to the wide world, but i didn't and couldn't recognise it. i know now that it's the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it's the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. it's the smell of gods, demons,empires and civilisations in resurrection and decay. it's the blue-skin smell of the sea...and the blood-metal smell of machines. it smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. it smlls of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. it smells of ten-thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churchjes and mosques, and of a hundred bazaarsdevoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. karla once called it the worst good smell in the world...But whenever i return to bombay now, it's my first sense of the city - that smell, above all things - that welcomes me and tells me i've come home.

for spring,

wherever i may find her.

artist: lynne taetzsch

god bless elisabeth

the housekeeper at the kurhaus hotel, den haag, for
- finding my engagement ring which i forgot to pick up from the table
- being honest about it
- for keeping it safely to give s

but most of all, for reinforcing my faith in the goodness of people.

and god, while you bless elisabeth, can you also PUHLEEEEEEEEZE bless me so that i finally stop doing such stupid things!

she, my devil and me

"how was india?", she smilingly asked
when i met her for dinner last night.
after briefly describing my wonderful trip
i started to feel a tad slight.

for she'd launched forth on how she ensures
her hubby's home by 7 each night,
on how she established before moving here
that he won't travel, come what might.

that he will spend every single moment
with her and the kids, and keep the family tight.
"you poor thing, your hubby leaves you alone
4-days-a-week?", she mocked outright.

her painted lips parted, a sympathetic sigh,
mascara-ed pity filled her eyes, large and bright.
she had touched a raw nerve, and is it a surprise
that all i wanted was her head, to bite.

"i pretend to myself that he's my weekend keep,
so we still like each other!", i tried to made light.
but she persisted, that she would never
"settle for this, because it's just not right."

i told her this was a short-term compromise
for our long-term goals to remain in sight.
but she insisted till, to keep from feeling envy
and definitely anger, i had to really fight.

so the devil in me tells me to say the next time
"your excessive control must surely give him a fright.
with no time to himself, he must be mentally drained
i think the poor man needs, from you, respite."

but to stoop like this, does it make me feel better?
i wish i could say yes, but no, not a mite.
and anyway, at the the end who are we to say
that this is wrong or that is right?

a post on posting

urgent question to all you co-bloggers:

did you ever

type a few words
only to delete them,
or modify the same
looking for a gem?

tap your fingers
and silently wait,
contemplate the wall,
and curse your fate?

feel a blank
in your head,
randomly think
of the weather instead?

tell me you did
so i'm not alone,
this must be writer's block
for i feel like a stone.
nothing seems to fit
no matter how i try,
perhaps it will come
so until then,
my partners-in-rhyme,
i bid you adieu
to bide my time.


i feel you in

the dance of the dervish
the sun on the snow
the flow of colour
but only so.

be with me
as i try,
and within me
even as i go.

colours become me

yesterday, i put brush to canvas after almost 15 years. initially, i just stared at the canvas as i stood facing the easel. the large white space intimidated me. it was already perfect, its texture, its depth, its touch would spoil its beauty. so i stood there awed, and hummed and hawed. until finally, colours became me.

the smudged colours on the pallette beckoned my hesitant hands. the paint-brush felt like an ill-fitting finger rather than an extension of myself. my strokes were tentative and uncontrolled. the turpentine wafted its long-forgotten fragrance. rothko's brilliance mocked me from the desktop. until finally, colours became me.

and i saw that colours were me.

thank u c, for loaning your paint materials.
and g, for showing me rothko.

colours become me

yesterday, i put brush to canvas after almost 15 years. initially, i just stared at the canvas as i stood facing the easel. the large white space intimidated me. it was already perfect, its texture, its depth, its touch would spoil its beauty. so i stood there awed, and hummed and hawed. until finally, colours became me.

the smudged colours on the pallette beckoned my hesitant hands. the paint-brush felt like an ill-fitting finger rather than an extension of myself. my strokes were tentative and uncontrolled. the turpentine wafted its long-forgotten fragrance. rothko's brilliance mocked me from the desktop. until finally, colours became me.

and i saw that colours were me.

thank u c, for loaning your paint materials.
and g, for showing me rothko.

colours become me

yesterday, i put brush to canvas after almost 15 years. initially, i just stared at the canvas as i stood facing the easel. the large white space intimidated me. it was already perfect, its texture, its depth, its touch would spoil its beauty. so i stood there awed, and hummed and hawed. until finally, colours became me.

the smudged colours on the pallette beckoned my hesitant hands. the paint-brush felt like an ill-fitting finger rather than an extension of myself. my strokes were tentative and uncontrolled. the turpentine wafted its long-forgotten fragrance. rothko's brilliance mocked me from the desktop. until finally, colours became me.

and i saw that colours were me.

thank u c, for loaning your paint materials.
and g, for showing me rothko.

inspired by iqbal

and a coversation with g:

mere khwaab tho hain mubarak
main jo unhe bas jaan loon,
sabse gehri meri aarzoo
kaash use pehchaan loon.

itni aawaazon ke beech
mann kaise woh ek jaan le,
khamoshi mein bhi jo goonje,
jo mujhe aabad kare.

ek zindagi aur itni raahein
yeh bhi, woh bhi, chaahti hoon
mere liye hain khuli baahein
har manzil, gar maan loon.


sataata hai, chidhaata hai
chupke se rulaata hai,
hosh nahin aagosh hai
apni hasi mein fasaata hai.

dhoondti hoon main tujhe
zindagi ki aapa-dhaapi mein,
ismein, usmein aur khud mein,
tu tho sirf muskuraata hai.

jitna tere kareeb aaoon
utni hi door jaata hai,
kabhi khwaabon mein bulaata hai
kabhi sazaa de jaata hai.

cheekh-cheekh ke thak gayi
ab ek chuppi chhaayee hai,
hasaate, rulaate, chidhaate, sataate
tu hi mujhe sikhaata hai.

vasudhaiva kutumbakam

the loveliest nuggets of wisdom jump out at you when you least expect it. i first learned this phrase when i was conducting research in benaras, at least 5 years ago. there i was, in a large room with cement flooring, big pictures of gods and goddesses on the blue walls, the fan whirring noisily above me. my recorder and papers lay on the table, ad i was ready to interview my next respondent: housewife, SEC B1B2 (middle-class demography), aged betn 25-35 years, consumer of Surf Excel. This being my 16th interview of 20, i felt like a classic case of researcher fatigue - i was wondering whether my new respondent would add anything to the body of information that i had already gathered.

the interview began in the most unassuming and ordinary fashion. introductions, rapport-building, family members, interests blah blah. the same product attributes identified (isme rang-birange daane hain, iski khushboo achchi hai etc) , and the same benefits associated with them (lagta hai saare daag mitaayega, kapde fresh honge etc). but the benefits led on to produce new values, startlingly different from the ones i'd got so accustomed to hearing. the most common ones were to do with self-esteem, duty of a god wife/mother and financial security. but nowhere before had i come across an interviewee who derived, from the same product benefits, the values of patriotism and honesty.

despite having realised that i was dealing with a rare interviewee, i was totally taken aback when she calmly rattled off a sanskrit shloka that ended with these two words: ' vasudhaiva kutumbakam'. then she explained it to me quite simply - ' iska matlab hai ki poora vishwa ek parivaar ho'. one world, one family. i walked away from that interview marvelling at the fact that a simple lady who leads a 'stereotypical housewife life' could hold such lofty values dear.

the art-of-living foundation, headed by sri sri ravi shankar, is celebrating its rajat jayanti from tomorrow till feb 19th, in bangalore. their theme happens to be 'vasudhaiva kutumbakam'. their purpose - to bring the world together with love, and to live as one big family. a verse from the theme song:
ishq hum apne dil mein lenge,
ishq hamara lakshya hai,
ek hee saans lenge hum sab,
sabko gale lagaaenge.
vasudhaiva, vasudhaiva,
vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

in an era of religious clashes and communal disharmony, i think we need to work consciously towards this goal. of course, singing songs based on this motto is far from actually practicing it. but at least it's a start in that direction. and isn't it awe-inspiring that one ordinary Indian woman shares this dream, independently, with one of the leading gurus of our time?

real and unreal

this post is inspired by a conversaton with kundalini (sorry g i don't know how to type your name as a link!!) and an interaction with a very unique two-year-old. this child did not know what chocolate is, she had just tasted ice-cream for the first time, and she thought of five ways of using a balloon-stem without being asked. she has never watched telly. seems unreal.

her parents are educated, well-off and wonderful people who live and run a resort in the mountains of uttaranchal. they have consciously brought her up without the influence of TV, play groups, amd malls. they want her to learn what the real india is about. so her friends include flora and fauna as much as children. her toys include stones, twigs and things available in the house as much as dolls and wooden doggies. she has learned the names of flowers by touching and seeing them, rather than their pictures. she curves the balloon- stem and is able to call it a U on the one hand, a moon on the other (she does not say ' crescent', but you realise she means it). and she speaks in hindi though she knows the english alphabet as well.

is this relatively 'natural' way of bringing up a child better than the 'modern' way? the facets that the child is exposed to and socialised in is perhaps what makes the difference. will this prepare the child for the 'real' world? what is this 'real' world anyway? only competition, violence amd strife?

more questions. what is holistic upbringing? how can this be made possible? is keeping it simple a way out? packing a child's life with dance and drawing classes (or whatever else) in addition to school tuitions, i think is more likely to turn them into androids rather than complete individuals. i don't have any answers, and am aware that there is no one 'right' way. i just think that we need to question how we (will) bring up our children. for we will shape our own reality and that of our chldren.

lend me your ears

of all the strange things that people manage to do, bursting one's tympannum will probably not occur to you. never really thought that this can actually happen. i somehow accomplished this yesterday. so here's a list of lessons i learnt from this weird experience.

no. 1: NEVER close your nose and blow into your ears to pop them when you have a cold. the pop can be deafening, in more ways than one!
no. 2: follow no.1 especially if you have a flight to catch in the next week. or your holiday is over even before it began.
no. 3: if you really want a blocked ear, go for a long swim - at least it'll be less painful.
no. 4: an ear-ache is more fun than one that spreads to the head.

if your hearing remains unimpaired despite it, it actually isn't all that bad. here's why:
no. 5: it provides a unique excuse for not making the calls you were obliged to but didn't want to. no. 6: unlike an acute toothache where your jaw can swell up, your face does not distort itself into a potato. so you are spared those sympathising looks.
no. 7: a bleeding ear is better than a bleeding neither see it nor taste it.

mera kuch samaan

the walls have locked within them our secrets, but returned our stories. the bathroom mirror will meet me one last time tomorrow, to say goodbye. the dining table will befriend and share meals with a new family. the steep staircase won't hear us grumble about our lack of fitness. the windows will have someone else look over their shoulder. the door will no longer wear the badge gifted by the landlord's children - the colourful drawing that lovingly says 'd and surach'. and the kitchen will never again hear me say "how can u be so small???". our home will become a house. but only to become home to someone else.

tandurusti ki raksha

karta hai lifebuoy...lifebuoy hai jahaan tandurusti hai vahaan...LIFEBUOY! come have to agree that old-world jingles like this one are simply priceless. they never fail to amuse me.

some of the other classics:
- tata ka ok dhulaai ka sabun, ok ok haan tata ka ok. jhin-chik jhin-chik, ok ok haan tata ka ok.
- paan parag, paan masala, paan parag. tain-nain-nain-nain-nain.
- "aur phir bhediye nein sumthing se kahaa, main tumhe kha jaaoonga...". vicks ki goli lo, kich-kich door karo.
- goooold spot, the zing thing. gold spot.
- dip, dip, dip. add the sugar, and the milk, and it's ready to sip. if you want it stronger dip a little longer, dip dip dip.

and then of course, the legendary "aaaaah, la la la la laaaah, la la laaaaah. Liril!' can you think of any current jingle that would stay with people 20 years hence AND make them smile?

`a mon avis

c'est une mouvais idee. il est tres difficile, le francaise. je peux parle lentment, mais je ne comprende pas quand les gents parles. Ils parles tres vite, donc je comprende seulement en peu. le phrase je parle surtout est "pouvez vouse parle lentment, s'il vous plait?"! c'est une phrase je sais tres bien.

(a long long pause as i stare at the screen, searching my mind desperately to construct a complete, accurate sentence.)

donc! je'ssaye et je'ssaye parle francais, mais quand je dis quelque-chose dificelement, le pesronnes parle anglais! apres, je dis que j'apprend le francaise et donc je ne vois pas parle anglais. mais ils sourient et continuee dans anglais. merde!

le francaise, tu me teu!

a prayer

Lord grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things that I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

- Anonymous

visa dreams and nightmares

o visa officer, please let me be,
isn't it too much what u ask of me?

passport, photos, pay-slips, papers,
proof of residence and so much more.

proof that i am not a criminal
proof that i will return for sure.
proof that someone there wants me
proof that i will be paid for.

proof that i am my friend's friend
proof that i am my husband's wife
proof that i am unemployed
proof that i've had 30 years of life.

proof that i have travelled wide, indeed
that that too without any black deed ,
that each time i flew i did come back
without any bombs in my ruck-sack.

but all this proof is still not enough
must you be haughty, be so tough?
you give me nightmares while u sleep so well
my life in your hands, isn't that swell?

yet i cherish my visa dream
that the time will come when you can't scream
for i will use potter's invisible cloak
and through the world i will happily float.

i won't EVER need a visa,no one will dare ask
for if they do, i will take them to task.
this time around it will be me
who will have you grovel for mercy.

o visa officer, don't forget
what u do is what you get
the day you retire and want to fly
my child may be your visa officer,
you can kiss your visa goodbye.

a few of my favourite things

starry nights and sunny morns
dolphins, zebras, unicorns
rhythm and dance
laughter that rings
twinkling eyes
ylan's apple-pies

yellowed pages and dog-earred books
sunchymes and kitchen disasters
hot saunas and ice-cold dips
masala chai and sea-salt crisps

snow-capped mountains
graceful pirouettes
babies' soft bums

the smell of a bakery
dusk and dawn
singing loudly
the silliest song

late night chats of meaningless madness
folk tales and songs of sadness
watching movies back-to-back
till my eyes are sore and my head hurts
drinking too much coffee at one go so
i can 'do stupid things faster with more energy'

the bhelpuri-wala's grimy hands
the taxi-wala's psychedelic idols
the optimism of the riskshaw-wala
marine drive and mondegar

the frenzied janta
the pelting rain
the sultry summers
the crowded trains

old friends and new streets
ice-skates and board-game cheats
the secrets of the universe
and of the child

the unsaid but heard
the unseen but felt
the unknown but familiar
the lost and the found

my father's hands
my mother's smile
my nephew's hug
and s.

the great leveller

so we're born and then we die. we experience the magic of birth and the devastation of death. we always take birth to be the starting point, but death could be the beginning too. or maybe neither is, or both are. according to hindu philosphy, there is no beginning and no end. living finite lives with our limited ability to understand ourselves and the universe, we try and try to conceive of and experience the "truth", the infinite. the more fortunate among us succeed. others despair, still others persevere.

when it comes to death, one is always seeking some sort of consolation, in the hope that it will assuage the pain, facilitate the coping. the christians and muslims believe in the concept of heaven, and that reassures them a place with the gods in the after-life. hinduism proposes reincarnation. i am a believer, so it provides some consolation for me. i cannot speak for the atheists and agnostics, i do not know how they rationalize death. but whatever the consolation, it is after all, just that: a mere something we tell ourselves to make us feel better, to somehow convince ourselves that the departed has transitioned to a better state, transported to a happier place.

and yet, when you have to face the death of someone you love, all these abstractions somehow fail to crystallize into an effective coping mechanism, at least initially, when the wound is still very raw. ironic, for that's when one needs it the most. to me, death is the greatest leveller. it humbles man like nothing else. the helplessness hits you where it hurts the most. it rocks your world, slices you like a knife and leaves you begging. begging for mercy, for strength, for salvation.

r and s, i pray that you do not have to beg. that you find the strength you need. and that even in the face of death, your zest for life doesn't die.


long drives have a way of filling yr mind with wide-ranging thoughts...philosophical, funny, rhetorical, strange, sobering, saddening, searching, random. while on one such drive amidst pristine white snow-covered vistas, my mind found its way into the domain of words. i simply love particular, phonetics. of course, semantics are nice too, but there's something in the way some words sound that captivates me. the lyrical quality of certain words, to me, can lie in the meter or sequence of the distinct sounds that form its composite whole, or it can be embedded in the entire word where the individual elements fuse such that they cannot be broken up.

so here's a (very incomplete!) list of some of my favourite words.

mehjabeen, aashiaana, sparsh, akshat, seher, jind, zikr, saaz, saanjh, suroor, surkh, bazm, shehzaade, saakshi, dehleez, samar, sharm, toofan-mail, dheeth, dhyaan, grahan, arz, lekin, aanchal, bazaar, larzish

english: sparkling, stream, splash, mingling, supercaliflagellistic-expiallidocious, idyll, swarm, sequin, sprinkle, ream, azure, onomatopoeic, apoplectic, pertinacious, schadenfraude, squelch, elixir, peripatetic, fop, tickety-boo, besmirch

what are yours?

PS: a 'sparkling' new year to all.

aligning with ashtanga

ashtanga yoga is a branch of yoga based on Patanjali's eight pillars. in fact, the word 'ashtanga' is a combination of 'asht' (eight) and 'anga'(limbs) as we all know, yoga is becoming increasingly popular nowadays, especially in the west.

while people are aware that yoga has to do with 'mind and body', my experience has been that it remains largely a physical exercise. While these exercises (asanas) are very much a part of ashtanga, they are in fact, only one of the eight limbs. whenever i have gone for an ashtanga class, there has been no mention of the other 7. i think these are equally important, if not crucial, to really understanding yoga. otherwise, it is reduced to a mere 'activity' rather than a 'practice', or 'living' yoga.

curious to know what the other 7 pillars were, i looked them up:
1. yama (restraints): himsa/killing lies/deceit stealing excess acceptance of gifts (??????)
2. niyama (obeservances): cleanliness contentment austerity study self-surrender to god
3. asana (posture)
4. pranayama (control of breathing)
5. pratyahara (restraint of the senses)
6. dharana (concentration)
7. dhyana (meditation)
8. samadhi (superconscious)

even if i can practice (as in really apply) the first 3 fully, i will be grateful! i can't even restrict myself to one chocolate, forget about other things. so now i have become more careful when i talk about my yoga classes. i no longer say 'i do yoga' (for that's a lie!!), but 'i do asanas and i try to practice yoga'.

home and heart

my favourite poem since as long as i can remember, these simple lines by tagore never fail to move and inspire me. i recall reciting it for those closest to my heart. and it remains, for me, a prayer for myself and my country.

where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high
where knowledge is free
where the world has not been broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls
where words come out from the depth of truth
where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action
into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake


how does one begin to express one's experience of racism...or more accurately, what seemed to be racism?

(long pause)

i was rooted to the ground, shocked and incredulous. with my heart pounding and eyes stinging, i stood there seething. i heard a distant voice say "that wasn't a nice thing to say, you know". it sounded so alien, i couldn't believe it was my own. and then it sank in. i marched off, fighting tears, still reeling under her arrogance and their laughter. i'd forgotten what it felt like to be furious. a cozy cafe and hot soup later, i stopped staring vacantly out of the window and regained my composure but not my calm.

and i realised that
- i gave her the benefit of doubt ("maybe she was just rude, not racist") only to console myself, not because i believed it
- one such experience, however harsh, must not overpower the kindness of many others
- one can be influenced by complete strangers as much or more than one is by family and friends
- in the end, the lesson must stay, not the hurt

as i slowly retraced my steps towards the station, the graffitti on a wall caught my attention. and there it was boldly written, "ONE WORLD".

4 years and 60

i never knew you
you didn't want me to,
for i took from you
your very own.

3 days of the odd line
weak and low,
not how i
knew it to be.

smile contorted
words retracted...
how i wish you had
let it be.

from base to sublime
we hope to journey,
perhaps someday
you will let me know.

en hiver

or "the winter", in french. 'one kind word can warm three winter months' - old japanese proverb. clearly, the japanese were delusional.

as her endlessly gloomy, gray face comes closer and closer to mine until i can see nothing else, and her icy-cold breath cuts right through my soul, i shut my eyes tight. at least that way maybe i can see the light. and i wonder how, just how did so many rishis and munis survive the himalayan peaks? if only i had an iota of their strength.

like keats, i console myself, with winter here, can spring be far behind?

more escher

This one is called 'Relativity'. wonder if einstein would think it an appropriate depiction of his theory.

on and from escher

'Day and Night' by M C Escher

the first time i saw an escher painting (or if you want, a lithograph/wood engraving/picture), i felt like i had been hit by a thunderbolt. nothing, and i mean nothing, had ever made every pore of my body ask "How can this be?". as i hungrily devoured his other works, the question continued to be evoked, with as much force. i am no connossieur of art. my "appreciation" is akin to that of the layperson. in that sense, i have no great gyan or analysis to offer. this post is simply to express my immense liking for and inspiration from escher.

there are many of his images that i enjoy engaging with. 'Ascending and descending', 'Drawing hands', 'Heaven and hell', the 'Metamorphosis' series, 'Waterfall', 'Sky and water'...the list is long. all these are geomentrically accurate and yet, intrinsically, full of contradictions. if u have seen them, u know what i mean. they seem illusory: u begin at one point and as u follow it, u end up at a place that seems wrong or impossible. they are a remarable manifestation of 'cognitive polyphasia', the idea that conflicting, inconsitent forms of thought can co-exist. some of his other paintings focus on reptiles. i have always found the reptilia class quite disgusting and spontaneously recoil from its members. so i was truly amazed to find myself drawn to this set of paintings as well.

to be continued...

to my good king

by bob dylan and from me.

May god bless and keep u always
may your wishes all come true,
may u always do for others
and let others do for you.

May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung,
may you stay forever young.
Forever young, forever young,
may you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
may you grow up to be true,
may you always know the truth
and see the lights surrounding you.

May you always be courageous,
stand upright and be strong.
May you stay forever young.
Forever young, forever young,
may you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
may your feet always be swift,
may you have a strong foundation
when the winds of changes shift.

May your heart always be joyful
may your song always be sung,
may you stay forever young.
Forever young, forever young,
may you stay forever young.

cheesecake with clowns

every once in a while u come across a place that becomes u. the smells, the sounds and the general buzz of the place permeate yr being and without even being aware of it, u make it yr own. what becomes yr own is not the place as it is, but the place as u are. u carry it within u wherever u go. or at least i do! bombay is one such place, in fact the first such place. but this post is about another.

clowns is a cafe that embraces anyone who enters it. with its walls (and even the ceiling) entirely hidden behind drawings of every type of clown u can imagine, and those u can't, it is a bit strange. some might even find it disturbing...there are clown dolls and puppets hanging from the ceiling now and then. the cheerful and flirtatious italian men behind the counter are a refreshing change from the typical stiff brit service. but the most beautiful thing about clowns, for me, is the madness that i experienced when i used to go there. the random conversations, the drinking 2 mochas at one go and then having yr neurons doing the fugue in yr head and outside of it, ordering 4 cheesecakes (for 2)when its time for the last order (and then feeling sick), pretending the next day's essay submission really does not exist, leaving only when they start switching off the lights...

clowns, come back and make me laugh again.


shivoham shivoham shivasmarupoham
nityoham shuddhoham buddhoham muktoham
nityoham shuddhoham buddhoham muktoham
shivoham shivoham shivasmarupoham

advaitvaananda rupam-arupam
brahmoham brahmoham brahmasmarupoham
chidoham chidoham satchidaanandoham
shivoham shivoham shivasmarupoham

na javyo na bhume na tejo na vaayu
chidaanandarupaha shivoham shivoham
na dharmo na jaato na kaamo na moksha
chidanandarupaha shivoham shivoham
na punyam na paapam na soukhyam na dukham
na mantro na teertham na veda na yagya
chidanandarupaha shivoham shivoham

the wonder of language

being the tech-phobe that i am, i was convinced that this blog-shlog is not my cup of tea. i have surprised myself and s by jumping onto the blog-bandwagon and giving it a shot. thanks to g for cajoling me into it, and for the fact that as of now i am not exactly subject to the pressing demands of gainful employment!

with all the thoughts that inundated my mind earlier, i now am unable to pick one! (a long pause). oh yes...the 1st thought that surfaces is to do with the process of learning a new language. what makes it so much fun is that one returns to the state of a child learning langugage for the 1st time. the sound of each word is foreign and fascinating. it is a symbol, that over time, becomes the object it symbolies. the piecing together of the pronunciation of the word, its spelling and its meaning is a slow, halting process. once this whole has been cnstructed, it is sheer joy to recall it when encountering the specific object. while walking on the street, when i see a tree and then, after a mental search, find "tree = arbre", i am filled with a childish joy. this small pleasure is not so much for having absorbed something i didn't know before, but for the recognition of the plurality of God's world. for the realisation that a thousand words can stand for the same object. in this sense, language becomes a vehicle thru which this plurality is revealed to us. one takes for granted the role of language in human communication. . rge with each other to form ether 's already familiar: the colour black. as i stored (& continue to store) every word in my mind, i a each time i encounter the object/process it symbolises.

trivial pursuits, huge challenges

2 things that i SORELY lack:

1. Discipline. just can't get myself to faithfully follow a after day, week after week. at least i've been sleeping and waking up at the same hours each day, now that winter is over. minor victory! eating at regular times remains another story. as does jogging.

2. Temperance. SIGH! i mean, HOW does one stop at one chocolate? or at one biscuit...or find the balance between reading too much and too little. between not swimming at all, and swimming 20 laps. and of course, between eating too much crap, and eating too much.


song of the day

it's like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife

it sure is ironic, alanis! and like u said,

life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
when u think everything's ok and everything's going right
and life has a funny way of helping you out
when you think everything's gone wrong and
everything blows up in your face

life has a funny, funny way.