Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ten By Ten

It was one of those Sundays when, if you are at hometown in India, you are forced to attend a family function that is necessary yet tends to get boring. This time it was a Gruhapravesham in one of the remote areas of Bangalore that I had never before ventured till date. However, it was a nice area and a new apartment. The house itself was neat and clean.

When the rituals within the house became a trifle too monotonous, I couldn’t stand it any more. I went to the terrace. It was a big terrace, and since the apartment itself was at an elevated area, the view of the city of Bangalore was immense and, in a way, wonderful. I roamed around from one edge of the terrace to another. The zephyr was nice and refreshing. The air was clean and unpolluted.

I decided to stand on one edge of the periphery where the wind was most, and rested my arm on the parapet wall. It was to the west of the apartment, the side of the apartment where it neighboured a series of small houses, the apartment itself standing amidst them all like a colossal!

It is at times like this, when you stand doing nothing, and there is silence everywhere, and the view is breath-taking, and wind is lapping you up with the speed of the rotating and revolving Earth, that it feels like time is standing still, and somehow you feel one with the Universe, and admire humbly how small one actually is, in front of the whole world.

One tends to get contemplative at such moments. A kind of introspection starts, and questions tend to crop up about one’s employment, one’s ability, one’s actual goals and one’s wishes. There will be a bitter thought or two about the sad past, a nice warm thought about one special person, and the never-ending worries of the unknown future. It is, I guess, habitual.

So, there I was, thinking how good it would be to do what one wants to do in one’s own life, how immensely satisfying it is to carve out a life that one craves for, to break the barriers and shackles that a family tends to slowly but surely wove, to get away from the materialistic monotony, from the implicit responsibilities of a social life, when I heard a slow creaking sound below.

Its strange how a strong thought process can be broken by a soft creak! I peered down. Some two floors below, the neighbouring small house of thirty by forty had an even small enclosure of about ten by ten on its terrace. When I had first seen it, I had guessed it to be a bathroom or a common warehouse of some sort for dumping unwanted items. Now, its door was opening thereby causing the creak.

The door opened fully. A girl came out. She was dressed expensively. Sizing her up, I could make out that she was perhaps in her mid-twenties, akin to thousands of non-localites who were working in one of the innumerable call centers or software industries that had sprouted up in Bangalore over the last couple of years.

I realized, perhaps a shade late, with a shock that that ten foot by ten foot house was where she actually lived! That ramshackle, run-down, sheltered enclosure, roofed by a single sheet metal was infact a house, where apparently a human being lived and, I am sure, paid for it! Although not wholly unaware of the fact that many of my own colleagues lived in such a state, it still made my jaw drop to see it first-hand.

She seemed to be going out. She took a look inside to make sure all was in place. She might live in one of the biggest houses in some remote village, to which she might invite all her colleagues, but in Bangalore, with a hutment like that, and her apparel indicating her countenance, it is easy to surmise that she wouldn’t be so keen to have anyone seeing her rented house except her close few.

Although she would never know I was seeing her, somehow I felt guilty for taking stock of the situation. I felt like as if I was spying on her. A thought as if, if anyone gets to know where she lived, she might feel embarrassed and the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass her.

But before I could move, she locked up her house, walked the length of the terrace, and down the steps, embarked upon her simple two-wheeler and rode away. Anyone seeing her, with her simple make-up, neat dress, trendy hair-do, and her two-wheeler, would never imagine that she lived in such a simple hutment.

Somehow, the whole thing made me go back to the rituals. I felt sorry. I felt pity. I felt sad for the innumerous many in this world who had to lead a life like this.

It dawned upon me later, that it was not just Bangalore. There were millions like this all over the world.

The copper wire

I don’t smoke
I don’t booze
I don’t do drugs

I am a theist
I have clean habits

I am “A Beautiful Person”

And yet…
…is the copper wire rusted by the cosmic karma?!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


There are times in life when we go about with a bunch of nagging questions for which we just cannot find answers. And then, from apparently nowhere comes this Richard Bach novel “Illusions: The adventures of a reluctant messiah” which attempts to answer those nagging questions! It is a simple yet powerful book which makes you think twice. Apart from the slow-moving fiction, there are a bunch of thought-provoking sentences provided here and there from the “Messiah’s Manual” which is somewhat amusing and curious.

Somewhere in the book, the messiah says: “Hold some problem in your mind, then open any book handy and see what it tells you. Whatever you need most is there.” This is so true. I have experienced it time and again when some thought is bothering me and I am seeking its answer, out from somewhere comes a solution that suggests a plausible explanation which somehow rests the mind!

The solution pops out from a television serial, or from someone’s action, or from a newspaper, from a source you least expect. Its like a divine intervention! And at times, its so gratifying.

Let me quote an instance. I used to see one particular devotee in a temple I visit every Thursday. Almost every Thursday I used to see the same person at the same time. And then, for about next few Thursdays, I could not see the person. And on one such Thursday, just when I was leaving the temple, I thought at the back of my mind as to why the person hadn’t come, and sure enough, even as I thought, that person materialized beside me! I was shocked beyond words! Some say its coincidence, but when situations like this occur more than once, for me, it’s a divine way of answer!

I shall reproduce here two sentences which I felt most profound from the “Messiah’s Manual”:

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.

You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.

The Good....and The Better

There was this guy in college who was a topper all through…
And then there was this other guy in college who actually learnt…

There was this guy who went to the hill-top in a cable-car…
And then there was this other guy who actually climbed…

There was this guy who was rich…
And then there was this other guy who actually was happy…

There was this guy who was on bench but was paid handsomely…
And then there was this other guy who earned meagerly but actually worked…

There was this guy who just got the accolades…

And then there was this other guy who actually deserved…

“Everybody is becoming rich...."

India in general and Bangalore in particular is undergoing a huge metamorphosis. It is a time when almost everybody is getting paid handsomely. The poor are moving to the category of “Middle class”. The lower middle class is moving to upper middle class. The upper middle class is moving to the category of “Rich.”

It is no wonder that there has been an enormous increase in luxurious vehicles on the road because the common man now can afford it. The jazzy bikes, the expensive cars, the latest mobile phones, ipods and other gizmos are all on the rise.

A couple of years ago, my north Indian friends working in Bangalore used to book train tickets 60 days in advance. And used to complain when they couldn’t get tickets if they didn’t book exactly 60 days in advance. Now none of my north Indian friends ever go in train. Thanks to Jet, Kingfisher and Air Deccan.

Come to think of it, very few of them ever travel in BMTC local buses. Autorickshaws or taxis are standard mode of transportation if there are no private vehicles.

Not that BMTC local buses are any cheaper. The BMTC Volvo buses, I am sure will soon ply only with Rs 50 denominations. Autorickshaws too have started charging exorbitantly, at almost about Rs 7 per kilometer, the highest in any mode of transportation. And on top of this, its double the rate, if the time is over 9:30 pm. Or if its raining.

The fast food industry has doubled its rates in a very short span of time. The land rates have tripled. In terms of properties, there doesn’t seem to be any value to anything less than 40 lakhs.

The currency is now only in denominations of Rs 10. So much so that beggars return back any coins given to them as offerings. The dakshina given to temple priests too are in huge currencies.

A decade ago when the Oberoi came to Bangalore, a coffee costed Rs 100. It was big news everywhere. Now, it’s a common thing to have a 100-buck coffee in Barista. Or something similar in CafĂ© Coffee Day.

Why not? When the upper middle class moves higher up, the lower middle class would want to move up too. Everyone wants more pay. The employee wants more pay from employer and the employer wants more pay from its clients. When there are people willing to pay more, why prefer those who cannot afford.

In the midst of all this, there are old-timers who still get the same pension in a now-practically-unlivable Bangalore who cannot even afford the maid servants. And old-timers cannot live without maid servants considering all the house-cleaning, dish-washing and clothes-washing that needs to be done in the same traditional manner. And it is then that it all made sense to me when my grandma said….

“Everybody is becoming rich....except us!”

Monday, May 07, 2007

Exchange of eyes

It was almost 6 pm. I entered the bus-stand where a number of company buses were parked, waiting for the whistle. I was late for the bus and was walking briskly towards my bus, parked at the other end.

I had just sent out an indignant yet powerful mail to the Higher-ups. My face was set straight with masculine no-nonsense. I was still in the strong-mail-composing frame of mind. As if blaming the Higher-ups for making me miss the 5 pm bus.

My stride was purposeful and quick. Completely poised and totally in control. A small drop of perspiration appeared from nowhere on my forehead. With a brush of the thumb, I wiped it away.

At a slight angle, not directly head-on, and about twenty feet away, she was coming towards me, heading for another bus parked behind me, in the very same pace. I looked at her. She looked at me. Something happened in that look. That exchange of eyes.

I didn’t mean to stare. So I tried to look away. But it somehow took a great effort. A number of things went on in my mind. Did I know her? Did she resemble somebody I knew? An expression of amused puzzlement came over me and my stride lost its briskness. I just could not help looking back at her face. She, on the contrary, had not taken her eyes off me! She was still looking at me, directly at my eyes!

She was now about just ten feet from me. There was this sudden urge that I had to talk to her somehow, something. My stride lessened even more. Perhaps buying time for the mind to process my database and come up with some sort of a match. Perhaps buying time for her mind to process her database and come up with some sort of a match. Was she undergoing a similar conflict of emotions as me?

We passed each other. The moment passed. I did not speak to her. I mentally banged my head. I could have said anything but I said nothing. Yet, why did I want to say something to her? Especially to her alone? Why did that exchange of eyes seem so significant? Perhaps saying something would have given a clue as to who she was.

I reached my bus slowly. I sat down in the first available seat. I somehow couldn’t let go of that feeling of ‘I know her’ and ‘I know I know her!’ Perhaps I will never see her again. I tried vainly searching the bus-stand again but had no idea which bus she went into. There was this sudden void feeling. It was inexplicable.

Was she feeling the same too?
Or was I just over-reacting?

Were we related in our past lives?
Or am I reading too many spiritual novels?

I guess I will never know…


It had been a long time wish for me to just sit in the balcony and enjoy a beautiful rain. The wish got fulfilled today.

It never looked in the morning as if its gonna rain. With the Sun scorching since 8, it looked like we were headed for one long hot Sunday, just like any other summer day. But the clouds positioned themselves at about 4 and the soft pitter-patter of rain began.

There is always something special about rain. I mean, its all yuck when you are out there, away from home, getting drenched and splashed all over with muddy water, but when you are at home, time is 4 pm, the day is a leisurely Sunday, there is surely something nice and good about it. I guess, its like getting fresh. I mean who wouldn’t want to take bath and get clean. Its tidy and the feeling of freshness is what one craves for! Its refreshing even to see the ‘Abhisheka’ being done on the idols! Rain is like Earth taking bath, removing the sweat, dust, heat away.

The rain started lightly enough, and I was not the one who was saying ‘Rain, Rain, come again, some other day!’ I wanted it to come to its heart’s content today! I had all the time in the world! It was pure bliss to see the sheets of water coming steadily down in a straight line. A couple of times, it slanted to indicate the wind coming on, and the trees swayed dangerously too. Its fine for rain to come in all its ferocity but there is no sense in losing the meager trees we have! But thankfully, the wind wound up (!) and the rain continued its straight-line-ruler pattern!

As I sat there on the balcony, at 5 in the evening, with the rain coming on, many memories got stirred. Especially the golden era of High School during June when I used to come home at 4.30, sit in the balcony and read Hardy Boys for 2 hours straight! It used to rain in the background and I used to enjoy the adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy. There were times when I used to go to the library in the windy rain, with raincoat and umbrella just to get novels. It was a time for me when day without novel was like life without air!

There were other small things too. Like the water droplets streaming down the electric wires like current itself and finally falling down. One after the other. Continuously. Like different small streams of water rushing down the steps with great vigour, as if competing with one another. It was an absorbing scene to see a natural race. Small things in life are generally very pleasurable!

The rain meanwhile came on and on. In great measures. It had been a tough summer, with soaring temperatures and everyone blaming lack of rain, global warming, lack of water, etc. Somehow it was like Nature’s way of replying ‘You want rain? You got rain!”

The crescendo increased. Vehicles on road who were plying heretofore caring none for the rain suddenly had to stop and take shelter amidst shops. Thunder and lightning struck then, as if they had a role to play too. The rain came on even more! It was like a symphony, an orchestra, a Nature’s own theatrical play, for free and for all!

It continued for an hour or two with varying frequency. A beautiful zephyr, a blissful rain, a lazy evening – put all together, and one needs pakodas to fill the missing jigsaw of that wonderful phrase: Ethereal realm!!

And then, gradually, it calmed down. Back to its pitter-patter. But this time, it sounded like an applause. An applause for its own performance! The clouds had cleared. The Sun came out, and out came the beautiful rainbow. The magnificent kaleidoscope! Like a huge umbrella, from one end to another, as if encompassing and protecting one and all. Finally the rain came to a halt, putting end to an enthralling performance!

For a chronicler like myself, I could see words making itself visible in rain! It was blog time!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One man : One woman ?

The dusk was embracing the evening sky like a monster devouring the Sun. The coward Sun seemed to be running away, knowing its time had come for the day. Although there was an undercurrent of the impending darkness, the battlefield was devoid of bloodshed. Rather, it was an easel of the artist’s wand. The sky was filled with untitled colours bringing joy to the Lucky Un-blinds. A splish of the dark amoebic clouds. A splash of the bright teddy bears. A splosh of the grayish streak. The chirping, symmetrical birds. The dazzling silver lining. The lost grounds of the dark East and the still-fighting Orange-ish West. A serene picture of Nature leading its own unnoticed life. Unnoticed except of course by me. From the terrace.

The terrace is one of my favourite spots. It’s the only place where I can relate to the expansive Nature and Universe. It shuts out the materialistic belongings and the family strings. It is like being with the Divine. I talk and no one talks back! The silence all around transcends the atmosphere into one that of an ethereal realm.

Ethereal realm. Now that’s a good phrase. First four letters of the succeeding word are the last four letters of the preceding word. Describing a catchy phrase itself often becomes a catchy rhyme. Catchy rhymes reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes jokes I heard today. Calvin: “What if somebody calls us ‘A pair of pathetic peripatetics’?!” Hobbes is stupefied for a moment and then replies: “I have never heard of anyone taking the trouble to rhyme weird insults!!” Damn funny!

I placed myself on a stone block and locked my knees together and continued to gaze at the sky. The weather was getting perplexed with the departure of the Sun. It knows neither to torch the sunny heat nor to spread the fingers of the chilly night. The slight zephyr comes to its rescue. For a moment, there is nothing going on in my mind. It is just blank. A mattress of nothingness.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes the thought of a conversation I had with a friend recently. We were discussing Mr and Mrs Iyer. Invariably, whenever one discusses this movie, the topic always goes to ‘That scene in the train.’ It is without doubt one of the moving scenes a film patron can ever see on the tinsel screen. They HAVE TO kiss. How can they not kiss? It seems so so right for them to kiss. It is inappropriate and incomplete and incorrect for them not to kiss!! And yet they do not.

Why is it inappropriate for anyone to like more than one person at a given point of time? And even if it is not inappropriate, why is it inappropriate to display affection? Is it a rule to love just one person? What is love? Why would there be a feeling of jealousy? Possessiveness? To love someone else also is to be betrayed? Betrayed of what? Trust? But the only reason the affair with the third person was kept in wraps is to stop the feeling of jealousy. Surely not to betray trust. It all gets complicated.

Perhaps its just a matter of ethics. Yet one cannot help what one feels. Many of my friends had affairs other than those with just their boyfriends. They are truly perplexed why they liked two people at the same time. And yet, they really did like. Each was special in his own way. Legally incorrect? Ethically wrong? Medically dangerous? Some things of the heart just cannot be explained. Ultimately they were forced to choose one. However difficult it was.

Perhaps this train of thought led to the invention of polygamy and polyandry policies. Words of ridicule in school but actually heavy. Not that I am talking about relationships of the West where the flesh matters more than the heart.

One man : one woman. That remains the legal, happy and easy policy but yet there are cases all around where the quirk of the heart beats all unemotional policies. Policies which state that liking someone else in heart other than your husband is a crime. Looks good on paper. But that’s all.

Lord Rama suspected Sita during her stay in Lanka. Or did he just want to prove to people that his wife was purity personified? Either way, I always have it against him that he shouldn’t have asked Sita to enter the pyre. Asking wife to sit on fire just to prove her chastity is ungodliness. It’s a character that I somehow cannot bring myself to respect. Somewhat akin to Lord Krishna convincing Arjuna to kill his own Master. Now what kind of a Godly character is that! To encourage killing one's own guru! My mind boggles!!

But, reining the mind back, the world gender ratio is hardly at one man : one woman. The males are more than females. Whats the upshot? Some men are finding it harder and harder to find girls. Especially sons of farmers in the villages, continuing the tradition of farming, and not lured by the fortunes of the big cities. Girls in villages do not want village guys when there are eligible village guys who have gone abroad and earning heavily. After all, who does not want riches? Who wants to be the wife of a farmer when one can roam around in posh cars across the continent with a dab of the best perfume?

At the same time, if all the sons of farmers immigrate to the big cities, be it for riches or for, subsequently, girls, then what happens to farming? Agriculture? Now that’s a global issue! A time has come when the sons of farmers are desperately giving money to get girls as daughters-in-law. There has been a complete reversal of roles. Vadhu-dakshina is more prominent now than Vara-dakshina. The dowry given by the groom.

A mosquito bite brings me back from my thoughts. So small a fly yet so powerful. And so annoying. A small lump comes on my skin and I try to run it off unnecessarily. A futile attempt. Yet, it is somehow needed. Very much needed. There are things in this world which we do and keep doing, although we know it is futile. Just to be satisfied.

The darkness now had enveloped completely. The stars were trying to peep through the bright streetlights. ‘Constellation’ becomes a mere word in cities. Like ‘siblings’, if people adopt the new trend of ‘just one kid.’ Blame it on ‘cost of living.’

And so, my thoughts go on and on, carving its own solitudinal soliloquy when suddenly from out of nowhere, my mom calls “Harsha!” That one word, with its associated frequency and volume implies that dinner is ready and that I have been dreaming for a long time and that I need to go down.

And so I will. Tata.