Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Banana Seller



There are stories I haven't shared, tales of conquests that no one knows or even cares, songs of valour that need to be sung or set to an ancient melody but there is no one here who will do that, and neither are there any congregation of awestruck admirers eager to listen to what I have to say. Or even to stop and wait to hear about the deeds of my past glory. They simply pass me by and continue with their errand pausing only occasionally - and very rarely - to look at my wares.

If they only took time to sit and talk with me, they'll know that I have so much to offer. Not just these bananas that I sell to earn a livelihood. But stories that can take them back to the days of noble knights, beautiful princesses and evil viziers.

But I have sat here for so many years now and have watched these people pass me by. They seem to be very busy and have no time for anyone. They say they have jobs to attend, money to make, goals to accomplish and dreams to realise. Why would they, then, pay attention to an old banana seller? What do they think I have that I can give them except for these bananas?

If only they knew that I was a young man once -- youthful, virile and having the strength of ten men. Yes, those were the days but who would believe if I tell them that I killed a lion and a bear with my bare hands once. And that I slew a dozen or more marauders who sought to raid my village. People actually whispered with awe in my presence and women fought for my attention and I loved basking in all this adulation.

Alas, now those days are gone and all I have are memories -- giving me company like a friend would. And for an old man like me

I must close my eyes now and try and remember all that happened long time ago. I must not forget what I was because if I do, then, I'll lose my sense of purpose and destiny. I have to remember those long ago days again. They will not change the misery of the present but they might just help alter my perceptions. And, hopefully, make me forget the pain of today.

If only that were possible...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why do I write?

I write because... it helps me to pay my bills, to finance my life, to purchase things that arouse my interest, to meet deadlines that threaten to strangle my freedom, to answer briefs that seem so elusive but necessary, to please some client that I haven't met, to fill eight hours of my life productively...

I write because... I need to express myself in ways that I am not allowed to in my professional capacity, I have things to say that need to be written down, I feel words have the power to change minds and hearts, I love the way alphabets dance when they come together as words, sentences, stanzas and paragraphs, I love the challenge of using words to give shape to ideas and philosophies...

I write because... I can't see myself doing anything else in life.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Arabesque :-)

INSHALLA -- when you want something urgent and the response is a long and drawn out and very musically sounding 'inshaaaaaaaaaaaaaaala', then, you know, it's nyet. But if it's a short and snappy "insh-allah", then, you know the person means business. Practical application: If someone asks you to do something that you really don't want to do, then, you use the first inshalla, ok :-)))

HABIBI -- the cute Lebanese colleague can never be your 'habibi', she can only be your 'habibti' but make sure you don't call her THAT if her boyfriend is Bruno, with an anchor tatooed on his arms, who works out in a gym and has muscles to prove it. But there is no harm taking Arabic lessons from her, right.

AZIZI -- if you've already crossed the Bruno hurdle and see no danger in making further moves, then, the word 'azizi' can prove very handy. But don't utter it like you would after a second, third or fourth patiala peg but be casual and say, 'take it easy, ya azizi'. It has greater impact if you say it in an Egyptian accent but be absolutely sure that the person you are saying this to is not Egyptian or has Egyptian parents.

LA KHAWLA WAH ILAKATIBILLAH -- this basically means, "God help me from this (person/ thing/ situation) or something like that and can be very effective when uttered in the company of native Arabic speaker. For example, when you are in the company of the said Lebanese colleague's parents and there is something really tragic on the news, then, just say it with a lot of feeling and emotion. Bruno will have no chance at all.

:-)))

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Love-poems

As long as human beings as a species exist, there will be love poems because 'love' (lack of, abundance of, waiting-to-get-rid-of) is an integral part of the human experience and hence the stuff of poetry -- whether great, banal, lousy, average or superlative.

So any denunciation of love-poetry goes against the very grain of what it means to be human. The peeve, if any, must be against bad poetry and that's understandable. If we say that we enjoy reading good literature and the creative process of writing, then, we must condemn doggerel at every available opportunity because... well, we don't want our non-poetry-lovers to use such trash as examples as to why they hate poetry.

But let's understand that bad poetry exists and is not a myth, and I am sure all of us have seen evidence of it. We may have encountered it here on this board or elsewhere but we have all encountered it one way or the other. I am sure all of us have written bad poetry as well -- I wrote tons and tons of them before succumbing to that incurable disease: formandcontentitis. End result? Now everything I write looks like bad poetry and I end up torturing myself to death writing 10 to 20 drafts before I can be even remotely satisfied.

So going back to the argument: no, we cannot condemn love poetry as a genre and I dont anyone has actually said that. And if they have, it's terrible. Hence, let's have as many love-poems as possible... it's good to read about love because as the late John Lennon said, 'all we need is love'.

However, let's make sure that the love poems are, in fact, 'poems' and not some prose split into separate lines to 'look' like poetry. All of us are talented writers (I hope) and am sure we'll be able to sniff out the banal and celebrate the great.

And as a final word, none of us can write like Neruda, Rilke, Mueller, Donne, Shakespeare... but we can all write with our own individual style and create that unique voice, which is our very own and no one else's. If we are able to do that, then, it doesn't matter what anyone says... poetry will be enjoyed and shared.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Remembering Nisha

Bahrain
21st May 2002

Dear Mr and Mrs. D’Souza,

This letter may come as a surprise to you and I hope you are not going to wonder who is writing this letter to you.

I used to be in school with your daughter, Nisha, and we were in the same class from Second Grade onwards to Twelfth Grade. Remember that pigtailed girl with big glasses who used to follow your daughter everywhere? That’s me but, thankfully, today I’ve given up on pigtails and huge glasses!

I lost touch with Nisha after my Second Year B.Sc, and was extremely delighted when I got hold of your address from Mrs. Rodriques, our former class teacher in VIIIth Grade. She had no other information to give except the address, and I was hoping that by contacting you I would be able to get in touch with Nisha and re-connect with her.

I am planning to visit India next month for some work and would love to meet Nisha while I am in the country. Could you please send me her address as soon as possible so I can plan my trip?

Thank you very much.

Regards,
Sunita Chacko

PS. My email address is sunita65@yahow.com or twochackos@yahow.com

-------------------
Bahrain
3rd June 2002

Dear Mr and Mrs. D’Souza,

I haven’t heard from you and was wondering if you received my mail.

I’ll be flying down to India on 21st June and will be mostly in Bangalore and Hyderabad before flying back to Bahrain on 5th July. I should be able to find time to meet her around 1st July and could possibly take the flight back home from whichever city she is in.

I am already so excited to be able to meet Nisha again.

Regards,
Sunita

-------------------

Bahrain
15th June 2002

Dear Mr and Mrs. D’Souza,

I’ll be flying in six days time and I haven’t received any letter from you. I am concerned. I hope I am not placing you in any inconvenience or have upset you in anyway. My husband Suresh suggested that I stay at the Panjim YWCA during the days I am visiting you and so a tentative booking has been made for my stay at the Y from 1st to 4th July. I’ll be flying back to Bahrain from Goa itself unless I get to know that Nisha stays in some other city. In that case, I’ll have to change my plans accordingly.

My husband seems to be a little excited about Goan Sausages and Vindaloo, and said that he’ll be very cross with me if I don’t bring some with me. Do tell Nisha that she has to come with me when I go shopping for those sausages.

Regards,
Sunita

-------------------

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko"
Subject: Missing you
To: "Sunita"

You are gone for almost a week now and it already feels like forever. Come back soon. I am missing you. It’s pretty boring out here. Anyway, how is your work going on? Were you able to get those certificates and your thesis from the Uni? Better kick some ass with those lazy babus or nothing will happen. But try and be soft on them or they’ll suffer a breakdown. J

By the way, the Mehras have invited me for dinner and I am not sure if I want to join them. Not keen on hearing another story about their Switzerland trip or their nephew working in the World Bank.

No letter from the D’Souzas yet… looks like you may have to go to Goa after all.

Talk soon.
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2002
From: "Sunita"
Subject: Re: Missing you
To: "Suresh Chacko"

You finally wrote to me!!!

At the rate you were making those phone calls I was worried that we’ll be completely broke by the time I return. But now that you’ve confessed that you are missing me so badly and cant live without me… all is forgiven, my love, and you’ve just made a lonely woman very happy.

And please, please, please go to the Mehra’s house because at least, you’ll have something to laugh about and something to tell me later… in gory details, hopefully.

By the way, I forgot to tell you… when we were little girls, Nisha and I made a pledge that when we grew up and met the man of our lives we were going to meet at a beach and drink some coconut juice and shout “I love my coconut juicewala’ at the waves.

Just thought I should tell you that. :))

yours
Sun

-------------------

Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko"
Subject: Re: Re: Missing you
To: "Sunita"

I am impressed… but, hey, I’m so glad I wont be there on the beach when you two girls shout at the waves.

Still missing you.

Your coconut juice wala :-)

-------------------

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2002
From: "Sunita"
Subject: Flying to Vasco
To: "Suresh Chacko"

I called up the Panjim YWCA and they confirmed my booking and said that I’ll be staying in Room 12-A. I managed to get my return ticket confirmed as well and write this down somewhere: Gulf Air GF 052. Departing India on 05 July and arriving in Bahrain same day (of course) at 1652… that’s ten minutes to 5 pm, ok.

So be there to give me a peck at 5 o’clock.

See you soon, my love

Yours
Sun

-------------------

Date: Thu, 02 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko"
Subject: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Sunita"

No news from you. Where ARE you? I tried calling you but you weren’t answering.

Are you alright? I am very, very, worried… write soon.

Yours
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Thu, 02 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

Please write soon or even give me a call… I am worried something must have happened to you. Planning to call the police or whoever.

Yours
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Fri, 02 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Suresh, it was so good to hear your voice yesterday. I needed that. You don’t know how much it helped to cheer me up and lift my spirits. I know I didn’t make any sense when we talked but that’s because I was simply delirious to hear your voice and… totally and completely devastated by what’s happened over here. I feel shattered. How can I explain myself?

Love
Sun

-------------------

Date: Fri, 02 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

I am only glad to know that you are safe. I was so worried about you and so relieved to finally hear your voice. But tell me, what is going on over there? If you find it difficult to speak about it on the phone, at least, write to me and tell me, please.

By the way, I’ll see if I can change your booking to 20th July. Is that ok?

Yours
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Sat, 03 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Suresh, you don’t know how much I love you… you just lifted a huge burden from my shoulders. You are my man. You really are. My knight in shining armour.

I don’t know if 20th July is feasible but I’ll keep you informed. Possible for you to come down and meet me? Sorry if I sound so unreasonable because I know you have very few leave days left but I need you here. Keep calling me, ok. I need that, at least.

What’s going on over here? Uncle Francis is in coma and Aunty Phyllis is in wheel chair after a recent accident. And Nisha…? Oh Suresh, you won’t believe what has happened to her? She has been locked in an asylum for the past four years. She is completely… gone!!! She doesn’t recognize anybody but just walks about in a daze. And then, at other times, she stands on chairs or tables and starts talking gibberish. She was involved with someone and the bastard didn’t even tell her he was married.

The D’Souzas have nobody to help them. All their relatives have abandoned them and the only ones that do come have nothing to offer but sympathy. Aunty Phyllis is torn between Nisha and Uncle Francis… I feel so sorry for her because she wants to be at both places and yet she cannot.

Oh Suresh, Suresh… I just don’t know what to do.

Love
Sun

-------------------

Date: Mon, 05 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Flying to Vasco
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

I really don’t know what to say… or do. I know you need to be there but you can’t stay there forever… is there any other solution? Do you have to be there? Is there really no one else to help them out?

I am sorry if I sound very selfish but I’d like to see you back home soon.

Suresh

-------------------

Date: Mon, 05 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Oh Suresh, please don’t talk like that… you know I want to be with you, too. I really do. I need the assurance of your support more than anything else… especially now.

I don’t know if you’ll ever understand but I hope you do… for some reason, I really want to be here with these people. I feel it will be wrong if I just pack my bags and leave them to fend for themselves.

Nisha was the only real friend I had in school. If it wasn’t for her I would have suffered a nervous breakdown because I used to be bullied by everyone those days. My pigtails and glasses made me stand out like a complete cartoon and everyone used to tease me about it. Nisha stood by me, protected me and watched out for me… all that I am is because of her and for the support she gave me during those traumatic years.

If she wasn’t there at the time to instill in me some degree of self-confidence, then, I don’t know what I would have done or what would have become of my life. I really don’t know.

Now she is helpless and alone, and tell me, how can I abandon her? I owe her this much. The least I can do is to be there for her during her time of need the way she was to me. Suresh, she has no one, absolutely no one… at least, you and I, we have each other plus our family and friends… but she has no one.

Now I can return the debt I owe her… I can be the friend and sister to her the way she was to me. I hope you understand. Will you understand, please?

Love,
Sun

-------------------

Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Suresh, I haven’t heard from you and you haven’t even called… I am really worried about us. I love you very much and I hope you know that. Please write to me soon or, at least, call me. Please.

Sun

-------------------

Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

It was good to hear from you yesterday. I wish I could, somehow, change the situation and turn it into our favour but do realize the position I am in. At least, it’s good to know that we still have each other and that we love each other.

Sun

-------------------

Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

I am beginning to learn how vulnerable human lives really are… I was with Nisha yesterday and it pained me to see how a once-vibrant girl was now an empty shell. I spoke with her about the things we used to do as children and she looked back at me as if she was staring into a void. I wanted to cry but I decided to control myself … and then, all of a sudden I told her, “I love my coconut juice-wala’ and she just stared back, didn’t even react. I had to leave the room immediately because I started crying uncontrollably and I haven’t stopped crying even now.

Sun

-------------------

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Hello
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

You are a strong girl and I am sure you’ll be ok. I’ll call you soon.

Suresh

-------------------

Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

I was waiting for your call on Thursday. Why didn’t you phone me? You know I needed to hear from you. Please speak to me soon. I can’t handle this silence. I can’t bear not to hear from you.

Love,
Sun

-------------------

Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Hello
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Darling, it was so good to hear from you the other day. I am so, so, so, so, so glad we had our talk.

It’s soooooo good that we were able to cry together on the phone and basically talk things out. It pained me so much to hear you cry. It really did, but, darling sweetheart, please REMEMBER one thing: I am not leaving you because I cannot imagine my life without you. You are my life. I told you that on the phone and I want to say that again and again over here. So please, darling, don’t ever allow such horrible thoughts to enter your head.

I feel very helpless at the moment… I want to come back to you and just forget about everything that’s going on over here. But if I do that, then… how will I ever live with my own conscience? I’d feel like that priest and levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan… I wont be able to respect myself if I just drop everything and go.

Love,
Sun

-------------------

Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

I wish I could say that I understand how you feel but I cannot… however, I know that you feel very strongly about this and – hard as it may be for me to accept – I trust your judgment. If this is important for you and something you need to do, then, I am with you in this and you can count on my support always.

The truth is… I really love you, Sunita, and even I cannot imagine my life without you.

Yours
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Hi
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

It’s so good to hear from you and what a triple treat: phone call, email and now this good news about your promotion. Wish I was there to see Mrs. Mehra’s face when you tell them that you are now a VP. I am so proud of you and I know you should have got this a long time ago.

Some good news from Goa. I was with Nisha today and though she didn’t say a single word but I could sense she understood everything I was telling her. She just kept quiet and looked back and her eyes seemed to, you know, talk. I told her about you and your funny eating habits, how we met and how scared you were to meet my parents, told her about the Mehras, the Agarwals, the Menons, the Murphys, the Haleys and all our other dysfunctional family friends. And then I sang “I have a dream” because we were both crazy about Abba and… I thought I heard her hum back at me. I am not sure but I think I actually heard her make a humming sound. The doctors and nurses didn’t take me seriously but I swear I heard her hum.

By the way, can the new VP now make a trip to see his lonely little wife?

Love
Sun

-------------------

Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Hi
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

The VP would be able to meet his lonely little wife much more often now than when he was a manager… and he won’t stay in the Y with her :-)

You actually sang ‘I have a dream’? Are you sure Nisha wasn’t asking you to keep quiet?

Peace.

Yours
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Re: Hi
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Suresh, you are a lucky man… you are so far away. J

Sun

-------------------

Date: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Bad news
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

Aunty Phyllis had a heart attack this morning. Am afraid she didn’t survive. I don’t know what to do… am totally shattered and completely helpless. Visited Nisha to tell her the news but she looked back at me as if nothing happened. Have been crying a lot this past two-three hours.

Love
Sun

-------------------

Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: Re: Bad news
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

It was so good to hear from you yesterday… felt strong just by hearing your voice. You said you were coming down to see me. Are you sure you can do that? Will there be any problem at your work? Please don’t do anything impulsive, ok. You are the rational one.

Love
Sun

-------------------

Date: Sun, 04 Aug 2002
From: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com
Subject: News
To: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com

I have taken a decision and thought I should share it with you. I thought of sharing it with you over the phone but felt that I may not be able to articulate it properly and you’d most likely convince me to change my mind.

I have decided to resign and have already signed my papers. I’ll be here for another two months and then I’ll be able to join you in Goa. I just feel we need to be together at this point of time and for whatever it’s worth… we two can be parents to your friend Nisha.

The company has given me a good settlement and has also given me the option of joining the Goa branch if I so desire. I need to study that option and give them my answer in two weeks time.

I know you will tell me that I should not sacrifice my career and make emotional decisions but… I cannot bear to see you all by yourself carrying a load when I should be there to support you. You have meant so much to me and now in your hour of need I want to be there for you.

Please don’t even try and convince me to change my mind because I am not going to. Remember, you are not alone in this situation because I am there with you and will always be… till the day I die.

Love
Suresh

-------------------

Date: Mon, 05 Aug 2002
From: "Sunita" sunita65@yahow.com
Subject: News
To: "Suresh Chacko" twochackos@yahow.com

I wont try and change your mind but I am speechless. I really don’t know what to say because all I can think of is… I am so glad I married a man like you. I really am.

I will be waiting for you here… and Nisha will be waiting to finally meet my coconut juicewala.

Love
Sun

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Women

I know some men who believe in women’s issues, sometimes, passionately and, at other times, even fervently. The trouble is, however, they believe in these issues as long as it doesn’t specifically involve their own women.

If it is about women living in the remotest corner of the globe or if it concerns women in all the major cities, these men have the statistics on their fingertips and appropriate tear-drops for effect.

They can talk till the cows come home as to how little has been done to alleviate the sufferings of women, and how uphill the task it is to propel gender equality.

But the moment the talk shifts towards their own women and what have they done on home ground to initiate some of these so-called reforms, explanations spout forth faster than one can imagine.

One cannot be too radical, one opinion goes, while the other insists that things are not black and white and we must move forward at a slow but even progressive pace.

Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread, some try and cliché their way and others use the favourite word of all spin doctors: exceptions.

Women should be encouraged to fulfil their potential but there are exceptions to all this and we cannot simply embark on a random reforms rampage, they plead.

Let me apply some brakes here and point out that I am talking about a few men. I do know many others who are exactly the opposite. The trouble is, they are rarely vocal about their actions.

They do their acts of emancipation in a quiet and unobrutisive way without any fanfare whatsoever. The result is that the smug chauvinists hog all the space and makes their regressive ideas seem like the sole male point of view.

Sadly, this has dented communication between the sexes and coloured perceptions. The loudest voices get the hearing and end up setting the agenda. Those who disagree are called oddities or worse, and have to trample the long and winding road for acceptance by other ‘men’.

On this count, at least, these men share something in common with women all over. They are both at the receiving end of abuse by the chauvinist types. It just clarifies an important point about sex discrimination. It is not really about gender but about power. It is the way of the world, the way of the strong silencing the weak and throttling any hopes for accord.

Monday, September 19, 2005

My world view

my world view has the circumference
of an egg: oval like the planet
i call home, fragile like a shell
that shelters my fears, and
a little opaque to conceal
the life-force within.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Remembering 9/11

I should have been in the office that day. I had planned to stay a little late and complete my work but for some reason I thought I didn't want to do any overtime. I needed some rest after all.

It was 4:15 or 4:30 pm by the time I reached home and saw my family watching CNN. No one said a word but were just sitting there transfixed to the TV screen. I sensed something odd because it was unusual for them to switch on TV at that time, and more so, watching CNN at that hour.

As I joined my family I was stunned by what I saw and so many thoughts went through my head. Who could have done this? Why? What cause was so important that it required murder of innocent people?

I have lived in the middle east all my life, and so I had a hunch who the perpetrators of this deed could be. But nevertheless... it didn't make sense. None of the Middle East's pet causes will benefit from this action, and it was bound to complicate an already complex situation here.

My parents phoned my brother in Michigan who was still sleeping when we called. He was shocked and found it hard to believe. I called another friend in Baltimore whose husband worked as a pilot with American Airlines. She said that he was on leave that day and could have been on one of the planes. Thank God that didn't happen. I later contacted another friend in New York but his wife told me that he had gone out. I asked her if they were ok and she said they were just fine and was puzzled by my concern. Since my friend, her husband, was outside and she had no clue what had happened I felt it was best that I did not tell her and make her unduly worried.

It's hard to forget that day. It will be remembered among other fateful news events that have occured in our lifetime.

It's a pity that my generation has many such dates to remember.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Obituary

Ashish B. Gorde
1965 - 2025


Ashish B. Gorde, lead singer of the rock group "The Blue Vomit" died at his home in Anchorage, Alaska after suffering a dislocation in his larynx. The exact details of his demise were not available but it was rumoured that he was in the process of reaching the highest possible octave while rehearsing a somersault for his upcoming concert in London's Wembley Stadium.

His death marks the end of an era and it is doubtful whether any other performer will ever match his uniqueness in a long, long time. He will certainly be missed by millions of adoring fans worldwide who plan to hum a single D flat note at midnight GMT on Friday in his honour. This tribute is, of course, inspired by Ashish's monumental smash hit, "Tickle My D Tonight, Baby".

His singular achievement has been in turning 'off-key and off-beat singing' into a respectable musical genre. He singlehandedly broke the stranglehold of notation conservatives and brought a level of democracy to music that was almost revolutionary.

It was through his efforts alone that a completely free-form of singing devoid of rigid structures became wildly popular and galvanised millions of musically untrained people to take up singing as a full-time career.

"If it wasn't for Ashish Gorde's noble example I wouldn't have taken up singing because, since childhood, music lessons terrified me and gave me nightmares. He showed me that my love for singing need not be held ransom to the tyranny of quavers and I will be forever indebted to him for setting me free from such hangups," said Screech Owl, lead singer of the Ashish Gorde tribute band "Rhubarb Goes Burp".

His influence was not only limited to the recording industry but spread across stage, television and cinema as well. "Craps”, a Broadway musical based on his life has been a huge hit and is responsible for reviving the fortunes of musical theatre. The film version of the play was a box office hit across the world and was dubbed in many languages. Recently, he was involved in developing a TV game-show, "Smash the Classics" in which participants had to match their wits and skills in mangling well-known classics.

It would come as a surprise to most of his fans that Ashish Gorde began his public life as a writer and photographer but it was the success of his musical career that set him on the path of fame and fortune. Although he constantly expressed regret that he never managed to finish writing his novels and achieve his potential as a writer, nevertheless, it was music that comforted him and gave him release from his sense of frustration.

"It is, undoubtedly, true that it was his failure to be a writer of note that gave him the freedom to experiment with music and create this unique genre that will, forever, be associated with him," remarked his close friend Michael O'Reilly, music critic at the Rolling Stones magazine.

He is survived by his eleven ex-wives, twenty-two concubines and thirty-three children. His lawyers, on the other hand, are inconsolable by the impact of his death.

This obituary was part of a writing exercise on Shakespeare and Company, the writing forum on www.ryze.com

Monday, August 15, 2005

Independent observations

There are no plastic tricolours here. No public holiday. And if I step out of the compound, there is no hint whatsoever that a billion strong people are celebrating their independence day. The newspapers are carrying special supplements that talk about a shining India that's good for investors and expatriate Indians. As usual banks and real estate companies are talking big and are doing their darndest best to capture some customers. But I have seen so many such supplements in my life that a sense of deja vu creeps in whenever I see it. Why can't they focus on some other angle? How about some hard facts on socio-economic disparities, the dangers of fascist political parties or the impact of malls on the corner-store? Oh well, that would be too much to expect from these PR supplements and I'd be better off not raising my expectation levels.

The seven o' clock news is going to inform me that the King, the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince have sent cables of good wishes to the Indian leadership on account of the country's independence day. And then, tonight, the Embassy will host their reception and all the beautiful people in Bahrain will be present in their glory. The lucky few will get their photographs splashed in tomorrow's newspaper while others will have made sure that they are properly 'covered' in next month's 'Bahrain This Month'. I know who will be there and am quite certain they'll be hovering close to the cameras with their glasses in hand.

I won't be there because I have stayed away from most of the Indian clubs and associations. Too much of politics and too much of showbusiness. I find it hard to handle these personality issues disguised as social causes. And even harder to see, 'uncle' characters behaving like little children. Alright. I know I am being very bitchy but I am only nostalgic, that's all.

I prefer the old times. The days when 26th January and 15th August meant a special showing of a Hindi movie in Awal Cinema preceded by an entertainment show by Sushil Bhatia and company. This was in the mid-seventies when it was rare to see the latest movies on screen, and Sushil Bhatia's gang were our only source of Bollywood songs. I remember chickening out of the 'Yadoon ki Baraat' group song because I didn't want to sing with the other kids. Not that I wanted to do a solo but just didn't want to do it, that's all.

Now those days are gone. And instead of this family-like atmosphere that once pervaded the national day celebrations now we have these pompous events that are excrutiatingly embarassing. Maybe it's because there have been major changes in the people. Maybe there are just far too many Indians and it's difficult to bring back the old atmosphere. Maybe I'm still an expat with his head stuck in the past. Maybe just maybe...

In anycase, some traditions do not change. And Bahrain TV will be showing a short documentary on India, and, as usual, I'll be missing it. Somehow they always choose the wrong time to show it and since it's going to be another supplement type of documentary I know I wont be missing much. Why can't Bahrain TV do something good for a change and show 'Mangal Pandey' instead? Now that will save me a trip to the cineplex, and make me sing praises to Bahrain TV.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hyper-emaciated malls

I have a theory about poorly paid workers at the mall. They just don't care about you. All this big management talk on customer service and customer is king is a load of baloney, as far as they are concerned.

They look at you with their sunken eyes and emaciated demeanour and only tolerate your presence because you are there. They can't ignore you and so they'll humour you with some response. But if you probe deeper, you'll see that their heart is not in it. They rather be elsewhere or if they had to be there it better be on a higher wage or at the same wage as some of the other privileged staff. They know it can never be and so they just smile back at you in that 'screw you' kind of look.

Why am I saying all this?

I was at the mall yesterday and went to this huge hypermarket to get a new TV and DVD player for my brother. He is on vacation and wanted to surprise his wife with a new entertainment system and asked me to make a purchase. After a series of disappointments in some of Manama's shops I decided the hypermarket would be the best place to go if I had to save my limbs from severe aches.

Well, it has been sometime since I visited this hypermarket (please note I haven't uttered the name of this silly establishment as yet) and my experience in all my previous visits had been fairly satisfying. Many of my friends have told me that things are not the same anymore at this place and that service has been going downhill. Well, considering the fact that most shop attendants in Manama don't seem enthusiastic about seeing any customers made me shake my head and wonder, how different can this hypermarket be anyway?

If yesterday's experience is any yardstick, it can be very different. The service was pathetic. The attendants just didn't seem to care, they moved around the hypermarket as if they were taking a walk and not as if they were working. I asked one attendant for some information about a TV model and he asked me to wait as he goes and asks his boss or someone. So I waited and waited and waited for almost half an hour, and then I ask another man about the whereabouts of this attendant. I was told that he has gone for lunch and that he'd be back soon. This 'soon' became another long wait of roughly 20 minutes and I called another 'staff' who was walking about, and he told me to wait. I lost my patience and told him that I was pissed off with their service and that I can't just wait endlessly till they get their acts together.

Maybe it was the tone of my voice, the choice of words or just my exasperation but it did have an effect. This man quickly went to a counter and explained my situation to a man with a red tie. He looked like someone who was well paid because he was smiling and made some effort to 'assure' me that what happened to me was an unusual phenomenon. To give the man his credit, he did answer my questions and did a much better job in helping me arrive at some purchasing decisions.

But the situation bothered me. It wasn't just the bad service that I received from the attendants that was worrisome but I could clearly see that there were two types of workers in this establishment. The better paid had this happy glow on their face while the others looked tired, exhaused, emaciated, fatigued, and unrewarded. This poor treatment seemed to have an impact on their performance and was affecting the service levels at the hypermarket.

I am not an economist and so I don't understand the subtleties of the budgeting process. However, based on my observation of this hypermarket and other commercial and non-commercial establishments, I've noticed that poorly paid workers do not seem to make good business sense. They have low motivation, they dont like to work hard because they dont feel it's worth it and are ready to flee at the next best offer. And yet, so many organisations seem to think it makes perfectly good sense to cut wages or even hire workers on lower wages... am I missing something here?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

To be a man :)

What makes a true man?

Some would say ‘strength of character’, others would talk about ‘the ability to be decisive’ while still others might quote that old proverb, ‘clothing maketh a man’.

Well, if you ask me, I think, they’ve got it all mixed up. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting any of the above-mentioned points. There is a time and place for each of them and, yes, they do contribute in some ways in making a man. But they don’t clinch the deal, if you know what I mean.

What really lies at the heart of making a man a man or, in other words, the stuff that separates the men from the boys is… a razor.

Now you might ask how on earth did I arrive at such a conclusion? What’s a silly razor got to do with something as earthshakingly significant as being a man?

Well, everything.

A razor comes into a man’s life at that crucial period when he ceases to be a child. A razor shaves off the rough edges and in the process prevents him from looking like a caveman. In other words, a razor helps a man to cut a fine figure and bring a touch of finesse to his sense of grooming and personal style.

Now you may ask – and you’d be justified in asking – is the importance of a razor related only to the externals? And if so, aren’t we focusing too much on style and less on substance? Would this be downplaying a whole range of character issues that are central to being a man?

Not at all.

It all depends upon that simple little word called purpose. The purpose behind using a razor is all that matters. If this purpose stems from a desire to enhance character related issues and bring together style and substance, then, it makes perfect sense. Then, the razor actually becomes a tool to make a man a man.

To understand what I am trying to say, consider for a moment, a lighter. There are many who will tell you that the only purpose for a lighter is to be a tool for smoking cigarettes. But those with a keener insight will recognise that a lighter can also enlighten one’s path and be a handy substitute to a matchbox.

And so just like a razor, a lighter, too, has its usefulness only when its purpose is spelt out as clearly as possible. And we all know that one of the most essential prerequisites for a true man is to have clarity of purpose for one’s life. A decisive and purposeful man dispels the fog of uncertainty and confusion and becomes what he was born to be – a man.

This is a simple lesson we learn from a razor and one that we need to remember as often as we can. Sharply defined goals are what a true man needs, and there is no better tool than a pen to jot down those goals so that they are never forgotten.

A man without a pen, they say, is handicapped. Only a pen can help him write down his thoughts, ideas, opinions and, most importantly, his goals These goals will, then, shape his life and motives and character. But most importantly, it will help him to live longer through the words he writes and the goals that he actualised.

After all, a man who learns the secret to live forever will have learned what it is to be a true man. And if you want to know the secret, take a closer look at a razor and the answers will be clearer.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In her own world


Last year, I was travelling from Hyderabad to Calcutta by train and the journey lasted nearly 32 hours. To cut a long story short, I survived. However, what I enjoyed the most about the trip was the opportunity to take so many photographs and to see for myself the rich diversity of India unfold right before my very eyes.

This particular photograph was taken early in the morning as the train halted at a station in Orissa state. It stopped for quite some time and I used the opportunity to buy some newspapers and biscuits and amble around. And then, suddenly, while I was still standing at the door of the train, I noticed this woman taking a walk and I was so taken in by the sight that I grabbed my camera and shot the scene.

I was so glad that the zoom lens came in very handy and was able to capture this moment in a stranger's life.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Three Little Pigs - the wolf's perspective.

All I needed was pork but all I got was a fable in which I was made a prime villain. Terribly unfair. I could even call it 'unjust' but I am not sure who'd actually believe me. Or even care.

After all, who bothers about wolves anyway? We are not cute and domesticated like the way dogs are, and neither are we known for our gentleness and kindness. Or, at least, that's the general consensus.

However, let me remind you that we are the gentlest creatures on God's earth and, given a chance, we can be as docile and cuddlesome as those dogs that inhabit human homes.

Our biggest problem is that we are huge. Unmanageably huge. And we have a big mouth, really big. A chihuahua can easily sneak into our mouth when we open it wide. And our teeth are like pens that humans use for writing their thoughts and whatever. Now there are dogs that are bigger than us but for some reason, we are discriminated against because we are born and raised in the wild. It seems our wild background has given us a fierce quality that inspires instant revulsion.

So you see, one glance in our direction doesn't exactly make humans go 'ooooh' and 'aaaah'. Instead, they get the vilest thoughts imaginable in the entire animal kingdom.

It's a pity because if these humans try a little harder, they'd discover that we aren't that bad at all. Like all good creatures, we just follow our instincts and do not mean to cause harm to anyone. Humans, for example, should be the least bit worried from us because we find them highly unappetising -- unless, ofcourse, a sumo wrestler is for dinner but that's only when we are highly desperate. But by and large, we prefer non-human herbivores as our preferred snack. Pigs, for instance, can be highly succulent and hugely delicious if our teeth ever manages to sink into their flesh.

Now I know that humans eat pig and have dedicated farms where they rear these fat creatures for consumption. And yet... now this is something that I cannot understand... the day I went out for a walk and saw three little pigs that I wanted to eat I suddenly became a bad guy.

I can handle being called a villain because it adds a certain aura to one's personality and lends a dangerous edge that some female wolves find highly irresistible. So you see, I can take that kind of dishonour and won't feel the least bit offended by the insult.

However, what irks me most is that the entire situation was triviliased and I was made to look like a fool. Look... I was just hungry, alright. I saw food in the form of three little pigs and I did what any full blooded wolf would do. I followed my nose and pursued my prey. Anything wrong in that?

Now how would I know that these three pigs were 'blessed' with construction skills. Have you ever seen pigs making houses out of straw, sticks and bricks? And have you ever heard a pig remarking, "By the hair of my chinny chin chin, I wont let you come in" after you've knocked the door and asked to be let in. Who talks like that?

Now ok... the first two pigs were easy peasy. I huffed and puffed and blew their houses made of straw and sticks, and finished eating those pigs in a gulp. Alright, not exactly a gulp but you know what I mean.

However, the last pig was a smart ass character. He knew I'd get an asthmatic attack after trying to huff and puff and blow his brick house down, and still he yelled out and told me that his house was made of light cardboard. I had to take medication after all that blowing and, you know, asthma treatment is not even covered in my insurance.

On top of all that, I tried to be friends with him and thought let bygones be bygones and let me enjoy some turnips with him. I figured that a little turnip hunt will help us in our bonding and bolster our friendship. But no, the pig had to be a little competitive and he went and got the turnips all by himself. He repeated the same action when I asked him if we could get some apples together or even go to the fair.

He even had the audacity of rolling in a barrel and hurting me in the process. How should I know this little twerp will be inside a barrel? When I saw this thing rolling towards me, it scared the living daylights out of me. Remember, for all my fierce exterior I'm quite a softy inside.

At last, I thought I should enter his house through the chimney because he wouldn't let me in through the door. I was worried that the barrel might have caused him some pain and so I brought some wolf ointment for him. But what should happen when I land through the chimney? I fall straight into a pot full of boiling water...!!!

The fable says that the splash marked my end but, if truth be told, it wasn't. I jumped straight out of the pot and ran home as fast as I could. I had to be hospitalised for a month or two and had to take another two months of treatment. Finally, I got myself a lawyer and sued the little pig for harassment, bodily injury, humiliation, defamation. And yes, I'm pleased to tell you that there is justice in this world and, today, as an out of court settlement, I'm living in that brick house and the pig has become my valet.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Response to a "Duke of Hazzards" review

I felt the same level of disgust when I saw "Starsky and Hutch - the movie". It was soooooooo unlike the TV program I grew up watching and was a complete disgrace to all that the 70's stood for (I'm talking from a purely child's point of view)

If they want to make a tribute to past TV shows, it's fine. But I do hope they do it with a certain degree of finesse and an understanding of what the original shows stood for. This total ignorance of original concepts and reckless massacre of much loved TV shows and movies is a sad indicator of our times. It would be great if such experiments in smut were carried out on something original like what they did with "American Pie" and its progeny.

But why tamper with our memories?

If this seems like I'm being overtly sensitive about the matte, that's right. I am not just sensitive about it but I am angry. Most of the old programs attracted us for their charm and engaging quality. The re-interpretation shows that they haven't studied the original but, instead, rehashed the superficial elements into something else.

Now I'm against re-working old TV shows because sometimes when it works, it rocks. Star Trek is a good example of such success. In my opinion, Jean Luc Piccard came across as a much better captain than Kirk. The series franchise did not depart from the main concept but made it stronger and stylised. The original had technical limitations and all the subsequent TV shows tried to fix them.

The new 'Battlestar Galactica" may not have the brooding presence of Lorne Greene but, at least, it's not made into something else altogether. However, the new version did not capture my attention like the original because it lacked a compelling storyline and tight direction.

I shall not even comment on the new Star Wars movies even though the recent film did try and make some amends. But it's a case of being 'too late' when it should have been sooner.

I shudder to imagine how the new Pink Panther, Herbie, Dr Who and Willy Wonka are going to be... of course, I'll go with my fingers crossed and if the movies suck, then, at least, I'll focus on the popcorn. Popcorns rarely disappoint, do they?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Confessions of a 'confused' 'Gulfie'

I am quite angry.

Someone came to our house the other day and justified sending his daughter to India for higher education because… she shouldn’t feel like a foreigner in her own country and must remain in touch with the culture of the motherland.

Now this man had his own reasons for taking this decision and I respect him for it. However, the argument that a child needs to be in India to be a better Indian doesn’t cut much ice for me. It gives the impression that most of us who grew up outside India turned out to be really bad Indians and that we are a bunch of hopeless cases.

I shouldn’t be picking on this man for my rant because he is really a very nice guy but the reason I am so worked up is because I have heard this argument so many times that it never fails to irritate me. I feel most people who make this outlandish claim do so on the basis of some pet assumptions and not, necessarily, on some cold hard facts.

Now I agree that there are some dodos amongst us who behave a bit dopey whenever they visit India and act more ‘foreign’ than the ‘foreigners’. But there are, also, some dodos amongst the Indians who live in India as well… and would anyone dare make a generalisation?

However, I have to admit that I often feel like a ‘foreigner’ whenever I visit India and I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out why I feel this way. The reason has nothing to do with a feeling of alienation from the ‘motherland’, so to speak, and neither has it anything to do with any misplaced arrogance.

My problem with India comes from the expat life that I’ve led throughout my life. At school (CBSE curriculum, by the way, one cant get more Indian than a curriculum that the armed forces’ children follow), I interacted with people from different parts of India and the same situation followed at the Indian Association, Bahrain Sports Club (presently, the Indian Club), there were far too many interactions and friendships with non-Indians who saw me as just an “Indian”, and that’s what I thought I was and was content with that kind of all-inclusive identity.

But upon going to India (Bombay, to be precise), I was shocked to find out that this “Indian” identity that had, somewhat, defined who I was throughout my life was not relevant here any longer. People wanted a little more information. It was like the Indian identity was wrapped up in onion like layers – they wanted to know my religion, my language, my caste, my state, my economic background, my social status, everything. My claims to be an “Indian” were met with derision because people took these other layers very seriously and thought I was a bit silly to think of the ‘big picture’.

Another shocker that greeted me when I went to India was the resurgence of right-wing political parties like Shiv Sena who were as rabidly chauvinistic as any white supremacist group in the West.

Now the Shiv Sena people speak my language (that’s Marathi) and since I grew up with very few people speaking that language and the only ones who did were family and close family friends. So when I went to Bombay and heard Marathi being spoken so widely it did cause a disconnect… my initial knee jerk reaction to trust anyone who speaks Marathi soon led to miserable disappointments and hearing the narrow ideology of Marathi people toeing the Shiv Sena line came as a real shock.

I couldn’t believe that a political group could actually differentiate between other Indians and make horrible suggestions such as, they should speak the regional language (what about the national language, I asked), people from the other states should not come to Bombay, people from minority faiths were not ‘fully’ Indian.

My response to this India that I encountered was quite simple. I rejected it because I saw no merit in it. I preferred to be an ‘alien’ in such a dysfunctional setup that thrives on being fractious. I was not pleased to see Indians not looking at the ‘big picture’ and, instead, focusing on petty ethnic loyalties. I thought that if this is what takes to be a real Indian, then, I am not interested in being part of it.

It’s tragic that the “Indian-ness” that I grew up with is now a distant dream even in Bahrain. Now that there are so many Indians here, very few people are actually looking at the ‘big picture’ and are continuously emphasising their ethnic identities. This is wrong and a setback to what we had earlier experienced in this country. Thankfully, it’s still not a hopeless case though…

This is why I was quite angry with the man because… based on my own background, I feel, I have grown up to be a better and a much broader Indian because of having been brought up here. Do I regret it? Not a chance. Am I confused? Doesn’t matter. Will I trade my life for something else? Not a chance.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Response to a "Sarkar" review

I haven't seen "Sarkar" as yet and so cannot comment on how 'faithful' an adaptation it is of "The Godfather". However, I am a little bothered by the write-ups that I've read so far and the claims that have been made about it. But let me not beat round the bush and get to the point that I'm getting at.

It's perfectly fine with me if any director wants to pay tribute to another author or filmmaker but... have necessary permissions being taken to 'adapt' the work concerned? What is the copyright situation in such an adaptation? As far as I know both the book and the film are NOT in the public domain and so, consent must be given by the rights holders.

It's a pity that it's not just RGV but many other bollywood directors who seem to 'indulge' in this kind of 'creative' 'adaptation'... and I feel this situation is an insult to all of us who claim to be writers!

I am sorry if I am using such strong words but, I feel, we need to address this situation because it concerns us ALL.

Can you imagine if some director makes a film based on your short story and makes money out of it and, to add insult to injury, claims to be a fan of your work? Would you like that?

Do you realise that despite the fact that India has so many talented writers -- many of them part of Caferati and other writing networks, there is no apparent effort made to harness this creative energy?

(I am not including offbeat films in my rant because the very nature of their work demands original subject matter.)

India has such a great history of stories, folk tales, drama, music and yet... most of it is untouched because the producers don't think it's a safe-bet for box office success. But trust me, when the lawyers come knocking at their doors demanding 'compensation' for copyright violation, then, will it still remain a safe-bet?

I saw "Parineeta" last week and was pleased to see two things. One, credit given to the original author and two, a film was actually based on a classic Indian tale. But is it possible to see many more Bollywood film-makers taking similar trouble to dig the Indian literary goldmine for new subject matter? And even if they do, are they going to be so detail oriented in making a period film? Plus, will the acting be restrained and refined?

Lots of questions, I know, but... somehow I can't help being a little cynical.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Is monogamy a myth?

Is monogamy a socially conditioned phenomenon and a myth generated by societies and religious groups? It's hard to come up with a single sentence answer to this question because one can understand this question only in multi-layers. Societal dictates have played a role in perpetuating monogamy but this hasn't always been the case. Polygamy has been part of many cultures and social groups, and some religions have also accepted it but with conditions attached. And even those societies where cultural and religious edicts prohibit polygamy, these, too, have a rich history of men having mistresses and concubines and the like.

So in this case, monogamy is not, necessarily, socially conditioned because societies seem to have a very well developed instinct to 'have their cake and eat it too'. Men (funny, it has always been men) have always found a way to sidestep social, cultural, religious edicts to pander to their libido. Of course, convenient explanations are offered but like everything else, they are quite convenient.

Coming back to the question: is monogamy is a myth? Going by what has been the social norm so far, it would appear to be so; and some would say, it has been artificially grafted into our present societies. However, I have my doubts. If monogamy has been 'artificial' and a 'myth' perpetuated by the powers-that-be, then, where on earth did people learn the concept of jealousy and insecurity in relationships? If polygamy was our natural state of mind, then, jealousy would be a foreign body. I believe we are jealous because we are naturally monogamous and this makes us uncomfortable when we see (or think we see) our loved one with someone else. The insecurity happens because it upsets our known paradigm, that is, being with someone we love on an exclusive basis.

I support monogamy not because of religious reasons alone but, I feel, it make sense. Relationships/ marriages are a partnership between two people who have chosen to live as a team with shared objectives and shared lives. Sex is only one component in a marriage, and cannot be its sole defining characteristic. It only enhances what already exists between the couple and serves as a valuable source of expression of love.

But if the need to have the best orgasm supersedes everything else, then, it's obvious the person is not thinking of the relationship as a 'team'. He or she has objectified his or her partner and is thinking only in terms of 'what can I get from this relationship' instead of 'what can I give to this relationship".

Commitment is central to any relationship. If there is no commitment, then, it's a waste of time. Commitment basically means that two people have decided to willingly stick it out no matter what the obstacles are and stay on course. Temptations to stray will be there and the person will refuse the temptation not because society will disapprove but because he or she does not want his or her partner to get hurt and disappointed. It's as simple as that.

And if someone feels that they are incapable of staying committed in a relationship and the need for an orgasm supersedes everything else, it's best to avoid having any relationship and, unnecessarily, hurting someone else and spoiling their lives.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I love you

“I love you.”

Darn!

He inserted the coin into the Automatic Compliments Dispenser once again and waited. The machine made a gurgling sound and after a few seconds, a small card appeared on the tray. He picked it up and his face turned crimson with rage.

It was pink with an embroidered lace around the edges and the words were, “I love you, my sweet valentine”.

He kicked the machine hard this time and let out a piercing scream. It felt like he had sprained his foot in the process but was relieved to find out that that wasn’t the case.

He inserted another coin and hoped for some better words this time. The card was on the tray and he looked at it warily. He was speechless. This time he wanted to scream some colourful adjectives but words just wouldn’t come. He just stood there staring at the yellow card with a pink lace and the words this time were, “I love you, my darling daffodil.”

The whole of last week there was no problem. The machine had behaved according to its specifications and gave him the words he wanted to hear. It had even commented on his voice and its impact on women. And a fortnight ago, it had declared he was a gift to the planet earth.

But today, it was behaving strangely different and he was wondering what might have gone wrong for this to happen.

His psychiatrist told him that one of the best ways to get rid of stress was to go to this machine during lunch-break and read some compliments. It was the doc’s pet phrase: “a compliment a day keeps the worry beads away.”

The doctor loved saying that over and over again in a sing-song voice that grated on the nerves. Hence, the machine was a godsend as one could avoid meeting the doctor and listen to his pathetic attempts at singing.

But this time, the machine did not seem to be of any help. He began hitting the machine with his fists and hoped it would work, After all, he had been a faithful customer for the past three and half months and there was no reason why it should behave like this with him. How on earth could it treat him like a … sissy!

He banged the machine with his hands again and screamed at it, “Can you, at least, tell me what’s wrong with you?”

The machine made a gurgling sound all by itself. He was taken aback. He didn’t expect the machine to respond so quickly and spontaneously to his ranting. But most of all, he was surprised that the machine actually responded.

He didn’t know what to do with the two cards that he saw on the tray. He stared at them for a long time and after a gap that seemed to last for hours, he picked them up. They were plain and simple and without any pink or yellow laces around it. But the words froze him to the spot as he read what the machine spoke.

“I’m disappointed in you for breaking my heart.”

“I hate you.”

Monday, May 23, 2005

Technical Problems

Whenever an editor uses the term 'technical problems' to explain erratic delays, linguistic bloopers, missing punctuations and wrongly captioned photographs, you can be safely assured that there is more to it than meets the eye.

At best, it can be a genuine problem involving machines that require lubrication or software that suddenly decided to wobble. Or at worse, it can be one of those reasons that drives editors round the bend and turning them into raving lunatics.

But conspiracy theories being one of the latest in pseudo-scientific studies, it is but natural that 'technical problems' become fair game to these dubious theorists and scientists. Explanations can range from the involvement of the abominable Yeti or aliens from Alpha Centauri, wrong configurations in some distant constellation, bad placement of furniture to the Flying Dutchman making an onshore visit.

'Technical problems', as we all know, is the perfect term for any unforeseen emergencies of the unsavoury kind. The phrase is not meant to be, but has certainly become a 'euphemism' for absolutely anything we can think of.

It has become a general excuse that can be latched onto any mishap whose explanation cannot immediately be made available. It is easy and precise, and gives the impression of a genuine calamity without actually giving anything away. Besides, there are few people who would actually ask for a full technical explanation because people, by and large, do not like to appear ignorant. They'd much rather smile and offer consolation, and hopefully dig for an explanation through innuendo. Sometimes it works and at other times, it remains as engrossing as a debate with a stone-wall.

However, there are times when there is actually no plausible explanation for a 'technical problem', and in such cases, the term actually helps in identifying and sorting out possible problem areas. It becomes a rallying point to get something done and fast. And in such cases, it can actually be a very helpful term because it provides a springboard for corrective action.

Lastly, no personal pronoun was used or abused in writing this column.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Looking at the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

no one heard the wailing of metal over marble
that afternoon, the masonry of agony
was too persuasive in its percussion
for ears to intrude and decipher its pain.

the worn-out workers, too, seemed unaware
of the plaintive cries the palpitating walls made
as their hands toiled and hammered
at this ashen-faced monument

to imperial anguish.

slow patricide was how the story unfolded
eventually, and the river became a witness
to the slaughtering that took place,
while shaking the earth from his axis

the chasm like river had its own version
of what happened, and the crying calligraphies
on the walls simply digressed into poetry
to explain this mournful mausoleum’s demise

into an imperial anecdote.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Topkapi


Topkapi
Originally uploaded by ashishgorde.
Although the poem was inspired by Ropkapi, nevertheless, it was this photograph that was the main catalyst behind my writing the poem.

When I stood there in Topkapi and drank in the scene, the place intrigued and fascinated me for the rich history of the place and the magnificence of its architecture.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Topkapi

i searched for comfort in history's
forgotten backyard, a reckless debris
it was: angry stone and mute granite
cobbling together in an ornate dance,
and the wind like a swirling dervish
swaying with the fury of a woman
scorned. the ottoman walls wailed
over memories of miseries enacted here,
and over pleasures that were played out
by the banks of the nearby bosphorus –
a pliable backdrop, if ever there was any,
to this decaying palatial harem
where eunuchs and courtiers conspired
to stretch an empire beyond the marmara.
i was all alone when i witnessed all this
from my zephyr burnished perch, an impossible
privilege in the days of the sultan
and now a mere salutary stop
in a tourist’s itinerary. i was perturbed,
to say the least, at what this meant
and found no comfort in pitying
the significance of this moment
as i saw before my eyes
centuries of conquests collapse
into a parable of the inevitable.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Reading in the Ruins


Ruins
Originally uploaded by ashishgorde.
This was a very accidental picture. I was taking a long walk in Delhi and trying to absorb the sights and sounds on my own, and hoping to capture good images on the way.

I stepped into the ruins of the Sher Shah Suri mosque, which is located right opposite the Old Fort. At one time the mosque was part of the Old Fort complex but a new highway has now separated the two.

For some strange reason, I was under the impression that the ruins of the mosque were the Fort itself. But the man guarding the place told me that the Fort was at the opposite side of the road. He, however, asked me to take a look around and gave me a brief history of the place.

While listening to him, I noticed these two people reading the Quran inside the mosque and the sight impressed me so much that I zoomed in and clicked. I wish I had gone a little closer but then, I would have, possibly, distracted them and lost the picture forever.

Some intense Photoshop work has gone into the picture and thanks to it, I am able to present it with a richer contrast and in black/ white.

Somehow I just love black and white pictures.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Peter

Contemplating a certain thought of wisdom
on these smooth and broad gentile plains
my brain ached and remembered a room
in a familiar, strange and restless city
where as a young man I was gently led
like a sheep to the fold.
There I was but not alone,
really there were twelve of us
each one timid, fearful and unaware
only silently listening to what He said.

Silently after a little while
we broke bread and ate because we were hungry
and needed food; and we tasted the wine
which was so bitter and also so strangely sweet
that in our thirst we remembered the prophets:
what they had yearned for and,
how easily in our midst we beheld that.

This much of theology I understood
that is, how much ever I saw
not only because it was so tangible and real
but even so because I could fathom it
in my mind and rationalise its implications
but there was something else that happened
which I was not prepared for,
something which made me curiously baffled,
speechless and completely out of ease,
something which, for a moment at least,
forced me into a sudden indecision
that now on reflection I ask myself,
"Why was I hasty to have my feet washed?"

But time has inflicted a better cure
and whenever afterwards I remembered that night
always a new thought strikes me,
a new wisdom speaks to me; as if it was
God himself talking to me and telling me,
how much of myself I have to give Him;
how much of all that I cherish I have to sacrifice
and how much more I have to lean on Him
to cleanse me and my feet
as I walk reluctantly in these chains
on these smooth and broad Gentile plains
to my inevitable death and obvious glory.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Wealth


wealth
Originally uploaded by ashishgorde.
During my trip to India in the summer of 2004, I saw this man sitting all by himself near a railway station in suburban Bombay.

I wasn't sure whether or not to take this picture but after walking a few yards, I knew I had no choice but to take a snap. Looking at him, I was struck by his determination to make ends meet even though it looked rather futile.

It is for this reason alone, I titled this picture "Wealth".

Monday, March 21, 2005

All good intentions

What does one do if one's good intentions are misunderstood and misinterpreted?

First option would be to tear one's hair and scream as loud as one possibly can but, upon serious reflection... there is really nothing you can do or should do. Good intentions are meant to be selfless acts of kindness and goodness. They are intended to demonstrate our capacity to think beyond ourselves and think of someone else... hence, if the action is misinterpreted, we must see it as an occupational hazard.

All through history, goodness has always received a raw deal. And the 21st century does not appear to be any different.

What does work in this day and age is goodness that's well packaged and offers instant gratification towards achieving 'peace of mind'. It's all superficial, of course, but sadly that's what works. No one goes for the long haul. The kind of goodness that demand selflessness, sacrifices, persecution, injury, disgrace, martyrdom are brushed under the carpet because they are not pleasing enough.

But yes, if martyrdom can be achieved during prime-time it will be seriously considered.

And in the meantime, we must continue doing the good we can outside the glare of publicity and if need be, continue to 'carry our cross daily', as Christ once said.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Riting Nglish in SMS

Language purists often decry the "corruption" of the English language through SMS and email. The argument goes that the so-called messages passed to and fro via this media cannot be considered "English". They aren't just spelt incorrectly but there, also, appears to be a total absence of syntax, punctuation and grammar. And to make matters worse, the messages don't even "look" English!

But this argument has a curious history and goes back, at least, fifty or sixty years since popular culture became an intrinsic part of people's lives through cinema, radio and television. Back then, it was popular culture that was vilified for its so-called corrupting influence and blamed for promoting slangs and colloquialisms in everyday speech.

Of course, the nature of popular culture was also undergoing a seismic shift during this period of time and the reaction was understandable. Entertainment was becoming less elitist and market forces became a determining factor in deciding what's in and what's out. And as far as language was concerned, the "prescriptive" approach found no takers and soon culture began to find its inspiration in imitating the sounds and rhythms of the common "man". Hence, "standard" English, for example, was no longer seen as the lingua franca of popular culture but became just another means for denoting a character of a particular social class and/ or, a particular kind of education.

In this context, the so-called English used in SMS and email raises certain valid questions.
Are we looking at a dialect spoken by a new sub-culture? Does this dialect require such linguistic anarchy to justify its existence? Is this a shining example of the way people communicate in the twenty-first century? And, most importantly, are we faced with a new linguistic tool for today’s popular culture.

But before we ponder hard over these questions, it is worthwhile to remember that, sometimes, laziness plays a crucial role in mangling grammatical forms and in omitting punctuation. Economics of space, connection speed and the crushing need to rush through time are, also, seen as fellow culprits. But if we are honest enough we need to ask ourselves: no matter what, can we truly justify the absence of grammar and punctuation in our need to communicate as quickly as possible?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Valentine morning

Valentine is a day of love and my doggie gave a little demonstration of dog-love on the morning of 14th February.

It must have been 3 am when she started barking loudly. It was an unusual kind of bark because she didn’t shatter the ear drums like the way she does when she spots cats in the garden. This was somewhat high pitched but with a gentler sound. As she continued barking loudly, we were curious and looked out of the window to see if there was anyone or anything lurking outside. Was it a cat or a potential burglar? But there was nothing at all.

Finally, we heard a faint sound out in the distance. It was a yelping sound that gradually grew louder and louder till the yelp sounded more like a tearful bark than anything else. We looked out to see what it was and saw a frightened little puppy in our garden. It was, apparently, lost and it was yelping in response to our doggie’s barks.

And then, it dawned on us as to why our doggie was barking for such a long time and in such a strange manner. She was, in fact, communicating to this puppy and guiding it to come to our garden and find shelter there. I don’t know if there is any scientific explanation for this but that’s the only plausible reason I can find for this behaviour.

We opened the door and thought of checking the puppy out and, possibly, take her home or something. But sadly, the moment it saw us it ran our of the garden and our of our housing compound as fast as possible. Sad to say, we didn’t follow the dog and simply returned to our house and continued with our broken sleep. But our doggie, on the other hand, was restless. I don’t know if its possible to read a dog’s face but that morning and, in fact, the whole day my doggie looked very concerned and was constantly looking out of the window to see whether or not the puppy was there.

In fact yesterday morning when I woke up at my usual time, I heard the puppy bark outside my house. I stepped outdoors and couldn’t see it anywhere in the garden nor in the compound and so I had to walk outside the compound and I saw this puppy standing on the road near a makeshift basketball court. But as soon as I walked towards it, the puppy ran away and no amount of coaxing and shouting helped because it was nowhere to be found.

I don’t want to give up and I plan to get hold of that puppy someday soon because I don’t think it’s safe for a young pup to be on the road on its own. I plan to take it to the dog shelter so they could find someone to adopt it or, better still, I might look for someone who is interested in a pup.

But I was quite intrigued by my doggie’s behaviour because, for the first time, I saw a demonstration of her maternal instincts. She literally went out of her to protect this puppy in the best way she could. In my opinion, this was an act of love that my doggie showed to a complete stranger and it is something we can certainly learn from.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.


It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.


It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.


I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.


I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
remember the limitations of being human.


It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.


I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.


I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”


It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.


It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.


It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.


I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.


-Oriah Mountain Dreamer

(got this piece while browsing the web and thought it must be featured on my blog so I can read this whenever I want)

Monday, January 31, 2005

Once more, I blog

Sometimes I wonder what Descartes would have said about the blogging experience. "I blog, therefore I am?" Maybe he wouldnt have said anything at all or, perhaps, it would have confused him even more. The whole idea of virtual reality of which blogging is just a tiny component would have baffled him completely and, probably, pushed him towards developing new ideas to probe his own existence and to explain who and what he is.

I am fairly new to this blogging thing and, so far, I havent shown any indication of being a persistent one. It requires discipline to jot down one's thoughts daily and put them in multiple paragraphs. One has to move from that diary-journal mindset and think in terms of writing articles and opinion pieces and what have you. The world may not change after what we write in our blog but... at least, we've had our say and said our piece. And that's the bottom line.

I hope to be more regular with these blogs so that I can say what I want to say and never have to worry of having not said it at all. Long tongue twister there, I know.

Anyway, whoever you are reading this piece, friend or stranger, close chum or enemy, thank you for visiting this site and do come back again. And most importantly, leave your comments behind so that I can get to know you better and know whetehr or not we sing from the same book.

And yes, on my part, I'll be more regular and contribute regularly to the blog. So keep looking.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Walls

They were looking at me
they were staring so wickedly
and that too for such a long time
I blushed and felt embarrassed
for reasons best known to Dr. Freud.

I smiled and simply turned my head
and faced the convenient wall
which was tall and strong
as it should be,
especially during times such as these.

Only that the wall wept
thick and dewy tears
when I faced it
making me more embarrassed than surprised
because I discovered that even walls blush!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

How to be a nuisance

While on the subject of growing old and not getting any younger, let me add a few parting words before I draw the curtains on the topic and not discuss it for a long, long time.

I feel I have to say this and get it off my chest because it is an observation that I’ve made and it annoys me no end.

When we are young and are bursting with ideas and show potential for talent, we are encouraged by all the ‘grown-ups’ around us and are constantly urged to reach our full potential. Some of these same ‘grown-ups’ even attempt to ‘mentor’ us just to show how supportive they are towards us.

But the moment we cross the rubicon, meaning, ‘youthful years’, then, things begin to change especially if we are still bursting with new and innovative ideas. If we were admired for our ideas when we were younger, then, in the same token when we become adults, we are seen as a nuisance.

We suddenly lose our perch and the insecurities of these petty people suddenly turn us into a ‘pain in the butt’, ‘idealistic’, ‘non-realistic’, ‘uncontrollable’, what have you.

Suddenly we cease to be the object of admiration but are seen as an ‘obstacle’ for any worthwhile progress mainly because we see a different way of solving an issue and still prefer not sticking to the tried and tested.

Of course I’ve given the worst-case-scenario over here.

One way of avoiding this outcome is a fairly simple solution and one greatly admired by the petty grown-ups. Continue having these wild innovative ideas and continue making the petty grown-ups feel they are the most important beings in the universe. Give them the ego massage they crave and do your work.

However, this is easier said than done because the moment one develops ‘ideas’ and embarks on developing an individual mindset, you are bound to upset a lot of people. Petty people are the first ones who will oppose and disagree with you. And because of this one has to accept the fact that one can never please all people at all times and that becoming a nuisance and spoilsport might be our lot.

After all, who said growing up was easy?