Sunday, September 27, 2009

792 : Music 53 : Iktara from Wake Up Sid


(17th Dec 2009 update - male version of this song available at )

In my opinion, the most difficult songs to make are the ones which convey happiness or “aliveness”……and hence these songs tend to be very rare. If you hear these songs, they instantly convey their sense of mischief and fun and love….all interspersed.

I can think of two songs off the top of my head….. “Aap Ki Ankhon” Lata didi + Kishore from Ghar, and Summertime Rocks by Smoke (Ashu and Kaliash Kher).

And then yesterday, I heard Iktara. Its a very difficult song….Its inherently a very “alive” song, but sung in a very deep meditative melancholic voice.

What to make of such a song….I think its hauntingly addictive. Amit Trivedi has done a outstanding job with the music and orchestration. As I was telling spousey, this a song made for the movies….great harmony, phenomenal melody, a happy song with unusual vocals….made for a soundtrack song.

Read the whole song in totality, and you will know what good poetry should be. Take a simple everyday experience and throw a dash of great wordsmithing and imagery.

What to look out for
1. Javed Aktat’s lyrics.
2.Kavita Seth’s brooding vocals.
3. Harmony created by Amitabh Bhattacharya (male vocalist)
4. Amit Trivedi’s music and the arrangement.

I have reproduced the lyrics below, and have added my summary translation to help you get the general gist.

Orey manva tu to bavra hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai bavre
Kyun dikhaye sapne tu sote jaagte

(My heart, you are so naive, the start of a dream, and you have already stopped thinking (rationally!!))

Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Nainon ko moond moond
Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Kaise main chaloon, dekh na sakoon
Anjaane raastein

(When the dreams are pouring drop by drop, my eyes are getting blocked by the downpour, and hence I am unable to walk on these unfamiliar routes).

Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Dheeme bole koi iktara iktara, dheeme bole koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara

Sun rahi hoon sudh budh khoke koi main kahani
Poori kahani hai kya kise hai pata
Main to kisiki hoke yeh bhi na jaani
Ruth hai ye do pal ki ya rehgi sada
kise hai pata… kise hai pata

(Iktara is a single stringed instrument capable of a deep bass and a sharp treble…..and hence is metaphorical of music and the seven notes and life’s up and down in general. This para says,
There is an iktara playing all around me, slowly surrounding me. As I am listening to its story, (I) am losing myself in it, mesmerized, so much so, that I don’t know whether (it) is telling me the “whole” story, or just parts of it…..How can I gauge that, when I have myself become part of a story, without knowing whether it is just a tale of a few moments, or will it last forever….)

Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Nainon ko moond moond
Jo barse sapne boond boond
Nainon ko moond moond
Kaise main chaloon, dekh na sakoon
Anjaane raastein

Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara
Dheeme bole koi iktara iktara, dheeme bole koi iktara
Gunjasa hai koi iktara iktara, gunjasa hai koi iktara

Top songs for 2009 so far

1. Arziyan (From Delhi 6)
2. Kaminey (Title Track)
3. Iktara (Wake up sid)
4. Masakalli (From Delhi 6)
5. Dhan Te Nan (From Kaminey)

791 : Of black sheep, blue herons and white tigers…




My sis bought a new book, and before she knew, I was beating the socks out of the “White Tiger” by Arvind Adiga. She gently reminded me, “did you even try reading it?”.

No, I did not, and my hopelessly muddled argument was “You don’t need to cut a finger to test the sharpness of the knife” or something to that effect.

As I am growing older, my biases are growing stronger, and I am expressing it too often. I think both of these actions are very non-Buddhist qualities (what I mean is they are not peace accretive or “they add to the entropy”)….and hence need to stop.

Okay sis….advice taken….next time, I will avoid the temptation to mouth platitudes about the “shit” before I have actually tasted it …..guffaw :-)

(PS : Later at her dinner table, I did pick up the book and read about 12-20 pages, and fortunately, my bias was bang on. Its a very unimaginative book, both in terms of prose quality and plot. I actually think, I have better prose and plots in my head. I think its time to hit the laptop running…)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

790 : The beauty of faith

I saw people circumbulating the Guruvayoor temple, on their bare torsos (they revolve around the temple by rotating on their torsos). Some people do this 108 times, each round being at least 75 metres. Its a 4-7 hour process, but people do it.

That for me, is the magic of “faith”….a commodity that I sorely lack in my portfolio.

789 : The best of this trip….

Of all the temples, I visited this time, I liked the Mammayur Shiva temple the best….why?

In this temple, in the centre there is this big auditorium, in which a thin frail Mallu girl was singing “live”. She had a tabla and harmonium for company.

She was singing Krishna Bhajans in Hindi, mostly Kajri’s …the playful songs of Krishna.

Her diction was chaste (as in perfect)….her voice and mike control was precise, and her notes come out in perfect synchronization.

For me, this was easily the best experience of the trip. I definitely believe, its far easier to reach the “truth” if you follow your dharma and douse yourself in art. Music is definitely one of the easiest roads to finding the “truth”. Its neither the bhakti way nor the meditative way, its the 3rd way (in my opinion), its the Tao way, the way of experiencing “present” life to the fullest….and in that moment discovering (yet) another internal connect.

788 : What is a temple?

Being the atheist (and analytical engineer) that I am, I end up deconstructing most items on my plate. Why leave out temples?

Temples for me, are a work of art, a geographical confluence, where all living beings come with only good in their mind (now of course, to define “good” you need to be bipolar….which actually most doctrines refuse to let you be…but I am not defined by any such diktat……so I can define “good”….for me “good” is whatever is your chosen “dharma”)…a temple is also a sanctum of idols and works of art which are nurtured, treated with respect and love, and are displayed to other human beings in order to deliver the messages of their aesthetics and sublimity.

So far…heavy worded….hah? Thankfully, thats it, thats my definition.

So which are the temples I like. Bahai temple at Delhi (not been there yet), Ramakrishna Mutth , Khar (been there multiple times as a kid with dad), Mcleod Gunj Dharamsala (not been there yet), Golden Temple, Amritsar (not there yet again)…..

(Irony….of this list, three of them I was planning to cover in an October drive…..sadly, that is not put off to another day….when…. “God knows”…..guffaw!!)

So whats my point…..?

I struggle with temples like Shirdi, Guruvayoor, Palni, Rameshwaram and the ilk…..Why?

I think these temples have been artificially made claustrophobic, never a design element in their original structure….there is rank commercialism surrounding their facades…..the governing bodies treat us fellow beings as lowly shit….(how many of you have paid a price to skip the huge lines @ Shirdi or guruvayoor, or how many of you have used the services of an uncle to sit through a paal abhishek @ Palni…the list goes on and on)

The inherent beauty and peace (and sanctum) of these temples have been ruined by our fellow human beings….but we are as much party to it, by pandering to their absurd processes and rules.

Why for example, should a temple ban cameras? Which God ever objected to his being photographed? And if God is phobic to new technology advances, then what is a metal detector doing at the entrance of the temple? Why does the priest carry his own camera and then charge you Rs.80 for a snap?

I actually think, in this sense, both the Christians and Muslims have gone their basics right. They use the mosque/church as a social gathering….a place where you not only follow a few rituals, but also strive for inner peace. You are allowed to be yourself at both of these places.

We Hindus, have taken processes and structure to an extent, that now most of us believe, that is what we need to do at a temple.

As the heretics say, faith and belief are fundamental in any spiritual transaction. I have neither faith nor belief in these muddle headed temple schemes, and hence maybe my vision is blurred and gray :-)

787 : The temple’s call is in the wind….

My mom says, you never go to a temple, its the temple which calls you.

This is one of the few times in our lives that I wholly agree with her :-)

Monday, September 21, 2009


“In the name of Allah the beneficial, the merciful", and Numerical sum is 786. Praised be the Prophet and the Great Allah.

(see I am not only an atheist, I am secular atheist….that must be another first!! If you still dont get why this post, go back and note the number of the post!! Its good timing that this post came up on the day of Eid right!!)

785 : (Politically incorrect)…Mallu Women

(Please read this as being a light hearted dig at the Kerala world. This is not meant to be more serious than Tom and Jerry, if you know what I mean….if it hurts you in any way, you dumbass serious guy, apologies in advance.)

Q : On what parameters are mallu women judged?
A : Facial hair, bosom sizes, and hip sizes.

Q : Why do mallu women need have buxom bosoms?
A : Years ago, they started wearing a lot of neck jewelery. Their deep clavicles(cleavage for the uninitiated) and buxom busts are a direct evolutionary response to this need to hoist neck jewellery. If this had not happened, a lot of women would have suffered from spondylitis.

Q : Why is the traditional dress of mallu women 3 piece (blouse, a lower petticoat, and a short saree for the top)?
A : Years ago, when mallu women were still becoming amazonian…the saree makers did not respond quickly enough to this evolutionary change. Hence, they continued make the normal sarees, which began only covering the tops of these amazonias…and these females were forced to make the 3 piece fashion statement. Today it is considered as culture and style.

Q : Why do mallu women have wiry hair and tie two braids out of them?
A : Given the number of children they have, they need to allow every single oppurtunity for children to cling to them. Wiry hair and the braids, allow at least 2 children to cling onto their mothers. The rest can be seated on their bosoms and buttocks.

(to be continued at leisure….)

784 : ….but some of us choose to walk away from it



783 : There is lot of shit in everyone’s life….


782 : Spelling bee let loose to sting @ Kerala.

Here are some examples, I will leave it to you on how you want to judge them.

- “Jothi Medical Stores”
- “Vasunthara Silk Mills”
- “Silpa Medical Stores”
- “Rugmini Residency”
- “Aysha Pharamacy”
- “Nightingal Nursing College”
- “Krishna & Menon – The REAL Marriage Consultants”
- “Onion Oothapham”
- “Mar grigarious church”
- “Pip po go po children’s wear”
- “Churidhar”
- “Ladies Chuddidar”

781 : Veg soap or non-veg soap?

Picture this.

I call house keeping @ Indraprastha hotel @ Palakkad.

Me : (dial 5) I need 2 soaps.
(a few minutes later, a bell my door).
A malloo usher comes in….as soon as I opened the door.
Usher : Yes sir…
Me : (gesticulating and adding in Tamil) Did you get the soap?
Usher : Yes, sir, veg or non-veg soap?
Me : (Perplexed and in tamil again) I asked for 2 soaps, did you get it?
Usher : Yes, sir, veg or non-veg (in malayalam), will get it soon.
Me : (at this point I freak out and say in tamil), I need soaps for bathing.
Usher : (in malayalam) Aah, sir, for bathing. I thought you wanted soup. (and for same strange reason, he now pronounced soup as soup, and not as soap).

What I found very funny was it appears in Indraprastha, the room service and house keeping is done by the same set of guys. How else do you explain, a house keeping guy ready to take an order for soups.

780 : I am worth my weight in Banana

My mom wanted me to do Thullabaaram @ Guruvayoor. Being the calculating one that I know her to be :-), she chose bananas as my counter-weigh.

In Thullbaaram, you are weighed against an item, and then you offer the equivalent monies to the lord.

I weighed enough to load up on 87kgs of bananas and paid 1310 rupees for that.

I think I can claim to be the world’s first atheist to have participated in the Thullabaarm. Anyone to contest that claim?

779 : The malayali roots in me…Putt Kadalai

For the past 3 days, I have eaten Putt Kadalai in some 5 different meals. I like it, its simple and its the rediscovery of my Malayali roots :-)


A detailed write up at

778 : Best sculpture store in this world (so far…)

People who know me, will know this,  sculpture (either in wood, metal or stone) is a weakness with me. I think I have found the best shop for this in the world. Its on  NH47, as soon as you exit Palakkad towards Thrissur.

It has lifesize lions made of brass, it has Ganeshas and Buddhas and the ilk….Temple idols, temple door, sandclocks……. Two storey shop genuine hand made antique stuff. Definitely worth a visit.

Do visit it if you are closeby, if you are like me, you will be salivating.

Did I buy anything? Guess…guess….

- Mannadiar Handicrafts @ Manalur, Palakkad on NH47 – about 3 kms from the city.

777 : Incongrous songs continued…

Sitting at a jewellery shop@ Palakkad Sulthanpet Market, and the music system (Koryo:-)) has SPB and Anuradha Paudwal from Sajjan going “Bahut Pyar Karte Hain Tumko Sanam, Kasam chahe lelo khuda ki kasam”.

I could not help remark, if his designs are as archaic as his choice in songs, then maybe we are in wrong shop :-)

776 : Banana Chips (another option)

On NH47, just as you exit Palakkad and drive towards Thrissur, a whole series of shops which sell freshly made chips, coconut oil, tea leaves and some assortment.

You cannot miss this melee, its at least 20-30 shops spread across 200 metres.

775 : Best banana chips near Palakkad, Kerala (at Alathur)

SNR Chips @ Alathur makes the best banana and jackfruit chips near this place. I must admit, that I am not a connuisuer, but must say that it is really good. Fresh, hot and requires waiting for about 1 hour if you buy more than a kg.

About a km off NH47.

Cooks in this huge brass cauldron, a large urli….the flame and oil are piping hot and the chips look amazing as they are cooked.

Highly recommended.

774 : Palakkad Nedungadee’s Saree Paradise + Hotel Ashok Bhuvan

My wife and mom bought Saree’s from Nedungadee’s Saree Paradise @ Sulthanpet (yeah!! thats how they spell it), Palakkad.

Its supposedly at least 50 years old, my mom remember shopping here as a kid.

The right after the shop hosts Ashok Bhuvan, which once upon a time used to a preferred family joint. My mom says that is at least 70 years old and the family ownership had not changed since then.

We ate there on the first night, did not find it outstanding.

My mom was telling me that she had come here to eat with “Lalitha aunty” (my favorite aunt, and immediate relative…she topped the list) and her hubby, post their marriage. She remembered the day so vividly and she was describing the day to us.

…nostalgia is a funny emotion, right :-)

773 : The wealth of families…

If Adam Smith were to be born in Kerala and write “The Wealth of Nations”, it would have an Elephant on the cover page. My mom tells me that to have a domesticated elephant in Kerala is the sure demonstration of wealth and stature.

Then for good measure she added, that her grandfather used to own one for a brief period.

So I used to be wealthy at one point….hmmmph!!

772 : “Cool Bar” @ Kerala

Kerala is full of cool bars. Every street you walk in will have boards which read
- Cool Bar
- or Cool Bar & Bakery
- or Cool Bar & Hot Drinks

You get the drift?

Before you get all excited, a cool bar is nothing but a shop where you can get soda pop and/or juices. I think except for the esoteric name, nothing else is either “cool” or “bar” about it.

771 : Incongruous Songs

At Elite (@ Guruvayoor) , day before yesterday,  during breakfast, they were playing Pankaj Udhas singing “Chalo Pee ley ke yaar aaye na aaye” from his album “Rubayat” – an interpretation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubayee(s).

On the same day, while we were exiting the temple and one of the audio shops just outside was playing “Su Chhe” from “Whats your rashee”.

The second one was crass and commercial, the first one was nostalgic and rare, but in both cases seemed very incongruous for a Guruvayoor setting.

What say?

(The first one is actually a very sublime song….sung and composed beautifully by Pankaj Udhas…..I heard it when I was around 16, never heard it after that, up until day before….but I still remember the key refrain…. “chalo pee ley ke yaar aaye na aaye, yeh mausam baar baar aaye na aaye….”

770 : Elite @ Guruvayoor Temple

Day before yesterday, we had meals at Surabhi, a restaurant connected to hotel Elite @ Guruvayoor. A proper South Indian meal comprising of
- thick brown rice (which I just love….)
- Sambar
- Curry
- Avvial
- Curds
- Onion chutney
- Padwal Sabji
- Mango Pickle
- Pappadam
- Jeera Garlic Rasam
- Thayeer Molgai (Curd Chilli)
- Cocunut payasam.

Must rate as one of the most outstanding meals in my memory. Felt home made, was unlimited and hence felt like home again, and tasted just like home.

It cost Rs.55 per person, and makes me believe, that to experience heaven on earth, you dont need too much money….just a bit of insider info….in this case, Vinod (Panikar) recommended this place to me.

Thanks Vinod!! Appreciated.

769 : Allah Mohammed Char Yaar….

At my cousin’s house yday, 5 of us sat in her main room, trying to make some conversation. Every one minute or so, somebody said a few sentences and then everyone looked at each other. The conversation was just not picking up, and the awkwardness was building up.

Then someone turned up the TV volume, and ever so smoothly, everyone felt at ease, because the pressure to talk was gone.

I don’t know about others, but for me, distance does impact me….It makes my (already highly suspect) ability to make conversation almost disappear.

Feelings and bonding seem to remain strong, inspite of distance. One my closest buddies stays at Florida, we have not spoken in years now. Does it impact my ability to converse with him now….absolutely. No way, I could have a 30 min chat with him now without a few awkward pauses.

How important is conversations in a relationship? Well, that is a matter of (crooked )perspective….

768 : Time stuck in a statis zone…

Yday, I had been to visit my first cousin (who is a full 28 years elder to me). She lives alone with her son in a village near Palakkad. I was meeting her after about 25 years, and had little interest in the re-union, and tagged along because of my parents.

They have a big house, 5 rooms each of about 200-250 sq feet, plus about 300 sq feet of a cow shed, 2 rooms for servants, and about 1000 sq feet of plantation.

I was so astonished to look at the state of the house. There were artifacts from an era I had forgotten. Some of the noticeable ones were
- A non-foldable, and yet Singer, sewing machine. Evidently not touched for years, yet occupying prime space in the main room of the house.
- A wall clock, “BIM BAM” was the brand name, with a large pendulum, which requires winding every 2 days….and it was still the primary clock in the house.
- A Solitaire Color Television…..must be at least 20 years old.
- 2 cassette players, neither of which will work now….they were at least 15 years old.
- The design of the furniture was archaic and unkempt to say the least.
- Suitcases and briefcases were clinging and jumping out of every crux and corner.
- A non-working fridge which is now used as a cupboard (If you find that funny, I used to have that in our Thane house, for the first 4 years of my life…a light blue colored fridge).
- A collection of Asian Paints containers all over the house – presumably to be used as buckets.
- A bajaj fan which must have been at least 20 years old.

I dont mean to judge her, in fact thats further most from my intention. I was just appalled at how much we allow clutter to collect around ourselves. If we cannot let go of a fridge gone bad, how do we ever imagine we shall die (and hence live) in peace.

As I was leaving the house, I felt a small lump in my throat, knowing this is probably the last time I am seeing her, and that I can do little or nothing to make her live her life better. Wanted to tell her, that we only live once, let the universe overwhelm you…..There is so much we can do to live a fuller life, and none of them require money, time or great health…..all it requires is one thing…to be “alive”, to be want to “a life”.

767 : Obsessed with wood, not with the furniture…

Kerala is obsessed with gold in general, the designs are all crappy, unimaginative and rudderless. Infact for most finished pieces, it is the amount of gold and precious stones employed that becomes a key conversation factor before buying.

When gold, and not its art, is a focus item…. “gold” starts  behaving more like “money” and less like “beauty”.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

766 : A 2 way street with each street thinking its a 1 way…

Some of my parent’s relatives and friends have been dropping by in the evening to meet us. Being the trophy child, wife and I me had to spend customary social time with total strangers.

I struggled to relate or make any conversation with these folks. Their priorities and lifestyles seemed so alien to me (and mind not, it was not big city vs. small city battle), it was values vs. values.

Example, one of the relatives spoke for about 10 mins on the merits of being an Iyer over a Nair (she is an Iyer married to a Nair, so she is supposedly the subject matter expert on this topic)…..for me….it was like WTF. From where I come, I could change my name to Nair tomorrow and no one could care (or even know).

Since I struggled so much with these folks, I forced a silent retreat, not talking too much, but still show customary participation. And then I realized, (almost in a moment of epiphany), that a few years ago (say 7), I used to crib that my parents don’t relate to my friends and my circle….They still don’t, but now it does not bother me at all…..but I could also see (yday), why this must be happening. They must be looking at few 30 year olds talking about a bike trip to Leh, while eating from the same plate, which also contains pieces of chicken….and must be wondering…WTF, how can they talk of Leh, eat food from a plate contaminated by chicken…. “such misplaced priorities and values”.

And we thought, generational conflict was only depicted in movies :-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

765 : Clear Blue Sky, Clear Black Day….

(view from Indraprastha Hotel @ Palakkad)



764 : Kerala is obsessed with…

1. Jewelry stores.
2. Medicine stores. (Every 4th shop is a pharmacist, whats up folks?)
3. Toddy and fish.

763 : Electronica and the art of braying…

All over Kerala, the new rage seems to be devotional songs (even traditional ones, some even familiar to me) set to electronica and sung in a very flat voice….no high tones, no emotions.

I hate it, especially since I grew up listening to MS/Maharajpuram Santhanam and their fantastic renditions of these songs. The Krithis and compositions retain the familiarity, but appear so crass and crappy….but seems like thats what works now.

My point is, why re-interpret art, if you can’t add more layers to it? And these songs are not those which are so complex and inaccessible that they need simplification. I listened to them, when I was 4 and I loved them….so it can’t be that difficult.

762 : Sir, dosa will take a little time…

Today morning, Kash and I walk into the 24 hour coffee shop(of our Hotel) and order tea and dosa. The time is 6AM. The waiter comes out in some time and says in Malayalam, “Dosa will take time”, and I say in Tamil, “Cancel it.”

My wife is the optimist amongst us, so she says, “abbey, at least ask how much time, he cannot take more than 40 minutes, right?”

I tell her, in normal course, in Kerala, tea takes 20 minutes and Dosa takes 30 odd mins. ButI still ask the waiter in Tamil, “How much time"?” and he says “about an hour” without batting an eyelid.

This same order in an Udipi resturant in Mumbai would take 5 mins. I am ready to bet on that.

Is this what Einstein was referring to when he spoke about relativity.

(We are living at this place called Indraprashta in Palakkad, supposedly a 3 star hotel.)

761 : Tourists in a small town…

My wife and I are holding hands and walking on the streets out at Palakkad. We are also laughing loudly (like Bart Simpson!!). The locals here are aghast….. PDA and fun don’t seem to be common out here.

Existential question : When in Rome, do you live like Romans, or can you…. if you are a Roman, live as if the whole world were Rome ? :-))

760 : A ridiculous question:-)

One of my posts was going to be titled, “is it normal to be different/off the curve”….and then I realized the ridiculous-ness of the question. Guffaw!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

759 : I am only happy when it rains…

Mom and I walked were walking back from the market, when it started drizzling. We walked the last 10 minutes through pitter patter, pitter patter.

After we came back to the hotel, she insisted I jab my wet head with a towel, which I refused, like I always do. I am child of this earth, and I will dabble with the 5 elements, just as freely as I learn to respect them.

I find this business of running scared of a drizzle complete hocus pocus and wishy washy. There is no scientific evidence to link a slightly wet hair with any sort of chill or sinus issues.

How long before we humans learn to question what is stated as the “obvious”?

758 : Springtime ebb, autumn and winter…

My parents and I are staying in different hotel rooms today. Its around 9 now, and he had knocked to get some stuff he had earlier left in my bag. After I handed it over to him, he “thanked” me, and apologized for “disturbing us”.

I wished him a warm good night, but not before I experienced a chill & frost emanating from this relationship in its winter. (How far and long have we travelled, neither having counted the miles, nor having arrived at a destination.)

Summer is on its way, and the thawing will start. Question is, can we wait until the heat seeps in?

757 : Paint a picture of the days gone by…

I was walking with my mom (today) in Palakkad, a small precinct in Kerala where she grew up, and a place she abandoned 47 years ago. I could see her subdued excitement as she was explaining to us the streets and shopping places, and eating houses.

Of course she struggled with the fact that the place has significantly changed since her growing up days.

Both my grandparents were born and raised here. Both my parents spent some 15 odd years here. No one from my generation lives here. My child would never know that Palakkad is a place on the map, she actually does not need to know.

When I am 61 (will I ever be…fat chance :-))), where will I walk with my child (if ever, again!!)….and what shall I tell him/her.

Maybe I can walk her to the Talao Pani at Thane, during the 10th day of Ganesh Visarjan. My dad used to take me there religiously every year till I was 12, and I have very fond memories of those days. That’s something to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

756 : A Light in winter – from happy days blog (

This is writing at its “emotional tugging” best.

Actual article at

Reproduced below for easier reading.

September 13, 2009, 9:00 pm

A Light in Winter

By Eric G. Wilson

On March 16, 2002, when daffodils were swaying in the slowly warming wind of a North Carolina spring, I found myself in a snug hospital room with my wife and just-born daughter, only hours old, and I thought of ice.

A poem called “Frost at Midnight,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was on my mind. In this verse, written in 1798, Coleridge sits near his infant son, Hartley, on a winter night in England. He recalls events from his troubled life, one fraught with chronic miseries, ranging from melancholy to botched love to opium addiction to writer’s block. With a fervor usually reserved for prayer, the poet envisions a life for his son free of these problems — a vibrant, creative existence. Coleridge then asks nature itself to nurture his parental hope, invoking the potency of green summer but also, and especially, the winter’s “secret ministry of frost,” “quietly shining to the quiet moon.”
As a college professor, I had been teaching “Frost at Midnight” for years, and had decided, soon after my wife became pregnant, to read the poem to commemorate our baby’s birth. And so I did recite the poem to our girl — we named her Una — hoping, like Coleridge, that her life would be perennially blessed by leaves and ice alike, by summery days but also by the chilly periods when she would most need strength.

What intrigued and moved me about the poem was its curious suggestion that gloom and loneliness might actually cultivate a sort of luminous affection. Forlorn most of his life, Coleridge was acutely aware of the bliss of human connection. Had he led a life free of suffering he might have never realized the wondrous fullness that comes during a father’s watch over his child’s midnight sleep.

To be hollow with longing is to be suffused with love. The thirsty person best knows water. Wounded hearts realize the essence of healing.

These are Coleridge’s exhilarating and strangely hopeful conclusions. They are optimistic because they envision a world in which suffering, inevitable and pervasive as gravity, is not meaningless but rather a source of wisdom. Even in the darkest hell, there persists a consoling light, a light that pulsates all the more forcibly against its murky background. I held this hope high the day my girl was born, knowing that she, no matter how adept, would necessarily undergo failure, frustration, loss, and confusion.

Maybe these challenging episodes would push her to explore her life with more honesty, to assess with more rigor her strengths and weaknesses, and thus to discover useful truths unavailable in her more contented moments.

When Coleridge was nine years old, his own father, whom he very much loved, had died. His less-than-affectionate mother then basically orphaned him, sending him away to an inhospitable school for boys. By the time he matriculated to Cambridge, he was vacillating between anxiety and moroseness, discomforts he relieved through drinking and gambling. Perpetually distraught, he left college before receiving his degree and soon after, lonely and desperate for intimacy, married a woman he did not love. Their union turned out to be torment.

The birth of Hartley lightened his mood, but not for long. Calamity after calamity taxed his heart while also inciting a ghastly list of physical ills: insomnia, constipation, night terrors, neuralgia flare-ups, and, of course, the ill effects of laudanum overuse.

These psychological and physical afflictions pushed Coleridge into despair. As he confessed in his notebook, he was constantly beset by a “melancholy dreadful feeling” that reduced him to a catatonic state. No longer capable of conjuring stunning verses like those of “Kubla Khan,” he managed only “fruitless memoranda” on his “own Weakness.” His inability to do anything but dose on opium and jot complaints was to him “Degradation” worse even than suicide. Repulsed by his life but afraid of death, Coleridge drifted impotently between existence and annihilation, a kind of zombie. His harrowing conclusion: “We all look up to the Sky for comfort, but nothing appears there — nothing comforts, nothing answers us — & so we die.”

But if Coleridge made failure his vocation, he was very successful at it. In later life, he produced radiant descriptions of his funereal moods.

In another of his notebook entries, Coleridge compared his torment to that of fish dying on the shore, with the ocean only inches away: “The Fish gasps on the glittering mud, the mud of this once full stream, now only moist enough to be glittering mud/ the tide will flow back, time enough to lift me up with straws & withered sticks and bear me down to the ocean. O me! That being what I have been I should be what I am!”

Another time, he likened his wasted imagination to candle wax, once warm and flexible but now only stiff and dead. “The Poet is dead in me — my imagination … lies, like Cold Snuff on the circular Rim of a Brass Candle-stick, without even a stink of Tallow to remind you that it was once cloathed and mitred with flame.”

These striking images — a fish panting on lustrous muck, creativity reduced to cold tallow — arose from a mournful muse. Coleridge’s dejection begot these beauties.

This tension between grimness and genius marked the mature Coleridge’s most accomplished works: “Dejection: An Ode” (1802), “Limbo” (1810), and “Biographia Literaria” (1817). These works explore the distressing paradoxes — death is life, mystery is insight — that have driven me into my own fits of melancholy knowing.

Only months after that March day in the hospital, I sat in my study preparing for a class on Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and heard Una in another room gurgle and coo and then cry. I thought about how she would soon grow too old to play with me and then become too jaded to care about me and then leave home for somewhere else and only very seldom come back. I suddenly felt sadder than I ever had before. I felt the pain of losing her and the wonder of loving her. I adored her more for her imminent going. This wasn’t happiness, and it wasn’t pleasure. It was a more profound and durable experience, a moment encompassing both tragedy and euphoria, a child lost and a child found.

C.S. Lewis once claimed that the opening lines of “Kubla Khan” filled him with an unquenchable but rapturous yearning. He believed that such exultant aching is nothing other than joy: “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

The German term for this experience is, as Lewis tells us, sehnsucht, and it describes precisely what those instants when we are most alive: so sad we want to cry, so overjoyed that we weep. These antagonistic epiphanies, the inspirations of Coleridge’s genius, mark the transformative epochs of our lives.

I have been blessed by at least one such revelation, a marriage of verdure and frost. It keeps my fatherly affections as fresh as the spring, even though I know snow is never far. It holds me close to my girl as she walks into the cold distance. She is now seven years old and growing fast. She laughs as much as she cries.

Eric G. Wilson

Eric G. Wilson is Professor of English at Wake Forest University. He is the author of several books, including his most recent, “Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy.”


755 : First Death Anniversary

Today marks the anniversary of the death of an organization I used to take pride in working for. It was an organization which stood for hope and a promise of future in terms of my career. Very few organizations inspire that sort of confidence in me (Yeah, I am a eternal spotless pessimist :-))

When your “hope” dies, what do you do? Nothing, light a candle, murmur a silent prayer and walk on, just like the river water.

Green is dead, long live the green!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

754 : Alfa Romeo Trivia

Alfa in “Alfa Romeo” stands for Anomina Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili which stands for Lombardy Car Manufacturing Company

753 : Formula 1 Trivia

Supposedly in the early 50s and 60s, all Green racing cars( were British and all Red colored racing cars were Italian.

Napier Green still remains British’s racing color. How interesting!!

Always though an Alfa Romeo (who dominated the sport before Enzo Ferrari beat them at it) & Ferrari were Red because of the brand, and not because it was an Italian racing car.

752 : Haiku by Jim Kacian

the  cold night
comes out of these stones
all morning

(Pg 128 of Haiku Poetry Ancient & Modern, edited by Jackie Hardy for Tuttle Publishing)

751 : Haiku by Nicholae Ionel

Lantern on an old road
it gathers around
so much night

(Pg 100 of Haiku Poetry Ancient & Modern, edited by Jackie Hardy for Tuttle Publishing)

750 : The power of being vulnerable….

All of us at some point or the other have dealt with tiny babies. Though we might have been tired, we have cradled the little ones on our arms and let them sleep, though we thought it was ludicrous, we drove an hour to purchase them a balloon, though it was 2pm at night, we happily let go of our own sleep to feed the little one.

And this does not stop with human babies….All of us chase pigeons and rodents out of our house. How many of us ever decide to abandon the tiny fledgling that these adults leave behind? The tiny rat is just as heart-wrenching as a human baby, isn’t it?

On an angry day full of road-rage, you might be tempted to graze past a loitering dog….but, what if it a puppy? Our screaming V6’s coming to a screeching halt…ABS kicks in on all our brakes.

The world conspires against all, in order to accommodates the little ones. Why?

Maybe because they are vulnerable, and we all know about it, and the interesting part is, they don’t make any bones about it. They are almost telling us, “I do need help from you, I survive on it, and maybe its that language of hope and nakedness that binds strings into the toughest of hearts.”

Strangely, this feeling of empathy, all but disappears, if you take either the “vulnerability” or its matter-of-fact-“acceptance” out of the equation. Look no far….the slaughtering of a hen, a rape, a cold blooded murder….all illustrate (the other side of)  my observation, that if you are vulnerable and you submit to it, accept it, and be comfortable and vocal about it, it might just get others to help you.

I should try this the next time I am alone facing a tiger :-) (Worst case, the end will not be very different).

749 : Mahabharata’s boast : Here, there, nowhere…

“What is here is found elsewhere. What is not here is nowhere” from

Sunday, September 06, 2009

748 : The smarter one amongst the two of us!!

Me(being a smart-alec) : How come Shahid stutters through the movie, but sings “Fatak” without a lisp. (We are talking about Kaminey the movie here).
Spousey : Idiot, did they not show, later in the movie that he does not lisp if he sings through a conversation. (during the police interrogation scene!!)

I felt like a real idiot, and secretly marvelled at her intelligence !!

747 : Tamil Poetry : It takes one minute…by Devadatchan

It takes one minute…
….For life
To depart.

One minute
For pleasure to snap
And sink to gloom.

One minute
To tumble down
The deep ravine
Of darkness, fear
Uncertainty and perplexity.

In each minute
The universe whirls
One minute had grown

(From Tamil New Poetry, translated by Dr. KS Subramanian, a book)

746 : Weight watcher 22 : Lazy and still surviving, but for how long?

April, May were 8 days each.
June, July were 10 days each.
August was 16 days.

That makes it 421 out of 937 days (tracking since 5th Feb 2007).

The only silver lining was, I managed to run 10 laps of Raheja Vihar (1.3 kms with severe inclines) about 3 weeks ago.

How do I motivate myself again?

745 : Green house effect….

My old organization’s hq at Manhattan was at the same address as the number of the post. Green is dead, long live the green !!

744 : Was driving in my car with the windows all rolled up….

….while the answer, my friend, was blowing in the wind !!

743 : Assumption is the mother of all f**k ups


I was talking to spousey yesterday and telling her, that “Mark the date, 5 years from today, we shall upgrade to a Toyota Fortuner. Its a 4*4 and we can then do the Leh trip we always wanted to do.”

This statement illustrates the basic fallacy of the human mind in various ways. A very similar post of mine, will explain it in detail.

742 : Mark the date (in my own head, that is…)

21st Aug 2009….I decided to go slow on my verbal diarrhoea. Not been so good with the resolution yet, but old habits die hard.

Lets evaluate a year from now. Will I live to tell, a lesson I have learnt so well (now which song is that from?)

742 : Stop judging

Was reading an article by Nandita Das in “The Week”, where she spoke about having to deal with this pressure to connect, to read, to comment, to have opinions – and consequently to judge.

I could not agree more. I actually am in this mode where I am telling myself that the lesser I talk, its probably better, because everytime I open my craphole (I mean my mouth, mister!!) I end up mouthing verbiage.

I don't mind writing the shit out, at least thats a one way street, the reader can choose to stop reading post the first 2 sentences, but talking makes it mandatory for the (polite) listener to bear (and hear) you out.

I think the point Nandita made was very apt (and freaky) – she said she is now consciously trying not to “judge”. I know very few people in this world who would relate to that sentiment, but this thought struck me as my own parallel. Infact, I use the very same world to describe the problem.

I realise what I am doing with “verbal diarrhoea” is essentially judging and thats what needs to go. How soon, is a question of my own resolve.

(BTW, this is another example of the extreme form of gamesmanship that goes in in written words. A writer leaves a clue somewhere, and someone unknown 5000 miles away, interprets the clue and connects – and bingo and the magic of async communication is there to see. Thats what I fundamentally love good poetry or good fiction….its a peek-a-boo orgy!!)

Nandita Das_022

741 : Why I struggle to write fiction and poetry (nowadays)….

The roots of all fiction and good poetry lie in the ability of a person to have an intense experience, maybe just an inverted way of looking at an everyday occurrence. The poet will look at an act of a child  suckling with its mom and write an ode, a “normal” person, on the other hand, will look at it, and then hurriedly switch his/her gaze back on the television.

With the passage of time, I have been steadily losing that “lens”. I am becoming more “normal”, more “plebian” as times go by. The concrete office with walls of glass, the house full of wood and bulbs, the car which seals me off the air outside - dont alllow me to perceive the world, in the same way, as  I would have done, say, 15 years ago.

The poet’s weary eyes are steadily dying. So is the art of rabid raconteur. Should I lament? Hell no, just live….this too shall pass.

740 : Yaaa Whooooooo!!!

Whats that?

That is me trying to connect back to my simian roots :-))


(Image courtesy

739 : Tamil Poetry : Untitled by Karikalan

I discarded words
Blocking poetry
And they declare -
To think of a white sheet
As poetry
Is plain madness.

(From Tamil New Poetry, translated by Dr. KS Subramanian, a book)

738 : Tamil Poetry – Kuppusami by Phoenix (thats an odd name for a poet??)

The visitor told me
My boyhood friend
Kuppusami is dead;
When did he
Ever live.

(From Tamil New Poetry, translated by Dr. KS Subramanian, a book)

737 : Movie 33 : The Kite Runner

Saw parts of this movie on HBO 2 days ago (actually the last half or so). Maybe I am overtly critical, but it looked like a movie in a tearing hurry… time to develop characters, no “rationalization”, just one “supposedly emotional” scene quickly following another – stitched together by some decent editing.

I know (because I have heard :-)) that the book is supposed to be far better than the movie. That is entirely possible.

What I liked about the movie was its stunning capture of Afghanistan (and hopefully that is real and not a studio). The images are stark and raw.

Overall, I would rate this 5 by 10. It would have been far more easier to coax myself to read the book, had it not been for this movie. The movie spoilt it for me.

(Someone dear to me was weeping while watching this fairly sloppy movie. I thought that was overtly melodramatic :-), wonder whether the tears were for the quality of the movie or the content ??)

More about the movie at



Thursday, September 03, 2009

736 : Why know things, which ruin your happiness??

My sis and I were talking. I told her “Microwaves are highly suspect in how they deal with food. The technology basically kills all nutrients in the food. Did you know that?”

She was aghast, WTF?? and then she said “I don’t want to know it, PLEASE STOP…..I need to continue to use the microwave”.

(and here you were thinking, I was the only ostrich in my family. Let me enlighten you, these things run deep in our veins. You can never acquire ostrichdom, you are born with it :-))

This started (yet another) of our philosophical debates. (and as usual, YAWN!!!!….my ideas were radical and unkempt :-)

My point is, knowing a truth does not mean you need to respect it. For example, I know that eating eggs is “violence”, I still eat eggs (I have started it again!!). I know “plastic is bad”, I still go to a super-market and come out carrying multiple bags.

Sometimes, at least that's how it is with me, knowing is not accepting. Acceptance is a more evolved contextual process, involving an act of balancing additional information points as well.

Knowing a truth, also allows your mind to meditate on it (in the background) and constantly build upon it. Now that you know that “maybe the technology behind microwaves is suspect”, the next time you read another view on that aspect, it will build your belief (in either direction) steadily….until at a point, years later, the “pluses” so heavily outweigh the “negatives”, that you will either  continue to use it, or at one point, you may decide to junk your microwave.

In my own personal life, my decision to switch to brown sugar, my complete hatred of jewellery (as it is made in India at least), my revulsion to doctors and medicines….is all born out of a single such germ of a truth that someone threw in my direction years ago. Today, my views in those aspects are  heavily re-inforced by years of external “information points” floating in – and hence, opinions have been cast.

Moral of the story, let the “truths” keep flowing in, don’t resist them – you can always embrace or reject them at a later date. Meanwhile, till then, continue with your rickety life, as if, the only “truth” is, the one contained in the bread you are chewing now.

735 : You preach on the road to hell…

One of the struggles I constantly had (and continue to have) is my strong opinions and the extreme biases that I carry. (thankfully, they are not the regular biases, based on race or color or caste….but in instead based on philosophical premises).

What ends up happening, is, some topics which are close to my heart can very easily ring me up or wind me down. (Ever try speaking to me about classical music, or doctors, or modern medicines, or death, or the quest for perfection….I can do a 60 minute monologue on each of these topics without a pause or a bottle of bisleri).

Inadvertently, a large section of people who might not know me, could construe me as a preachy bore. (I have been vehemently told, that that is not the case….but I was always a doubting thomas…) And I would say, rightly so…..I am what you think I am.

Does that need to change? I think so….

If there is no enjoyable debate, or a conclusive change for the better, its sometimes better that I let my chimeras dance within my own innards….why spit it on the “uncorrupted”.

The other reason for me to probably SHUT UP is because, more often than not, a conversation with me inevitably leaves people “disturbed” and “disrupted” (and then someone added “dark” and “destructive” to it as well :-), WTF ?? )

I will continue to write (on this blog, where else?) and continue to prickle you with my disruptive ideas…..speaking and talking, meanwhile, can slow down!!

My constant struggle continues…..

734 : A sensitive and caring gesture.

I do hear now and then from people who read my blog. Today I heard from a lady who once used to be a colleague of mine.

She read some of my last few OTT posts and asked me in a voice full of genuine concern “Do you really have prostate cancer?”

My answer to her and all of you out there is, hell no, that was just an example.

But what really touched me was to see her being very sensitive and caring in that mail. It was carefully composed to the degree that I could not detect a hint of a wrong foot. She even shared a bit of her own personal experiences with me.

I read that mail, and went “aha! never knew that side of her”. How many people do you fleetingly know of, to whom you can attribute, “gentle”, “caring” and “sensitive” as adjectives?

Not many, right!! Lady, take a bow. You not only impressed a great deal of respect in my heart for you, but you also made me (once again!!) believe that some fundamental human values will never go out of fashion.