7

My flight’s at 7pm. I am early at the airport. Really early. 4 hours early.

There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. Over the next 4 hours, flights will be announced and most of these occupants will leave the tables. When I came to this section of the airport, only two tables were as described above. I occupied the third table. I assume most of them are day-travellers: took the morning flight, attended a meeting; now returning. Somewhat like me. New table-occupiers come in — everyone is looking for an unoccupied table. Single-occupancy on a table, somehow signifies privacy. I take my place along the glass wall that allows me to see the comings and goings on the tarmac. This is the far-end of Hyderabad airport.

*

The makers of these new OTT (over-the-top) private-sector airports are trying hard to make the journey seem like it is the grandest thing that you have ever done. Failing miserably. In the glitter of the unaffordable items displayed with focus-lights on products, and back-lit lights on brands and logos, the sullen faces on the uncomfortable chairs seem to ask of just one thing: get me home!

People aren’t hungry. They are eating either to regulate their blood sugar or to while away time. I can tell. The one who eats quickly is the former; the one who eats slowly is the latter. Yet, most of them are not eating. Anything. They are recharging their phones. They are making post-meeting phone calls to their home base, to tell the completion of paperwork for the deals they closed. Excel sheets open. Row 55 they say. Add a discount of 12%. Recalculate. Very methodical. These are employees. Then, there are business people. Do x and it’s all done. Employees usually speak in English. Business folks speak in a language I do not understand. Yet, I can sense they are closing deals.

*

Modern airports are designed to serve two purposes: to make life miserable for travellers and for smokers. Almost always, however (and I am not doing any statistical magic show here) smokers are the smart people. Necessity, mother, invention and all that jazz.

*

IMG_20150424_155241There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. No one is looking to make friends. Each person seeks an unoccupied table. [ProTip: This the left-most end of the airport as you walk in, after security] Four hours to kill. Most of the people at this end of the airport drink and smoke. This is the only place where you don’t have to trek to the other end of the airport to have a smoke and trek back to have your drink. The smoking booth is close by. A glass showcase, where everyone can see a dying species. But within that showcase there is camaraderie. Good conversation. Suddenly, people are leaving their tables and joining in groups. Having conversations. Not about smoking. About themselves.

It’s so much easier to be intimate with strangers; we discover. In a couple of hours I’ll take a flight south-bound, and you will take one west-bound. Chances are, we will never meet again. C’est la vie!

*

There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. And this is how it will be. For our airports have brought us many expensive experiences, but they have utterly failed at bringing people together. More often than not, people end up spending more time at the airport than they want to. Airports, railway stations, and bus-stands are inherently depressing places. Primarily because no one wants to be there.

*

Seven thoughts in that small place. Seven characters. Seven humans with their personal fears and seven achievements. Seven senses of home. Perhaps these seven senses are not different. They are all the same.

They are human.

Death of a Camera

Just thirteen days. If she had survived just thirteen more days, she would have been eight years.

My camera died today. And all that I tried, to give her a lease of life, failed.

And Finally...There’s much to say. Of all the places we travelled together. Of the companionship that we have shared for the last eight years. Of how my camera and I have been ridiculed for being so out-dated. Of the wonderful moments we have captured together. She made me climb heights for vantage points. She made me walk on the edge for the perfect moment. She helped me see my friends in a different light. I’ve been very possessive about her, and she has loved me for that. (Other (human) women in my life have hated me for that, perhaps.)

She was mine, and mine, and mine, always. Yes, I could transplant this part and that part into her, resurrect her, but she would not be the same. She would only remain and image of someone who I loved, and I’d wonder as I looked through her eye, if she was her. I don’t want that. As a student of history, I have seen that tools have outlived their users. But see my fate, I have to see your death. Yet, while I am alive, I will never forget you.

For, the 24,693 children that we begot, will never allow me to forget you.

There will be another to take your place. But you, as the one who taught me the most, will always be special. Allow me some time however, for your absence is akin to a part of me missing. My eyes are blurry, my fingers weak, and my mind unfocused. Inanimate as you were, I will always remember you for the adventures you caused. Especially that evening in the sea.

Goodbye darling; sweet love. Soon a photograph will come into being. The eyes will be sharp, the finger determined and the mind thoughtful. It will have nothing to do with you. A new instrument, a new artisan.

But, I hope you will see your genetic legacy.

Thank you. Goodbye.

 

Je Suis Moron

I’d like a T-shirt that says that.

I don’t know what’s the theme and sense of the local social argument around the world. In India, if you have a difference of opinion, or are asking questions (whether innocent or not) – you are a moron. Almost, always, self-styled lieutenants address every other person as a moron. I am a teacher who has taught a beautiful language for more than 40 years. I am a teenager who seeks to understand my world. Just because you have knowledge of a narrow theme (which of course you dwell in) it’s easy for you to call me a moron. I am often amused, when questions are asked of these experts, on a social platform, and the seekers are dismissed as morons.

A Boatman's Question

Not all questions are about casting aspersion. Some are innocent questions. Some are about curiosity. Some a genuine doubts. A leader answers a question, even when they do not have an answer. “I do not have an answer for you at this time, but I am happy to seek an answer to this question, with you,” is a leader’s response. But to call a seeker a moron? In the first instance? Without seeking context? That reeks of a power-obsessed personality, conceit, and some specific delusions of grandeur. What if this moron has dedicated his life and times to study a specific theme all his life?

This conversation happened on Twitter, and perhaps it is easy to blame the platform than the people dancing on the platform. Platforms are as characterless as they get. We often make the mistake of mistaking the person for the platform. Twitter as a platform enables us to have a public conversation. Twitter as a platform enables us to make things better. Twitter as a platform enables us to call people morons. The good and the not-so-good that we publish on the platform is about us. It has nothing to do with the platform.

If this is what it means to be an expert — calling people names — I never want to be an expert on any thing. I am happy to be an amateur and ask that people ask questions of me, so that I may become better; so that they may become better. If asking a question, whether through ignorance, or as a challenge, or to seek more information is about being a moron, then I have only one thing to say. For when I stop asking questions, I’ll be dead and irrelevant at the same time.

Je Suis Moron.

1001

Of all the people who would congratulate me for completing a thousand posts, one friend did not. Of all the people who would, I was looking forward for her congratulations. Because of this blog, I have made some very good friends. Over time, I’ve lost some of them. This one friend has stuck with me, for a very long time. She has challenged me in every possible way to become a better blogger.

*

I belong to a generation that used to write letters. For all of you young people, let me explain. A letter, meant, using pen and paper, writing words and sentences on paper, with a pen, often multiple sheets, folding them to fit an envelope, neatly slapping a postal stamp on it, and sending it wherever your friend may be. It took days for the message to reach your friend. I promised one such letter; never posted it. Two other friends, who have long followed and appreciated this blog offered muted responses. Yaay. Like. Good fun. And such. In my head I make excuses. He is living his own life. The other is on a holiday. She had a difficult conversation, recently. And, the other, she is choosing not to associate.

Once upon a time, when it was in vogue, I used to check blog-stats every 6 hours. Who came? Where did they come from? Which post did they like? Six odd years ago, I stopped caring about it.

*

Early days of our blog, it’s important to know who likes what. After a while it is all about you. (unless of course you blog is about making money, that’s a different ball game). I like where I am.

*

And it’s a difficult proposition to accept where we are. Some times we like it. Often we don’t. That’s when it becomes difficult.  Do we allow the misunderstanding to propagate? Or do we clear it? Is it for us to tell or is it for them to ask?

Orange Nylon against A Ship Half Built

*

One day, some day, we will look out to the sea, hopefully the blank sheet will reflect what we should have known.

A Thousand Links

Ceremonial and milestone posts are like templates. We end up saying the same things over and over. There are small differences when the ceremonies and the milestones differ; the essence however, remains the same. There’s gratitude, there’s a description of a journey, there’s some description of a meaning, and such things. There’s, always pressure to make an impact.

These are the things that have occupied my mind and heart for the last few weeks. I was getting closer and closer to the 1000-posts mark. Each post, that was the 996th, 997th, 998th, 999th in number wanted to betray this post. The 998th post almost did! That was the excitement of the writer, and the posts, shared the excitement, if not more. All of them — the ones in the 99x series — didn’t mind that they weren’t the 1,000th. They knew their place was critical for this post to exist, to be published. Without them, this one was still far away.

100 Links

In my earlier post, I talked how “It All Comes Together.” Well, given the image above you can see that it doesn’t always come together. Sometimes there’s a zero missing; or a number is 10-times less than it should ideally be. I should have said: almost!

I’ve blogged for 4,125 days on this blog. That’s one post every four days, on an average. And while it may not mean much in relative terms, I am, and have been happy, satisfied, and proud of the last 11 years, 3 months, 18 days. What started as casual dabbling has become an integral part of my life. And succumbing to the template, I must say, I am grateful for that part of me that thought I should not stop.

Needless to say, I spent a few days going through my blog. Some of what I written is quite bad, and friends have told me that, through comments. Some of it is very good. Most, of it however, is somewhere, between. As I re-lived my life for the past eleven years, I am most proud, that I have been honest. Even if the honesty was wrapped in a thick woolly garment of abstraction. What the wool did was to protect my privacy, and that of my friends and family. The thoughts and feelings themselves were uncloaked.

If had to go back to that day in December 2003 and restart this, I would not do it any other way. Such a fulfilling experience is this one that I would dare not disturb or tweak. Many bloggers have come and gone (mostly, to Twitter) and while I have lamented their exit, my experience with my blog has been complete; has been most fulfilling; has been most adventurous.

As I write this, I realise, when you are overwhelmed, you should make a statement and exit. There will be times, later, for you to expand on your feelings, when they don’t crowd you. (This was never going to be an easy post.)

I’ll write soon.

As soon as my emotional paparazzi have dispersed.

It All Comes Together

Bugis Junction

Bugis Junction

It was early in 2000 or 2001 that I took this photo. As the caption (on Flickr) says, “A photo that has eluded me for long. I probably took more than sixteen pictures of this place. I wonder why…” These were the days before the digital camera, when you can take a few hundred photos of one thing, choose the best, and happily delete the others. Film photography was expensive, and perhaps that is why we spent more time composing a photograph and ensuring perfect exposure. But it never comes easily to an amateur. Some exposures (photos) will go bad.

As you can see, I still didn’t get it right, after sixteen exposures. Yet, this has remained one of my favourite photos. Why this place and this name fascinated me then, was also a mystery. (Fifteen years ago, I wasn’t inclined as much to curiosity as I am now.)

Cut to today, after that evening with an elusive photograph, fifteen years later.

I am reading The Spice Route, and early into the book, one and a half decades later, I see the word again. Instantly the elusive photograph comes to mind. Something about travel, photography, and reading, makes perfect sense.

Bugis.

By foreigners — Asian or European — seeking to usurp control of the most obscure extremity of the spice route, all such indigenous operators would be termed ‘pirates’, a pejorative freely applied to any rivals and especially to local seafarers who attempted to defend what they considered their own territorial waters and maritime rights. The Bugis of Makassar, in particular, invited obloquy. Master-shipwrights and excellent navigators who were supposed to be able to detect a reef purely by smell, they darted in their rakish prahus (sailing vessels, sometimes with outriggers) from unsuspected anchorages on the coasts of Borneo and Sulawesi to challenge all rivals. Against monopolistic Europeans the Bugis would continue to wage a rearguard action well into the nineteenth century, by which the term ‘bogey’ or ‘bogy’ was entering common English usage. This may have been a coincidence; but allusion to the spice trade being not uncommon in nursery rhymes, those who as children were hush-hushed to bed by ‘here comes the Bogey-man’ may well originally have been threatened by a ‘Bugis-man’ who, at the helm of a piratical prahu, would certainly ‘catch you if he can’. ~ The Spice Route, John Keay

The online-etymology dictionary that I frequent often, has a different tale. But I did find other references for the etymology of ‘Bogey.‘ The disagreement about the etymology notwithstanding, it was an excitable moment for me, to encounter the word.

*

I am enjoying the coming together of my travel, photography, and reading. The fascination with a word or an image, the context and meaning coming to you, years later, is a wonderful experience, even if it is not new. I recently told a friend, that I watch movies twice; just like I want to visit places, at least twice.

There are times when you can visit places again, without actually going there, and that’s a fine feeling.

Almost There

Closer to that finish line, there are two ways, I think, how we respond. Either we summon all the reminder of our energy to cross it, or we slow down, and slowly walk to the ribbon. I am close to that line. And I must admit, I have no way to express what I feel. I am split in the middle, one wanting to finish; the other wanting to take time.

0466: Blur Walk

I am happy, though. The line that I will cross is absolute. Absolute, in the sense that it is mine, completely. It has no relation to what other people are doing or what other people expect. It is mine and mine alone. I am happy because I never planned to reach this line. I never worked towards it. I just kept walking. It will come soon, and you will all know; I am not telling. Even if you try to guess it with comments, I won’t tell. And because it is so near, you will know soon enough.

That’s all. Wait for just a little while.