Bengaluru-versary

Been a fine twelve months, these.

 

Made new friends, connected with old ones. Laughed a lot. Cried a little. Discovered new places. Went on city walks. Did some great work. Took in the lovely weather. Enjoyed the food. Read a lot. Lost a little bit of myself. Found much more of myself. Very easily started feeling at home. Connected. Often happy, seldom sad.

Thank you, Bengaluru!

Wish I Were Here! And There Too!

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

A situation arose today. I wanted to be at a place. But I also had to be elsewhere. Not that I didn’t want to be (that) elsewhere. I wanted to be there too. If I had over-thought – I could have chosen one of the places. They are 1007 kms apart. I had good reason to be at both places. I wanted to be at both places. Needless to say, I had to choose. A few months ago, this wasn’t so difficult. I would have just left. It is becoming difficult by the day.

The Matrix

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

Because I would not be the receiver of both the experiences. Clones do not have a common sense of experience, do they? No, cloning would not solve it. Nothing will, in fact. That’s perhaps, what makes up life and life experiences. I don’t know it yet, but I am better for it. Not that I made a “right” choice — in this case, it wasn’t about right and wrong. It was simple: I wanted both. And the other thing was simpler: I couldn’t have both. It was only a life lesson.

If you were here, with me, my smile would have confounded you.

Play

This tweet made my day!

The play in question was “The Square Root of a Sonnet.” I have been in Achyutha’s town for a while, and while we promised to catch up, we hadn’t. Going to the play seemed like a good excuse to meet Achyutha. It’s not that I was not interested in the play; I was. It was directed by Prakash Belawadi — an actor I have come to admire after I have seen a few of his performances in Hindi movies. Airlift, especially.

I dread going to the theatre. As an audience.

20160916_015919I have always maintained that my place in a theatre was on the stage. I haven’t been to a theatre in a very long time. (Except for one, half a dozen years ago, where I was, technically dragged to it). As much as enjoy to no end, watching a play, the sense that I am always sitting in the wrong side of a theatre bothers me when I enter the theatre and depresses me when I leave it. I am at peace, when I am in it.

I am learning to drown the dread.

It was my first play in Bengaluru. At Ranga Shankara, a compact theatre, which is probably modelled on Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. Needless to say, it has a sweet and swanky coffee shop. (Yup, those are mandatory in places like these.)

It was a wonderful evening, an evening that I haven’t had for a long time.

It did not end there. That’s what made the evening special.

It was the star-struck me, for the rest of the evening that made it special. And I am not talking only of Prakash Belawadi.

~

PS: If you read this in good time, The Square Root of Sonnet is staging tomorrow (Fri, 16 Sep) again, at Ranga Shankara, in Bengaluru. If you cannot make it to this show, lookout for when it shows somewhere near you. DO. NOT. MISS. IT.

 

My Bombay and Your Mumbai

London, for me, will always be close to heart. Not the name; the place. I lived for a short while there, and that city swept me off my feet, because of what it is. Not because what it is called.

I have the same emotion for New York, though I have never stayed there long enough, unfortunately.

Needless to say, my home and my heart is in Mumbai. Though, I could easily have my home and my heart in London or in New York.

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I must have been in school, I think, when Peking became Beijing. I still have to make a conscious effort to refer to my neighbouring country as Myanmar, rather than Burma. But I do. In the same way that I have eradicated the word “hate” from my vocabulary. I do use dislike. Once in a while, the habit wins.

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I am not originally from Mumbai. My formative years however, were spent in Bombay. This became home a little before, and soon after I finished college (in Pune). For me, Bombay is natural. Mumbai is equally natural. I come from a family that is native to this state. Given that the significant years of my education were in a school where Hindi was given its due importance, Bambai, is equally natural. You see, I use all these three names for the city, given the context. So while, we can chest-beat till we are out of breath about the bastardisation of Bombay to Mumbai, it means zilch.

8061: Visarjan Dance - 2

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My design guru (you know who are, Sam) once told me of design, as before-the-fact and after-the-fact. I see opportunistic mediocre photographers create expensive coffee table books for placard-bearers, of titles like “Bombay vs. Mumbai” and variants. Most folks I know cannot or will not (there is a difference) afford these books. Yet, they’ll spit-finger-turn-pages of these books in dying bookshops, walk-out without a purchase, and then have concerned conversations over expensive export-quality flavoured Vodkas in exclusive boutique bars wearing international fashion labels (or rip-offs) about how the changing of the name has depreciated the sense and the glory of the city. If and when I ever take a photos of such people, I’ll have a coffee table book of mine, titled, “The Irony of the Bastardisation of Bombay to Mumbai That Actually Never Happened.”

The city, by itself, never changes. The people in the city do. And the rest of the people look at these people and think that the city has changed. That’s where, I think, you need to get a feel, a sense, a belonging to a city. Just liking it, on someone’s say so, is not passion. That’s borrowed euphoria; it’s transient. It is not a sense of belonging. And you either belong or you don’t belong. And that’s fine.

I’ve lived in this city when it was officially Bombay and I’ve lived in this city when it is (now) officially Mumbai. Nothing has gone wrong in this city. In fact, there’s more of Bombay in Mumbai than there was Bombay in Bombay, if we have to assign the assumed culturally distinct identities to names. (Notice, no one is talking about the city itself.) Assign the Bombayfication to general progress. Fair. But, there has been no regression.

Haji Ali - 2

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I owe it to you my dear reader, to give you a context of this post. The Independent, a newspaper in the UK, made an editorial decision. Henceforth, in all their publications, they will use Bombay instead of Mumbai. I must say this, I did check the date after I heard the podcast to see if it was the 1st of April. They do have good reasons though.500″ years of history, the editor said! Because, of course, that’s the extent of the history of this land. The city should choose one name, perhaps it would be easier on the readers of The Independent. They’d know where they are going. I mean, if they were boarding a flight to Bombay, and the air-hostess welcomed all of them to a flight to Mumbai, we would have a stampede, right? And of course if we choose Mumbai, we will just end up being a closed, ignorant, retarded, nationalist, rightist, fundamentalist, this-winger, that-winger, useless lot. That the Gateway of India is the Gateway of India, not of Bombay or Mumbai, is lost upon the editor. [Link] (Interestingly, the BBC interviewed the editor of The Independent. +1 @ BBC. Smart move!)

Suburban Sunrise - 1

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Why and how do cities change names? Why do we, in the Indian sub-continent, have places like Dalhousie, McLeod Ganj, Abbotabad, Jacobabad? Or, have, for example, New Amsterdam? One of my favourite three cities that I mentioned above, where my home and heart could be?

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Needless to say, there is vested political interest that The Independent has. And while I address you directly, my dear reader, when you see a mention of Hippokoura, in The Independent, let me assure you, (take my word, I’ve done research) they are talking of Kolhapur. That’s the name, 1890 years ago, for Kolhapur, given by the Ptolemy, in 126CE. History, right?

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But I care less about that. I feel sad about the lack of the sense of belonging that they are missing, as they set up this extravagant PR-oriented drama. They care less about the vibrancy, the energy, the enterprise, the chaos, the madness, and the order that this city is all about. In the same way that your city, my dear reader, has its own characteristics and a personality. And you sense it, feel it, live it. Would it be any different if it was called by any other name? Call my city whatever, it will never change its character. Unless the people in the city change theirs.

And those, who don’t go to boutique bars, don’t care about what you call our city. We are happy living our life, in our city, and we have three names for it.

All of them mean the same.

The Dull Thud, Thud, Thud

There’s a sheet of translucent paper covering the city every evening.

I am reminded of photo albums of old. The view is teasing, and the blur of an outline of a smiling face or a posed body, is there for us to guess. Then the distinct rustling of the smoky paper, as we slowly flip it over for the sharp image of a long-ago memory.

No such luck with the city. The softening paper is stuck to the image. The sharpness, can only be recalled in our memory from summers gone by. The ghost of the city stands still, and as the night falls, it freezes beneath the softly brushed rays of the neatly lined street lamps.

Nothing dulls the sharp thoughts that the mind has thawed after the long day. Inside the mind there is no translucency for the fissures that arise. Sharp, and clear in contrast, the hairline fractures, even, are as obvious as the confident strokes of a master calligrapher. The irony is there for us to see. The maze formed in the wake of the thoughts crisscrossing through, though, are sparse. Once the maze was dense with the tails of these comets, and we traversed every path they chose, sharply turning at every whim.

2015-12-08 17_Fotor

I recognise these thought-comets, but not all are clear or present. Some have just left. Some, I chased away. Some, broke. Some, are sulking in a far corner. I remember them, but can see them no more. Something like this effect of the translucent blanket that covers the city

I see them as dulled outlines of old memories and blunted emotions.

Capital Schizophrenia

“You never reveal your true self on Twitter.”
“I do, I just don’t like being personal in such a public forum.”
“How will we ever know the real you?”
“We’ll meet IRL (In Real Life) and we will discover each other.”
This goes on for a while.
Something happens, I feel strongly about it, I express my true feelings, as gracefully as I can, given the context.
“You are so rude.”
“No, I expressed what I felt, politely.”
“I can see the malice in your tweets.”

#Facepalm

*

I stepped out for a smoke. [Smoking is injurious to health. This blog does not promote smoking. If you smoke you should stop now. If you don’t, never start.] Two other young men stepped out too. One of them was a smoker. Smokers are confined to small places. We end up being more intimate. Overhearing their conversation, I realised they were from the Indian Army. One was posted in Leh, the other in Dimapur. Brothers. Different Mothers. They meet in Delhi during their furlough. As they were about to leave, I stopped them, asked if, indeed, they were from the Army. They confirmed. I shook hands with them. Thanked them for the immense freedom and safety I live in. I avoided mentioning how most of us wantonly abuse that freedom. We had a short round of wonderful introductions. I was ridden with goosebumps for the next half-an hour.

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My disgust at the word startup and related terms is well documented. [All disliked words are suitably italicised] To be sure, the disgust is about the terminology, not the act itself. I have immense respect for those who take a dream and struggle to make it a reality. I was there once, twice, thrice, before. I feel blessed, that I have had, an almost, equal measure of success and failure. And I have learnt from both events. And then, recently, I heard, “We are a startup, we don’t do documentation or plans.” A very small (thankfully) bit of me, died a writhing death. Some idiot, somewhere, laid out a sexy sexy (not italics) imitative path to success. And the entrepreneurs (another word I dislike) gravitated to it like engineering students to porn. I call it “Building bereft of basics.” And I smile, and go my way.

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Until you use the public transport in a city, you are a tourist. I know, even tourists use public transport. But there has to come a time when you say, bloody tourists – since they have no idea about the local protocol of the public transport. Man becomes one with a city when he makes the public transport his own. He feels possessive, guarded, and intimate with the system. Every city, in this world, has something that you can dislike. And if it is not a good thing, you should dislike it. If you live in that city, however, you have to also find what is lovable. Every city, in this world, has something that is lovable. I sensed today, that I can be friends with Delhi. I said hello, the city reciprocated. We smiled. We are going to spend more time together.

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I got my Delhi Metro SmartCard today. The equivalent of an Oyster in London. These are childish pleasures, but immense in their intensity. Touch a card, and the baffle gate opens, only for you. Automagically the amount is deducted when you exit, because, automagically it remembers where you boarded. It was fun in 2005, it is fun, ten years later. Those who were born into it, may not appreciate it, but if you knew what it was when this tech didn’t exist, you will know what I mean.

Delhi Metro Card

Delhi Metro Card

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I carried a book today. Thought, I’d read it on the Metro. But it didn’t come out of the bag. There was so much to see of this new city, I didn’t feel like reading. Distance, usually, is measured in length. In Mumbai, we measure the distance in time. So, if you ask someone in Mumbai, how far is [some place], they’ll respond in time, not in kilometres. So, traveling a distance is a means of consuming time. Books, for example. Most people today consume media. Head phones and eyes-down on a small screen. I was smiling to myself. Loudly. No one noticed. No one looked up from their screens, at my face. In Central Delhi, the metro goes underground. And it comes up at the perfect station: Qutub Minar. It’s far away from the station, but the view from a distance doesn’t diminish it, at all. Being childish, makes sense, all over again. [No, I didn’t take a photograph, I was busy looking at it.]

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It’s very easy to insult. There are print books dedicated to a number of insults. 1001 insults, 5001 insults, and such. I’ve always wondered if that extra, one insult is special? Reading and using insults from books is so yesterday. Good insults come from really smart people. I was insulted twice in a single conversation today. One, I easily defended, it was obvious. The other one, was smart. It took me a few hours to realise it. Long after the conversation was over. I just smiled, when the second insult did a sunrise across my forehead, and inside my head. It was a class act. I didn’t accept it, but I mentally saluted my insulter. The sophistication of an insult, that’s an evolved art form.

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I just killed four more thoughts that were supposed to make it to this post.

But that’s life.

 

What are Places?

When you undress them completely, they are just a pair of two numbers: Latitude and Longitude. But we like places with all the adornments. The this is there, the that is there. And, thankfully, this isn’t there, and that isn’t there.

If you are a new blogger, take solace in this. When you have blogged for eleven years, (and if you have blogged well), you do not need to search for answers outside. Your own blog will have it all, when you have a question.

Open Your Hand

I wrote this in the June of 2008. Perhaps, I was wiser, then.

Then there those that effect change. And there is only one way, I believe, that they make the change happen. They embrace it with complete and utter blind trust. Not in the result of what that change may bring, but in the change itself. The complete surrender. Because, there is no such thing as a better tomorrow. Either there is a tomorrow or there isn’t. Your notion of a better tomorrow is your today being recycled and realigned to make you believe that your today is better than yesterday. Take the last thirty days and run through them you will know what I mean.

Tomorrow can either be impregnated with the sameness of all your suspicions, cynicism and scepticism, or it can be the tomorrow that rids you of that sameness that you so despise.

VICTIMS OF COMFORT – III

How desperately we claw and cringingly latch, to our fleeting today, is a result of our yesterday’s fears, that hurts our tomorrow.