#Mumbai: And I Love You So…

There is a romance of the idyllic village.

Not a constant; a fragmented romance. In between the moments of a busy life, we feel it, want it, yearn it. Is it ever real? Or do we just want to get away from it all? An escape. Some of us can make the escape true too – even if, for a weekend. But that is the largest real fragment that is ever offered to us city folks.

Even the largest fragment, the weekend, is often fragmented. It is never a continuous experience. The shards are large enough for us to imagine it romantic; that is all that the weekend offers.

And I wonder.

Do places — the cities vs. the country, make a difference? Do cities consume us differently than the countryside. Is boredom about wanting to do different things or having more time than we can spend? And forget romance; what about love? Does one trump the other?

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There is a love for this city that I cannot let go. If and when we sit and argue — we will list the shortcomings of every place. But that would be such an academic exercise of worthlessness. An exchange of ugly facts; so bereft of emotion! And while facts have their own rightful place, they whither when confronted by love: unconditional love.

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I was recently asked to consider moving away from Mumbai. #WorkFromHome is the new norm – would it be so bad moving to a quiet place?

No, it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d like it for a few days, but, again, I wonder — would it be good forever? For that which has not come to pass, I can only dread. I could romance it even, but, I wonder — would it be true love?

But I have loved; it is within me. Perhaps a chance for the idyllic romance is due.

My love isn’t going anywhere. I am.

Thirteen-One

While there may be many things for which I seek clarity, one thing that’s clear as a summer sky, is that I have lost the urge and inspiration to write here. Perhaps it has been evident for a while, but I wasn’t willing to accept it; was hoping that the sense would return slowly and steadily. There have been spurts of bloggable ideas, thoughts, and incidents. Very few made it to the stage where I would click Publish. Many, many more, never even made it to the editor.

I do have a lot of creative excuses though, for not writing, and more often than not the root of the excuse is outside of me, making me a colluding victim. It’s a win-win situation of sorts.

Today is no different. There isn’t a bloggable idea, thought, or incident that I am writing about.

There’s an event, and someone suggested I make good use of it.

In less than a month we are now living in a world that looks and feels so different. A cauldron-full of every turbulent emotion has been suitably sautéed and served. Small signs of movie-like dystopian visuals abound, and we close our eyes looking for hope. To realise that hope, India announced a 21-day lockdown all over the country, to stop the spread of the virus.

Today is the first day of that official lockdown. I am not a stranger to remote working, yet the announcement that you have to #StayHome for three weeks, caused some angst. And an otherwise frivolous post asking for ideas, on how to cope, got “write on your blog” as a suggestion; so this post. And I hope to continue writing for the next twenty days.

There were other suggestions, a few I have taken up earnestly (which didn’t require any physically tiring effort) and I hope to continue those too, for the next twenty days. Directionally, I don’t expect any of these suggested adventures to take me anywhere.

But, perhaps there will be an opportunity to repair, align, and balance.

Misaligned, rusty Iron Gate Closeup

Scrape away the rust and polish to a brilliant shine, reposition and reorder to the standard, and return from the extremes; come home.

Time has appointed itself to decide, but I will have to pass the judgement.

Without prejudice.

All’s Well: Places and Spaces

In this instant; right now; as you are reading this – could you tell me who you are?

Don’t fret, I cannot either. I’d imagine no one can. For if we were put in a spot with question like this – we’d only select a convenient label that is handy, shove it in your face, and say: this! Go away, don’t ask me any more questions. And then, many months later comes that Tuesday. It’s late in the morning, you are home. No one around you; you are cooking eggs in a way that you would never Instagram. It’s almost like it is in the movies, but it is definitely not. The eggs? Oh, they are as un-Instagramable as ever; that is perfect. But you aren’t in a wood cabin overlooking a lake or a river and by yourself, while birds are chirping and the movie-like artificial ambience is of peace.

Mostly, you are on the 12th floor of a road-facing noisy flat or in room No. 7 of chawl that intentionally denies private space.

In a city.

That happy, lonesome Tuesday late morning.

There is incessant honking by those who want to use a feature of their vehicle or the never-ending cackle of gossip and argument. The city offers no respite. Therefore we seek, the mountains of Ladakh or the beaches of Goa. Or an equivalent place.

I wonder, then, if it is places that offer the answers that we seek, or spaces?

Arches

The effort that we make to know ourselves on a beach in Goa is fungible. It is equivalent of an evening in local train in Mumbai going back home. The evening is the same. Are we mistaking places for spaces?

A wood cabin overlooking a lake in the middle of the forest is the same as a dilapidated concrete building overlooking a traffic jam.

If you take a moment to think about it, it is just material.

In Between Imagination and Reality

The last post was almost two months ago.

Interestingly, in these last two months, I have had the most to say. To write, I mean. But, as you have observed, [or have not] – I haven’t written here at all. We often imagine certain dreadful moments; I do, at least – and then, some times, those events actually occur. They are nothing like you imagine. And in between dealing with how those events occur and how you feel cheated, the event passes by. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.

But good things happen too. And we would have imagined them too. And just like the dreadful things, they are nothing that you imagined. Reality is the better cousin of imagination. There’s some healthy rivalry and teasing going on. Reality and imagination. Reality, mostly, winning. We are mere spectators to their act.

You find solace, where you wouldn’t expect to. Not what you imagined, BTW. Reality wins again. Not by a huge margin, though. What you had imagined about friends is true, too. We’ll call this a tie. Life’s surprises never cease. If only we would keep the door open. I am glad, I kept the door open.

These are things that no one can teach you. And while I have been hungry for a teacher, I have had to make do with makeshift teachers. Students are also teachers. Someone who is wading through the muck of life can hardly help you get across. But, they can do one thing: they can hold your hand, and help you move forward together – sharing the uncertainty; living the same fear.

SS, JR, PM, MD, GKMR, NP, and MB.

LearningMate Founders

Thank you for being with me in between the ever narrowing and broadening spaces of the gap of imagination and reality. While we lamented the lack of mentors, I think we did good for each other. We are better because of the shared scrapes on our knees and elbows; and sprained ankles. But our shoulders are strong – and that is what matters; that is what mattered. We sought mentors, but little did we know, we had each other – always – unqualified mentors. And we are better because of that. My reality is trumping my imagination, now. Only because of you all.

May we all shorten the space between imagination and reality!

Happy Independence Day

We all work for our country.

We write software programmes, we build buildings, we save children, we teach, we police our community. We train customer service people. We help commerce across boundaries. We clean the sewers, we sweep the streets. We balance the books, we make machines, we serve food. We offer loans, we give interest. We sit at home and make our children good people. We fight for what is not right. We fight to keep what is right. We fight, sometimes, for all the wrong reasons. We do what we have to do, to protect our present and our future. We join the armed forces, we protect our country; our families.

The Indian Tricolour - National Flag

The Indian Tricolour – National Flag

On this Independence Day, here’s a shout out to all the armed forces – national and state [The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy. The State Police forces, the paramilitary forces, CISF, CRPF, BSF, IB, R&AW, All of you], who protect our present.

Here’s a shout out to all the teachers – who protect and nurture our future. You are the most important of us all. Our soldiers are looking to you. They are protecting our present, so that you can protect our future.

As someone who just does stuff and pays taxes, so that you can do your job, I hope you know that each morning, I salute you first.

And I apologise for the kind of leaders we ended up electing. Spineless and gutless. Do not blame the politicians. We failed you. Yet, we trust you. But, I promise you, we will do better. Your sacrifice and you frustration will not be in vain.

And to, all our soldiers: promise us one thing: Kill, do not die. Please do not die for your country; kill if you have to; live for your country. Come back home.

This is all WIP (work-in-progress), we’ll get there, bear with us.

To all my protectors of the present and the future: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

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.

Writers & Carpenters

Writing is difficult. Writing well, is another matter altogether.

Carpentry is difficult too. Carpentering well, is another matter. Just like writing well.

Writers get distracted; just like carpenters. Writers and carpenters have their own means of getting distracted. Writers get distracted by style, grammar, method, medium, and such. Carpenters think of paint, cuts, design, trends, and such. (Needless to say, I am making things up for carpenters. I am not a carpenter. Though I would have liked to be one. Come to think of it, I am, perhaps, making things up for writers too!)

When distracted and diffused*, writers write nonsense or trite passages and carpenters make bad furniture or misaligned shelves. And this distraction is perhaps important. For writers and carpenters. It offers an opportunity to move away from the known, experiment, make mistakes, fail (often miserably), learn, and therefore, create something new.

6172: Buddha

After all the wandering through the land of distractions, however, the writer and the carpenter return. To the place where they started. Everything is the same, but nothing is. The intercourse of familiarity and strangeness is at once comforting and disquieting. This conflict is beauty’s birthplace.

The carpenter creates a writing desk for the expression through words, as the writer would, and the writer measures and assembles his words as the carpenter would. The open window is witness: to what the carpenter would like the writer to see and to how the writer sees what the carpenter intended.

It may not happen at first, but it is a stage for success.

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* Kathy’s Song, Paul Simon

A Broken Narrative

Few of my friends know of a certain profile picture I use on Facebook, which indicates that I am away. Every once in a while I test if I can be away from Facebook (and therefore Twitter and other such networks). October was my away month — by my standards. I used Facebook sparsely. I’ll be back on the 1st of November. The last three or four times I did this away exercise, it was more of a test of my addiction, so to speak. While October started with the same purpose; the revelations were interesting to say the least.

The narrative of everything has changed.

There isn’t — according to the way I see it — anything that we can say, that will not be crushed out or hammered in by some ism that someone else follows. Opinions do not have spaces anymore. Jokes have no space. Most people I see, are angry and belligerent. Mostly, deep down, they are defensive – but outwardly they are angry and belligerent. Those that aren’t angry are on a trip, some trip, which offers them a false sense of happiness.

When ideological camps never intersect, where is that common space for us to speak and hear? What is our meeting ground? Not to make a statement; just to speak, to listen to each other. In the race to be heard, no one is listening.

I am not lamenting social change. I have lived my adult life, with and without mobile phones, e.g., and I am aware of the boons and curses of how society responds to changes it did not expect. In these times of (mostly) nonsensical back-and-forth, I struggle to find a place of my own.

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Within that struggle, I have discovered a small place. It’s nice. Comfortable. Mine. It’s not mine, yet. But I’d like it to be mine. And it has the potential to be mine. In times of predictable spaces, determined by isms, I am fortunate to have found one that allows for isms, but is not dictated by an ism.

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I am participating in Movember, yet again, this year. (That’s the day I return to Facebook) It has been over half-a-decade of Movembering; I have yet to find an organisation that works for men’s health, in India. If you know of one – do let me know. Nevertheless, It seems, I will be a permanent Movember Member; inspired in no less measure thanks to The Bum.

2016-01-01 17.04.50: Orchha

It’s the festival of lights, here, in India. In my head, there is a philosophical connotation to the festival. To tell you the truth, it is a festival of light and sound. Traditionally, philosophically, and spiritually. Not anymore. Either by armchair activism or sheer usurpation. Those that purportedly attack and those that apparently protect — both have it wrong. Festivals are resilient enough that they can survive attacks. Festivals are strong enough that they do not need protection. I wish I do not live long enough to have to wish “Happy Holidays” for a festival that you celebrate, even if I do not celebrate it. When a festivity is reduced to a holiday – that is when we have lost everything. We should be worried about sameness, assuming we will live long enough to sense it.

My apologies for this line of thinking on such a wonderful festive day. I leave you not with thoughts to discover the light within but just be good. In your own way. Do something nice. I will.

Happy Diwali!

Some New, Some Old; Some Plus, Some Minus

Been a while. Eighteen days. The while means different things to different people. Eighteen days could be split seconds or an age. It was neither, for me.

Me? I was just moving, from one place to another. Like I have done before. Many times before. And Richard Bach’s words echo in the clank and the shlank and the crank of the traffic:

“Flying with the wind, Richard, from town to town, has it occurred to you that’s not a way to find her, that’s a way to lose her?”

Her, now manifests. Perhaps, our lives are worthwhile only if we make new meanings. Not because they come to us; but because we make them.

As I write this, a friend is tweeting about Talat Mahmood. That soulful voice rendering such wonderful poetry distracts me from writing this post. Another friend is away trekking in a place I consider sacred and soulful. I’ll go on that pilgrimage, soon. One friend has come out of a self-imposed exile. Another is (finally) exercising a license he always had. I am teasing him, only because occasions to tease are rare now. Snotty cousins are doing well; I am proud of them. Not all is well, there are some concerns, but when so much is good all around you, all that is not good seems unworthy of my indulgence, though I am paying attention to it. Amongst all that is not well, an old wound has opened up. No, nothing mental; an old knee injury. An injury I have long cherished; because I saved a boundary (you’ll understand if you are from a cricket playing nation.)

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New city.

New everything. And the same old me. And that is how I will remain: same old me.

But this environment has to count for something. It affects me, this new environment, in minute ways, to begin with. All I have to do is not resist. The positive portfolio of my life is an aggregation of acceptance and the negative, has been of resistance.

Irawati Karve

I know it’s titled as such, but this post isn’t really about Irawati Karve.

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There’s never a dull moment with my mami (aunt; mother’s brother’s wife).

I recently finished reading a book in Marathi – and I am proud of it. So proud, that I suffer from the shout-it-from-the-rooftop syndrome, now. Given that it is my mother-tongue, and I’ve formally studied it only for three or four years. My aunt devours books, mostly Marathi literature, but many other genres as well. She is not very unlike my mother, actually. Needless to say, I told mami about this achievement of mine. Again, needless to say, she was very proud of me. Further, needless to say, we got into a conversation about writers she has read, respected. She mentioned Irawati Karve.

She was telling me about a relatively complex analysis of the characters in the Mahabharat: and I was intrigued. As she was speaking, I instinctively reached for my phone (which was nowhere close to me, because it was being charged, at the other end of the room) – I wanted to Google Irawati Karve.

Here she was, telling me all about Irawati Karve, about her life, times, and her work. Yet, in my head, I was automatically reaching for my phone. Of course, I let my phone be where it was and re-entered the conversation. It was time for our ritual 1AM coffee (something that all my cousins are fond of), and we were now talking of Kamala Sohonie. After a while we were back to Irawati Karve. And I got to know a lot about her. My mami recalled that I had finished a book in Marathi, and urged me to read more. It will be a while before you can digest the presentation of Irawate Karve, but, keep at it. It’s only a matter of vocabulary, for now.

What I learnt about Irawati Karve, from my aunt — I could not find on Wikipedia (Yes, I Googled her the next day). And, perhaps, therein lies the difference between information and knowledge. While consumption of information is not a bad thing; acquiring experiences is more important; is what I thought after I saw myself reaching for my phone.

There’ll be more reading. For sure. And there will be more listening, than searching. Thank you, Mami!

I Want To Be A Poem

Poetry is changing my life.

Wait!!!

Most of the poets you know, I don’t know. I can assure you that. Most of the poetry you know, I don’t know. I can assure you that, too. Don’t ask me any questions. As yet.

As of now, one poet has consumed my entire consciousness. And to understand this poets’s poetry, I am reading poems by other poets. I am learning structure. (Which is not easy, I can assure you that too). Hate it when Maths comes in, even in poetry (Metre). Gaah!

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Rhythm is important in life. Whether you are dancing or humming along. I do not know how my DNA got bound; I have no sense of rhythm. I should have got it right, even with my two left feet, given my lineage. For now, let’s blame it on environmental factors.

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I wish I had paid more attention in class, 30-odd years ago. But it matters less. Learning without context is as good as not learning at all. Perhaps, poetry makes sense after you have seen enough sh*t in life.

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It reminds me how much I love her. Though, the poem that I study, has nothing to do with love. Or, does it?

Pink Abstraction

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And you love me too
Your thoughts are just for me
You set my spirit free
I’m happy that you do

The book of life is brief
And once a page is read
All but love is dead
This is my belief

~ Don McLean, And I Love you So

But, then, love never had to worry about boundaries and categories and structures. Thankfully.

Thank you, dear poem.

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.

Hearts & Homes

I’ll be frank.

I’ve never really understood the where of the where the heart is. I am, if it isn’t obvious, referring to the adage — home is where the heart is.

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There’s a certain trivialisation of the home, in that thought. Like, the home is a slave to the heart. Our heart is, where we are. So, when we move, that’s where the heart is: pretty obvious. Per se the heart never leaves us, it is with us where ever we are. The home? It’s at a place. It’s fixed. If you are out shopping in a place full of ethnic wares, that’s where your heart is, but it isn’t your home. Home, is where you home is. It matters less, what you call home.

Home, for me, is place you go back to. After all your adventures. After your heart has wandered all over. Tell me, that in spite of the comforts of the world, you don’t feel happy coming back home to your lumpy mattress, your own pillow, and your tattered and overused blanket: I’d say you are lying.

Perhaps, they really meant: Heart peace, comfort, and joy is where the home is.

If you are lucky like me, you will have more than one place that you call home. But that’s where we want to come, after hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. We all have more than a home, really. If you have found yourself addressing a place as mine without much thought, that’s one of the place that you belong to and it belongs to you.

That’s home.

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

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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.]

*

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.

*

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

But that’s life.

 

Different, But Same

This is not the first time I have felt it. I smile.

Just standing there, alone, out there, in that perfect afternoon makes me feel excited like a child. Again.

*

My earliest memory of having like that was in Singapore, some fifteen years ago. I was sitting on a bench on Orchard Road. It was a nice evening; my friend and I had walked a lot that day, taking in the scenes of the city, with some lovely conversations to go with it. He wanted to get in to one more shopping mall, to get something for his wife. I asked him to go ahead; I’d wait outside. As I sat on that bench and looked around, there was hardly anything like the environment I was used to, back in Mumbai. It was all different — the people, the vehicles, the buildings, the colours, the streets. It was fascinating. Yet it was the same me. I was the same person — thinking, feeling the same way I would, if I was back at home. I had travelled before, there was no reason for this sense gliding over me to be unique. It was the first time, however, I had paid attention. In a 3d-esque-Google Earth-Fly-mode, I imagined myself flying over the earth from Mumbai to Singapore, watching the terrain below me. I became acutely aware of how far I was away from home. I kept saying, everything around me is different, I am the same. I couldn’t for the life of me understood why that feeling is relevant or significant. But I was feeling excited about it, and I was smiling to myself.

Since that day in Singapore, I’ve travelled many places. Some, really far away. Whenever I have found a moment alone, this friendly feeling has always been at my side.

*

I am at break from work. I’ve come out of the building where we are working. Out there, looking at the beautiful afternoon sky, I have the same feeling. This time, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Everything around me is different, I am the same. Fifteen years have gone by, I still do not know the relevance or the significance of that feeling. I spent just a few more minutes, out there. I ask myself to understand what it means. Why do I feel this way, when I am far away from home. Why does this feeling recur? I take a photograph. Perhaps, when I am back home, when I think of this moment when I was far away, thinking how everything around me is different, I am the same, I’ll know.

16.08.10: Blue Skies

Fifteen years later, (older and wiser, apparently), I have no answer. I don’t mind.

I like the feeling.

Mind the Gap

Some people should write more often. Definitely more than a post every two months, on an average. It means a lot to the readers. But, perhaps these folks should not write more often. Supply demand economics will come into play. I am not sarcastic by default, but I can be sarcastic when I feel the need. I am not being sarcastic at this time. The Ides of November called into question (and answer) much that this year has been about.

This year died a long time ago for me. I am just dancing on its corpse, awaiting January, so that I may alight. I would elaborate on this thought, but much has been said about the tone of recent posts (Go to Archives, and read all posts in 2014) on this blog.)

<start:pet peeve>

Each entry that you write is a post and this collection of posts makes your blog. That one entry that you make in your blog is not your blog. That’s a post or an article. That entire collection of your entries? That’s a blog. Each of those entries in your blog? That’s a post.

<end:pet peeve>

I like the “gap year” concept in the post (post; not blog) that I have linked to, above. It makes so much sense. What’s interesting is that it is never obvious and we end up writing about it in November – the fag end. If you have read my blog for a while, you will know of my love/hate relationships with dates, especially rounded numbers and milestone dates, as well as the conflict I face with social sharing. That notwithstanding, after I read Amit’s post, I’ve decided this has to be the gap year (for me) that he so wonderfully describes. I didn’t need the post to inform me about it; his post just confirmed it, in a way.

9240: Small Gaps

Which, in a funny way, means that I have less than two months of left, of the gap year.

There’s this notion of point of no return. It has always intrigued me. I always measure distance in terms of the time it takes you to go there “and” return here. So, in my head, the point of no return has to be more than half of getting there. It’s like middle-age. People say, Oh, I’ve hit middle age. I always wonder how people can say that. To be able to say, you are in the middle age, you have to know when you will die. Else you are just statisticalising (Yup, I made up that word)

The one risk I face, come, end of December, is that I do not learn from this gap-year. Irrespective; if I chose the learning or it was imposed on me. The next year will have to be different. Either we will board the train or we will exit the platform.

Else, we risk another gap year.

Returning Home

Everybody should leave home.

One, we get to see what’s there in the world outside the small world that we live in. Most of the things we hold as true, aren’t. We see shades we have never encountered. There’s surprises galore that will shock and awe us. 

Two, it’s a wonderful feeling to return. The place is warm and your people invite you back in a way that you feel at home. With the experience of the world outside, our own world becomes slightly richer. The sense of comfort is satisfying.

After a while, we should leave home. Again.

10/10/10

Please note that the date in the title is in the dd/mm/yy format.

IMG_1459

Three years ago, this day I was in a popularly acknowledged exotic place in the world – Fiji. Traveling long distances has always been an intriguing experience. The context of it all – being so far away from a familiar place. Everything around you is different yet, you are the same. That instant difference and the sameness is the intrigue, and therefore the excitement and curiosity. This photo in particular gave a sense of a gentle touch, a connection with the environment I was in. It could have been taken in Mumbai, for all you know (it wasn’t), but the fact that it was taken on the other side of the world, made it ever so beautiful.

Not all discoveries you make during travel are about the places you see.

Come Home

%22You can have houses in a thousand places; only one will be home%22

Over obstacles, under the clouds and through the barriers,
Sans the compass and making sense of torn maps.
You’ll find a way, home.

My Home

Vengurla Port, MH, India

I was not created
To be at anchor.
My home is the open sea.

Vengurla Port, Konkan, MH, India. December 2005