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.

12138546_10156091039110573_6819931460489077849_o

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.]

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.