Tuesday, November 11, 2008
So after a great deal of thought and analysis (not resulting in getting myself psyched up for a change); I figured a way out. Getting back my reading habit and occupy myself with books. Then again, choice of books also presents another dilemma. Recommendations, highly rated, referenced, less famous works by favorite authors, popular, random picks from the bookshop; too much to decide. I decided to give this quest a direction too, inspired from the chase for the IMDb top 250 movies.
I researched for lists of most critically acclaimed novels and zeroed in on 2 of them: the TIME magazine list and the Modern Library list. I know the subjectivity of this method, but I figured out there was hardly any harm in reading a few famous books at the least. Snooty as it may sound.
The reading list was made by extracting the common books out of the two lists, consisting of 100 books each (thank you, my limited excel skills). That left 44 books in the common list. An initial assessment revealed that I had managed just 5 out of the 44, a figure reminiscent of my college maths marks. *Sniff*
You can find the lists in the Excel sheet here.
It was not easy to find those books too, in the priority order that I had made after reading a synopsis of each. However, I just managed to finish the first book in the quest and will put my reading experience and perspective in this space (I hate calling it review, hardly qualified to review such stuff).
The first book in this list was "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh.
It is indeed a strange experience to find an author come just short of trashing his own creation in the prologue and then go ahead and read the book. But, then, it also acts a disclaimer. When the writer himself, in retrospect, brands the language "rhetorical and ornamental" and the content focusing on splendors of the past and infused with gluttonous references to good food and wine, there is little you can add to that. And then there is the deep underlying theme of religion, which I have never come to appreciate much in literature or cinema.
All said and done, it was a wonderful book; probably because I could relate to the predicament (a judgmental word) of Sebastian, a dear friend of the protagonist and first person narrator Captain Charles Ryder. The book itself is written in retrospect, a drift down the memory lane triggered by a chance visit by a now captain in the army to a place he had been associated with all through his past. A place where he did not belong, but was always in awe of. A place where his blue blooded friend Sebastian belonged to, but chose to refer it as "a place where my family stays" rather than his own home. Brideshead.
The entire novel is the story of how Charles, an ordinary college going adolescent, gets acquainted to a prodigal and disillusioned Sebastian which leads to an initial infatuation with the royal life style. As Charles gets to know more of his friends reason for disillusionment, and erratic behavior in the front of the family, he himself finds himself distant from that world and in search of his own.
If the story centered around Sebastian and the reasons for his disengagement and disinterest, I would have liked the novel much more. Instead, in my opinion, it ends up presenting a most dishonest perspective of the narrator, probably intentionally so. The first person tone and assertiveness grew stronger towards the end, so much so that it presented the narrator as an unparalleled apostle of self righteousness and devoid of any human emotions and feeling. If such was the intention, then it was a perfect way to achieve it.
So much for this book. I have moved on to the next one, which I will discuss soon hopefully.
Much has happened in between, in terms of experiences and I must finish those unfinished drafts to have them in print. I'll get back to doing that then.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day.Lord you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home
California sunlight, sweet calcutta rain
Honolulu starbright--the song remains the same
Sunday, August 31, 2008
A scary thing that just happened was that the title I chose for this post was the exact title of one of the previous drafts. Proves that I haven't really progressed with my thinking the past few days (weeks, leading to months perhaps).
Then people all around ask, 'Why don't you blog anymore?'. I know it is just one of the things people say when they don't have too much to talk about beyond five minutes before they go into an endless loop of saying "Aur batao". But, it does make me wonder.
So here I am. My new travel intensive job has me stationed at a cement plant near Rewa, MP. I need not elaborate on the utter sadness of this place, the few and far between readers of this post would have heard enough already. A cement plant has its own virtues. You go in daily a young jet black haired boy, you come back a grey haired old man. The old age vanishes with the shampoo, but sometimes you actually feel you age that much in a day.
I have to talk with people who are on an average 15 years my senior. My job comprises listening to them patiently for 2-3 hours and then find mistakes in things they have been doing for the past 10 years. Tough job. Tougher when you have to suggest them how they can make things better, a suggestion that always does not go down very well. Then, you have the comfort that you're never going to meet these people again. I hope.
One very curious phenomenon that we have established during the course of these numerous meetings though is the 6-degree separation-IIT-association game that begins once we give our introductions. Everyone seems to have some remote acquaintance of theirs in one of the IIT's in one of the batches. And we are somehow supposed to know all of them.
Picture this. One interviewee asks me about my background.
'IIT Bombay, 2007 batch'
"Oh, you're from IIT Bombay?" (well..here we go)
'Yes I suppose'
"I know a guy in IIT B"
"He was in Mech. Dept."
"He graduated in 200x'
"He works in Yahoo now"
"Do you know him?"
'I mean a name would have helped.'
Sequence of questions with varying degrees of obscurity followed with other people.
The good things about my stay here is that they do cook Maggi, that too at demand, in the guest house. Places change, the diet remains the same. The other good thing is that the only place where I had to spend any money was when I decided to buy a football, to keep me busy throughout. And also to remind me of the way more fun times.
Coming back to the existential bloc, I probably have been thinking to much lately. It scares me, but I think I'm beginning to sift out the tragedy in my day to day life, highlight it and become one of those sympathy seeking sissies who think they are tragic heroes of the league of Hamlet. After all, the choices that I have made are all mine. More often people tend to highlight the negatives more than the positives, coming to point where they fail seeing positives at all.
You are what you project after all. Which is one the many problems this blog faced, reading back I would have despised false projections, whatever the intentions. Even in real life.
"Why not" is sometimes more powerful a question that "why"; introspection wise.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I can also tell you that I wish that these were just about the only concerns I had. Wishes.
You must have heard this one: Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
Transition kills. Literally.
Is running away from what you dislike a way to find out what you really like? Especially when you had just about started finding things that you really liked at a place you still disliked as a whole. Cynically, if you don't run away, you never find out.
I cannot justify my skepticism. It comes with the transition probably. The desire to hold on to things.
Then, acceptance and reconciliation happen to be the two greatest virtues I tell people I possess. Time that gets tested.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Before I begin, the four years in college that I had an ATM card passed on peacefully. And it is not that I did not use it that often to be lost. I mean every time we went to the main gate I had to rush to the ATM to get whatever little cash I had in my account to pay for the vada pav and cutting chai we had. Nothing ever happened.
After coming into this job thing, the little money in the account part didn't change. The frequent use didn't change. Curiously the mishandling part did. I mean the SBI ATM had this swipe and remove thing, where you had to be an absolute moron to lose a card. This ATM that I have now eats up the card, dispenses the cash and you have to wait for eternity after pressing a button to wait for the card. A lesser degree of morons find this change slightly unnerving.
So the inevitable happened the first time around November. It had been just 2 months since I had gotten this card, before that I had no identity proof to even open a salary account. I had to depend on my SBI card, which I managed to lose right about then! Talk about poor timing. Anyway, just to substantiate Murphy's law, I lost my salary account card right on the day I got my salary. As I described, I must have forgotten it in some bloody ATM which gladly would have eaten it up. The conjectures because I wasn't even sure until about a day later.
The realization part was comical, it had to be. As usual we had no food at home. We were hosting a friend and I volunteered to go to the market and get some food. Again adding to the situation all the ATM's in the market were non-functional, sparing one. This meant that there was this half a kilometer long queue outside that solitary functioning one. I waited in the line patiently. The guy behind me asked if we could use an ABN card at an SBI ATM. I consoled him telling that is exactly what I was going to do before him.
My chance came in about five hundred hours, compounded by the fact that I was very hungry by then. I entered the room with the machine and took out my wallet. Hard luck, there was no card. I searched frantically, and realized there were people behind who were getting irritated. I came out making a stupid face. Trying to figure out what happened all the while.
It was around 9 in the night. It was cold. It started raining. Cold November rain. I phoned back home, they sympathized. My friend volunteered to accompany me to the far off market we had visited in the morning to trace the missing card. We were the only ones in the bus. It was playing cheesy Bappi Da numbers which somehow irritated me to the point of laughter. It was all so surrealistically comical. Not the end mind you.
We reached the market in about 40 minutes. We knocked on the ATM doors and asked the guards. They were clueless. What were we thinking? The best part was that it was an AXIS bank ATM and I had a had time explaining both the customer care people. I gave up. We had to get back, and the place was deserted. Windy, chilly, raining, freezing cold. We saw a bus going to our place. The conductor said it would go if it starts. We pushed it, ran in the rains pushing that damn bus. It started and we ran to hop in before it gathered speed. I took and seat and laughed. Unstoppable laughter. It was all so surrealistically improbably insane. And yet it was happening.
The blocking and re-issue of course went like clockwork. I decided to be ultra careful from now on.
Ultra careful, right. Once again, about 2 months later, I forgot it while taking cash from downstairs my company. I went up, got a call from an office number, which as always I almost didn't pick up:
"Hi, is this Nikhil?'"
"I think you left your card in the ATM downstairs"
'You think, you're not sure?' (what a real smart thing to say, isn't it?)
"No, no I mean you did leave it. I left it with the guard."
'Well. Thanks a lot. Thank you.'
Quite obviously that guy thought right. I rushed down and embarrassingly but fortunately reclaimed my card.
This third time, again the day I got my salary this month, I don't even remember. It's almost as if the card underwent spontaneous combustion. I pick up my wallet that morning, all happy to finally able to fill it with some cash and presto... my card's gone. I tried using my SBI card, but it was so long that I had forgotten the pin. Every day I went to the SBI ATM, tried a random (absolutely sure at that point of time) combination of four numerals but the machine refused to dispense me any money. All this at a time when I was supposed to treat people on my birthday. Talk about timing!
Honestly, this time I'm taking serious care :)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
He had to take therapy. I mean you just can’t sit down on the middle of the road, shouting you are God, blabbering incomprehensible stuff and not take therapy. I can’t even make a straight face and say I did not see that coming. We used to sit for extended periods of time at places; parks, stairways, roadsides and talk about stuff, logical stuff from his perspective, my perspective does not even matter. He did the talking, I did the listening.
I used to come back and wonder, what triggered all this. Why someone so obviously creative and talented (I hate that word, but that’s why I use it) could end up this way. He told me something that his therapist told him. Creativity need not always be a positive thing. Probably it is like tripping, trip bad and you end up being scarred for life. Trip good and you end up being Pink Floyd or Aldous Huxley.
I did my own amateur therapy part. You know it is not always talent or creativity that decides things; it is how you decide to use them. The part about talent being nothing but a genetic gift from your parents, works well till 18. You top schools, ace competitive exams, get praises and accolades. That’s about it. After 18 it is all about hard work. I bet he knew all this. I mean who doesn’t.
He used to tell me that he doesn’t see things the way I do. He described what an approaching car with the light cone made by the headlights meant to him. I ended up telling him something way weirder; just to prove that others may think on the same lines too, just that it is not worth the imagination. I mean why on earth would you unleash your creative line of thought on something so insignificant. I was a being a victim of my own explanation.
What triggered this bad tripping is a totally different matter. I thought it was the pride, the huge ego, the putting up to great expectations compounded by a slightly enhanced imaginative mind. A mild setback (again a debatable word), and a whole world would come crashing down. Part truth.
I wouldn’t complete the rest of the story. Partly because it is not complete. Let it be.
But sometimes, when things get blue, I ponder about what the therapist said about creativity and imagination always not being a good thing.
There is thing that troubles me often. How long do you stay what people think is you? What if I’m tired of joking, making fun, trying to be witty and sarcastic and want to stay silent? A wrong time to think all this but just about half the friends who called me up ended up asking if everything is okay. Everything is okay.
I am just getting tired of being what people think I am. And playing along is getting difficult all the time.
And so I get older. Happy birthday.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I feel so bad that I cribbed about Kotla in my previous post. I feel horrible. Because, putting things in perspective after Sawai Man Singh Stadium, Jaipur, every expletive in the fattest dictionary of slang ever printed would fall short. Honest to God.
Firstly let me put the disappointment of a complete mismatch aside. Chennai got annihilated, Dhoni sucked. But that's cricket. I take it in my stride. Traveling 220 kms up and down to watch this match in the best possible seat on offer would have been tragic. Understandable nonetheless.
But boy oh boy do I rue that screwed up moment when I chose the 400 instead of 500 buck ticket, thinking what the frigging difference will it make as to what stand I chose. That choice ruined up the experience of not only a stadium, not only a city, but the entire state as a whole. Elaborate I must. Elaborate I will.
So these guys have this Hitchcock inspired stand names, we chose the west south one. Seemingly a harmless choice, but even Hitchcock wouldn't have anticipated such a cruel twist of fate. The signs on the ticket were ominous enough. Pink color coded stand in Pink city, what was I thinking? It would all have been nice in a tweens Barbie world simulation match. Real life is tough.
The screwing dumb wits had the stand designed like a damned roadside maidan. The essential element of a stadium i.e. the constant increase in elevation of stands as rows went back was not figured out I guess. They had put all chairs, all at almost the same level, which meant that people even 3-4 rows behind could have an iota of a chance of catching a glimpse of any action. Barring the soda pop guy selling his stuff.
As it is people tend to get excited in cricket matches. They shout at players like they are next door acquaintances almost sure of getting a response. The presence of cheerleaders aggravates and compounds the situation. All this meant that everyone in the entire stand was not only standing, but standing on the chairs. To add to the agony, instead of standing still, most were jumping and dancing and waving which does not do good to your anger when you are already irritated.
We tried our best to restore sanity. We begged, we pleaded, we implored people to sit down. But the moment a ball was about to be bowled everyone stood up again. We resorted to slandering, abusing people and got full sport from fellow back rowers. Again, the effect was short lived.
Irritated beyond words, and disappointed, we had to do what the other were doing. Stand on our chairs to watch the action. We could only convince ourselves to do it once in a while, letting out our frustration at the people in front in the meanwhile. The match on ground didn't help the mood.
This watching experience matches the one in Keenan, Jamshedpur that I had quoted in my previous post.
Mohali better be good :)
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I have this dream of watching a cricket match in every stadium possible. I took one step forward this week towards the completion of this quest.
We went to witness an IPL T20 match between Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore. I had booked a dozen tickets, half a dozen by mistake, so it was just a matter of choosing the company. That wasn't the tough part, of course. The tough part was getting to Kotla on a sweltering summer day to collect the tickets and do a full circumference of the stadium before getting to the right counter. This seriously made me wonder if all this was worth the effort. But then I am a veteran of standing in 4 km lines to get into a cricket stadium, only to kneel down on concrete and watch the match for 25 overs. Getting old brings that element of skepticism with it I guess.
Anyway, expect for the heavy traffic congestion everything else was smooth sailing. The stands were full but not over packed. The view was good from the north-west stand we were in, right next to the sight screen. But, having watched a match each in Wankhedede and Brabourne, I was left wanting for much more. The scoreboard was pathetic, they could do with an electronic scoreboard. The so called 'big' screen wasn't big enough, and the little they managed to show of the action on the field was of quality comparable to grainy low quality porn videos (so I'm told :D ).
The 'glam' element was equally obscene. I mean I'm not there to watch 'Akki' waving hands at a place he doesn't belong to. And a sad Kailash Kher singing songs I have and would never hear. Cheerleaders bring little cheer, when they are Indianised. The purpose gets lost. But then about 99.99% of the people were happy, ecstatic in fact. I guess we won't we getting a live rock show at a stadium soon enough then.
All said and done, the view from the top tier, right next to the floodlights up above, was surreal. The ground looked like an exotic green carpet, with toy like players sliding and running about. That's the view I've tried to capture with the slightly less than adequate phone camera.
Continuing this quest, we head to Jaipur tomorrow. It is not the first time I have seen the great Shane Warne and the local Dhoni in action on a cricket field. Then, you can never have enough.
I am divided though. Warney or Dhoni? Sentimental!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been.
~Truckin' (Grateful Dead)
Lethargy kept me from chronicling what has been the busiest phase of my life; places I have managed to visit, people I have met, things I have done. A new notebook (Acer 4720Z for the record) gives me the opportunity to pause and recollect.
First things first. Heartiest congratulations and a great married life ahead to my cousin-in-arms and dear bhabhi - latest addition to the family.
It was great fun having everyone around for those 2 days. I also indulged in probably the most uncomplicated dance form known to human kind, and the only one I know, with much glee that night - the baraati dance. Heck we even danced to "Ye Desh hai Veer jawano ka", why it was there in the band playlist in the first place we had no clue. Trivialities.
A part of the fun was the shifting of the 50 odd bags and baggages, all of them obscenely stuffed, from one impossible place to another. At points of time there were more coolies handling the luggage than people following behind to whom they belonged to.
Chandigarh reminded me of Jamshedpur, the grid structure, no high rises, small town feel and all that jazz. The level of organisation though was slightly unnerving. Thank God for all the chaos I've seen in Mumbai. At least every place in the damn city doesn't look the same. Eerie.
Going back, we had this sick-of-the-city-let's-get-out trip to Rishikesh, Haridwar and Devprayag. The trip coincided with my work group's trip to Murud (a random beach near Mumbai, some 20 hrs travel from Delhi). The fact that a friend and I envisioned, planned, pitched and convinced colleagues of the worth of that place, only to back out and plan a parallel trip did raise a few eyebrows and resulted in a few conspiracy theories, but everyone came back happy (we took the credit by the way) made everyone forget everything. Win, win anyone?
Coming back to our trip, we had a hang of the laid back lifestyle that these places offer. We were on a spiritual-but-not-religious tour which meant that none of the temples got the honour of being graced by our presence. No ones loss. No rafting too, we decided to save our adrenaline for better days. For hours we just sat by Lakshman Jhula, the Ganges riverside, whatever it might be, and soaked in the spirituality oozing out of the pretty, pretty surroundings.
The "Har-ki-Pauri aarti at Haridwar" deserves a special mention. There is something about the earthen lamps and their reflection in the river that touches the deepest chord of spirituality, and the sight there is sure to give you a spiritual high. The flickering cotton lamps disappear in the troubled waters, most put out by the forceful waters, the ones that remain glittering like far away stars in the galaxy. Spiritual trance.
Then there was this really express visit home for Holi. Nothing eventful except that I traveled 24 hrs to get home, reached and got sick in my 24 hr stay home, traveled back 24 hrs and rejoined office.
It had been a long time and I could feel Mumbai calling. The valfi of my juniors provided the perfect reason to answer that call. Batch mates from here and there dropping in at the same time made it a memorable re-union of sorts. It was another packed trip, try living your 4 years in college in 3 days and you'll know. I did manage a respectable lot; the night out, Maddu Mess, Pop Tates, trips to HN, Colaba Causeway, a million faces to meet and greet. The Hard Rock Cafe visit was a special one, a much needed respite from the usual gayish music at the usual joints. They played Led Zep, The Who and the likes at full blast. No one talked. Everyone listened.
I'll be back Mumbai.
Right now it is back to the grind.
So long Dear Diary, until we meet again then.
Friday, February 08, 2008
I would probably sit by the sea
And seek tranquility
Miles away from this cold place.
And as I would sit on the beach
Way beyond the reach
Of authority; the rules 'they' preach
I'd think of consequences if I breach
And break away from this rat-race.
200 posts. Still alive. Yay!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Sometimes you want to write but you're not sure what to write about. Or you're not sure what you want to write is even worth writing. I don't know why this 'worthiness' angle comes into picture after 3 years of writing about almost everything that could be written about. Surprisingly it does.
It is scary how words come back to haunt. That too something I had written not too long ago, just before I left the campus one final time. Since I have no one else to quote, I'll have to quote myself again.
Probably all the pretenders get around and make a world that seems real to all of them. Probably I'm a part of of that world. I'm fighting with all I've got to get out. Only that I really can't get the people around me to come with me. The worst it leads to is frustration, something I have learnt to get over soon enough. I'm glad I didn't end up disliking many people, I wish the many would have been any. I wish the same with me, although I know that hate is often reciprocated.
Now this... this is proving to be an epidemic as far as I'm concerned. The part in bold is the major problem. As I say often to people who try and troubleshoot my problems, I know all my troubles, limitations and their solutions in graphic detail. It is just that I fall short on the implementation part. Once the optimism dies, all I'm left with is cold indifference. I see that stage coming again.
I'm scaring myself as much as I'm scaring you with all this shadowy talk. But I guess this is what happens when your interests, your friends, your carefree life are taken away from you and you're dumped in a lonely, friendless, boring place. The problems are compounded when the only option is to choose the other life. I choose not to choose that life.
The other day I was telling a friend about this quote which goes something like , "When you keep hitting a rock repeatedly and it breaks on the 100th blow, it is not the last blow that broke the rock. The 99 others contributed equally, just that the end result wasn't visible." I know I messed up this quote proper, but that's not my concern right now. I see that 100th blow coming too.
Enough. In other news, I have started taking tennis lessons. They told me I'm a quick learner, and it felt nice to be doing at least something well. I also have made plans to skateboard (one of the things my brother got me on his trip back home) my way down my apartment stairs pretty soon. My room mate though has refused to take me to the hospital just in case, which is one reason I'm putting this off until later.
Some very funny things have happened since the ones I've posted on this blog. I'll update as soon as I get into that mood. I see that coming too :)
Sunday, January 06, 2008
really lame way to end a two month hibernation, that too a
philosophical and tumultous two months. Nevertheless this promises to
be an exciting new avenue.
Hopefully productive too.