Thursday, June 02, 2011

There goes my hero..
Watch him as he goes.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Feel good hit of the monsoons

After the rain has fallen - Sting
I love the warmth of my green sweatshirt, after a work-out and a quick shower. It smells innately of home, of sweat and strain, of a concocted blend of Brut and Old Spice, of incense from myriad mornings, of sambar from a fresh stain. Some old smells, some new, some breathtaking, some not so much. And I especially like wearing it when I take a walk.

The rain had stopped, the streets were quiet and the air was balmy. I just felt like a walk. Ordinarily I'd go for a smoke, but I just felt like a walk. Walking works wonders for me when I feel down. But this walk had no agenda. It was just too beautiful outside not to take a walk. I love my city in the night. I love my locality in the night. In the day, you cannot imagine it can possibly be this quiet.

I didn't even want to think. You tend to think when you take a walk in the night alone. I just rode the wave. I didn't even know what direction I wanted to start. Like they say, when you don't know where you're going any road will take you there.

All the young dudes - Mott the Hoople
I just started walking along a road a couple of roads from home. G and I had run like hell down this road after we stole mangoes from a neighbour's backyard once. He was to become my accomplice in juvenile crime. We once had a blueprint of a major heist that entailed jumping down five feet from a lentil onto a compound, picking up a Pepsi bottle out of a crate from Choice bakery and jump down to a empty site, all in ten seconds. I think I need to speak with G about the time that we fell in love with the same girl once, and how she broke both our hearts by recently marrying a common enemy of ours. The bastard told on us when we were watching FTV.

Anyone for tennis - Cream
21st main. J's place! I think I've spent atleast a third of my childhood on this street alone. Wicket marked on the bark of a tree, rubber-ball cricket, broken glasses, 'lawn' tennis on the road with lines marked by bricks. Fights over wrapping paper and he-man labels. Conception of the library idea. Watching Powerzone on Cartoon Network, role-playing characters from the Centurions. Acne!

For what it's worth - Buffalo Springfield
If you live on the main road for as long as I have, you always keep wishing you lived someplace quieter. Some narrow little road, nicely tucked in a cosy-looking neighborhood where you can hear the strains of the Sitar from old Mr. Murthy's place five houses away. Far away from the noise, the pollution and in my case the smell of hot cooking oil, maida and vegetables screaming straight into the lungs earl-early in the morning. I walked in one such lane, and now more than ever before I either want to shift here or build a home in these kind of lanes at some point in life.

Better version of me - Fiona Apple
When you are small, you always look to make friends. I don't know if Seinfeld (being Seinfeld) has already observed this and made money out of it. But it really is easy to make new friends when you're growing up. You read Chacha Choudhari? You are my friend. You don't mind swapping your orange lolly with my yellow one? Come here, let's hug it out! Your mum and mine met at the grocery store. There's no way you can not be invited to my birthday now. Really, some of the best friends I have today are the ones I made on 12b ground playing cricket. I realized it while I passed by the ground today, and also how much bigger it used to be all those years ago. After a while, our friend-making pattern becomes decidedly more consistent. And infinitely more boring. Wilde was right. Consistency is the last refuge of the imaginative.

Take me somewhere nice - Mogwai
Do you ever think about putting off things for the future, and later dread not ever being able to do any of them? Like going up to that unbelievably cute girl who surfing CDs in the Rock section of a music store, and launching into a conversation about Esoteric, a vague doom metal band from Birmingham? Like learning to make that wicked chocolate mousse, that you and your friend will wreck the kitchen preparing? Like learning to strum the rhythm section of one song that has given you endless joy over the years? Like experimenting with glossy latex paint on your gypsum wallboard with that summery yellow finish that you can only see in your day dreams? Like just meeting long-lost friends whom you shared moments with that still make you smile? Most of us are like turtles. Turtles live a hundred years because they are well-protected by their shells, but they do not move forward until they stick their head out.

For sentimental times - Nat King Cole
It is time. To re-build broken bridges and build back up plans. To realize that we live by the choices we make, but to unsubscribe from the fiction that the world holds an advantage over us. To be able to deal with being out of control. To push out of the envelope and go ahead being mad at times. To realize that in time, our moral compasses will be sufficiently well developed to keep let alone our bikes, but also ourselves out of the swimming pool.

I think it is perfectly okay to take off from work, smack dap in the middle of a hectic work week with a deadline breathing down your neck. Provided you take a walk, that is. Take a walk at night, feel young.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sar Pass - Have cool, will travel!

It is necessary not to be "myself," still less to be "ourselves."
The city gives one the feeling of being at home

We must take the feeling of being at home into exile.

We must be rooted in the absence of a place

-Simone Weil

June in Bangalore has got to be my favorite time. I have decided that I like it better than Shakespeare's England, Mozart's Vienna and Italian Rennaissance put together. Rain is never more welcome, mango milkshakes never taste sweeter and Bob Dylan never sounded as defiantly ponderous. What better time and place to be when, say you want to reflect upon a two-week holiday that you know will be etched deep in memory for the rest of your life.

It all started - where else? - at the airport. When you build something based on the assumption that everybody who gets there is from somewhere else, it becomes a big international convenience zone. In order to make everyone feel at home, there is a collection of generic spaces - the shopping mall, the hotel lobby, the food court. But you cannot help but feel a distinct smell of business here, topped off with conditioned air and fake plants. Airports are always so agog with activity and emotion. Mothers breaking down at departure doors, as their sons go off in search of greener pastures; groups of friends determinedly making the most of the last few moments before one of them travels off to a different time zone; couples having their moments of intimacy as they close their eyes and savour that last kiss; passengers themselves being on the edge, with mixed feelings of alertness and excitement. There is always something promising on the other side.

If the Delhi airport was anything to go by, I would say it was like the city's business card and handshake. Huge, busy and ever so self-important. And much like how it was 15 years ago when I last visited, Delhi is still all about the extremeties. Scorching summers and biting cold winters, the cramped spaces of Old Delhi and unendingly huge houses of Janpath, the filling meal at Parathewala of Chandni Chowk and the filling meal at United Coffee House on Connaught Place, the omnipresent rickshaw and the slick underground Metro. The only things that remained constant everywhere were liquor shops shutting down at 10pm and of course, pretty women. Oh my god - everywhere bloody where!! Anyway, with all its various sights, smells and sounds, Delhi was a heady stop-gap location.

A year ago, one of my friends showed me pictures and told me tales from his trek to the Himalayas. Along with the rest of the baays, I just knew, after that where my next holiday was going to be. But with the economy being in shit and office politics in its prime, the holiday plan spent what seemed like a lifetime on the drawing board. After long months of nagging our managers and longer months of slogging our bums off, the six of us finally had our leaves approved and enough dough to get away. With tiny personal tragedies under my belt, a couple of failed travel opportunities and dwindling prospects on my forehead and big bad commercial tastelessness on my tongue, I just needed a holiday like a dog in heat.

So, you can imagine the kilos of adrenalin in our systems as we boarded the bus from Delhi to Kullu - slowly and separately saying goodbye to the last traces of civilization, or at least city life.

Organized by the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI), the Sar Pass Expedition starts from YHAI's base camp in Kasol (6,500 ft above sea-level), traverses through camps located all along the Parvati valley at varying altitudes, culminates in Sar Pass (13,500 ft a.s.l) and concludes with a descent back to the base camp.

Kasol, set against the backdrop of the mighty River Parvati and spotted with tall, old pine trees everywhere, is a place that makes you realize that traveling is fun because of the people you meet as much as it is because of the places you see. The base camp itself draws hundreds of people from all over the country every day for a month. If ever I needed a lesson in national integration more profound than those shows on DD, it was this.

You can only speak of India in the plural. There's no singular, there's no "one way" to things in here. The way our idealogies, our faiths, our beliefs and our tastes are arranged vouch for that pluralism. Outside the base camp, there was a huge immigrant population, mostly Jewish people from Israel, some holidaying and others probably seeking the "truth". It almost seemed as if the latter group approached a sadhu in Manikaran who said, "Do not ask for truth in India. You will get no short of a billion answers." At this point, the group thought, "Fuck it. Light up the hash". This explains the overpowering smell of hash/charas right through the place! But seriously, a couple of days of acclimatization and emceeing for a base camp show later, I had met a geologist, an astronomer, a fighter pilot, students of structural design, an investment banker and tons of software engineers. To a new eye, India may strike as maddening, chaotic, inefficient and seemingly unpurposeful as it muddles through the 21st century, but you learn that there is more to it than meets the eye. Like E.P Thomson said, "there is not a thought that is being thought in the West or the East that is not active in some Indian mind." Engage in a longer conversation with that old British man in Kasol, over Turkish coffee and beedis. I assure you that will be fun!

Guna Pani (at 8,000 ft) was the first step on the stairway to paradise. While the trek itself is not very physical, you get braced to the kind of life you will live for the next 8 days. Lunch points at places where sheer natural beauty whets your appetite. Do not miss those charming Himalayan ladies who cook up a dream omelette and Maggi (which I believe I had copious evidence that I was the best at). On reaching the camp at Guna Pani, you get the first feel of the several epiphanies attached to taking a dump in the open space. Trust me, it is an amazingly powerful experience when you're one on one with nature, in a grassy field surrounded by snow-clad peaks that look like molten gold in the sunset. At the end of several such dumps, you know solitude from loneliness and wisdom from information. No, really! I swear on the toilet paper. One of the highlights of this camp was our first camp fire. Replete with songs sung by talented singers from within the group and an engaging hands-on astronomy lesson from our group leader, it was just the kind of fire needed to break the ice that was beginning to settle amongst the 57 of us.

Fual Pani (at 9,500 ft) was a slightly sterner reminder for what we learnt at Guna Pani. The trek entailed a steeper gradient and requires one to be properly hydrated all along the way. And you see that there is no point in rushing from one camp to the next, but instead take it slow and savor nature's complete offering. The camp is situated in a slopy portion of a dense forest with a nice little stream flowing nearby. On reaching, we retired to what was probably the coziest tea stall on the planet. What started as banter slowly turned to a beautiful multilogue of tales featuring adventure, reclaimed lives, lost love, hopes for the future and KLPR (shit, that was genius)!

Powered by a deceptively catchy slogan "Wandering one gathers honey", YHAI does a good job in giving the wandering ones absolutely no honey, not even a blooming whiff of it. The idea is to live in minimal comfort. The tents are minimal, the food is basic, the tea is bland and the sleeping bags exactly as functional as need be. But once you see the terrain that they are up against, you realize how hard it is to set up tents, let alone cook food in these conditions. That was to be the biggest reasons for satisfaction after the trek - the experience of living and living it up with just the basic amenities. Even more satisfying than the physical nature of the trek.

Zirmi (11,000 ft) is just breathtaking. The journey from Fual Pani is about 6 km in high gradient. That would translate to about 18 km of walking on plain land. Being a young bunch, we made it to the half-way mark much in advance, which necessitated a longer break so that the arrangements at the camp would be complete. There is no better way to take a break during a hard trek than lying down together with friends under the sky, watching the sun play peek-a-boo with the clouds, ogling at the perfect conifer tree-line symmetry and having just enough battery on your phone to listen to High Hopes. Pink Floyd gets surreal with altitude in much the same way that wine does with age. This all-consuming moment of togetherness coupled with a pleasant cluelessness to express beauty in words rendered me with the widest, dumbest and most satisfied smile of all time. Enough said!

Tila Lotni (12,500 ft) gives you the first feeling of snow. All the research we had done about snow-trekking paid off. We were forewarned and forearmed (Quite literally, we picked up hunter shoes from Army Stores!). We made merry in snowfall, laughing, as old Jim said like soft mad children, smug in the wooly cotton brains of infancy. We slept that night, fully dressed and snucked in a warm sleeping bag and under two blankets, listening to stories of brilliant adventure from a man who flies the MiG-27 for a living. Do drink a lot of tea.

The final frontier beckoned, as we left Tila Lotni early next morning after a night of heavy snowfall. Way above the tree line and even the clouds, all you see around you is just an array of magnificent snow peaks. But after a while, you start feeling like you're married to Monica Bellucci. You have fantasized about her all your life and suddenly you find yourself sleeping along side her, knowing every cranny of her body over 5 years. It's beautiful, but you're used to it.

And finally, we reached Sar Pass at a crazy 13,500 ft above sea level. Oh the joy! Once you are at the top, there is just a vast stretch of snow through which it is impossible to walk through. So what do you do? You slide, of course! Stick in hand, rucksack on the back I felt like a Winter Games champion. And also like a trapeze artist for a brief moment where I was air borne. You just gotta try!

The after-dream that followed entailed copious amounts of Signature and numerous puffs of adulterated Charas, and at some point there I turned 24.

As I traveled back, living a dream, trying to put a face to strange beautiful female vocalists on my player, staring at the stars and awing about them, I marveled after those who sought new wonders in the world. The trick is to use knowledge as a spur rather than a comfort pillow for a settled way of thinking.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The comfort zone

"I have known great love. At various levels - at its most evocative, its most poetic, its most humourous, its most heroic and its most heart-breaking. I have felt the moments of lightness that falling in love brings. I have felt the spiritual epiphanies that keep human relationships going. I have wrapped my legs around the smoky, sultry, hazy, smooth comfort of love on cold nights. I have slow-danced to those soft percolative rhythms that hearts beating in harmony make. I have marvelled at the infinite beauty and yet, the irrepressible fragility of it all.

Now, through a pint glass, darkly, I have seen contempt and affection cancel each other out, as familiarity grew. Sometimes, I have felt I have a bigger propensity to err than I thought I did. Other times I have felt, after I'd done all I can, standing on the steps with my heart in my hand, that maybe its got nothing to do with me. I have realized that listening to music is intense for me, with the abundance of tiny wisdoms that surrogate older brothers and uncles like Al Green, Kurt Cobain and Lou Reed offer, whilst morbidly ruminating about love and life. I have spotted little grey blocks of literature in places I never expected, that conceal tales of love stolen away too soon. I see people with all kinds of reactions - wry, sardonic, depressed, tragic romantic. Practical.

Love is a battlefield. Love is tender trap. Love is like oxygen - you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you're going to die. Love bites, love bleeds, love is the drug. But with the realization that love never dies comes true balance."

And then, he smiled and sat around with a beam of peace over his head, calmly gathering knowledge and pleasure from all the flowers that still grew around him.

Sounds of the moment:

Angie - The Rolling Stones
Inside of Love - Nada Surf
Black - Pearl Jam
How to save a life - The Fray
Move on - Jet

Monday, January 05, 2009

To my ultimate backroom boss

You are my biggest hero. You were my hero because you always told the best stories to put me into blissful slumber when I was five. You were my hero because you always bought plum cake on your way back home from work exactly when I was craving for it the most. You were my hero because you bought me my first cricket bat and bowled half volleys in our backyard until I was the best cover-driver in 5th std. D section. You were my hero when, just before being wheeled into the operation theater for your heart surgery, you asked about school and about India's score in the 2nd test of the West Indies in India series in 1994. I told you they got 546. You ruffled my hair, patted my cheek and said, "Good, India won't bat again and you will study. Now give me a bit, I'll be right back". You were my hero when you went to work as early as 4 in the morning, while I could never wake up before 7 for my board exams for all the coffee in Brazil. You were my hero because, the other day, I stumbled on one of your diary entries for 1982 which said, "Salary for December = Rs. 800. Savings from last month = Rs. 150. Notes - pay final instalment of home loan, buy cycle for B and saree for S." I choked up after reading that, mixed half-tears of joy, awe and pain.

I know you're battling through a frustrating time right now. I know you hate not being the usual world-beating raconteur you were. I know you hate not being able to take your favorite long morning walks. I know you hate taking those pills. I also know how hard it is for you to see this generation gap between us, which occasionally puts a terrible canyon of static between everything you and I share. But you know what the highlight of this whole year for me was? It was not my new job which is paying me better. It wasn't India winning the one-day series in Australia. It was not even me acquiring my car driving licence. It was the whole month of October. Load-shedding in full force and subsequent power cuts meant that instead of coming home from work and watching Scrubs in my room, I spent candle-lit late evenings with you and that other great lady. I might seem annoyingly caught up with my own hectic, albeit atomized life, giving time and attention to all the myriad creatures that make up my life, but I just wanted you to know, irrespective of how rarely I say it, you provide more shape and meaning in your own way to my life than most people can imagine to give.

All this while, you have silently taught me one thing - knowing my strengths and weaknesses, reading through my value messages and wanting to be different is good. Being well-grounded while being different, however, is unparalleled. So, despite all the counter-opinion, I've begun subscribing to your one-liner as a possible mantra for the new year - "In your quest to know everything, just be aware of two things; you're middle-class and you're educated."

Thanks Dad,
Tons of respect and acres of hope!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Condiments of the Soul. And other Rajanna stories!

Phew. Six puris wolfed down in record time, a delightful cup of a masala tea, a bottle of cold mineral water and a whole ten drags of Kings later, I sat down in a sleeper coach, legs outstretched in exactly the position that allowed my feet to bask in the AC air. And as the iPod shuffled over to Raghu Dixit, I actually felt heady vapors of a memorable time wafting out from the top of my head, leaving that typically dumb, satisfied smile one has on one's face when everything with the world is JUST perfect!

Sometimes, your days are only as good as the last thought or image in your mind before you fall asleep. It is the same story with holiday trips! All that happens in between is like a succession of slow-burning, percolative rhythms that add on to that one final solsticial ensemble where suddenly every beat, every riff and every mood is in place.

And ah, those rhythms!

My trip to Gokarna this time was a departure of sorts from my last one, which was more than a year ago. The chief differences were - one, I went with a group of friends that I've known all my life and two, we planned for ages before actually embarking on the trip. This time, it was a fresh circle and there was minimal planning. It was like the coming together of travel's two most popular adages - "the most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway" and "half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness". No, I'm not making these quotes up!

The repugnance and pain of traveling 13 hrs on a crowded, non-deluxe bus was eased out by a brilliant KFC meal (thanks to Cwappah), conversations about Real Estate in Panama with an advertising guy I met and also many small gulps of Port Wine (Cwappah again).

Gokarna struck me with all the adorable appeal of being a village of rundown beauty, like it did the first time I was here. Waiting for people, like always is made easier by Patiala-sized helpings of Signature and lunch. Our caretaker, Mr. HG also chipped in for the entertainment cause with compelling narrations of Gokarna's history - laced with big words in that lovely Uttara Kannada dialect. I was quietly wondering how he would refer to the origin of "byootiful virgin beechas and breathtaking laandscapes".

Beaches. I have this peculiar quirk of having to spread my visit to beaches over at least two separate days. The first visit will be characterized by long, solitary walks, despondent staring into the sunset and elaborate attempts at being reflective about Life, Universe and Everything. The second visit is when I actually realize I am on holiday and refrain from thought processes that are too hard on the cerebrum. In other words, indulge in manic drinking and trying to sing like Vadivel.

The thing is - for most people, stepping into a beach is the ultimate realization that they have gotten away from all things that bother them in daily life. They force themselves to think about the happiest things. But because of the crazy vastness of the area, their ears become vast aural blackholes, begging the sea to fill them up with the voices of the world. And everything goes downhill from there! I mean - what can you think about that is so happy that will push away all your daily worries in an instant and also last till you walk the entire stretch of the coastline? It's futile - face it. So you come back the next day, determined not to think too much, drink a lot and stare at all the real sights the beach offers - forget the achingly pretty twilight and the beautiful landscape, here come the women!

Getting to know people is the best! And nothing brings new friends closer like the sunshiney cheer of the beach, tales told over dinner tables and around candlelight on dark nights.

And to complement that, Gokarna does not offer great public transport service. Getting from one beach to the next (which is pretty much all one can do, especially if one is an inveterate atheist) is mostly best done by foot. For all those who want to visit all of Gokarna's beaches in any season except the monsoons, I strongly recommend the trek from Om Beach to Paradise, with a stop-over at Half Moon. Its brilliant and best done over an empty stomach. Also, I challenge you to bring along Rufus Weinwright to the trek and see if his rendition of Stairway to Paradise is really that happy at the end of it. This is strooong stuff man! The fact that we did not expect a simple day at the beach to entail lengthy treks over mountains and water somehow made us muster more character and stick as a group! If anything, atleast that should make us keep in touch with each other. For everything else, there's Puri Saagu at Shivaprasad!

Terrific trip. Pity I couldn't indulge in the last offerings - Old Monk and more Signature. For those who did, a belated 'cheers and here's sand in your eye!'

Manudo's back. Gimme a hell yeah!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I just retrieved an ancient file on my PC from 6 years ago. I had just drawn an outline of a guitar on the wall and was putting together some content that would adorn it. A combination of guts, naivete and inexplicable recurrences of boners while listening to loud music!

Look at me when you shoot a bullet through my head. It seems I found the road to nowhere And I’m trying to escape. Simple living is my desperate cry. I just found out there's no such thing as the real world Just a lie you've got to rise above. Hey - Wait - I've got a new complaint Forever in debt to your priceless advice. Hardline, hardline after hardline. I'm inferior? Who's inferior? Fight the war, fuck the norm. Awww, bring that shit in! Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything. The direction of the eye, so misleading The defection of the soul, nauseously quick I don't question, our existence I just question, our modern needs. Silence like a cancer grows. Can they win the fight for peace or will they disappear? As your arms get shorter Your pockets get deeper. History hides the lies of our civil wars. Isn't it strange that as soon as you're born you're dying? Won't you come into my room, I wanna show you all my wares. I've seen the man use the needle, seen the needle use the man. Take no prisoners, take no shit. Boy! Your soul better belong to Jesus! Hmmm-mmm cause your ass belongs to me! Perspective is lost in the spirit of the chase. I'm chomping at the bit I'm sharpening the axe Here I come again, whoa! Hold My Breath as I Wish for Death Oh Please God, wake me. Sleep with one eye open gripping your pillow tight. Destruction of the empty spaces Is my one and only crime. M is for MURDER me. No life till leather We are gonna kick some ass tonight. Careful what you wish You may regret it Careful what you wish You just might get it. Say yes - at least say Hello. The door is closed, so are your eyes But now I see the sun. Take a look to the sky just before you die It is the last time you will. Run, rabbit run. Dig that hole, forget the sun. The time is gone, the song is over Thought I'd something more to say. There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark. If you can hear this whispering you are dying. Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law My name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore. Takes it easy, baby Take it as it comes. Into this house we're born Into this world we're thrown. Wine is fine But whiskey's quicker Suicide is slow with liquor. 'Cause rock 'n' roll is my religion and my law. Can you help me, occupy my brain? If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

It's a little scary that I hold memories of my growing up days very close to my heart.
website traffic company
website traffic company Counter