Friday, April 29, 2005

Epiphany no. # 43

Traveling anytime before 11 in the night through airport road is extremely dangerous to your mental health. So you thought you could make your way soon by getting out as early as three in the evening from your office so that you can make it to your play practice at 4? You silly, silly boy! From Kempfort to Diamond district (which is definitely less than a kilometer) will take you more than 30 minutes to go!

So, I was sitting there fuming, furiously messaging my director and getting irritated at every audible note that was playing along in the cacophony. After 20 minutes, I managed to move a couple of meters and reached the Intel office - a guy sitting next to me was finding my plight extremely amusing and I so badly wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Does he understand the worth of time the entire troupe is losing by waiting for me to be there? Does he understand the pristine purpose of art? Can't he even understand that time means something more to people than what it does to him?

Just then a piercing sound of the siren sounded from the other side of the road - It was the ambulance of a hospital whose name I failed to notice. Through one open window of the ambulance, amidst the dingy interiors and medical paraphernalia was seated a woman furiously fanning a heaving body, tears streaming down her eyes as she got up once in a while to see whether the traffic was moving; whether there's at least a glimmer of hope in the end of the crowded tunnel.

I fell silent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Epiphany no. # 42

Yesterday was one of those days when a lashing rain dies off a slow death leaving its distant touch-and-trickle-on-your-forehead rain to do the rest of the damage - One of those days when TaTonyF rain doesn't bother the documents in your semi-water proof bag, and you are not on your way to an appointment where you have to look like you are just out of the showroom floor and can afford to enjoy the little joys of life. At around 10:30 in the night, I was walking from the St Marks - MG Road junction and was a couple of blocks away from Bartel Center when a maruti 800 whizzed past splashing rain water on both sides. Just a split second later, a tata sumo from the other side of the road tried taking a right turn, hit the maruti 800 with all its might. The car swerved, turned and stopped inches away from my leg, so close that I could feel the heat of the battered engine on my legs. Luckily, no one was hurt and the two drivers got down to start bickering in the middle of the road.

Once the excitement of watching a collision in such close quarters (so close that you actually feel it happening in slow motion as you stand there transfixed) died off, I was on my way again. It was only when I turned around and looked at the cars did I realize the gravity of the accident. The 800 was smashed badly, a side which bore the brunt had caved in; the doors were hanging loose and there were cracks on the window panes. Even the sumo had a flat nose - It was then I realized, I could have been dead that very second if their screeching brakes hadn't worked as well as they did. 3 inches - probably 4 was all the distance between me and that battered car. That realization, the trickling rain and the lone sidewalk - One of those subtle moments that you will remember for a long time to come :)

One of these days, I will tell you my 3 other near-death experiences which are definitely more interesting and exotic than being run over by an old maruti 800!

PS: Thanks to the lashing rain, the news (I talked of yesterday) shall be delayed by a day or two.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

apun is very bijy!

OK - for the headlines, considering the overwhelming response I have got, and the plight of fellowmen and women, I hereby confirm that I shall start the group despite all odds :) And with people like Indro, daughtie, presaadu (btw, is it KP sir who calls you that?), Santhosh, Avinash and Salai - I am sure it's going to be roaring success! (You guys literally span my entire life man. right from 3 to 23!)

Anyways, as the headline goes - after a real long time, feels like being in BITS again. Lack of sleep, lots of work, missing food, It's all happening baby! Hopefully by tomorrow (hopefully!), I will be able to give you some news :) Let's see.

Before I go, Wanted to share a work that's really close to my heart. Lines that I believe are the most meaningful ones that have been ever written for a movie; Lines I totally relate to and believe make a lot of sense (even out of the context it's been written in - More on that later).

Here's the mission statement from the movie Jerry Maguire (You will probably appreciate it better if you have seen the movie. If you haven't, turn around; find the nearest well and jump!). It's a trifle long - but do read it. Trust me. It's worth your time.

Trivia: This is not part of the final script - We just hear a couple of lines as a VO. Cameron crowe still wrote the whole thing to add a sense of credibility to the idea. That I think is kick ass!

Friday, April 22, 2005

A sahasranamam called life

I have some good news and some bad news - The good news is that I am in print. An article that Sangeetha and I had written for the Sandpaper is finally online (You can read it by clicking here) .

The bad news is that it's now official that my name suffers from Multiple personality disorder. I was born Rathish - but have been Rathusu, Rat, Rats, Rithesh, Ratheesh (here), Ratish (here also!) and off late have been Ratan, Yatin ... and lots more. My play troupe is the one does the maximum damage. Ratan, my instructor, can never get my name right and always ends up calling me Rithesh and faithful students we are, all of them call me by the same name. Off late for reasons I can't fathom, they have started calling me Ratan (and for once I don't cringe coz it's quite an honor!). I had written about it earlier too (even before this blog was born) - Shall let the post do the rest of the talking!

PS: If you have similar problems, do let me know. We will get together and start a Name (for)sake N club and spread some joy!

Extra bunch of grapes

Disclaimer: I am weird.

Every once in a while when I am lost in thought, I display strange signs of withdrawal which include, refusing to open my mouth and relying completely on sign language to convey what I have to say (read the disclaimer above!). It was one of those days when we were discussing something about my play. We had a five minute recess and since I was hungry, I thought I might go to the nearest fruit shop and get something to eat for the whole group.

Once I reached the shop, in the same mood of introspection, I pointed to a pile of bananas and asked him in sign language to give me six and asked him how much it costs. The stall owner for some strange thought I was not only mute but also deaf. He answered with exaggerated signs, clearly enunciating his words so that I can follow his lips. I then followed to buy some grapes - explaining him that I need half a kg of grapes that aren't sour. He smiled, packed everything carefully and just when I was about to leave, called me and gave me an extra bunch of grapes.

Touched I was, I wasn't sure what to do. I realized that telling him I am neither dumb nor deaf would be a dumb thing to do. I smiled weakly, placed my clenched fist to my chest (a sign for thank you that I had learnt in the spastics society) to say thank you and rushed out of the shop.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Irving Wallace, Mamooty, Media and Me

I was talking to my colleagues the other day about how media is being misused and how long held values are being traded for some quick bucks and ratings. Let's face it - there are only 24 hours in a day and there's only so much that can happen in this world and beyond in this time. But with 2745 news channels demanding a slice of the pie, there's not much you can tell people 24 hours a day, unless you go the CNN way and say the same things over and over again in the same mods, moods and words.

Or ... brings me to the title. I vaguely remember reading a novel by Irving wallace where a guy who runs a newspaper becomes a megalomaniac, wants to boost his business and hence CREATES NEWS of his own. He plans an assasination attempt and plans it in such a way that by the time the murder is done, news is out on his papers (another Mamooty movie, (New delhi?) was based on the same idea). I don't think media is going to go so far as creating sensational news. But whatever happens out of over-exposure is equally worse.
  • They dissect every word, syllable and sound and make interpretations out of it. Recent example of SAP's CEO making an innocous statement as to how he "Wouldn't cut the call, if Larry (Ellison) calls" was sapped out of every single trace of sensationalism.
  • Media loves heroes - if there aren't any around, they create them. Sadly, it's usually those one day wonders who suffer the brunt. You win a round, face the champion, hit a maiden century, rub your mole in front of the camera - you are a star! And worse, if there's even a sign of failure you are pulled down as swiftly as you were raised.
  • Overexposure invites trouble. Personal opinion - You talk about the Indo-Pak bus service 27 times in an hour on TV and blow its significance out of proportion, you are only giving more reasons for lashkar-e-whatever to blow that bus off because all they want is attention and you are giving them a handful.
These are real lives we are talking about! A visible palpable risk.

And now for the last part of the title - Me. Are we, bloggers nosey? I am an active blogger. I take an effort to put up a blog here everyday. I mentally draft a post whenever I meet someone interesting or have an interesting experience. So, just to make my blog interesting - Would I create news? Compromise on faith and relationships? Recently I was reading a compilation of short stories by Satyajit Ray. In one of the stories, a character catches his writer friend off guard - "What are you thinking now? Whether I am an interesting character? Whether I or my problems could be used in any of your stories as an interesting character or a plot?". Would I too reach a point where every person around me ceases to exist as a blood and flesh life form but as a two dimension interesting entity on paper or on stage? Like a seasoned writer or a journalist? That point will mark the birth of cynicism that today's press is famous for.

Personally, I have an insulation between what happens to me and I write about. There are topics that are taboo and will never be discussed here. Everytime I write about someone, I get their permission and send them a link once the post is done. But attention is a vice and so is popularity - And if I do succumb to writing things I don't believe in or creating sensationalism by burning effigies of beliefs that are sacred to people just to get people interested, I tell myself now it's a crime.

And I am hoping this clarity stays with me for a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lost my soul

The siren rings; time is ten;
Yet another day comes to an end;
lives are locked; but the process still runs
this is a middle class dream; Never ever ends

Early showers bloom black roses on gravel
Under their umbrellas, they rush to travel
funny they save themselves from the innocous rain
when they have sold their souls, are numb to pain

I am so sad that I would choke
What's worse, no one even gets the joke!

We choose seats in an empty bus
it's still raining as we make a fuss
The first seat is wet and out of place
Well, No Corner seats please
The wind's not howling but there's still a whiff
My latest hair stylist will be miffed
The aisle seats are all that's left
Well, I am ambidextrous - so either right or left!

Thanks to bumps, it's a rollercoaster ride
attractions include, accidents by your side
Trust me, we are social kittens and curious cats
but with a plastered mouth under a thinking hat
FM's tone and engine's drone
wonderfully compliment life's monotone

The traffic counter continues to tick
smoke from the auto - so surrealistic
Through the narrow crack, someone slips
just then, the counter's zero; The signal flips
Only I spot the stranger who turned left
Hey wait! that's my life that just left
It's too late now; Green means go.
I am on a road to perdition; I am glad I atleast know.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sundays at Oxford

It's been a long time since I made my customary visit to Oxford book store on sunday evenings. So, to mark the occasion I borrowed a A4 sheet and a pen to record little nothings that happen around.
  • "Hey, I know that woman". An ABCD with this twirling accent comes to life behind me and points his finger at a book on MS Subbulakshmi. "My dad thinks she's a bloody good singer". I am wondering how his dad would react if he actually heard him calling MS a "bloody good singer"
  • A beautiful girl just walked past and left the scent of her perfume for my company. There's a blister on her sleeveless arm - probably a burn. Blisters look painful; especially on a sleeveless beautiful arm
  • The waiter comes with a menu, a small notepad and a capless black pen and asks me what I want. "Silence", I tell him. We smile. Every table in a coffee shop are households. Most of them are noisy. The rest of them are raucous.
  • Strange words are like beautiful strangers. You meet them once and are intrigued and then you meet them over and over again. Sometimes, you don't want to know more about them (What does the word mean? Is the girl nice or mean?) coz the mysticism has a charm to it.
  • "Don't judge a book by its cover". A thousand titles are screaming for my attention right now and here are things that my decision to buy is based on:
    • The title
    • The font size
    • The quality of paper and the size of the book
    • The price
      as you see, not necessarily in the same order :)
  • Every year, there's one author who's in vogue. 2003 belonged to Paul Coelho. Alchemist was the one thing that divided the entire human population into "Have reads" and the "Have nots". 2004 belonged to Dan brown - an old firangi woman is gushing to her husband that she's read all of Paul Coelho. Sorry lady! You are an year late. Brown is the shade, hue and cry of this year.
  • ... and lots more. But now, I gotta go!

Friday, April 15, 2005

LCCS – Revisited

A couple of months ago, I came up with this idea called LCCS (layman corruption control squad) whereby laymen like you and me, can enroll ourselves in a patrol which takes the responsibility of checking and reporting cases of corruption (check this blog for more details). I then deviated to talk about privatization etc. The comments that people posted on the blog brought a few interesting points, namely
  1. The way things are today in India, who do we trust? Is there any place where the buck ends? Someone’s word we can believe in?
  2. Why privatization? Or for that matter Consumer courts et al?
Privatization is entirely a different topic I have strong opinions on – I shall reserve that for another post. Let’s take LCCS for now. Here’s what I think

A couple of weeks ago, I was caught near koramangala by the traffic police for driving on the wrong side. As I was diligently filling forms and paying the money, some smooth talking fellow whisked off, leaving a hundred rupee in the inspector’s hands. Now, I wanted to do something right there – get the inspector pay for what he did. What do I do? I have been in many situations like these in my life and all the time, I wished I had the means to get these guys into the hands of law.

There’s a beautiful book called “The goal” where the author talks about a theory called the theory of deadlocks. Common sense - a system malfunctions because there’s a certain bottleneck. So, one makes the system efficient by progressively removing deadlocks. Let’s take a similar approach - What’s the deadlock in the situation described above? The police/the law enforcers – there can only be so many of them and one cannot imagine them being wherever there’s a problem. So, I came up with this idea whereby we, people who face this ordeal, can involve ourselves in spotting the law-breakers. Once you do that, the bottleneck shifts to the courts – the jury. If every case of corruption we spot goes to the sessions court and considering the backlog that’s already piled before every court – the purpose of the program is defeated. Come to think of it – most of these issues are one dimensional, involve petty crimes and don’t have any legal nuances. So, if we have a dedicated court (or any other form of jury) which can handle these issues speedily, the whole thing becomes much more efficient. Of course, appeals can still be made. But idea is that extra 1000-2000 rupees and oodles of time that one has to spend to do so, prohibits all these 100, 500 rupees cases.

Now, the questions
  1. Does this solve all the problems? Clearly no! Corruption transcends a whole lot of levels. This just touches the tip of the iceberg. But, an idea that does SOME good is still good and worth it, don’t you think. The one thing that I like about this idea, if this works, it can bring about a change in attitude where a person believes he can do his share to clean evil rather than wait for The Hindu to print his letter to the editor. And if he doesn’t bother to do that, he has no right to complain.
  2. How do you trust the LCCS courts or the people in the LCCS themselves? Now, this is a much deeper question – it’s about the basic premise on which the fabric of the society in woven. People are enlisted in the army – it’s based on the trust we have on them that we sleep safely. They have in their hands the safety of our nation. How do you think they recruit men in the army? How can be sure everyone in the army is indeed patriotic? We have the police, the customs, the income tax officials, the judges who maintain justice. Are these people perfect? Hell No! Not even close. Does it mean they should be chucked out of their jobs? And what do you think will happen then? The more I think about it, the more I realize we deal with every institution (even our neighbor or relative) with a mix of suspicion, contempt and trust. These emotions co-exist. We live in the hope that there are checks and balances which every institution is bound by and anyone can be questioned about his motive. LCCS is bound by the same checks and balances. If this has its disadvantages – so does everything else that’s judged in the eyes of reason.
But I agree that something has to be done to improve the overall accountability of the system. I would love to know any ideas you might have. LCCS doesn’t do that – LCCS handles a subset of the problems and has the limitations found in any system. And that delta change, personally, goes a long way. One day, we will have the perfect answer. Till then, all the ground we cover shall be in baby steps.

Do let me know what you think. Whether this will work – or most importantly, how to make it work! :)

Mass movers and Mavericks

During one of those nights when we were belting against the rain late in the night, I got to talk to a fellow human whose hobbies include dramatics, movies and changing the world. As usual, we got talking about the state of the nation, and the world as a whole and compared our positions on a variety of issues. While talking to him, something interesting stuck me.

Though our intentions were the same, he and I (and if I dare to generalize, everyone with similar intentions) belong to two different kinds – The mass movers and the mavericks.

The mavericks
  • Work on the belief that people are inherently lazy and stupid. In other words, given to themselves people would love to live in the rot and things would never change. You have to force change to make them understand the benefits of the utopian world (think Communism).
  • Work top-down – in the sense that, they first change the top and let change disseminate to the grass roots.
  • Believe that the best way to correct the problem is to abolish the existing faulty system and create a new one, the basic logic being that it’s foolish to work within the same rules that you want to change.
  • Make their plans with them in the center of everything – like they becoming the director, the prime minister or whatever and initiating change from the center.
And then there are the mass movers who,
  • Work on the belief that there are lots of people who are discontent and want change. But what they need is direction and leadership – someone who can create initiatives that satisfy their needs and appeal to their intellect so that they can take forward.
  • Work bottom-up. Change starts at the grass roots and this awareness develops in concentric circles and soon people reach a point where change at the top happens naturally, or even if forced is at a point when people can react to and accept it.
  • Work within the existing system and do delta changes so that change happens gradually.
  • Don’t necessarily have to be in the center of power to make things happen. They are definitely not averse to leadership or power – but their changes are made keeping themselves in mind in the top most chair.
The mavericks obviously enjoy the romanticism that’s attached to a revolution, and have evidence in history where the most dramatic of changes (Russian revolution and the birth of communism for example) happened as a result of a revolution. However, personally I would love being a mass mover than a maverick. I firmly believe that the best way to bring in change is to create ripples in the pond; make changes to the very fabric of the society and let people rationalize and decide their future rather than giving them one and asking them to accept it. Unless everyone understands the reason for change, a maverick system has a single point of failure (coz firstly, it’s difficult to keep the right perspective and secondly, those in the second or third rung many times don’t share the philanthropic intentions of the leader and they are the ones who finally implement the system).

So, rather than starting guerilla warfare, I would concentrate on improving primary education, setting up simple correction mechanisms for pockets of population, set up and efficiently run organizations that channelize purpose and energy of people who want to make a difference to causes that cry for attention. It is extremely time consuming and excruciatingly slow; yes; we end up running in vicious circles; true; One wouldn’t live to find place in history book; absolutely; But I believe that this is the only kind of change that would last.

And before my friend since the age of 4, KP reminds me again – I shall take up the LCCS soon :)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Touched by an angel

(Just one of those days when you just want to write for the heck of it - and don't worry how it sounds, or how long it goes!)

I squinted to see the time in my watch under the lone tube light in the entire stretch before me and realized I wasn’t going to make it on time - It was already 9:30 in the night; I was supposed to be there at 9 and given what a stickler to time ~R is, I knew I had to hurry. I broke into a sprint and made it to the house at close to ten. ~R’s mother greeted me – Just as I was looking around for ~R, she told me he was going to be an hour late but he had informed everyone at home about my arrival. She showed me the room I was going to stay in; the bed was made; a couple of magazines were left in the corner; the room was well lit and the mosquito repellant was already on. It was as if, the house and everything in it was an extension of ~R’s personality. It was 10:30 pm.

It was a small house – we had a 3 petite rooms and a huge portico with an asbestos roof. As you enter the house, you feel it’s placed on an elevation because there was a mini staircase of 3 steps starting from the portico, leading you to the drawing room. In the far-left end of the hall were three steps which formed the puja room of the house. Every year, this day this time my mom would be sitting in the kitchen alone, preparing a whole list of sweets for the next day. Nothing about the event changed in so many years – the place, the list of sweets and the diligence with which mom made it. My brother and my dad would be sound asleep in the two adjacent beds placed in right angles to each other. I would twist and turn and in the end, lose any hope of falling asleep, would come and sit next to my mom in the kitchen and watch her cook. I have never been a loving son. But the idea of my mom cooking alone while the rest of us are asleep was somehow not quite acceptable to me. The Ajanta clock that we bought when I was 10 must have stuck 10:30 then.

I didn’t enter the bathroom with the intention of taking a shower. It’s just one of those things that happened; inconsequential, inexplicable decisions that aren’t given much of a thought. The first thing I spotted as soon as I came out was the Lungi, and the flimsy white woven towel with a red streak in the border – two pieces of cloth that are characteristically Malayali. Lungis are always special to me. It was my first sign of adulthood. Wearing it somehow transformed me from a naïve boy to a cynical, know-it-all adult – a transition that I was so keen to make then. Just as I was getting down the stairs, ~R entered with a whole long day written in multiple lines all over his face. He tried doing some small talk – but both of us were too tired to indulge ourselves in something we sincerely believed was a waste of time. We sat there acknowledging each other’s presence through silence, staring through the TV in front of us – like, a 2 year old married couple who have run out things to tell each other.

My mom and I were very similar in many ways – like an unflattering passport size photo showed when I was 14. But the similarities weren’t just skin deep. As my mom always puts it, I have taken up all her bad traits! We are both nocturnal beings, extremely egoistic, think too much, can never talk about our problems to others, are multi-layered and are contrastingly introverted and extroverted. We weren’t going through the best of times then and due to 110 reasons around, our tempers usually used to flare up against each other– so must of the time, both of us sat silently not bothering to do any small talk. But late nights were different – just when the whole world sleeps, both of us open up, talk about her childhood, my school adventure and everything. In 23 years now, these are the only happy conversations that I remember we had in that house of ours.

There’s something extremely rejuvenating about home food (or probably the way it’s served). After 1 whole month, I was having dinner on a working day and in such circumstances (or even otherwise), home food is heaven. ~R and I are not exactly cousins – come to think we are quite distantly related. But he and his wife are probably the only relatives of mine with whom I can have meaningful conversations. As always, family talk went ahead in concentric circles, widening with time in the negative axes of intimacy, information and concern. Things then moved on bio-technology, temples, architecture and personality development courses – my entire day’s work was sitting on my eyelids forcing them to fall with his every word. At close to midnight, when everyone else in the house was inches away from andromeda, we decided to call it day.

I have always had a fascination for nights – during those frequent power cuts we used to have, I used to take every chance to escape into the mud path just outside my house to stare at the moon and the stars, while my mom would light up those kerosene lamps made out of stray ends of old bed spreads, an ink bottle full of oil and a whole bag of soot all around and wave a competition success review at me. She loved quizzing – the asking questions part. She would diligently buy all quiz books available and use every chance to ask me questions. My mom wanted me to be this educated guy they showed in movies. She wasn’t sure how – So, she didn’t spare a single chance. Every evening, I was given the day’s newspaper and a notebook and was asked to write 10 new words into the notebook; She would sit next to me and look at how I am doing my homework even if she doesn’t understand a word of what I write; the punishments were equally harsh – she will hit me with whatever she finds – the broom, a red-hot iron rod, broken legs of old chairs are cases in point. During nights, when it’s just the two of us, she’ll try explaining me why it’s very important for me to study and get the family to a respectable position. I don’t know whether I ever understood. I am not sure either of us believed it will happen – that my brother or I would ever go ahead and earn five or six figure salaries, end family loans and indulge in luxuries was too utopian to be true. At about midnight, she would tell me to go to sleep telling me that I have to wake up very early tomorrow.

It must have been 4:30 when ~R woke me up. Instinctively, thanks to 23 years of experience, I realized I shouldn’t open my eyes yet. I raised a hand of mine for him to hold. He carefully took me down to the ground floor – through the twelve polished steps I had counted last night – left me at the Puja room and walked away. I opened my eyes to see a blue eyed Krishna staring back at my face. I could only smile – I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it this year. Yet another year – my mom’s going to be proud of me. Yet, there was this inexplicable disappointment; it’s like the second kiss – you are glad it happened but realize it will never be like your first kiss … ever!

There’s something primordial about the way she closes my eyes and leads me to the hall in the early hours of dawn. With half my senses still asleep, my eyes still closed I trust her completely as she takes me to the hall. And that touch – something about the touch of my mother on my eyes. Something that can’t be put to words but I am sure was first felt as she inserted her forefinger into my curled fingers and smiled as I gave her my first toothless grin. She leads me to a small wooden bench, makes me sit there and slowly takes her palms off my eyes and tells me exactly where I have to look. She then takes me through the entire list of things that are placed before the pastel colored Krishna – books, rice, flowers, food, and every other deity who has an honorary presence around him. Then she gives me a minute to pray and ask for what I want (and tells me what I have to ask for!). Once that’s done, she sweetly tells me that it’s too early for me and that I can go back to sleep. I whisper “Happy Vishu” to her and go back to bed.

My mom called me at 7 in the morning. Yes! I did do the “Vishu kani” this year too. I did it by myself during my years in France. So, this shouldn’t really surprise her. But she still feigns it cutely and presses me for details. I leave the phone in the hands of my relatives; pleasantries are exchanged and the phone is put down. 20 minutes later she calls up again and asks me whether I gave Shreya, my 4 year old niece, her vishu kai neetam*. I smile to myself and say yes. She chides me for being tight fisted and doesn’t believe when I say that’s all I had in my hand. Having been with her, I know she doesn’t mean a thing. She smiles and gets back to preparing breakfast for my brother and glancing once in a while at Asianet to catch up the movie gossip as I make my way to my world again.

She’s probably smiling - Somehow, the fact that I take this custom seriously probably reaffirms her faith in the way she brought me up. Probably, the nagging doubt that her son is more a Tamilian than a Malayali and that she’s partly responsible for the same is quelled – I don’t know. But I do know that the reason I do this every year, beyond all the cynicism that is parceled with adulthood and professionalism, is because I want to remember the touch of my mom’s palms on my eyes – the single most beautiful sensation I have retained since the days I could remember.

*Vishu kai neetam is a custom where by elders are supposed to give money as gifts to youngsters

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Your friendly bangalore reporter is back :) Over the last few days, I have fallen in love with the first four lines of a song so much that I have been humming the same song over and over again. For starters, here's the song.

Sparrows on a telephone wire making music in the sky
sitting on a million conversations watching as the world goes by

somebody lost a job; somebody found a dog
she just hung up; didn't even say good bye

shadows on the ground making funny pictures
that follow me around growing bigger as the
sun goes down
telling all my secrets without a sound

Somebody got laid; somebody got home late again
Don't try to figure why; Cry if you have to cry

So much time, So much to do sure
You can subscribe to your point of view
Love is a game, money's a shame
No one to blame

Now, for the interesting part - this song has been written by a truly authentic Bangalore band called 'Thermal and a quarter' (which I am told stands for three mallus and a quarter mallu!). You can visit them here. Their claim to fame has been that they opened once for Deep purple when they were in Bangalore. But thanks to word of mouth and some cerebral lyrics - they are becoming quite famous in Bangalore now (And no! they are definitely not a boy band).

Their latest album titled Plan B (why is everyone so much in love with this name?) is out and what do you know - it's free and can be downloaded from the internet. I found their previous album better than this one - but it's definitely worth listening at least once.

That's all for today. Tomorrow, I will be back sametime with news on where you can get excellent pedicure done in bangalore. Till then ... namaskara! :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I think ...

Past relationships are like rats in your house. There's a time when they ruin everything around you and leave your entire world in shambles and tatters. You leave traps, bring in others to chase it out, find new pets - all in vain. Finally, you get busy with other things in your life, spend lesser and lesser time at home and convince yourself that you have got rid of them and they are not part of your lives anymore.

And one of these days, you wake up in the wrong side of the bed and decide to dust off a corner that's not visited too often. And between a old movie ticket and a birthday gift, you find it staring back at you. You try to shut it out of your mind, wish you had never seen it again so that you could bask in the bliss of ignorance. But the worst thing about experience is it can never be unlearnt.

You go through the same cycle all over again hoping sometime, like everything else, you learn to live with rats too (... and they with you!)

Dedicated to my 2-rupee-tea shop owner who was chasing a rodent with his broom held high - a true warrior, I must admit!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Compliment of the week

God ... I am on a writing spree! 3 posts in a day.

Anyway, here's a 'compliment' that I got over the weekend - reminded me of the times when someone I know comes up with this terribly awful looking haircut and looks at me eagerly while I say, "It looks .. .well.. different!". On the same lines,

"Rathish, you are the kind of guy girls should have a crush on but don't"

It's not .. "but may not .." where there's at least a shadow of doubt. It's conclusive - Let's face it. "they don't!". I am sure it was meant to be a compliment, but I am still not sure how to look at it as one :)

PS: What's funny is ~A, my working and bickering partner back in days of Art'n'Dee@BITS, said the same thing, though in a much stronger way :)

Melting away ....

Follows from my previous post, here's a snippet from the conversation I had with ~S.

(We are discussing something very personal and serious as ~S is stirring her cold coffee. There's a brief silence and ....)

S: You know Rathish, problems in life are like these ice cubes. As long as they are there, they keep floating on the surface letting you see nothing else. After sometime they just dissolve and you don't even realize where they were.
Me: True - but it's not that they have disappeared. They have just become a part of your life - an inevitable part that you can't differentiate but has changed your life forever.
S: You are right - my cold coffee can become lighter, less sweeter but never the same again!

(We suddenly look at eachother and start laughing realizing we had come up much more profound than what we had intended!)

And yes! I am copyrighting it right away!

Life through a version control system

Friday was a holiday - why because saturday was kannada new year's eve! Don't I love my company - especially because I don't even celebrate Yugadhi. Had a fantastic extended weekend - a series of events each of which merits a post. Here's one.

Had the chance to meet up with ~S on friday for lunch - Short story writer and budding script writer, very sensible and cerebral, candid, 30 something, married, beautiful in a very traditional sort of a way, excellent conversationalist, very enterprising and most importantly, one of those people you meet for the first time and can talk with for five hours. From religion, to caste to scientific beliefs - we finally reached the topic of many births

Personally, I am a cynic - 21 years of science has made me question every belief that my parents share and profess. I believe in god - in a personal sort of a way, as a friend, as my reason to do good things to people and definitely not in a way that's idolatory or preachy. Similarly I believe that all this beliefs about karma, multiple births are just cultural memes that our forefathers put to make sure we are good; we are not supposed to take them literally. We - as in our mind, and our genes are extremely selfish. We are not genetically designed to do good things to people or care for fellow humans. These memes give us a reason to do so and hence facilitate the whole concept of society to function. If any one comes up with a second hand account of rebirth et al, I would be convinced that it's all just a mental construct, reasons we give ourselves and believe in so strongly that after sometime we start thinking it's true (case in point: case study by Brian wise, where when he hypnotised a woman afraid of closed spaces and realized she was an egyptian buried alive in a coffin in a previous birth. QED. Me thinks, This whole coffin thing is something a person like me can think of to glorify my existence and hence believe in so strongly that I am convinced it happened in my previous birth)

But talking to ~S, I heard a first hand account of someone who has a psychic for a mother, and who with her help was able to peep into the previous birth (where ~S was some Veronica in the UK), and a whole list of coincidences that was hard to refute. I wouldn't say I was convinced but the conviction in ~S's voice couldn't be questioned.

That night it was raining and I was on my way home in a bike - luckily for us, the signals kept changing to green just as we reached them. That's when epiphany stuck - there are two kinds of people in the world. Ones like me who would believe that the signals changing to green is just a coincidence, one of those days I am lucky, unrelated events following rules of probability. The rest who believe that someone above made it happen that way so that I could reach home sooner. None of this changes the actual events that happened - just the way you look at it. You might be reminded of a particular scene in Signs - but let me tell you - ephiphanies are like lightning; watching it dawn on someone and being hit by one are two totally different things! :)

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I wanted to write this as a poem initially - but I guess, prose would help me present a better case.

First shot:

A couple of months before, I was talking to ~Y, someone I believe is very well-learned and for whom have a great regard for. After an hour or so, he told that the software industry has still not clipped me into a two dimensional prototype, and that I still have a zest for life which is found wanting in many software professionals (which is quite understandable because, INSEAD is as far as it can get from a software company in terms of culture and curiosity). He also gently warned me that sooner or later, the industry is going to get me.

Second shot:
On my way to the theater group yesterday, a fellow software engineer and I were doing small talk when he said, "I want a job which leaves me time to count the birds". I thought he was talking figuratively. But no! each morning he goes to the park and sits and counts birds. He misses the first shuttle and takes the next shuttle so that he could do this everyday. Asked why, he said - "it makes you realize how small and how inconsquential you are". I still believe he's talking figuratively because I have never seen a s/w professional before who's told me something like this before. He's resigning his job today, to do his MBA. He hopes he still gets the time to count the birds.

So ...
I am sure there are lots of interesting people in the software industry, LOADS of them who are very talented with a variety of interests - I personally can cite a long of list of friends as a case in point. But as you walk towards your campus everyday, you see a swarm of heads - bunched in pairs talking the same thing. It's not software - very rarely is a software professional passionate about his work. It's the headlines - it's dan brown, latest cricket match, new movies, good ones, bad ones, lunch menu, dinner menu, plans for weekend - a world in the size of the marble where all of them try to fit in. After sometime, you realize they talk the same way too - Soon, it's like a brilliant morph of the same tired soul into a million manifestations.
It's not just the software industry - there's such an uncanny resemblance between any two international MBA grads in terms of their demeanour and attitude. In my years of INSEAD, I noticed - Be it the way they talk, ask for favours, maintain the smug expression or sign off their email - it's like there's a code-book they fervently follow to get it right.

I can understand why and I am sure you do too. But isn't it scary - when you lose this deep desire to be different, to distinguish yourself from the maddening crowd, when you flutter around in a cage with your clipped wings and worse still, do it blissfully. The contrast strikes me hard even more when I sit with members of my play troupe talking of little things with such passion and zeal. Their problems in life are deeper than falling hair or buggy code, because they ventured to dare. They have layers and you see them - it's like they belong to a different universe. I can't imagine them sitting before the screen and f5-ing all their lives till it's time to ctrl+alt+del. They bake their bread and butter out of this zeal.

It's me who's caught with each foot in a different universe leading a twin life on either halves of the day and ruing over the difference.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Nut and nuttier!

This is the most useless and vain blog I have written in so long .... but if you can make something out of it, do let me know.

Till very long time ago, I had this habit of staying away from things I really love - I would not listen to the songs I like a lot again and again, the same case with the food I love to have, Shirts I like to wear, movies I love to watch and whatever you can extend it to --- for the mere reason that, I had this belief that I would get tired of it sooner if I keep using it again and again - Law of Diminishing utility.

Off late, I realize that this part of me has changed - be it the food I eat and especially, the music I listen to - There are a set of songs that I have been listening to everyday, sometimes as much as 10 times consecutively and that's so unlike me.

Does this mean something? Can you put this in a greater perspective and see something else! First that and now this - I am either extremely jobless (which I don't think I am), or need a shrink

Sheepish excitement

Last night, I was having coffee with this girl from New zealand, when suddenly she exclaimed that she's very excited about something that's happened in her country. When I asked her about it, she said I would have to be a kiwi to understand. Since I persisted, she said the golden words - "They found the sheep!". Well, isn't that a reason to rejoice! Bring out the champagne!

Apparently, in New zealand (or in any other sheep rearing country for that matter) they let the sheep graze in the grasslands and once they have enjoyed a sumptuous meal and put on a nice furry woollen coat over themselves, bring them over and shear the wool. One fine day, they found this sheep which was covered with wool from head to toe that it was wobbling in its own weight, and all they could see was its nose and feet. It was then they realized that this was a sheep that was lost 7 years before - can you believe that! A sheep being found after 7 years!! (the only approximate indian equivalent I can imagine is two brothers with moles on their forearms getting lost in a mela and meeting eachother again after 20 years in a fight sequence with the villain! Touching!). So, the entire nation got so excited about it that
  • They had a live telecast of the shearing of the sheep so that millions of viewers can watch it live and swoon. As you can imagine, 7 years is a long time and so there was wool falling over its face leaving it completely blind. So, they had to put a hair clip to hold the wool back. Taking cue from this, the anchor of the "shearing show" remarked, "When you see the sheep, you realize it's not a normal sheep. It's got a personality of its own" - Camera zooms to the face of the sheep which is chewing a straw of hay with a blank expression.
  • Since the sheep has been with the wool for 7 years now, they realized the wool must be dear to it. So, in order to compensate for the loss, they designed the jersey for the sheep so that it's not affected by the extremeties of weather.
  • Owing to its celebrity status, the sheep also got to meet the Prime minister of New zealand. Apparently, the Prime minister was supposed to meet some group of human rights activists who were protesting against the government but she chose the sheep over the activists. Asked why, she said the sheep was better company! So much for human rights!
  • Here's the best part (personally) - my friend had to go out when the whole shearing show was happening. And hence she taped the whole show so that she doesn't miss it and also because, she can see it for years to come!
  • All this happened a couple of years before - but you know the new twist in the story, they have found another sheep now which was lost 11 years before and has more wool than the previous one. So, get ready for more nail biting excitement in "The shearing show returns!". For trivia lovers, the first sheep was called Shrek and guess what the second sheep is called - did you say Shrek 2? 100 points to you and bournvita!!!
  • My NZ friend was sweet enough to send me a few URLs (especially for those who thought I made this up!)
I personally found it very sweet - that an entire nation is getting excited about a sheep that was lost 7 years before, that they telecast it on TV. They have time to enjoy such little things in life and that's, for the lack of a better word, heartening. We, in India, have our own set of idiosyncrasies (Imagine the whole ganesha drinking milk episode!!) - But imagine a goat in gumudipoondi (in TN) getting to meet APJ Abdul kalam because it gives 11 liters of milk everyday. Interesting!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Little joys of the weekend

  1. Swinging to and fro in a metal swing in the early hours of the morning, when even the sun is not of his slumber while tossing and turning ideas in your head searching so desperately for the right words to express a thought that is all over your head and finally find it - rush into a room and say it to two expectant souls who finally smile and say it's perfect.
  2. Watch a brilliant actor give life to your words, that took you 8 sleepless nights to write, as he creates subtleties and nuances to lines where even you didn't spot them.
  3. Feel that sensation of the fatigue of the whole fortnight dawn on you that very second when you know you are done with something, and know that you have done it well - a feeling so sorely missed since days of BITS. A feeling so sorely missed that you actually celebrated by sleeping for 18 hours during the weekend and during breaks and journeys and during conversations :)
  4. Spending an evening with someone - without an agenda, plan or purpose, never wondering when it will end and yet at the end of it - feel so good about the whole thing.
  5. Having dinner at a home - not a house, but a home - and have someone smile sweetly, serving you more and more of delicious food and lovingly chide you for not taking care of yourself.
  6. Walking on the road just minutes before it is going to rain, when a breeze that caresses your hair turns into a howling wind, spewing dust in all corners, turning trees into mad dogs that sway and spit twigs and branches into the road - all this while you stare at the corridor watching sand move like smoked-out ants on a frenzy and save your eyes from the chaos that is all around, yet feeling kicked and ALIVE!
... and counting. ....

Friday, April 01, 2005


I have spent 6 hours sleeping in the last 72 hours that have passed by (And I have not been working!). There's a blur that's set in before my eyes, a strange smile of a drunken soul, a short-term memory so short that it would suit a gold fish and a clarity of thought of a rock star. Suddenly feels like I have too many things to write about. Here are a few snippets
  • Got stuck with the police again - this time, the traffic police division near the flyover close to koramangala at 11:30 in the night. They have changed the one-way rules again and I am sure it's just a coincidence that the entire police force is in action only at the end of the month. When my friend and I were duly filling forms and confessing to crimes of one-way traffic, dangerous driving etc etc, a traffic inspector standing next to me sold himself to a smooth talking soul for 100 rupees.
  • Am reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Simply brilliant - you can read the book for the sole reason of enjoying Wilde's wit and sarcasm. His one liners are fantastic and is the book is full of them. Read this one and was reminded of bloggers & those dating them & those planning to date them -
    "The only artists I know I have ever known are personally delightful are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make and hence are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. He lives the poetry he cannot write"
    Does that explain the number of witty, charming, single bloggers. Here's the answer - start writing badly!
  • Have you ever seen a movie where there's this one character who's so like you, events in the movie so similar to events in your life that it makes you feel vulnerable, as though your deepest secrets are out there for millions to watch. Am I the only one?
  • I have been reading a lot of film scripts off late - a passion that started during my days at INSEAD. The level of detail they provide is much more than what you see on screen. If you are interested, here's where you can find some -
Ok. There's so much more to say but I have to go now.