August 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
Every song has
the highs, the lows, the trills, the lulls
an aching pulse that carries its spirit forward
a poetic refrain that echoes long after the song’s certain death
When I watched the story of
the guru, the dancer and the disciple
unfold in front of me
I was touched-
the piety! the soul!
I sat by you on the low wooden bed of
our family home
struck by cinema three-decades old
Un-fazed by the reverence
of the divine song
of the dance of the gods
(Open follower of blasphemous
You already knew the beauty of the ordinary.
so you picked apart the stem from the beans
passing instructions once in a while
I grudgingly lent a hand
with the resplendent pink bottu
powdered and patiently painted
black savaram to match your thinning hair
a diamond stud gleaming on your nose
like rainwater on a lotus leaf
crushed cotton saree that smelt like homecoming
your skin- cold against my hands
honey-combed in texture
an apostle of fairness
in a world filled with usurpers of chocolate
the one who keeps, and keeps, and keeps
for all who want, and want, and want.
you know our needs never end
and when they do
we must think of another who
like Pushpa – the maid who grew up at home
like Sruthi- Pushpa’s little girl
or Ammagaru- every cook that ever was
we never knew your
raagam– your childhood, your motherhood, your memories
taalam– the fears, the worries, the resilience
but I know how I’d
draw circles on the broad expanse of your back
press my small hands
on the hard calluses of your feet
searching for invisible knots
in muscles gone sore and cold
I’d brush my fingers through
the sparse silver-grey strands of hair
that kiss your scalp
your smile like a crescent as you open your arms
while I land a peck on your cheek
A memory so strong….
you’re almost there.
a poetic refrain that echoes loudly
long after the song has ceased
August 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
do you remember the quickness
in our breaths
eyes darting under wicked lashes
searching if we’re all alone
if the night is ours to own
do you remember the brush of fingertips
hidden meanings in the space
like dragon eggs in mid-flight
settling upon us like silver
our secrets may catch the light
exposed to the curious passer by
a touch of electric phosphorescence
and two-coats of love
I passed our favourite spot
by the bay
where the dragon flies made
and the wild grass spoke to the
it seems like it were only yesterday
that we stood there with ragged breaths
and impatient eyes
under those anxious moonlit
Sometimes when the night is clear
and the cicadas don’t sigh too loud
I can hear the echo of our footsteps
tap tap tap-
your impatient shuffle punished the road
thud thud da thud-
went my half-skip half-walk alongside
I can hear them by the
I catch myself wondering
if I’m at the edge of a framed moment
a small peek and short stretch away
from that silver-stained, luminous
if only I could find a momentary lapse
a stitch in time come undone…
the moon was our only witness and-
I think she still remembers us
August 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
my thoughts break into a
my eyes are heavy with
a persisting thudthud rings
in my ears
the world is a victim of
I draw myself farther and
and farther and farther
the morning breeze settles on my skin
like a hot and despairing exhale
I stretch my fingers and toes
to grasp all that I can not have
and I drool a wet, shapeless pool of
what remains of last night’s dream
The morning headlines blare and shriek
of a restless, hurry-some reality
I draw myself farther and
and farther and farther
content in the semi-lucid knowledge
of memories un-lived
and wishes unfulfilled
and lessons re-learnt
and loves long-lost
It’s the haunting melody of
everything we no longer have
and everything we never will
everything that has ever
moved us to shudder, shiver, sigh
in the empty remembrances of
until we shrank farther and
and farther and farther
August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
The more I grow up, the more I remain the same.
Just a little happier with who I am.
My world view expands enough for me to know that I have a place in this world, that there’s a role that lets me exercise my individuality; to understand there are others like me, there were others before me. The ideas that buzz in my head have been voiced and studied by others. The realization that there’s a community outside of those around you – outside of those who tell you to be a little more practical, a little more realistic, a little more career-oriented- that could and would accept you is priceless.
Three years ago, I had come to university to become a Mechanical Engineer. Soon, I realised that my scientific curiosity was near-zero. I was a dreamer and I had proclaimed it to the world. But I needed to know that there was a place for me, a place where I’d fit in. I discovered economics by sheer happenstance. It tried to explain what made us tick, it brought cultures and histories under the broad umbrella of rationality. It attempted to study the rise and fall of civilizations and regimes and thought- bullionism, colonialism, capitalism… If I were to say that I was seeing the world though a mosaic, then every new thing I studied added a newer, brighter colour. I became more and more interested in the social sciences, psychology, philosophy, computer science, mathematics.
I’m not saying I’m an expert. I really am not. But I grew to appreciate them.
Coming from a science and engineering background, I felt really out of place for the longest time. But after getting through three years, and over thirty courses, of sciences and engineering, I’m not as afraid of it. It might not be intuitive to me but I’ve become a bit more open to these areas of knowledge
Throughout this journey though, my pure and unwavering love for art and literature hasn’t reduced one bit. I listen to piano pieces by Chopin and read great fiction. I collect book marks and local art. I try to draw. I yearn to learn more languages, to dance a little more, to surprise myself by things I didn’t know I could do.
Four years of college have taught me how to be comfortable with being by myself, happy with the knowledge that I’m carrying a world in my head that can’t be touched. It has taught me to value relationships. It has taught me that it’s okay to be judged, to not be liked by those who don’t matter. It taught me to be comfortable with my body. It taught me how to let go. It taught me to be open to new knowledge.
But, most importantly, it taught me to value art. Art makes the world a better place.
August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
“I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart”
– The Great Gatsby
To me, conversation with you was a drug. I chased it blindly, unfeelingly- convinced that the answers that I found in a state of drunken exuberance would turn my fate around. I didn’t know how I would find deliverance from the familiarity of the past, when I would lose it to casual forgetfulness. God, I wish it were that easy. I’d extricate myself from the deep waters of your heart slowly, wade cautiously…
But our touch was caustic. Our memories were burned onto the fabric of time, your presence was indelibly felt in the great halls of my consciousness: my wakefulness and my sleep, my lucidity and my dreams.
It was not my fault. I had just walked past a colossal wreck that could inspire a lingering awe in the best of humanity. Together, we were a masterpiece of my memory. I found a sense of old belongingness in every nook and corner that surfaced from dark forgotten places at sea. It seemed like the end of a long wait, of hoping to stumble across a physical proof of a legendary tragedy. I was simultaneously enamoured and destroyed by a wave of emotion that swept over me long after I had found tranquil shores because…
because of salt-starched remains that were old remembrances.
because of the wuthering winds that knew tumultuous origins
because the deeper I looked, the more there was to save
And the farther I saw, louder was the heart’s call to stay
Your simple words would bite into the thick skin I grew from reality.
In my mind…
we had walked the same walk of bygone days,
and talked the same talk of long-lost ways
Words had made a stronghold over my heart
Were they yours
or were they mine
or those still left unsaid?
July 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
I have a feeling that this post is a beginning to many more. Some of them are inspired, some of them are meant to inspire. I’ve come back from a two month stay in Mumbai- the city of dreams- feeling like my heart is heavier by a ton. Even as I was making memories everyday, I knew that they were transient in nature. These were short allegiances, quick friendships and confidants only in passing. The time would come to leave, to move away; when holding on would only mean strained conversations and fast disappointments. But my heart swells like the ocean during high tide when I think about the people I’ve met- people who’re ambitious, independent, bold. Young men and women who want to change the world. What have these short friendships taught me?
I’ve learnt that we have immense potential to be kind.
I’ve learnt that we can make a difference even to a stranger.
I’ve learnt that we can all open our heart to the world.
One just needs that little nudge. To step out of that comfort zone. To be in a strange city, among strangers, with strange ideals and stranger beliefs. But most of all, I’ve learnt to value old buildings, pleasant music and great conversation. I’ve decided to note down all the things people have told me that I can never forget. Some ideas run longer than the conversations that birthed them and, somehow, they’ve gone a long way in shaping who I am.
“Read the first line. It often reveals many assumptions and intentions that weave into the narrative of a life.”
– A pseudo art connoisseur like I am who loves to knit stories
The phrase “first line”, of course, is symbolic. It’s what someone chooses to reveal to the world. In a way, this post of mine is a “first line”. A framework of borrowed ideals, and stolen ideas that have shaped my life.
“I like to hear people’s advice. Not with the intention of following it, but because a person’s advice is often a culmination of the lessons they’ve learnt.”
– A 2 am philosophy junkie who initiated me as a good friend with a horror story.
So perhaps consider this post to be advice that I’ve found very useful. As a stranger had once told me: The more I learn about life, the more I realize how little I know. But what I do know now is that if you have a code to live life by, it becomes easier.
My code is intricately sewn as memorable lines in the supple fabric of conversation. And these few lines stood out in his moral code:
- Remember that friendships and relationships don’t always have the same intensity. Don’t worry about it.
- Learn how to tell stories. Master the art of making the ordinary into something wonderful.
These lines come from a longer note that in itself makes for an interesting read.
“The worst of situations seems better if one can laugh about it. The problem doesn’t get solved. But we find the strength to face it.”
– An unlikely friend who turned out to be a great person
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
– A mentor who is also a nouveau Potterhead.
The best of conversations are of course those that happen with books. The quotes I love are all stored away in books with home-made book marks or in pages with dog-eared edges. More recently, they’re stored in my kindle. This makes it easier to quote them because I can’t, for the life of me, do it from memory.
But one quote which comes to my mind very often is:
‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me,’just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’
– The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald
And of course there are the conversations one has with oneself which are inspired by self-reflections and lonesome evenings:
“You will never regret that you were too kind. Only that you’ve shown too little of kindness. So don’t be afraid to care for someone more than he or she cares for you. Don’t be hurt when you find out that the love and kindness wasn’t returned.”
– Yours truly, inspired by And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini
May 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
This is not a conspiracy theory.
Before I start convincing you that the state of things today is bad, let me tell you this: every dystopia ever talks about the worst case scenario. It talks about an absolute state of degradation and then it plants the idea that…you know what? We should perhaps be a bit more cautious with where we’re going.
The eternal cynicism that we keep hearing is this: We only act when something terribly wrong happens. But being prepared after an unfortunate event takes place sometimes doesn’t help. Especially in the case of black swan events– events that can’t be predicted but we want to prevent them anyway. There are millions of unsung heroes everyday who check the engine, who clear the pipes, who stub out their cigarettes before dropping them…thus avoiding major disasters. Then there are our representatives who jump in with protocols after a disaster saying that all the necessary actions are being taken. So we see that there are people who are mechanical with their rules and precautions when dealing with uncertain things…and there are those who act out, sometimes emotionally, the instant after a disaster strikes. An instant too late. And that’s the eternal dilemma! Our precautions are not enough and our redressal is only temporary.
But there are those very few people who have the keenness and the critical awareness to pick out systemic flaws that lead us to disaster. These flaws are sometimes so structural that we can’t correct them without knowing our social or mental handicaps that are extremely deep seated. The roots of this knowledge are firmly planted in philosophy in every form- anthropology, natural science, mathematics, economics. It’s about adapting our knowledge to a situation which is much more complex than a simple word problem.
Perhaps the best way to look at it is to imagine a simple world with a simple problem and then see the agents evolve as the problem evolves as well. The Lord of the Flies is one such allegorical novel that talks about such a simple situation- A bunch of young boys who find themselves estranged on an uninhibited safe island with enough fruit, meat and water. Unlike a survival story like Lost, these boys end up playing and enjoying all day. But what about when they’re up against more complex situations? The resulting scenario is a slow descent into madness and murkiness. The funny part? It now seems scarily familiar to how the real world is organized. The power struggles, the emotion, the eventualities and the sacrifices…but in a simple world it needn’t happen! So what made it complex?
As one of the estranged boys, Ralph, says in the Lord of the Flies, “I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.”
It seems like we’re just as likely to act like young boys on a good island. And we all desperately require a reminder of civilization- a place where one is safe and secure with enough food, shelter and opportunity.
So why don’t we act right? I don’t know. But I have a feeling that in a world where more of us can think critically instead of just assimilating information… we would not be indulging in child-play, fanaticism, passioned rebellions and unnecessary violence. And here in lies my fear. This critical thinking seems to be a thing of the past. We don’t do so many thought-experiments, not as many allegories. The media we use- the cinema, television shows, games – are quick to quench our senses with vivid color, bright lights and pretty faces. The idea being conveyed demands more patience… and dies out as we don’t have any to give.
Human beings have evolved not just due to our language but our ability to create fiction, to assign meanings. We have the ability to believe that a Corporation can have a personal account because it has just as much of an identity as a living person, and that having as many as 36,000 gods isn’t too much of a crowd. We can believe that nationalism is a human emotion that somehow binds us all. But do these ideas make us or break us?
To answer these questions we need more patience, more effort…and more reading…so that we know what ideas form the skeleton of our institutions and our actions. Reading requires patience, a willing suspension of disbelief, and an active imagination. It also gives you the time to formulate an opinion or an idea while the characters and the setting are in the making. But reading has slowly become a dying habit…so we need to stop and wonder: Are we depriving ourselves of a unique kind of knowledge which can’t be found elsewhere?
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradsbury
Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb