Sunday, December 5, 2010

Moral Dilemma

So you're broke. So broke that your bank has changed its name and moved to an undisclosed pin code just to avoid you. And you look back on a long & checkered career and question every passion-induced decision you ever made that helped dig the grave your bank balance finds itself in.

And then, just like that, the seas part, the heavens open up and there is placed before you an offer so tantalizing that you don't stare directly at it for fear of burning your corneas.

It's an offer that promises to wipe out all your financial woes. One that signals a new phase in your life. It gently whispers in your ears - Take me! Take me! So you extend your arms towards it...

But suddenly, fate bitchslaps you and you realize that there is a catch. This offer is linked to some not-so-great corporates, where 'not-so-great' is a euphemism for 'those people who skin puppies for coats', which is a euphemism for 'their constructions displaced millions of impoverished Indians'.

Now poverty nips at your ankles while guilt wraps its fist around your heart.

What do you do?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yes

It was a mood swing.

lifeplan

If I took up pilates, it would strengthen my core. This would ease up the pressure on my spine, thus alleviating the excruciating lower-back pain I suffer from. In time, this will lead to a writing job that will win awards, which will in turn ensure that I find the perfect man and have interracial babies. Eventually this will result in a lower BMI & I will successfully escape my genetic disposition towards diabetes & the chronic inability to read a map.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'd Avoid This One If I Were You

I started blogging at a point in my professional life, which one might politely describe as a 'pregnant pause'. I was hoping that the result of the seemingly never-ending gestation period would be a spectacularly well paying writing job. Instead, what popped out after hours of yelling, screaming and bloody mayhem, was this blog.

The momentum was brisk, the writing came fast & fluid. The mind, numbed by hours of watching television, was ready to indulge in creative pursuits. It was unselfconscious, it was honest, it was fun. Quality standards met most of the specifications of its sole reader, who coincidentally happened to be its writer.

It seems now that the blog has reached that point in its life when it wants to stick its head in the oven: not necessarily to annihilate itself, but perhaps to see how it'll all turn out. It's not the best way to go about business, hoping a sexy firefighter (the kind that only exists in American sitcoms) comes and rescues it, but its the most fun thing this blog has done in a while.

Yeeeeaaaaah. So. Like. Whatdja wanna do? I don't know, whaddooyou wanna do? I don't know.

Ok, my television is dying on me. Let me get up off this bed and go slap it on its side.



Monday, October 25, 2010

Migraine - 9.1.2008

She felt the first stabs of pain ten minutes away from home and braced herself for the evening ahead; all the while cursing her luck as well as the sea of harsh headlights she had to drive back in. By the time she reached home and ran to the medicine cabinet the pain had progressed from a vague dullness to a living, breathing, pulsating entity coursing through the electronic networks of her brain. As she took off her shoes and had a sip of water the nausea began rise up in her throat. She made a beeline for the bedroom and wasted no time in getting under a thick blanket.

The darkness descended but it was already too late. Soon the pain would form thick boulders that would descend on her skull and pound everything to pulp. Somewhere, she'd read that providing adequate supplies of oxygen could help alleviate a headache. So she began to inhale deeply, ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out….Breathe innnnn, breathe ouuuuut…’ she chanted.  In all her years of attempting to meditate, she’d not once managed to fight distractions for more than five minutes. Now, for the first time ever, an hour had gone by and the cycle of deep inhalations and exhalations had not lost its rhythm. The pain, however, was getting worse.

Her entire body was heating up. When she put her hand to her forehead she could feel the hammering veins. She could do nothing but ball up into foetal position and try to block out any sounds or specks of light that leaked in through doors and windows. It was time to try another technique. ‘Imagine yourself in a happy place.’ The beach. ‘Feel the sea breeze on your body.’ Uh-huh. ‘Hear the sound of the waves. Let it soothe you.’ She saw herself, ankle deep in saltwater, wearing a light blue shirt three sizes too big, fluttering in the wind. Waves washed up to her feet and then fell back. She tried desperately to let the sound calm her but all she could do was look around frantically, appalled at being the only one on the pristine stretch of sand. She searched desperately for a kindred spirit to come and share in the moment, to come and hold her so tight that she would no longer feel the pounding in her head. The intensity of longing made her throat tighten up. Instinctively she felt her bones squeeze in, in an attempt to banish the extreme sadness of the moment. The sudden tensing of muscles in her neck sent a shaft of red-hot pain northwards. In complete agony, she let out an audible moan.

Someone opened the bedroom door. The sudden brightness pierced through her shut eyelids. The voice asked if she was ok. She groaned out the word ‘migraine’ but didn’t have the energy to respond to further questioning. The voice thought it better to leave her alone. As the door creaked shut again, she saw strange images appear out of nowhere. A circle roughly sketched out in the blackness. A human figure standing, in profile, on the circumference of the circle. Then another and another until the entire circumference was covered with human figures, radiating outwards like spokes of a wheel. Each figure a progression of the previous one – a man in graduating stages of movement, the sum total of the images signifying a running man. Like a flipbook creating animation out of still images. The imagery overwhelmed her to the point of exhilaration and she realised that her pain had now become so intense that it was allowing her to travel across unknown dimensions. She wondered how long this would last. The euphoria was exciting but the torture had to end soon. She’d always been one for ‘keeping the faith’ and now used this belief to ride it out bravely.

Intermittently she felt her body tiring of the fight. This headache, this migraine, was reaching epic proportions, squeezing the life force out of her. It was in moments like these that she often found herself repeating the mantra of ‘this too shall pass’. In her delirium she began to contemplate the essential nature of her beliefs and how she sometimes felt too weak to carry their burden (faith is a boon, but often, she reflected, one just wants to stop, to give up). Perhaps, she thought, this is why what begins as an individual quest for spiritual truth eventually ends up as institutionalised religion. Us mortals, she reasoned, needed the faith of others to keep us from falling when we could no longer muster the strength to carry on. She shifted uncomfortably under the blanket and smiled weakly – ‘Here I am, writhing in agony, while other parts of my brain contemplate the intricacies of organized religion.’

Outside there was a clap of thunder and even though all the windows and doors were shut, she was convinced she could smell rain. She imagined its freshness wetting her brow and cooling her body. Suddenly she needed to feel light and airy. She kicked off her blanket and attempted to sit up. Her head swam but there was also something new - a distinct lack of pain. She felt battered, as though she had just emerged from a boxing match. The migraine seemed to have scuttled back into its corner, leaving residual grumbles and threats of returning another day. She was winded and knew she hadn’t been declared the winner either. She also knew that tomorrow would feel like something out of a horror film with her walking around the house like a zombie. But right then, all she heard was the rain and she knew the worst was over. She hadn’t been knocked out yet.  
 

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction

Agent P had been happy living the semi-retired life: waking up late in the morning, having leisurely cups of coffee, reading the horoscope and closely studying her stretch marks. She had reached a stage in her career where the days were mostly hers except for the rare occasions when Command Centre called her in for a special consult.
Like today.
"Agent P. We have information."
"Awesomeness."
"Information about the missing weapons of mass destruction."
"Really! You mean they're real?"
"We (cough, cough) don't really have that information."
"Then what information do you have?"
"There are rumours that the WMDs might be in your sector."
"What? How is that possible? I thought their elimination was virtually complete."
"Heh. That's what we thought too. Not the case."
"Well. What do you want me to do?"
"Find them. Smoke them out. And Agent P?..."
"Yes?"
"We're counting on you."

******

Agent P set out. The streets were eerily calm. 
"If they're anywhere, they'd be here." she thought, recalling how earlier, WMD's had been openly brandished at traffic crossings, "...pulling at my clothing, asking for a rupee."
But no need to worry anymore. There was nothing left here.


Nothing left, that is, except the Horses
Agent P knew she'd have to conduct a thorough sweep of her sector but she was confident that it was clean. Sure, this place had seen some dark times. But those days were gone now. The city had been sanitized overnight. "Oh that lovable lion!" Agent P thought fondly. No WMDs here for sure. The good Agent plodded on.

Behind the Panels: What the Drone Attacks Left Behind
"Hmmmm...what about that biological WMD, from down the road?" she thought, "Wait, I have some images of it from the last reconnaissance mission!"
She scurried to unearth them.

The Sabziwala: Or is He?
With lightening speed, Agent P sprinted to the secret location where the above WMD had often liked to sit & hum sad Bollywood tunes (the coordinates of which she'd secured, not with a little arm twisting of the local Aunty Brigade's head honcho).
Now when she returned to the spot, she found: NOTHING.

Nothing, that is, besides the Dog
Agent P was beginning to doubt Command Centre's suspicions. She was surprised at how little faith they had in their own ability to eliminate those pesky warheads. "Maybe, they've been misled by the fake WMDs - decoys, red herrings and all that. Heheheh. "

This may look like a WMD but don't be fooled. The presence of the Quadriped makes all the difference.

At some point Agent P realised that it was creepy to laugh alone in a crowd so she decided to move on. It was time to take the Metro.
"I really don't understand how any WMDs can get through THESE many personnel," Agent P murmured to herself. Of course, she was referring to the Red Brigade. And unlike the WMD's they were friggin everywhere.



Blotches of Red Everywhere
But ooh look! So shiny & new everything was. So clean. So airconditioned.

We love this, so shut up
"Aah, with better-than-phoren trains like this, who would want to bother with WMD's?" exclaimed Agent P as she confidently strode into the Women Only coach. As her body swayed with the gentle motion of the train, she began to feel sleepy...sooooo.....suhleeeeeppppyyyy. 
And then - snap! 
"What the faarck! I believe someone has attempted to hypnotize me into abondoning my mission.... NEVER!"

She proclaimed: "I will proceed by bus. For that is the best way to find WMDs - and see the sights."
So she did - but not on the famed HOHOs that everyone was talking about. Partly for investigative reasons and partly because, well, she didn't think the term HOHO would be appropriate to use in mission reports.
Turns out, it was great decision, because look! A real WMD!!

"But I was just going back to my village!" HA! A likely story





Agent P got off and followed the WMD (because they can walk - shut up). Past the thick foliage of the urban jungle...

Past the cutely-plump-now-but-prime-candidate-for-cardiac-arrest-later young boy....

Dodging the perilous traps that the captain of the Red Brigade had promised would be taken care of.
Yo Kalmadi, you missed a spot

Vietcong-inspired Installation Art

And finally stumbled upon this:
Long shot of Terror Groups determined to ruin the CWG

"Dang! I have them in my grip," exulted Agent P as she got ready to speed dial the Command Centre. "Crafty little buggers eh? The perfect disguise: construction workers. Respect."
Within minutes (well, half an hour to be precise) the cops were on the scene.Within minutes after that, the WMDs were dispatched to the railway station & put on trains to nowhere.



All Izz Well. Kinda, Sorta...We..eee..lll

Agent P smiled contentedly as she looked upon the scene. Order had been restored.  Her sector was now clean. (Except for that dirty police fellow digging his nose & leering at her from a distance.)

What could possibly go wrong now?

******
For more adventures of Agent P (well, just one more) click here

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reminiscing

I may be over-reaching here but I do believe John Lennon knew my heart before I did. His music did, at any rate. For the longest time I carried his songs with me wherever I went and like a UN interpreter, they had the ability to translate emotional experiences into bite-sized chunks my mind could easily digest. I told no one.

I grew older & did the things I was supposed to do - scrape past the big exams, get a job, be reckless with my heart etc. When I was 28, I willed my circumstances into buying me a ticket to New York. Incredible things had happened to me on the inside. No one knew on the outside.
For some reason, even as young as 10 years old, I had hitched my hopes on New York City. As if it were the promise land. What does a 10 year old Indian girl (pre-cable television, pre-Internet) want from New York City? I really don't know. All I had was a withered, worn out air-ticket with the letters JFK etched out next to my name. When I was one my mother had carted me along when she visited her sister in the States. The ticket, which she'd allowed me to keep, had grown into a myth that I could barely contain.

New York City was everything I'd imagined and I could hardly stand it. I went numb. I would walk the streets of Manhattan everyday. Penn Station was the imaginary pole to which I tethered myself, stretching the imaginary rope as far as I could, as I wandered around. There were the crazy Doomsday roadside fatalists, the pavement artists, the musicians, the flirtatious doormen, the snobbish salesgirls, the nice salesgirls, the Bangaldeshi umbrella vendors. My crazy would have fit right in there. But I told no one.

And then one day my friend took me to Central Park West. We stood outside the Dakota Building for what felt like eternity. Wasn't that long at all, actually. I didn't really want to stand where John Lennon was shot dead. We crossed the street and entered the park. It's funny now, looking back I have to remind myself that my friend was with me. It played out so differently in my head. I walked into the park, walked down the path and came upon this:

Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon: Central Park, NYC


There were a few benches around the Imagine mosaic. Not too many people - a backpacker with a tiny boombox playing Lennon's songs, a balloon vendor, a father explaining Lennon to his son, a vagrant and me. The numbness inside turned to something else and began to swell. Lennon's music had always been my permission to feel. Now I was here. He was all around. And no one knew.

I sat until sitting there lost all meaning. Until it became just another bench in just another park and it began to get dark. I guess my friend & I must've walked back to his car, we would've stopped by for dinner somewhere, then driven straight on through to his home in New Jersey. The heartswell would have settled into numbness again by the time we reached. We would've both sat on his balcony and puffed our cigarettes. Him inhaling smoke in his corner & I, exhaling, in mine.


Monday, September 13, 2010

What's Your Poison?

I sit in a roomful of people chanting. Eyes shut, palms together in absolute concentration. They are keeping time with each other. Pitches that began on different scales have now homogenized into one mesmerizing incantation. I am at the back of the room, constantly tucking and untucking my legs beneath me uncomfortably, until I too start swaying with the chant.
This group, congregated in upmarket South Delhi, practices a form of Buddhism. It's a faith-based practice that I've observed from the periphery for over a decade, watching my sister go through the motions and gradually become stronger & stronger in her belief until it became interwoven into & inseparable from  every aspect of her life. I, meanwhile, have consistently resisted it. Today I have been invited to attend a discussion meeting by a dear friend of mine.
After the chanting is over, ladies from the Women's Division of the practice begin to read passages from prescribed texts, then discussing & interpreting it in their own way, applying the teachings to their own experiences. It is powerful to hear how faith moved them out of personal hells into a more hopeful place.
These are privileged people - we are privileged people. At least, materially speaking. We are all educated to a fair extent, we're aware of the smorgasbord of faith-based options that lie out there. Yet, we choose to spend our Sundays here. Chanting, studying philosophical texts and reconnecting with our insides.
Afterwards, some of the members ask me how I feel. They impress upon me how the practice has revolutionized their lives. They interpret my resistance as a pit stop on the way to becoming a true believer. Although their words convey that they don't wish to coerce me to join,  their reluctance to understand the nature of my resistance & accept it, begins to alienate me.

Unlike several people who are now part of this practice, I have no catastrophe that needs solving. Nor do I feel completely lost for answers or devoid of hope. Over the years, I have developed my own little system of faith (yes, yes, evolved after undergoing certain 'catastrophes') - one that I find very difficult to explain to others, one that is a combination of the mystic and the very earthbound rationale that accompanies intense introspection. It's a mish-mash of many different ideas I picked up along the way. It requires the stringent discipline that most faiths require - especially when ones circumstances are truly in the crapper and none of the sunshiny promises of 'keeping the faith' seem to be making good. So far, so good. As much as I can tell, having a system of faith which doesn't begin & end with the individual self, has not killed me yet.

In short, I don't yet understand how being part of this particular practice (or any school of organized faith) will benefit me any more than what I'm doing now. At the same time, I can't understand how people go through life without following some system of faith.

****************

It is Eid in India. More importantly, it is Eid in Srinagar. On this day of religious importance, certain political leaders have decided to carry out a peaceful rally through the streets of the city. Thousands end up converging at Lal Chowk. As this peaceful rally progresses, pent up rage is deftly channelized (or let loose) into violent intent. By lunchtime, images of burning buildings fill television screens, the way black smoke is filling up the beautiful Kashmiri sky.
One wonders: Did everyone do their Eid prayers before leaving home to join the angry mob?

****************

Someone built a temple. Someone broke the temple, murdered innocents and built a mosque. Then someone broke that mosque and murder followed again.
Someone set fire to a train. Before we could know who or what or why, a city - no, much more than a city - was in flames.
Three years on I am in a cab being a driven by a man, who wishes to take me through a ghost-town, razed to the ground because it was inhabited by a religious minority. I don't know why he thinks it's a tourist spot. He's hardly trying to highlight the tragedy (whose echoes I still hear in these abandoned galis). He seems quite matter of fact about it all when he says, "No Muslims came back.".
"Like the pest-control guy," I think, then stop. I don't know anything about this man or his life to judge him.
Here in this city, development & religion are strangely interlinked. I have heard about this phenomenon, now I am seeing it first hand. To the residents, it is a matter of mere, unquestioned routine. To me, it is sinister.

*******************

Meanwhile on Twitter, where I live out this other life, there are strong, very persuasive & highly well-informed voices that question religion & the idea of God. Their absolute certainty (seem familiar, this certainty?) confuses me. With the result that I no longer know what I thought I knew. What does religion mean? How does one define God? Here, religion sounds (to me) like a needless organ - like the appendix - that's now gotten infected and needs to be done away with. No relevance, no importance, no requirement any longer. Banish it now and stand by for world peace, gender equality, alleviation of poverty & all-round freedom from general acts of human stupidity.

I walk the periphery of this group too. Of course it is ridiculous for me to infer what being an 'atheist' means from a microblogging site that forces ideas to be condensed into 140 characters.
Perhaps, I am too lazy or too uneducated to know better: whatever the reason, I don't belong here either.

******************

I am driving through Orissa. Deeper into the villages, one finds that religion is not a matter of choice or opinion. It informs how people live, behave & get from one day to another. There is extreme poverty here and very little faith in the State as a machine that makes their lives easier. The articles of India's Constitution (that document the rest of us hold so dear, so indispensable to our society's functioning. That book, which is occasionally twisted & misused but is inherently true and - yikes - 'good'.) mean very little here. The instruments of the State built on this book also hold little meaning (especially when this law is often invoked to exploit & undermine them).

The only law here is the law of religion. These gods, goddesses and mythology are machines that make lives easier. When all else fails, it is this faith that people turn to, to get from one day to the next. It is this faith that they perceive as the harbinger of good things. And yes, it is this faith that probably gets twisted & misused as well.

In this context, I struggle to find the relevance of arguments like "Yes, it is a convenient belief to have but is it true?".

*******************

At around age 25, I began to seriously study my life & the world that I had built around me. By age 28, my building projects seemed to come crashing down for lack of a solid foundation. It was - to put it mildly - a complete, tectonic shift in all that I knew to be valid.

The idea that I was the primary mover & shaker of my life was something I held dear. But was I to be the only mover-and-shaker? I wasn't so sure anymore. Mostly, I realised, because I was exhausted. I could no longer understand how one could possibly do this job of living one's life, absolutely alone, while crazy things beyond ones control kept happening. Who's got the remote? I thought I did. Don't I? Do I? Can I change the channel please?
And so I chose from a menu of 'truths'. I went down the list and decided to pick & nibble from all the items available. A little bit of reading (yes, some self-help books too), a little bit of therapy, a little bit of Vedanta from my college days, a little bit of syadvada, a little bit of science and a little bit of what the atheists & agnostics say. A LOT of what my own instincts were telling me.
As I said, I've come up with a system that seems to work for me. The journey that I have undertaken to develop this system has led me to believe that 'faith' lies somewhere between convenience & what the combination of my mind & heart says.

For me, it is tiring, meaningless and eventually dangerous to find & live by one practice or one belief system that promises to 'apply to all'. I'm just not built that way. So now, because I have the luxury, I shall go out searching some more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

...to my girls...

The girls met at 15, 15 & 16.
They giggled, wept and held hands through their 20s.
At 30, they exhaled
And became Shakti.

Hat Yogini Shakti -11 by Gogi Saroj Pal http://tiny.cc/lcm8q

(*Dear D & N, I picture us at age 105, dancing pagan dances around pagan fires, still laughing our sagging, wrinkled asses off. Much Love.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Notes from travels IV - Orissa

"Orissa? What happens in Orissa?" asks my cousin.
I shrug. I don't really know. And this worries me. In a couple of hours I am to catch a flight to Bhubaneshwar to find out everything a viewer of BiggAss Network's travel channel would want to know. I have less than 5 days to do this. I am shitting multiple proverbial bricks.

Bhubaneshwar:
As a Delhiite, the first thing I notice about the capital is its roads. Bhubaneshwar scores big. Good roads. Also great traffic, in that, there is none. Waiting for the traffic light to turn green, the cab driver turns to me and says: "Sorry madam, office-hours crowd." There are all of seven other cars on the 4 lane road. It now dawns on me why my Oriya friend, who claims to be an excellent driver, nearly crashed my car while driving in Delhi. She is an excellent driver. In Bhubaneshwar.

Orissa instantly reminds me of Goa. Except instead of booze shops at every turn, this place has temples. 
Having been scarred in childhood by the long lines at Tirupathi and the insane trek to Kedarnath (walking barefoot on icy cold, stone floors only to be assaulted by Brahmins), I nurse a healthy distrust of temples.
However work, being my chosen mode of worship, necessitates that I enter one for research. 
I bypass the temple that humans actually frequent (Lingaraj - beautiful I'm told but not open to non-Hindus, which most of my shooting crew will be) and choose instead to visit the Rajarani Temple.

It takes my breath away. Small, unpretentious, clean and absolutely unloved.
Considering the affection that Oriyas have for temples, I'm quite surprised to find that the only people visiting are the ones in the photograph above. College girls tying rakhis on boys that they really want to drag into the empty sanctum sanctorum and bang the brains out of.
The place is unbearably spotless for the rakhi-brigade so they leave behind all their plastic filth.
So far, I've been a silent witness to their mating rituals. But now I begin to chase them down the long pathway to the gate. By the time I've caught up, I've realised that I'm the outsider and that righteous rage would no go down well with these hygienically-challenged youths.
I put on my most frightening friendly face and walk up to the least ferocious looking young lady of them all.
As I begin my moral lecture on cleanliness & the importance of respecting ones heritage, I start to feel the full weight of my age. I am newbie adult, just entering my 30s. As the young lady mutters, "We are sorry ma'am," I feel myself shriveling up right before her eyes.

Still, I'm grateful. If this were Delhi, they'd've told me to shove my Gandhian morals where the sun don't shine.

Cuttack:
I like Cuttack because it has a river. When I'm lost & stop to ask for directions, the pretty ladies smile at me and help me get a rickshaw.
The language barrier is beginning to exhaust me.  I am far less patient with the people here than they are with me and I realise I'm a terrible Delhi snob.
I am going from store to store on Naya Sadak looking for artisans who make filigree jewelery. I am told to visit the home of a Mr. John Ashok. He turns out to be a Mr. Jan Ashok.
Mr. Jan Ashok is not at home. His 70 plus mother is though. She is one shiny, happy camper. Warmly welcoming a complete stranger into her room, she offers me the only chair in the house, deeply unhappy when I attempt to sit on the floor with her.
As I sip from the bottle of Slice she has bullied her daughter-in-law into getting me, she proceeds to list out all her medical ailments to me in Oriya.
When she sticks the underside of her foot in my face, I decide to summon up some hybrid of Bengali & Oriya and squeak: "Aami Oriya jaani na!"

Satpada:
The road to the Satpada side of the Chilika lake is my first real brush with the rural countryside. I bless my stars that I have come during the monsoons. Wet, green paddy fields roll by, wet forests roll by, wet goats roll by. It is all too beautiful. I am excited to see the Irawaddy dolphins.


I do not see the dolphins. Two of the saat (seven) podas (villages) are feuding. All boating operations have temporarily been suspended. Perhaps out of fear that one village might send out nuclear subs to sink the other's boat.
I have driven 3 hours and over 100 kilometers for a whole bunch of nothing. Well, not nothing. There's always this:
Puri:
Puri is not my scene. The temple is to be avoided by a mile. The beaches are crowded and littered with broken bottle shards. Sad, because the ocean is simply magnificent.


Like a sniffer dog sniffs out cocaine, I invariably manage to locate the disgruntled & the dispossessed wherever I go. The beach at Puri is no different.
Soon a handbag seller is asking me how much I earn in Delhi, explaining how he never became a constable (despite being a graduate) because he refused to pay a Rs. 50 bribe. Further down the beach, I befriend a bunch of photographers who take snaps of tourists lolling on the beach, only to sell them back to their subjects. The photographers tell me about the dismal state of unemployment and how apathetic the government is to, well, just about everything.
Dismayed and dejected, I drag my feet through the heavy sand and get out of Puri as fast as I can.

Chandrabhaga:
Just as there is Good to fight Evil and Dexter to neutralize pedophiles, there is Chandrabhaga to quell the distaste that Puri leaves in my mouth.
En route to Konark, one chances upon this stretch of untouched beach almost out of nowhere.
The driver is confused by my excitement & pressing need to stop in the middle of the road. "There's nothing here, madam," he says. Precisely.

I can only stay here for five minutes. I am on a clock and a budget. The BigAss Network does not pay for personal quests for eternal peace. I must soak in as much of this exquisite quiet as I can before I leave.
A deep sense of sadness - loneliness maybe? - grips me suddenly. I am experiencing untold beauty. With no one to share it with.

Konark:
Yes, yes, beautiful temple. Startling triumph of architecture, geometry, astronomy, art blah blah blah.
But have you met Mr. Santan Beura, local guide? No? Please do:
"Please see madam - Kamasutra."
"Please see madam, polygamy."
"Please see madam, lesbian lowe."
"So sad madam, you have come alone. No point of seeing all this."

Athagadh:
I've been told it is one of the last few forested, hilly regions along the Eastern Ghats that is Maoist-free & totally safe.
Still, driving through the roads lined with thick forests, I can't squash the irrational fear inside me. What if someone jumps out of that thicket with an AK47? In the next instant, I am completely ashamed of myself. Of course not, you idiot.

So it's interesting when the next evening I am introduced to Vijuda (name changed). He is a Black Cat commando & a CRPF man. Warm, extroverted & surprisingly talkative. He has served as the bodyguard of Rajiv Gandhi & KPS Gill. He has been part of the team that responded to the 2002 Akshardham attack. He was stationed in Manipur & Punjab at the height of the insurgency. His friend & fellow soldier was killed at Dantewada.

15 minutes into our conversation and he makes sure to nip my hero-worship in the bud. He is completely devoid of any nationalist fervour. He has put his life on the line several, several times. But not for some lofty notion of 'India' or The Nation. It's a job, he does it.

Warming up, he speaks of 'reality'. Of how villagers in Maoist-infested areas are terrorised routinely by the armed forces. He does not absolve himself of the guilt of killing innocents even though he was 'under orders' (pre-emptive murders of youths to prevent recruitment into terror groups). He speaks fondly of many ugravaadis, who after 'office-hours' are the same as him. Fighting because they were told to.
I sit there talking to a man who admits to have taken numerous lives, many of them innocent. I try not to romanticise the moment but cannot help notice the fire in his eyes as he speaks.
His 'service to the nation' has rendered him barely human in his own eyes.

Leaving:
I leave knowing at least part of the answer to the question: "What happens in Orissa?"
A lot does. Silently. Away from the disinterested government machinery, in the villages and the tribal nooks & forgotten crannies.
It's a place of incredible, unspoiled beauty and that makes up for the horrid flight back home.

The Delhi snobbery is rubbed out of me partly by my experiences over the week and partly by the 20 minute wait at the baggage-pick up's conveyor belt, where the same blue mailbag is going continuously round & round & round.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scenes From A Beauty Parlour

Scene 1: Threading

- Tch Tch, madam, you are coming after so many days.
- Really? I was here a month ago.
- Accha? Lot of growth you have madam.
- Hmmm.
- You must be very busy?
- A little, I travel for work sometimes.
- Married?
- No. You asked me this last month also.
- You should get married.


Scene 2: Facial

- Hello madam, seeing you after so many days.
- I was here a month ago.
- Accha? You should get gold facial.
- Just the usual please.
- This chocolate facial is also very good.
- Really? What does it do?
- It makes the skin very soft. Removes impurities.
- And the gold one?
- It removes impurities & makes the skin like butter. Soft.
- Just the usual please.
- Madam, lots of tanning you have.
- That's my real skin colour actually.
- You want skin whitening?
- No thank you, the usual please.
- Married?
- No.


Scene 3: Haircut

- What do you want madam?
- Layers. Don't cut it too short.
- No.
- What do you mean no?
- It won't look nice.
- Look I've had this cut for a while now, I know how it looks. I like it.
- It doesn't look nice.
- It's okay, just do it please.
- Fine.
.....
- This isn't what I asked for. It's too short.
- But it looks nice now.


Scene 4: Waxing

- Hello madam, after so long you're coming.
- (.....)
- Real tattoo? Sticker?
- Real.
- Hai! Did it hurt?
- Yes.
- My husband's mother also has. Family tradition. She was five.
- That's nice.
- She wants me to quit my job & stay at home. But I can't. I want to move out of that house. I need my salary.
- What does your husband say?
- He doesn't say anything, only. He's afraid of his mother.
- Arranged marriage?
- No. Love marriage. I fought with my parents to marry him.
- So he doesn't want to move out?
- Why would he, madam, he has all the comforts of being his mother's only son.
- So what will you do?
- I don't know madam. I get migraines everyday. I can't eat or sleep.
- You must never leave your job.
- No madam, I won't quit, no matter what that woman says.
- Good. It's important for a woman to have financial independence.
- You are married?
- No.
- Why not?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Skippy Badgerow

"Skippy...
...Skippy...Beaugereau?...
...Skippy Badgerow."

She woke up with the name Skippy Badgerow playing jump rope in her head. Her REM cycle had been unkind, sweat had dribbled continuously down her neck in the night, soaking those sheets not of Egyptian cotton.

Who was Skippy Badgerow? And did he dress well?...

The answers would not come easy. Till then she resolved never to eat rabbit or chew on a human heart.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Idea for Story

Take me to St. Loo-ee

Toilet humour.

A loo story.

Not kosher. Or else it'd be a Jew Story.

A tale of relationships flushed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tag, I'm a F*&$%st!

Recently, I was challenged (on this blog & in other spaces) on where I stand in the 'battle' of gender equality. I was asked to pick sides - Was I a feminist or not? Last evening, grumbling & irritable at myself for not knowing how to answer this, I attempted an angry post part-blistering, part-petulant. 

It was horrid.

Then this morning, a rather charming blogger tagged me as part of IHM's 'My Sins Against Gender Stereotypes' thingamajig. I was to list out 10 things that I've done in my life which go against prevalent notions of gender roles. So here goes:

1. Am an absolute lover of gadgets & love unraveling the puzzles of technology.
2. Am enthused by physics.
3. Have done 'highway driving'.
4. I ask to be paid as much as my male colleagues.
5. I work the same shifts as male colleagues (periods or no periods).
6. I expect men to share housework duties.
7. I sometimes travel in autos after 10:30 pm, drunk. In New Delhi.
8. I have earned significantly more than the man I lusted after.
9. I refuse to marry just because I'm getting older.
10. I plan to take care of my parents as they grow older.

Where this list places me is irrelevant.
We're all stuck between shifting notions of gender roles, these days. The men are confused (does she want me to open doors for her, does she not?), the women are confused (do I support the banning of burqas or not?) I've never had a man block my upwardly mobile, professional aspirations but I've never worked in an office where sexual harassment did not creep in, in some form or the other.

Am I a feminist or not? Yes, I am. If being one supports an idea of freedom of choice, no matter the gender.
I feel equally outraged at the French ban on burqas as the Iranian laws that force women to wear them. I feel that those who commit heinous 'honour killings' are as trapped by skewed gender notions as the ones who were killed.
I find human trafficking abhorrent, yet don't agree with a blanket ban on prostitution.
I don't believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman.
I also believe that men are wonderful creatures, crucial to the cause of gender equality.

To me feminism is not about which side of the fence you're on. Because there is no fence. Never was.
To me, being a feminist, means bringing the feminine experience out of the closet. It is to talk, listen and to understand what a woman's world looks & feels like.

So don't be afraid of the word 'feminist'. Chances are, many of you rational thinking people already are one. You really don't have to roll your eyes every time a woman talks or writes about her unique experience as a female living in an unequal world. If you're a guy, don't exclude yourself from those spaces (I for one would love to have you participate). If you're a woman, don't be afraid to jump right in. This is not a scary, angry place that can exist without men. Far from it. It is a world more complete than the one we know now, where everything is finally in its rightful place, as it should be, serene, peaceful and empowering of oneself & the other.

Shucks, it might not be a battle after all.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How To Write A Bad Poem

As banks shut,
the staff rolls out,
in biker gangs
of blue shirts & striped ties.

(Take a sentence, any sentence. Hit the enter key every time you blink. Poetry.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Twittervada - How Twitter Helped Me Gain Inner Peace

There is a story about the ancient sage, Adi Shankaracharya, that my Indian Philosophy teacher loved to tell us undergrads.
Once, on one of his many book-signings across the land, Shankaracharya was confronted by one of those annoying followers who only follow you to make wise-ass comments on everything you say.

"O Wise Man," said he, "If you were in a jungle and you came upon a man-eating tiger, would you run away?"
"Why, yes, @Disciple67456, I would," said @Shankar_ARox.
"But why? You only said everything is maya no? Then even the tiger is maya. Hehe."
"That may be so, idiot child, but so is everything else. Which makes the world my material self lives in, real for now. So, when the tiger gnaws on my ankle, it may be maya. But unless I attain moksha right about then, it will still hurt like a bitch."

Disciple67456, suitably enlightened, went on to RT Shankaracharya's words to all his tweeps. But what relevance does this story have to me & my inner peace? You see, being a Twitter whore has helped me understand the material world a little bit better.

* Hari Om Twat Sat*

1. Fresh as a freshly powdered baby bottom: When we sign up on Twitter, our profiles are pure. We can be whoever we wish to be - funny, confessional, depressed, suicidal, attention-junkies, newshounds, stalkers, leaders, individualists or cult-members. There is no desire to acquire followers. There is no desire to create virtual bonds with unknown people. The fact that our neighbours, relatives and friends are on our lists is good enough. Ah the innocence, sigh....

2. The New World: However, if your pure soul is unemployed and has access to too much free time & broadband, it begins to uncover the cliques that exist on Twitter. Soon, the Dalai Lama has been unfollowed, replaced instead by Shit My Dad Says and the descent has begun. (Which is ironic, since this 'descent' is misinterpreted by the Tweeter as an ascent up the Twitterati ladder. People, who abandoned their budding careers as rockstars to become bankers will identify.)
At this stage, as with any stage in life, one has a choice to disengage and not get sucked under the veil of illusion...

3. Part Becomes Whole: So this Tweeter has spent a couple of weeks/ months navigating this bewildering soup of 140 characters. She's sifted through thousands of Twitter profiles and what remains is a list of brilliantly funny, raging & sarcastic buggers. The idea that Twitter is a vast universe full of endless possibilites (a notion held right at the very beginning, when signing up) has now been whitled down. The Tweeter becomes further myopic. She begins to believe that Twitter, as a whole, is a brilliantly funny & raging place full of sarcastic buggers.
Ignorance.

4. The Switch: Deep within, the tweeter is always aware that this is not real. That there is a world outside Twitter, where she is a more complete person. More loving, giving & prone to random acts of kindness (also capable of tremendous feats like giving flesh-and-blood hugs). Yet, she disregards that inner awareness. She begins to change. She begins to unleash her negativity. The more she descends into the hallucination, the more popular she becomes.
She now makes a fatal mistake.

5. But You Said You Loved Me: The Tweeter begins to believe what the 'voices' on Twitter are saying. After all, she is being discussed in third person by strangers and her brain vomit is now being tracked by some of the most respected writers she has admired in the blogosphere. The illusions of grandeur know no stopping. She believes she has discovered the meaning of love. Worse still, she stops reading books.

6. The Fall: Then something stupid happens. She becomes an object on Twitter. Others begin to sexualize her, vilify her, worship her. They, equally ignorant in this mayalicious world of Twitter, have lost the ability to see beyond the DP. (People who humiliate security guards performing safety checks at malls will identify). She realises that no matter how many times she is retweeted, she is in fact alone and this, in truth, is not reality. Bummer.

7. Enlightenment: She puts on her pants and goes for a walk. Outside.

*Hari Om Twat Sat*
 ---------------------------------
Read also: 7 Deadly Kinds of Twitter Followers at 42
                 So Much To Say at Oculus to Oculus

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Is Not Lost Yet

In the best tradition of rebel artists & revolutionary writers through the ages, one brave chap at SDI Subtitles has decided to take on censorship & subvert its oppressive forces. In a country where 'sex', 'shit', 'breasts', 'penis' and even 'screw' are bleeped out or reworded, this new age Che refuses to be cowed down:

As seen on Scrubs on Star World, this afternoon:

Dialogue: Don't be such a massive jackass.
Subtitle: Don't be such a massive prick.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shopping

I am over 30. I went shopping for clothes.
I learnt that boys are embracing the lungi-cum-chuddee look and that girls only wear clothes that require instruction manuals.


Awesome prize for anyone who guesses its gender.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hindsight

24th May 2010, Monday:
11:30pm
"By the way," she continued, "I'm STILL not your whore." 
11:27pm
"Sorry to disturb you at this hour," Static texted, "I thought about it. And my answer is no." 
11:20pm
Static checks her bank balance. It's abysmally low. She hasn't worked in nearly a month. She hasn't written in almost as long. Next month's rent. Next month's rent. And oh ya - next month's rent.
9:15pm
Phone rings. She picks up.

"Hello?"
"Static! How're you?!?!? It's me, Chutiya Misra."
"....."
"Hello?"
"Yeah. What's up?"
"So? Have you heard the latest about me?"
"Vaguely."
"I'm in Delhi. Working with Fantasmorgasmic Films."
"Ok."
"So, I have a job for you. Only you can do it. Also, no one else was free."
"What."
"I need you to write for the InternationallyNarcissistic Channel. Investigative documentary. Thrill, intrigue, shock, tears. Blood."
"......................"
"Subject: Mangalore crash."
"What?"
"Yeah man! Think about it. First on scene. Beating MyMomma'sAnMP Productions to it."
"Let me think about it."
"Money no object."
"I'll let you know."
"Ok. And by the way, all's forgiven."

23rd May 2010, Sunday
4:15pm
She lies sprawled on her bed, watching the news. A young boy of 13 is in shock. He has a mike thrust in his face. 'Beta, your parents and siblings perished in the crash. How do you feel?'
He cannot speak, he cannot cry, he can barely stand. He is of no use to the reporter.

In deep anguish, Static tweets.


7th Jan 2009, Wednesday:
10:41am
Email exchange: Static to Chutiya Misra "If I'm reading this correctly, you want me steal SuperMoneyful project from under Esteemed Colleague's nosehair?"
1:22pm
Email exchange: Chutiya Misra to Static "I have bought your soul for pittance. Go forth and kick Esteemed Colleague in the groin."
1:46pm
Email exchange: Static to Chutiya Misra "I won't do it, you mammoth turd."
2:01pm
Email exchange: Chutiya Misra to Static "Don't lecture me on professional ethics, slut. I own your ass. I am King of the Universe. Hahahahhaha."
8.14pm
Email exchange: Static to Chutiya Misra "Give me my money, bitch. I'm outta here."

13th Nov 2008, Thursday:
12:00pm
On recce for the ThisWillWinAwards project. Chutiya Misra & Static check into hotel.

Chutiya Misra: Should I book one room or two?
Static: Errr...what?!
Chutiya Misra: (wink, wink) One room will save money. One bed, hehe.
Static: Yeeeeeaaah. I don't think so.
Chutiya Misra: Oh ho! OtherIntern was more fun. Why not you?
Static: Because I'd like my own bed. Oh, and I'm not your whore.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ain't Unemployment The BEST?

Two weeks since I had me a job. Two weeks of doing nothing but playing House Frau and becoming One with the Downloads. Two weeks since anyone spoke to me in the language of pay cheques.

They say it's a phase. I dunno. Is brain atrophy a phase?


Ain't Geert sexy?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lost But Looking

Wh...where...am I?...

Ma'am, just lie back down.

Where am I?

You're in the Intensive Care Unit. You've been in an accident.

What?...

Ma'am please you need to lie down. Your body's been through a lot. No cause for worry now, but you need to rest.

But I...It's coming back to me...I've lost it....

Lost what, ma'am?

I...this thing...it was alive. I held it in my palm. Like this, see?

What is it? Can you describe it?

I don't know...what to call it. It's mine. All purple and gnarly. Bruised but beautiful. And alive. God, I'm so sorry I've lost it. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Please! Ma'am, you have to calm down. Are you in pain? I could give you something for it.

No! No...I need to stay awake. Alert. I need to find it. I can't go home without it. People....people are waiting for me. They're depending on me.

Breathe, ma'am. I'm here to help you. Nothing's so lost that you can't find it again. Here. Take my hand. Now think. Where could it be? Where did you last see it?

I don't know, I don't remember.

I got you, ma'am. Now think harder. Don't you worry about a thing, I'll take care of the details. Just give me a clue.

I gave it...passed it around so much...it had such strong rhythm. But it's weaker now...

So it's an instrument? It makes music?

Oh yes, beautiful music. But I never learnt to play it well.

No worries ma'am. You know what they say - it ain't over till the fat lady sings. And I'm not singing.

Thanks Nurse, you're very kind. But don't you have other patients to take care of?

Uh-huh. Look child, look to your side - is that what you're looking for?

Huh? What?

The monitor...those strong strokes. Stronger than ever.

Is it...did you fix it...?

Yes, we did. Now close your eyes. Get some rest.

Diff of Op

My mother and I pretty much disagree on how she brought me up.
I say she did a bang up job.
She says I'm unmarried.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Place Like Home

Last week 23 year old Nirupama Pathak died. Under mysterious circumstances, they said. Smothered, not suicide. 3 months pregnant, others said. Choosing the wrong man was her mistake, it was reported.

I believe her biggest mistake was going home. Because, as it turns out, women - girls - like her have no home.

Home is where a woman returns to replenish her soul. It's a place where she knows she will be loved no matter what choices she made out there in the real world. Home is where her wounds are soothed, where she puts her feet up and allows those who claim to love her to wipe the worry lines off her brow. Home is where mothers, fathers, siblings, partners and children rally around & promise to protect her against all odds. Home is safe.

I went home to my parents yesterday. They don't understand many of my choices. We've fought emphatically and disagreed in obscenely loud silences. We are not what Karan Johar would call strictly functional. Yet, when I enter that door I know this strange family of mine will defend me, not do me, to death. Honour for them, is having me as part of their world.

The tragedy is not that this beautiful young thing died along with her unborn child. It's that she was throttled by those who never thought of her as their own. That she had the misfortune of being born in a home where labels trumped her heart. That 23 years of living & loving meant nothing at all, in the end.

And the biggest tragedy of all: Being born to a mother who never had a home either.
That girl never stood a chance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Really, people...Part III: Ad Nauseum

I love Indian advertising. The Bajaj bulb ad ("Jab main chhota ladka thha..."), the Fevicol series, the Happydent ad and Vodafone pug? Good stuff there. For the most part.

As for the rest...
Forget the rampant sexism (Tanishq wedding jewelery ad anyone?: the archetype of the independent Indian woman being lured by bling, like a cud-chewing cow...also commented on by fellow blogger).
Forget the ridiculous fear-mongering (fear of sunlight, aging, rice, singlehood, ad infinitum). That's staple.   

Because lately, there's been even more insidious shit going on. For some reason we have turned on Africans and it makes me cringe right down to my toe nails. The new Sprite ad shows two ditzes in a jungle. One of them with a handbook on how to deal with African tribals (because, God forbid there should be any other type of African), which he proceeds to do with a jhingalala type Vyjanthimala dance. I don't know how this ad ends because I can never see it through (if one must be racist & stereotype, I'm hoping the tribals turn cannibalistic and eat that porcine motherfucker).

I thought this ad was the most abysmal low we could sink to. Until I saw one so disgusting that my brain retched out any memory of the brand name. I do know it's for a lemon drink (tried searching for the ad online. Failed). The ad shows an African man (again, loin-cloth'd, hut-dwelling, cave-man type) in the desert, parched and trying desperately to collect water in some kind of pot. Hours go by and he manages to get a few drops. He lifts the pot above his head to take the much needed sip. A passerby (cave man 2) enters frame, distracts thirsty cave man 1. Cave man 1 misses his mark, water spills onto dry land and disappears into it. The ad ends when Cave man 1, enraged, chases Cave man 2 around the one straw hut that stands in the desert. Cut to look-ma-I'm-funny tagline and big graphic of beverage bottle.

It's bad enough that we reduce an entire continent to a caricature, that we're ignorant about its culture & people, but to mock its misfortunes and worse still, to use it to sell some lame-ass, over-priced synthetic lemon drink is something I simply cannot stomach (Not feeling well, madam? Nimbu paani?)

Here's a concept, then: How about an ad for a brand of luggage. Luggage so solid, it survives terrorist attacks at railway stations & 5 star hotels. Hahaha...look at that goofy Kasab-lookalike wasting his bullets on our faux-leather finish...that'll show him.
Buy that bag wontcha?

Bit much? Ya. It's late. I'm being stupid. That's what happens when I watch too much TV.
 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Day At The Mall

I'm writing this post because my cousin brother believes that one day blogs & tweets will be held up as historical documents, chronicling where we have come from as a people, giving perspective on where we are headed.
Much like Mohenjodaro, my blog is then. This thought delights me.

Therefore, I feel it is my obligation to write about my day at the mall. Not just any mall, but Ambience Mall. To non-Delhiites, this won't mean much. And truth be told, this mall isn't even in Delhi. It's in Gurgaon, which is in my favourite Indian state, Haryana (I jest, surely you sense that).
This is Ambience Mall.


It is very big. It is so big that I had to shrink its image to the smallest permissable size on this blog. It is so big that within its folds of fat, it can hold several football fields and in fact does hold several sporting venues, a brewery & a kiddy amusement park. It is so big that you could include a visit to it in your exercise regime & get a solid cardio burn (which will then be rendered redundant as you speed-walk past the food court). In short, this mall be big.

Now, unlike some of my friends, I am not a mall hater. In fact, I've developed a bit of a mall 'habit', if you know what I mean. I dig the air-conditioning, the polished floors, the yellow lighting and assorted food/beverage smells sneaking up on me as I turn a corner. I like walking past material objects I can rarely afford, because on days that I can, I forget that life is about self-awareness, self-love and trying to reach a higher truth. I have clocked enough hours to be an official mall-appreciator.

Oh but Ambience Mall. It is the strangest mix of crassness & creativity, ugliness & quirkiness, pappiness and awesomeness. It looks like it was put together in a hurry. Like some fatcat in a fatcat boardroom said - "Time nahi hai yaar, budget nahi hai yaar. Jaldi khatam karo yaar, kiraye pe chaddaao yaar." It looks unfinished, unthought of and a little dirty. It's smug in its awareness that airconditioning will get us past the front door. The BMW showroom will do the rest (it's a great microcosm of urban Indian society, this BMW showroom. The untouched, pristine flooring within and the grimy glass windows, pock-marked with all the nose-rubbing & convertible-induced drooling).

The fact that very few visitors can actually afford its merchandise is immaterial. Ambience Mall, like many of its kind, has become a picnic spot. That's alright I guess. Except, looking at all the stuff makes me kinda mad deep inside. It makes me irrationally crave the ugliest bags that Louis Vuitton could possibly come up with (scam of the century, that LV is) and then hate myself because I can't own one. To deal with my rage, I head to the Food Court to eat my feelings but then sight the brewery and get smashed instead. The booze gives me the courage to walk into the exclusive Golfworx, where I see people playing a virtual version of the most outdoor of all outdoor sports, in tiny, darkened cubicles (and they have caddies!!!!!). The salespeople there try to sell me Rs.11,000 shoes though I do not play golf. I walk out.
Luckily, Ambience has made provisions for bowling (another sport I do not play) and boozing, just next door. I am walking in when my mother calls and tells me that 3 malls in Saket (all adjacent to each other) have been evacuated because of bomb threats. It seems, the crowd that accumulates at such venues on weekends is too good for terrorists to resist. That still does not deter from my goal of not-bowling because everything is so shiny and new. I cannot leave. So I watch Delhi's Bowling Team (they look official, t-shirts and all) play. Then get bored.

Walking out, a large building adjacent to the entrance is sighted. It has several chimneys spewing out dark grey smoke. I am informed that this might be where all the power to run the mall comes from. It stops me in my tracks (Mentally. Physically it's too hot to stop. The outside world is not, unfortunately, airconditioned) and sums up my impression of Ambience Mall:

That was an awful lot of energy to bust for a bunch of people not buying a BMW.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

She Came In Through The Bathroom Window...

Over the last few days The Beatles have popped up in the most interesting of ways. On Twitter through random folk, on a fantastic art website called Across The Universe that I am absolutely in love with, then there was the American Idol Beatles week and a crazy episode in a sound studio.

Apparently, it was all a way to get me to start a new blog. So...tadaaaaa....presenting And Your Bird Can Sing (http://aquaticstaticsings.wordpress.com/). It's a music blog about all things that make me go hummmm in the night. It's only 2 posts old (yup, one of them's about the Beatles) but I'm very excited.

So do drop by...


(Also, if you could suggest some music blogs that you like, let me know. Will add them to my blogroll on the site.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crikey!

I may have scared Billu the Blog Burglar away...

So an Ode.

Twas a shorte yet sweete affaire
When ye did venture into mine laire
Withe stealthe ye hastened
To steal, not complacent
To write thine own trash, eh?

And so do accept mine thanks overmany
I pray, thou dost not returneth
But if ye should come
Tis a promise, I'll hum
A merry tune, whilst in Purgatory ye burneth

Two Balloons - 16.10.2009


Two balloons float up into the sky. One red, one blue.
The blue balloon glides like a cat when high. Folks on the ground worry how it drifts across the sky, seemingly without a clue.
The red balloon freestyles when high. For most people, it all looks a little pointless. Two wayward globes making their way across vast expanses of nothingness.
But up where the two roam, there is so much to see. There’s white, feathery cloud bits, the stray bird, the just-out-of-reach blueness. And the magnificent view below.
It’s nice, even important, to know that the bustling happens down there, while here in the stratosphere, there’s nothing to do but fly, strings sometimes intertwined, sometimes undone.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Greater Good (or What's Your Point Sister?)

'Nuff said about shit writing I think.

Truth be told there's been a lot bothering me lately. My over-eager participation in all things Twitter, the need to up the Twitter Gods (oh, there's a club...) and be the wittiest chick on the 140-character long block. The need to be snappy, sensitive, brazen yet not short-sighted, politically aware yet not an activist, to shock without offending, to offend without alienating.
The urge to regurgitate whatever comes to ones mind, no matter how inane, how irrelevant and how selfish. I have succumbed to it all.
I've jumped in the deep end and found - it's way more shallow than I thought.

Forget the psychological difficulty I'm having coming to terms with my alter-ego on Twitter/ FB or even this blog sometimes. This, for once, is not about my head.

My chief discomfort with what's happening to me online comes from what I believe to be good writing.
I have been clever on Twitter, even had a minor celebrity quote me once. Strangers have wanted to connect with me and read about my day. I like my writing online. It's forced me to stretch myself (I never ever thought I was funny. Now with all these virtual opportunities, I am pushing my own limits). My language skills and confidence have improved. But is my writing great? Not by a long, long shot.

I am, in fact, suffering as a writer. I'm getting lost in the crowd. The more lost in it I get, the more I want to be part of it. I am trying to stand out by submerging myself, hair curlers and all. I'm getting scared of writing the way I really want to. I'm scared shitless to confront the truth that I have nothing to write about.

I've spent the day watching Dexter. It is brilliant. Brilliant like Californication, MASH and some of my favourite documentary films have been (my references for good writing tend to come from TV, since I work in it). All day long, I've compulsively gone from episode to episode like an addict.The idea is brilliant, the acting superb, the direction exceptional. That's not what has me hooked though.

It's the writing, which is great. By great, I don't just mean snappy lines, ironic plot twists or complex characters, although it has all that. What makes it great is its courage. The writing has the guts to not remain in the realm of the superficial (which it could quite easily do since its premise is strong enough to base a series on). It digs deeper, it goes into uncomfortable spaces, it crosses the line - but not simply to create a stir.  It could have been a TV show about a cop-by-day, killer-by-night. Each episode could've been a cat-and-mouse tale with the appropriate car chases and I have no doubt, it would have been successful enough. But that the writers chose to go into Dexter's mind, play with his unique psychology, use it as a comment on who we are as people, use it to jog our ideas of right & wrong....that just blows me away. There's something in the writing that connects with the most primal part of me and makes me hunger for more. They could've taken the easy route like so many of us do with our catchy tweets and cynical blog posts. They went for it instead.

Most of my favourite books and films have been products of brave writing, where writers have pushed themselves beyond language, story, narrative, rules and the need to be 'successful' & popular (and nothing seems to get more success online than irreverance & cynicism).
They've pushed to dig for something more. They've not been driven by the need to impress at all costs. They've not simply relied on their ability to twist grammar to their needs. And they've realised that if they don't have anything of value to say, it's best not to say it at all.
(One may argue that the definition of 'value' may differ from person to person. Here's where I drew the line for myself this evening: I tweeted about a zit on my forehead. It wasn't a clever haiku about a zit, I was not using my zit as a metaphor for anything. I just needed to tell the world I had a zit. Any 'value' in that? I think not. And yet, that's the kind of horse-shit that I see all around me, including on news channels etc...but that's another rant)

I salute these writers because it's not easy to dodge all the potholes and pitfalls on the route to ensuring that ones work is experienced by society at large. To maintain your own voice in the din, to not sway when one half the room loves you and the other half ignores you. To know when to hit that Publish button and when to log off without a word.
To understand that the opportunity to write is a profound privilege and that the one of being read is a greater one still.

I guess my point is, I don't want to be just another wooden puppet out there, churning out words and sentences chosen to elicit a specific reaction. Ideally, I want to stop caring about the reaction completely (ya right, a voice inside me says, delete your comments section then). That may not happen immediately. But I eagerly await that day.
Who knows, by then I just might have something to say .

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Defense of Shit Writing

The post below is unmitigated shit. I know it. I knew it as I was writing it. It felt wrong but I couldn't stop...sort of like when you eat that slightly off mayo sandwich on a hot summer day. You repent after it's done but that doesn't prevent you from spending a significant part of the next day on the crapper.

Why don't I delete it?

Because there's no shame in being mediocre. At least not when I'm mediocre. I want the post to remain online, in the public domain so that I can maintain perspective. To remind myself that sometimes I'm a bit crazy and all over the place. That sometimes I do things without caring too much. That I'm only blogging, not curing cancer or building cryogenic engines.

That I spend too much time explaining myself after.
My therapist is on holiday. That might be it.

And might I add...Dey-AM, Sendhil Ramamurthy is smokin' hot.

Turn Left At The Improv Blog

Ladies and Gentlemen!...
She's come all the way from Couch-In-Front-Of-TV...She's fresh, she's eager, she's a SHE! For the first time EVER on this, or any other, stage, please give a warm welcome to....Mizzz Aquatic Static....

(...cough...cough...)

(Big swig) Wow. This is such a dream come true. I've spent so many years watching stand up on SNL, Leno and Lok Sabha TV but I never imagined I'd be up here, attempting to perform a standup blog. In fact, if it weren't for a lethargic download at home tying up my bandwidth, I wouldn't have made it out here at all. So special thanks to Airtel as well.

It's pretty intimidating being up here actually. Especially since I have no jokes. Also my segueways are pretty crap. No "Speaking of all those unexplained infernos lately, what's up with that Modi huh? (Narendra, not Lalit)..." or "A rabbi and Modi walked into a bar...(Lalit, not Narendra)"
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say and mostly came up with rants.
So I compiled my list and here's what I've gotten so far: PMS, menstrual cramps, Shaadi.com, Ranbir Kapoor's career choices and my mother.


Ummm...Miss Static? The gentlemen are walking out...

O no! Er...lemme see...BREASTS, farts, beer, God of War....wait TENDULKAR! That's right...back to your seats guys. I would've let you go but in this great country of ours, when the men leave, they take the car and the ladies with them. God forbid, should the women just walk into a club alone...
So as I was saying, Tendulkar. Yeeeeah... don't know much about him so back to me...

Besides being unfunny, another reason why I've shied away from stand-up blogging for so long is because I can't deal with the heckling. I'd like to give you a live demonstration right now. Any haters out there in the audience?

You suck!

I understand, sir, that you expected to see the live telecast of KKR vs. Mumbai Indians on a giant screen and got stuck, instead, with me. But there's no need to hurt my feelings. And more importantly: Why can't you LOVE me? What's wrong with me?? I try so hard!
(And that's a heckler I rehearsed with before getting on stage.)

Why then madam, you ask, are you up here in the first place?
It has come to to pass recently that I have become loved by a fairly large group of unknowns on the internet. This can be as gratifying as being loved by one or two close friends or relatives. A retweet on Twitter or a 'Like' on Facebook can gladden my heart almost as much as a phone call from a school buddy or a Get Well Soon card from a neighbour. Being loved by an unknown is also less stressful. There's very little one needs to do to receive validation. Mostly, just logging in will do it.

Yes, you cannot fall asleep in the arms of an unknown Twitter Follower or open joint bank accounts with a blog commenter but what really matters is staying in the spotlight. Lovers will leave, family will disown and friends will either betray or move to another city.
Only FB friends and Twitter followers will remain. And even if they don't, there's plenty more where they came from.

(Mizz Static...the bar shut down a while ago. The guests have all left. We're pulling down the shutters now.)

Finally, there's the freedom to spew nonsense. I once thought of writing a book but the publishers wanted it to have a point. Catch up with the times, editors. Nonsensical self-indulgence is where it's at. Today I tweeted about how my toe was turning purple and 3 new people started following me. That's a best-seller right there.

(Madam, please)

Fine. I'll wrap it up. You've been a great audience. Just don't throw stuff at me.


____________

And since I've suffered blog theft recently, I must say that the Modi references may seem similar to other RESPECTED bloggers' tweets but I swear, I wrote mine before I read yours, youknowwhoyouare.