Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Unpoem#4: Untitled

grey fingers tracing hard down the ground's back
a dancing, snake-wound god holds a river close, as she finally
breathes in the smell of blue skin and
knows it to belong to more than lotuses and maps of

blue fingers tracing hard down the grounds back
a girl striding towards rain puddles in neon cobblestones
of different faces, bigger coffee cups and a man, who finally
breathes in the smell of red hair and
knows it to belong to more than gulmohar trees and love and the fire of

black fingers tracing jagged hard down the cracked grounds back
as rain and pain and nothing to gain except the hands of our mothers that
bring us home. Bring us home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And the bad news is...

...that hurricane Katrina is ripping up the south-west coast, the magnitude of which yankville hasn't seen in over half a century.

Poor muggles. See how they run, float, drown and die.

It's an interesting thing about kali yuga: no longer is it just parts of the world coming under fire or getting doused n' soused. The nation most insensitive to world issues, particularly world issues relating to weather and pollution, is learning a heavy lesson.

As are the financial markets. Oil gurus are going into a tizzy, consumers whinny in fear as barrel prices rise to close to $80 a unit.

The good news is...

... that my roomie is not a serial killer, nor is she an obsessive follower of reality tv shows. She has a car, bought me tooth-paste, took me shopping, and... did I mention she has a car?

Hurricane Katrina hasn't reached this far north on the coast: however, it did spell grey hippo-like clouds that crushed the horizon and my roomie's car's windshield this afternoon, bringing rain and sweatshirts out under human eyes. A comfort after the heated humidity of the past few days.

I now am the proud owner of a plasma ball, a joyous creation that looks like this:

I also have my own table lamp, a morbidly--deliciously so-- black comforter and a laundry basket, wearing the same livery.

In short-- territory has been marked. Tribe members have been ascertained. And the hunt, with tomorrow's classes, will begin.

Got Bawls?

The guarana berry is native to the Amazonian forest, and is known for its potent caffeine levels. An American college student a while back wondered what it would be like to have an alternative to coffee and coke that still had that delicious caffeine kick , but none of those wussy associates, milk or sugar.

And then there was Bawls.

Bawls beats red bull and gatorade hollow, simply because of its subtle flavour and indubitably cool appearance.

Why I love Bawls? None of that sickening aftertaste that coffee and coke bring, no need to gulp h2o, and it doesnt zombie your breath.

Nothing beats Bawls. Unless its a closed room, lit with UV light, depeche mode playing with the bass kicked in full, and TWO ice-cold bottles of... yeah you guessed it:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Back from limbo

The problem with the east coast is that its very different from the west coast. This is an issue if you're used to the latter, and expect everything to be that open and, to put it in the vernacular, "chilled out".

I have moved, my compadres, to a place named Roger Williams University: its a place where all the women [read girls] are blonde or streaked, wear cut off denim skirts and douse themselves in fruit scents and spray on sunscreen. Its a place where all the men [read boys]imagine themselves as sk8er bois or ex members of limp bizkit. Everyone listens to hip-hop. Everyone wants to drive.

This is the case of course, only because till date only the freshmen are on campus. The adults-- or bad imitations there of-- are yet to arrive.

I, and the other designated PLUS scholarship students have arrived, though. Slotted as transfer students, we have been avoided and have been spoken slowly to. I don't lay the entire blame of the latter act only on pubescent RWU students and new england profs who've eaten fish for too long: its an American past-time, to speak slowly to those of obviously foreign origins.

The island-- smallest state in yankville, do note-- is..erm... small. Surrounded by water. Instead of crows, it has sea gulls: big white birds that crap paint bucket loads of white guano, and scream through the day and evening. Instead of hills and pine trees, it has flat land and scrub.

Since this university was founded in the fifties, all its buildings look like sad grey matchboxes that Waters and Gilmour would've written B-sides on.

The library......was distinctly built in the early 90's.

Yes. I am sniffy, and I am unhappy.

My room is painted the colour of the green bile that belongs in a junkie's gut. There is an airconditioning vent that was created with the malevolent intent to freeze every foreign student to death.

My professors seem goodish though: I will be double majoring, in creative writing and theatre, and minoring in poli sci with a concentration in international relations.

*huge grin*

its like your name tag when you were in kindergarden. You feel strangely proud of this new title. American kiddies take 4 years to do what Im going to be doing-- inshallah-- in two years.

So Im sure good things will happen. Theres to be a semester for theatre, in London, if the visa god allows such. There are to be summer courses, and winter holidays. There are to be movie screenings, papers, club nights, turning 21, a roomate I haven't met yet, trips to new york, and the usual magic bag of life.

I miss portland though. Nothing can take that away, yet. I miss hookah on the grass, professors I knew better than family members, trees I called by name, a library that made me feel I was in a place of learning worthy of me [you already know how presumptuous I am, so why the suprise?, and classrooms which carry hot chocolate stains and state-of-the-art energy saving design.

I miss cyrus partovi's foreign policy classes. I miss us cooking at 2:00am in the Akin kitchen. I miss midnight ciggarette walks. Sitting by the reflection pool. The Stones rocking out of Laura's room over her record player, through her windows.

Only 7 days of moping allowed though: one must choose life, with all its amusing dice-fixing.

Speaking of choosing life... how many of us have seen train-spotting? Found the screen play of it sometime today. A declared favourite: cuts, dialogue, metaphors... perfect slime. Perfect.

In the words of Renton, then--

"So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers, all false. The truth is that I'm a bad person, but that's going to change, I'm going to change. This is the last of this sort of thing. I'm cleaning up and I'm moving on, going straight and choosing life. I'm looking forward to it already. I'm going to be just like you: the job, the family, the fucking big television, the washing machine, the car, the compact disc and electrical tin opener, good health, low cholesterol, dental insurance, mortgage, starter home, leisurewear, luggage, three-piece suite, DIY, game shows, junk food, children, walks in the park, nine to five, good at golf, washing the car, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, indexed pension, tax exemption, clearing the gutters, getting by, looking ahead, to the day you die".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

an-adversary: Persephone's lament*

"A single fruit grew on that tree, a bright pomegranate fruit. Persephone stood up in the chariot and plucked the fruit from the tree. Then did Aidoneus prevail upon her to divide the fruit, and, having divided it, Persephone ate seven of the pomegranate seeds."
-The Golden Fleece
by Padraic Colum


Something about repeating dates, like rituals, makes us hate each other.

Because we can-- I am without fear of you, for you.
And you of me, for me.

Of me, for me? The milk of your innocent need to flop down and build a life in the mud
(the warm squelchy stuff you know well, caked between your fingers)
The milk of your innocent need turns sour in my belly
that unashamedly longs for things
that are of less or no nutritional value.

You cling like a babe with a mans lips to my tits
I sigh, wrap dried-flower arms around your head and contemplate the ceiling.
I ask silently what would it be like, what would it be like
to ask a french man you met once in a cafe, s'il te plait, monsieur-- do you like my knees?

Patient and fresh-washed, we sit in the afternoon like well-mannered bits of laundry
in a basket, this basket that we weave, every


Day comes down to night now faster
And the spicy indecent stains are looked for, invited to spill themselves.
Oil and water do not mix, you grumble,
as you scrub away at the linen with lime and molten water from the red-eyed tap.

Do not mix. We lie, entwined or apart
like wooden dolls escaped from a craftsman's hut.
You took the hammer and I took the screwdriver,
so every night by the light of the moon
we sit, take apart and splinter our feet.

For we choose to not walk, we choose to stay.
Our feet grow roots that bind with the clay.

But at night, secrets come under cover of the cool dark.
They dig out our toes and leave them gasping, ravished by a wind scented with
winged seeds and pomegranate.

You offered me seeds to suck. I, famished, did.
Now I am sickened by the lingering sweetness.

Now, I cannot go back.

Night divides us, like shopping crowds do.
We lie... side by side, we lie.
Nothing much to do this way--
you will sleep, and I will die.

*first published on Caferati, a Ryze network. Much thanks for the good word, JJ Dan and Arjun.

Monday, August 22, 2005

World according to S.K

“There can be no going away. No leaving.
Just you can take a walk”- S.K

There are airplanes overhead in every sky. Like there are remnants of old milk stains in every kitchen.

Japan, Romania, Reunion Island, Canada, Laos and even, yes even in this funny far away little country called U.S.A, people worry about whether their underwear is smelly, and whether their neighbor’s dog will come sniff their crotch and whine.

Feet belonging to everyone below 45, if wrapped in socks and shoes for more than 10 hours, will need washing before airing. Especially if you want to make a good impression on the person watching TV with you. Everyone knows this.

Everyone likes playing with a stick if they are alone. Some tie things to it, others break it, others drag it along the ground, drawing circles or lines. Some like throwing it and some like keeping it. S.K likes to find a stick with a v-formation at the end, and then tie grass around the tip of the v so that there is room, just enough, to hold a cigarette there.

Everyone clears their throat before talking to someone they want to impress. Smart ones do it in the elevator so they aren’t noticed.

Everyone, when cold, sticks both hands between their thighs when trying to sleep. The fat ones go to sleep easier.

Everyone touches the walls of the house they used to live in for a long time, when they return to see it after many years.

Everyone burps after their third sip of Pepsi.

Indians are smart because we dance in big groups, so no one can laugh at the way your legs move. Also, you can hug the person you want to and its hard for your aunt to see. Indians are smart about dancing, because the music is loud and happy, and that makes people loud and happy. Everyone should dance like an Indian.

Everyone should have a terrace from which they can see their neighbors and same-backwards, as S.K says. [S.K doesn't like saying “vice-versa”. Like “stuff” and “ok” he thinks “vice-versa” makes people lazy. He says English is for twisting like chapatti dough and nose boogers. So you can make shapes out of them.]
Yes. They should be able to see their neighbors and the same backwards, so that everyone knows about who has what disease, who fucked who’s cousin, and who wont marry who because of the same. They will know how much money the daddy is making, and what the mummy is doing to lose fat. [S.K never likes to say lose “weight”. He says if people lose “weight” they will start to fly and there will be more airplane accidents than those on train-tracks on the ground]
They will know what t.v shows their neighbour watches, and whether they like Maggie noodles for breakfast. In this way, S.K says 2 good things will happen:
1) they can be good witnesses in a court case concerning their neighbour
2) When they meet in the street or at parties, no one will pass secret messages about secret recipes and affairs, but all will sit and talk about t.v shows, politics and other such important day to day affairs.

Terraces are also good for sitting and thinking and walking and playing hop-squares. [S.K doesn’t call it hop-scotch. He says there is no scotch to drink and we are too young to drink anyway.] He does say terraces are good for kissing, also. There would be happier people and more peaceful people in the world today if only there was more kissing.
Everyone going to their terrace at 6:30pm, and kissing their neighbour, every neighbour—whether old, pimply, bearded, in a house coat or in pigtails.

Everyone should be happy. He said this sitting on the terrace wall, dangling his legs and throws bits of stick at the crows swinging on the loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong black cable t.v wire that stretched from my house to the house of a girl I know, 2 streets away. The crows called him names. He laughed at them, and they moved over, grumbling, towards the end of the wire far away from him. They sat there, black bits of lead against the setting-sun sky, bearded with the tops of trees.

S.K knows many things. He said he wants to live in a boat one day.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Of broken toenails and airports I deslike

There is something wrong with the fact of my posting now.

The time's off. So is the fact that Im in front of a computer, in Lewis & Clark.

The flight I was supposed to be on is well on its way to Providence, Rhode Island. And I can only ask myself what providence or ill karma it was that has been responsible for the past 12 hours.

The suitcases wouldnt close. One because it is temperamental, and the other because some wise people in NY decided to extract cds from my case without asking for the key first. Then?

Then, the combination was forgotten. New suitcases bought-- Old ones opened by rolling them down the stairs, a feat which brought that fleeting sense human victory over the elements, and a soft rain of toothbrushes, a copy of Hawking's brief history and fresh white unmentionables over the landing.

New cases packed... small toe nail unsurgically removed due to an evil bump against the leg of a bed from hell. Curses and medical solutions muttered... more clothes stuffed into waiting gaping holes.

Airport departed for at 4:15am. One km down the road, I realize I had left my ipod back in the dorm.

Shame of a mother for a forgotten toddler... Humayun [or was it jahangir?]'s Deccan albatross. The one material thing that accompanies me everywhere, forgotten? Another fellow passenger had an earlier flight which could be missed.

Thus note the irony: Us two wanderers travelling to Rhode Island checked in, and waited at the wrong point for said ipod to return on the second airport trip of the day. Sun rose, cold and chilly like a hostess who doesnt care for your choice of footwear for her soiree... Error rectified, our death-rattle moments before departure and thus-spelled closed gates were eaten by airport security.

They have a theory on domestic flights. If you have a state i.d, use it. Don't show them your passport, if you're not white and are from the 'Other' hemisphere. That means your bags will be checked.

Know what security check is like inside America?

myth: its the worst at Kennedy international airport, in NYC.

Shattering thereof: Bollocks. Kennedy airport staff do not pretend security check is a chapter in Mother Goose. They do their job, then move you on. And stop you only if you speak in an aggressively different language or if you come from country belonging to a list known for... excitement.

At security here, you take off your shoes, your jacket, your belt, your toupe. This has been done before.
You then wait while people address you with "buddy" or "honey" depending on your obvious physical preference and gender preference, whichever is the more obvious.

You walk through an x-ray boothand then are told to stand on the outline of two footprints, watching some security pig go through the... erm.. white unmentionables. Hands parallel to floor, palms facing upwards. Electro-magnetic device used to discover all the rivets on my jeans.

Of course this is common to the country. But what bugged me was the sesame street facade, the "how are ya? hands up straight please" bit.

Dont act like you're giving me a lollipop, bub. You just made me miss my plane. Made Zubeida miss it too. And you dont apologize: you feel justified in this ordering of the sheep ranks.

PDX is a great airport till security. Gift shopping, food... Charles de Gaulle has no atmosphere at all: there, escalators dont work, the huge glass walls make sure the inside feels as freezy as the outside. Grey paint peels of the celing, and the walls are the white of a sanotorium.In the midst of this stark sparsness, there is the cheese and wine boutique... christian dior...Saint Laurent. There are people, eating walking laughing taling. There are lines, and certain people are asked to take their shoes off.

Im not sure I like airport atmosphere.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Paparazzi pigeons caught the blue goblin at what she does every full moon night. (Adobe, today 2005) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Alternate and Lovin' It

Two new links up on the right-

Websites of Tool and A perfect Circle. Whats common to both is Maynard being dual frontman. And also, good graphic work.

Especially on the Perfect Circle website: go there, and keep clicking on the perfect circle logo right on top: the poster on the front page keeps changing. Made in the style of the 'Uncle Sam wants you' posters of the late 1800's uptil the 1960's, these pieces of pop-art are almost as tongue-in-cheek as Maynard's lyrics.

In short-- Guys, check 'em out.

About a band named Tool and 2 French Tramps- An interactive blog-post

I like many bands. But Tool is one that's stayed in my top 5 list ever since I first heard 'sober' and decided I needed more of this band than the one song.

Sober happens to be the most mainstream number Tool ever did, if I could accuse them of such a thing. It's also the one song people name if you mention the band.

"oh yeahh.. Sober! Love that one".


Notice how the same performance repeats for Zepp? Mention Plant and Page [and of course no one knows about John Bonham and John Paul Jones] and the immediate reaction is-- "ooh, stairway to heaven/kashmir: trippy!!"

Point is, though-- There's a lot more to Tool than just Sober. Their lyrics, for one. Which is a fact directly related to their lead singer, Maynard James Keegan, seen here with Tori Amos. I admire his control and use of the English language only .002345 more than I admire his beautiful head, profile and general being. Maynard is a beautiful man who writes lyrics using a brain he calls his own.

Which is rare. Hear most metal/rock/thrash/punk bands today and what you get if you actually think during the course of the song primarily consists of unbeeped ..erm.. strong language, and a lot of over-screamed, over-played metaphors for angst and a general lack of "getting some", as the phrase does go.

Not so with Maynard and Tool. Apart from the general hard, breaking-into-you rhythm, there are certain cuts that make you sit up and wonder where they came from. For instance, in Die Eier Von Satan [listen to it here] Maynard reads a german cookie recipe for hash sugar cookies without eggs to a frantic crowd. Very Fuhrer-style, and Beckettish coz of the biscuits. But brilliant, because the joyful fury is over trippy cookies, not aryan supremacy. Wouldn't buy an album because of it, but I did love the cockiness, the experimenting with tone and language, and the atmosphere that went with it. It's exquisite in its bite, because the title actually means "the balls (eggs) of satan"--read more about why its brilliant here.

But the song that's in my mind as I write this now is a track called Disgustipated, which you can listen to here

The track is unreal-- here's a transcript of the lyrics.

I couldn't help but remember Didi and Gogo and their waiting for Godot: the carrots in the lyrics brought the similarity home even more:

[The above link to the excerpt, btw, made me grin. In awe. Thy're reading Beckett in Baghdad. An existential play about waiting for a concept that never arrives. Is someone trying to be funny, or play god, I wonder?]

Maybe Maynard likes Beckett. Wouldn't be surprised. But the point is, the lyrics are brilliant. The juxtaposition of supplication, of asking for the multitudes to be redeemed, with that of a serial-killerish end. We dont know what happens after whoever it is walks towards the two people approaching him/her and the red car.

So here's the activity:

Listen to the song. Read the lyrics. And in the comments space, post a probable 'what happens next' scenario. Continue the story. In any style, form or language.

N.B- If in another language, include the translation for me, please.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On why moral science is not redundant

I just finished watching Moore's 'Fahreinheit 9/11'.

Much has been said about this film. Im not about to add to it. What I am about to discuss is why the sun seemed so welcoming after the lounge in which I watched the documentary, and why I trotted over here faster than I usually do to type this.

Im not an emotional person in the everyday matters of life. 30ml of blood injected out of a un-ligamented right knee, and I didnt whine. Sitting in the collectors office at nagapattinam watching an NGO meeting carrying on unfruitfully, and I didn't whine.

I do however get choked up over Braveheart, still. My eyes will well up if its a clear day, an open field, and the intrumental version of the national anthem is being played. at the end of Amistad, I will stand and watch the entire credits roll.

And that is because I will always be moved by action taken by an individual unmotivated by self-interest, which provides good to another human or two, or thousand. I will always be moved by words spoken that were not spoken before, out of fear.

And this is why I like Moore's documentary.

But I think the most important part of the documentary was not the actual film itself, but footage that came along with the DVD edition of the same. This footage was apart from why Tarantino & Co. gave it the golden palm, and it got my attention more than anything else in the documentary.

It was the footage taken by a swedish journalist that showed outrages committed by American troops in Samarra 2-3 months before any news of Abu Ghraib was made public. Footage, which news media in Sweden and America refused to air or look into, and which the journalist had to take to Moore for it to reach daylight and human minds.

The BBC had this to say about the clip I refer to:

'Swedish journalist Urban Hamid is also highly critical of the conduct of US soldiers in his eyewitness account. This also includes distressing footage of an early morning raid on the home of a suspected terrorist and the humiliating treatment he's subjected to during a medical examination. "It was sad to see how the Americans did not even try to communicate," mourns Hamid'.(Papamichael,Stella)

The footage showed American soldiers posing with head-bagged, trussed-up iraqi citizens who had been captured in a raid the morning of 12 December, 2003. Pictures were taken, jokes cracked. Houses were broken into, and Iraqi women who did not know what would be done with their husbands and brothers, cried and screamed in fear, before being herded out of the room. Papers were checked, but as Hamid points out, these were all in Arabic, thus weren't useful in verifying the identity of these "wanted men"-- Wanted, because they were believed to have contributed financially towards the insurgency. A soldier in the footage tells Hamid that they aren't sure these are the wanted men, but they will be held anyway. Hamid guides us through the footage, pointing out how the men were manhandled-- One had his nose broken, the other, an old angry silent scared man on a stretcher, had his penis felt up and laughed at.

Hamid, a Swede, says that he was shocked by the fact that the officer in command did nothing to control his troops. Many of whom are 17 years old, since that's the minimum recruiting age is this land of starred and stripey dreams.

The government since then has scrambled to defuse the situation that blew up in their faces when Abu Ghraib was made public globally.

Tribunals have been set up, persons convicted.

But I wonder at what made the soldiers do what they did.

I'm no moralist. But I can't help wonder at the minds of those men and women... Some superstitious people might claim that Abu Ghraib by itself as a prison complex is evil, and the negative vibes wrapped themselves around these red-necked cowhands from the midwest.

The officials have tried claiming that the guilty parties were rogue soldiers, separate from the system-- bad apples & mutant T-cells. Their opinion holds 3 drops of water, only because most recruits tend to be poor, uneducated and from tough neighbourhoods.

I tend to disagree though-- And I'll tell you why.

America is not the country you see on Mtv, Vh1 or CNN. Its not F.R.I.E.N.D.S and its definately not Sesame Street. America is the country you really see only when you're waiting at a bus stop with them at 12:45 in the morning, or along with the majority of them, avoiding the eyes of other Americans at the greyhound bus terminus at Sacremento, CA.

There is violence-- And there is amusement because of violence. South Park aint far from the truth, really... push a handicapped kid and chances are there will be people-- or other kids, which is worse-- who laugh. Make racial jokes, and you will get applause. Carry a gun, you will get respect. Be tough on the basketball court, with your girlfriend, in a board meeting or on the freeway, and you will be respected, even if you get post-its on your window calling you an obnoxious pig.

The pornography of power isn't a new concept. Subjugation, control, the execution of one's will over that of another.... and this leads to an all-abiding fear.

Let me illustrate.

Here, Mexicans avoid goths. Blacks are avoided by everybody. Native Americans try and be black. Indians try fitting in, and sigh in relief when the topics of discussion while in conversation with white red-necks pertain to food and bollywood. Japanese, Chinese and Koreans avoid everyone who doesn't look like them. Anyone who speaks arabic and doesn't eat the cheeseburgers at MacD are given 6 feet of space by all of the above.

In short, underneath the happy social appearance during daytime-- On beaches, in disneyland, in grocery stores, at Abercrombie & Fitch-- there is fear. Mistrust. And a delicately-held balance between outright agression and thinly-veiled insults. A balance whose tensile strength is being tested to the limit today.

Which is why I believe pop culture is held so dear here in this country. People need starbucks, the chinese theater, the ozzfest, bluegrass music, porn sites, legal battles, the two party system, pamela anderson, KFC, roller-blading, mount rushmore, old records, hollywood, CNN, hip-hop, jazz, the cosby show, Fool, nintendo, 4th of july BBQ's, football [not soccer] and SNL to come together. They need these media-propelled points of reference, because left to themselves they have less in common than apples and oranges, a rabbi and charles manson.

Human fruit, with dangerously polar ambitions and beliefs.

Left to their own, the separate into the groups and communes out of which sewn-together bits this country was formed. Without Oprah and Wal-Mart, they are ghettos, mormons, reservations, conneticut neighbourhoods. They are republicans, democrats, cheerleaders, red-necks, japs, chinks, blondes, pimps, white trash, burger-flippers, metal-heads, goths, fetishists, white collars, beatniks, hippies, illegal immigrants, ABCDs.

This country survives on a manufactured safety-net which consists of media-candy. I even have a theory that the two-party system only works so well in this country because it helps separating the country so neatly. God help Americans if it ever came to a coalition or a United Front. Forget Iran-- They would nuke themselves.

But then again, I suppose every country administration uses such safety nets to pull its people together. Hitler did. He had to remind the Germans of their glory to get them to recover from the humiliation of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles and get them to sig heil as a whole, beer-drinking, October-festing bunch of aryans. So it didn't work out so well: So he had to trim the population dempgraphic a bit to make it fit his measurements. But the fact is, he did it, and for him, it worked. India used a safety-net too: ancient culture, the concept of family, a single land-mass, Gandhi.

Go ahead and use social constructs. But try for something a bit more constructive, you blue-suited, lavender-tied congress people.

Try moral science classes, for one. At least you wouldn't have little Bill and Katie go around ruining international opinion in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Yup, I do believe in the power of moral science. And this is because I have a theory about kids: they live their lives based on what they learn while growing up. And most of that is learnt before the age of 15.

Know what the difference is between American and Indian kids?

While growing up, most American kids learn that its smart to stay out of jail. So don't do anything to get yourself into trouble. And if you do, try getting out of it.

Indian kids, though we figure this out for ourselves in the jungle that is math classes and morning assembly, are also taught that it's not nice to be mean. That God, however we see him/her/it, prefers it when we don't hurt others, physically or verbally. That we live in circles, family closest and the dhobi and principal in the outermost circle. We mayn't hug 'em, but we do give them sweets on our birthdays.

Its terrible stereotyping, and there are exceptions to the rule, but it comes down to Dennis the Menace vs. Narayan's Swami. And friends.

We are taught that hate doesn't work. Here they are taught to do whatever it takes to survive.

We are taught mature opinion-- things like, its good to have a family with the same mate for as long as possible, and a good job. Here, they are asked to go find life for themselves.

My mother would cry and yell and plead and bargain and pray and argue with me to stop smoking. Here, they would avoid talking about it.

Of course, there's overlap. We aint angels-- And American kids are not all boorish, insensitive horrors. Many are though.

Im not sure what it is-- But this need for absolute freedom and expression has led to a strange paradox: young adults are giving up this absolute freedom and expression in order to conform to a rut they hope to conquer and keep next to their check-book and mont-blanc pen-set at night in a hotel in Rome. Kids, however, imagine woodstock, grease, the basketball diaries, bridget jones' diary, neal cassidy and hendrix to be their world. They want time off from school. They want space. They want sex and alcohol and appartments and weed and cars and a dvd player.
Then they wake up on their 22nd birthday depressed, and either OD or get a haircut and go back to school.

No RSS training, of sticks and tradition and unitarian beliefs and brown shorts. But someone please tell people that democracy is a myth, and unbridled freedom only works if you live in a book by J.M Barrie whose main character is a little boy who wears green tights and fights pirates everyday.

I dont mean religion. I mean the thing that prevents us from cursing in front of ma and blatantly ignoring the annoyingly deaf aunt.

A liberal arts college is too little, too late for a yank kid to learn his or her P's and Q's.

People teach your kids to be nice. We all create the monsters who hunt us. Instead of the gun [yeah Im talking to you, Charlton Heston] try being a parent instead of an overgrown fat kid who has issues with your mother.

Damn yankees.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Gotta love them Danes.

Before I tell you about cali-for-nai-aye, since collecting the saga and the pictures together is still underway.... let me tell you 'bout the day a few of us girls decided to invade the college cafeteria's kitchen, and make dinner for about 15 people.

The dinner was Indian. Why?

One, 'cause Ben and I missed that shameless extravagance of flavour and oil, and two-- Because we'd made friends with a wonderful Mr. Kumar who runs an Indian grocery store down on Hawthorne, and who had convinced us to buy those wonderful inventions: the foiled-n'-boxed instant curry mixes.

Dinner was great. We had lahori style fish fry [ha, bet those pacific north-western Cod didn't know what hit 'em].. shahi chicken gravy, a potato gravy that was more Jordanian than Indian [hey, Adla makes it well, and it went with the chappatis, okay?? sheesh]panneer butter masala, chappatis [courtesy Ben], gulab jamuns [courtesy Haldirams] and a decadent pulao that looked like this:

Our fellow international students loved the food. A few of the people who work at the Bon [short for Bon Appetit, the catering company that runs the cafeteria] ate as well, and said it was the best Indian food they had eaten in a long time. Hurrah for packed masalas.

Was worth it though, working in a kitchen that's built to cook for 1,500 people at one time. Ask the guy for a cup of mushrooms, and I get 3 kgs. Whooo. Whatta rush.

In short, it was great-- And here's our smiley, shiney faces to prove it.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The sea called to me one night...

Not sure what it is about water. Mountains have a grip, yes. Something bigger. And yet... there's something about the sea.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton'd with thy breakers - they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror - 'twas a pleasing fear,
For J was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane - as I do here.

~ Byron, Childe Harolde's Pilgramage.

Obsessed with oceans, lately. As can be seen by this post, here, and other's which will soon follow.

And so it goes...

The end was near, it came and now receeds, slowly.

Our summer session at Lewis & Clark college, Portland Oregon is done with. And we even have certificates and t-shirts to prove it.

There was a picnic to mark the event. The hamburgers were the best part... don't think we're not loving every minute of it based on this picture:

It's just that Bilal, Laura and I happen to be camera-shy around meal times. Fear of there being a record, and such.

Our professors also invited our "friendship families" to munch with us. Now, Im still not quite sure about this concept. See, I understand it if you're an international student trying to make it on your own in an alien land, with no program to act as a safety net. But so be it-- we were all assigned families who were supposed to be..erm.. friendly, and take us out on cultural experience-type thinggies.


Since most of them were old and church-going, it is easy to see how we cultural experienced without their reverential companionship. But it was nice of them to show up. Here we all are, in a picture that I find ludicrous, and pathos-tinged at the same time.

Why? Only because we will never see them ever again, and you will never know their names and thats ok. Also, they weren't really a family to any of us, though they did quite kindly ask how many languages we spoke and whether we liked yank food. Some were really nice though.

My family didn't show up.

Ah, you smirk.

But believe me, I did nothing to frighten the benevolent couple. It didn't matter a bit though. I was grateful for the extra food.

See, the thing is-- we already were a family.

And though that will fade [not the picture, thanks to online kodak prints, but the bond...sigh. Slow today, yes?]... its ok. We be real, ornery, and international. Nothing makes for a better family picture.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Going Camp

Pictures from that trip I grumbled about, a while back. Beautiful, ethereal place, the Oregonian coast. Cold, with pine trees along salt water: A thing that Im not used to. Which ended up causing most of us to congregate around this:

Nice, warm fire though. I learnt the art of balancing kindling, and toasting marshmellows thanks to it.

Inspite of the cold however, I can't regret the experience. The place was just so serenely unlike any beach I had ever seen... the water came in murmuring and gentle, no noisy crashing on the shore. Cold, and gently merciless-- we were numb in under a minute-- it came in, swishing like tentacles and hands... here's rama and adla walking through it:

The last morning saw me happy to leave though:

Ahem. But that's only because there are parts of me that still hold onto physical comfort as if life depended on it. Which, if you are as much of a softie as I am in most cases, DOES depend on it.

Had my moments of going beyond physical being and creating personal stories I will tell young 'uns who are innocent enough and children-enough, to ask about... like me realizing what was in King Canut's mind when he dared the waves:

... I also stayed away from climbing the pier with the others [so I get anti-social. Talk to my lawyer, geez], and thus got to experience the exact weather change that occurs on north-western beaches on this continent...

Yes, that is me. Look hard enough, and you can see the red mop.

The sun set like a lazy beautiful fat woman nestling down for the night... But when she slept, all that was left was the kind of cold greyness that Osiris died in. No, really. All changed... except the waters icyness. No welcoming hands of an irish sea goddess... all that was left was the fog, and the reminder of the hour at which mortals should return to their fires..

...and their tents. Ours looked like this:

Yes, the ever faithful Ben came with the tent.

Cold and boot camp-like... I still struggle to describe some of the beauty there...

Cold is the beach of Oregon. Beautiful is the beach of Oregon.

You should go see it some time.

Winged Seed

There is this book by that *points to the title* name, written by a young man named Li Young Lee. It found me when I was in the 7th grade... a long time ago, and a strange time to read this remarkably lyrical and plotless work.

The title stuck with me though... the image being as powerful as it is. A single grain-like seed, suspended by the finest of strands, held thrown carried loved and discarded by the wind. Whether it germinates into something more-- palpable, I think is the word-- or not, depends on nothing at all. It could happen, it could not. All that really "is" about a winged seed is the fact that it has that flight, that no earthy apple or tamarind seed could have.

Winged seeds are a common sight here... diaphanous, lit-by-the-sun tendrils, wafting over the light breeze, just missing your fingers, tumbling over grass.

I just returned from California, on a road-trip that just begs blogging. 25 hours of cities and lights across Tupac's state in a bus that is wrongly named "grey hound". Grey, yes. Hound's the misnomer though. In my mind, aided by the Baskervilles tale, I imagine a lean-limbed, fast-moving even lethal, dog. This bus was anything but the above. Well, maybe lethal. But that's only because my fellow passengers, especially on the Oakland-Sacremento-San Jose stretch looked like those who were on parole for something I wouldn't tell mum about. Anyway.

My point is, I returned a few hours ago to the cool, grey, welcoming arms of this city I love, imagining the comfort of my room with a certain tender joy.

Only to realize that today was the day that I vacate, so that my room can be spring-cleaned and un-priyankaed for some preppie kid to use, since the Fall semester begins in a few days, and my summer session ended a week ago.

It took hours to leave. Not because there was that much packing to do. Heart-wrenching, taking down the Woolf poster, moving the suitcases, hauling the Mac down the hallway to Ben's room, where I will be bunking this last week in Portland. Heart-wrenching, seeing a room as bare as I first saw it.

Of course this was not permanent. Of course I knew I'd leave in three months time. Just that no one told me how attached I'd get to this campus, and to this room, or how fast those 3 months would pass.

Boxed and cleaned out, I left the dorm an hour ago to walk the ultramarine blues away. Accompanied by the faithful Camels and my ipod.

It was still good to be back, because anything is better than a grey elephant... erm.. hound.

Isn't the same though. Whether I like it or not, I cannot ignore the fact that now is not the time to find roots, slip on chappals and wander out onto the lawn for ages, and drowsily wonder whether I should carve my name in the stone wall by the reflecting pool.

Traveller, wanderer I am. And there have been many before me, ones that have even raised that identity to a level of glory.

I always wanted to be marco polo. Hsüan Tsang seemed the coolest monk in the word in history class.

But at some point, these guys pulled off their boots, sighed and sipped their soup, murmuring "home sweet home" in italian and chinese respectively.

I suppose its not my time yet.

Ben and I-- my dearest Sancho Panza. How I will miss her. Some, yes. True that all in life moves on and suffers short-term memory but... some, yes-- were talking about it before I came to this darkened, almost-closing computer lab. And came to about the same conclusion.

Its interesting how this scholarship pulled people together who at some level felt the same: the fact that there can be no rooted-shooted comfort right now. Not at this time in life.

Seeds on the wind, flying god knows where. Damn, it was hot in Cali. Things grew, nonetheless, squinting against the sun and dryness.

Next stop, Rhode Island. And from there on, even during the two years, even that Laughing, Blue-eyed, Lounging being above and around me does not know where the wind will blow.

If it must be that way, then--

Here's to rambling on, and singing my song.
And by whichever god there is, they all better listen good, coz bloody hell...this flying solo can get grit in not just your eye, sometimes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Of palm-lines and rambling

There is a theory in amateur palm-reading, that the meeting of the life and love line on your right palm is determined by the decisions you make as you go along. Here is no karma, no god... Just the decision whether to pack ones bags and leave, or stay and feed the cat. It is the decision, rather than the act itself.

Always been fascinated with that, alwaysalwaysalways... ever since I heard it. Have stared at my palm so often through the past four years of my life, that on a level its incredibly funny. The sort of fear Maupassant, O. Henry and Chekov would've been delighted to use in a story or play.

[An obsessive, strong-willed young girl who calls off her wedding everytime because of what she sees in her palms. Chekov and Henry would give her an enterprising Petruchio, who would give her expensive plush gloves that would be so tight that she would'nt be able to take them off at all once on. And of course, they would both make the gloves so beautiful that she would never want to remove them anyway. Maupassant, being French, would turn it into the story of an old bitter woman who waddled along the mid-day streets selling fish-- Reckoned to be a beauty in her day, her loneliness is answered by a missing right hand. Ahem]

But seriously though... truth be told, I have been obsessed with this strange indicator. And have often wondered, by extension, what makes people stay together without the aid of legal bonds and fevicol.



It has often been stated as a good reason, true. Let us assume that that is the noun used to describe all possible ties between two individuals.

The usual train of logical thought leads next to the concept of "staying"-- fidelity, hanging up the boots, building a home, bringing home the bacon, settling down... in short, "making things work".

A full-stop to the way things used to be... a river finding its way to...erm... a pond at least, if not the sea. And Im curious to know what makes people quit the rambling on. What kills the wanderlust? What makes us say "enough"?

No, dont quote poetry at me. Break it down into the nutritional facts at the back of the box.

I have a theory, that some people find it easier to pause and take off the hiking gear forever, because they find it more comfortable. For these sweet souls, constant companionship is what takes away the stress and toil of dealing with the world head-on, alone.

Then there are those who see it as part of the natural progression of life. I don't know too many of this type, no offence intended. They find mates who think the same, they stare at the air-space in front of each other seriously while someone else says holy words no one understands anymore, there are many flowers and people, both smelly, and the circle is closed, but keeping on turning forever and ever, churning children and fat deposits, amen.

And then there are those who get up from that first head-rush of travelling 14 metres high up on an ice-cold pacific ocean wave held against the setting sun, and then being thrown back down on the sand and gasp out, "again".

A rare type, moved by all sorts of motives... fear not being the rarest, and yet there is some strange elvish grace about all who live this way, riding on horses, tramping through fields and swimming rivers in a world where surety and comfort are the words that get the most hits.

I am biased towards the last variety, true. But Im still not quite sure what makes any of the above categories tick.

Childhood fears... maybe dietary needs?

Or maybe just... Curiosity.

To see what stretches out and lazes in the sun beyond the bend in the road.

Till all nine lives are spent then...

here's to the grin that lasts after all else dissapears, amongst the laughter and talk of bats and trees.

1 liter (L) = 1000 milliliters (mL) = 1 kg water

As I have been trying to explain to my dyslexic mind over the past 4 days. Here in Oregon, my ability to assess volume seems to have further disintegrated.

I have been trying to comprehend the amount of water in and around mumbai. Everyone's been covering it, if you look hard enough.
And while this personal struggle with numbers carries on, I also find myself constantly asking myself two questions:

1) How are the people faring?

2)Why is so little being done towards containing the destruction by those responsible?

I then realize the problems associated with the phrase, "those responsible". Its mumbai, yaar. Who IS responsible?

I have a staunch belief in the power of the people. This belief was upheld by news I received of bloggers in mumbai and those concerned who had gotten together and set up help-blogs to share information, and tell people the stories that apparently aren't newsworthy enough to be printed so that aid can be redirected sooner. Cloudburst Mumbai is one of the blogs I refer to. The other can be found at Mumbai Help.

As I said, my staunch belief has been vindicated. And not just by these blogs, but by news of forwards and smses, and of people reaching out and helping each other in this city of dreams and dirt. The above article appeared in the BBC online edition and tells the tale of Anjali Krishnan, an advertising exec, who was caught in the rainstorm:

"... We crossed dark homes, and shops and police stations. We met a lot of friendly firemen trying to keep order, but not a single policeman on the way.Soon, it became a long, happy, wet trek as can only happen in Mumbai. Our fellow-travellers, boys and girls, men and women, young and old, chanted hymns, sang songs, cracked jokes...
Others cracked the night's best silly jokes - whenever they would come across a car floating in the middle of the road, they would shout: "No parking! No parking please! This is a traffic offence!"...
"Don't feel ashamed, madam. Hold my hand. Bindaas pakro (Hold me coolly)," said a young man in the queue lending a helping hand to a girl...I saw another man walking with a 70-year-old father perched on his shoulders. My rain girls sorority had now expanded to a few hundred people wading through the street.
In the middle, one of them actually met her husband wading through the night, and joined him happily... The trek was an eye-opener, a testimony to the indomitable spirit of the city's people.
Mumbaites have stopped expecting anything from the politicians who have never cared for them.
So when the city turned into a dangerous waterworld, they turned to each other and helped them out of the crisis..."

Read the full article here

Aye, am moved. Inspite of the death toll, inspite of the industry being hit, call-centres doused, Bollywood left unromantically rain-drenched and the fact that though the armed forces have finally been given the green signal to go in and start work on the clean-up, that go-ahead could've come sooner... inspite of all this-- I have hope.


Hope of what, that mumbai will pull through?

Hell yeah. This is after all, not the first time that rains have lashed the city and taken lives and belongings in its path down to the sea. In July 2000, 60 lives were lost in the city-- The report also states that thousands were evacuated. The area affected was a mumbai suburb along the Vakola and the Mithi rivers. Of course, it was a slum area. People dried their hands off on a towel, threw out the trash, and life resumed, as it always does.

But why, if Mumbai has a history of easily-filled water reservoirs and bad drainage systems, has nothing been done all this time to prevent such chaos from occuring?

UNICEF has pledged aid in the form of ORS and chlorine tablets to start the process of cleaning the drinking water. The WHO are helping out with the coordination of rehabillitation. As earlier mentioned, the armef forces have finally moved in. The mumbai police are holding a food and medical supply distribution camp tomorrow. The Red Cross and good old Aid Indiahave kicked in at high gear, doing what they do best: coordination and distribution.

Work has begun, but it looks like its going to take one god-almighty mother of a mop to clean this leak up.

Tiny Q though-- Where's the state government, the municipal authorities, the politicos?

I must admit-- I didn't know much about Vilasrao Deshmukh or his cronies. So I ran a little background check. Pretty portfolios, but he's being quoted on major news sites saying that there has been a "delay" in relief work.

In short, the poor bugger's been caught unprepared. Apparently he talked to the other day-

""Please understand this is a natural calamity," he said. "Who would have expected such rain?"

He's fighting off the hornets. And being faithfully quoted by the BBC:

"We will look into the urban development issue, but this is not the time to do it. Our priority now is rescue, relief and rehabilitation"

Those stiff upper-lipped boys, not content with that, go and find Mr. Prahlad Khakkar(oye bubbly!!) and give him the same treatment:

"We just about manage to keep our noses ahead of disaster every year because the authorities build just about the bare minimum infrastructure"

Touche, with an accent on the last e.

No one could've forseen the volume of water, Mr. Deshmukh says. Hmm. But Mr. CM, the piece of land you have been given responsibility over is...


how can I put this delicately? See, here are the issues people: Mumbai is a tiny island, with 100 year old storm water drains, in absentia mangrove forests [because someone decided to trim the hedges, just a bit] and landfills that only serve to weaken the soil, making land-slides even more dangerous. But don't base all of this on just my word: ask Debi Goenka & Chandrashekhar Prabhu, as the BBC did.

Got the picture? Okay then. If the situation is so grave, how come no one foresaw the risk that rain could bring? or did the state government assume that a few slum deaths every year didn't really matter, that mumbaikkers would pull together, as Deshmukh has been constantly chirping whenever there's a reporter listening?

Poor little bugger. Even his own party has been denouncing his gang's inability to take immediate action.

Someone tell politicians that apart from bribery and vote-garnering, they also need to take evening classes in disaster management.

No surprise though. Everyone knows how chicken-with-its-head-cut-off politicians can be. In fact, Kalpana Sharma even voiced a growing opinion, that maybe Mumbai should be self-governed. Her claim is that during the calamity of the past 4 days, there was no one to call, no one to ask help from.

Mr. Prime Minister, if I were you and reading this article, I would have my chaddis in a twist. Of course its a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. Of course you will allay the people's fears, and scramble to make some structural changes that can be used to batter down murmurs of displeasure and insurrection.

But this is mumbai se aaye mera dost-- Its not a little village in Andhra Pradesh. Do something quick, before your sovereign republic falls apart, the tears of frustration washing away the rotting maze of bad civic planning that all our metropolitan cities have been built on.

There have been some strange reactions though, that have taken away some of the glitter from bombay's dreams. One has been the obsession with the well-being of the movie industry. The other has been Realist shaking of heads over the hubris of this shaky, water-logged city that seeks to rival other water-logged metropolitan cities of the world, like Shanghai and Hong Kong. Yet another has been to cry out for Reliance blood over the cutting of electricity.

My friend Anshu [may his tribe increase] pulled out another interesting aspect of the strange human sadness-- It had to do with the response of certain members of the media. Of one paper in particular, that "Grand Old Lady", the Times of India, and one article that appeared in it:

Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta wrote this, and I applaud her. Nice clean upper cut.

At least Rediff is doing the right thing by its readers, by giving them the space and place to speak their story.

The show must go on, ladies and gentlemen-- But can we cut the clowning bits out? It seems in incredibly bad taste.

My biggest concern at the moment? Not that the film city will lose the stuff that poets and sunday-morning journos sing about...

... I fear about the spread of disease. I fear about patch-work measures that wont hold against the next cloud burst. I fear for the homeless, for whom drifting has been given a whole new cruel meaning.

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