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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Randomness

I have my memories around the dawn of the New Years.

On the eve of the millennium i stood in a neighbors terrace and the sky was alive with colors around us.I was a kid then, and there were the two of us. Me and a guy with whom i grew up. I was excited then to imagine a thousand years unfold before me, it was like spreading a unending red carpet and let you walk on it. I was walking all around their little terrace to see those little flames flare up into the sky and burst into colors, mostly red, green and blue. When it was 12:00 we did hear cheers in the air around the distant suburb. I wished him and we smiled at each other. Then for some more time i sat with him on the stairs and was carried away by the sky, by then that night was the longest i had spent outside my roof. Then came a lot more ceremonies for cutting down the umbilical cords, for yet another new year to fall on the ground with pink blood and flesh. Apart from a few other indifferent midnights, there was this midnight when we were on a high and dancing madly to the tunes on a dimly lit floor, the midnight where i left my friends early and came home to begin the year by blankly looking at the countless stars, the midnight at beasant nagar beach where i was having a bowl of fish looking at the sea, as the crowd erupted with joy, the midnight when we threw a bash at the mansion house, honked the car in the middle of the streets, played stupid music and greeted everyone with cheers, and the midnight of a new year where i walked with a friend of mine in search of the adobe of his lady love.

This new years eve, i fell sick. The plans for the pub or at least even a dinner with my brother looked remote. I took my pills, covered myself with two sheets of blankets and held a book on top of my chest. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. The book moved very slowly, at times it pulled my hands and took me into it and at times it let me stand at a distance and observe. Time moved, on angular movements on the clock which i hid behind the pillow. I was reading this page, where an unhappy orphan kid sits alone with pain. His care taker, a barren elderly women who has never had a kid tries to console him. The kid loses his mind and shouts ”I hate you, i wish you were dead”. The poor lady who has never had the privilege of been treated like a mother breaks down at her failure of not able to be one. she sits down, she breaks down to tears. An odd silence fills the room. The kid feels sorry for her, he goes out and kisses her. She takes him in her arms and weeps her heart out. Her tears were now partly of happiness, the strangeness between them is gone. I kept reading and i came across these lines quoted here verbatim “She loved him now with a new love because he had made her suffer”. I closed the book here, those line felt spiritual. Doors kept opening inside me, one after another, deeper and deeper and at last there was this goosebump felt beneath the skin. That may just be a line up of few words, but it took me far beyond from the meanings it professed. It kept pouring with new meanings, i related my universe with those lines. I travelled back in time to the place where Maugham sat in a corner room filled with solitude and wrote these lines on a brown sheet of paper while the smell of dark ink still lingered in the air. The book had given me a moment, a pure literary moment, a reason for which people still write and read. I may now even stop reading the book. It felt good, divine. When i closed the book it was a few more minutes to midnight. The new year was standing backstage waiting for its moment to open the screens and walk into the stage. I was feeling great, elated and very clear. I slid myself into the blankets, it was really cold beneath the tiled roofs of my village house. I lost track of the minute leading to midnight and was slowly fading into the night. Sleep floated across the eyes, then Arun, my brother slowly opened the doors, came near me and said in a feeble voice Happy new year da. I smiled in the darkness. Cuddled myself like a kid fighting the cold, and slept.

On a different note, my parents are building a new house. They are generous enough to let me have a room of my choice in it. I have never had a room for myself, i have always shared my rooms or lived in rooms built for other people. I had always fitted me inside stranger’s walls. It was quite an experience for me to figure out how i want my living space to look. To sketch out the boundaries of your wilderness within the walls. I took into account the time of my life i live in, the interests and passions of my life, my character, my intuition, my solitude, my laughter and my tears. I close my eyes and the walls get erected in the glowing light. I see a wide room, not a square one, a heavily sun lit rectangular room. A rectangle one with compartments in it, compartments into which i can segregate my dimensions. As i enter comes the one for the everyday ordinary me dresses, office cards and a couch, then for the me who indulges in life my PC, a bed holding my secrets and the third is the most aspirational me filled with a weird stand holding all the books i have secured till this point, poster of a most beloved movie and a philosophical tree with no leaves standing in pot. This is how it looks in the glare, with lots more to fill in. On the other wider end the room has this wide life sized balcony. A balcony which is as wide as the room, a balcony which can be sealed off by a sliding glass door, a balcony which cuts an arc with the compartments of my life, a wide balcony, like a widescreen monitor placed just opposite to my bed. A balcony which opens me to the world and lets the light of the world sneak into my living. I imagine going to sleep with the wide and clear sight of the rain slashing down from the sky, i imagine waking up to sunlight as a songbird sings sitting on a corner of the room. It sounds very romantic. I know, but that is how i vision it. But there are no Roark’s around to let the vision come true. Architecture here is about building rooms where anybody can live, its more about the techniques of it than the purpose of it. I wish this room gets built, and i live at least a little part of my life inside the walls i envision now.

One last thing. I have not written here for long. Blame me, i think i became very prejudiced on what i shall write, the problem comes when you overrate yourself. Which i did. I wish to write more, yeah the wish happened as I was walking through my alley and saw myself confined in different chambers. In one where i was keenly looking at some still art, in one where i stood holding the bars and staring at myself, in one where i heard myself chatter and laugh, in one where i was hiding myself in a corner of the dark room. maybe weeping. As i walk down my alley i see this unoccupied narrow chamber and its windows are open. There is this huge beam of light that intrudes, almost blinding me from a distance.

Now, i start walking towards the light.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Fanboi Diary - ][

The late seventies and the early eighties in the United states. The era of subcultures had just passed by, the hippies by then were confined to the few who roamed around college campuses, smoking weed, preaching love. The punks had their identities diversified and converged themselves into the rock music they played. America and its youth were again getting ready for the mainstream, for the materialist, consumerist culture. Seeds were being sown for the next big revolution, this revolution was similar to all other revolutions except that it did not have an end date or it never will. The revolution was called the personal computer.

Technology then, belonged to the rich. Computers were not personal, they were the symbol of the rich and the affluent. A few technology majors like IBM, which were born in the world war II era still ruled and dictated on how people perceived computers. For the new generation the computers looked outdated and they were still hanging on to the 1950’s. There was this crave for something new in computers, something fresh, something which challenged the confined design principles, something which was a symbol of rebellion, something which had a life and character of its own, and then the Macintosh was born. It challenged everything that the world believed would ever be possible to achieve on a personal computer. Unlike the IBM computers which were DOS driven, and had only command line interfaces (imagine this, to go to My computer you had to type in $cd My computer, to open a file - type your keys, to delete a file - type your keys) The computers came with huge and bounded user manuals.They were way too complex to handle and they acted merely like type writers which had a monitor attached to them.But the Macintosh was different, totally different. It had a graphical user interface for the very first time in a personal computers. Words were now replaced with pictures. It introduced to the world something called the Mouse and interacting with the machine was changed forever(imagine this, now to go to My Computer all you had to do is point to the icon with the image of a computer and click your mouse, that’s it). The first mouse click was nothing but a revolution and the Macintosh brought it to the common man. It challenged the products of the so called giants in every single department, in processing speed, in ability, in design, in price (IBM had priced its computers at 10,000$ while the Mac was under 2000$). More than anything else the Macintosh had a character of its own, in design, in looks and in the interface.  It was the symbol of freshness, of change and of rebellion. For the Macintosh was not the brainchild of a suit and tie wearing engineer who had a degree of computer science at Harvard, but It was that of a college dropout, of a man who was addicted to grass and weed in his early days, of a man whose world was filled with the music of Beethoven and the literature of Russia. It was the Brainchild of Steve Jobs, a stoned hippie who arrived in Benares looking for nirvana. It was the the brainchild of the era which had passed by, it was the brainchild of the countercultures, it was the brain child of defiance. The Macintosh happened when spiritual ecstasy met technology. It was not a project done with the motive of gaining financial momentum but it was the project done with the motive of changing the world. If you observe closely Macintosh was the collective expression of the Hippies, the punk movement, the skin head subculture and the various other counter cultures which challenged the status quo. It was for this reason Apple and Macintosh was accepted(also marketed) to be different. Soon, It slowly garnered a cult following across the world. And it was for this obvious difference in character that the Macintosh till date has not become the mainstream computer of the Mass market, it was not embraced by general public because like the Hippies, like the Punks, like the Skinheads it questioned authority, it represented a change of view, it represented a fundamental difference in thought, it represented liberation. For Apple is not just a company, it is a culture. For notice closely in every apple fan, and you may end up finding a peace loving hippie or an eccentric punk or a violent skinhead.

Think Different campaign was launched in 1997 to reiterate to the world what Apple as a brand stood for, the screen opened with moving images of people in the likes of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Alfred Hitchcock and Picasso… a intriguing voice over then recites the below lines,

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Fanboi Diary

December, 1983.

Backstage in a little country side auditorium at Cupertino, California. He was standing there in silence. An handsome young man in his late twenties, his eyes were closed and his blonde hair drew some rough brown arcs on his forehead which were marked with other nervous wrinkles. The stage and his audience were just a few feet away, the academy award winning single by Irene Cara was filling in the hall. But, he heard something else, he heard thunderous applause that would travel across the world, across geographies, across time. He heard his heat to beat. His hand was holding a little brown bag which housed a revolution, another little leap for mankind. He was holding his own dream, a dream that he was chasing for more than a decade then. A dream which made him step down from the Himalayas where he was searching for the absolute truth of life, smoking Ganja, growing beard, and singing praise of the Kali. A dream that brought him back to America. A dream that was his destiny. And today he lets the world get on board.The lights were then cut off. The music softened. The hall came to a standstill. He knew his time has come, he knew his name would be called anytime now, the distance between the backstage and the podium was now the distance between today and tomorrow. His name was then called. He opened his eyes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Jobs.

Standing in the minimalistic podium which was marked only with the apple logo on it. He spoke. Like being mesmerized by an ancient melody, like being made to inhale a very dense perfume, they listened to him. He charmed them. He spoke about the era in which they lived, an era where possibility and access of computing was dictated by IBM. The big brother of the industry and also its monopoly, a big brother which tried to crush all the startups, a big brother which imposed itself on everything related to technology thereby denying growth, preventing innovation. A big brother which kept computers far away from the reach of common man, which blindfolded the world and made the world take the road that it paved, a dangerous road which led to a hopeless cliff. Steve then said “Apple is going to fight IBM”. Apple was then nothing compared to IBM, in manpower, in expertise, in size, in dollar muscle. Apple was just an underdog. Deep under. As people kept guessing, an advertisement was played on the screen.

George Orwell’s dystopian world of 1984 opens on the screen. The information era is controlled by a Big brother who appears on huge telescreens, dictates and keeps the citizens in constant surveillance. The citizens have become void of choice and options, that they blindly follow him. And one day, she runs into the world. Wearing a tank top and bright orange shorts, carrying a huge sledge hammer, she runs in and the army of the big brother chases her. She then dashes into the chamber, approaches the screen hosting the big brother, spins her hammer to build some momentum and finally she lets it go, it travels down and smashes the giant screen, then happens an explosion and a huge flash of light. The Big brother goes in smoke, the hollow grey eyed citizens wake up from their prisonlike slumber to the new brightness and finally a voice over rolls and it says, “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll understand why 1984 won’t be like 1984”.

A month later the brown bag was opened and Macintosh was introduced to the world. The rest as they say - is History.

This happened two years before i was born, and it took another six years for me to meet an Apple computer. It was in my school in the early nineties, in the air cooled computer laboratory, into which we were let in once a month had an Apple Lisa, the predecessor of the Mac. But even then it looked different from the rest of the machines we had at school. It had a graphical user interface, a clear monochrome display which put the other command line interfaces to shame. We were not allowed to touch the Lisa. My eyes were then caught by the rainbow colored Apple logo, and in that early age somewhere in my sub conscious mind. I fell in love with it. It took another ten years to actually work on a Mac. I was at college then and we had a Apple Lab as a part of our main building. It differed from the rest of the campus, it was all done in crystal glass and anyone who entered my college would fall in love with the sight. A glass building filled with 50 odd iMac’s and it was in the main facade of college. I fell in love all over again, we had sessions there as part of our multimedia paper. Finally i logged into a Mac. A childhood dream. But BOOM! it was the first use and i hated the experience, being a hardcore PC user till then, i was heartbroken to know that everything was different, i was shamed to not like it. Everybody was. Time passed, and slowly like learning to play a piano i was learning to work on a Macintosh, it took a while to look beyond the obvious, to understand that a Mac was not different but it is the way computers should be and behave, that the Windows i was using was nothing more than Big brother reborn. I loved everything that made the Mac, from the beautifully done interface, the perfectly spaced Helvetica type facing, the easy to use applications, the streamlined navigation, the tightly coupled hardware and software, the single body design, the simplicity of interaction that happened between the man and the machine. I fell for it, or i was destined to fall for it. I attribute the elegance of Mac for kindling the passion of designing in me. After my fourth semester, in my sem holidays i visited the Apple lab when it used to be empty. Most of the time, i just looked at the empty machine, i did my amateur design work in those Mac’s. And in those beautiful summers when i travelled back home in those sitting in the window seats of empty busses, i would imagine becoming someone different, someone who is a misfit, someone who is a rebel, an underdog who someday will challenge. Then in that age, i did not know that i was associating a brand with my own aspirations and vice-versa. Then in that age, i did not realize that i was slowly turning to become, an Apple fanboi.

and it just began there.

Friday, November 27, 2009

W.

Mapla can you swap with me for next weeks night shift?”. He asked me, and he looked anxious. For he knew I preferred coming in night shifts, he knew I loved the precious solitude i shared with the empty cubicles while working in the midnights, he knew I loved to disappear with a glass of tea into the roads which led me far away from work. He then opened up almost in tears. “Having a function at home next month, we are supposed to do the customary spending for my sisters kid and her in laws keep pushing us for more. Running short of money da, and appa is already broken I somehow have to make up for the rest. I need the night shift allowance. Can you swap?” He looked at me, and he looked anxious. For I knew he was the only earning member of his family, his father has had a neural failure and his sister is married as a helpless house wife. We swapped. While working in night meant peace for me, it meant hard earned money for him. Not just for him, but for a hundreds and thousands of people who are sarcastically branded as the IT crowd, who are termed to have no real purpose or maturity and who are accused to bloat the society with their easy fortunes, it means hard earned money.

My perception of the industry i work for has changed over the times, not that i am going to stand in the frontline and fight for its worth. But I am not going to accuse it randomly. For i have had first hand evidences of its potential to change lives. My once team lead shared, over a drink of whiskey in the sloppy hills of Moonar, that he almost lost his hope for life before he got this job. It was the mid 90’s he was a very average student at college who had an extra load of arrears to carry at the end of each semester, he had a delayed degree, he never got a job and roamed around with drinks and dope and after losing precious years if his early twenties he at last knew he was going no where in life. Someone made him take an software course and then he joined a startup as a programmer for a meager 3000/pm. He worked hard and then harder, he shifted companies, he travelled across continents and finally he, someone who could have ended up as a hopeless suicidal young man, or a rapist, or a suicide bomber destroying lives in the name of God, instead became a man who is deeply respected. Same applies to me, the guy who sits next to me at work. This industry has redefined the old world and parpanaric views of who can be given the opportunity, of who can be successful, it has brought wealth and dreams into very ordinary households, it has empowered a generation to be independent, it has turned many a boys into men, it has not only turned many girls to women but also made young women to stand up and live without dependence. It stands as the gateway to a more self dependent and open minded future. For me? I wonder what would i have done if  i didn't have the smooth transition from  college to work,  for all the rebellious speeches i give, and the assumptions i proclaim- i would have suffered and be shamed. It has personally made life easy for me, just like taking the next step in the staircase, like has been easy. Money flow has never stopped,  I am now able to feed myself,  pay my internet bills, and buy my own perfume and razors every month, it has taken care of my everyday life while i wonder about which Ingmar Bergman movie to download next.

It has been almost two and a half years I started wearing tags and started entering into large buildings embellished with glass facades, I have met the most interesting people in these building. From the guy who could discuss Dostoevsky's literature to the guy who can detail me on how the Nasdaq operates on a daily basis. From the guy who pings me every time our mutual crush comes in a revealing top, to the guy who would call me over a midnight to ask for a shoulder in the rough times. I have earned people. I have outgrown my shell, i have amazed myself. But all these have not brought love for my job. I do not find enough comfort in my place i have chosen in it. I respect the Industry as a whole but not in parts, for i have also met with the most pretentious people on the planet within the same buildings, i have punched walls with the over flowing hate for bosses, i have witnessed the worst inter personnel politics, i witnessed slavery in its most meanest forms, i have seen someone else stealing my work in front of my eye, i have witnessed enough stabbing on the back as it bled but anyway all these are universal. But for most part i am just spiritually un-involved in the work i do,  for most times i have seen myself only as a misfit. Yes, this is not what i wanted to do with my life. I always knew that. That doesn't mean i wanted to study middle English literature and arts in an old European University, or plainly become a bearded hippie look-alike filmmaker, or become a rebel preaching communist values, or someone who wanted to spend rest of his life serving the starving children in West Africa. I always wanted be into the business, of illusions and branding. A different kind of corporate. For i always knew i had more patience and love looking at typefaces and doing designing than looking at the computer generated code and developing modules of software.Anyway.

Sometime in the summer of 2007. I entered the Tidel park for the very first time, it was my first day in the company  and a bunch of us were being officially  inducted. After document signing and hours of lecture by the corporate heads. I knew i was caught in the wrong place, with time i turned really restless and bored. Sometime in the noon the pretty HR girls with their totally made up smiles came in and screamed “IT’S TIME FOR SOME GGGAMEES”. I was like what the fuck?. Some other rebel(?) joined me and we came out for a smoke. We crossed the road and found a tea shop on the road between Tidel and Thiruvanmiyur. The sun was right above us.The traffic was maddening. I had my tea and i  didn’t feel like getting back into the building. I hated the formalities, and the fake wave of happiness and security they bestowed on us. I wanted to be free, get back to my room to my senses, forget the mess and get some real sleep. I walked to catch the train, and got my tickets. Standing on the cemented platform of  the station and waiting for the train i saw Tidel park at a distance, it was glowing in deep blue.

A few minutes later I crossed the road and was walking again into the grand entrance of the big, blue building.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cries and Whispers

            Cries and Whispers

Where does a tear emerge from? is it from tiny pores of the eye or from the thousand invisible pores of the mind? does it drop off from the shivering body like wind shattering the water on the tree or does it ascend down like rain when the grey clouds of solitude cover the soul? does it seep from the floors of the spirit drenching the mind or does it break the walls of the eye and collide into the being? Where does a tear emerge from? a tear emerges from truth. Yes truth. We cry at the moment of truth, the truth of an intolerable pain, the truth of an unbearable revelation, the truth of an irreparable loss, the truth of an irreversible moment. When left alone in the dark room with just a candle of truth we all cry without being able to handle the brightness of that tiny candle. I am an atheist, but I believe truth is god, crying is a prayer and tears are an offering. And whisper? whisper emerges from our most secret chambers, any whisper is an indulgence with a secret, a whisper is the wind which blows into the keyhole of a guarded room, a whisper hides more than what it reveals. Ingmar Bergman made a movie in 1972 called Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop- Swedish) which has become the benchmark of art that cinema is, and for years people have interpreted it with a hundred emotions. My interpretation literally translates Cries and Whispers into Truths and secrets and its infinite possibilities. A behavioural study of the human mind with respect to reality and disguise, a peep inside the well of the dark emotions, relationships, hypocrisies and insecurities. An artist’s impression of the human mind. A tale which takes you a ride into the complexities but teaches more about the path left behind. A fable amidst all its morbidity proposes selfless love as the only virtue to sustain life.

The film opens with Agnes a middle age spinster who is on the verge of death, a disease is slowly eating her insides, causing moments of tremendous pain and agony. She is cared by her two sisters Karin, Maria who have come taking a break from their daily lives to be with their sister. Then there is the fourth women who completes the circle, Anna a long time servant who takes total care of Agnes in her hour of pain.  The story is the exploration of the insides of these four women who live together in a old Swedish manor house. We slowly learn about the human beings they are, for Agnes pain is an everyday suffering she requests comfort in the presence of her sisters, but her sisters Karin and Maria slowly we learn, are women with shallow and pretentious traits. They are physically and mentally distant from each other and except for their sorry faces there is nothing they feel from the heart for the sufferings of Agnes. Karin is in total disgust with others, she has lost the belief in love or touch, she loathes herself and everybody around her in secrecy. Maria too distains herself from her sister but she is very obvious and weak, not able to care for others because of her self-centeredness, she is unable to sympathise for anyone. But the drama of love and care unfolds in between them everyday with Anna being the only true soul in the house who reaches out with the warmth of love. In non linear sequences we slowly learn about these three women who are somehow are the observers of a gradual death. Maria has been infidel to the man who truly loves her and Karin has a painful history of a disturbed childhood and a fruitless married life. Anna a mother who lost her child, lives with the sisters taking care and giving out love. With the plot firmly set, Bergman slowly reveals the human mind which dwells in the constant battle of love and hate. The characters break to tears, not able to handle the pain both physically and mentally. The intrusion of the thinking is so close that we are not able to handle such realities that are usually not discussed or agreed upon. The death finally happens after enough revelations, screams, cries, whispers and pain. The house is closed down and the inmates leave back to their false lives and Anna the only true soul who expected nothing takes only the diary of Agnes which reads or paints the climax where the three sisters are seen happily on a swing on a perfect autumn day. Agnes being comforted by the presence of her loved ones, and looking at the distant green meadows, says “I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much." The screen closes as our heads drop down, down enough to look inside ourselves.

This is not a movie, this is an experience. Not entertainment but enlightenment of some kind. It should be watched with the indulgence of someone looking at a piece of art hanging on the walls of an ancient museum. Or like reading a very intense literature. Never before a movie was so intruding, never before it explored the dark state of human condition, at times becoming tough for us to endure it. Bergman chose women as his subjects as the women mind always has deeper kept secrets, there are men in the movie but not as intense as its women. The performances requires the weirdest emotions to be portrayed on screen. In a scene Karin and Maria enter into an confront, Karen reveals how she hated Maria right from her childhood, the most intense scene of the movie. The reactions that Karin gives out after revealing a truth disturbs you than words ever can describe. The movie is set in a house which is filled with blood red walls, carpets, and in a set up which actually replicates the bloody vacuum of the human mind. The vision of the movie is claustrophobic that at times you need some breath. The cinematography captures very very deep close-ups trying to capture every single emotions through the face. The film projects itself into the insides of the eye than the outsides. Later you understand that the film was not even made for you to watch, but it was the work of filmmaker whose vision in life was to capture everything that he believed to be documented. Ingmar Bergman, is a phenomenon who for decades has inspired all those filmmakers who wished to take the art to a greater level, to a more profound and honest level.

For sight the movie looks like a very bleak tale, then you think of Anna the poor servant who knows nothing but simple, straightforward, and selfless love. Not the selfless love that we show to the people around us and the people whom we already love, but the spiritually selfless love on every human. Anna would have cared for Maria and Karen too, because she is made only by love. Anna is the soul of the movie, and she silently proposes love as a remedy to all the misfortunes of the mind. Anna is an ideal image that we don't get to see around, because selfless love on every human is tougher to practice than said. There is this dream sequence where the dead Agnes wakes up and calls for her sisters to hold her hands and give her the warmth, but the sisters refuse and scream at the corpse and run away in disgust. Anna comes to Agnes. Anna makes Agnes sleep on her naked bosoms, giving the sufferer the warmth of the human flesh. The corpse of Agnes is shown lying down on Anna’s breasts in comfort and love. It is in this particular scene we understand the magnificence of the movie, for the movie reveals more than it hides, it cries more than it whispers, for the movie not only locks you down in a room filled with darkness, but also lights a candle.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bus no.36

The summers of the early 90’s were hotter than what they are today. I still remember those particular days where a women would stand with her little kids under the sun, waiting for a bus which would take them to her native. The women was Mom and her two little kids were Arun and I. I remember them like looking through a framed photograph. The day, the bus stop under the splendid sun, those brown sarees that Amma wore, those bags which travelled with us, the flowered slippers and "irumbu-kai” mayaavi comics that I would have just completed during the travel. I remember them because that is the way that particular day unfolded, summer after summer, year after year.The first day after school closure, we would have travelled from our home in the sub-urbs of Madurai towards my mothers native home in a village distant from Coimbatore. In the last leg of our journey we would stand there in the bus stop, waiting for our bus. Arun and I would make a cushion with our bags, calling names, cursing and fighting. The bus was the only means that we had those days to reach our village. The bus had its own timings, so we had to wait for hours at times. My eyes would have been frozen on the road, looking at the distant vehicles to find our bus in their midst. I would be looking at the name boards from a distance and updating their numbers to Mom. A hundred busses would cross my eyes then 2, 47B, 62, 28, 31A each had their own numbers and their own routes. The bus was my only hope to take me to a place where i loved being. My little village. My escapade of school days. Hours would pass, and sometime in the evening when the sun drops down, I would see the bus at a distance. I would shout “Amma, namma bus ma”. And the moment would come to life. The wait for a bus to arrive has its own share of surprises. As we lift the bags the bus sporting the number 36 would float towards us. When we get in, I would know i am going nowhere else, but home. I would go sit near the windows with a grin which overflows my lips. I would hold those iron rods of the window and sit there like I shared something special with the bus. As if the bus bus belonged to our ancestors, as if the bus was a car that my family never had. For my mom, getting into the bus was like getting into a neighbours house in the village. For she had travelled in it from the day it started visiting her village. It was this bus she would have left her village after marriage.It was in this bus she would have brought me and Arun when we were born. She would sit there in peace as if she was speaking with an old friend. People in the bus would be those she knew from childhood, smiles would be exchanged and greeting be shared. The bus was a part of my village that travelled on roads. I would feel safe in there, and sitting in the lap of mom i could see it travel through the same village roads, the same groves, same cactus grown lands, same moon lit nights, and stopping exactly the same stops every time. We would be the last to alight. I would run down to hug Mama who would be waiting for us, and when i look back the empty bus would honk its good bye and would be slowly fading in sight.

The world was a more closed place then, we all lived like drops floating in the bottom of a glass bottle. There were imaginary walls built around places and we stayed inside the warmth of those walls. I spent my summer inside those walls that were built around my village. And the bus was like a magical dragon which took us through the city. The bus came to the village fives times a day, twice in the morning and night and once in the noon. To catch another bus the people had to walk at least for 3kms. the bus no.36 was the lifeline of the place, from taking people to work, affording distant learning to the village children, bringing raw materials to agriculture, bringing grooms to the possible brides, transporting the aged and the sick, the bus was their only way to keep up with the world. We were not so rich then, we only had our grandpa’s old cycle in our place. So we only had the bus to move around. I still remember every time i came home i would prepare a timetable of the bus timings and stick it in the back covers of my comic books. We left the village once a week. Arun and i would dress at our best and stand with Mama on those sand ridden bus stop by the village temple. Then it had a very silvery white paint with thirukkural written on all the possible curves, there were some happy looking conductors and drivers. We travelled a lot sitting by the window seats, to parks, to temples, to doctors, to hotels, to get seeds to plant, to get chocolates for our birthdays which fell in may, towards distant relatives, to those summer exhibitions, to travel in giant wheels and eat masala pappads, to movies which were a craze for all the three of us. I remember the day when we travelled back from watching Jurassic park, i was excited like hell jumping and making dinosaur movements in the pathways. Telling to people how huge those animals looked and how big and sharp each teeth was. A part of life happened in those journeys. The sense of belonging the bus gives you and takes from you cant be explained. The toughest of journeys happened every year on the last day of summer hols, when we would be reluctantly taken back to Madurai. I cried a big deal then, i would lock myself in a room for hours believing that they may let me stay. I would never want to go back then. I would go hug patti and bleed my heart out to her “naan pogala patti, ill stay here and join the village school” and all those childish cries. But after hours of threatening and pleading I would be standing at the bus stop to catch the last 36. When the bus leaves, in the distance i would see either Patti or Chiti wiping their eyes. I would with a long face, lie on the windows of the bus. The moment I had to get down fro 36 would be the toughest, like all the strings of the holidays were cut down, like i am no more inside the warmth and love, like bidding goodbye to a very dear friend. A huge pain would plunge the heart to see the bus move away from sight, for it would take one more year and one more day under the sun, to see the bus again and to step back into it.

Years of the same cycle passed, I came to the same village to continue my graduation. To a college located in the busiest roads of the city. The first day when i went to college no one came with me, but i took the bus .That day was exciting, to dream of the next phase of your life sitting in the same old bus which has seen you grow up till day. When i got down looking at the huge arch proclaiming the name of the most sought after institution, i stepped down from 36 and it felt like there were hundreds who came with me to drop me at college. Before i left for the stint at hostel, and before i got a bike to roam around, the bus took me to college. To wait for the bus with those single books in hand, to cling at the footboards challenging life and death, to seat three or four school going kids in the lap, to start behaving like a grown up, to get home with a heavy heart after getting my first arrear, to hear a romantic song on the FM playing in the bus and to think of the girls who disturbed sleep then, the windows of the bus opened up to a lot of dreams. The bus was a very part of all those transformations. Then with time i got my own bike and the dependency on the bus became minimal. We have had enough cars and bikes at home then, the bus was only a way of alternate transportation. But, whenever i found a chance to be in the bus, i could see that it gave me the same warmth like when it gave me in my childhood. Now, the bus is no more the life line of the village, but it has not lost its love to the people it still visits the place five times a day, still transporting them in its huge rusted compartment. I have not travelled a big deal across the world. I may or I may not, but a journey i would want to take all my life would be the journey again sitting near the painted steel grills of the bus and looking through the window as the age old breeze scatters around. Through the same windows of 36 i would look at the way the landscape has transformed, the way the little tress have grown in those distant grooves, the way the cactus grown lands have started hosting houses with little children, and in the soothing closeness that the ambience of the bus gives, in my aesthetic loneliness i would be lost in the thought of those thousand little journeys which i had in the bus. Journeys which began in the insides of a little bus, journeys which have ended up becoming the most cherished memories of my lifetime.

PS: Sometime last week when the night slowly opened up to another morning and as the first rays floated around the village, i left the house for work. At a distance from the village i saw the bus. After months i saw the bus again. The driver and conductor should have left for a cup of chai. The bus stood there, empty. I parked my bike nearby and stood there looking at the bus. The same old bus. The same old friend. I didn’t go up to it, but we both kept looking at each other for a long time. A very peaceful moment passed in between us. Then I left, and from a distance i could see the bus slowly fading in sight, honking its way into the village.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On a nightfall

And the night fell on me, like a woman trying to spread on me with her wild kisses, like being immersed into a dark ocean of stars, like the sky breaking the roof and colliding into my sleep, the night fell on me, and i was awake. I was still lying alone in the gloom, on a cot of wires. Around me the limestone walls which aged a century glowed meekly in the dark. The tiled roofs patterned a series of dark brown lines, hiding in them were a few wooden lizards which usually creak a sound which always fell into my loneliness. Today they were quiet. People were asleep so was the village around. The house was still breathing, and i could feel it on my skin. I reached my hands to a little pot of water beneath my bed. It looked chilled by the breeze that was roaming around the walls. I quenched a thirst that never was, and again I lied down in silence thinking about the dark and moist night that was filling in the room. Yes!, the night is as moist as a tear, the night is as dark as our depths. The day begins from the sky but the night begins from the land. I looked at the floor around me and wondered if the night was slowly seeping from the million invisible pores of the land. I tossed around the wired bed and a beam of brightness fell on my eyelids. It was the moon on the other end. Through a glassed tile in the midst of the sand ones, i could see the moon floating on the sky. Usual sight for me to be waken up to the sight of the moon. We kept looking at each other through the blur of the glass. We had witnessed each other enough that only a silence prevailed to fulfill the distance. The lonely moon floated on the sky as a lonely man floated on his bed. The moon is the perfect symbolism to solitude. It has been there with its precious solitude, dreaming alone in the night when the rest of the universe is still asleep.The moon is not the source of the night like what the sun is to the day. A moon is just a companion to the night, a shepherd who guides the herd of stars into the wilderness of the night. He lets them feed on the night and rests himself on the shadow of tree and dreams as he always does. The night is the habitat of the moon.But the night exists without the moon for the night is not just the absence of light but the uncontrolled glow of the dark. The night is a huge vacuum pot into which we throw our secrets. The night like a faithful guardian has safeguarded the secrets of humanity, the night still has stories about Adam's first kiss.

The night jumps like a blind cat leaping from the edges of the day. While breaking away from work in night shifts, and walking alone into the night, I have seen the night lying down as a tired cat with its blind eyes glowing in the dark. Then a cup of tea would taste more when it is flavoured with a drop of the night. I would stand there on the empty roads far away from work and wonder if night is just a huge dusky bird which keeps flying around the world and the darkness is just a shadow that the birds wing descents on the earth. The night bird with it pulls the strings of time, in its mighty wings it carries the globe around. The night is the invisible dark river which is flowing from the origins of time heading towards the end of eternity. The dark river on whose shores we sleep after we get back roaming in the yellow sands of the day. The light of the day drops from the mammaries of the night, like a cattle feeding on milk the light of the day feeds itself from the darkness of the night. Night is always for the awaken and soon the smell of the night slowly enters my nose and thereby reaching my inbound pores. I look around to see that the moon has left its place. Only darkness prevailed over the glass. In sometime the same glass above my head will host the sun and i would be waking up to the yellow rays. The days are always hosted on top of the nights. Night is not one container of darkness but is made up of million tiny parts which keep floating around us.I lie alone feeling the night. The night slowly crosses over like a music. I become the one acquainted with the night. Like a fountain the night keeps pouring around me in all directions, almost drowning me, then slowly very slowly I close my eyes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The "Jatti" thieves

Based on a true story.

Yesterday our village was attacked by the Jatti(underwear) thieves. Before we get into what really happened, who are these Jatti thieves? For the past week or so the villages around Coimbatore are invaded by a bunch of ruthless thieves who are popularly known as the jatti thieves(தி ஜட்டி தீவ்ஸ்). Why are they called the jatti thieves? not cos they steal the branded jattis hanging on the cloth line but cos, when they come for their mission they come wearing only their jattis. Only Jattis? yeah only cut-jattis. They also cover themselves in some kind of greasy and slippery oil so it becomes impossible to catch them by hand.They are a group of four to six men and the number changes according to the mission. People who have seen them report that they were well built, tall, dark and looked like monsters. These ruthless killing machines choose one village for a night. They carry only a very few weapons, a little knife, a rod with sharp nails and a hammer.They enter like cats clad in their dark jattis, they hide in the darkest corners of the village, they choose the lonely house which is located outside the main village and as the the village slowly gets to sleep they emerge from the darkness and break open the doors.They enter without making a noise.They wake you up with their knives, one of them catches hold of the youngest in the house placing a knife in the junction of the head and the chest, the second one collects the mobile phones and breaks them on the floor, the third one takes refuge of the people in the house as the fourth one breaks open the vaults and clutches the jewellery from the women. Finally they lock you in a room and tie your hands and mouth. When they are done, they leave the house locking it from the out and escape into the nearby grooves.It all happens like it was already written. If you play their tune, all you loose would only be your possessions. If at all if you are going to revolt then there will be blood. They have scissored the right ear of a grandma who refused to give away her ear-ring, they have pierced the head of a few with the nail rod, and one has lost his eye as the nail rod hit his face.Casualties? reportedly two till date. Nobody knows who they are.They don't look like locals, people say they speak Hindi and sometimes broken Tamil too. The worth of the stolen has crossed a few million in rupees.Police? Yeah they come after the thieves leave and they leave before the thieves come again!.The commissioner has ordered for a shoot at sight and the police has already informed the villagers to murder the thieves if they are caught.

It was just another Saturday for me.Sitting inside my brown roofed village house, I was lost in the web on my over-heated PC. It was nearing eight in the evening.It was then when my Uncle called me sayin the thieves entered the village next to us. They were hiding inside the toilet of a house when a little girl spotted them, as the girl started shouting they fled the place. The four seasoned thieves were chased by some hundred men but soon they lost track as the thieves singled out and each escaped in a direction.My Uncle said two hundred men from nearly three villages are in search for the thieves in all the grooves around. I said let me know if they are caught and i got back to my work. Hours passed and my Uncle came home, their search had turned futile, but the whole of the village was speaking about the thieves. My uncle was sayin how cruel they were to the people and said most villagers had sweared to kill them if caught.Hours passed, i sat with my Uncle as he was watching Royal challengers trash CSK. His phone rang again a voice shouted "the thieves are hiding in the common marriage hall near the temple". We ran there just to see that the whole village had come to life in the mid-night, hundreds of men with huge and round sticks were running in all the directions. A huge crowd had gathered before the hall which was located at a safe distance from the village. We went there and the search was on, the bushes were cut down, huge lights were brought in. The person who reportedly saw the thieves said, they were standing on the walls wearing only their jattis and as he approached them, they blinded his sight and ran away. Hundreds were searching in places nearby the hall, I never knew there were so many people in my village.I was never a part of the social life of this village, and many were looking at me "who is this guy". I was wondering if i go for a leak removing my trousers and if these guys are gonna sight me with my jattis then im sure they are gonna think im one of the "jatti thief" and they will beat me to death. So i stayed with my uncle and the people i knew. The place was completely scanned and it was decided that it was a rumour that the thieves were in the village, we were starting for our houses and suddenly we heard a few women scream wild somewhere nearby. The crowd rushed there, the women were restlessly shouting that the thieves just ran crossing them. A women said a man was hiding inside the bushes and when she asked he who he was, he pushed her down and ran away. Suddenly people realised the kind of mess that they were into, the brutal thieves are now inside the village and they can do anything to the innocent lives. A wave of tension started spreading across. My Uncle asked me to rush home as the people in my house were already asleep. Yeah people i was asked to be the Man of my home then. I was kind of grinning inside me cos all these are hell new to me. Came home and switched on the lights, made sure that the bushes around were safe, like the cops in hollywood movies i crawled around and spyed in our neighborhood, i started practising some punches in the air, i asked my grandmother to put a thilak on my forehead and say "vetriyoda thirumbivaa raasa". As my grandma searched for a broom i left my house, i knew its gonna be a long night ahead and i took my iPod with me. groups of young men were roaming all over the place each armoured with heavy weapons, there were faces with anger and tension . I should have looked like an asshole to sport an iPod in that crowd, anyways stupidity happens. i joined the crowd which was searching in the directions pointed by the women, teams were built and each was assigned a task. Some young men took the task of roaming around in the bikes, and some searching individual homes. Nobody took me in their teams. They knew i was not a villager.I started roaming around alone, i called my Uncle and he said he was busy somewhere else searching for them. They said the thieves were hiding somewhere in the little village and the search was getting intense. Someone would shout "Hey i saw a thief here" and before the people reach there someone from the other end of the village would call that someone spotted the thief trying to jump a wall. People started circling in and around the village and it became a Tom and Jerry story. I came home to see that my orders were not in place and everyone including my little cousin were standing outside the house.ARGH!, then I kept roaming for sometime, I kept hearing Akon's new album, I knew i was too careless, I knew i din know the seriousness of the situation, i was wondering what if he suddenly emerges from the bushes, he had a knife and a rod but I only had an Ipod and a Motorazr.I was standing in some dark corner and there were no many people around in that street, a man i knew came in his bike. He saw me alone there, he suddenly handed over a huge wooden rod which weight a few extra pounds and said "mapla, inga yaarum illa naan nayaker thatava varasolren neenga intha theruva pathukonga"(there is no one in this street, ill ask nayaker thatha(an old man) to join you, you both take care of this street). I was like are you joking, but i gladly accepted the offer. Soon the old man too joined me, we both were standing in the corners of the street. He had a larger stick, yeah people an old man/young man combo to save the village.

I stood there keeping my face as stern as possible. I knew i would burst into laughter any second. The world is still believing me. I was so cool that the thatha standing near me was annoyed with my carelessness. I was like who is going to come here to this street. And my phone rang!!!. My uncle said "Vicky who is near the 3rd street", i said "myself and the old man,Y?" and my uncle said the sweetest lines ever said, lines that ill never forget all my life "i heard that the thieves are running towards the third street and they are heavily armed". The most intense moment of my life, no people i din piss out there believe me. I was motionless, i said this to the grandpa near me and he started tying his dothi up getting ready for an encounter with the beasts. What am i gonna do now!? I said to myself "No Vicky,Now you are not a software engineer who works with Steve, Matt and Davidson. You are no more the guy who visits the village for sleep and food, you are no more a guest here, you are now a part of this village, you now shoulder the responsibility to safe guard your motherland(yes! my mom was born here), you are a angry young man, you are Rambo, you are the native village warrior, you are the man that the world wants and the man that the world is searching for.Get ready for the toughest night of your life and tonight lets dine in hell". I was all charged up, i folded my shirt till my shoulders, i curved my newly grown moustach. I was like "Vaangada! vaanga! Seriyana ambalaya iruntha vaanga da"(Come thieves come to me, if you are a man and if you have your balls intact, come to me and cross me). They never came! I was waitin there for a few hours and only an old street dog was in sight. They escaped form me, the escaped from a man who was ready for a battle. I called my uncle he said "You FOOL are you still waiting there?, we enquired the people who reportedly saw the thieves and found that all was a RUMOUR, nobody actually saw the thieves, when inquired they all said that someone else had said to them and nobody saw a thief in the village, the thieves had never come to the village, YOU GO TO BED!!" No one had insulted me like this before. Go to bed? FU**! dude i was waiting for a battle. If at all they had crossed my way, if at all they had come near me... i would have looked them in their bloody eyes, i would have roared inside me once and lifted my hands, then something really terrible would have happened in that lonely dark street. The next day The Hindu would have reported "Young lad defeats thieves and saves a village" and Dhina thandhi would have reported "இளைஞர் சாகசம்!!! ஜட்டி திருடர்களுக்கு ஜட்டி கிழிந்தது".(No translation available!)

PS: Jokes apart, the village is still caught in the web of uncertainty. People are expecting that as the thieves never came to our village they may came again anytime. Dedicated police squads are asked to roam around in the villages for a few days now.

PS2: Believe me when my uncle called me to say that the thieves are nearing me, I already had my plans to tackle them. Guess what?? I would have said to him "Hey see no blood, ill give you my iPod and also teach you how to operate it, its worth 5k.You can leave without a hush. GOD PROMISE ill never tell these people the direction in which you ran". Now you all know why i took my iPod with me :)

PS3:(26/May)This post is selected by Blogadda.com as one of the best Indian(!?!) posts of this week, Click the image to view the page.

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