Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When i am in a whole day of street cricket followed by lemon juice kind of mood...

I am feeling good about life. For the moment. Two hours of stand up comedy on youtube can do wonders to your outlook of life. A 32 year old comic tells you about the need to design cars specifically for the 'making out' segment, a segment that is comfortable making out, but can't handle the seriousness of a room or a relationship or sex. And i look forward to the tomorrows with a renewed and unreasonable lightness. No correlation whatsoever. The mind is so fucking fickle. It helps that the 32 year old happens to be Janeane Garofalo from 14 years ago. But the thing is, if you feel good about life, you don't sit around and cross examine it. You just revel in it, and wait for shit to happen. After coffee the next day. Also fucking and fickle seemed to rhyme in a weird way. Which is why i wanted to put them next to each other. Honestly. I am 31 years old and no longer find it fashionable to throw the f word around. I used to find it very fashionable and novel when i had just joined college in 1995. I saw peers using it to sound exasperated in a very cool way. I had tried to imitate, but my attempts felt artificial and affected. So i gave up and stuck to the native tongue. I see a lot of my kid cousins throw the word 'Whatever' around a lot. Is that a fashionable word among college kids of today?

My mom is in town. And i am getting frequent doses of Rice and Sambhar. I am not a foodie. I could live on rice and sambhar all my life, without ever knowing if Penne is tubular or if Fusilli looks like dead butterflies made of maida. Sambhar is a gooey thing made from dal and water and chilli powder and turmeric and tamarind and vegetables. And add salt to taste. Dal is a pulse. I've seen a japanese man cry and sweat and fret over some benign Sambhar a few years ago. I've seen the same Japanese man suck in an Octopus tentacle with a straight face. His name was Hanawa. We called him Hanawa-san. He told me that 'baakha' was fuck in japanese. He taught me wrong. I still don't know the right word. In Jap movies, people keep saying 'waatha shiva' or something like that. I don't know what it means. But we told Hanawa-san what 'waatha' means in Tamil. And he giggled over it. Serious japanese men don't giggle often. He wasn't a serious japanese man. He took us to Uno park where we saw families sitting under sakura blooms and drinking sake. I remember being extremely happy seeing all those blooms and all those half drunk and not so drunk families. Sakura is cherry blossom in Japan, and the bloom lasts for all of 15 days. But, for those 15 days, they are very pretty. Humans should've also been designed to be like sakura.

I am most probably visiting home in November. For a month or so. I think i'll decide on the immediate direction for the next few years then. Buddha has promised to come down and leave a sign at that point. He refuses to come down right now. Says he is not in the mood. I think he has visa issues. I think 2010 is going to be a very good year for me. If i keep repeating this some 2.5 million times, it will actually happen. I read this in an excerpt of a self help book titled Sweet corn soup for the fool or something.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sometimes, strangers are better than fiction...

There'll be no angst in this post. No alcohol either. I came here to record an unexpectedly pleasant saturday evening. A time i usually spend with fictional characters. Or a high level programming language. This time, it was the company of a stranger. A stranger i've known, for 3 days in all. Who i'll meet again, in 3 years maybe, or a little later. A polite hello. A curt handshake. A cup of coffee each. One with sugar, one without. And then a drive, supposedly to Palo Alto. A signal jump, a wrong turn, and a pretty road that took us to a destination we weren't headed for. An unmarked space with two parked cars. A trail. A real heavy breeze, that made us need the sight of speech, as much as the sound of it, to make sense of the spoken word. A bird whose name we did not know, whose flight we still hung on and followed. The just risen moon, inside which, she saw a rabbit, i saw a squid, and she spoke of a friend, who always saw a mother and a child. I've never looked for forms inside the moon. I call them craters and leave them at it. Bata chappals, wind chill, the setting sun and the growing hunger, made us head back to the car. Eventually, Palo Alto was reached. Dishes whose names i can't remember, to save my life, were consumed. And good byes and good lucks exchanged. Strangely, the evening seemed whole in it's own right. Random. No context. No obligatory future or direction. Just it. Like watching, possibly, the only show of a feel good movie, seeing the credits roll, walking out, smiling and satisfied.

I think back of Kodachaadri. Another geography. Another whole set of events. But a very similar after taste. I'll keep it for another time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The boiled egg that was never eaten...

It is 3 am. And i've been drinking vodka and watching 'Lost in translation'. I drank it out of a really tall glass meant for beer. I could've used an ever-silver tumbler. Does alcohol react with ever-silver? But if it is ever-silver it has to be ever silver no? I want to wear a silly yellow t-shirt. Inside out. And dance with Scarlette Johansson. I am thinking of Japan. The crowded Shinjuku station. The pretty girls in white skirts who hand out pamplets that say Massage but mean many other things. The Big Budha sitting at peace at Kamakkura. The people who are always running. The boss who is present when you reach office. And when you leave office. The slot machine attached to the hotel room's TV where you insert 100 yens to get 10 minutes of porn. The laptops in the platforms of Akihabara, and the cigarrette lighters shaped like fire extinguishers. The Buddhist temples, where you wash your feet before going in, and write your wishes in white pieces of paper and tie them up for Budha to read them and bestow upon you what you want. You could buy some corn, have them in your palm, and stretch your hand out for pigeons to peck on them. But remember to wear gloves. Pigeon beaks would be nicer to you then. I didn't. I saw glimpses of the country today, and want to go. I took a picture of half an egg, boiled a week ago and neglected since. The yellow is not yellow any more and the white is a very sad cream. I placed it in a shiny black bowl and placed the bowl on the wooden floor of my kitchen. So that the picture could have the yellow that is not yellow any more, the sad cream, the shiny black, and the ply wood brown. The picture came out very ordinary. I then threw the egg in my trash can. And emptied the contents of my trash can onto a bigger trash can outside my flat. Tomorrow the bigger trash can would be emptied into an even bigger trash can in a lorry that comes by. I don't know what happens after that. Have you seen 'The lady killers'? I will go sleep now. I need to get up and find out why, of 10 frames, 5 are going on port 1 and 5 on port 2, whereas 6 are supposed to go on port 1 and 4 on port 2. It is very important. No seriously.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Washerman's dog...

I meet friends. Over brunches, dinners, beers and butter scotches. B and S being the most available ones. For now. Until the former goes back to his research in Alabama, and the latter's wife comes back to him from India. We talk of important stuff. Like professors, arrears, and whether the dal in our mess food, that we ate 10 years ago, had enough salt. I meet my ex, who tries to convince me that i should shop for a current. Whenever the episode she is watching, of 'Raakhi saawant ki swayamvar', on youtube, gets boring. I try and offer comparable comic relief in my responses. I fail. Of course i fail. How can i possibly compete with 'Usne kahaa TV nahin kharidega, washing machine kharidega, thaaki mai kapde na dhouun. Mere mann ko sukoon mila'. There are apparently many such gems. I can't digest reality TV. Unless it comes with free home-cooked dinner, which is a premium these days..

I play out this scene in my head. Once in a while. My boss calls me to his office. And tells me he has decided to let me go. I am not saddened. A little surprised, yes. Though i am doing just about enough to keep my job. A little less, maybe. But I come out feeling kind of liberated. In the next frame, i am standing on a platform in Central station in chennai. My loyal orange-black rucksack on my shoulders. And no agenda in my head. Waiting for the train that would take me to Delhi. From where i'd be taking a bus to Manali or Nainital. Depending on which one i manage to find a seat on first. I'd be sitting by the window. Taking in everything that comes in through it, greedily. The breeze. The clatter. And the snatches of homes that disappear as rapidly as they appear. I am reminded of this bus ride from Manali to Delhi. A few years ago. P shakes me off my sleep and makes me look out of the window. Amidst absolute darkness, there are these rectangular boxes of light. Evenly lit homes on a hill's slope. It was a surreal sight. That's my most vivid memory of that entire trip. I snap back to the 'here and now'. I wouldn't walk away from what i have, but would be relieved to be pushed out. It doesn't make sense. Or does it?

Some days i wonder if I am holding on to shreds of life i don't care for, and letting go of things i do. But some days i get up with, besides bad breath and a back ache, something that could pass for clarity. And head to work with a sense of what could pass for purpose. Those days aren't all that rare, and compensate for the listlessness of the rest. A good technical discussion here, a good customer bug fix there, and i have bouts of enthusiasm for work. The work that has given me the luxury to fret over imagined angst. And so i hang on...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bhaawra mann dekhne chalaa ek sapna...

I am not sure why i gave this title to this post. Except that this is my 'current' all time favourite song. And ever since i saw this video of the Sahyadris with this song playing in the background, i've been itching to be in the Western ghats in the monsoon.

I turned 31 this week. 31 sounds infinitely older than 30. G and i share birthdays. So, after a non-celebrating dinner with her, i spent my birthday midnight clapping hands and singing the customary song while she cut her b'day cake at the 'surprise' party her friends had put together for her. For the 31st, i would've thrown a birthday party, if i had a wife, and a mistress, and i wanted to appear happily married to all and sundry. Since i had no such motivations, i let it pass.

But such days do serve as points that make you sit back, and take stock of where you are and where you want to be. I had a bunch of contradictory wants at 30. I have a bunch of contradictory wants now. Age doesn't seem to give me wisdom, the way it is supposed to. From young and stupid, i am simply growing into old and clueless. I did move countries. One of the wants at 30. But I've been having more of the 'What the fuck am i doing here?' moments. Not that i didn't have those back home. But i'd find instant comfort in the urine bathed Karl Shmidt memorial, and the warm waters of the Besant Nagar beach, a 10 minute ride away. It doesn't help that my life's all-important happiness-giver, sport, has been missing in action. The injury from that simple fall has a fancy name now, Rotator-cuff tendonitis, and is showing signs of hanging around for a while. So, instead of waiting for it to heal, i decided i'll turn leftie. I am starting out by learning to shoot at least 2 pointers with my left hand, so that i can play Basketball with a bunch of college buddies. Also planning to resume playing Ultimate Frisbee tomorrow, throwing only forehands and catching with my left hand. It should be fun, and would be nearly like learning a new sport, the left hand aspect that is.

On the surface, i've been having an alright time. Hanging out with college junior Balaji and college roomie Swami at Castro every once in a while. Also, did this trip to Yellowstone with Swami, Sudhir and Heman, friends from undergrad days. It's hard to beleive that it's been a decade since college. It was an awesome trip, and all the more fun, thanks to Sudhir/Heman's kid, who was a total entertainer. Yellowstone was very pretty and all, but we probably would've had as much fun sitting under a random tree and catching up.

But i've kind of decided this is not the place i want to live and grow old in. There is something missing with life here, and i can't quite place my finger on that. When push comes to shove, i'll pack my bags again. And it'll come to shove latest by the early part of next year. Until then i shall find ways and means to amuse myself. I intend to take a year's break before 35. I am increasingly inclined to do that earlier rather than later, so that'll probably be my next step. I have a vague business idea. It is something i can work on on my own while i am on the move. I am not sure if it'll give me any returns. And i have this huge mind block against being an entrepreneur. But i want to try it out, any which ways. We have one life after all.

K wished me peace, and all the travel i want, for the year ahead. I think, travel, at least, can be arranged. Hoping to spend my 32nd, sitting by a glacial river, and sipping chaai, adhrak maar ke...

ps: Dear annoyed anonymous commenter. After alcohol and coffee, i've now moved on to ginger tea. Pliss to go easy on me this time around...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keep-alive Post

In networking, when A and B are talking a protocol, typically, besides exchanging a bunch of information mandated by the protocol, they exchange frequent meaningless small sized hellos. This is a keep-alive mechanism. When A doesn't hear from B for a threshold time, it decides to forget all about B, and cleans up anything that it picked up from B. If and when B comes back up, it has to start from scratch and re-establish everything with A, which is expensive. This is a keep-alive post.

When i was leaving chennai, I imagined myself two months hence, standing in the balcony of a studio apartment, drinking coffee, and missing the flurry of activities that the view from my Mandaveli balcony had offered me, and the goodness of the coffee i would have been drinking back home. I was wrong on two counts. In my head, the view from my studio's balcony was a lot prettier. In reality i get a panaromic view of a grim black floored parking lot. And you do get decent coffee powder to make good filter coffee with ('Barefoot coffee', thank you).

A shoulder injury from a nasty fall i had, playing ultimate back in Jan, is keeping me out of any kind of action, which is a big time bummer. Met a chinese physio, who referred me to a chinese doctor who would refer me back to the chinese physio, so that the non-chinese insurers would pay for my treatment. Why are these things so complicated?! And the doctor's name is Ooyang. I never thought i'd have to see a doctor who called himself Ooyang. For me Ooyang would be a ping-pong player or a martial arts expert. A Dr. Ram Prasad or Dr. Sundar is more like it. I hope it all ends happily ever after with me throwing a disc or playing in the Milpitas table tennis circuit or both. For lack of anything else to do, and the relative scarcity of cubicle conferences about inane things, i actually managed to do more work in the past 2 months, than the preceding 4-5 months in Chennai. My boss in chennai is probably reading this, but i guess he knows this without my having to tell him!

Life has been as boring as this post, if not more. But i did attempt to 'do' a few things. Like watching a baseball game live in Oakland stadium (and getting terribly bored). And seeing a bunch of folks dressed in weird outfits, or none at all, and running or walking an 8 mile stretch, in what is called 'Bay to breakers'. There was so much weirdness that by the end of it normal looked very interesting. And i was wondering what drove people to do all this. Then i paid sizeable money to watch herbivores from africa like goats and cows (there was the occasional sleeping tiger or docile rhino thrown in), with a white lady working extra hard to make it all seem interesting. Since the animals weren't interesting enough, she spoke about the Jeep we were riding in, and about it's association with WWII. I could only think of the Bisons and Bears and Banded Kraits and the Elephants spotted in the wild during treks in Perambikulam and Himalayas.

In an attempt to make life better, i bought a shiny new old car in 2 hours' time(inclusive of search, 'analysis' and the actual purchase, i am pretty quick and stupid with such things actually). Thanks G for the ride and all the knowledgable questions and the negotiation.

I guess coming here as a curious excited impressionable 21 year old is a lot different from coming here as a more grounded 30 year old. When you see everything in order, working like clock work, you don't go "Wow! It's all so organized. When will India be like this?". Instead you go "Can these guys survive even a minor entropy?", and actually take pride in the presence of some coherence in all that clamour back home. And when you see the ever friendly smiles and the waving hands, you wonder if the smiles will become grimaces and the waving hands would become clenched fists when excesses turn into scarcity. I give it to them for building this kind of order and discipline, but i can't help wondering what would happen if that order is shaken up by an external event. An average driver is not equipped to handle an unexpected car that strays from it's lane. Extrapolating it to other aspects of life is scary.

I am hoping to make this a worthwhile stay, and try and live out some interesting experiences for the time i am here. Let's see how it goes...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Move, Actually

The first sip of the sour orange juice that the stewardess gave him, reminded him of the last visit to the land he was headed to. He had some compulsive taste-place associations. Jalebis reminded him of Hyderabad. Cup-O-Noodles reminded him of Japan, and sometimes, of the happy treks in the western ghats in Karnataka.And sour orange juice always transported him to the US. He couldn't help smiling at the title of the book he was reading. Rohinton Mistry's 'Such a long journey'.

He saw a middle aged couple from his land at the Heathrow airport, in transit. The man was wearing a Black T-shirt that said 'I heart New York' in White. And his wife was wearing a Grey T-shirt that said 'I heart New York' in Black. Very amusing it was, he thought, to see a couple wearing matching Tees at forty. At some point, he was looking forward to this move to the US. But when you look forward to something long enough, you cease to look forward to it. He had started making alternate plans that started to seem more appealing. Like moving to Bangalore. Bouldering and ultimate frisbee with K and crowd. Random treks, beer, and conversations with K. Hanging around friends/travel companions who'll have interesting tales to tell (of building a porn site, or the education system in Timbuktu, or how a kitchen cabinet is built with bare hands). And drinking with this friend who could break into a Lady Macbeth monologue in the middle of a drink, and make everyone in the bar look in their direction. But then a door to the US suddenly opened up. So he thought of surfing and community colleges and a shift to product engineering and hanging around sis and bil, and the money. Ofcourse the money he could make and the resultant time he could afford to be off work once back home, and do that year's travel around India atleast before 35. And so he boarded a plane to San Francisco. Still wondering if he should've tried moving to Bangalore instead. But he tells himself, that if things don't fall in place, he can always catch the next flight back home, and is already thinking of all the things he should be doing once he heads back home, Sikkim, to start with. He is probably just designed to live in transit.

So sharks, if any, in Santa cruz and Half moon bay, please be nice to him. And the happy harmless fishes of Thiruvanmayur, he wouldn't be gone for too long, so you'll get back the human feet to nibble at.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pulicat a.k.a Pazhaverkadu

I went on a trip to Hampi for 2007's new year. I spent the new years' eve on a train from Hospet to Bangalore, talking to a middle aged Bengali woman, a young English cartoonist and a businessman from Hospet who found it weird that the three of us had come to Hampi on our own for no specific reason. It was a fun trip and i thought i should do something like that every year for new years', unless i had something better to do. I promptly did nothing in 2008. Ermm i think i watched putthaandu sirappu nigazhchigal ('new year special programmes' for the tamil challenged) on sun tv and saw people burst crackers on TV. I switched to DD Podhigai and saw a woman sadly doing the lots for a new year special game show. She seemed truly bored with the proceedings. Very exciting it was.

This year i decided to go to Pulicat lake. That's the second largest salt water lake in India (the largest being Chilka lake in Orissa), and is a Bird sanctuary. So i started driving down to Pulicat on 31st evening. Got lost. Asked a couple of parotta shop guys on NH5 where Pulicat was. They had no clue. Then i asked for Pazhaverkadu, and they gave me precise directions. Reached Pulicat at 10 pm. The only lodge there would be ready for occupation by March 2009! A tea shop guy asked me to sleep in my car. He said that that would ensure safety for the car and myself. That didn't sound too encouraging, so i backtracked to Ponneri (a village 17 km from Pulicat). Ponneri had a lodge but a murder had happened there a couple of days before and they wouldn't let me stay ('Police order sir'). Plus they kept asking me who was in the car (even after i had told them there was no one else). I wouldn't blame them. Guys stay with parents. Girls stay with parents. So guys and girls usually go all the way to Pulicat or Mahabalipuram to just make out, and some hotel owners are very uncomfortable with the idea. Anyways one saviour told me about this motel on NH5 near the check post. 'Chaitanya' it was called, and it was a welcome sight. They had rooms available, and they even had a bar. After checking in i headed to the bar. When i entered four drunk lawyers were arguing loudly about something. I had a beer sent to my room. I didn't want to welcome the new year from a 10ft x 7ft room. So i walked out to NH5 to welcome the year from a highway tea kadai there, a tea and the only cigarrette for the year in hand. Random guys were getting off cars and launching rockets from the median of NH5 at midnight to usher in the year. The highway suddenly wore a festive look and it was nice to be in the middle of all that as an onlooker. I messaged K wishing her more of Himalayas and other mountains and less of confusions for the year, and headed back to my room.

The drive to Pulicat early next day was beautiful. It was amazing to drive through vast expanses of fields dotted with birds early in the morning. I saw more birds en route to pulicat than in pulicat.

I hired a boat from the first guy who approached me. Boatman Khalsa has 3 daughters, and wants to make enough money to marry them off. For this part of the story i parted with 50 rupees more than the agreed amount. But he was a generally happy guy, and was thankful to the tourists because that's increased his income multifold. And he was thankful to mobile phones which, he says, is a big plus in his business. He gave a mouthful to the government and some environment protection agencies though, for stopping a bridge construction across the lake that would have helped kids attend school during the rains. And helped vehicular traffic scare birds off from that part of the sanctuary permanently probably. Now, the kids wade through knee deep water to get to school so that the birds can stay.

I wanted to see a lot of Flamingos in all their pinkness. I spotted 5 million fishermen and 1 Flamingo. I did see quite a few grey and white and black birds whose names i didn't know. But they weren't pink. There was this one trip i did with a bunch of random school kids, to Perambikulam wildlife sanctuary. We were at a place full of birds, where Salim Ali had apparently camped, and there was this sciene teacher who went 'Sir, inga evlo kuruvinga paarungalaen' ('Sir, look, there are so many sparrows here!'), unmindful of what birds they really were. I felt as ignorant as that science teacher.

Once we were done with standing in mostly birdless island patches, and were back in proper land, Khalsa asked me not to leave without eating Pulicat's Prawn biryani. He said, with sufficient notice, he could even prepare a grand sea-food meal if i came there with friends sometime. He was truly distressed when i told him i was a veggie. 'Verum soru kaay ela mattum saaptu eppdi sir irukkeenga? Naakku sethudaathu?' was his genuine concern :). ('How can you survive on just rice and vegetables and leaves? Won't your tongue die?'...ok, all this translation is very tiring)...

Then there was this Dutch cemetery, rather obscure in it's presence. The Dutch controlled Pulicat between the 1600s and 1800s. The cemetery, which is maintained by ASI, was locked, so i had to jump over it's gate to get in. I feel a sense of peace when i see cemeteries. Maybe it is the finality of the place. There was an old man in white, sleeping in the shade of the grandest tomb there. Most tombstones had metallic tops that shut the dead tight. I was reminded of Rachel from 'The unbearable lightness of being', who hates the idea of being pressed to the earth and being shut. Instead she wants to be burnt and wants her ashes thrown to the wind...

I'll have to go back to Pulicat sometime to get my eyes' fill of Flamingos. But despite the birdlessness, i thought the trip had enough moments to make it totally worthwhile...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

God Goats Humans Kids

B takes his son to St.Thomas mount. That's a small hillock in chennai where St. Thomas was allegedly killed. There is a church built by the portuguese at the summit. And there is this tall, fiarly imposing statue of a Golden colored Jesus. So B's son sees people praying to the statue and asks B if he could too. B agrees. So the kid apparently brings his palms together, in standard Hindu prayer style, and tries to reach out to Jesus with a non-silent 'Gajaananam Bootha ganaathi saevitham'* shloka**! :). Funny and profound, no?

I don't know if Jesus or Ganesha had gotten confused, but adult humans are certainly a confused lot. In the context of the above incident, the basis of a lot of recent ill happenings seem ridiculous.In 'The unbearable lightness of being', Milan Kundera says that how someone treats those weaker to him/her determine's his/her niceness. He goes on to say that the human race is pretty much screwed up going by the way it treats animals. He talks about a more powerful species (hypothetical) coming in and treating us the way we treat, say, hens and goats and rats and guinea pigs, or something to that effect. 'Half a kilo boy meat, preferably thigh piece', someone from that species could say. Or use 20 year old women as 'guinea pigs' for untried drugs. Their biology classes could include dissection of 3 year olds to understand the human digestive system. Morbid, no? But we have Darwin, Survival of the fittest, Food cycle, Food web et al to explain the whole thing. OK, i could use some LSD now.

Anyways, all trash aside, the image of a kid saying 'Gajananam' to Jesus atop St.Thomas mount seems idyllic, and brings a smile. On that note, happy 2009 people.

*Shloka - A sanskrit hymn...
*Gajaananam - A shloka on Lord Ganesha...