Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
You and I don’t exist in the same world anymore. The most we get is colliding our boundaries on a social networking site, and even then, your life is so distant, so far removed from mine that it’s hard to believe that once we were in the same book, on the same page, even. You and I were last five messages on each other’s phones, and now for whatever reasons, I don’t even think I look at your number anymore.
Even though you have fallen to the wayside, in the television show of my life, you are no longer “featured guest”, I still have occasion to look at what you’re doing and where you’re going. Sometimes, I marvel at the smallness and insularity of our worlds, someone might mention your name to me, in passing, and I pause for a second, just to think about life the way it used to be. We give a lot of thought to lovers—ex and present—but we don’t think that much about friends, especially the ones that used to be.
For the most part, the death of our friendship seemed inevitable. Perhaps it was the wrong choices, perhaps it was just geography, but you, who used to be part of the fibre of my everyday life, have been patched over. Sometimes when I hear a song you used to love, or tell a story that you were a part of, I feel a pang of longing. Not longing for who you are now, in much the same way that I don’t think you give a thought to who I am now, but for who we were then. It’s hard to exist for 24 years without making an equal share of friends and enemies, and while I do think I am blessed in my friendships, having had some for over ten years, I know that it’s not possible to be friends with everyone, all the time.
Sometimes, you might have wronged me, at least in my head. That’s when I feel an absurd sense of proving to you how much better off I am. Look, look at me, look at my photos, look at my cheery status updates, look at my life, I don’t miss you, not one teeny tiny bit.
But the fact of the matter is, we’re getting older, old friend. I’m edging towards my mid-twenties (and sometimes, so are you). Did you ever imagine that we could be thirty? Did you ever imagine that we’d be here and not with each other? And so I realize, that like most things in life, I have to let you go. It’s a small, small world, and we might bump into each other someday—either at your local coffee shop or at mine. But let’s not play the nothing happened charade. Let’s acknowledge each other, either with a nod or a smile, and let’s live our lives, knowing that the other person existed, and that we were, at one point, richer for it.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams."
— Pablo Neruda
Monday, February 1, 2010
For every child who grew up in West Bengal in the 80s and 90s Jyoti Basu was nothing short of a war hero. Left politics would never be the same again in Bengal.
It might seem a bit unfair to judge a towering individual of his stature by the fate of the political movement he left behind. I admire him for 2 reasons; one, for having exercised an unchallenged hold on the politics of West Bengal in a manner unprecedented in politics. This in itself is an achievement. Two, Bengal remained politically immune from communal politics for years.
But no matter what he remained a committed communist, and in doing so cheated Bengal of its simplicity. He was a ruthless political party machine. He overlooked the fact that Bengal’s transition from an agricultural to a non agricultural one would depend upon basic things like health and education. Therefore his rule remains something of a puzzle to me.
But you have to admit that he built a citadel against two enemies: the Congress centralism of Delhi and the exploitation of share croppers in Bengal. His legacy remains monumental despite his regressive policies which drove industrialization out of Bengal. His historic land reforms and spectacular political fortunes still prevent the state to come out of the economic quagmire that Basu led it into. I think he owed his civility to a bhadralok cultural sensibility than to a revolutionary. The Bengali upper classes made their peace with him because he became a mascot of a genial Bengali identity.
What still bothers me is whether his contributions to Indian democracy will survive debates over his ideological fidelity to communism.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Delhi is almost like a dead city during its summer months. In summer I often wondered what still keeps this city going. When I stepped down from the car onto the streets of Chandni Chowk, I instantly knew what.
Chandni Chowk can be called a sub-city of sorts within Delhi. The vibrant colors and dizzyingly delicious fragrances fill up your senses. Not to miss the Hindi love songs jingled beside heartbreaking ghazals, the new lingo you learn while you overhear a ‘maal’ conversation….well, it’s all for free!
Passing through the crowded streets filled with rickshaws, cars, scooters, bikes, dogs and people , it looked like every space seemed to have been put to use, shops selling DVD players and video cameras next to old men at stalls repairing watches or polishing shoes, street food being cooked and served, and the occasional medical and dental shops. You don’t "walk" down these streets but instead you work through the crowds of thousands of other people, it is overwhelming to say the least. So I stood and contemplated the sheer number of people around me in this overheated, dusty, dirty, broken down relic of an imperial city, and let my still reeling mind turn on the fact that this was the poverty in which most of the city lived.
I had decided that that I would venture off into the quaint odd alleys on my own so I waited impatiently for the rest of the group to gather at Karim’s for lunch. Lunch was elaborate with mutton burras, roomali rotis, biriyani, chicken and firni in generous amounts. I think the men made utmost use of this opportunity, the women kept nibbling little of everything. The walk back from Karim’s through Dariba Kalan and Parathe wali galli was interspersed with more food. I guess its okay to keep eating as long as you don’t outweigh your refrigerator!!
Dr. Nigam seemed different today. He took us through the alleys of Chandni Chowk like how a father would take his kids to the zoo for the first time, stopping at just the right places for the rabri, lassi and then at nataraj’s for bhalle and so on so forth. He insisted that we stuff ourselves up with all the awesome street food. Also the number of places that he knew around the place couldn’t be covered in a single day. We missed out on Ghalib ki Haveli, Chitli Kabar and a closer look inside Jama Masjid.
Next came Khari Baoli. This walk would be a chef’s delight or a food lover’s dream walk, as it takes you through the biggest spice market in Asia. I stopped to talk to a local shopkeeper and asked him what Khari Baoli meant and he told me the name of the street indicates that there must have been a step well here and its water would have been salted. Some others said that there was a step well and it was used for washing the cattle, but today I found no trace of any step well there. As i walked down the street, I saw spices displayed outside the numerous small and big shops. Interestingly the shops are known by their number rather than their names or the owner’s name. Though the traders prefer to deal with the wholesale buyers, but they do entertain the retail buyers too. The pickles and the chutneys were mouth watering.
As we walked down the busy road and smiled at some friendly passersby, I realized that this wild, magical and subtly shocking place did for me what Gregory David Robert’s Bombay did for him. I came across a lot of ‘lin Babas’ and a lot of ‘Prabhakers’ and I mused if Chandni Chowk failed to fill up my senses, nothing ever would.
Strangely, I was far from exhausted and came back to the office to sit with the tech team for more work on the website.
For a few more glimpses go here.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
People and places have strange ways of creeping into our lives. After 5 months of being in Delhi, I have finally found companionship in places I least expected. It’s strange how some people who you never thought would remotely interest you become dear friends. What those Saturdays have done for me is beyond words really.
I think I had the toughest time with the relaxation exercise at the end of every session, I just couldn’t see what you wanted me to see. It would make me revisit all my painful memories since childhood, parents getting divorced, losing a best friend to car accident, adolescent crushes that never became relationships, breaking up with the ones that actually did and so on. I remember breaking down after your session once and telling you about it. I still haven’t quite figured that out.
Your sessions were breaths of fresh air that I frantically kept tossing in oblivious to where it took me. The ability to talk to 36 odd people without judging them is something I have I acquired. The ability to accept my flaws and work towards correcting them is what I am working on. Above all, the sanity to work under pressure situations came through those zillion small inter-personal exercises that you made us do.
I was scared when I started on this journey, now I am calmer. I know that even when the environment gets most malignant, a tiny voice in me will push me further ahead. My immense gratitude to you for having shown me a new “me”.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
So is global warming realy a conspiracy theory? Is Jairam Ramesh listening?