Take a deep breath

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Inspired by this post on brainpickings.

It is indeed worth pondering that we as a civilisation have lost the ability to live apart from time. Time, not that inexplicable thing which over which tectonic plates move, but time of the red queen sort. Evolution tells us we cannot wait a moment, that we have to keep running. And we run- towards an apparent goal, away from things we despise. Yet, we are always far from where intend to be, and rather too close to where we don’t want to be. Let it be financial goals, or career goals, or even personal goals,  we fail to achieve what we want.

We have come to measure success in weird terms, like the number of houses you have or your bank balance. But, success as a race, as a species should be in our ability to coexist and progress, to live in happiness, with strong health, mental and physical. We define happiness in weird ways, and seek to sooth our despair in vestigial rules, while losing focus on what truly matters. We try to replicate supposed happiness our forefathers had through rituals, or we try to fight it all, and claim that the present is all that matters. But ultimately, very few of us are happy. We lie to ourselves.

We live in fear of failure, as individuals, as a society, as a nation, as a species. Our music reflects this, our movies do, our arts do- everything around us is a tribute to the apparent conquest of our fears, although we never quite do so. Fueled by this, we run, we give in to time; we run till we fall; we run till we end up in a hospital bed and hear that the insurance doesn’t cover our treatment. Our savings for a better future are lost in a supposed cure, and your legacy ends up being a bunch of photographs which fade too fast, because today’s corny capitalism requires things to be perishable.

We have come to view ‘work’ as effective use of time. And for this we try to suck the life out, put our spirits in a cage and lose touch with our better selves. This work is nothing more than being a clog in the system, a merciless martix which we have created and we run. All but a few live outside this, and we chide them as negligent, as far too capricious, and tell ourselves that their happiness is but temporary. We yearn for currency,  whose value changes inexplicably; we yearn for recognition which all too well loses its meaning faster than we seek. We live at such a pace, we live by such precise clocks that all that persists is a vague feeling of uselessness, an insatiable insecurity, prodding us to move on to something better.

Maybe, it is time we take a breath as Neruda says, put things in abeyance like Whitman says. Maybe, it is time as a species we reach out to that part of us which many of us ignore and help ourselves. And from that will stem a recognition of what we have done- the chaos we have created called civilsation. A world of class, of inequalities. If we don’t do something about it, all we would give the future humans is pain, insecurity and nurture the need to destroy it all, in the quest for peace.

The problem we face is not the languages you speak, but the different languages across generations, across cultures, across beliefs. To top that, we fail to listen to each other and scream, and scream, and scream in hope of being heard. In the end, we give in to weapons, we give in to those instruments of fear, to enslave, to shut out what we fail to understand. There’s no pride in what we do, there’s no joy, there is but the war on terror, which we call the war for peace.

 

Excessive cognitive dissonance

June 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Excessive cognitive dissonance.

And as June evaporates away like a bird bath, I miss the rock under which I had been camping. While, writing exams is an endeavour I would rather not undertake again, living in general ignorance(QI! QI!? QI?!) was rather comforting. Since I last wrote a blog, much has happened, with my head turning into a cork on the shiny bottle of sour spirits.

It is just too much of effort to stay inspired. One needs to consciously assimilate inspiration and get worked up enough to care about something. Fiery fire breathing dragons, it is just too much effort! But don’t get me wrong, I am walloping in self pity with tubs of ice cream(turned lactose intolerant recently-LOL), rather I seem to have been kissed by a dementor.

And boy, it is no fun. Except that, simply knowing that this is no fun isn’t enough. It is like a comfort zone- much like trying to stay in bed all day- at some point you are going to get bored and have to get up. Which, I guess means that I have to wait for something to wake me up out of this er…limbo?

What is the point when everything is pointless? Why get inspired, if it is going to be popped by some pesky twerp anyway? Ha, might as well accept that some weirdo riding a bike while brushing his teeth is going to try to knock your bumpers off.

Yawn.

P.S:- Avoiding most people. A weird bout of misanthropy mixed with a general inability to be polite and smile. You might find me talking to myself though. Beware.

Not to be washed away

April 9, 2014 § 1 Comment

He was as crumpled as a paper waiting to be tossed into the infinite mess of the world, when she picked him up, straightened the sheet and read their future, as if the wrinkles were palm lines. She was convent educated, he refused to shave more than once a week. She adored eloquence and finery, while he had an old comb and a worn out toothbrush in his backpack.

He never knew love; and now in the verses she learnt him. His scrawl was a savagery, and yet she liked the t’s. There was a margin none too wide, and the words seemed too afraid to be too far away, lest a stranger makes them part ways.

It was a love like none other, and lasted all for a fleeting moment. And then she noticed the chewing gum, smartly sticking to her white dress. “Ugh,” she said, picking the gum in disgust, rolled the paper and binned it, with vehemence.

Yet, the words seemed to have left a mark, not to be washed away.

Abeyance

April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

Abeyance. I haven’t read much of Walt Whitman, expect a couple of poems, but I do know he loved his abeyance. And in abeyance, I live. Like the patient lizard on the wall, waiting for the mosquitoes to make their way within its reach. Of course, there are plenty of mosquitoes for him to feast on, while I am still not sure what the metaphorical mosquitoes are supposed to be. Abeyance.

Life can be as slow and painful as an animation. Just think of all those drawings, those guys drew. What forced them to spend hours of their existence drawing a guy think, or make her blink? That is scary. Though, not as scary as passing the same accounting entries, day after day, forever. Abeyance.

This isn’t true abeyance. True abeyance was March. After a while, all thoughts of the past and the future went out of my head. I was just there, doing I can’t remember what, just there. The days went by, and another summer was born, screaming, wailing even, its inchoate terrors. Mangoes slowly turned ripe in my neighbour’s house. Their dog though, kept wandering up and down the house, howling at strays, barking at pets, as if it is the third ghost of Christmas. Abeyance.

I really wish I could think of some poem to quote here. Or say something fancy, but my mind dares not to think, lest it betrays itself into territories, too familiar, like power cuts in mid-May afternoons or the adhan when you wrote that particular exam paper. Not them per se, but they are the big gates, which hold a dam like none other- until you read about more desperate ones, as high as ‘scrapers, filled with all that potential- only to be spoilt by toxic humanity. Abeyance.

Some say take life by the horns. if you have read Hemingway, you know the romanticism of bull fighters. If you know my friend, you might have heard about the wonderful tartare they make out of those bulls. Some say, just run away from it all. But life has yet to metamorphose into something as sedate as a bull. I let it be, the embryo slowly growing into a metaphor, nourished by nightmares, all rather murky, like the tax departments. Abeyance.

True abeyance is when words abandon you. Broken glasses and lamp shades comfort you. And with a single malt in hand, you flip through a newspaper and listen to friends talk. Laid back, the house is like childhood cramped into a single photo frame; like that spot you hid for hours, hoping someone would seek. Maybe an aunt, long after the rest have gone to bed. Abeyance.

A moment is all it takes they say. You got to live your moments, because, well, you anyway have to survive them. Morality is like a car waiting to be battered by a rugged, torn football. Leave it there long enough and it is bound to happen. You could, of course, play with the kids and do the damage yourself. That maybe fun and there is none to blame. Abeyance.

The participle. Forever left to define itself, constantly, sentence after sentence. If only, it could just be. But then, it wouldn’t be, would it? Ha! Shakespeare. I don’t remember much, but may I misquote thee? Abeyance.

Firmly, I search for an ending. I am hunting for musical comparisons, but am lost in the strange song that plays within. Maybe it is the heartbeat, counting itself. Maybe, I imagine it. After all, we exist as we think. Abeyance.  

Here and now,

Else, there is nowhere.

Past and astride,

Now, forebear.

Abeyance.

Trolls of March

March 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

left, right, left-Trolls of March, into April we go. Okay, not so loudly, but you get it. Absolutely nothing exciting though, as another summer screams exclamation marks like one of those…

Anyway, I have surprised myself quite a bit, this March. Start trailer, scenes-which-promise-full-censored-X-rated-stuff-right-after -the-9pm-movie-esque, well not really. This month has been about seemingly great opportunities which  rang the door bell and when you run down two floors, huffing and puffing, it is just an unexciting sales person with a flat tone or one of those survey people with a worn out  face who wants to talk to anyone but you. But I have sat through it, unruffled, almost unmoved by the vagaries of life, as the winds Easterlies turned Westerlies(or is it the other way about?). Oh! whatever. The least of the trolls was being served long island, on the rocks, because I asked them to substitute the cola for some juice. That wasn’t so bad, anyway.

This year has been about reading voraciously, but not March. Apart from the complete Maus and three volumes in the Buddha series, I read a book on football tactics(Inverting the pyramid), a couple of children’s books(reviews, coming soon) and a short story collection by Mamang Dai. I suspect April is going to be slow as well, with the exams around the corner again.

I can’t recall what I have been doning in March. It seems like one big blur.  What I do realize though is that I have been happy, mostly. And the two seem to be related. Indifference and I are like <insert random simile with two opposites> but we have come to live with each other. The world is rife with politics, elections and lost planes and conspiracy, but all that is rather too troublesome to process or so my head has decided. And what am I, but an instrument to be used by the head.

Watched this Malayalam movie called Drishyam- one of the best movies I have seen. I would strongly suggest you do watch it Malayalam, as they intend to spoil it grand in Tamil. I also had bhel puri and caramel popcorn at the theater. Not all that blurry, evidently.

Anyway, from cancelling tickets to another country to cancelling local tickets, the month has been…well trolling me. All I have written this month is a poem and nothing else. No photos, no stories, no reviews, nothing. Maybe, I should hunt out one of those month wise calenders, take out March, make a rocket of it and chuck it as far away as possible. I am sure at that particular point, a funny little breeze would decide that it had enough of being little and blow the rocket back straight at me.

Oh! Merchants of hope, summer is here.

 

 

Flat-track Bullies by Balaji Venkataramanan

February 28, 2014 § 1 Comment

Originally published at goodbooks, a website for  reviews, discussions and more on Indian Children’s books. 

Every once in a while, one ends up with a book which sounds promising, gets excited, only to be disappointed in the end. Madras, Chennai, if you want, is my home and it isn’t common to find a children’s book, set here.

The story as such is truthful- Balaji Venkatramanan takes us through the world of IIT classes, cricket coaching, spelling bees etc- the cold, planned summers which are built by zealous, domineering parents for their wards. The book is a journal of Ravi, the child who decides he is to have a few fun things as well, and, along the way learns a few invaluable lessons.

Where the book fails though, is the writing. Children’s books are about children. As such, the best writers for children are great story tellers- they bring to life a world of adventure, discovery and most of all, do not impose adult views of the world on to the story. The author has liberally sprinkled his take on everything under the sun as the view of the narrator. A few examples:

“Storytelling- it’s such a girly session. The less said the better. Only girls and the girl-type guys attend. I am too old and macho for that.”

“Sanaa, though thirteen, is wearing a six-year-old’s top and a five-year-old’s shorts. Seriously, where are they from- Delhi or Denmark? GRUMPY GRAPES I dare not think what they would wear if they went to US or elsewhere.”

“Mom thinks marbles is a game for those who use Indian-style toilets. What skewed logic! But that’s mom for you.”

“One thin AIDS-patient-like guy asked for Suresh’s cigarette to light up his own.”

“Every moron these days can play the keyboard or sing or dance with the exception of me…”

“I do really hate the retired types. The JACKFRUIT retired cases. I think they should keep a warning board in every apartment ‘beware of dogs and retired cases: one barks, the other bites, guess who?”

’Who won it? Was it the yellow-underwear girl or the black-underwear girl?’ Would you believe it? It was our tennis coach”

Not sure what exactly is the author’s intention here, but a plain reading of it, does come out as distasteful, sexist and utterly inappropriate, especially in a children’s book. Not merely the comments, but their position in the book- these could have been done away with entirely and don’t add much to the story. Wonder if the publishing house (Duckbill) holds similar views, considering they have kept it.

Ravi Venkatesan, a twelve year old boy, loves to swear. Of course, there isn’t actual swearing, just names of fruits, as he fears the journal might land up in the hands of his mother. Funny name calling should be fine, but page upon page, we are put through mangoes, grapes and watermelons- bigger the fruit, the more intense the emotion. It is almost tiring even, to imagine an adolescent with such a big gutter mouth. JACKFRUIT tiring.

The strength of the book is the plot. Ravi gives the slip to his parents to play with Durai, the son of his family’s ex-maid and Durai’s friends along with his best friend, Ramesh. The adventures are exciting and fun. We are even taken on a tour of the Mylapore street festival. As the boys lounge in a graveyard and Ravi ensures they win a few bet matches against rivals, the trouble comes when there is a “gang” fight- Ravi and his friends jump into a flat, where a car with broken glass gets them into trouble. The two worlds of Ravi meet, with an obvious ending.

Ravi is also obsessed with breaking coconuts for God, with him offering the tropical fruit for all sorts of favors. Nothing wrong with that, just might not be everyone’s cup of filter coffee, especially when the same thing is repeated over and over and over and over.

While the story as such is exciting, it wasn’t a fun read, as the author keeps tripping on his shoelaces, imposing his sordid views throughout. Overall, the book could have been made to work. Looking at the plot objective, there is nothing wrong with it, in fact the book presents a reality. If the author had kept out his prejudices and merely written the story, the book might have worked.

Let a book consume you

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is a certain comfort in letting a book consume you. You turn into that person who watches all, and yet doesn’t take part in it; except that you do. You let the deaths, the tortures to become your own. You let the joys, those frivolous little things bring happiness. You see people walk into lives and walk out, crushing, churning, screaming, loving, but in the end, it has to end, inevitable.

Is it at the last word on the last page? Or is it when a week later, finally the plot germinates to become complete, to become yours, rather than the writer’s? When the story however strange and alien, becomes your own, to tell, to discuss? Or is it when the story after months shreds everything, and all that remains is that character, that condensed plot, and the emotions condensed to a few frames, to a certain smell, an image maybe?

When is the beginning? The day you first hear of the book, or see its cover in a book store? Or is it when you buy it, steal it or borrow it, to read? Is it when you are through a few pages, when the writing pattern and the tensity are established, when the tempers morph to a familiarity?

The book consumes you. You begin to live it. You are in it. At first it is like adolescent love, but soon it becomes a person, complete. And it becomes a part of you- not as a child, born and separate, not a conjoined twin, but a begin much closer, within you, which exists apart from you, but still with you.

The book finds you and then devours you, slowly. It squiggles into your reality, mercilessly eating into it, opening the cracks and in a while making you change. Out of it, you come, as a different being, one who has gone through the book, literally, musing over, lost to words, which seem to be images, which seem to be sounds, which seem to be smells; but surely they are words?

Let a book consume you. Don’t be afraid of it. It might seem unreal, but it is real. The story is true, the people are alive, whatever the disclaimers tell you- don’t be fooled by the writers, that is what they do. And while it might all seem like an almost forgotten dream, dreamt on a long Sunday, it isn’t really a dream. It is part of you. Let the book consume you.

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