August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

We need to believe that anything is possible; that there are infinite possibilities. That we will never know what’s going to happen next, and not force our lives to become slaves to suppositions planted by society and it’s talismans. At times, the world seems to be crumbling under its own weight, and life a series of disappointments, all seemingly aimed at boxing you in, as if you were the problem with it. But that isn’t so. When the world around you starts hitting out, it recognizes you. And when it finds that you aren’t conforming to what it deems as your life, and bounded possibilities, it wants to rein you in. For long you fight the world by its terms, but there comes a point, when you realise that there is more to you than this fight against the world, and the way you see it changes. You realise you don’t need to fight the world on its terms. You can do it by yours. The question is always what does it take to do it your way. When you  know what you are willing to give, and what it means to you, the world will respond to it. It will allow you to carve yourself some space, because it thinks it has placed you. But it hasn’t. You know it, it does not. The possibilities are infinite, and you need to remember, however lonely the night is, there is someone there –  you.

May in Madras

May 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

When it rains in mid-summer,  Madras sighs, half in relief, half in wont reminiscences. This rain, let out like old alcohol bought in another season, to celebrate another joyous eve, first strikes with the smell, a petrichor, a de javu, of a November day- breezy and clay lamps which struggle to remain lit. And when you taste it, at the tip of the tongue, the air is no more languid, but fresh, vigorous, and resplendent. The harsh light is kept out by a curtain of clouds, and the shadows longer as if the sun was further South, and the tempers of precarious Bay, waiting to blow out.

This is May, in Madras. You can call it Chennai if you want, but the ring of the word, without the harsh Che is more of this city- not the incessant cacophony of horns, but the amorous sea-breeze than reminds you of shores on which Occidental flags fluttered and gyrated to the tolling of ancient bells, and the braying of donkeys, diligently carrying laundry.

This city, in this month, when tempers flare, and you perspire without effort- as if you are born into success; and the smoke of camphor and agarbatti prevail in the narrow lanes, brings upon a languid hope. That tired, strained hope, which some find in a heavy meal after religious excesses. That wish after noon, for the school day to get over, or at best for the Maths teacher to disappear.

The waves in the beach of Madras, diligently crash, again and again- the troughs and tides, make their own pace, unhurried by the liners, or excited children, angry parents, hidden lovers, or drunk men caught in the nets of boats they may not own. The crests, shoved away, by the over-crowded port on which a canny English man once found a place to stretch his leg, and measured an empire that never set- creep in, year by year, till a time they shall swallow with a tumultuous crash, the old fort, and Santome.

The simmering heat is a memoir of those days- of history, and childhood, of myths, and veritable veshti-clad  old-age. And year, on year, it comes again, and the thirst just becomes more, and more. Till an insatiable  day, when nothing can be quenched, except the land that is the city, and her people, their boisterous pride and nine yards of contemptuous vanity.





March 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

We have become creatures who no more can find the beauty in life, no more look into the mirror and smile at ourselves as free beings. We enslave ourselves in crass expectations,  we bind ourselves in social limits and petty empty words which mean nothing to anyone. We aren’t truthful or honest, we lie, and lie more, and then lie to ourselves that our lies are the truth, and by that we expect ourselves to live and conquer.

I’m utopian. As utopian as I was when I was a teen, a child. There was a point where I almost mistook Rand’s Utopia to be what I dreamt of, but then realised that wasn’t it. Those who still hold by that, would call me a sore loser- after all, by a measure of absolutes, I have my share of blunders, but by a measure of personal time and belief, I believe I am not. I wouldn’t say I have succeeded in doing anything of significance, but I would certainly say I haven’t failed- I still believe in humanity and that we possess that something it takes to be nice to each other.

What remains certain though, is not to expect it from individuals. No, not holding people not responsible for their words and actions, but to not expect them to be what you see as desirable. We need compassion, and by that, to put yourself out there and be hurt, again and again, again and again- it is not masochism, it isn’t to make yourself feel good- it is to remember that what separates the merely alive, from those that yearn pleasure and meaning, is to give to another, as if to oneself.

The intellect in itself is of no use, if the mind lacks compassion. All the intelligence in the world, will foster nothing if it fails to emerge from a larger human consciousness, that which serves life and our living. To hate the intellect and the intellectual is to pollute the river that feeds us, to cut the forests that gave birth to us, and to claim the barren fat land as scared and unpolluted. We are all nothing than a sum of those atoms, those almost unimaginable quarks, in a seemingly infinite universe of those. Our significance is bound to our world and what we know, as much as it is for a myopic lizard. And when we fail to appreciate that there is much more than we know, and destroy the words from the  human mind that tell us so, we are but heading towards self-destruction.

Belum caves and Gandikota

February 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

The Andhra Pradesh border is about 50-60kms from my house. Yet, I have never really been anywhere in Andhra, except Tirupati and Pulicat lake. Aswath and I have been planning a trip to Gandikota for a couple of years now. And when both us finally found the time(Pongalo-Pongal) we decided to explore the unexplored, the mystical, the late-breakfast eating state of Andhra. We recruited Venkatadri to balance the weight in the car and as a handy bodyguard in case my hindi/telugu/pidgin ended up getting us in trouble. Truth be told, both Aswath and Venkat speak pretty good  passable Hindi, while I will tell you to go inside the bridge(as against under) because it will surely lead you onto the highway to Hogwarts. We didn’t really use much of our rudimentary Telugu- to our surprise almost everyone we encountered seem to know Hindi or generally understand what we were trying to say. Of course, I’m still not sure which language I spoke in- more of a mish-mash of everything I know- for all I know, I might have sung Malare to some unsuspecting cop.


The ideal plan is to stay at Gandikota, catch the sunrise, go to Belum and return to Chennai. However, the only resort at Gandikota was full and we decided to stay at Kadapa instead. Not so bad, since Kadapa is about 250kms from Chennai and it was 6:30pm by the time we rolled into town- considering the condition of the road between Kadapa and Gandikota, it wouldn’t have been wise to drive there in the dark anyway. The drive from Chennai to Kadapa takes about 4-4:30hrs. The drive between Reinugunta and Kadapa in the evening was lovely. One thing though- throughout the trip we had to watch out for unmarked big speed-breakers on the highway. At one point Venk even considered buying an helmet. We found a lodging- hotel Ziara through Tripadvisor and after being given the runaround by Google navs through narrow market street, we found our way to it. A charming 8th grade kid, the brother of the owner(I’m guessing) showed us the way to dinner(a certain Meenakshi place) where we had humongous barottas.


Somewhere near Rajampetta

A photo posted by Vishesh Unni Raghunathan (@poeticgooner) on


The next day, being true Chennai boys, Aswath and Venk, decided we shall start early. Early being seven in the morning. Now, Tamil Nadu is a state which is notoriously early. You will find shops open at five and people generally getting on with their lives, like brushing their teeth while riding a bike, reading paper at the local tea stall or waiting for the first bus at four in the morning. Evidently not in Andhra. The hotel guys were sweet enough to make us some coffee before we left, and that’s all there was till about 8:30am in a random village where we had breakfast.  We changed our plan- there was no point in going to Gandikota first since we had anyway missed the sunrise. Instead we drove to Belum caves. You take the Kadapa-Kurnool four-lane highway for about 36 kms and then have to take a left(there’s a detour involved and google map’s navigation is correct), you drive past Jammalamadugu and take the Tadipatri-Jammalamadugu highway- the road here is mostly decent. There isn’t much of traffic and you pass through a few villages. A highway is under construction, so there are a few diversions along the road.  After 85kms on the road, take a right at Kolimigundla and in about 5kms you will reach Belum caves.


A village where we had breakfast on the way to Belum caves.

A photo posted by Vishesh Unni Raghunathan (@poeticgooner) on

Belum caves is the largest cave in the Indian plains, and has those pointy-pointy(Stalagmite and Stalactite) rock formations.  The caves are made of Kadapa stones(black limestone) and carved by random superpower which rules the universe, homo sculperus WATER. Considering we did not have to cross Silk board, TIDEL park or any of those awful signals, we made it in record time-9am- only to find that the place did not open till 10am. But being the bony (first sales) for the day has its advantages- by the time we left the caves, the place was infested filled with tourists. Add to this that the temperature inside is around 33C and humidity at Chennai-summer level, it could turn out to be not-so-pleasant trip. But it is fascinating. To think that water did this over millions of years, is mind-blowing and almost unimaginable( cue a few million years long movie with nothing but water flowing through the caves). Of course, some humans did feel the need to put their name on it and claim it as their work:-

writing on the wall



After the humbling experience of the caves, we headed out to Gandikota. You head back to Jammalamadugu, go into town and take the Muddanur road. Once you cross the Pennar river, take a right- the road ends at Gandikota. The trip is 60kms long and takes about an hour. The road up to Gandikota is  a winding road, which looked specially lovely in the evening. Having had only a sparse breakfast we dug into some Andhra meals at the Harita resort in Gandikota. The place was teeming with families, bikers and other sorts of humans who had all had the same idea as us. After napping for a while in the car, we finally walked up to the gorge. What a brilliant sight it was! For the second time in the day we were stunned by the power of water. And well, you just feel inconsequential in general- the world has been around for far too long, things have been happening anyway and the big bang happened so long ago, and the universe is still expanding- and just wait for the day we find out the quasars aren’t moving out any faster, but heading back in(okay, highly unlikely a) that will happen b) that will happen now, even if it were to happen).

Anyway, after being humbled beyond origins and meaning of life and what not, we clicked pictures with our fancy-ass camera and mobile, grumbled about the litter, got into the car drove back. (not before I shot this pic) –

On the way back from Gandikota. #gandikota #travel #andhrapradesh #india #eveninglight #evening #sunlight

A photo posted by Vishesh Unni Raghunathan (@poeticgooner) on


The 90kms drive from Gandikota to Kadapa is bad. The road till Yerraguntla is terrible- a highway is under construction and majority of the paving was removed. Yerraguntla to Kadapa wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that there are unmarked speed-breakers which you have to wary of and there is a lot of lorry traffic with big blinding headlights. After getting suitable lost in trying to find the place we had dinner the previous night, we found another place to eat. If you are going to stay at Kadapa, I would recommend you stay near the bus stand, although the hotel we stayed at(Hotel Ziara) was good. The city does have KFC, dominos etc for those you who need your does of vapid fast food.

The next day, we found out again that Andhra just isn’t the place for early breakfast- this time at 8am, inside Kadapa city. After a quick grab at a small tea-stall-esque place, we headed back to Chennai. On the way we stopped at Kodandarama temple in Vontimitta- while I managed to get away with it, they don’t allow you to enter the temple if you are wearing shorts. We were also stopped at checkpoints to see if were smuggling red sanders. We weren’t.

Gandikota- click on photo to open album

Memories, of your memories

January 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Memories, of your memories.

I stand beneath that gopuram, between these pillars and ask the silence to tell me, of those days when you hid and played, unseen.

The breeze that blows is filled with the smoke of vehicles, the pillars have been reinforced by concrete and those who seek redemption drop rupees and not annas. This is a world which won’t allow me in without you- the family home is now something else- claimed by wont and avarice of those who sought more than memories and peace. The streets are dirty and the cars line the way, I try to imagine your life, as it could have been, under an emperor and a queen, protected by your namesake, under the vestiges of ancient beliefs.

The time you survived small pox and the man who said you would live albeit your world all but giving up- I cannot think of such a man, or the fact that he was a tenant on our family lands. People have measured you in your life by everything you didn’t do, and you could have done, but you lived a man of beliefs- of a secular life, equality and most of all, excellence in mind and thought. You taught me history, you told me the ways of the world, and gave me stories. And you gave me a philosophy, you gave me a heirloom which none else could have done. For long I felt it was a burden, but in that I found emancipation. I wish I could talk to you about what I feel now, where I stand and what want- at the dining table, just you and I.

I don’t know whose pillars these are, but you were mine. This land, it holds history which stretches far, and the river which flows has reigned the veins of many a maverick.

Do I belong here? You did. I belonged to you, as only a grandson can. Who else would entertain every foible of mine?

Memories, of your memories. I live with them, unburdened now. In them I see who I could be. I am what I am today because of who you were.

3 January went by, but it was unlike any other day, for your birthday will always be special to me. Now, I write, with a tear in my eyes, for none can be you for me(or I for you.)

We humans tend to glorify life, and for its sake death. But, no grandeur can last longer than the last breath. Our histories are ours. To the rest they are but stories and tales, a once upon a time. And in my history there is you, and your stories. In your last breath, you reached for what you believed. I hope in mine, I do the same.

Memories, of your memories.


January 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Mumbling songs whose spirits I admire, whose words I love, but the Master they speak of, I believe not.

And yet there is a hope, and a sense of fantastical happiness that overtakes me, as I enter that world within, in that space between my ears, where the effervescent notes dance in hypnotic embrace.

To this music, I owe a freedom and in it I am unbound and alive.

I live not a moment; not a while, but just live- for time ceases to exist but as a steady thalam. In that sounds and silences I find that life is but what you make it to be;

and all you don’t want, a bad dream, forgotten in true awakening.

Realisations and such

July 14, 2015 § 6 Comments

On Saturday I will be turning twenty-four. A lot has changed in my life, but amongst those which haven’t is the urge to write. I still write a lot- in my head. It is a weird process, but one which is most fulfilling. The fact that technology hasn’t invaded our heads is fortunate, else even that would be captured and put out in the web. Paper is a lovely option, but this is more about not putting pen to paper and just losing yourself to the words. Music has been essential in me discovering this. Anyway, that’s for another time.

Amongst what has changed is the way I see the world. The idealist me still exists. My belief system hasn’t changed. But what has changed is the way I deal with people and the world. The ropes that bind(freedom, rights, independence etc) are such that one needs to be suspicious if it is too long, fight if it is too short, or be left wondering what is the right length. But as you go along you try to get a grip of it. Ultimately nobody knows, and what’s essential is to enjoy the process. Along the way I have learnt a few things, some on my own and some through people- you know who you are, and I am glad that you allowed me to be a part of your life. This isn’t a definitive list or in any order,

a) No self-pity.

b) The world owes you nothing.

c) You can have no friends or a seemingly endless list of people, but you got to deal with yourself. You owe yourself something- enough care to be with yourself.

d) Your happiness is important. You may derive happiness through people, but don’t expect people to make you happy.

e) You care for people, but there is a line beyond which you can’t do anything for them. No, you haven’t failed.

f) There’s much wrong, but there’s also much right. Anger shows you care, but you need to bear in mind that actions have consequences; think things through. Respond and not react.

g) People will go away. Some forever, some for a while. You don’t control them neither are you controlled by them.

h) What’s here today can be destroyed in seconds. Look at the sky- there is a universe out there you don’t know.

i) Be nice to people, but don’t expect people to be nice to you. You will encounter rude people, hateful people- be firm but don’t lose your manners.

j) There’s no point in getting stuck. Space is in the mind.

k) Believe in yourself. You will fail, again and again, but don’t stop believing.

l) Hope is that which makes you want to get out of bed. There are those days when you don’t want to- let it be, you soon will.


I am at a stage where I don’t depend on people for happiness. And that’s not sad, bad or mad. There’s a contentment in that. I take comfort in music, writing, art and the shadows thrown by my reading light. I think of old stone and new- of Hampi and of the Himalayas. We are in an age when everything is shared, told, advertised and success is that which someone else is surely jealous of. The world is gluttonous, and there’s a clamour for privilege- I cannot escape this, but I can ensure that it doesn’t consume you.

To Life and Hope,



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