Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Last Hurrah

Twenty seven, twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty. He counted as sugar streamed into his tall Starbucks coffee cup. My latte frothed and fumed as it waited for this brown faced guy to fill up his cup with more sugar and milk in one coffee cup than I consume in a week. While he stirred his coffee, I mimicked him, counting till five, as my dose of sugar fell into my cup. He just smiled at me, and somehow I responded with a smile at his repartee. He said, "Kalpit, PhD student, ISYE." "ISYE is Industrial Engineering, isn't it?" I asked. He said it was so. I nodded and said, "Elaine, freshman, Biology."

I allowed him to sit first. He occupied a chair, and pulled out a textbook from his bag. I considered for a moment if it would be alright to walk and sit with him, or just walk out of the door as I had initially planned to. I guess I was a little unsatisfied with the conversation I had so far. After assuming the identity of eighteen, I had the itch for adventure, and his Eastern self, with a heavy Indian accent, oiled hair, and checked shirt seemed interesting enough that afternoon. So I walked up to him, and asked him, if the seat was occupied. His thick black eyebrows reflected his surprise, though his trained lip just smiled and with a slow dip of head, his eyelids motioned me to sit.

I had fallen into the trap of my momentary curiosity and had nothing to open the conversation with. He looked at me, almost absent mindedly, and yet I felt he was measuring my intent by judging the shade of my embarrassed cheeks. He broke the silence by clearing his throat, shifted his leg, placing the left one over the right one, scratched his chin, and with a forced, but gentle grin, asked me, “How do you find the college so far?” My breath released in a long sigh of relief, and my sigh must have sounded to him as my disappointment at what was being offered to me. So he immediately stated, “First semester is the hardest and trust me, later you will remember the undergraduate years as your best years.” “You think so. I feel stifled in this techie school. I so wanted to be a dancer, but my parents and lack of dance scholarship forced me here,” I told him. My blue eyes did not show him how I was lying through the teeth. I couldn’t even lift a leg, and here I was giving him the impression of being depressed that my dream of dancing was foiled by circumstances.

His face puckered into an expression that showed he sympathized with me and yet wanted me to feel good about what had happened. His baritone was probably sweetened by the amount of sugar his coffee suffered. His words fell in a derived accent, in a melody of strange land, a tune that was more like a hum, like a chant, and I was lost in the tenor of the sound, the timbre of his tones that rose and fell through the waves on his dense eyebrows. I noticed his arms had more hair than I had seen on any man, and he was more respectful in his words than I was used to. He was reassuring me through his words, I was being reassured by what I was sensing without hearing. My breath was like the crumpling coffeecake I was trying to consume.

Suddenly his phone rang and he sang a beautiful hello, and asked the caller to hold for a minute. “It was nice meeting you Elaine. Trust me, you will have a great time here.” He said and while his right hand picked his papers, his left hand held an instrument that transported his words in a language I couldn’t decipher. Maybe he was talking to a female friend, maybe his girlfriend. I had known him only for a few minutes and my heart pined for being the person he was talking to.

A few days later I was traveling in Marta, the local Atlanta train to the airport. This time I was traveling as my normal self, the Consultant in Mckinsey and Co., dressed in the formal wear, black skirt, with a neatly ironed white shirt and carrying my laptop in a handbag as my only luggage. My Atlanta project had lasted only a week, and I was returning to Chicago, my base station. Just before entering the railway station, I had encountered Greek society representatives collecting clothes for aid to kids who had lost everything in Tsunami in some Eastern country. I gifted my baggage to them and felt an exhilaration thinking how a part of my wardrobe would suddenly change. As I sat in the train, I focused on a paperback of Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar, The Clown. I raised my head and suddenly I noticed Kalpit was peering at me from a distance. As my eyes stopped on his face, the recognition beamed on his face and he made his way towards me. I was as overdressed as I was under-prepared for the assault, or what felt like an assault. My construction of being a freshman was dissolving under the oppressive formal wear I was trapped in at that instant.

“Hello Martha,” he said. “Martha?” I tried to sound incredulous. “Yes, Martha. I had seen your profile when we short listed you for Manhattan Associates. You had interviewed with us an year back, and I was supposed to lead the team you were offered a position in. When I saw you in Starbucks that evening, I had recognized you.” His words baffled me, so I spurted out, “But you looked so awkward when you talked to me that day. I was sure I convinced you that I was a freshman, and you were carrying those research articles.”

“Oh yes, I was. I am supposed to defend my PhD dissertation. I got hired a couple of years back and left school without defending my thesis. Having an advisor go through a painful divorce, forces you into situations.” So he hadn’t lied about his being a PhD student, and he had led me through my drama even though he knew who I was. I realized that my perfectly executed foreplay was a fiction and with the disappearance of my Elaine personality, I lost the intense craving I had felt on the other day. There was no time for brooding though, he stared at me through his gold-rimmed glasses, and his smile was celebrating his inflated ego.

“Are you flying somewhere?” I asked him as Marta arrived at the airport. He said, “I am here to pick my fiancée.” We walked together to the lobby, and he told me about his dissertation. My mind was cursing my whims, and at twenty four, I felt myself to be fairly incompetent, for in no airport waited a man for me, in no airport, I would arrive into loving arms and at no home would I arrive to a warm bed and shaved face. He ran forward to embrace his fiancée. I guess the Eastern custom prevented a kiss, but the hug was lasting a lifetime. At last he released her. I went up to them. The fiancée saw me approach. Kalpit turned around to face me. Before he could say anything, I kissed his cheek, spurted “You were wonderful last night,” winked at the fiancée and left a storm behind.

I flew happily and high that day. The last hurrah was mine.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


zindagi ki udher-bun se hi, mein hi paogay zindagi apni!
joe saamnay hai, satya hai, wahi toe hai zindagi apni!

kuch zindagiyaan aage aage daud rahi hai, kuch peechay peechay.
meri kaisi chal rahi hai? daudti fir rahi hai, khushiyon ki gulliyon mein.

anth mein tera kaun hoga?
shubdh prabudh maun hoga.

Under revision
Offline indefinitely

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sapphire earrings

In the sapphire of your earrings
the cost of my this evening,
sparkles like a canto of conscience.

I've bought your smiles at bargains
that rob my nights of honest sleep
and twitch eyebrows, I'd rather not see.

These notes in your lies amuse me;
peering at me through white wine,
your caricature appears dismal, distant.

After tonight, I will part with your sheets.
But today, I'll dip my tongue in the pallette
of fiery hues; pay homage to sappire earrings.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gnat-like thought

My experiments with formal poetry continue, and now I present a verse in a classic form called villanelle, a nineteen line poem, where we have five stanzas of 3 lines each, and sixth stanza has four line. Two lines repeat, as would be visible in my construction. (It is a rewrite of a triolet I posted earlier)

Under revision

Offline indefinitely

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Umrao jaan vs Umrao jaan

A classic by Mujaffar Ali which relies on subtlety is Umrao Jaan. Each actor and actress performs his or her role with an understatement that is poignant and poetic. Each Ghazal and song is crafted by the finest effort of Shahyrar and Khayyam, performed diligently by Asha and Talat, and picturized most elegantly on Rekha by cinematographer Praveen Bhatt. An era is recreated by attention to detail and where the tale is picturized to captivate both heart and head of audience is Umrao Jaan. Most of the actors, and perhaps all of the team involved in the making of the 1981 classic will call it one of their best, if not the best effort.

A blunder by JP Dutta which tries to show every tear that is mere glycerine effect, where melodrama is to a scale that can shame even the most moonstruck Bollywood fan is also Umrao Jaan. The poetry is shoddier than what most drunkards can spell out from cliched verses they have overheard in public toilets. Javed Akhtar must be asked to repent for committing his name to lyrics, it is a stigma, a sin that has marred his name as a poet for life in my books. No excuse for bad art, especially when you are bringing to life a novel that takes pride in creating a world of poetry. Umrao Jaan was the first great Urdu novel and this movie is the greatest insult we can watch to the concept, language and soul of the novel.

Ruswa, the author of 1903 book, must be crying in agony on watching the disgusting potrayal of both his story, and of his own self (Or if he wasn't Ruswa before, he deserves to be now). Anu Malik's characteristic "aaa" type interludes in the music (I almost imagined him thinking of making some remixes where he can insert words like Its raining, its raining), and music itself has you spellbound in imagining the total lack of imagination that the creative (!) team of the movie has.

More importantly the dialogues that lack depth and character have you initially laughing your teeth out. Then as the endless movie drags on, and your encyclopedia of curses runs out, you have tried moving into every position of utmost discomfort in your chair (and thanks to tea in the interval, you are still awake), you watch Bollywood cinema at its overdramatized, cliched, artless, pointless, mindless self. Brevity is the soul of wit, but you can't explain that to a dimwit.

A casting coup itself is more interesting than any coup worth reporting that took place in the history of humankind. Can you believe it? JP Dutta was able to rope in Suneel Shetty in the role of Faiz Ali, the dacoit. What an evocative face, what a celebrated artist! There is no other actor in Bollywood who could have matched up to his performance (;)) obviously he must have been in Dutta's mind when he planned his massacre, I mean the movie. Naseeruddin Shah is perhaps the best actor we have had and to replace him in an immortal role of Gauhar Mirza would have been hard: so Mr Director decided that it is irrelevant who does that act.

Aishwarya manages to look good, can't help it, was born with it, but does her all to make you cringe at her melodrama, which I could blame the director for. Abhishek does well within what he was offered. If you throw out a good hour of the movie, cut out most songs into half or don't repeat the ones that blare out every few minutes, if you scrap many of the dialogues, you will still find a movie that is hard to watch.

I went in to see the movie with lowest of expectations. I didn't expect any miracles, and didn't see any. I have nothing against actors, lyricist, director or music director of the movie, except that I must shout out my resentment in their doing such a shoddy job. Umraojaan is like poetry. Subtlety is the key. Less is more. To evoke, and not to show. To make one imagine, to make one feel is the basic principle. You may fault on a few things, you must not be allowed to do the crime so expensively, so lavishly. With or without contrasting it to old Umraojaan, the verdict is that JP Dutta's Umrao jaan, as Aishwarya's best dialogue in the movie (comes at the very start) puts it, is "kaun umrao, kisski jaan, aur kaisi ada" (Who Umrao, Whose life, and What Style): WORTH IGNORING.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Loving an intelligent woman (Revised)

She remembers it all, the trifles and trivia
and ranks among the best of the intelligesia.
Your every opinion is subject to her scrutiny,
for she knows of each pact, knows each mutiny.

She demands equality of body and spirit
and has thousand citations in her ambit
On chessboard of life, she's mastered all gambits
and will win without fail, for she never submits.

She cares not about your desires and dreams,
she's got her own ends and own trusted means.
She was trained not to be easily satisfied,
and at nothing less than best is she gratified.

She mulls in moods, she calls personal freedom,
and tests, the ideals of inducing you into serfdom.
Her eyelashes obey the planned ploys of her heart,
She speaks in puns. With satire her phrases, start.

She loves your praise, lusts for your soul too,
and dismisses your passions as unpure, untrue.
What can satisfy her is the hardest to possess,
an Einstein head and a Hercules in undress.

She contrasts your each word with the best ever spoken,
and unaccomplished feats are counted as promises broken.
You are thought as spineless, your existance - vain,
if for her, you relinquish nothing, can't adapt or abstain.

Each act is judged against the influence of family history
and your present is scaled by what it offers to posterity.
Even bestial desires in her are tamed by a metaphysical fervor,
or the higher good of humanity maybe required to get her favor.

She can sweep you off your feet, and has charms to mystify you,
she can work magic with words, and if the need be, glorify you.
She will manage your life and accounts to perfection,
no nothing can ever escape, her erudite attention.

By her very nature, she will always be a control freak
and tell you mind your own business in either Latin or Greek
She can love, but her love will compete with her reason,
your every emotional upheavel will arouse her derision.

She will be by your side, but fear of her leaving will remain,
for she will never show, whatever she suffers in her big brain
Maybe poetry, a prized possession or even a source of inspiration
what she makes of you, show if you really deserve her admiration.

To love her true, tease her with Wilde wit, though polished,
and be your sincere self, consciously smart, throughly poised,
loving an intelligent girl is a challenge even for the articulate,
and to win her her requires more than this poet can even postulate.

Revised on 31 Oct, 2005

Previous version was written on 15 Mar, 2005.
I have changed the ending, and formatting, as well as few words here and there:)
The old post is available here:
Loving an intelligent woman has remained equally challenging, though I think I have turned wiser with experience:)

Inside my room

In the disorder of my room,
I've lost my mop, and my broom.
To find them, I need careful digging,
I plan to hire an archealogy team.

In the layers of read articles, scribbled notes
lie many unfinished poems, quotable quotes;
many unsolved problems of soft matter research,
and my valiant attempts at them, you can unearth.

You can find my correspondences with her,
whose leaving has mushroomed cans of beer,
these beer cans piled as pyramids adorn my window,
its hard to hide them, in them, (you know).

This state's acquired by months of neglect,
I treat my chaos with lots of respect.
Here, there are unmarked graves of memories,
must keep them hushed for a few centuries.

Even the duster and the dustbin,
must be reported as dead or missing,
but if all is cleared and all is clean,
where will then reside this chaotic being?

July 04, 2006.
11:00 am;
Motivating myself to clean my room.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

(A long love poem) Part IV

पंक्तियाँ, जैसे पंखुरियाँ
बिखरा आया हूँ
पगडंदियों पर तेरे.

जब चलती आओगी तुम
मेरे गीतों में लिपटी
हैर सुर पर तिराकूंगा मेँ.

तुम कलष-सी भिगोकार मेरे अधरों को
तहर जाना मेरी चौकी के बहुत पास.

मेँ तुम्छें फिर गोद में सजाकर
अपनाय हाथ की चाप पर सुन पाओुन्नगा
तुम्हारी आत्मा के नाद पर झूमती ध्वनियों में
सुन पाओूँगा, वह कविता
जो तुम्हारी अखियों से झाँकती रहती है


panktiyan, jaise pankhuriyan
bikhra aaya hun,
pagdandiyon par tere.

jab chalti aaogi tum
mere geeton mein lipatee
har sur par thirakungaa men.

tum kalsh-si bhigokar mere adhron ko
thahar jaana meri chauki ke bahut paas.

men tumhein fir god mein sajakar
apnay haath ki chaap par sun paaunnga
tumhari aatmaa ke naad par jhoomtee dhvaniyon mein
sun paaungaa, wah kavita
jo tumhari akhiyon se jhaanktee rahti hai.


paktiyan: sentences
pankhuriyan: petals
adharon: lips
kalash: metal pot
dhvaniyon: sounds

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Translated text of Asuph's poem

An impromptu translation to Asuph miyan's poem:

yeh samay hai
baatein bandh karnay ka
kinaaron ki,
kiranoke laharon pa
naachnay ki,
pushpon ki, unki
adhbuth khushboo ki,
chandrma ki, aur
uski aashiqmizzazi ki,
sarkon ki bhi,
unki murti, toot-ti
gayab hoti,
kshitizon mein milti,
nishaaniyon ki.

jab sooraj nikalega
sab, sachmuch
aisa ki hoga
par, koi murakh dekhega
issay naya sa
aur chahega
aur bahar
ke pranaya se
vislakshan shabadon mein

aur kai
kutte billiyon se
kehraate, kaattenge
jeevan ko
prasttr se jeevan ko
joe rakht-heenn hai
hamari tarah

hamari nassein kachchi hai
koi na koi
hamesha unhein nochega
aaj ya kal

pr in sab ki
kabhi hampar bhi
hogi haazir
ek din
ko milegi
ek bematlab maut.


एह समय है
बातें बाँध करनय का
किनारों की,
किरणोके लहरों पा
नाचहनय की,
पुष्पों की, उनकी
आधबुत ख़ुश्बू की,
चंद्रमा की, और
उसकी आशिक़मीज़्ज़ाज़ी की,
सार्कों की भी,
उनकी मूर्ति, टूट-टी
ग़ायब होती,
क्षितिज़ों में मिलती,
निशानियों की.

जब सूरज निकलेगा
सब, सचमुच
ऐसा की होगा
पैर कोई मुरख देखेगा
इससाय नया सा
और चाहेगा
और बाहर
के प्रणाया से
विसलक्षण शबाड़ों में

और कई
कुत्ते बिल्लियों से
केहराते, काततेंगे
जीवन को
प्रस्ततर से जीवन को
जोए राख़्त-हीन्न है
हमारी तरह

हमारी नस्सें कच्ची है
कोई ना कोई
हमेशा उन्हें नोचेगा
आज या कल

प्र इन सब की
कभी हमपर भी
होगी हाज़िर
एक दिन
को मिलेगी
एक बेमतलब मौत.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene is a delightful read, both because of the simplicity of the language and honesty of the tale. Scobie is a middle aged Police Deputy Commissioner, obsessively sincere to his duty, and particularly useless to his book reading wife Louise. The tale is set in a West African colony, where it rains for six months, and apart from loneliness, bugs, roaches, malaria and third world struggles oppress the few white men who reside in the colony. Wilson appears in the colony and takes a liking to Louise. Before he can get anywhere, she leaves for South Africa.

A plot of circumstances makes Scobie's life a mesh where he needs to be the friend of very Yusef he despises and fall in love with twenty years younger, Mrs Rolt, or Helen. By the time his wife decides to return, he is tangled in a desperate struggle between two women, good and bad, his principles and everything he must do to compromise them, and the story proceeds into a realm of beautiful tragedy, leaving the reader spellbound.

There are few most memorable chapters in the novel. One is the description of a game Wilson and Harris invent and play, where they compete to hunt roaches. Other is the last one, where the Heart of Matter leaves you stunned and silenced in its sincere description for how little people matter once they are dead.

There are many sentences that I invariably will remember for a long time. Examples: 1) Virtue, the good life, tempted him in the dark like a sin. 2) Men become twins with age: the past was their common womb: the six months of rain and the six months of sun was the period of their common gestation. They needed only a few words and a few gestures to convey their meaning. 3)The word "pity" is used as loosely as the word "love": the terrible promiscuous passion which so few experience. 4) He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger's life, the interest the young mistake for love. AND LAST, but not the least 5) 'Of two hearts one is always warm and one is always cold: the cold heart is more precious than diamonds: the warm heart has no value and is thrown away.'

Friday, October 13, 2006

River Ya Atlanta

Under revision
Offline indefinitely

9:40 am
Jersey city, NJ
June 24, 2006

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lost in Translation: Nain lad jayi hai

My translation:

I am in love with a fair gujjari
Is turning to dust my whole industry

When eyes clash, in the heart a yearning prospers
As the missile of love rises, boom explosion occurs

If beauty sits in mind, what is crime in that
If I wish to make love to you, what is crime in that
Even I have some rights in the city of love

When eyes clash...

In my heart is the commotion from the askant eye
Without seeing the fair one, sleep doesn't dawn on me
When she is close by, my liver starts throbbing

When eyes clash..

thaik thaik thai thai, thai
dhaak dhinak dhin, taak tinak tin
dhaak dhinak dhin, dhaak dhinak dhin, dhaa!

When eyes meet with beloved, they start dancing
The sweet Ghazal of love, the heart starts singing
When anklet rings, the hips begin shaking

When eyes clash..

When eyes clash, in the heart a yearning prospers
thaik thaik tik thaa

hoy hoy hoy!

The Dhobaniya stole my heart, O Rama, with what magical art
With what magical art, with what enchanting art
The Dhobaniya stole my heart, O Rama, with what magical art

The original lyrics, in Hindi (copied from

laagaa gori gujariyaa se nehaa humaar
hoyi gavaa saaraa chaupat moraa rujagaar

nain lad jainhe to manavaa mein kasak hoibe kari
prem kaa chhuti hai pataakhaa to dhumak hoibe kari
nain lad jainhe

roop ko manamaa basaibaa to buraa kaa hoi hai
tohu se preet lagaibaa to buraa kaa hoi hai
prem ki nagari ma kuchh humaraa bhi haq hoibe kari
nain lad jainhe

hoi gavaa man maa more tirachhi najar kaa hallaa
gori ko dekhe binaa nindiyaa na aavai humakaa
phaans lagi hai to karejavaa ma khatak hoibe kari
nain lad jaihe

thaik thaik thai thai, thai
dhaak dhinak dhin, taak tinak tin
dhaak dhinak dhin, dhaak dhinak dhin, dhaa!

aa.Nkh mil gayii hai sajaniyaa se to naachan lagii hai
pyaar kii miiThii gajal manavaa bhii gaavan lagii hai
jhaa.Njh bajii hai to kamariyaa ma lachak hoibe karii
nain la.D jai.nhe

nainaa jab la.Dii hai to bhaiyyaa man me.n kasak hoibe karii
thaik thaik tik thaa

hoy hoy hoy!

man le gayii re dhobaniyaa raamaa kaisaa jaaduu Daar ke
kaisaa jaaduu Daar ke re, kaisaa Tonaa Daar ke
man le gayii re dhobaniyaa raamaa kaisaa jaaduu Daar ke
man le gayii re dhobaniyaa raamaa kaisaa jaaduu Daar ke

You can watch Dilip Kumar dance as Rafi sings this Shakeel Badayuni song in Naushad's music and cinematorgraphy by Babasaheb, direction of Nitin bose (more about movie itself at )

The Video:

(I wish I could translate better. I hope it provides some flavor of the song to people who cannot understand the Hindi lyrics used in this song).

Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James sketches the account of life and times of most memorable heroine Isabel Archer. Isabel leaves US and arrives in England with her Aunt. Her cousin, Ralph, who ails from tuberculosis takes active interest in her, and Henry James creates highly realistic and entertaining conversations, which shed light into the character and thoughts of both these characters and the uncle and the aunt. The story gets interesting with presence of two suitors, each highly successful in their respective country (US and UK). The dying uncle leaves his neice a fortune, and she finds herself independent enough to pursue her whims and life.

Her marriage to Gilbert Osmond, the events that lead to it and how Isabel comes of age is the reason why Portrait of a Lady is a must read novel for every person. After denying two apt and deserving suitors, Isabel ventures to make a tragic choice and the intricate interplay of her perception or rather lack of it with the circumstances and events makes novel a masterpiece. The strains between the Old Europe and New America, the idiosyncracies associated with each come to fore, both through Isabel's life and through that of her journalist friend's, Henrietta Stackpole's.

Be it plain Pansy, the perfectionist Madame Merle, the cold and practical Aunt, the socialite Countess Gemini, each woman, like Isabel, is portrayed in sufficent detail. The two suitors engage as character studies, while the cousin Ralph is the character that shall stay with me forever. Admirable even in adverse circumstances, he is for me besides Isabel, the greatest creation of Henry James.

The story could have become melodramatic, but that is highly understated. The dialogues could have filled it to make it like screenplay, but James supplies nice descriptions of both the physical world and that of what goes in Isabel's heart to make it substantial. The commentaries on love and marriage that are subtly built into the novel, and the picture of both US and Europe seem quite contemporary. For a novel written in 1881, it shows how acute the observations of the author were, as well as the fact that we, humans, live life with similar choices, mistakes and feelings irrespective of the age. The novel has enough element of suspense, and events unfold in unexpected ways, making each discovery a pleasant or unpleasant surprise.

Having read many bleak American novels, this Henry James novel allows one to see how a Jane Austen type entertainer can be generated with sufficient origanility by a masterful writer. I am spellbound by the analogies in many of the most memorable actresses, espicially in how they make their choices between men.

Four excerpts from novel shows one the essence of the book:

"Justice to a lovely being is after all a florid sort of sentiment."

"She had had a more wondrous vision of him, fed though charmed senses and oh such stirred fancy!- she had not read him right. A certain combination of features had touched her, and in them she had seen most striking of figures. That he was poor and lonely and yet that somehow he was noble- that was what had interested her and seemed to give her her opportunity. There had been an undefinable beauty about him - in his situation, in his mind, in his face. She had felt the same time that he was helpless and ineffectual, but the feeling had taken a form of tenderness which was very flower of respect."

"It was not till the first year of their life together, so admirably intimate at first, had closed she had taken the alarm. Then the shadows had begun to gather; it was as if Osmond delibrately, almost malignantly, had put the lights out one by one."

"How could anything be a pleasure to a woman who knew that she had thrown away her life?"

Monday, September 25, 2006

How a dinner helped

Our acquaintance began with a staged coincidence.
Perceiving her pretty eyes, I changed course
to collide with an old friend. He was kind enough to
have an inconsequential talk with me,
and my efforts at wit, produced a smile
and an inquiry from her. He introduced me
as an old friend, and hurried away without
mentioning her name.

A week later, I was stirring my coffee,
when her smile flashed before me.
Without my friend about her, she made words
that were music and comedy at the same time.
The shimmer on her nosering, the mole
at the root of her neck and her hand movements
made an impression.

When she left, I realized, I had missed
a job interview. The job was meant to help
me pay my bills. Yet I was happily in love
with the idea of dinner at her place.
Romance makes misfortune look so attractive, and
the spirit so dainty.

The rice was undercooked, and my jaws hurt
after making valiant attempts at chewing them.
The vegatable curry was Americanized
by presence of undercooked corn, and lack of spices.
A human system can never digest any cellulose,
though here I ate like a donkey on drugs, who munches
dry stalks of crop, thinking its green grass. She raved
about how little time she spent in preparing what she
though was an original recipie.

Our conversation moved through trails like lost desert storms.
Her stories began to behave like grains of sand in my eyes.
I soon realized that the mirage of her eyes now stirred
no emotion in me. Within ten days, my first impression
had turned into my intellectual embarrassment, and of course,
like a true old friend, I helped that guy, in winning over
the woman with the original corn concoction.

People ask me why I spend so much time in these pursuits.
I tell them that there is merit in learning from ones own follies
and understanding how the unexpected rules the events
related to women in general. The girl remarked later,
that it was splendid for her husband to have such an honest
and dedicated friend. I smiled and pretended that I was delighted
to be of service.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The story of Ramdas

He wore quaint pajamas,
saffron in color, with name of Ram
scribbled in eighteen languages,
in a menagerie of colors.

His mother washed dishes,
cooked for others, cleaned houses,
her spirit was what people paid for –
full of optimism.

He was born, not to worry,
a child in man, a harmless houseguest,
filling birdbath, creating with crayons
a menagerie of colors.

His mother as devotee of Ram,
traveled to Ayodhaya, Varanasi, Mathura, Prayag,
approached Sadhus, miracle workers,
full of optimism.

Last Dussera, he was run over
by a Ram, hurrying to the Ramlila ground.
He celebrated in bloodbath, as Ravana exploded into
a menagerie of colors.

Aug 22, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hazaaron Khwahishain aisi

Mirza Ghalib is undoubtedly unparalleled in his ability to reach both profound thought and feeling through his Ghazals. Here is one of my favorite ones.

HazaaroN KHwahishaiN ‘eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin fir bhee kam nikle

nikalna KHuld se aadam ka sunte aayaiN haiN lekin
bohot be_aabru hokar tere kooche se ham nikle

magar likhwaaye koee usko KHat, to hamse likhawaaye
huee subah aur ghar se kaan par rakhkar qalam nikle

mohabbat meiN naheeN hai farq jeene aur marne kaa
usee ko dekh kar jeete haiN jis kaafir pe dam nikle

KHuda ke waaste parda na kaabe se uThaa zaalim
kaheeN ‘eisa na ho yaaN bhee wohee kaafir sanam nikle

kahaaN maiKHaane ka darwaaza ‘GHalib’ aur kahaaN waaiz
par itana jaante haiN kal wo jaata tha ke ham nikle

(Copied from where you can find both translation and audio for the same)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Of poetry, physics and passions!

I write poetry because I need to. I rewrite poems now, for that is the only way they can become better. This blog started out as a place where I was to put down all my experimental writing. So I posted several Tea Poems, Love stories of my friends series. Served some travelogues and wrote a melodrama. Occasional movie and book reviews, and a bizarre series of graduate student posts. What next?

I am planning to get stricter with poetry posts, so rather than posting run of mill stuff, (which I have done all summer), I will stop posting ok or bad poems. The better ones I have been saving for future, and I am working with Thomas Lux, Chair of Poetry at Tech, to get better at the craft. I had one of the most amazing weeks of my life at a Poetry Workshop/Conference at Sarah Lawrence College in Summer this year. There were a hundred or so poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers and dramatists. Most of them were not only way ahead in their age, experience and expertise, but also have had formal education and publishing experience. The Workshop gave me a lot of perspective into my own writing as well as how works of a writer are judged, appreciated and evaluated. A very humbling experience, and my gratitude is to my mentor, my Gurudev, who has been a tremendous influence in taking the craft seriously. I guess that is another reason not to display my sloppy stuff, for I must match up with the instructions I have been privy to.

My PhD enters the final year. So I guess I should be focussed on doing physics than pursuing other passions. I apologise to all the great bloggers that I haven't read whole summer, due to my attempt to finish my research work. After 24 years in school, I need to figure out ways of getting done:)

Friday, September 01, 2006

ek aashu kavita

(In response to a comment post)

hua hun dhool hi, ab khaakh bhi nahin
jalta tha, dhuan tha, tha khaakh kabhi
kehkashaa meri kahaan se lai hai kahan
julashaa, dhool hua, jaana, mitnay ke baad hi!

mitti mein mila hai, mitti se ugaa tha
mera dil kabhi jaltaa hua ek masla tha
ek faaslay par ruka, jaltaa gaya woh
armaano ko bujhtay, mit-tay waqt laga tha!

hun dhool bhi, raakh bhi, rakt bhi, raas bhi
jitna lagtaa hun nakhush, karta utna parihaas bhi
mere labzon mein na dhoond, woh dhuan ab kahan
hua hun dhool hi, jaaana mit-nay ke baad hi!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hush.. sigh.. hush.

Consciously, I leave your thoughts out.
Yet they chase me into an empty room,
and everytime my face has an arm over it,
I can hear my breathing.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

I think of nothing, no possibilities
dawn at corners of my eyes anymore. The quest
of years has exhausted me. I cannot celebrate
the occasion of your marriage.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

Those memories, like mist, show no vistas of joy.
I feel no suspense of future. Just a dampness fills
my dress. The wind only changes the form of the fog,
pine trees freshly shaken say.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

The beer in my blood keeps me up
dancing on dark floors, in sweaty trance.
I wake up dehydrated, parched. Birds keep
chirping at a distance.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

These meandering thoughts arise from
the rustle of laughters, the ring of old jokes,
mention of a movie, a dinner, a song, that
in my present existance sings.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

So much salty water, that I feel like an ocean.
Boundless. A depth, carved to bear profound joys,
an expense, that can bear every tremor now, while
distress will die out in waves.. Hush.. sigh.. hush.

August 28, 2006
8 pm, Starbucks

Friday, August 25, 2006

Random Couplets in Pahari (Himachali or Mandyaali)

This is a bizarre attempt, and of course, I just typed these without much thought or editing। Pahari comprises of too many dialects, and I guess the one I can understand or speak is prominently spoken in Sarkaghaat in Mandi (or Hattali Valley). Perhaps when I go to India in December, I'll pick more words and see if I can compose some decent verses in our own dialect. For now, few random couplets, for your amusement:)

Poem in Pahari, can you believe it;)?

बडिए, घरा कम्म करने जो कस्ट हुआन
पर रोज़ संझा माला जाना मस् हुआन!

मिंझो ठंडी हवा खाने रा ही चौ हा
रिज़ा पैर हवान व्हीच बड़ाभरी लुफ़्त्त हुआन!

ईयान तां माते चाली ही नी हुंदा,
पैर शिमले री सड़कान दा माहौल मस्त हुआन!

ईना मट यान जो कोई कम्म नी हाया,
क़ुाटरा ज़ाइने टेम काटना औखा हुआन!

हुन्न ता ज़बरा हुई चूकीरा, हालि भी पड़ने लगिरा
इन्ना यूनिवर्सिटी वालया रा, बड़ा लंबा हिसाब हुआन!

देख जे इससा मत्ट इयान जो, कियाँ मटकने लगिरी, देख
ऐई पूरा दिन टीवी देखी देखी ना भेजा कियाँ भ्रसत हुआन!

क्या गलाया रहें तुन्हें, हूँ बुसस भी करा
सभी रे सामने छेरना, ता बतमीज़ी हुआन!

बच्चा आजकाला रे ज़माने क्या नाच नाच्यान हे
सुलफ़ा मारी ने, पूरी रात ना टी ते हुऊँ गच हुआन

सेबा के बाग़ीचाय हाइए मेरे वार ली धारा ते
पार पारलिया धारा खा सूरज करने सेब ज़्यादा मीठा हुआन

घरा जो चलने रा यारा मान ही नी क्ररदा आजकल
कुवारया ल्यई माला पर घूमना ता ज़रूरी हुआन.

बीडसा पार्रिले, या पड़ तू गोवेरमेंट कॉलेजा
तेरे गलाने रे ढंगा ते सब कुछ स्पस्ट हुआन

इन्या ताह मिँज़ो सारे ही मौसम चांगे लगदे
पैर सौना रे महीने बड़ा ही धमाल हुआन!

बाबेक़ बोला ही दादी विवेका जो, ता बुर्रा लगान
बारले मुलका ता विव हुआन, वाई वेक हुआन, विवस हुआन


पाहरिया कियाँ लिखूं, ना लिपि हाइि, ना व्याकरण
मीठि यान बोलिया, मीठे लोगान रा, शब्दान बँधना औखा हुआन

खाने जो कद्दो, पीने जो रेहरू, माह री डाल, ने चीलररु,
इना आगे ता फ़ाइव स्टार होटला रा खाना भू हुआन

नानी बोला ही उँचे उँचे डाल, उँची उँची धारा, उँचे उँचे सपने
डा ना बच्चा, ख़रा कम्म कारीणे ही यश भी उच्चा हुआन

यह सतलुज, व्यास, चेनाब सारे दरया आहें नेकि पाई, बहाई ती
आहां ते पानी बिजली लाई लाई ने पंजाब हरयाणा उपजौ, अमीर हुआन


Baddiye, gharaa kamm karne jo kst huan
Par roz sanjhaa maala jaana mast huan!

Minjho thandi hawa khaane raa hi chau haa
Rija par hawaan which badaabhari luftt huan!

Eeyan taan maatey chaali hi ni hundaa,
Par Shimle ri sadkaan da mahaul mast huan!

Inaa mtt yaan jo koi kamm ni haaya,
Quatraa jaaine tem katna aukhaa huan!

Hunn taa jabraa hui chukiraa, haali bhi padne lagiraa
Innaa yunivarsiti waalaya n raa, bada lamba hisaab huan!

dekh je issa matt iyaan joe, kiyaan matakne lagiri, aa dekh
ai poora din tivi dekhi dekhi na bheja kiyan bhrsat huan!

kya galaya rahen tunhein, hun buss bhi karaa
sabhi re saamne chhernaa, taa batmeezi huan!

O bachchaa aajkalaa re zamane kya naach nachyaan he
Sulafaa maari ne, poori raat Na ti te huun gch huan

O sebaa ke bagichay haiye mere waar li dhaaraa te
Paar paarliya dhaara khaa suraj karne seb jyada mithaa huan

Gharaa jo chalne raa yaaraa man hi ni krrdaa aajkal
kuwaaraya lyai Maalaa par ghumna taa zaroori huan.

Beedsa ch parrile, ya pad tu Goverment Coleja ch
Tere galaane re dhangaa te sab kuch spast huan

Inyaa taah minzo saare hi mausam change lagde
Par sauna re mahine ch badaa hi dhamaal huan!

babek bolaa hi daadi viveka jo, ta burra lagaan
baarle mulka ta viv huan, vai wek huan, vivs huan

pahariya ch kiyan likhun, na lipi haaii, na vyakaran
mithi yan boliya, mithe logan ra, shabdan bandhna aukha huan

khane jo kaddo, peene jo rehru, mah ri daal, ne chilrru,
inaa aage taa faiv staar hotala ra khaana bhoo huan

naani bolaa hi unche unche daal, unchi unchi dhaara, unche unche sapne
ae daa na bachcha, khara kamm kaarine hi yash bhi uchchaa huan

yah satluj, vyas, chenab saare daryaa ch ahen neki paai, bahai ti
ahaan te paani bijli lai lai ne panjab haryana upajau, ameer huan

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Omkara and KANK: "Raja" and "rank"

Omkara: an adaptation of Othello, that borders on a literary achievement.
KANK (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna): An expensive, lavish insult to human intelligence.

Consequence or response of Indian Audience: Omkara was declared flop within a week, while KANK will create all box office records.

Lets examine them one by one first. You can, if KANK appalled you so, jump to Omkaara section by scrolling down.

Observations from KANK (my conclusions):

1) New York is even smaller than Kasauli. It has one street, where ShahRukh and Rani are bound to run into each other or their respective husbands or whoever. It has one train station, which is usually empty, one harbor (view from Jersey City) where it rains most of the time, and only people without umbrella are the dumb Indian Movie stars.

2) Karan Johar's idea of a movie involves BIG STARS, CRYING, SHOUTING, DYING, protagonists living luxurious life in New York or some foreign city, fancy clothes, highly idiotic audience, and a length that will put a television soap to shame.

3) I imagined Preity Zinta to be alright before this movie, and even remarked to my friend that she is not that fat. Next I see her dance with dozen background dancers, and my friend points out how every girl behind her was much slimmer than her. Amitabh has a stature and immense talent which can be put to waste by someone of the calibre and name as Karan Johar Only. Shah Rukh Khan needs to be told he is too old for playing both football and loverboy, and he never appears cute when he makes those faces. Rani does well to come down in my eyes as a person with mind enough to choose her movies. As actress, she does great, pocketing a fat checque, most of the footage, and all this for a role that will make every married man shiver.

4) Karan Johar loves trains. Each movie needs a train sequence. So ShahRukh must go to Toronto (from New York) in a train. He is also able to pull the chain of a New York train. Of course, this train like every other train in New York, leaves from that one station. That one station which has only the hero heroine running into each other that precisely the right time, and somehow crowds vanish before they enter the station. Why do crowds hate them, if the same crowd throngs to see the movie when it is released?

5) What is editing? What is story? Is movie a form of artistic expression? Does a reasonably successful director need to go by formula finishes, cliches, fancy package-garbage food? Are Indian audiences really this gullible? After the movie is made, is it not even shown to a single person for constructive comments? As another friend remarked, if Karan Johar lived in US, I would have sued him for mental trauma.

6) Of course Karan Johar will never read this. In his mind, he has made an awesome movie that earned him all the money that he might not have even dreamt about. Shah Rukh will imagine another Filmfare for his role and cry foul if National Award committee ignores him and Rani for nominations. The film will make more money in coming weeks, and Karan Johar will get to produce and direct more such shows. Maybe he should marry Ekta Kapoor, and I will love to see that as a reality show.

Omkara on the other hand was dubbed as too rustic, too much fowl and rustic language, and a box office failure. My take on Omkaara

1) Othello is a Shakespearian tragedy. The drama already exists, but is placed in a different time, and different space (Cyprus was it?). Vishal Bharadwaj brought the drama frame by frame into Hindi first, into Uttar Pradesh, into Indian village setting and of course, if we did not know Othello is the inspiration, we would see it as a very realistic portrayal of Indian society. In fact, a brilliant portrayal.

2) The choice of setting smells of villages. There is blood, dust, mist, love, hate, treachery, and people wear rural clothes. Words are not derived from recycled Ekta soaps, clothes not degined to dazzle, and star cast is chosen for precisely the role they are intended to play. The film in a sense is all too original to be compared to most of bullshit we are served in name of cinema. Hence it fails to fascinate an audience that runs scared of every attempt of calling to their intellectual and artistic prowess.

3) Saif Ali Khan may not have deserved the award for Hum Tum, and maybe he will not get it for Omkaara's role as Langda. As an actor, I will respect him forever in my life. His portrayal in every frame is of a despicable character (of IAGO) that he does with such finnesse that I am forced to admire him and cheer for him. (Contrast with Shah Rukh Khan, and my stomach starts to churn thinking of KANK again, and also that the latter is said to be biggest star in India).

Ajay Devagan as Othello, as Omkara, as a Moor or half-caste, has a screen presence that rocks. Even Kareena gets a pass from me, for playing the role of fair Desdemona. The old lady who comments on Kareena's complexion is my winner for the debut of the year award. If in last few years, Rani has earned all the awards and money for her roles, Konkona Sen Sharma has deserved them and more for her every role. Be it a south Indian wife, or a journalist, or a wife in unhappy matrimony or in Omkara, Langda's better half, Konkona slips into her role perfectly. She is as beautiful to look at as is her delivery as an actor. I am in love with her (for whatever that counts for). Nasserudin Shah is, was and will always be a great actor, one of the greatest we've had, and it takes him only a line or two in a movie like Omkara to let his presence be felt. Viviek (the dumbo who thinks my mispelling his name, he would get any wiser) is alright as Cassio, plays the role of Kesu Firangi alright. Bipasa sizzles! If you can show me such sizzlers in village next time, I am staying back forever.

4) The dialogues are extremely well written. Each one, whether it is a derivative of Othello or Bharadwaj's creation, is extremely well-scripted. Editing of the movie is as brilliant as is the cinematography. I think we people need to spend time on each frame, each dialogue, each aspect of the film to appreciate how much thinking, intellect, planning, creativity and heart has been put into the movie. Songs by Gulzar are like tasty icing on an already fine baked cake.

5) The movie does not pander to anyones needs. If you can't handle the language used in the dialogues here, pray, you never went to the street or college or school or villages. If you dislike tragedy, I have news for you. You life will have multiple instances that are tragic. Life is not about kuchi koo or running around trees, and is not about expensive clothes and foreign locales. Oh! the village setting does not appeal to you. Dude, more than half of our billion Indians live and die there.

6) Vishal Bharadwaj, if he reads this ever, must know that we stood up and clapped when movie ended, and even after two weeks, we are still clapping. This we might be a small number, but we are a dedicated number, rooting for you from everywhere. I have so much praise for nearly every aspect of film that I can continue typing for weeks. Your music is good too, but your screenplay and direction makes you, in books of many of us, one of the best things that happened to Bollywood, EVER.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Couplets for rejection

My dear, I confess, I adore thee, I do, mostly,
But my declaration requires, a profounder inspiration.

There are no charms, trust me, that you don't possess,
But curse my heart, it cultivated a different aspiration.

If you make it too easy, the love just shies away,
We appreciate things, gained by considerable perspiration.

Don't cite the examples of similiar couples who made it work,
Least valuable ideal of love, o dear, is loving by imitation.

Why ask me, if you I'd chose, if my dreamgirl existed not,
Who knows darling, why fish for such a consolation.

You mean a lot to me, I certainly value your feelings,
If I can't reciprocate, its just my own limitation.

These tears are too precious, to be wasted on me sweetheart,
You'll find a better match, the one among billion in our nation.

The time together we spent, was a happy time, I agree,
Good-bye my co-passenger, we chase different destination.

We all outlive our passions, you too will pronounce later,
I hadn't the qualities, worth a perpetual fascination.

Last note, I add with severity, it must be a neat cut,
Untouched it will heal, caresses cause aggravation.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

New Graduate Student Cometh

Its Fall season. The leaves have begun to turn colorful, the wind is cooler and more cheerful and days extend late into evening. The stupor of summer is beginning to awake into realization of what has not been accomplished, and needs to be done. Well established routines of procastination have been tried over and over again. We, the tenured graduate students, the keepers of the flame, the intellectuals who have piles, high and deep, and yet the abbreviation PhD is not ours, we defy common sense and indulge in new graduate students.

The motives are as varied as our researh areas. The singles need to mingle. Suitable graduate students of opposite sex. Pick them when they are young. Catch them fresh off the plane. Provide them roti, kapda aur makaan, i.e. food, clothes and house. Start from basic needs. Americanize them in a way that you deem is most appropriate. Hand them keys to your house, passwords to your machine. Cook tasty food for them. Shave each day, and even iron your clothes (for newbies haven't yet realized how important unshaved face and haggard look is for an able graduate student. No Actually many do it because of the competition. Survival of the fittest).

Get them groceries, show them movies. Take them to Walmart, displaying it with a pride that honeymooning husband feels when he asks his wife to open her eye, and she gushes at the vista of rising Alps, bathed in setting sun. Give them stolen hours from the daily routine, which your advisor thinks is being used for writing the research article that was due last month. Throw a party or two. Appear social, popular, funny, artsy, intelligent, great cook, glib talker, shy, young, well-read, adventerous: as the case may be. Plan each day better than any experiment done in your lab. Even clean up your kitchen, and with much emotion, even your room. In your room, discover the vestiges of such enterprise of last year, and smile at yourself, thinking what mistakes you made when you were young. Belief, you know by now, and faith in your own ability must stay in spite of all the evidence that seems contrary to that claim.

Besides the singles of opposite sex, there are married and committed ones too. They must be attended to. Once they are amused by your deeds, they will recount these to the beauties they will know, room with or attend classes with. A word of mouth, a personalized recommendation obviously can get you a favorable prejudice even from the ones full of pride. Sense and sensibility. Praise their hubbies, and show how committed you are to the cause of new graduatestudentkind.

Besides them, there are the Pappus, who are related to the aunt of your mother's grandmothers' sister's granddaughter's sister-in-law. If they were of same sex, this could have been used as a reason to tie you together (for relation is far fetched) or claim the person is your relation or sibling (and incest is unacceptable). If one of these arrives, your whole planning is crumbled into the biscuit crumbs that they carry in their luggage from India. You tend to become more productive at work. Suitable instructions are released to friends, who must watch their words. Whatever happens in graduate school stays in graduate school. You need the Pappu to become pregnant with his own guilt, before he can see your mistakes run amok in large numbers.

There are juniors you can command around. You suddenly know all the answers as you talk to the senior who has joined so late as he was working for some time. You drive home the message asto whos the boss. Whos your daddy now? You say that and share the joke with another batchmate in another university, who grins and has his stories to tell. These people have arrived from your undergraduate school, where rumor has it, you spent the best years of your life. Where (it doesn't matter how nerdy you seem to me now, how high your GPA was which got you here in the first place, and I damn value educational achievements) where, you had lots of pun, parties, booze. SUmmer of 69, Red red Wine and Those were the best days of my life.

There are unfortunate ones, the Laawaris ones, some are meek and humble, and bumble like Raj Kapoor from Shree 420. Amusing, respectful. They are nice chaps. You take them under your wing. They give you homage throughout their life. They help you cook, clean, find names of the newbies you need to be introduced and find their own Nargis in them. You remind them of "Pyar hua hai, ikraar hua hai" song, tell them to be curious but careful and of course, the song is mentioned for they used it in a commercial. You find out all the commercials are changed by now, and this guy was too young to remember any of the commercials you saw in your time.

There are certain Amitabh Bachchan's in the new group. The angry young men. They think they know what they need to know for they were educated in Hollywood and have tickets to Las Vegas shipped by confident Papas in India. They look at your apartment and either smirk thinking how shoddy your living conditions are, or just mention it to their high class girlfriends they left in India. These anti-establishment ones need to be educated. They need to be broken, bruised, beaten. Satya must be watched all over again. Some break into bits and their mothers arrive in haste. Some break into your heart and you laugh about how wrong your initial impressions were. Some move in with Americans and after loosing their first blood, return to the fold in a year or so. Like a good shepherd you allow them to come back, and for their pride, they will be made scrapegoats in due time, or reared for their wool. You are an elephant in this jungle of studenthood, and an elephant never forgets. You really are trying to be Mast, but the Advisor reins you with deadlines.

There are homesick ones. As if they have travelled to US by sea, they look pale, wan, nauseated, tearjerkers. They have no interest in your food, for their Mamma used to feed them with her own hands. What depravity, they think, when you announce this is the biggest feast of year, serving them homemade Rice, Daal, Curry and Mix Vegetables, cooked by four different household put together. The house that cooked Rice also got beer, which the homesick one cannot touch. Like Mahatma Gandhi, before leaving home he promised to keep away from White Wine and White Women. So you explain to him that everyone there has had made similar promises, and this means the playing ground is still quite big. You chuckle as you explain, no white women, but tanned ones are alright, and of course there are Brown ones, Black ones and the Yellow ones.

You are positively high when you explain Beer is not Wine, and Vodka is essential for survival in this cold cold country. The homesick one recalls from his Bollywood education that excessive drink is harbinger of a woman that very night and child nine months later. The idea of woman urges him on, the thought of a child holds him back. He is too naive to know that the species of opposite sex is already gone into the arms of old students, Amitabh Bachchans and promises made in India. He doesn't know even the tanned ones have taste, Yellow ones are lost due their foreign tongue and Black Beauty was never happy when she was tied down.

There are philanthropic interests. There are communist interests. There are social reasons, for the animal in you needs to know more people. You do it, becuase when you came no one did it for you, or someone actually helped you. You do it because it relieves your stress when you notice these new recruits who have been pushed to the front with half as much training and half as much expertise. You do it to get new ideas, stories, readers for your blog. You envy their enthusiam, their optimism, and scold your cynical self, the hardened soul to come alive again. This is a particular problem when you tell a new person of opposite sex that this is not possible, that will never work out or time will show them that you are right: they think you don't have faith in them, shout at you, and there is definite danger that they will start hanging with their age group kids. The worst fears always come true, but thankfully you are the only one with a running car and your time in graduate school in years shames their stay in months.

I see new graduate students everywhere. Maybe I have a sixth sense. The happy faces amused by all they see, springy steps (Aajkal Paon Zameen Par Nahin Padtay mere: These days my feet never touch the ground), curious and friendly. The frowning faces, who see danger everywhere (Ye haadson ka shahar kai, yahan mod mod pe hota hai koi na koi haadsa: this is a city of disasters, at every mod, waits a disaster). The new pairs who have just dicovered freedom from India's prying eyes, and are perhaps more happy in doing what they never perceived possible, "dating, flirting, eating out, watching movie at guys house", more happy in actions that perhaps with their partners, discovering the beauty in Classic Romantic Movies (Chotay chotay shaharon mein ..... nahin nahin nahin... Bade bade deshon mein choti choti baatein hoti rehti hai: Small things keep happenning in big countries) and even find the romance of walking at late hours outside (Yeh kahan aa gaye hum: O where have we arrived) and loose their way in the streets.

The New Graduate Student Cometh. You realize you actually know things that you can talk about to them who don't know things. You realize similarly in real life when you go and get an actual job, you will be able to say things and people might be there to listen to you for various reasons. You will figure that you have yourself gotten to that age, few years ago which age people you called uncle or auntie, and laughed at the idea "Auntie mat bolo naa" (Oh please, don't call me aunty). You get an opportunity to flaunt your skills, your experience and breadth and depth of knowledge. There is a kind of romance in the air. You feel life is not all that bad, and yet decide that you will be out of here before the new students come in next year.

The Fall leaves are a music below your feet, the moonsoon season of new students is over, the fields of your friendships are full of a promising crop. In the end you win some, you loose some. You move on. The only thing that hold you back now is the new student who will be here for long, and you will need to stay more than a year for companionship. You tell yourself, learning from seniors who have trodden this path before, that life's decision must not be based on any other individual, and your steps move faster and faster towards your lab. You suddenly realize months have passed without any progress in research, and you start afresh with new enthusiam. Like always, you start with a break, you check email, blog enteries and end up forwarding this piece to everyone you know.

We are all so similar. Except that one new graduate student, who I am aching to be introduced. (I let out a big sigh, and decide I'll much rather concentrate. Pick up old notes, and start typing a new research paper. How I wish writing papers was as easy as writing and reading long blogs!)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ghazal: kuch nayi nahin

this is an audio post - click to play

Kuch naayi nahin, wahin puraani baatein kehta hun
Log kya kya samaj letay hai, mein jab ghazalein kehta hun!

Woh roshni hoti zindagi ki, ya zaruraat meri saanson ki,
Toe kya abhi hokar khadaa, keh paata, joe bhi kehta hun?

Thoda sakun milta hai, inn shabadon ke thande jhonkon mein,
Andhar rehtay hai jab tak ehsaas, julsa jhulsa rehta hun!

Zarurat nahin mujhe abhi, kissi paimaane ki doston,
Aajkal mehkaada ek mehangi UmraoJaan ko kehta hun!

Joe toot-taa hai, wah phir se, ik koshish se sanwaarta hai
Uss koshish ki kashish mein, tootaa tootaa rehta hun!

Aajmaa ke dekhaa humne bhi hai, ishq ki har fitrat ko
Nahin kahaniyon sa hota hasin, Isiliye mein kehta hun!

Nazaar hi aa jaatay, kab mulakaat humne chaahi thi,
Har anjaan hasin se shikwa hai, tanha tanha rehta hun!

Aug 01, 2008

These days I am experimenting with Hindi and English Ghazal forms. Also trying to check how I sound when I read these poems on phone:) Seems they don't have desired effect on people. I will be delighted to hear criticism and comments about the recitation as well as diction.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Footaa Chiraag

this is an audio post - click to play

Jo gaya footaa tha chiraag
Mere haath-on se choota tha
ik diya, lau se bichura
mitti mein mili roshni ka
tukda tha, paun mein chubha
sapna joe mera mehka tha
ik aah se deheka tha
haathon se uthaaya usko
bade yatn se karke iktra
daroron ki kadr karke
jo gaya foota tha chiraag
pichchlay din, fir naye
yatan ke tel say ujala tha.

Jo gaya footaa tha chiraag
deheka tha, toe ban kar
lapaton ka kalash kehta tha-
agni se tum mit-tay ho
yun kaise hota hai banaatay
mujhko, phir bhi nirbhar ho
andhiyaaray se darrtay ho, aur
chintaa mein rahtay bikharay ho
apnay aham mein kaanch sa hai
bhoola tha ki mitti ka hai
jo gaya footaa tha chiraag
lau say lipataa, jaanta hai
kshanbhangur wah bhi kitna hai.

July 27, 2006

kshanbhangur: one that can be destroyed in a moment

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A pretty Starbucks regular: glad Not to know her

She is so pretty that everytime I see her
she is with a different, happy looking face.

I am just happy to see her so often.
Since I don't know her, I don't know those happy faces.

Those happy faces are false images.
Ask their humid eyes if you want to know.
Though facts can change, depending upon the day.

In this story there are only two constants.
But we don't know each other and everytime
I see her, I think, she is so pretty that

everytime I see her, she is with a different face.
I am pleased that I don't know her.

I have no happy face masks and she wouldn't
seem so pretty if I saw her with someone I knew.

7:15 pm,
July 03, 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Masterpiece epic about Love, War, Peace, Life, Everything

Tolstoy's War and Peace rightfully ranks amongs the best novels ever written in any language. The master novelist uses Napolean's Wars with Russia as the context against which he narrates the story of four families. The four families, along with several timeless characters, live through the times of War and Peace to provide us with a representation of every aspect of Russian life, Russian thought and imagery of both cities and villages.

Tolstoy's great talent was in providing insights using his extremely good sense of seemingly trivial. The details, be it of the functioning of clock or steam engine, or of the idealogy and rites of Masons, or the charge of cavalry in war or the thoughts of a man on his death bed, the details, the insight, the lucidity of expression of such varied themes in one book requires Tolstoy's genius.

There are innumerable unforgettable characters in this mammoth novel. Each one brings out different characteristics of human pysche, each one is made into a being of flesh and blood, strengths and weaknesses. Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, the dashing gentleman who shuns his boring high society to fight in war to achieve glory, is as compelling as a soldier as he is a wounded person, wounded both in love and in war. His death scene, touted as one of the greatest scenes in Russian Literature, is perhaps unmatched in its ability to engage a reader and his tears. The other equally important character is Pierre Bezukhov, who is a close friend of the Prince. Pierre is always so unsure, so uncertain, dabbling with different ideas and ideals, falling, failing, has a wife who nearly ruins him, and yet Pierre by the end of the novel comes of age, redeems himself, and in the climax attains Natasha in marriage. Natasha is the heroine of the novel. She is a bright spark, the resplandent laughter, full of energy and life, beautiful and engrossing female character. Whenever she breaks into the story, the tale becomes a remarkable love story. Music and smile pour in, dances start to occur.

Be it Natasha's family members or those of Prince Bolkonsky's or any of their acquaintances, the characterization is such that one can visulaize each one separately. If there is villaincy in Doholov, Natasha's brother Rostov has his inexperience leading him into a near ruin. If Marya, Bolkonsky's sister is god fearing charming but simple looking girl, Ellen is seductress, souless counterpart who possesses a father and a brother equally despicable. The whole array of characters are present in this novel, which of human characteristics be different species of animals, makes Tolstoy's War and Peace a Noah's Ark.

The novel is at the same time a swashbuckling romance, family saga, philosophical query, a historical fiction, a war memoir and more. It is a timeless classic that through its pages develops a whole crop of humanity, representative of our passions and traits, and chronicle of our deeds and choices and what guides them. The novel has one of the best last quarter I have ever read, where the climax arouses so strong feelings at every page, that I was laughing joyfully on one page and crying inconsolably on next page. (This is before the epilogue).

I have often stressed that classics deserve respect, slow and patient reading, and War and Peace is no different. There are sections where I was forced to move like a stream of water going downhill, and other places where reading each page was an effort. Yet once the plot is set up, once you have finished reading over one third the novel, once the Russian names and their universe is created in your head, the novel becomes friendlier. It fills your head with images, emotions, ideas and you are carried to Tolstoy's world. For anyone seriously interested in reading great literature, Tolstoy is a must. Inarguably, War and Peace is one of the brightest prose pieces ever written and I heartily recommend it to one and all. Again I have figured that Constance Garnett must have been a great translator, and like other great Russian Novels I read translated by her, this one also calls for my gratitude to her. But above all, all credit to Tolstoy for creating this epic saga. Must read it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

O cofee, if you were a woman

O coffee, if you were a woman
bitter and lonesome, dark and handsome,
Would you too scald my lips
mess my head, fill me with acidity
and be different in flavor each day
and be sweet only when I was buying you?

O coffee, if you were a woman
turbid and irksome, adamant and troublesome,
Would you too torture my tongue
sap me to your satisfaction, to dehydration
and be hard to get, or get rid off
and be nice only when I was serving you?

July 03, 2006
7: 45 pm

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Two Lives by Vikram Seth

A memoir spanning the whole of twentieth century

Vikram Seth's Two Lives is a biography, a memoir, a novel and a collection of letters rolled into one. The landscape it covers includes India, Germany, England and America, and the timespan includes most of the twentieth century. An Indian Hindu, Shanti comes to Berlin, Germany in the beginning of 1930s to study Dentistry, forms friendships with both Christians and Jews and Henny (who is of same age, and his landlady's daughter) becomes his particular friend. After finishing his studies, Shanti returns to England, where his degrees are not recognized, and he takes exams again. He enlists and fights in second world war. Loses his right arm, and yet battles on with his left hand to become an able dentist again.

Henny must part from her family and make her escape to London. Throughout 1940s she bears the news of one killing after the other, as under Hitler, Germans seek out the Jews and exterminate them. Henny corresponds with Shanti who is fighting in the War, and corresponds with friends left in Germany. The stash of letters that Vikram Seth uses and copies in this memoir is a telling tale of what millions of Jews suffered through in the 1940s and thereafter. Henny meanwhile works her daytime job, and in beginning of 1950s marries her lifetime friend and companion Shanti.

Henny and Shanti are two lives in focus here. The lives are inspirational, while their times full of war, misery, deaths, separations, and treachery. Through their life stories one comes face to face some of the greatest horrors from previous century. The World War II and action against Jews feature as the backdrop in which the valor of the protagonists and the depth and sincerity of friendships they had with people is tested. Historical perspective provided by Vikram is well researched. The story puts you face to face with not only the pre-1950 horrors, but also raises some important questions about present day world, say Israel-Palenstine conflict and US-Middle East divide.

In some places, the book is almost auto-biographical. In the beginning of the story, a teenager, great-nephew Vikram Seth arrives at the house of Shanti and Henny. He sets up his personal association with the two lives in his characteristic witty, simple but effective writing. Vikram Seth is one of my favorite living poets and writers. Having read all his novels, and nearly all his poems, I loved the beginning for it describes the writers own struggles and coming of age as well as how and when his various works were written. While the main story is of Shanti and Henny, Vikram's own story is an interesting third element that makes this memoir worth picking.

Yet maybe because the theme is so complex, maybe becuase it is a memoir, maybe becuase it speaks of such turbulent times and for Heeny's life progresses through her own correspondences, Vikram Seth's Two Lives is not as easy and straightforward reading as his previous novels. The story of Henny during 1940s has too many characters, and these come in and go rather quickly. Perhaps the idea there was to emphasize the events, rather than personalities (quite unlike in Suitable boy), and the letters, the narrative weaves a heart-wrenching description of Berlin through racial hatred, through bombing, and through division after the war.

Vikram Seth strives to provide a lifelike potrait of both Henny and Shanti. Hence, he strives to outline aspects from their daily routine that he witnesses himself, his other family members perceive by themselves and what he gathers from his conversations with Shanti and from letters of Henny. He is telling the tale of real people, related to him. Only an author of his calibre can create such a rich, likable, must read memoir using these tid-bits of information and working with and against his own personal relationships. Vikram doesn't make Shanti or Henny into just heroic survivors of various tragedies and catastropies. Neither does he magnify their life sagas or characteristics. He provides snapshots of their successes and failings, of their quirks and habits, of the complexity of relationship and marriage, and of their painful approach to death.

Two Lives is overall a great memoir that one ought to read to feel inspired by the protagonists, to become aware of horrors that our grandfathers faced, to understand our present world and to appreciate how well a writer like Vikram Seth can weave a saga from such varied elements. People like me who have read other books by Vikram Seth might be surprised by presence of some obscure parts in the book, but the story itself requires a degree of uncertainity, of vagueness, of incompleteness. If it were fiction, one could have reproached Seth for spending too much time on deaths of protagonists and on their life after 1960s. Especially some of the family disputes could have been pruned. Here in the biography, he needs to pull all elements of their life together, and like he must, he describes events in 1930s and 1940s in greatest detail.

The narration of events in Germany from 1930s and 1940s, the copies of Henny's correspondence during that time and Shanti's personal reminisces about the second world war and dentistry with left hand are transformed into a must read biography by one of the greatest living writers of our times. Go, read it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Kaavya: Episode VI (Finale)


After we returned from the park, Kaavya was anxious to get through all that was tormenting her. She told me that she tried to be cheerful around Rishi that evening, but he carried a steady swollen look on his face. “I just went to my room, for I did not wanted to spoil my mood after such a pleasant evening with Videshi. Rishi talked to Ruchi for a bit and left and then came Varun. He looked extremely distraught. I was scared by the anger he displayed. His fist was taut; his six feet frame held tremors of rage and his words fell like whip lashes. He was particularly cruel in his choice of accusations and I just froze, entranced by the ferocity in his body language. Now I know why they say, passion can turn men into beasts.

I have had known Varun as this delightful person, whose jokes are measured, words are well chosen and actions reveal an innate goodness. I have heard you used to call him girl shy, though I know that he is the best company a girl can have. Maybe having two sisters, made him so particular about knowing and attending to the needs of girls. Actually, I guess I never even thought about how much better I felt around him compared to other people. His presence always had this sense of security and sensibility about it.”

“Exactly, my point Kaavya! How many times have I asked you to give at least sometime between meeting acquaintance A and B and C? How would you ever figure at the end of the day who made you happy or miserable? More so, when you have Rishi breathing on your neck like a dragon in heat, unable to contain his fire, seeks to burn the very thing he cherishes by bring it in direct contact with his irresponsible passion.” I guess as soon as I got an opportunity to say what I had often repeated to Ruchi and suggested to Kaavya, I jumped the gun. It backfired.

“Well Vivek, if you want to listen, listen. I don’t want either your witticism or satire at present. If you really think you can fix anyone’s life’s romances, fix your own.” She paused for a moment or two, while I was tired enough of it all and anger was building up inside me. She continued, “I am sorry, Vivek. I am not in the best of my moods to be courteous right now. But you should have seen Varun. Varun was angrier than anyone I have ever, ever known. He couldn’t stand still. His fists pounded his hands and kept shouting at me.”

She told me, some of the things that Varun said were: “You are only concerned about having a good time. All you care about is having your dance, your dinner, your imaginary romances. It is only about you, the whole world must think about you, work for you. I am such a joke for you. My words have no meaning for you. If I help you in shopping or watch a movie with you, I do it because I like spending time with you. But you don’t give two hoots about who is with you, for if it wasn’t me, it would be Rishi, Gandharav, Mahadev, Pathan, Kulkarni. If not these, you would pick some Jamaican rag seller or I don’t know, any prick on the street would work. You let those lechers feed on you, take advantage of you and talk of you as if you were a shameless whore, and you don’t even notice. Don’t you know what a woman who spends so much time with so many men is called? I know that Rishi has spent five nights here in last two weeks, and I know he slept on this couch. How do I argue with Gandharav when he says what proof I have that you are sleeping alone? Even Sita was not pardoned by this world. How do I silence them when they talk about the curves they savor when you decide to look pretty in your skimpy skirts or sleeveless tees?

But well, I very well realize now that you cannot tell between apples or oranges. I realize now why Vivek says that every female has a Madhu-Makhi (Honey bee) in her, and one must always be ready to be stung. O how I have adored you so far, and how I despise you now. I should have known it is not worth the trouble. I have too many things in my life to take care of anyways. You are just like the tricycle I never owned, and now I don’t care about you or the cycle anymore.

I ask you to not dance with someone and you just don’t get it. I have known this person for eight years and I know what goes on in his head. He has no shame, no respect for woman. But why blame him? When my words, my being, my presence has no meaning to you, why am I even bothered with this bull crap? I guess I might regret saying this later. (Kaavya had been sobbing for a while when he was uttering all this, but like a tornado, he couldn’t have stopped before the damage was complete.) But I need to end it here today. You are not worth my craving or attention or time. You can never appreciate what I have to offer, and I don’t think you can change, or at least I am not willing to wait till you realize my worth. You have too many admirers for you to realize that you are not as perfect as their compliments make you seem to be.

Honestly, I never told you, but Kaavya, I really have pined for you. Remember the poem “If I were to live only one day more”. It was written about you. I loved you, but I now see how pointless it is to care for someone who is too busy to notice and appreciate it. I don’t have heart to see you cry like this, and I cannot change whatever I just said. O why is this so hard?” According to Kaavya, his words came with a lot of effort, for by now his anger had subsided and his immense heartbreak ceased him. At that moment entered Gandharav and Mahadev, who were let in by Ruchi.

Gandharav was dressed nicely, as was Mahadev. They were leaving with Ruchi, who had changed into jazzy black trousers and a light pink shirt with frills. As soon as Gandharav saw Varun, he guessed something was up. Varun stared at Gandharav with all his anger that resurfaced now on seeing his nemesis. Gandharav made a small talk with Mahadev saying, “Bloody beer was too warm man. If Ruchi hurries up, we will get a good table at the tavern, and then I will win tonight’s drinks from her at the pool table.”

Gandharav basically looked everywhere except in the direction of Varun, and even before Ruchi came out again, he had walked out of the door on excuse of going to get gas filled in the tank. You know how even after Ruchi is seemingly ready, she walks back into her restroom and spends extra fifteen minutes of the finishing touches. Vivek could visualize the scene, and had never understood the importance of curling eye lashes, almost invisible lip gloss, a brush of little color that Ruchi explained formed the last rites in her dressing up. While Gandharav was gone, Mahadev went out for a smoke and Varun said, “Kaavya, I’ll see to it that our paths don’t cross again. It was good knowing you, and I guess it is a goodbye. I won’t wait for your words, for they will make me weak or stay. Tell them to Vivek later, if you wish. Before leaving, he was nearly crying, and like so, he slipped a note into my hands. As he did so, a saw a tear tumble down his face, running down from lowered eyes, and here is that piece.” I read Varun’s nearly illegible handwriting on a crumpled piece of paper:

“Many sparrows will chirp on your porch,
Many will fly in and away,
But forget not him who loved and loved
But forgive him who migrated away.”

Kaavya sobbed for a bit, and said, “See, Varun had come prepared for it. I am sure I missed on many things he said. He said something about Gandharav’s way of treating these foreign women he dated and mated with. He said something about how ridiculous Rishi’s face and demeanor is when he is about me. O Vivek! He said more mean things but neither can I recollect them in right order, nor do I have the heart to repeat them. Plus as we know him, he is gone forever. The one guy I could have liked to love is gone forever. But Vivek, never mention this to him. Tell him from my side, to have a good life.” The rest of the story is known to people. After Varun left, Gandharav and Mahadev came back, took Ruchi away, met me on the way, when Gandharav’s swerving car scared the daylights out of me and then rest of the night I talked to Kaavya, while Ruchi was missing. Yes, at this point of time, Ruchi is missing, Kaavya has just gone into her room, and I am sleepless on their couch.

I was thinking about the repercussions of what happened today. I knew Varun loved this girl, and I knew what agony unrequited love can bring. More so if the person is in the same town, and is seen happy in anothers company.


I had often talked to Varun about how Kaavya was one of those highly self conscious females, who would not stand a moment of criticism. If exposed to some, they just lash out back at you with whatever fangs they hide. It was only a week ago that during a similar conversation, Varun rationalized this by saying, “Come on Vivek! Don’t be so harsh on her. She is a nice girl with a male ego. Perhaps therein lays her biggest charm.”

I put my arm around his shoulder, drew the last, prolonged puff of my cigarette, and released the smoke facing away from him, while my foot was mercilessly pressing the stub that I was kissing just a moment ago. “Charm or harm, time will tell. I don’t know if I burn the cigarette or the cigarette burns me, but at least I get to extinguish it and throw it away. Ah! Women with ego, in the beginning they are like a cigarette, but somehow the smoker becomes the stub and find himself being minced by the heel of the same woman.”

Varun was smiling now, and said, “Madhu-makhi again. Sometimes I think she got all your nectar, and don’t know who gets the honey now.” He knew how I still despised myself for a childhood fancy that had unsettled me absolutely.

If I hadn’t got the rude shock in X grade, when I was too sick to even write the board examination, I would have ruined my life completely. My smoking, capacity to drink six pack of beer without flinching and an avalanche of useless giggle at every opportunity were infused into me at fifteen. She wasn’t the prettiest face in the class, and I wasn’t so bad looking either. In fact, she was the one who was like a house-fly that buzzed about me all the time, “Vivek, help me with this drama please? OR Vivek, why don’t you reply to my letters? Or Come home someday. I’ll make tea and pakoras.” I never understood why she wrote me those sugary letters, even though we met everyday in school. She had this everyday wink as a salutation for me, and followed it with some typical high-school sigh, saying, “You look so tushiony today. Ah! There you go, shattered a heart!”

With some encouragement from my friends, I finally managed to fall for her. Perhaps she just wanted that to happen, for within a two week she turned into a cold stone-hearted female. She stopped talking to me, made faces if she saw me staring at her, and what was most painful to me was the way she maligned me in front of all classmates when I gave her that birthday card.

She tore it without opening, and said in the loudest voice, “I don’t like you, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Is it so hard to understand?” For weeks our class surmised what was going on, no one still knows why she changed that way. Everyone suspected that I had done something, and hell, I should have, to deserve that trauma I went through. The class episode was trivial compared to the later events.

The icing on the cake was her clumsy romance with a guy, nicknamed Makhi by his parents (what vision parents have) who had passed out of the school four years ago. This loser was now a shopkeeper, and left his shop twice a day, for spending the half hour in bus with Madhu. The bus was usually overcrowded, and these two would stand facing each other, letting crowd push them closer and closer. The guy would steal a kiss every so often, and sometimes his hand would be seen at a place that allowed all the school children to talk about the Madhu-Makhi.

My parents left me in care of house servant and went away to Saudi Arabia for six months, where my father had worked for fifteen years, while my mother went there every two years for six months. So I was all alone, and heartbroken, and had enough money with me to savor every cheap rum and whiskey in that time. The worse my state got, the stronger Madhu’s romance became. In October, my friends started advising me to stop drinking, in November all my teachers took turns to talk to me about it. By December, I had received warning from the principal, but my drinking continued unabated, as did her bus travel. I memorized whole of Harivansh Rai’s Madhushaala, and I talked in shers (couplets) I picked from Jagjit Singh’s Ghazals (songs).

By the beginning of February, I had lost ten kilograms in four months, my parents were returning two months early for they received too many phone calls urging them to come and save their son. Thankfully before they arrived in shock and anger, I was in hospital diagnosed with jaundice and stayed there for nearly two months. I had killed my one kidney, my liver and digestion were strained to their limit, and of course, the question of writing exams in that condition never arose.

On Fools day, I was released from the hospital. I went home, cried like a new born baby for hours, and vowed to my parents in front of small temple in prayer room, that whatever happens, I will never ever let them find me in that situation ever again. The day Madhu turned eighteen, she eloped with the shopkeeper, and soon after Madhu-Makhi have left the country to work in Kenya. Her twenty or so emails and several phone calls that I missed tell me that she regretted whatever happened. I pity her now, and the memory still sends shivers down my spine.

The noise at the door was followed by Ruchi’s stumbling in. I covered my face, and lay still. Mahadev was saying, “One quick kiss before I go.” Ruchi said, “Sshh! Rishi is sleeping here. He’ll wake up.” I was amused by the thought that Ruchi thought I was Rishi and for some reason, it did not sink in that Mahadev asked for a kiss and Ruchi did not say anything. I heard a loud kiss, and it was followed by two more long lasting kissing noises and “umm, ummm” from Ruchi. My whole body was trying to lurch out of my throat, and I heard Gandharav’s voice, “ Oh Ruchi, You will easily give Mallika Sherawat run for money.” Ruchi laughed aloud and said, “What Mallika? Is she even a competition?”

Gandharav jumped the gun, “But yaar (friend), why not drive Vivek away? Why have him around you when you don’t love him?” Ruchi growled, “Who said I don’t love him? Ok yes, I haven’t made love to him. Man, I am so drunk, and Mahadev is so sexy. Vivek fulfils me spiritually and emotionally like no other. He is the take to home, make the parents happy, kind of person. Mahadev, like you, is only a good fuck, though don’t you dare tell Vivek anything about this and don’t you dare laugh at me.” Gandharav said, “I’ll leave you two along, but don’t make too much noise. Even walls have ears.” Ruchi said, “Run along with him Mahadev. You had enough fun on dance floor already.” I heard another quick kiss and then a dead silence mingled with drumming of rage ran through my heartbeat. I waited till I was certain that Ruchi has dozed off, got up and left.


This was the story of one night that changed the course of our lives. I raced home, and woke Varun up. We talked for two or three hours. By then, my anger had subsided, Varun’s had tired him out. Gandharav came into the room then yawning, saying, “Vivek, I thought you were sleeping on the couch in Kaavya’s home?”

“You son of a mother, you saw me there.” Gandharav smiled, and said, “You have more body mass than Rishi, and you sleep lying straight. Rishi is always coiled up like a baby in the womb. But that’s not what I noticed first. What I saw was the shoe that Ruchi stumbled upon as she entered, and I have seen this rotten sneaker for so long, that I could tell.” I looked at him in awe, while he just shrugged his shoulders.

I asked him to sit down and after some effort on my part, Varun and Gandharav hugged each other. Varun proposed we needed to celebrate our new found singlehood. Gandharav suggested we go to the beach. Two hours later, we were on the road to one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever been on. At night we had camped on the beach, and after getting dead drunk, cried and laughed for hours. It actually took us months to recover and forget the agony of it all, but that one night had changed our lives.

Whatever happened with Madhu had nearly destroyed me. Somehow, the Ruchi episode made me stronger. It also took away some anger I had against Madhu, and I became more peaceful within. My catharisis was unusual, but I am happy that it came about.

What happened to Kaavya? I stayed in touch with her for a few years. That is till she got married. Rishi actually changed quite a lot in the months that followed. He looked lot happier as he got to spend much more time with Kaavya. But Kaavya insisted that the relationship with him was a platonic friendship. After graduating in next summer, she found work on the other coast. The time difference and the distance, plus appearance of new characters in Kaavya’s life slowly, but surely killed Rishi’s hopes and dreams. He underwent a brief alcohol problem, but later moved to New York and became a reporter with India Abroad.

Kaavya eventually married a person she met at work, and her parents approved of. The fated meeting was part of the dealing through which her dad had found this job for her. I still don’t see why it happened so, that eventually the sexiest person I met in graduate school, went on to marry this corpulent, bald person. She was pretty, and she was smart. And yet, when it came to marriage, she chose him, who appeared so boring in conversation, never did any outdoor activity and wasn’t the richer or smarter option either. I asked Kaavya if she knew why she married him. Kaavya’s response, “He loves me and I respect him for all he knows and for how much he cares about me. In any case, marriage is about more than having a spouse who is picture perfect. It is about having a spouse who makes you complete, who makes you happy.”

Varun went on to do a PhD. After figuring that Varun was trying to graduate fast, his advisor offered him the opportunity of doing a one year co-op internship that paid him handsomely. This took care of his financial worries and provided him money for his sister’s marriage. Gandharav and his family insisted on paying for the marriage reception. The internship brought in money for him to buy an used car. Also, it kept him on the other coast, which helped as Kaavya graduated before he returned back. I graduated about the same time as Kaavya, for having been in graduate school for five years, I was too eager to get on with my life.

Gandharav was later instrumental in my marrying Varun’s younger sister. He himself settled down with a Japenese female, and we still tell him that just having a Yoko Ono is not enough to make him into a John Lennon. She is an excellent cook and I often joke that she is a perfect example of idealized Indian wife. Ruchi’s relationship with Mahadev went into a charismatic climax, and ended like most one night stand’s do. Theirs had lasted a year, primarily due to the ecstasy the hide and seek she played with me provided her. Once a fear of my catching them was gone, the fun was reduced to a fleshy endeavor and after a series of interesting twists, Ruchi married the Videshi. But that is another story.