Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Krantigeet, A revolutionary song

As a poet, I can perhaps best support the fight against Indian government and Parliamnet's education policy by providing poems and songs like this. I am dismayed that meritocracy is being sacrificied for the sake of political mileage, and casteism is being sanctioned and encouraged by some regressive, ill-thought measures of caste based reservation even in elite educational institutes. The collective anger and will of people is must to rout the vestiges of caste-based politics as well as caste-based hiring. Many good articles, especially by commentators like Subash Kak, TVR Shenoy, Arjun Singh's interview by Karan Thapar, and "Are Brahmins dalits of today" ( ) and my own attempts at voicing opinion as an educationalist and alumni are already out on the net. Many of our friends are on strike, protesting, and my whole support and solidarity lies with them. I am publishing the poem here in Roman script and I have posted it in Devanagri script here: . Please pass this poem on, and I will be extremely delighted and honored if this can inspire more people to join the fight, and if striking doctors can draw more inspiration from my words. (I will update a recited version on my blog as soon as I can record it).


Nirbheek hokar, barr chalay chal,
hai yuvak tera, yeh pareeksha samay,
jab bhi satta ho, apna dharam karam bhooli,
kranti ki koshish hai tera ikmatra kartavya.

shaashakon ka jab samarthya,
hai swaarthon mein lupt hua
jaage guruvar, jaise ik Chanakya
ke pran se paida Chandragupta hua.

Aurangzeb se bhide thay Gurugobind Singh
shahidi khalason ki ab bhi kya kameen
aatatayi shakatiyon se bhidnay ko hi
Azaad, Pratap, Shivaji janamti yeh jameen.

Dhritrastra, Duryodhana ki sabha ke
sabhi santri mantri hain paap ke ang
bhaarat maa draupadi-si pukarti krishan ko
raajniti mein dus-shashanon ka punarjanam.

Koi kans hai, koi Kaichand
Changez Khan koi, toe koi Ravana hai utha
Prashuram-sa prakope lekar
de ikki-ees baar inko mitaa.

Nishchay yahi kar, barr chalay chal
jaatibhedh se bharat ko mukt karna hai
vivek kehta hai ikki-eeswin sadi mein
hamin yuvaon ko akhand, smridh Bhaarat rachna hai.

Vivek Sharma
May 26, 2006

A revolutionary song (my own translation for non-Hindi speakers)

Fearless be, walk on, march on,
o youth, this is your testing time.
When the ruler descrate their powers,
revolution is the only duty thine.

When the abilities of the governors
are trampled by their self-interest,
Arise Guruvars, like one Chanakya
whose one vow created Changragupta, the first.

Gurugobind Singh had challenged Aurangzeb
sacrificing Kahalasas are still here in plenty;
To fight against the rule of oppressors
if why Azaad, Pratap, Shivaji procreated this country.

In the court of Dhritrastra and Duryodhana
each sentry and minister is perpetuator of sin.
Bhaarat-ma like Draupadi calls for a Krishan
in politics, the Dusshashans are born again.

They are the Kans, Jaichands they are
Changez Khan as well Ravana of our times they are
With Parshuraam's valor and ire
twentyone times you light their pyre.

Determined you walk on, march on
to liberate India from the demon of caste
vivek reasons that in twentyfirst century
making India prosperous, united, is the youth's task!

Translated on May 30, 2006


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Graduate, graduate, graduate (Boxer by S& G)

I wake up in the morning, a damning dream was conversing with me about my progress as a graduate student. My first instinct was to stay in the bed a little longer, but then I heard the refrain: "Graduate, graduate, graduate" in my head. As if the goddess of knowledge and music, goddess Saraswati had returned to her ageold duties to rouse intellectuals into finishing their tasks. Not quite out of sleep yet, I switch on Simon Garfunkel, and well the first song that plays in the background is Boxer:

"I am just a poor boy and my storys seldom told
Ive squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest, hmmmm"

Wow! I do realize that Paul Simon must have never realized how many connotations his songs have for people. If advisers words are "mumbles", much of published literature "lies and jest", it is quite true that every researcher "hears what he wants to hear.... the rest"

"Li la li..."

My morning has begun on the right note it seems. I am back in business, dressed like a tramp, I walk down the empty streets to reach my laboratory. It is still there. So many buildings in the world collapse under their own weight, earthquakes, bombs, armageddon, mistakes during shooting movies, and fires (like in movie Office Space) take care of the rest. But my laboratory stays intact. Its like Terminator, cannot be destroyed easily. I sit at my desk, stare at the screen, hear "Graduate, graduate, graduate" again and stand up and look around. The instruments, my chair, the sloth computer that likes neither emails nor Matlab are all shouting out to me, their voices are not synchronized, and some high pitch feminine ones are much louder than the backdrop. I put my hands on my ears, when Simon's words start unfurling in my thoughts:

"Asking only workmans wages, I come lookin for a job, but I get no offers
Just a comeon from the whores on 7th avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Now the years are rolling by me, they are rockin even me
I am older than I once was, and younger than Ill be, thats not unusual
No it isnt strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same"

Yes, I must graduate. The wages here are petty. Few years ago, they made sense. Now I am not that young, cannot live without marriage and money. Even 7th avenue is too costly for me to get any comfort there. I guess when I thought I was mad at my experiments not working, I did not realize the real problem was my loneliness. Orkut, blogging, hi5, Facebook and chatting haven't been as helpful, as these starting graduate students think. A time comes in graduate students life, when he must look back and dismiss all that was badly planned, wisely executed or wisely planned, badly executed, restart and understand that restart will kill another few years, and recover all the data sets he dismissed earlier, and make a story out of them. In any case, as the voice in my ears says "After changes we are more or less the same."

"Li la li..."

Before I actually get done, I need a plan of action. No more procastination. I must not write poems.That cannot be: a complete man should not sacrifice his hobbies for sake of a vocation. Maybe I should spend less time on interenet, but if that happens, I will lose out on connectivity and networking, that are so crucial to success of a person. In any case, I must sort out things in my head, and before anything else, let me write a blog to purge myself of any negative or positive thoughts about this matter. What must I write about? I type, "Graduate, graduate, graduate"

"And Im laying out my winter clothes, wishing I was gone, goin home
Where the new york city winters arent bleedin me, leadin me to go home"

I remember I must go home this winter. Going home is not that easy. It is not because they would want me to get married, or my adviser would express his displeasure at my leave or it would be too expensive or I will miss out on my existant and nonexistant girlfriends or I will miss the month of funs, parties and trips my friends will have here. All those are surmountable problems. The biggest problem is to go home and offer chocolates to kids of friends and peers, those guys have been working for half a decade now. The unsurmountable difficulty comes when parents tell you not to worry about father's retirement, not even buidling a house or age of grandmother, but to ensure that after all the work, I must not quit without a degree. When they tell you, all is well, and they are really proud of your achievements, you cannot help it. Your blood boils, the fervour comes to your heart, and you walk towards your university with a soldier like march, "Don't give up, you've got the music in you" plays tune, then the trees tell you "We are the champions of the World" and then you see the spring buds suggeting "I get knocked down and I stand up again" and then your whole childhood comes to you as a montage with words "We will overcome, we will overcome, we will overcome one day, oh ho deep in my heart, I do believe" and you know the whole universe, as Richard Bach had suggested, is plotting with you to finish, to graduate.

"In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains"

The day of defense will come. It is only few months now. The CD of Simon Garfunkel has been burnt out, as has been your laptop. You are typing away your thesis on a desktop inherited from friend who has got six figure job, and to save money, listen to songs downloaded from somewhere. For a year, you have had been saying to yourself, Graduate, graduate, graduate. You look haggard, like a soldier after the war. You had gone fully armed and prepared to beat the shit out of enemy, the enemy seemed to be mere scientific problem, and you had counted on your superior talent with mathematics, your ability to be dangerous when organized, and you figured that you will do it better and faster than armies of graduate students before you, and you had smiled when you thought it would be "shock and awe" campaign. You were to find new precepts and principles, new devices, new science and technology that would alter society and mankind forever. You had fancied yourself as a boxer, who would knock out every opponent, and for many years you had not cared about what was happening to you. But now you have memories "And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him" and you are about to finish.

yet some more data is needed, some more verifications are required, more analysis, some more papers need to be submitted. You feel cheated, you have exhausted your energies. You cannot quit after spending all your twenties to an end. You must graduate.

"I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains"

I smile, I fight on. Its not that bad. I have learnt a hell lot more than I will ever use. I have made friends to last me a few lifetimes, for the friendships that are made in times like these, are the ones that last forever. I had a long enough time at graduate school, and I am surprised they don't offer ternured positions to students. Many people came and left with MS, many people decided to quit after two or three years, some changed departments, other schools, many their advisors. I have lived on, fought on. I can cook more dishes than any housewife can, I can survive on lesser money than people getting social welfare funds live on, I can read more pages in an hour than printer can print, I know how to plug-in and unplug more intstruments than Thomas Elva Edison knew off (and unlike him, I don't keep a count of my failed attempts), I know of every dish served in every restaurant in ten miles vicinity, I am friends will coffeeshop, bookstore, library people. I fell pretty good about how I have fared so far. I've had time to do all the reading and learning that I ever wanted to and I have earned credit for it. I have seen America by lieu of conferences, and I can talk for hours about many scientific and non-scientific topics. I have achieved intellectual nirvana, where nothing surpirses me, nothing bothers me. Before I get too smug and content and happy with my situation, I feel hungry, weigh the options, and walk away from this desktop, with one ramble, one wish, one idea, one hope, one dream, one destination, and I must say it three times for the effect: Graduate, graduate, graduate.

Li la li...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Solidarity with striking doctors

My striking doctor friends, and everyone else who is pitching in their protests against qoutaraj, my most sincere regards and best wishes to you. I wish I was in the country to stand by your side, but in principle I am there as a brother in arms.

The time has come where we all join hands in raising the pitch of our voices to the extent that it is heard, felt and understood by everyone in the country. We need to fight the quotaraj to get the issue fixed once for all. The reservation culture has survived so long because we have continuously adjusted to the schemes of these politicians. No political party has spoken against the reservations shows a crisis in the country. If there is no member of parliament who comes out in open and expresses his disaggreement with proposed increases, of each one submits like the courtiers of Dhritrastra did when Duryodhana and Dussashan tried to disrobe Draupadi, (and this time no avataar, no Krishna is going to come), our whole social fabric will be torn apart.

Why is the President quiet? Why is the Prime Minister quiet? We need IIT and IIM Alumni association to make louder protests. We need all industrialists to raise pitch, for all they care about is profit, and our politicians would target private enterprise for giving next round of reservations. We need Ambanis to come out and speak that their father never relied on reservation and so opportunities come by for them who fight for them. We need all industry heavyweights to denounce the proposed increase. We need educationalists in US and India, the scientists and teachers, the academicians everywhere to put forth their strongest voice expressing concern about the repurcussions of proposed quota.

While China is trying to create world class universities, we are seeking to destroy the ones that have any hope to compete. How many generations have to be sacrificed before our politicians start to show some long term vision in making decisions for the country? When the National Education Commission already rejected the proposal, why cannot government accept their judgement. We not only need the government to remove the proposed increase, but also to make an assessment within next week to figure how the quota system can be abolished totally.

Some news sites (like the current edition of are either trying to underplay the issue, and some others trying to argue only for "pro-quota" people. All bloggers and protestors, please remember that we need media to pitch in for us.

Well, if all political parties together decide tomorrow for fixing quotaraj, all take the credit together, all remind themselves that divide and rule based on caste needs to end, all together pass a resolution against quota, the move can be reversed. We demand for equality of opportunity in country, and that is created by making everyone capable of competing exceptionally well. We need to fix the primary and secondary schools, not fill engineering and medical schools will people without decent schooling, and lower merit, for all practical purposes, like the best players in every sport, good professionals become so only if their education starts early. Provide free coaching at government run schools everywhere in the country for poor students, and see to it that courses are taught properly at schools at every level.

All this has been said out loud before. Yet everytime we repeat it, we do so to make our message propagate into their conciousness who have become deaf to the justness of our demands, blind to the disasters that they create by issuing freebies to win votes. My striking friends, may God be with you, may your confidence know that we are all together in this fight.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

IITs: Myths and Miseries

Indian Institute of Technology is considered a brand name and the stamp of IIT is known to give access to better opportunities in both job and higher studies. The recent debate about increasing reservations at IIT and IIM has generated a lot of press. I have had written a few blogs expressing my strong opposition to the move, and the crux of the argument was that one must impart the capability to compete, the knowledge and aptitude to do well and select only the most meritorious irrespective of caste and religion. I realize now that one of the reasons why people think getting an IIT degree through reservations means anything is because they do not perceive a reality that most of us IITians know and agree upon. This reality is that the most important contribution of IIT system is having a Joint Entrance Examination, which helps them to select students who have good grasp of basic sciences and excellent speed and accuracy in solving mathematical problems.

IITs are not the best schools in the world in terms of either infrastructure or research or teaching resources. They cannot be, given the severe financial handicap imposed on them, primarily due to the huge dependence on government, and secondly because the system of both industrial and government funding is not as evolved as in the developed countries. We IITians know it for a fact that our most bankable attribute is not the education we received at IITs (even though it is perhaps the best we can get in India, though might be substandard compared to the world's best schools). Our most important quality is not what we learnt at IITs, but the fact that we are coming into the institutes through one of the toughest entrance examinations in the world. The brotherhood that prevails in IIT alumni is due to the recoginition of the fact that each one came through his toil and intellect. All the respect foreign universities and companies as well as the Indian industry has for an IIT engineer is based on the belief that these students represent the best of the lot. There is a self-confidence and belief in his intellectual ability propels an IITian to succeed in achieving his career goals. This belief is the reason why so many IITians have turned into successful enterprenuars.

Being an IITian helps one because people associate a certain minimum intellect with the graduates. But after coming to US, I realize how backward our laboratories (most of them) are compared to the facilities available here. In fact, IITs cannot even compete with the universities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and China in terms of both the research fundings and equipments available. For first few decades the IITs were primarily undergraduate institutions, but in recent years the number of seats for M. Techs and PhDs have been increased disproportionately in comparision to the resources available. Hence while undergraduates continue to garner the best jobs available, the PhDs from IITs are considered no good, just because they do their research work under severe handicaps in terms of facilities. IITians are often accused of leaving the country for greener pastuares, and one big reason for that (till recently) was a lack of equivalent opportunities in the country.

IITs are in severe need of good faculty. But given the amount of money available for a starting researcher, and the pay scale which cannot compete with any private sector job (its factor of four to five times lower even in Indian company comparison) means that people like me cannot rationalize moving back to India and teaching there. This is a serious issue, for without recruiting the best researchers and teachers, IITs cannot progress to become better research universities and their PhDs will be considered sub-standard even in comparison to other Asian countries. It is well-known that being government servants, the payscales of professors will remain dismal. For some of us who are willing to overlook the payscales, the absence of assured research funding and lack of world class resources make IITs as schools we would love to teach at, but will perhaps never teach at.

The IIT system still sells, as it procures the best product at the age of seventeen and eighteen, and provides these selected people four years of good grounding. This grounding is actually most useful in terms of non-academic changes that it brings to the individual. Since parents and society already recognize that you are brilliant, IITs allow us nerds to discover our artistic, altruistic and creative selves. The competition in anything we do is severe, and keeps the students driven to become the achievers in their fields. Only they who come to IIT on their own merit can profit from the extracurricular scene, the competitive edge and the respect reserved for they who know how to do exceptionally well. Since the calibre of students is good, teachers can afford to teach almost anything, or just give it as an assignment to figure on your own. So eventhough the resources are bad, in terms of what is taught, the level remains pretty good, but it is nothing compared to the grilling one undergoes just to get in.

The best engineers don't necessarily graduate from IITs. After graduation from engineering, the hierarchy of merit does not have IITians at the top, though in a distribution, they might still turn out to predominate list of the smartest (if exit exams are conducted, and of course, criterion of merit, howsoever flawed, is some examination, like JEE). The ones who are not as good as the non-IIT counterparts soon face stiff competition in real world, where again your ability and intellect is the only attribute that means anything. There is an astounding amount of peer pressure on every IITian, and this can be handled well by only those who possess the requisite determination, motivation and mathematical prowess as their counterparts. So be it DASA students (who come through SAT) or the quota students (who may be admitted even though they are lower on merit), they are traumatized more than they are benefitted here. IITians are always against a huge expectation from family, their research advisors in schools, their bosses in companies and their peers, and believe me this requires students who have come this far based on certain work ethic, certain intellectual stamina, certain ability, certain confidence that is achieved only by them who succeed in JEE. Of course, anyone with right combinations of these abilities, will rise to the top, irrespective of whether he studied what and where. In debates like these, we talk about averages and not exceptions and please base your comments on the generalized apects of "meritocracy" and elitism of IITs.

So while the current IITs suffer from both lack of infrastructure and hardships in hiring world class faculty, it is ridiculous to upgrade other universities and brand them as IIT. An astute management recognizes the need to maintain and upgrade quality, our government that lives off political powerplay panders more to its vote banks than to rational thinking, and hence the talk of renaming many other schools as IITs. It is hard for me to understand how our so called highly educated ministers and the bureaucracy that prides itself on their intellectual ability fail to see the real problems with our IIT system, and on a broader scale with the whole education system. If India really wants to become a developed nation, we need to improve the facilities at our temples of higher education. Neither reservation, nor renaming colleges nor diminishing research grants is going to help us. Rather these pose threat to the very brandname that they want to exploit.

Another aspect of IITs is that they need to evolve out of the initial organizational hiearchy that was established fifty years ago. This involves both the way in which government controls these centers of learning and how the promotions, recruiting and workload of professors is assigned and managed. A recent issue is of hiring inbred faculty, i.e. PhDs from IIT itself being hired into the same department. This is contrary to what most advanced schools practice, and the simple reason is that it is by hiring faculty with rich and diverse backgrounds that a school can get fresh ideas and be dynamic and progressive. Of course, hiring real quality people requires a plethora of changes in the system.

I think as the alumni of these esteemed intitutes, we owe the responsibility to our alma mater to maintain their standards. A few alumni have donated large sums to schools to build new labs and departments. I believe we need to have a board of alumni who work with the board of directors of IITs to rationalize alumni funding and spending. For years I have faught against the charges of brain drain, and I sincerely want each alumni to pay off the IIT system whatever the government has spent on our education. This will allow the current IITs a constant source of funding, and improve facilities, etc. A special fund needs to be set up to encourage world class researchers to settle and work at IITs. This, in fact, would be done best with industry giants start a series of sponsored chair positions of research in different IITs.

Some of the existing departments need to be revamped. In response to the research focus and problems, all Chemical Engineering schools in US have hired lot of faculty in bioengineering research and renamed their departments as Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Similarly in United States, Metallurgy has become less important, so Material Science and Engineering programs have emerged, and rather than Textile Technology, most programs have transformed into Polymer and Textile Technology. Since most people are employed by software industries, we need to increase seats in Computer Science and perhaps allow more and more students to do dual degrees in say software. Similarly, many students who join IITs do so as they love Physics and Mathematics and Chemistry. This aspect makes them the best suited students who can be encouraged to study these basic sciences, something essential to help them compete better in global research initiatives in nanotechnology, software and communications. The world is witnessing revolutionary growth in these areas, and IITs have so far lagged behind due to lack of serious initiatives and of course lack of suitable funding and right people.

To summarize, I believe an IIT degree is not a passport to success, and hence distributing it to people who don't deserve it on merit is meaningless. IITs suffer from the lack of world class facilities, depleting faculty standards and cash crunch: problems that need to be addressed before any more new schools are named as IITs. Perhaps the IITs need to come out of government control and then attract funding from everywhere to transform themselves into schools that really produce the best engineers and researchers. Lastly, as alumni we owe it to our alma mater to guide its policy changes, and help IITs become leaders in research and development of the world.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Notes to self

I. Research:
1) Publish Publish Publish
2) Finish experiments, Finish thesis, Finish student life

II. Bachelorhood:
1) Beware Watch out Don't Fall again
2) Beware Watch out Don't Fall again
3) Beware Watch out Don't Fall again
4) Let parents find a girl, meanwhile don't think about it
5) Beware Watch out Don't Fall again

III. Poetry
1) Write write write
2) Rewrite rewrite rewrite
3) Paint all the pages blue,
use less words, emotions true
4) Punctuate, paraphrase, and kill those bloody, vicious, useless, bulky, unneeded, wasted, descriptive adverbs and adjectives.
5) Rephrase: kill adjectives and adverbs.

IV. Novel
1) Read less write more
2) Think less write more
3) Read what you write more
4) Your prose need not have rhyming sentences.

V. Friends
1) To a friends house, road is never long
2) The more the merrier
3) Girls are girls.
4) All men are equal, but some are more equal than others. Each one is not worth his weight in gold (else fat ones will profit), but each one is priceless.
5) All women are equal, but some are just more fat, or more talkative or more irritating or more pleasing than the others. Each comes with baggage, and unless the baggage has same name as you, RUN. Else RUN FASTER.

1) Publish publish publish
2) Guard bachelorhood
3) Read less write more

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A cup of tea X (Spill bee returns)

A day before my wife left for her parents’ house
Spill bee visited us for tea, scurrying her spouse
For wife’s to be confined, as per God’s will
(As if, procreation in India, requires no human skill).

Spill bee’s mouse knows nothing of our past
And sips tea with his back in humpy arch
They both, only recently, moved to our city
Life’s such a bitch, I thought, inadvertently.

One night, I heard the doorbell ringing, ran to the door
The spill bee had arrived, and it was only four
At four in the morning, she demanded a cup of tea
And whispered she had to tell me something urgently.

In shock and awe, I put the kettle on the stove
It was scandalous, she was drunk and she drove
While I fumbled with cups, sieve and stirring
She cooed how my snubbing, she was still regretting.

I handed her the cup, she kissed it, and held it close
And quite purposely, spilled it on her clothes
In panicky, quick moment her burns were doused
And the red bruises on her belly redder blushes aroused.

I promise, I had only planned to touch her bruise
I know, for what followed, it is only a lame excuse
But even though I suffer from the pangs of infidelity
I often meet her now, for special cups of tea!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My cousin's poem!

This was a nice surprise. My thirteen year old cousin wrote a poem and it found its way in Tribune. Gosh! I might be setting an interesting example for the next generation.

Life’s like that

Life is nothing more than a play,
Sometimes it finishes, else it has its sway,
Sometimes we play games,
At other times, we achieve fame.
At a fast pace, life is running and
And we keep trying for winning and winning.

Damini Sharma, IX-A,
Himalayan Public High School, Sarkaghat, Mandi

Published on

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Cup of Tea IX (Life with wife)

A cup of tea: IX (Life with wife)

We get married and even on our first night,
a cup of tea hogs a glass of milk’s spotlight.
I tell her, tea sipped tastefully is an aphrodisiac
and leave half-cup, thinking today, I won’t need much.

That she loves tea, was a blatant lie.
Oh! She married me, through a sly.
In mornings, she hates to make tea.
In evenings, she forgets conveniently.

A cup of tea, a cup of tea,
A cup I crave, I crave constantly
A cup at dawn and my day is made
A cup happily served, in tray neatly laid.

A cup, is it, my darling, too much to ask?
A cup, Patiji, can’t it be your personal task?
A cup made with love, all contents in proportion?
Why do you make cup the cause of much commotion?

Tea, my precious, in not an addiction.
Then why you are suffering from this affliction?
It is just a habit, my prized cup of delight.
Why accepting your flaws hurts your pride?

It is tea that you lied about, saying you liked it.
Will you have married another if I said I despised it?
I may have, for in arranged marriage, all choices are fair
Oh! So now you suggest, I was not the best option here?

Why must we both, my darling, suffer so?
Maybe you or my stepwife, a cup of tea, know?
That’s funny, now you call tea your stepwife
Why not must I, it causes so much strife?

In the end an agreement is reached, we hire a maid
For early morning tea, she’s extra hundred paid
But each cup is a reminder of what isn’t there
And yet my wife, it seems, doesn’t really care.

Dec 2005

A Cup of Tea (VI, VII, VIII): Arranged Marriage

A cup of Tea – SIX (Arranged Marriage, Part 1)
**The story so far: The poet loves tea (obviously). He falls for a one who always spills what she sips (and his love too suffers a similar fate). Then he woos someone who neither savors tea nor his poetry. So another romance meets its eventual doom. Now the poet has agreed to mumma's insistence on arranged marriage, and read on to see what ensues.**

She walked in, carrying a cup of tea,
a bone china cup, served exclusively.
(For our parents downstairs were discussing weather
and we were ordained to meet and know each other)
A sweet smile flared on her face, dimpled.
A soft breath stopped in my lungs, wavered
and as I sipped her shy glances so sweet,
my heartbeat danced to her giggles, upbeat.
I saw my past misfortunes wither away
and it seemed, I was reborn that day.

"You don't drink tea?" I had upasked to kick off dialogue.
"Love it absolutely" her words resounded like an epilogue.
"But I had two cups already during the endless wait."
I simpered, "Oh! Really the traffic jam got us late."
Her eyelids danced with some unknown naughtiness.
Only my sips spoke, everything else was speechless.
I was too overwhelmed, she seemed such a delight,
I was savoring each drop of her present plight,
her hands were all tangled and bangled and so pretty,
and her flushing both charmed and aroused my empathy.

Suddenly we both burst forth into words together
and our silence disappeared into peals of laughter.
She turned the tables, told me, she knew some of my friends
and my many poetic romances were now famous as legends.
Ah! I smiled and mustered a somewhat witty explanation:
"Oh those real life experiments of my creative aspiration!
Hmm! Since you already know, do know, all past is but a myth,
Though like in tea, where taste of leaves, shrubs does persist
but in being rejoined with milk and sugar its sweet, reborn
as a married man, trust me, I will be a different song."

She knew, ah she knew! She knew of her who always spilled tea
and also of the one who drank nothing, oh! nothing absolutely.
She knew of my past, my poetry, my predicaments, my passions,
and had researched all this to judge beyond the first impressions.
While I had walked through her door, unprepared, quite circumspect,
(Failed romances taught me arranged one was an excellent prospect)
She had, as if, rehearsed the whole conversation in her mind
and was reassuring herself with whatever answers she could find.
An hour later, we knew, we knew we would see each other a lot more
But life, oh life! We ne'ver knew what awaited us outside the door!


A cup of Tea - SEVEN!! (Arranged Marriage Part 2)

But life! Oh life! A storm in a cup of tea.
We walked out to find a visitor: my spill bee.
"Oh! My spill bee, what buzz brought you here
Oh! There’s many a slip, 'tween cup-lip, dear.
Spill all your tea, but keep my secrets close
please, my past passion, don't my past disclose."
She read my thoughts, she smiled with her charm,
the gold bangles still adorned her married arm
"Hello Vivek! Pretty surprised to see me, you must be
But guess what? We both are best friends since class three!"

Ah! I stared into my emptiest cup of tea.
There were stains, and dregs and history.
There was emptiness, there was only void space.
My mouth was still superfluous with the aftertaste.
But she was kind, she took my cup away
and winked as she cleared our tea-tray,
and turned to spill bee, and smiled so softly
and blurted out my words, with a touch of glee
"Oh those real life experiments of my creative aspiration!"
Two girls happily clobbered me as amazons in collaboration.

Together we three walked down the stairs
Girls both grinning, and I with red ears
(Our parents were amused, in their duets they smiled
Their dreams were fulfilled, their traditions had survived)
Only I knew what real drama behind scenes had occurred
The girls smothered their laughs, I stammered, simpered
Her mother frowned, but aloud said, "She is happy, just"
My mother concurred, "He too never is so joyfully nervous"
It was getting late, we parted, but fixed up an exclusive date
In heart I knew, if spill bee was good, this one was just great.

A cup of Tea - VIII (Parental Wisdom)

My Mommie says, "Judge a woman from her cup of tea.
A cup of tea is enough to reveal her true identity.
How its serves tells you of her thoughts, her emotion
and a few sips can elucidate her sense of proportion.
A cup of tea reveals her character, her personality,
even how she holds it, reflects upbringing or vanity."

My dad reflects, "Tea and women are quite like whisky,
bittersweet, addictive, their effects on men legendary.
Maybe a cup of tea does all secrets of woman contain
trust me, they can never be revealed to a male brain.
Just like this cup of tea, hold the woman you love close.
(Sips) Revel in her sweet warmth, before her warmth goes."

My mommie smiling, savors the words of my dad silently
and then clears up the empty, cluttered cups, elegantly.
I visualize her metaphors, think back to the old cups of tea.
How one had hated them, how the other spilled endlessly.
How mommie's choice stylishly brought in and held my cup.
In simple teatime talk, cobwebs around my heart cleared up.

May 30 & June 2 & June 6, 2005

Reposting these, for I want to complete the soap opera:)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My favorite poems:)

Agha Shahid Ali (A Kashmiri Poet who wrote beautiful Ghazals in English, the following poem is copied from the collection Call me Ishmael Tonight. Its full of poignant and beautiful verse like the one copied here)

So I'll regret it. But lead my heart to pain.
Return, if it is just to leave me again.

"Till death do us part." Come for their sense of us...
For Belief's sake, let appearances remain.

Let YOU, at Elysian Fields, step off the streetcar-
So my sense of wonder's made utterly plain.

Not for mine but for the world's sake come back.
They ask why you left? To whom all must I explain?

I laughed when they said our time was running out-
I stirred the leaves in the tea I'd brewed to drain.

Break your pride, be the Consoler for once-
Bring roses, let my love illusion remain.

An era's passed since the luxury of tears-
Make me weep, Consoler, let blood know its rain.

From New York to Andalusia I searched for you-
Lorca, dazzled on your lips, is all of Spain.

"Time, like Love, wears a mask in this story."
And Love? My blind spot. Piercing me to the brain.

Oh, that my head were waters, mine eyes a fountain
So that I may weep day and night for the slain.

Shouting your name till last car had disappeared,
how I ran on the platform after your train.

To find her, 'round phantom-wrists I glue bangles-
What worlds she did not break when she left my lane!

Still beguiled with hopes of you, the heart is lit.
To put out this last candle, come, it burns in vain.

D. H. Lawrence (

No! Mr. Lawrence!

No, Mr Lawrence, it's not like that!
I don't mnd telling you
I know a thing or two about love,
perhaps more than you do.

And what I know is that you make it
too nice, too beautiful.
It's not like that, you know; you fake it.
It's really rather dull.

All I ask

All I ask of a woman is that she shall feel gently towards
when my heart feels kindly towards her,
and there shall be the soft, soft tremor as of unheard bells
between us.
It is all I ask.
I am so tired of violent women lashing out and insisting
on being loved, when there is no love in them.

Pablo Neruda

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Don't go far off... by Pablo Neruda

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Luminous till drowning

I was I was
What a dreamer I was
Below the banyan tree
chasing your plaits I was
Across the noisy brook
chanting your name I was
Engrossed in your thoughts
pinining without a pause
Floating diya of faith
luminous till drowning I was. 10

I was I was
How enchanted I was
Inventing on your bodyscape
Kashmir Manali I was
In verses of Kalidasa Neruda
the poet in love I was
Determined to make you mine
striving without a pause
Floating diya of faith
luminous till drowning I was. 20

I was I was
Why a fool I was
Ignored my receding hairline
in wait a decade I was
Gobbled envy with vodka lime
Devdas sans Chandramukhi I was
Oblivious to your deceit
Mirza without a pause
Floating diya of faith
luminous till drowning I was. 30

May 03, 2006
1:30 pm


line 9: diya is an earthen lamp, with cotton wick that burns in oil.
line 10: diya is released into river on some holy nights in India, and floats away with a beautiful, flickering flame till it vanishes off your sight.
line 14: Kashmir and Manali are two valleys in Himalayas. A sixteen century poet remarked about Kashmir, "If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here."
line 15: Kalidasa was a great Sanskrit poet and writer, whose quality and quantity of brilliant works is matched maybe only by Shakespeare.
line 26: Devdas loved Paro, but wasn't able to stand against his father's whim and couldn't marry her. He, then, drank himself to death, while dancer Chandramukhi took him in and nursed him with her own unrequited love. A Sarat Chandra classic written in Bengali, made into two well known Bollywood movies.
line 28: Sahiba Mirza is a folk love story from Punjab. When Mirza eloped with Sahiba, he stopped on the way to take a nap. They were being pursued by Sahiba's five brothers. While Mirza slept, Sahiba's love for her brothers prompted her to break all Mirza's arrows, and hence when he was attacked, he was unarmed and heartbroken, and died fighting. Overcome by grief, Sahiba killed herself.