Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home Diaries.

A few broken beer bottles
And just one broken heart
A song that keeps playing forever
Memories, many, that keep welling up once in a while
A starry sleepy stony night
But no restless reveries
Only a poem that doesn’t rhyme
And  ramblings that make sense to the one it should.

 A half full beer bottle and a plate of sliced stir-fried pork on the table with Take it Easy playing behind should have made me happy. More so, for I was home, with one of my oldest friends, in the city I claim to love and long for, near the river I thought I missed so bad, in the bar I had taken the first reluctant sip of a beer. But I was not- the dark smoke filled bar was starting to make me feel strangely suffocated. A mysterious melancholy had swept me over in the most unforeseen fashion, the beer was cold but refused to go down; the pork did not quite melt in the mouth as it usually does. The experience of feeling rejected by someone whom you have always thought as yours is an oddly eerie one- the blue hills, the great river for that one moment seemed to denigrate into mere cold physical entities, which had turned their backs on me, and I was all of a sudden an outsider. An outsider who no longer belonged to the place, and its people.
Being blasé is an important step towards being happy; I have sadly never been able to be. Blasé that is, I do not know and do not wish to either if that inevitably also disqualifies me from being happy. And it  pinched me somewhere it should not have, when just minutes before stepping into the bar, I  received a call from someone, who I’ve often vehemently  claimed to be unimportant in my scheme of things, to be informed that she was going home and was, as she put it, super excited, about it . When I asked her, what the super excitement was about, the answer was an exasperated – Well, because I’m going home!
I’ve been away from home for a fairly long time now, almost half a decade. And the idea of home’s altered over time. Initially, it meant family and friends, and slowly it has changed into more abstract memories of places, people and proceedings. The originally nostalgic notion of coming back to a place, which was yours has, almost anticlimactically, worn off into a more sedate affair of returning to a place where life is just easier, not necessarily natural. It’s a tragic transformation though; one that makes me feel extremely hollow from inside. The small town I live in and the other big city I often nibble at to escape life don’t consider me their own too.  I can’t even call myself a vagabond for I hardy do anything unrestricted by the practicalities of life. The whole ritual of watching the lights on the river from the hills, and dreaming of the good things that have passed by and will probably come again has become exactly that- a ritual reeking of times that never will be again. The city has changed; I have changed. And both of us cannot come to terms with each other’s changed selves.

 I’ve held on for too long, so long that I should be called clingy. Held on to an illusion of permanence in a universe where change is the only constant.  Held on because having a home and being loved and cared for was important for me. It still is, but, not that I have a choice. The bubble has burst somewhere and I couldn’t even hear it or as she says, refused to hear it. The pink woman in the red car honks at me for she’s getting late and I should drive faster. The city, I see, has finally learnt to move fast. I should learn too lest I must be mowed over by the midafternoon melee of a city in motion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Why Chetan Bhagat is not so bad.

It’s almost funny that in life, there are so many things we want to do but refrain from doing them  for the fear of being judged. Ever since I knew Chetan Bhagat’s new novel was based in Varanasi and Kota, I had wanted to read it. But for a long time, I didn’t for no apparent reason. Or maybe, just because I was too shy of being seen with a lowly piece of literature as Bhagat’s. Finally, though, I did borrow it from a friend and read it. And I must say, it definitely wasn’t half as bad as reviewers with twice as worse a sense of prose than Bhagat, had made it out to be. I was appalled at how loosely verdicts like shabby sentence construction and clumsy grammar had flown around in reviews whose whole purpose, as it seems now, were to denigrate the book. Surely, the prose wasn’t as flowingly fluidic as Marquez’s or sparsely seductive like Kafka’s but then it was nice and tight and definitely served its purpose.

 Well, that brings us to a critical question of the purpose of any kind of writing. And here, I believe, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the purpose is essentially very author-specific in a way which is uniquely special to every author. Jim Morrison’s alcohol induced rhapsodic ramblings and Tagore’s lyrical verses cannot be viewed in the same light but that does not, or rather, cannot take away the fact that both  were works of brilliant unadulterated poetry- in their distinctive styles, of course. Chetan Bhagat’s purpose, self admittedly, is not to write great literature but to put across ideas that he believes will make a difference in an entertaining manner.  He is unabashed when he says that his books are meant for commoners, people who want to read simple English without having to refer to a dictionary every two minutes.  As for all the cynics who believe an engineer turned wannabe author will be the last person to bring about a revolution fed on the knowledge of a language, he’s at least honest about what he thinks and as far as I know, revolutions nursed on honesty go further than ones on snooty elitist rhetoric.

Bhagat’s latest has a ridiculously simple story line, which he spices up with the trademark predictable dose of IIT –JEE and some subtle sex. But then, he does it in a manner that is unpretentious. His portrayal of Varanasi is authentic and stems from a genuine affection for the city. Somewhere, in the middle of the narrative, Bhagat takes his lead character to Kota- the portion that had, in the first place, taken me to the book. The Kota sojourn has been done soulfully. For someone who’s been through the grind and can feel the pain of a debacle you could not have done much about, I could connect to the character’s emotions of helpless doom when the fatality of failure in the JEE dawns upon him. At some level, Bhagat, without sounding preachy (to his credit) does toss a few venomous jibes at the Indian Education System and the madness of mindless mugging that the IIT Coaching industry has been reduced to. Again, Bhagat must be given credit for the treatment of the subject- he lets the reader decide what s/he wants to take in from the very honest and matter of factly description of  the coaching industry in Kota. I’ve personally suffered from the two horrific years I had spent at Kota but I also know people who’ve come out of it happy and content. 

Chetan Bhagat, as I’ve pointed out before, is a man with a mission. Yes, he wants his books to sell and make money but he obviously has a greater motive of giving something back to the society and throwing brickbats at him because of that is, well, simply very unfair. On closer inspections, CB’s colossal claims of rejuvenating the art of reading in the Indian context are not so absurd at all. Much as we hate accepting it, a London born highbrow authoress’s expatriate experiences of the Indian Diaspora, however poignant they may be, will never appeal to a first time reader in small town India. S/He would rather read about a life that S/He could at least aspire to have and that is where CB’s purpose is more than achieved.

I know I’m writing this at the risk of being accused of trivializing the beautifully enchanting world of literature, but I do not intend to that. I understand that the way Poe lights up a fire every time I read The Raven, CB does not and, probably, never will. But it’s not about me, it’s way beyond that. It’s about letting a man do what he wants to. It’s about letting the man enjoy his trip. And most importantly, it’s about keeping life simple and finding joy in the simple pleasures of life.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Love

It’s three in the night; the cold is starting to get into my bones and  I’m for a change sober ( considering its just been little more than a week since I got over with my exams)- Khushwant Singh’s seminal injected prose is starting to bore me a wee bit too.  I plug on my roommate’s obscenely expensive earphones and listen to the most mushy song on my playlist. And I realize the incisor is all evil again.

I’ve , by my own admission, changed quite drastically over the last few months. I’m well on the way of becoming an agnostic (something that I know will hurt my mother deeply) and a firm believer of Love (of romantic nature) as a bond way behind bases as I had perceived it for so long. I know I’ve slipped in the previous line in a way more casual than Virender Sehwag would treat my leg breaks but the repercussions on my life have been worse than what the Indian middle order feels when Tendulkar gets out in the first over in a 300 runs plus run chase.  The blog’s been not doing well as expected and though I know personal accounts hurt blogs worse than weed after alcohol, I’ll take a chance for once I think it’s worth it ,and as Rumi had said-Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.

I do not, honestly, know if I’ve ever felt love but I’d like to believe I have- in the pensive brown eyes of the girl I’ve looked into hardly over a second, in the long Garnier conditioned tresses of the girl I’ve played for hours on end, in the ever warm arms of the girl I’ve spent the most unsure moments of life, in the cherry lipstick of the woman I made love to on a sweaty May afternoon. The fulfillment, I must admit, that I experience as I know no force in nature can take these moments away, is subtly overwhelming.  As I read my ramblings over the last half an hour I realise there are high chances I’ll disown this piece at some point in the future but till then as Morrison had written-Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.

I’m at a junction in life where I have to take a decision and take it fast. The big beautiful bubble of love that borders on utopia (okay, rather crosses it!), I know, may burst any moment but the whole experience of staying perpetually high on a beautifully destructive dose of winged love and Morrison’s and Rumi’s poetry is more than just tempting. December, in spite of its cold stony nights is cozily comfortable with strong coffee and cigarettes, much like Love’s reassuring touches amidst its tragic turbulence and the both of them together with copious amounts of  black Rum, when given a chance , can make you feel warmer and gladder than the most potent antidepressants . I’m not strong enough yet to let Love weave it warm magic on a cold December night for I still care and worry about trivialities like practicality and logistics even as I know people so close to me are letting it happen to them and are happily basking in the sweetness of nothing yet everything.

I know very well no amount of Rumi and Morrison will help me come to a decision but then I at least believe that Love as embodied in the poetry of Rumi and music of Mr. Mojo Risin’ does exist and I, till the bubble bursts and fall flat on my face, intend to keep Love that way- surreal and beyond taciturn logic.

The night is long and the dream is beautiful
 But to fly higher, there is but only one rule
 You have to break and you will touch the sky
That to your heart, never shall you lie.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Love and Lust this December

I’ll never be as true as what your heart had sought
But then you, in the heat of my love, are ought
To embrace my love loaded lust this December
For even the sadness in your brown eyes so somber,
All I see, is you, melting like a happy candle in my arms
Burning itself to a sad seductive smugness that, neither of us, harms.