Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Trip Back In Time

I was supposed to run the Delhi marathon this past Sunday. And I was really gearing up for it (trying to figure out how I could fake a sprained ankle when I was too exhausted to move any more due to my absolute lack of training) till I received a call mid-week from my new boss in Mumbai. She wanted me to come to Mumbai on Friday to attend a conference in my new division. Now my alma mater MICA was having its annual fest that weekend, and my company was paying for my flight tickets both ways. The decision was simple.

I've been sleeping very late of late, and Thursday night wasn't any different. And paranoid as I am about missing flights, trains and buses, or just generally being late, I got almost no sleep on Thursday night in preparation for the early morning flight on Friday morning. I knocked off immediately upon entering the flight and remained so till we landed. Then followed one hectic day of meeting, reviewing and planning, all with very little food. I was exhausted by the end of the day, a day that finished so late that all my plans of meeting batchmates in Mumbai came a cropper. I left the office, met my 2 batchmates with whom I was going to MICA, caught the bus, and crashed.

The bus hemmed and hawed its way towards Ahmedabad so that we finally reached MICA only around lunch-time. Then came all the hugs and the smiles and the nostalgia. I met batchmates I hadn't seen in nearly 7 months, caught up with my juniors, and got along with my super-juniors thanks to the presence of my brother in that batch. We checked out the new hostel, the spanking new music room and the air-conditioned mess and auditorium. We saw Zero jamming up close and personal. I participated in JAM on a last-minute whim and qualified for the finals, eventually coming in second. Then came evening and a rocking performance by Zero. This was followed by Parikrama, but having seen them many times before, we decided to slink away and drink (illegally, considering Gujarat is a dry state). We got sufficiently high and came back for the closing of Parikrama's performance. Then followed a night of revelry and more drinking and partying. A great night. I finally slept at dawn, just like the good ol' days.

Sleeping high or drunk never gives you a good night's sleep and I was up in about 5 hours. The rest of the day passed in a semi-buzzed state, and I was really worried that I would not be in any condition to drink again later that night, and with the MICANVAS party also happening that night, this was a worrying prospect indeed. I somehow made it through the day, nursing my body back to a decent state. That night saw a performance by Strings. They really got the crowd in and going. By the time the performance closed past midnight, I had willed my body back to accepting alcohol in copious amounts. And that is exactly what I did. The night also saw some tearful goodbyes, as batchmates started leaving to be present at office the next morning.

The next 3 hours saw solid drinking, partying, dancing, hugging, and reliving the good memories. Finally, in a nice high state, I got ready to leave for the airport along with a few other batchmates. I don't know how I managed to pack in those last few moments, but I did a pretty decent job, save for a mistakenly exchanged towel. I had never flown high before, and I wasn't exactly dressed to impress either, with my pajamas and flip-flops. But as before, I knocked off as soon as I sat in the flight and woke up only on landing. I rushed home, got ready for work and left, struggling through the rest of the day.

It was a fantastic weekend. With about a quarter of our batch on campus, it really felt like we had been transported back to our day. The juniors still respected us and welcomed us back as the breath of fresh air they were so used to. The super-juniors treated us as the Gods they had heard so much about and were now getting to see with their eyes, in complete awe and admiration. The staff and faculty were happy to see their old students back. Everybody was generally glad that we were back. I guess it only goes to show that we left a lasting impact during our stay there. And I am glad about that. Guys who had done logistics and security and various other allied functions during our outings at MICANVAS were back in their old roles, volunteering to help the juniors through. A beautiful weekend. Sigh!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ache Inside

I did something very crazy today. I googled my ex-girlfriend. And as I was doing it and as I was going through the results, I kept telling myself "Stop it! You're just setting yourself up for depression. You don't need this. Don't do this."

Did I listen to myself? Eventually I did, but not before I had gotten myself well and truly affected. Then I got myself a cup of coffee and went out to the balcony to try and settle myself down. But it was too late. I had started thinking. I had started remembering.

And now, I'm sitting at my desk listening to the sad songs that I used to listen to at the lowest points of my depression, when I missed her tremendously and I knew that I had well and truly lost her forever. And I deepened my chasm by clinging onto a sliver of hope that one day we might be back together.

The ache inside has evolved over the months. For one, it's become less frequent. I also figured out that this ache is probably related with my home. Is home-sickness playing a part in this ache? Will I move home only to realise that the streets, the hang-out joints, the atmosphere, everything, will trigger off an uncontrollable reaction in me and actually amplify the hurt and the sorrow?

I'm going crazy in Delhi. It's not easy living alone when you want company. It absolutely sucks when you realise that there is nobody you can for a drink with, rather nobody you want to go with, and then you realise that the guys you do want to go for a drink with are all sitting in Bengaluru. And then they meet up for a drink and give you a call, and you feel like an absolute oaf.

But will I go even crazier in Bengaluru? I haven't really lived at home with the pain. I've always dealt with it outside the city, in some other city. Will it kill me if I move back? Will it open up old wounds and create fresh scars? Will it give me new hope of a re-union? What do I do? So many conflicting emotions, and no way to handle them, no shoulder to lean on, no way to divert thoughts and repress memories.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Photo Finish

Wow! What a race. What a race! It was beautiful. It was brilliant. And it nearly killed me.

I don't think I've held my breath for an hour and a half since I saw a horror movie as a child. But this season-ending-deciding Formula 1 race at Brazil changed all that. It was scripted like a well-scripted high octane movie thriller.

I'm sure all of you out there must know the position at the start of the race. Hamilton leads the championship with 107 points, aiming to become the first rookie, black and youngest champion. Alonso is second with 103 points, aiming to win successive titles with different teams for the first time in 5 decades since Juan Manuel Fangio. Kimi is third with 100 points, aiming to win his first world championship ever. History favoured Alonso.

Hamilton makes a slow start and then a driver error on the first lap. Alonso plays Brutus, while Massa and Kimi go hand in glove. Kimi 2, Alonso 3, Hamilton 8. The difference in advantages lessen. Ferrari have a tactical advantage.

Hamilton's inexperience leads to over-strenuous driving leads to car revolting. He drops 11 places to 18 before the car decides to give him another chance. Now, he's driving with his back to the wall and everything to gain, after having lost everything he had to lose.

Kubica goes past a slowing Alonso. Suddenly, Kimi is galvanised into action.

A spate of second pit-stops puts Alonso back into third, but Kimi has smelt blood. He puts in some absolutely astonishing laps between Massa's and his second pit-stops. Result: He comes out 0.7 seconds ahead of Massa in the race lead.

Now Alonso has to get past Massa to win the title. Hamilton is flying at the back of the order, but he needs to get all the way upto 6 to win the title. Advantage Kimi.

Kubica and Rosberg in 4 and 5 come achingly close to taking each other out as they battle for position. If that had happened, Hamilton would have gotten the trophy on a platter.

In the past, something has always gone wrong for Kimi. He's always been so near, yet so far. Today was a day of accidents. Whether it was the pit-crew behaving like bowling pins or cars getting up close and personal with other cars and the walls. But thankfully, everything fell in place for Kimi today. 1 point separated the top 3 drivers. Phew! Now that is close.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Writing Beetle

I have been contemplating restarting my book writing for a while now. And today, I decided to take some action. I'm revisiting my story in order to continue it and finish it. It's the first step towards becoming a published author - by finishing my book. After all, if I do want to sell the movie rights to my book, I first have to have a book.

So, as a tribute to the restarting of my writing, as a tribute to my efforts to make the writing bug bite me again, I am publishing a short story that I wrote a long time ago. I planned to extend this short story some more, but I felt that any extension to this story would start drawing it out and make it a bit forced. I like the way it's ending right now. Enjoy!

Warning: Long Post!

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Self Deprecation

“If there ever is anything on the face of this earth that is more worthless and parasitical than me, then it is yet to be discovered. I am the worst disease to have afflicted mankind – useful for absolutely nothing. I use up far too many resources compared to what I put back in. Air, water, money, food, time, everything that I am using should be going to someone else. More for them plus the added bonus of not having to deal with slime like me. Insecurity and guilt abound in me. When I walk, I always keep my head down with my chin almost buried into my chest. It may give me the look of a person deep in thought, concentrating very seriously and contemplating his next move, maybe a strategic business deal. The truth is I don’t want to look into their eyes, I can’t. It will give me away. Eyes have a tendency of doing that. One look into my eyes and people will find out what a fraud I am. I have to keep looking down and continue walking – to nowhere.”

Z lounged about in the aisle, letting his eyes drift over the books. There was a demeanor about him that looked lazy and bored, but a closer study might have revealed a different, more insightful picture. Z had spent the last 2 hours in this book shop, allowing himself to just be. He had slowly walked through every aisle glancing at every book with a feigned interest. The ones that seemed even remotely interesting, he had picked off the shelves and had leisurely absorbed the comments on the jackets. After a while, he had realised that just about every book in the shop was a bestseller, at least that’s what the New York Times said. Z was impressed. After all, if one couldn’t trust the New York Times, then who could one trust? Now, after having spent the entire evening in this bookshop in the gainful activity of lounging, Z felt like an expert on books. He felt like he could write a book himself, and he even knew by heart what comments were going to appear on the jacket of his soon-to-be bestseller.

Z also felt tired. It isn’t easy to spend an evening with the most prolific and profound thinkers and writers on this planet, all of whom have written bestsellers (according to the New York Times), and expect to get away without feeling mentally exhausted. Z needed to recharge his batteries and the neighborhood pub around the corner seemed like the perfect place to do the same. It was late evening. The sun was well into its descent and now looked like a ball of fire low on the horizon. The evening sky was doused in orange with a few smoky wisps of clouds floating around, almost like he himself was.

Z looked around him. He was right in the middle of a busy, bustling city. People were walking around with their heads down, not looking left or right, and taking short quick steps. They must be busy people. Traffic was jammed, vehicles were blaring their horns, and everybody’s tempers seemed to be on the shorter side. They probably wanted to go back home quickly, to their families and loved ones. Z ran his fingers through his hair, gave a look that is hard to describe, shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, and turned his feet in the general direction of the neighborhood pub he had intended to visit in order to recharge his drained batteries.

There was a perceptible change that Z felt as he walked through the door. It took him a little while for his eyes to get adjusted to the dim lighting, too dim in his opinion. However, he immediately smelt the difference between the cleaner air outside and the alcohol and smoke-laden atmosphere inside the pub. Z clumsily groped his way in, affected more by the lack of light than his feeling of belonging. He made his way to a bar stool and ordered his usual beer. He then swiveled his chair slowly surveying the scene and its characters. Z didn’t look too out of place. He was wearing a crisp white shirt, unusually crisp for this time of day, and light beige flat-fronted trousers. With a stubble a couple of days old, he looked like a man who didn’t need to look good, yet made the effort to present himself well. Either he was consciously well-groomed or he had had a little too much free time on his hands. Z completed his swivel and came to face his beer again when he suddenly became aware of a figure sitting on the adjacent bar stool. The pot-bellied man wore clothes that could have looked good if they weren’t so faded and old. Z even thought he detected a tear or two. A shave and a hot bath couldn’t have hurt the man too much either.

“Tough world”, said the man, almost knocking Z over with surprise. “A man makes a decent buck and he can’t keep it. He has to spend it on society instead. That’s the only way to show everyone that he isn’t money-minded. Either which way, he is going to lose all his money, the poor bastard.”

The man looked like he would have liked to drain his beer, but instead took little sips. Z figured that he didn’t have as much money as compared to the time he had to spend here. Instead Z drained the remainder of his beer, paid and left.

Z didn’t like this kind of talk. It made him feel guilty and he didn’t like that feeling. Z was a businessman, head of a leather export company. The company was doing very well, evident from Z’s fine taste and ample time.

Z turned off the main road, away from the bustling traffic and into a little lane almost obscured by thick creepers. As Z walked under that arch of creepers, he felt like he was entering a completely different world. The noise started fading away and the city with its constraints was soon left behind. The lane was poker straight and had little houses on either side, evidently remnants from an era gone by. Each house presented a modern face though, with fresh coatings of paint and a car or a bike standing vigil in front of a little gate. Colourful faces of bright blue, red, yellow, green and a myriad of colours that Z could not even identify peered onto him as he ambled down that little pathway.

The houses soon ended and so did the lane which had started tapering down into nothing more than a well-worn path. Z continued walking. The shrubbery started gaining prominence. Soon, trees appeared in ever-increasing frequency until Z found himself in a little wood. It was so quiet that Z could hear the grass grow under his feet and the clouds slip by overhead. He felt blissful.

Z’s reverie was broken by sounds that, although perfectly complemented the surroundings, were very alien to the city-trained ears of Z. Birds chirped in the branches above. Twigs and dried leaves crackled under his feet. Z stopped and looked down. Twigs, grass and dried leaves greeted his eyes, but no path. Z looked behind him. Even more twigs, grass and dried leaves, but no path. Z looked around him. As far as the eye could reach, the ground was carpeted with twigs, grass and dried leaves. Trees abounded. There were no signs whatsoever that might have helped show Z the way back to civilization. Z turned around and went back the way he had come. However, soon it became quite obvious that he was lost.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekends: A Testimony To Closure

This weekend that just passed was an absolutely brilliant weekend. It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long long time.

On Saturday morning, three of us landed up at the Delhi Golf Course. The Indian Open was in progress. One of us was there on work, because her brand was associated with the tournament; the other two decided to tag along. So we landed up at about 10:45 am and picked up a sheet that gave us information on who was teeing off when. Jyoti Randhawa was teeing off at about 11:45 and we really wanted to watch him (also, there might be the off chance that his wife Chitrangdha Singh might be around; unfortunately, she didn't make the desired appearance). So we went and grabbed a bite of some really bad sandwich and came back to the first hole at precisely 11:45 am.

There are always three golfers who play together. Accompanying Jyoti Randhawa was U Park from Australia and R Gangjee from India. We followed them around for 5 holes in the blazing sun (my friend had unfortunately not brought any form of protection and had to face the brunt of the sun). Park lived up to his name as he sent the ball to all corners of the park and woods. Gangjee was a bit erratic. But the man in form was Randhawa. He eventually went on to win the Open coming from behind the next day. It was a surreal experience. And a lovely morning.

The evening saw a visit to Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri. There was a run happening and we were expected to participate in it. It was to help us gauge where we were in our preparations for the Delhi Marathon that is now happening in less than 2 weeks. The run was a grassroots running initiative by Adidas called the Otto Peltzer Run. The men were to run 5.6 km. Now, even though I've been meaning to train for the marathon for the last couple of months, I am very out of shape and unprepared for the marathon. It showed. I was wheezing and holding my stomach in no time. I managed to finish 2.8 km in under 20 min. That's all I managed to finish.

There was a Walkathon happening on Sunday morning in aid of breast cancer, and I had wanted to go for that. But come Sunday morning, and I was in no shape to participate, thanks to the exertions of the previous day. So I slept some more. When I finally awoke, I spent the rest of the morning and all afternoon playing cricket on my computer.

Sunday evening saw a reunion of MICAns. About 7-8 of us met up, celebrated a birthday, drank a couple of beers, talked, laughed, gossiped, wondered, got nostalgic, cribbed about work, and generally had a good time. It was lovely.

And then my room-mate packed up and left this morning for his new posting in Lucknow. It'll be weird living alone again. But he ought to be back in a couple of months. Till then, bring on the women, I say! Your place or mine?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

To Home And Back

"There comes a time in a man's life when he must find his way home, for whether he knows it or not at the time, the silken ties that bind him are tugging at his heart." - Venkat

I flew to Bengaluru over the weekend, extended to a 4 day trip by taking Monday off. It was my first trip home since March, over 6 months previously, when I had managed to catch Iron Maiden's maiden India visit, but had simultaneously lost out on the creation of memories back at MICA.

So I flew in on Friday night, knocked out cold due to the exhaustion of the 2 Music Today events of the previous 2 days, with my new hat propped over my face while I slept, like I had seen them do in the movies. Hence, I managed to escape being the nervous wreck that I usually end up being on flights. I was nervous and excited after I landed though. How would this trip turn out to be? Would it make me yearn longingly for a shift? Or would it shatter my dreams and make me realise that I was better off in Delhi?

I was faced with my old room. I had demanded the colours of its walls while I was sitting in MICA, but I've hardly spent any time in this room once it changed colour. I had battled many nights here. Delhi, in a lot of ways, was meant to be a fresh start. I was leaving all the baggage behind. I managed to make a clean break of things...almost. The thoughts assuaged me, the feelings surged and ebbed battering me, the mind dwelled on the past, on what could have been if only, the heart wept copiously and painfully, willing itself to believe in God just so that it could give itself hope of a miracle.

I survived the night, and subsequent nights. Am I healing? The next morning was a classic morning. The newspaper in a nice airy living room accompanied by steaming hot filter coffee (though I also know how to make it now, the old fashioned style). I spent most of the day going through the flood of mails that had accumulated over the last couple of days, and doing my bit of usual internet surfing and reading. The evening brought with it a visit to my grandmother followed by dinner in one of my favourite restaurants, exclusive to Bengaluru, Casa Piccola. Again, memories!

The next day, Sunday, I went to a theatre meeting of the first theatre group I was part of, BLT (Bangalore Little Theatre). It's grown by leaps and bounds over the years since, and makes me rue the fact that I've only spent about 6 months in Bengaluru in the 3.5 years since I graduated from college. A play reading was to happen with the playwright sitting amongst us. It was great, a great play, and the plans of rehearsed reading and performances made me wish my return to Bengaluru and miss such a professional set-up of which I could be a part in Delhi.

I met old friends that evening, as well as the next, some whom I hadn't seen since school and college. It was brilliant. I see life flowing on in Bengaluru. I was a part of that river of life, till I hit a stumbling block that made me take a detour. And now, I am part of my own stream, but it is an alien stream, and will remain so for the longest time, despite my sincere efforts to make it home. And then, when I finally convert this stream to achieve a more homely feel, what will happen to my home river? Will I ever be able to go back and be a part of it? And if and when I do, will it still be home? Or will it become as alien as Delhi is now to me? I already feel like an outsider. I barely feel like I'm a Bangalorean. And now the name's changed.

I also did a bit of shopping, mostly window, but I did manage to restrict myself to only one book at Landmark, after much heartburn though. So far, the book's turned out well. I now also feel that I should have probably called more people and met more people. Next time, then.

As I sat in the airport lounge, after just having seen my brother off to his MICA flight and having waved the goodbyes to my parents, I was seriously considering not going back. What would happen if I did not board that Delhi-bound flight? What could the worst consequence possibly be? Nothing came to my mind that made me recoil in terror.

I did a lot of soul-searching that weekend in Bengaluru. I saw the city creaking under its own weight, ready to implode. But I wanted to come back and help it survive and grow, not run away and cower in Delhi. I saw the difference in the freedom that I had in Delhi and at home, and freedom is a big necessity when you are a young man-about-town ready to paint it red. But I also saw the difference in the quality of life, the possibilities of living a full and meaningful life, something that I'm trying to do in Delhi, but it just seems so much easier in Bengaluru.

I watched a lot of Discovery and affiliated channels in Bengaluru. It made me see how small and worthless my life is currently. What am I doing? Helping sell more and more CDs? How am I helping society, the community, the earth? People out there are doing such good and I have to be stuck in a place I don't like worrying about meetings, dates and deadlines in order to earn more money for the company by stuffing music down people's throats. It made me rethink my life completely and I now have a more concrete goal and place to be and things to do. I feel very peaceful. Now I just have to figure out other stuff, like how and where I can do this.

All in all, a very satisfying trip. Now, when I get a little breather from my work, I'll sit and figure out all this stuff that needs figuring out, viz. my life.