Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saddest Poem

Pablo Neruda is my favourite poet. Period. He is the only poet whose book I bought (apart from Che's of course, but then poetry wasn't his day job). I loved Il Postino. I am a better poet because of him.

His is the only poetry that moves me and shakes me to my very essence. When I read his poetry, my foundations become weak at the knees, my mind swirls to a thousand typhoons, my eyes see far-away sights and my ears hear only the sound of beauty as depicted by Pablo Neruda. I have not read as much of his poetry as I should have, and even if I read all his poetry, it will never be enough.

I was browsing through some of his poetry and going through the emotions mentioned above when I came across this one reproduced below. It was astounding. It was as if Pablo Neruda himself had become my psychiatrist or a mind reader. He knew my innermost thoughts, my deepest feelings that I thought I had successfully buried and hidden, but kept revisiting every once in a while to see if they were still there. He laid bare my soul with a solitary poem and showed himself to be as vulnerable as I am, and in doing so, he reaffirmed our bond. Every word, every letter, every syllable in this poem represents me. His tussle, his pendulum-like expressions for her, the aching in his heart and a final end with room left for hope.

Neruda, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't be.

Saddest Poem

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: "The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance."

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, and sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don't have her. To feel that I've lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn't keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That's all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else's. She will be someone else's. As she once belonged to my kisses.
Her voice. Her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Ghastly Murder Of The Riotous Mr. English

Mr. English had a long and colourful history. His origins lay in England and his ancestry could be traced right up to the Queen, so much so that on his good days he would be referred to as the Queen's English.

Mr. English was very well travelled and there was not a country in the world that he hadn't visited or his presence was not felt in. More often than not, he travelled under the auspices of the Queen herself. He had many cousins, albeit poor country ones, in countries like Scotland, Ireland, Australia and the US, whose only claim to fame was their connection with Mr. English.

Unfortunately, with his extensive travelling, Mr. English's reputation and personality underwent a major change. In places like Latin America and India, which were not directly related to him, Mr. English picked up more than just a smattering of the local languages. This went on for so long and was encouraged by everyone around that soon Mr. English became a mere shadow of his former self. Worse still, when he went back to England as this changed man, he influenced everybody around there as well. And so it came to be that words like curry were inducted in the prestigious Oxford dictionary.

Mr. English in his former glory and original self was officially dead, transformed forever, with only his memory and a few loyal fans, mostly some old-school professors and writers, staying intact. Mr. English did not go alone. He took a large part of the populace and future generations with him. The public had overthrown the old elitist regime of Mr. English, like they had done in the French Revolution, and had twisted Mr. English's teachings and preachings to suit their own ethnic populist needs and beliefs.

While I was in school, my mother always told me to hang out with the brainy kids, the ones who got the marks, so that it would rub off on me as well. My current company comprises people who take special glee in replaying The Ghastly Murder of the Riotous Mr. English at every opportunity they get. Considering that, in order to be understood, I need to speak in very simple English and incorporate a lot of Hindi, my previously high standard of English is getting eroded everyday. I am becoming more and more populist and mass.

I think it is time for me to retire into solitude, engaging myself in activities of reading, writing and personal development, emerging now and then to scorn the masses and have them gaze admiringly and appreciatively at my efforts to keep the memory of Mr. English alive and kicking.

Mr. English is dead! Long live Mr. English!

Daily Delhi

There is no city more singularly depressing than Delhi. There is no job more singularly depressing than my job. There is no building more singularly depressing than my office. There is no view more singularly depressing than the view from my office balcony.

The same route to the same office, the same road seen from the same balcony with the same traffic and the same flight of pigeons next to the same cemetery, the same work day in and day out. It is enough to drive the sanest man insane. Couple this with my constant need to break free and the yearning for home, and the resulting trauma that is inflicted on my mind is simply staggering.

The initial euphoria that I came with, the enthusiasm to live in Delhi and experience the city as well as living alone, have all but dissolved into the thinnest of crevices that the air we breathe provides. It is instead replaced with a dry drab greyness that clouds the senses and threatens to envelope my very existence with its mind-numbing monotony.

I thought that events held out hope for me after experiencing the adrenaline rush. It felt good attacking clients and trying to sell something that just felt interesting. But 3 months have passed and I am not too far from the starting post with my legs all tangled up and stumbling. The passion has long been replaced with procrastination. The finish line is neither visible nor achievable. Like all my other projects, personal and professional, this one too shall never see the light of day. It is doomed to failure and has been from the very start; I just didn't see it then.

Am I even cut out to be a part of this corporate rat race or am I just a wild card entry who is meant to run in another completely different lonely race alone?

A sales call told me today, "Mr. Venkataraghavan, don't tell me you're a loner." Little does he know how much I prefer the solitude of a solitary existence and how much I truly detest people.

There is no city more singularly depressing than Delhi, except Mumbai maybe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Creation Of Music

I have a fetish for musical instruments. I love buying and collecting musical instruments and playing them from time to time. I just love the the thought of owning musical instruments. I finally want to be able to play all the instruments mentioned below to some satisfactory degree.

Instruments I own:

I bought a flute from a pavement seller in Connaught Place (CP) in Delhi. I tried playing it for a bit. I failed miserably. I just don't know the technique and it shows when I am unable to draw any sound from it. However, the bamboo flute still produces one of the purest and most serene sounds I have ever heard. I am mesmerised when it is played.

Also known as a mouth organ, I bought one as a prop in a small skit I was part of. Although I am able to draw sound from it and even make it sound pretty decent to the untrained ear, I still do not know the technique and am hence stabbing in the dark. Once I learn the art of wind instruments, then I shall be able to make it a more accomplished instrument in my hands, but its reputation will forever remain embellished as the accessory of the Roadside Romeo, thanks to the Hindi movies of the late twentieth century.

The first instrument I ever bought, my affiliation with the acoustic guitar began early in school, but never progressed beyond mere acquaintanceship. Stiff fingers with regularly locking joints and a habitually poor interest and commitment level ensured that the acoustic guitar stayed in its bag and collected dust. The guitar now lies at home in Bengaluru. I continue to have no interest in learning the acoustic guitar or any other string instrument.

Instruments I wish to own:

The only instrument that I know how to play to a certain acceptable level, I used to "own" a drum kit back in MICA. After passing out though, the illusion passed and the drum kit became the property of MICA, as it always was. I'm not too sure I would want to buy an acoustic drum kit as time passes as I think that the phase of drumming in my life has passed and will not return, even though I am going for classes to update my skills.

This instrument has the greatest chance of being my next purchase. I have already identified a vendor in CP and will probably ending up buying it the next time I pass by him. This instrument will be my first in an impressive line-up of intended purchases. This instrument will also begin my initiation into finger percussion instruments that have completely captured my imagination. Although I have never really understood the bongos or been completely successfully romanced or seduced by them, I think they are simple and extremely effective finger percussion instruments, far better than my lap or the table. And hey, the more exotic the instrument, the cooler you look.

Possibly the second of my lined up purchases, this instrument, apart from the bamboo flute, is the only one that has a strong classical, and more specifically Carnatic, leaning. I intend taking formal classes for this instrument so as to hone my finger percussion skills and learn more about Indian classical music. I see this happening only after I move back to Bengaluru, so about midway through this year. The Ghatam is a very important instrument to me because of my origins and the role that I envision it playing in finger percussion expedition.

The instrument that inspired this post and my newest discovery, the hang drum will be bought only much later due to the sheer difficulty in buying one. I need to travel to Switzerland and spend a lot of money. Hence, I will buy this instrument only after I have honed my finger percussion skills and I have saved up the requisite amount.

I have always found the saxophone a sexy instrument. It just oozes class and anybody who plays a saxophone immediately looks and becomes uber cool. I nearly joined saxophone classes but ditched it at the last moment in favour of the updating drum classes, primarily because it cost a lot of money and I didn't know how long I was going to be in Delhi. My reputation for great starts but poor continuations and horrible finishings sealed the matter. However, I still harbour dreams of sitting alone in my apartment, depressed and watching the rain flow down my window pane, and morosely wailing with my saxophone.

Wind instruments (the bamboo flute, the harmonica and the saxophone) will always lose out to the sheer thrill I feel with percussion (the acoustic drum kit) and the anticipation I have with finger percussion (the bongo, the ghatam and the hang drum). String instruments (the acoustic guitar) will always come a distant third. My body and mind is more suited to the other two, in the order mentioned above. That is why I will not pick up a bass guitar, even though I know that it will complement my height beautifully.

There are other finger percussion instruments that I would want to own as time passes by. An immediate one that comes to mind is the djembe. I am sure that my list will expand as I immerse myself deeper into the world of finger percussion.

Now you know what to get me as a gift. Let the cascading musical journeys begin.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Filmy Cricket

Yuvraj Singh, part of the Indian cricket contingent that's currently touring Australia, has apparently very magnanimously called over Deepika Padukone, star of the film Om Shanti Om and hot property in Bollywood, to Sydney, where India is currently playing the second Test. Jan 5th is Deepika's birthday.

Now anybody who has been anywhere within a mile of any form of media (including champion consumers/ prosumers/ people) will know that there has been a sort of a love triangle that has been happening, or so it has been purported, between Deepika, Yuvraj and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's wicket-keeper. So what could happen on this Australian visit? Let me hazard a guess.

Yuvi is expecting to score some major brownie points for having called Deepika to Sydney for her birthday, and now that she has accepted, he is probably also expecting to score more than just brownie points. But Deepika celebrates her birthday with Dhoni, completely giving poor Yuvi the cold shoulder. This infuriates Yuvi and he decides that he must exact revenge for this insult to his honour.

In the third Test at Perth, with Deepika watching from the stands, Yuvi strides in confidently for his batting stint. He has failed the entire series and his place in the team is in jeopardy, but that is hardly the matter that is occupying his mind. In a serious bid to woo his lady back, Yuvi sets the ground alight with some dazzling strokeplay. He keeps checking on Deepika and she's smiling away. Yuvi's happy. Then the next Indian wicket falls, and in walks Dhoni. The crowd senses fireworks.

In true Bollywood style, Yuvi and Dhoni give each other the look in the middle. The Australians think it is some sort of mind game that is being applied by the Indians and, unable to figure it out, start to feel very jittery. If Yuvi had set the ground alight earlier, then Dhoni was the true arsonist. He bludgeons the ball to every corner of the ground and the stands. Yuvi throws a quick furtive look at Deepika. The smile's bigger, but the gaze is elsewhere. Yuvi is burning.

Yuvi smashes a huge six. Dhoni hits two the next over. Yuvi responds with three the following over. Dhoni calmly hits four sixes the next over. Yuvi gives it everything he has, except the kitchen sink, and rockets five sixes into the stands the following over. Dhoni is on strike. The crowd has already gone stark raving mad with excitement. Dhoni gives it the kitchen sink as well and sends all six deliveries of the over into the stands. Before he hits the last one, he raises his bat and points it to Deepika and then smashes the last ball over her head and out of the ground. Deepika is jumping and clapping. Yuvi sees red. The Australians are hapless.

Unable to top, or even match, that suave effort from Dhoni, Yuvi hatches an evil plot. He gets Dhoni run out. As Dhoni walks back to the pavillion, stinging from the back-stabbing, he avows his revenge. Soon enough, the Indian innings comes to an end and they take the field. Well into the Australian innings comes the moment that Dhoni has been waiting for. Yuvi is given the ball for a spot of bowling.

Yuvi, still keen to impress Deepika, is bowling with tremendous effort, and the effort is paying off. He is constantly threatening the Australian batsmen and looks like he might take a wicket any delivery now. One of the Australian batsmen, unable to get Yuvi away, dances down the track to attack. He misses, Dhoni collects the ball cleanly, and then calmly walks away from the stumps without effecting the stumping. The batsman looks at Dhoni as if he were crazy. Whispers of match-fixing grow louder. Dhoni has settled the score.

A few Australian wickets fall and Brett Lee strides in. Soon enough, he is facing Yuvi. He swats him for a huge six. Then, to the surprise of everyone and in a completely unexpected development, Deepika jumps off her seat and runs on to the ground, escaping security guards. Both Dhoni and Yuvi stand rooted to their spots, waiting to see to whom she goes. Deepika runs toward the centre of the two Indians, straight to Brett Lee. Lee, having recorded a song with Asha Bhosle, knows exactly what is about to happen. He and Deepika sing and dance in the Perth cricket ground, running around the players Bollywood style.

Yuvi and Dhoni, both having been slighted, make up and become best friends again. The Indians, miffed that an Australian has stolen a beautiful Indian woman, and Deepika Padukone no less, go at the Australians with renewed vigour. The Australians go on to lose the Test match by the biggest margin ever in the history of Test cricket.

Now that Brett Lee is no longer part of the winning side, Deepika drops him like a hot potato and comes back to the Indians. But the Indians have wisened up and they refuse to welcome her back into their dressing room, because only a woman can break the greatest of friendships and the Indian team values its friendship more than anything else. Deepika leaves Australia dejected and heart-broken. However, back home in India, she is welcomed as the saviour of Indian cricket and she becomes bigger than Mandira Bedi.

Note: The players and the model in the video are not the characters mentioned above and are only representative.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Tea Man

I had a cup of tea from this tea man who has stationed himself outside the FICCI Auditorium on Tansen Marg. In keeping with the effect I have on establishments, a crowd starting gathering there to have a spot of tea after I became a patron of the establishment. There were at least 5 different orders for cups of tea in the few minutes I stood there drinking my cup of tea.

I admire these people the most. Be it the tea man, the push-carters selling anything between various forms of nuts and chaat, or the shoe polishers, I respect these people simply because they spend their entire day working hard to make just that extra buck that will enable them to make that last leap to a stomach full with a nice hot meal at the end of the day. When you find it difficult to even spend an hour outside in the cold Delhi winter or the hot Delhi summer, then you will know what a task this is. The concept of 9 to 5 does not exist for them. They don't earn a fixed salary. What they sow, so they reap. The sweat on their brow determines their earnings for the day. And it is this attitude that enables them to deliver the highest service levels, time and again.

This tea man offered a woman a choice between disposable plastic and reusable glass for her tea, keeping in mind that she may not like to drink from reusable glass. I was just stunned that he had the ability and the presence of mind to keep and offer a choice. And the tea, which cost me only a fiver, was brilliant.

A shoe polisher really wanted to polish my shoes a couple of days ago. Since I don't like somebody else polishing my shoes (when I, as a perfectly able youngster, ought to be able to do it myself), I gave him some money. But once he received my money, he was all the more adamant that he would polish my shoes. Finally, I gave in and removed my shoes and gave them to him, even though he insisted that I could keep my feet in my shoes as he polished (I don't like people touching my feet - I ain't God). In two minutes, he had returned my scruffy shoes with such a shine on them that an Army man would be proud of them. They're still gleaming even today. I don't know how they do it, but I do know that I can never replicate it.

And yet, we often treat these worker ants of the Indian economy with the scantest respect. We believe that they are way below us. But they are people too, they have dreams and aspirations too and they work to achieve them, instead of resorting to begging or stealing. Instead, cops steal from them, the public discards them and they are often clubbed with beggars in our heads. We are willing to pay the marked price on a branded item in a fancy store, even though it is expensive and we are just paying for the brand name, but we will haggle and fight with these worker ants to squeeze out the last rupee of saving that we can, and deprive them of a bit of that hot meal at the end of the day.

So the next time, pause for a second and think. Nike and Levi's do not need your money. That's right. They're getting along just fine without your money, and although they behave like you're their greatest customer in the history of greatest customers and they will do anything and everything for you just so that you will spend a little money on them, they really don't care. But wait a minute, maybe that person outside the shop on the pavement carrying his trade with him on his back does need your money, and he's willing to work for it too, instead of begging like a parasite or stealing like scum. Choose!