"Ah, mon cher, we are odd, wretched creatures, and if we merely look back over our lives, there's no lack of occasions to amaze and horrify ourselves."

- Albert Camus as Jean-Baptiste Clamence, 'The Fall'

Saturday, May 29, 2010

dry blood beast

So it's been a while since my last blog post. I had another blog before this one. It was alright, not too bad, nothing great either. But I wrote a lot more there than I do here. and while I mostly post poems and the like here, I used to open up back there. Be frank. It's not hard for me to be open these days, but I'm not used to it, so writing something like this, though spontaneous, isn't easy.

I think it is time to take stock of my life over the last few months.
I think I've been slowing down a lot in the recent past. Getting sluggish. Getting complacent.
I have found that there is a difference between complacence and satisfaction. The difference is this - Satisfaction feels good and continues to feel good even after a while.
Complacence starts out with making you feel good, but its like a radioactive element with a short half-life. begins to decay and when it unravels - pardon the complete messing-up of scientific phraseology - suffice to say it doesn't give you a reason to smile.

I have been complacent. and I need to remedy that. but how? Maybe by finding things to do. I'm helping an old friend out with her grad. film and that's given me a day of something to do. I read books. so far so good.
Some content-writing here and there. a few hundred rupees are made thus. I don't have many friends, but considering my attitude towards friendship, that is not surprising. I don't make many efforts to maintain friendly relations with people around me - I do want people to keep in touch with me, but am not willing to do so myself.


what's one to do? we are who we are, eh? It's not that I don't try. It's just that my 'best' is too less for most people. so I don't bother too much anymore. call it Sour Grapes Syndrome if you like. Individuality!
My liege.

Even as I type this, I tire of it. Last night as I was returning from that old friend I mentioned's place, I stood by the roadside and watched the twinkling lights of the high-rise buildings about half a kilometer away from me. There was a full moon. Together, they seemed like a cold mother. This city brings out the worst in me, and that, my friends, if channelized right, might just bring out the best.

We have assembled inside this ancient & insane theatre
To propagate our lust for life & flee the swarming wisdom of the streets
The barns are stormed
The windows kept & only one of all the rest
To dance & save us
W/ the divine mockery of words

James Morrison

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Project: Chapter 4

Chapter 4

the tale was told
as show and tell

hissing on
steadily uncertain
its lack

hands readied an Other
bound to enforce causality

Image of Image

There was a time, and that time was now. Swish past it, passed it and this continued, continues. Trying to make sense of it all, tenses abound, continuing the past, perfecting the future, offering little but variation in perspective. The point that is closest to being, just being in the moment is the moment. This is not a pleasant read, this is not simple. More often than not, an abstract is associated with a concrete, or a material with a colour, when it comes to describing something that exceeds the limits of normality. Pitch black, red hot, silence that can be cut with a knife. Futile similes and pointless metaphors. Silence that can be cut? Such are the times, and such are the parallels drawn. Silence, get this, is not dissimilar to bread. Following that logic, time is sushi – chopped up into digestible bits, wrapped up and rolled into small portions and menu-carded into calendars and clocks to be sold. This is not skepticism, this is cliché and thereby, fact: time is money.

But there is a certain area, with bubbles of sharp jagged rock and cold uninviting snow, floating way above industrial city and modern town. In this place, commercialism tries to live and make its home, but finds that it can never have more than just a house, a temporary residence. In this place: mountains. Great beings of stone power, aged beyond one's capacity to measure time, for whom time means nothing but a few centimeters up or down. Over the centuries, Tibetan lamas, European explorers, Nepali Sherpas and other miscellany have climbed mountains, walking unmade paths, feeling awe while learning humility and this one fact: mountains defy metaphors. Every time that a description has been attempted, all that is left to show for it is utter failure.

Mountains are like…
The view from the summit seemed as though…

No, nothing could come of it. For how is something quantified, that does not relate to numeric values? Where time does not apply, neither does timelessness. The mountains don’t offer much but disappointment for those who go there hoping to gain. Relinquishing the self in that place is not sacrifice; the mountains couldn’t care less. Traveling there is always a pilgrimage – done out of choice though it takes several and then some trips to realize why the choice was made at all. Peace, quiet, solitude, are adjectives that the mountains might evoke, but do not contain within themselves.

Somewhere in the mountains, a climber proceeds, knowing that even as day becomes night and though the watches on a billion wrists tick on, all that may be found there is a photograph -

Semblance of timelessness.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Project: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

I sought sanctuary

in a tale

the cause of which

was poetic

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Project: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

the world deconstructed

around me

sounds signified
but only for me

phrases kept familiar
so I would hear

making sense allowed for
holding together
the journey down
meanings of fall considered

concrete made contact

the shell smashed
I breathed in amnesty

mnemonics helped reorient

stories began

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Project: Chapter 1

These are poems. This is a project. Work is in progress.

Chapter One


I begin
Where beginnings are

at the end
of an other


in continuing
this tale
I must raise


a mansion
a cottage

this one time
these two times
those times

of rhymes but
no reason


time passed
or I passed it
as time stood
perfectly still

either way there
was motion


modern medicine

complications arose
the patient
etherized on a table’s

condition became un-
stable and
Dr. Professor tried

so Eliot survived
while the love song

Monday, May 17, 2010

Process: a photo essay

Each of these photographs indicates a stage of human life. I have left the photo-essay open-ended, because there hasn't been, and still isn't any consensus, the world over, regarding what comes after the conclusion of this process we call Life. You will note that while there is an 'Exit', there isn't any 'End' in the following essay:

Friday, May 14, 2010

$4.25 billion pledged for fight against climate change. Is it sufficient?

A Reuters article from Wednesday, 12 May 2010 stated that donor countries had pledged a sum of $4.25 billion towards combating the phenomenon of global climate change. This has been the largest amount ever pledged since 1991, the year of inception of the Global Environment Facility which, according to the article is "the world's largest public green fund that helps developing countries tackle climate change".

The largest amount since 1991. No doubt, $4.25 bln is a lot, but the question here is whether it's really enough.

The argument could, of course, be made that it is a beginning. But if $4.25 bln is, I quote, "a 52 percent increase in new resources for the facility", then can you imagine the paltry amount that must have been dedicated to remedying climate change before the Copenhagen Summit? To quote from the article again, "The GEF has been replenished four times since its inception in 1991 starting with $2.02 billion in 1994, $2.75 billion in 1998, $2.92 billion in 2002 and $3.13 billion in 2006."

The latter part of the article discusses how "this initial support will be increased to $100 billion a year by 2020, in particular by introducing new and innovative sources of funding." A hundred billion dollars a year, ten years from now. Let's put that figure into perspective.

According to the document 'The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11' by Amy Belasco, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, "The FY2010 war request totals $139 billion including $130 billion for DOD for both wars...If the Administration’s FY2010 war request is enacted, total war-related funding would reach $1.08 trillion, including $748 billion for Iraq, $300 billion for Afghanistan, $29 billion for enhanced security, and $5 billion that cannot be allocated."

So we're talking about an incremental increase in funding for the Global Environment Facility till it reaches $100 billion in 2020. And in 2010, a whole decade before that proposed target, the United States of America's war-related expenses is expected to amount to $1.08 trillion. That's one, followed by 12 zeros. 1,000,000,000,000.

If this is America's projected military expenditure in 2010, can you imagine what the world's total military expenditure would be this year? How many more zeros would you have to add? And if this mind-boggling figure is from this year, can you then imagine what the world's military expenses might be, ten years from now, in 2020? Someone please remind me again, how much the Global Environment Facility is expected to receive from donor nations in 2020.

The disasters we make ourselves are the ones we spend all our money on, trying to avert their onset. In doing so, we often cause the onset of certain natural disasters and then we complain about it.

Isn't it ironic, the way we spend trillions on destruction in the name of defense and offense, but spend less than a fraction of that on conservation and protection of the environment that sustains life on this planet?

So why should we be concerned? Because while pollution and damage caused to the environment might be a local phenomenon from place to place, the effects of such damage are experienced globally. It doesn't matter whether you live in a posh hi-rise apartment in New York City or a slum in an Indian or Pakistani city. We're all seated in a broken roller coaster carriage that can go off the rails at any time. We're all in for the ride. And unless we do something soon, it's not going to be a pleasant one at all. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Eunuch and the Mumbai Police Constable in a Local Train in the Night-Time

This is from Bombay, now Mumbai. Travelling in a local train one night, something curious happened. Curious not because it was unique; curious because I was not familiar with what was happening. In retrospect, I'm sure it happens on a regular basis. It's worth a thought, the sheer number of things that are so common in occurrence, yet we are not privy to. Sometimes because we're not around to see it happen, or sometimes because we just don't care enough.

At Mumbai Central or Mahalaxmi station, a couple of ' chakkas' (eunuchs) entered the second class bogey I was sitting in. It wasn't crowded, but there were a fair number of people travelling that night. They began their rounds with their quintessential loud claps and unwelcome touches, soliciting money (Rs.10 at the very least, though Rs.50 is the norm) from all those in the compartment.

A couple of stations down (I think it was Lower Parel), a Mumbai Police constable entered the compartment. It is likely somebody who got down at that station complained to him in view of other passengers and perhaps a senior police officer. Anyhow, he got in and insisted that the eunuchs get off the train at once. From the lack of enthusiasm in his voice, it was clear that he was following orders or doing his 'duty'. The eunuchs brushed him off, continuing with what they'd been doing. So, the constable repeated himself, a little more firmly this time. At this, one of the eunuchs turned on him and said, " Kya re? Tu humko bolta hai ye sab mat karo, to phir kya karein? Tu humko naukri dega, kya? To phir de na!" (What, man? You tell us not to do this, but what are we to do then? You will give us a job or what? Then give no!) This invited a burst of laughter, some derisive, some amused, from the passengers who had been able to hear this.The constable, clearly intimidated by this tirade, not to mention embarrassed by the laugher, changed his line of approach. In a subdued tone, he began muttering non-sequitur comments about 'duty' and 'not in my hands', etc. All this happened in less than thirty five seconds, which is how long local trains usually halt at stations. Before the train began to move, both the eunuchs as well as the constable got down. I don't know what happened after that.


Why was this incident curious? Rather, why did I find this incident curious?
Because everyone involved had their own points of view that, objectively considered, had merit.
Let's begin with the passengers on the train (including me).

Their (our) point of view was, we definitely didn't want to be bothered by eunuchs, many of them (us) returning home after a tiring day in town (locals refer to South Mumbai as 'town'). We were indeed glad about the constable's insistence upon the eunuchs getting off the train. However, we couldn't help but be amused when the Mumbai Police (with whom the city has a love-hate equation), represented by that middle-aged constable with a paunch, was given a metaphorical punch in the gut by a person who, regardless of their conduct, was symbolic of the city's oppressed lower-class.

The cop had a point. Underpaid and overworked, he was part of a system that was unappreciative of his efforts and disrespectful to him. Now, a man slaps a man and they might fight, and they might sort it out between themselves. But a cop slaps a man anywhere, and the man is even slightly better off than the cop, and what happens?
The cop gets in trouble. And then there is the red tape they have to deal with. It's like giving a fire-fighter a hose, and telling him, "Look. Here's a hose, and you should use it to put out fires. But before you connect the hose to a fire-hydrant, you need permission from your seniors. Before which these forms need to be filled out. In triplicate. Oh, and if a fire happens somewhere and it's not your jurisdiction...heh heh, you get the drill."
Hundreds and hundreds of fresh police recruits were placed on security detail for the recent I.P.L. final in the city. What did they get for their efforts? No food, no water, no rest for hours and hours on end.
And we expect them to give a shit about two eunuchs on a train?
I don't think so.

Finally, what about the eunuch who spat venom on the police constable whom I have portrayed in a sympathetic light? If the cops' hands are bound, what can one say about those of the third sex ? My mother and other family told me when I was young, that eunuchs are 'shameless'. They go around troubling people; glorified beggars. They don't do anything of consequence, just harass honest and hard-working people all the time. They are often a nuisance, I'll admit (some 'eunuchs' are actually men with fully functional penises and no lack of testosterone), but is it really a question of shame? In a society like this one, where in most places, patriarchy is King, and 'queens' are frowned on...


The crux of what I'm saying is, there are problems. I'm not offering solutions right now. 

Thing is, I don't think I'm in a position to offer any solutions.
What I can do, though, is tell you what's what, and hope that you will think about it.

That is all.