we, the people of india, having solemnly resolved
that 1044 dead, 223 missing, 2548 injured, 150000 displaced
is too little, too few;
that the toll of the orphaned and numbers raped
should follow the trail of the glorious sensex;
that commerce is more important than truth
or a prostituted police force;
that the god(s) need more human sacrifice
and the sweet smell of houses burning;
in our exercise of democratic right
this 24th day of november, 2007,
do hereby elect, congratulate and give to ourselves this government.
we, the people of india, having solemnly resolved
raise your pirate flag-SING happy birthday!
on tin rooftops.
i hate words.
lush soft stories
of golden sunets
dripping from the roof
of the grass
to the fresh cold
i've always hated people who compare one place to another, especially dissing the place they are in. especially when comparing that place to a firang location.
however, after seeing public transport that WORKS, dammit, and streets where a pedestrian does not feel like a bottom trawler...
sometimes i wish i were richer. could afford more. like a fancy education from a really good arts school...
i tell my trainees how things are so much better. how we no longer have to wait to get a mobike, telephone connection, job...
and then i see an article. that talks of how the number of hungry people in the country are increasing. and how this number grows, just as the sensex does. and how it does not make the news the way the sensex does.
and i wonder. is it really that important that i get a telephone connection fast? are "naxalites" really the 'bad' guys? what part do i play in ensuring the continued poverty of millions? can i make a difference? do i dare?
the evenings here are quiet and long-
the dying strains of a sad grand song
heard on a cheap transistor.
munnar's hills are far away
and i cannot hear gokarna's beaches
and though i cannot be where i would
at least i know the sunset is,
actually enjoyed that last 20-20 match. both teams played well (i think) and the whole thing had that on the edge feel i normally associate with world cup football finals. hell yeah, i even cheered for the indian team (regardless of the fact that 1. i've never particularly liked cricket, and 2. i sent out a rather 'logical' SMS on why we should support pakistan). was a good game.
even better? i was expecting headlines this morning on how the indian players showed 'disrespect' to the indian flag by first pouring champagne all over it and then by not knowing which side was up. (i'm still not sure myself). no news, however, of any protests of that sort breaking out. hope this wave continues-cricket actually manages to turn interesting, the indian team actually manages to win something that matters, and the indian flag (and players) can get a drink once in a while!
"To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as "the system" is to speak correctly...They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose...But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible."
~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
and he then continues (later on in the book) to attack the 'foundation' of reason. and then defends it. and then attacks it again. seen that way, a little confusing, but it ties up.
people ask why i ride a yezdi. think this quote answers part of that.
""What's new?" is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question "What is best?", a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream."
~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
maybe i really should think of getting that bullet.
doors and windows
all breathing fire
give me love and
give me madness
kill the graydom
rip the curtain
break the fences
fill the screen
with grease and mud
broken glass and
bits of crossword
let me touch
the hand of god
and unsolved crossword
let me touch
the hand of god
just read this link from saurabh's blog. though it is meant more for marketers/sales/advertisers kinda thing, its got me thinking. am i, as an artist/musician/poet taking responsibility for what i do? would i put my name on it?
one of my favourite EVER poems-put up because sanga is the most technophobic chap i know, and also because, well, i love it. am also sick and tired of telling people about it-now they can bloody read it for themselves. yay.
Are you well?
I am well.
Are you not well?
I am not well.
Do you breathe?
Yes, I breathe.
Do you not breathe?
I do not breathe.
Do you love?
Yes, I love.
Do you not love?
I still love.
an old one again. was actually the 'prelude', of sorts, to 'cigarettes, tea ...'
So much blood, so much anger, so much hate. So tired. And Rahul is screaming again. Wishing he could scream, rather. Wishing he could die. Wishing, hardest, he could write.
It's bleeding sunsets again. It is bleeding tomato ketchup and redemption and acres of cool green hills. Most of all, it's bleeding Rahul. He seeps through my defenses, pushing, coaxing, and singing to me in that crazed highland voice; singing of sugar and spice and all things nice. Rahul wants to write. I only want to sleep. Sleep till the end of the world and beyond. Sleep. Rest. Scream. I can hear the crows calling, calling me to join the empires in their collective belly. They, who have feasted on kings and sacred cows, would now feed on me. Strange honour this is, but surely honour still.
This city reeks of boredom. "Wait for the rain," they say, "it will wash away the dust."What thundering cyclone could wash away the gathered dust of a million years, settled like dew on a million souls? Grey voices. Grey voices in my head, and like the shadow of a whisper, Rahul's. Daring me to hope, coaxing me to madness, calling me home.
Delusions of grandeur are no escape. They weigh one down with responsibility; responsibility to a destiny that may or may not be imagined. They fuel a frenzied reading of the prophets, real or pretend. They lure me on with possibilities. Maybe things will change. Change, maybe, before I am broken.
Rahul is stirring. Shaking his dreadlocks, scattering dandruff and magic. He has slept for a long time. I have not heard his voice for an entire night.
I beheaded the dolls Marie gave me. Their expression didn't change as their heads reluctantly parted company with their rubber bodies. I wish they had. At least that would make me feel guilty for the desecration. For a change, make me feel.
The peak has been sealed off. They don't want people on the hilltops anymore. They only want their gods, their priests and their inflated racial egos. I won't be able to get married there after all.
But Rahul is free. He doesn't care for laws, of man, beast, or physics. Easy for him- it is my body that suffers for his actions. If I die, he will only go to another. He refuses to leave until then. But Rahul is my friend. I only wish he would stop screaming. I'm getting kinda hoarse.
in my teacup
from my father's broken heart
yet i cannot part
the glassy sunshine
and tepid rain
the little joys
without a name
i so so wish that
i could shred
this sea of red
(in a teacup)
but the sweet and sour
from my torn and breaking heart
am putting this up in response to saurabh's testy comment on the last post. an old piece, but maybe he'll like it. i am looking for one called "rahul and i" that i had put on freshlimesoda.com, but the site seems to have closed down. if anyone has a copy lying around, do pass it on?
Mizoram. The land I was born in, left when I was 6, and am returning to after 17 years. I was prepared for the journey: the dramatic change in scenery, the extreme change in food. What I wasn't prepared for was the colour of the sky.
It is all Rahul's fault, really. He has been hankering to go back as long as I can remember. Now it is I who cannot leave.
We start at mid afternoon from Guwahati, 'gateway' to the north east. You can immediately feel the difference as we leave the river plains of Assam and head into the hills of Meghalaya. Meghalaya, where the clouds come home ... but that's another story. We stop at Shillong, the state capital, for the night. What a relief, after the dust and the heat and the flies and the mosquitoes ...
'Mizoram' literally means land of the Mizos (in Mizo). They are a small group, living in the southernmost state of India's northeastern region, and some parts of Myanmar (Burma). Of Mongoloid extraction, they are supposed to have a close affinity with the Thais and the Burmese. Originally headhunting animists, they were converted to Christianity by Welsh missionaries about a hundred years ago.
Rahul is madly in love with the hills, and extremely impatient with anyone who is not. Thank goodness we are on a bus, he would have us cycling in! He may have the will and the spirit, but the body is after all, mine; and it certainly couldn't take such a trip. He says he wants to go to Samlukhai, my grandfather's ancestral village. Samlukhai literally means 'head hanging by hair'; and if the inhabitants are anything like the name of their village, I would rather give it a wide berth. Anyway, it is a night's journey before we reach Aizawl, the state capital, and I am glad to leave decisions till then.
We catch the sunset bus from Shillong. Though this means we are going to miss a lot of the scenery, I am happy. For one thing, I like travelling at sunset. And I'll be able to sleep. Rahul was so excited about the trip I didn't get a wink last night. As we pass through the rolling hills on top of the Shillong plateau, a bit of Rahul's enthusiasm infects me. He is taking photographs of every damn thing ... most of them won't even come out. I manage to catch some sleep after midnight, but Rahul stays wide awake as usual, listening to the drone of the engine and laughing gently with every twist and turn of the road.
We reach Mizoram early in the morning. I am woken up by the conductor gently shaking my shoulder. We troop out of the bus, bleary eyed and bushy haired. This is Vairengte, the border outpost. The police check the passengers and the bus for liquor. Mizoram has banned liquor, and smugglers try hard to supply a consistent demand. A bunch of students returning home for the Christmas break are pointedly carrying water in liquor bottles, but the policeman is unfazed, refusing to get provoked. Soon we are on are way, but all sleep is gone now. Just in time for sunrise.
The roads are narrow, the hills are steep, but there is a freshness, a feeling of space, a wildness that ... but no. Let Rahul sleep. Breakfast in the small township of Kolasib (I don't know what it means) and I come face to face with the food. Rice, with boiled mustard leaves and smoked pork ... interesting. The Mizos don't like spicy food, though green chilies are served with all meals. They seem disappointed when I don't take a second helping of rice. First time I saw the hospitality thing at a commercial eatery. The food is simple, but filling. Rahul is too busy looking around to eat. The people seem poor, but hardworking and happy. Rahul laughs at all the jokes, whether he understands them or not. I understand enough of the language to carry a conversation, but some of the subtleties are beyond me. Not that the jokes are very subtle ...
It is a few hours before we hit Aizawl, and I find out that we are behind schedule. No one really seems bothered, though, least of all Rahul. Most of the passengers are heading home. The old lady in the seat next to mine occasionally smiles at Rahul's enthusiasm. I smile back. Finally, Aizawl. We enter the town through a steep pass cut into the hill. There is a large cross at the entry, built in memory of the many who have died there. Sombre. But Aizawl lies below us, tin roofs sparkling in the sun. I have come home.
We will be spending Christmas in a small village called Nisapui, and Rahul and I looking forward to that. But first, family. Hello, hello, hello, howareyou, finethankyou.... oof! But the wind is fresh, the day is young, and it is almost Christmas. All the makings for a spot of magic.
Rahul is getting philosophical on me. Squatting on the roof with his mug of tea ("the colour of sunset, always the colour of sunset ...) and a cigarette, he tells me of kings and empires and the wild wild hills. The stars look very close, almost too close. We'll be leaving for Nisapui tomorrow. It looks like we can't make it to Samlukhai after all.
Nisapui is not far from Aizawl, and will not take much time to reach. The taxi driver has to fill up the tank, and we buy petrol off the black market. Even though there are plenty of vehicles in the town, petrol is a scarce commodity, as it has to be transported all the way from the plains. We pass the cross, and are soon in the countryside. A couple of bumpy hours later, we are in Nisapui. I didn't have any particular expectations, and so wasn't surprised by much. The first thing you notice is the silence. No traffic, no shouting, just the quiet sounds of a village preparing for Christmas. And, of course, playing vaguely on the wind, Eminem.
The entire village seems to be gathered in the kitchen of the house we will be staying in. The life of the Mizo community revolves around the kitchen, which is normally large, and in the villages appears to be separate from the main house. Faces, faces. I stare, they stare, Rahul stares. Introductions, unpacking gifts, I am glad to sit for dinner.
The evening meal is normally around sunset. After that, the older people sit around the fire and talk. Young men go 'nula rim'ing, courting girls in groups. At any given time there will be about half a dozen young men in a girl's house. It is a matter of embarrassment if a girl's house is empty after dinner. Though this practice is not very popular in the communities outside Mizoram, in the villages it is definitely alive. In the Mizo custom, when a girl likes a young man, she rolls a cigarette for him, tying it with a strand of her hair. This is a quiet mark of special attention, amidst the clamor of half a dozen people. The young man then makes a visit with his friends, formally asking for the hand of the girl in marriage. Not ever having received such an honor, I am not too sure whether the practice is still around. Must find out.
We sit outside after dinner. Someone brings out a guitar and starts singing. A small charcoal stove is lit and we all sit around the fire. Tomorrow we will visit the site of the old village, though there is only jungle there now. At night we will attend the zai khawm, where the youth get together and sing carols the whole night. The Mizos are wonderful singers, and I am looking forward to it, as much as the trek into the hills. But all that is tomorrow. Tonight we just sit here and listen to the stars.
There are times when life just rears up and hits you in the face. Everything suddenly looks different. Suddenly you are happy. Rested. Things don't really matter; the only important thing is being totally absorbed by the moment. Not going anywhere, not doing anything. Just being. I think that is what is happening to Rahul right now, as he squats on the ground with the dancing madness in his eyes. And as I watch him, I wonder.
by my grandad's shrivelled side
for one more day,
one more grandchild
to say goodbye.
he ran, once, through the forest
from burma to the himalayas
and drank madhu
and never ran again
and never drank again.
and i, who have never drunk madhu
still continue to run.
and he lies there
with 75 kg bags of chicken feed
and fresh caught crabs
alive only in my memory
and i wish
and i wish
and i wish
to say goodbye.
to a faint hiss on the tongue
full of sweat
poison me with cola, boys!
and ice dragged from the filthy ganga's shore!
till i sing
“My name is not Neelu,” she said, scowling fiercely at me. “And don’t call me Neela, only Ammama may call me that. My name is Nilanjana.” Suitably rebuked, I shut up and listened to Nilanjana tell me, for the third time, the story of how the sunset came to fall in love with the neem tree.
Dreep, she said, was just a railway sunset. Woh (apparently sunsets have no gender as we know it, and the appropriate pronoun is ‘woh’) was not popular and well known like the sea shore sunsets with their admiring sycophants, nor had the splendid sun bloodied colouring of the hill-station sunsets, nor was woh quietly respectable and matter-of-fact like the ones that had settled in the city. Woh was a nothing to write home about sunset, a little spread out around the edges, more the colour of an overripe mango than anything else. Passing trains would sometimes wail out a greeting, and Dreep would ripple in reply. The Guwahati-Halflong route was not a busy one, but woh did not feel left out or alone. Apart from the trains, who were a friendly lot, woh had the hills for company, and on some summer evenings danced a slow grand dance with them, especially when a train was passing by. It was a quiet life, but happy. Dreep heard news, sometimes, of other sunsets deeper in the hills or out on the river. People came in the evenings to watch them colouring and pirouetting around the clouds that also sometimes gathered to watch. Seems there even were some in Shillong that had been photographed by students from Bangladesh, and had had their pictures put up in an exhibition! Dreep was quite impressed by this bit of news that Dhobi-ka-Kutta brought, and did a rather inspired dance that day.
Dhobi-ka-Kutta was Dreep’s only real REAL friend. A flea bitten, mangy unattractive thing, he (dogs, at least, have our kind of genders) always seemed to know what was happening and where. He spent his time at various garbage heaps and wayside tea stalls, occasionally begging for scraps from city people who stopped for tea and cigarettes. Of uncertain ancestry, he was equally detested by the dog gangs and the jackals that freely roamed the hills. He hid when he could, ran when he couldn’t, and cowered and simpered when anyone raised a hand or bared a tooth at him. But he was the freest* dog OR jackal in a hundred kilometre radius, and always knew what was going on in the world. And what stories he told! Of how some men in uniform came to the village with guns and took the best looking girls away in a truck; of how the river flooded the fields and the houses, and the same men came to help; of how the jackals feasted on the night the villagers celebrated the harvest; of how the railway lines were bombed and the trains were stopped for a whole week; of how the headman’s son ran away to the city and came back with a wife and a large white car; of how last years rains had been so hard that it almost washed poor Dhobi-ka-Kutta’s patchwork fur right off his back; and of how there was a little neem tree far far away, who was longing to see a proper sunset. Dreep was rather amused at that last one, but Dhobi-ka-Kutta swore it was true. He said the trains had told him, and even Tohmon, the wind, had confirmed it. That the little neem tree had never seen a sunset because it grew in a building farm, and though it could see a bit of sky, and often smiled up at the moon, the patch of sky was too high for a sunset to show. And that neem trees were the bestest and goodest things on the big flat world and would never lie; so the story just had to be true. Now Dreep had never seen a neem tree, and had only heard of them from Dhobi-ka-Kutta, not that woh was about to admit that. Night inked the hills, then, and Dhobi-ka-Kutta wandered off, leaving Dreep to think of the little neem tree and wonder.
Summer sprung, with flowers in the hills, and Dreep all but forgot the story of the little neem tree. Woh quite enjoyed this season, with its trainloads of travellers heading into the hills. There weren’t as many now as there used to be, but Dreep wasn’t going to let anything dampen the spirit. Woh danced the old grand dances with the hills, twisting and turning between them, moving between mango, radishy and an occasional asphyxiated purple! Woh would tease the busy-busy clouds as they hurried past, slowing them down in a muddy embrace. Sometimes the clouds would hold each other in a long line, so Dreep could not distract them from the extremely important messages they carried for Tohmon. Woh was quite stunning that year, and even the crabby old station master with the tobacco stained teeth and the spit painted platform very secretly thought so. Dhobi-ka-Kutta was away on yet another fact finding mission, and on some quiet evenings when the trains and the clouds were few, Dreep rather missed him. But then came the rains, and with them, Dhobi-ka-Kutta. This year’s rains were heavier than usual, or at least it seemed so-it was hard to really tell. The rain came in curtains and in sheets, and each batch lasted either three days or seven. When it was not pouring, everything was a dull old-dirty-whitewashed-wall gray. The flowers were long gone, and the grass on the hills looked a lurid green, drowned by the annual play of cosmic irony. Sodden bits of earth fell onto the railway tracks as they cut through the hills, and men came to clear them, wet and miserable in their bright blue makeshift ponchos. The rivers flooded, as usual, and there was little food to be had for love, money or prostitution; not even for Dhobi-ka-Kutta. Dreep came out rarely, if at all, and Dhobi-ka-Kutta, desperate to save what was left of his clumpy coat, would only come to see woh in the brief overcast interludes between the drenched obscenity of the pouring skies. His stock of stories seemed to have dried up and he only spoke, if at all, of the little neem tree.
So it was, on a dank and dull, but relatively dry day, that Dreep and Dhobi-ka-Kutta set out to find the little neem tree who so longed to see a sunset. Dhobi-ka-Kutta seemed to have a good idea of where they were headed. They travelled west, they travelled south, and on some days even managed a drunkenly steady south-west. They met a cyclone with a rather extreme idea of fun; were given a lift by a cynical north-east monsoon; had a disagreement on the right of way with a juvenile pack of lightning bolts; and were often given shelter by kindly goods trains who had heard of their brain-dead journey. There were even a couple of hills, local celebrities, who pawed at Dreep and demanded that woh dance with them for a while. They travelled through vast open spaces, the like of which Dreep had never seen before, stark and rocky in some parts, lush and green in others. Dreep for the first time saw the large imposing buildings and bridges that Dhobi-ka-Kutta used to talk of, and found them just a little menacing. As Sundays yawned into Mondays, good travellers that they were, they sometimes stumbled onto hope, and sometimes despair. They travelled hard, and travelled long; till one day, among a clump of buildings not far from a traffic-lashed bridge and a double centenarian railway station, Dreep and Dhobi-ka-Kutta found an almost pretty but not so little neem tree. It had grown tall and strong now, still trying and trying to get a good glimpse of a proper sunset. Its leaves were a gentle characterless green, pleasantly untidy, with drops of rain blushing in response to Dreep’s admiring gaze. And my! Wasn’t the not so little neem tree delighted! Here, at last, was a hell yeah-honest to god-cross my heart and hope to die-real, live, mango coloured, little spread out around the edges sunset, bobbing up and down in a most endearing way!
So there Dreep parked, in front of the not so little neem tree, lighting up when darkness was about to fall, glowing and beaming and bobbing up and down till dawn. Come rain or shine, woh would light up every evening with a soft golden glow, and Dreep and the not so little neem tree would bask in each others company all night long. The Gov’ment even built a pole for Dreep to sit on, so woh wouldn’t bob quite so much, and a glass house so woh wouldn’t get wet or cold. Dhobi-ka-Kutta was quite a hit with the ladies, and doing that thing he do, sired a good many puppies that looked as ugly as himself; prompting a rather lively argument in the local papers about whether street dogs were a menace or not. And even now, in a quiet and not very fashionable corner of Secunderabad, undisturbed except for landing aircraft and the roar of my Yezdi (1995 Roadking, if you were wondering), there is an almost pretty neem tree, and opposite it a pole from which Dreep beams down, all evening and night, only going to bed at dawn.
* “…freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose"-Kris Kristofferson, "Me and Bobby McGee".
for a change, here's a story about hope, and not a soppy blind brain dead one either! CSE's work in India has been controversial, but they seem to be among the few organisations who are willing to stand up to both the government and private corporations. as the most hated organisation in india, they must be upto SOME good! lol. much thanks to kishna kumar for this article!
our souls drenched in sun bloodied skies
with just a trace of sneaky self congratulation
at having beat the system.
while the road-kill of our progress
by our respectful two minute silence.
...and 2nd August feels like a lifetime ago. moved to hyderabad in september, and have effectively been offline ever since. hard times, for a while, with the despair of neither having a job nor any creative breakthoughs. the shiny black helmet is chipped and cracked now, and the straps grimy with dust and sweat, and khuang dum badly misses ahmed bhai. my poetry did not make the grade at yet another contest, and the first string on my guitar finally broke.
now that i think of it, however, the clearest, largest and most beautiful image that comes to mind is that of deepthi, who has refused to let me make love to my self-pity, who has refused to let my soul, heart or body starve, who has been a friend like i never would have dared ask for.
memories of deepthi's choclate will never again be vague.