Friday, 29 May 2009

Old girl blues

You who poached kisses with me
in the subway
Do you remember the taste of rain drenched ice cream ?
Teenage love,
uniform clad, walking in alleys forgotten by the city,
laughing merrily atop a bicycle.
Riverside evenings, forbidden whiskey,
tears on a railway station.

You who took me to the lake
and shared the piper's tune
Can you deconstruct longing ?
Arty love,
dazed, glazed, high on poesy,
planning to run to the heart of the Amazon.
Soccer frenzy,
arthouse getaways,
an auto ride to oblivion.

You who travelled for a stranger
with smiles as gifts
Did you find the hidden brook ?
Voodoo love,
bathed in moonrays, scaling the gates of a sleeping city,
morphing the night into a single telephone call.
Stolen weekend, candle lit cosiness,
a call from the past.

You who promised a new world
lush and green
Do you still dream of sun kissed groves ?
Warrior love,
soaked in music, yearning for green on the red stone streets,
smiling through the hookah haze.
Pork curry rice, electric blues laughter,
an old urge to travel.

You who wove dreams
in my hair
Have you stopped running ?
Bohemian love,
stoned smile conversations, painting dream song graffiti,
walking across to the sunset utopia.
Crowded bus kiss, volatile strings,
an unclaimed CD.

You who seldom noticed
my existence
Do you remember me ?
Unrequited love,
glassy eyed foolish, hankering for a glimpse,
digging up joy in simple things.
Many faces, many dreams,
one answer.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Songs in my head

You know sometimes a song gets stuck in your head and just won't go?

Well the entire past week, two songs have just refused to leave my head, they won't go.

I have tried all remedies, even the haunting voice of Taarja...

So here, I think I'll be a bit evil and put them into your head as well..

Thursday, 21 May 2009

In which I act stupid and get conned...almost

I was smoking outside the office building, my before-starting-work smoke, when he approached me. Dressed in saffron, full of rudraksh necklaces and a snake wrapped around his arm.

He muttered something about the Mother goddess and asked for some money. I usually do not entertain such beggars who roam around trying to raise money in the name of religion. But I wasn’t thinking, rather, I was in a hurry to get back to work. So I gave him a 2 rupee coin, hoping to get rid of him.

He did not go. While I was taking out the coin, he saw the money in my wallet.

" Take out your largest note and touch the snake with it. Your wishes will be fulfilled."

Again, I wanted to get rid of him fast, and I made a big mistake. (Why was I not thinking ?)

I took out a 1000 rupee note and as I was about to touch the snake with it, he stopped me. He took the note from my hand, touched the snake with it, crumpled it up in his palms and muttered some words under his breath over the closed fist.

Then he fetched out a rudraksh from his pocket and gave it to me !

"Here, your wishes will be fulfilled. Devi ma has heard you and accepted your gift to her."

I was stumped. Suddenly (and thankfully), my thinking faculties returned to me.

"Give me back my money" I demanded sternly.

He looked at me with a look of disbelief, " The snake has eaten it, it is with the goddess, your wishes will be fulfilled"

" WHAT ?!?"

"You saw me, I fed it to the snake. It will reach Devi ma, go home and rejoice. Your wishes will be granted in 3 days”

" Do you want me to call the guards?", I threw the rudraksh to the ground.

"Call anyone, call the cops, slit my throat, but the money is with Devi ma - "

"I’ll take the snake then", I grabbed the snake and started to pull it free from his arms.

He tried to hold it back, and in doing so, opened his fist by a little.

“There, the note is in your hands, give it back to me, NOW ! ”

Caught in his amateur sleight of hand act, he returned the money back to me – a highly crumpled 1000 rupee note. He was silent. All his Devi ma crap was now missing.

But I was not done. In all this commotion, the guard had come.

“Take this man to the police, bloody cheat”

The guard heard what happened but did nothing. He let the man go free.

I got a call and had to rush inside. But somewhere I feel dissatisfied. Yes, I got my money back, but I wanted to hand this guy to the police.

I was lucky. I am not afraid of snakes, in fact I love them. Unburdened by fear, I could do what I did.

What about the common man on the street? Will he be able to get over his fear of the snake to catch such conmen?

More importantly, will he be able to get over his fear of religion to engage such “religious men” in an altercation?

Would the police stand by him if he did? They are also god-fearing humans after all.

How long will religion and its spokesmen use fear to con people?

How long will we obey the dictats of god men who tell us how to breathe?

How long will we delay buying a car/house by looking at auspicious days?

How long will you friggin' stop because the cat crossed the road ?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Birth of a new monster

Once upon a time , they were free. The Leviathan that now haunt the shores of the New World, only to be shared with the Anglo-Saxons and the Visigoths. We were denied, we felt wronged, and asked, Why ?

Our voices echoed in the pit of silence. All hope appeared to be lost.

But then,under the shade of Ygdrassil rose a new Behemoth. One that can claim to take on the Leviathan. The Behemoth was our champion, champion of the dream impaled, our new monster.

After scourging the unholy bowels of the cyber realms, drifting recklessly on the information highway and taming numerous trojans, I have finally achieved to locate what seems to be our next Holy Grail.

Yes, me talketh about the free alternative to the once free-for-all

So here it is..for your alternative.
And do not forget to add me as a we can sample each other's channels..

Behold fellow music lovers...Jango!!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Caller tunes

Exactly how I feel. Your favourite song every time I call you is nice only for so long.

Web comic courtesy:

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Of weddings and work...

Amongst all the plagues that ail the tribe of mother-of-eligible-children, perhaps the greatest is attending marriage ceremonies. Needless to say, contamination is usually followed by profound anxiety and attempts of cajoling the children. What aggravates the malaise is the fact that such already anxious mothers are exposed to harmful levels of interaction with the dangerous-well wisher kind of women at such ceremonies. Their sweet smiles and light hearted banter mercilessly decimate the immune system of the mother-of-eligible-children. Soon the mother is afflicted with a sense of impending doom.

Sometime ago, my mother had been faced with a similar threat. However, what saved her (and me as a consequence) was the ambiguity of the nature of my profession.

Woman : So, when is your son's wedding ?
Mom : I don't know. He says he needs some more time.
It's up to him, I have told him, "You are free to find yourself a girl".
Woman : No girlfriends ?
Mom : God knows what he does. I tell him to go out and meet girls.
Woman : But he is a designer, no ? There must be lots of pretty models he meets...

Thankfully, this is where the conversation takes its turn. Soon my mom was explaining to the woman, what kind of a designer I am. Explaining, the only kind of models that surround her son are made from wood, clay or foam and are seldom, if ever, anthropomorphic.

There in lies the blessing and the bane of my profession. Most people in this country have no idea, what is that we, industrial designers, do.

People who have known me from earlier and know that I was studying architecture once, naturally presume that I design industrial buildings like factories and warehouses. Others just presume whatever it is that they want to.

The first presumption is quite prevalent though. I know of a real life instance, when a student of architecture chose Industrial Design as elective course, because he wanted to specialise in making factories. The poor soul had his dreams shattered the very first day.

Awareness of our profession is so low that in job sites like Naukri and Monster (India), there is no job category for Industrial Designers. You must be content with selecting Others as a category. And then you shall be inundated with mails promising lucrative jobs as welders in the Arabian shores or as sheep shearers in the Kiwi meadows.

Perhaps,this lack of awareness about our profession is not limited to our country alone. I believe the awareness of a profession in a certain culture can be suitably gauged by the instances of that profession or professionals in pop culture. In order to evaluate how much a profession has been assimilated into the consciousness of a people, we must look for it in its movies, music,fiction, etc. Hence my hypothesis.

We find doctors, engineers, scientists in the movies from Bollywood. Of late we even find fashion designers and architects. But the industrial designer is missing.
Even Hollywood, remains marked by its abstinence in the portrayal of industrial designers. Though microbiologists and paleontologists make it to the mass consciousness thanks to Jurassic Park and the likes.

The only instance I remember of the portrayal of an industrial designer is in Runaway Bride. But even that is wink-and-you-miss type. Only once in the movie is it mentioned, that Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) was studying Industrial Design before she came back to run her family hardware store. No wonder that most movie sites, including IMDB, make no mention of it.

Such is the nature of the devil; while Ipods sell by the millions, our profession remains largely unknown.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Two years ago, this very day

A post by a friend rekindled my memories.

Memories of those 70 days in 2007, when I had quit my job, packed my bag and left. Left for the Himalayas. 70 days of walking and hitchhiking. Mostly in Sikkim and North Bengal and somewhat lesser in the Himachal. My original plans involved the Arunachal and Meghalaya, but bomb blasts in Guwahati had forced me to turn back to Calcutta and then proceed to Himachal.

The memories of those 70 days, though logged dutifully on a diary with hand drawn maps, will probably not make it to this blog because of my laziness to type it out. This is but a brief glimpse of this very day two years ago, an excerpt from my hand written journal.


1st, May - Gangtok

Early in the morning, on our way to Sonam's office, we faced a taxi problem on account of Labour Day. Little did I know, this problem would come back to haunt me later.

After reaching Sonam's office, Sonam, Sanjog and me mapped out the routes I would be travelling into the North and West. Each of the routes would take me at least 2 days even if I availed a jeep. Plus for the North I required permits. So I spoke to a friend of Sonam's , who runs a travel agency, to arrange for my permits. This meant that I had another two days to spend in Gangtok before I leave for Yumthang. I decided that today's destination had to be Rumtek - one of the richest monasteries in the world, both in terms of heritage and artifacts.

Since I had much time on my hands, I decided that I won't take a pizo, but instead walk to Rumtek. Sanjog, suggested that I take a pizo to Martam, a small village beyond Rumtek and walk back to Rumtek.
"It's a nice walk" , he assured.
Martam was 8 km from Rumtek and Gangtok was another 24 km.So I parted company with Sonam and Sanjog and boarded a pizo for Martam. I reached there around noon.

The walk from Martam to Rumtek was indeed beautiful. Martam was a quiet village. Some houses scattered here and there, groups of school children thronged the road, while old men peered at me curiously from their porches. After I got down from the pizo, I had bought a couple of cigarettes - a local brand , to last me for the walk ahead. Cigarettes wrapped in a makeshift newspaper packet, camera hanging, I started out on my walk to Rumtek and then beyond to Gangtok.

On the road, I came across beautiful rock formations and reluctant brooks trickling down the mountains, appearing and then hiding away under the bushes. My path curved around the hills, it would be sunny and warm along some stretches and then take a turn into a cool shaded nook. But this constant change in temperature and the terrain took its toll and soon I felt dehydrated. I had made the cardinal mistake of not carrying any water and this long uninhabited road meant it would be quite a while before I would find any drinking water, maybe even not before Rumtek. There were hardly any settlements as far as I could see and turning 3 km back to Martam was not an option. When I had almost abandoned the plan to walk anymore due to increasing dehydration and was thinking of waiting around for a passing pizo, about 1 km ahead, I found a small shop near the 4 km milestone. I guzzled down two litchi drinks and rejuvenated, continued my walk to Rumtek. This part of the road was comparitively inhabited and the silhouttes of houses on distant hilltops were reassuring.

After 3 km, I saw a building that I thought was Rumtek. I happily entered only to find it was not, and that Rumtek was still 1 km ahead. ( I later learnt that this was the original monastery which has now been converted to a residency for the monks).

Finally when I reached Rumtek, all my tiredness was gone. There is a special kind of joy when you reach a place after almost 2 hours of trekking. The trek prepares you to view the place in a special light. This feeling can never be achieved by hiring a cab and just reaching the destination. I feel any destination has more to offer to a traveller if you can grasp the "story". To reiterate a cliche, it is about the journey, rather than the destination.

I spent quite a lot of time at Rumtek. At the inner courtyard, where the pigeons surround you, I saw the sun preparing to sink into the mighty backdrop of the Himalayas. This place had a serenity and mystic aura to it in which you could drown yourself for an entire lifetime. I sat there, oblivious to the usual noisy group of tourists, listening to the flutter of pigeon wings and the chantings of the lamas. I saw the various halls and heard the lamas debating outside with their quaint style of slapping one hand on the other. Finally I forced myself to get out, it was 17.30 and Gangtok was 24 km away. I was not in a mood to walk back, it would be dark soon and there was no way I could make it to Gangtok before dark. I should have started earlier.

Outside Rumtek, there were no pizos. Labour day ! All pizos had stopped operating for the evening. There were a few cabs outside, all reserved by tourist groups. I waited around half an hour for any pizos to pass by, but had no such luck. So I called up Sonam from a shop and told him about my predicament and started walking back. After about 10 minutes of walking, I got lucky. One of the cab drivers had come to know that I was looking for some transport back to Gangtok. He agreed to talk it out with the tourist group who had hired him and take me back for 100 Rs. This was double the pizo fare I had paid for Martam, but I agreed, given the situation.

I reached Gangtok at 19.15. The journey was full of interrogations by the family that had hired the cab. Where do you come from? Why are you alone? When is your birthday ? ( I have no clue how the last question was even relevant). I met Sonam and was told that his mom had made dinner for us. Dinner was amazing - pork curry and rice. Now I am at Sonam's house, the guest room on the top floor that overlooks a smallish forest of bamboo. Beyond the forest, the river flows down in the valley. At this time of the night, you can hear the murmurs from the river as they ride the breeze that rustles the bamboo shoots.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting Gary,Ashi and some more friends in the evening for a smallish party before I leave Gangtok. Sonam tells me that a local band will be playing Dylan, Clapton, CCR and the likes at the joint.

Sikkim, timilai maya garchu.

This post triggered off my memories.