Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It is a cacophony of screams. And you shut your eyes to blackness, and then it begins...
All of your nightmares and past wounds come alive with malice, and attack at random will without relevance. As you are made to relive every single horror of your past - like you have travelled back in time - like the incidents are happening to you again. Its agony is beyond defiance, and you feel as if you were born and killed and born and killed over and over again. And suddenly you know - what hell feels like.
An experience reserved to be felt only once, you are made to live it again and again. And you begin to recognize what death looks like. The blackness in your eyes shifts, and you realize it is just too dark a shade of red. It is a red you have never seen before.
And you begin to lose track. There is no orientation, no logic, no functionality left untouched, and no sense of time or place, no motive nor purpose, just blinding anguish. You forget hunger, you do not feel awake, you do not feel asleep. There is no veil between you and your pain, no distance, no shield, no excuse nor escape.
It is a pain that penetrates all defenses. Of ego and pride, of apathy and arrogance, of assurance and confidence and pierces right to the core changing that most scared defining element in you; 'How you look at yourself?' It is a pain that changes your soul.
You are left with a distinct before and after memory of yourself, a person and a constellation of characteristics you can never return to. The recovery is not repairing, it is remaking. And it takes its own time with many failures and little to cheer.
And you realize that some wounds never really heal. That you have to find a way to live with them. It is a pain that cannot be known, except by those who already know it. And it is hard to explain.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I could always feel for Karna - and tried to imagine just how hard it must be for him to wallow in the shadows outside, knowing he could dazzle all if only he was given a chance. Of late I have been feeling exactly like he must have, and I have to confess it is no fun. As most of you would know and agree, inspiration comes from sources unknown and there is no concrete rationale as to why one piece turns out cohesive and sparkling while another is found lacking. For the past month or so, my heavenly deity and the font of all my inspiration has been veiled in the clouds. For I have not been able to write despite try, and indeed it seemed as though the Gods were unhappy and hesitant in their blessings. Alas! I am glad to report the clouds have passed, the sun is shining and God willing, you should see the color return to my words soon.
It was the October of '92, the school semester had ended and I was enjoying my Diwali vacations. If mangoes were the luring attraction of summer, then fire crackers and kites were the pleasures of Diwali. This vacation was especially important to me, for it was my initiation into some serious kite flying. Every year in the months of September to November, the kids in our neighborhood would switch affection and dote upon kite flying as the favorite sport. The month of September used to be particularly difficult to deal with, for just as I returned home from school every day, the sky would fill up with kites of all sizes and colors and make me go into a frenzy of excitement. However, returning home, homework was the first order of business, all sport and play followed later. In retrospect I think, this strategy was extremely detrimental to learning, as I could never concentrate on the boring study at hand and would constantly dream of kites dancing wonderful acrobatics in the sky right above.
The real world, to me was a far more interesting place to discover things. Filled with the most unpredictable surprises and mysterious dangers - it was clearly a school I was more likely to learn from. The education system at the time though, did not tolerate this line of thought and so, for the most part, I rebelled against anyone trying to impose rules and restrictions upon me. Vacations was the only time when I was truly free to learn what I really wanted to learn. I used to fill my mornings with quixotic experiments and record all my findings in a little lab notebook.
Filled with observations of chaotic rhyme, they are fragrant with humor to this date.
1) Concave lens used to concentrate sunlight .... did light fire like the textbook stated .... very useful tool ........ to be used to make a gun for He-Man ...... will defeat Piyush's skeletor. Questions: What other rays can the lens concentrate? Is there really a gun with giant glasses?
2) Stolen sulphuric acid .... grade 8 textbook claims to be extremely dangerous ... hence stolen from lab .... causes bad smell when poured on pencil eraser .... to be used only when alone ...... caused annoying burn .... this must be corrosion. Very nice!
Extremely jealous of all hero figures that the books described, I carved elaborate ambitions of deed and fame and carried purest hopes that the scribblings of my little notebook would make history one day.
Afternoons were occupied with kite training. It is a special class of kites that can bear lanterns into the sky. Locally called 'Kandil Patang', they remain my favorite kites. Usually large in size and considerably more difficult to handle, these kites have an ability to bear astonishing weight. Flying them is a coveted skill and I was to learn it this semester break. However, the right to fly a 'Kandil Patang' had to be earned. It started with a bigger boy showing how to select the right kite, and buy the right 'manja' - string to go with it. Then he would proceed to fly the kite and send it as high as possible - I was to be the spool handler, designated to observe and learn. When the kite reached the right height, it was nothing more than a mere speck in the sky. At this point the bigger boy would let go of the string, and command the trainee to care for the kite until sunset.
I soon learned; 'Kandil Patang's' need a lot of altitude to be able to bear paper lanterns. The lower a kite is, the more vulnerable it is to wind shifts and predator attacks from other kites. 'Kandil Patang's', while great for flying lights, make for a poor fighter kite, clumsy and difficult to maneuver, they are often times easy targets. Because of their altitude, the sharp abrasion line usually used in engagement is out of effective range and as such they are extremely vulnerable to low level attacks. To guard from such a tragedy, we used to usually fly these kites in scathing afternoon heat when no one dared to venture out. Once at the right altitude, the kite was often invisible to its own handler, let alone predators. If deployed properly and diligently cared for, the kite would remain in the sky for days unnoticed, capable of bearing lamps at will. It was the responsibility of the trainee to ensure that the kite remained stable, undetected and safe until sunset.
While initially difficult and a burden, the job of guarding the 'Kandil Patang' did become easier with time. I remember spending endless hours sitting in the nearby shade watching my little speck in the sky, and willing it to stay quiet and calm. As a sport, I used to spray the terrace floor with wheat grain to attract pigeons. At times the warm lazy midday breeze would bring with it tunes of popular songs of the time, 'Dheere Dheere se...' and Kumar Sanu used to be frequent visitors. A reminder of some restless youth anxious over his girl, unable to sleep with unaccounted lust. And every once in a while, pigeons used to take my bait, and I would get to watch magnificent birds of grey, brown and white. I would take this as a sign of luck and smile happily at my friend above, thinking ..... tonight you will hold 12 lanterns - wait and watch!!!
If a trainee successfully guarded the kite until sunset, he would get 30 minutes with the 'Debonair' magazine that the bigger boys had hidden on the water tank above. Also part of the lure, was the assured promise that successfully deploying 12 lanterns was a sure shot claim to fame and was to make the boy irresistibly popular amongst the women. I was too young to understand that women in fact never cared for; who mastered the 'Kandil Patang' and for the most part, were completely oblivious. For the moment, I was content to relish myself upon the nude and semi-nude girls of 'Debonair'.
In this school of choice - I was resoundingly the top student. I successfully burnt a small black spot on Piyush's skeletor and thus claimed victory. I mastered the huge kite and marveled at the dancing lights in sky. I learnt many 'Adult' things from the Debonair and came to love the girls. And when Piyush was cheated out of his 'recreational time' with the magazine, I rejoiced in exacting fitting revenge on the bigger boy that had foxed him. Sulphuric acid (although diluted) was put to good use and the elders learnt to respect the potent terrorist element in little ones.
Like the thousand kites of that evening sky, childhood imagination carried the lanterns of my ambitions and took them higher and high. I remember telling my grandma - that one day like the kite, I will go faaaaar and be just a speck, at which she reprimanded in motherly instinct and prayed - I never leave her side.
On some unfortunate nights, one of the candles used to fall in its paper lamp causing it to catch fire and thus break the string. And we had to endure the sadness of watching our beloved kite fly out of sight. Watching the dancing lights disappear used to be one of the hardest sights for a new trainee who had spent hours guarding his kite. Even the big boys used to show a rare glimpse of compassion in such times and assure us, that the kite was safe and that because it was tended with love it would go to a better place and one day be reunited with us again.
Battling the US recession, I often times feel as if a cruel and uncaring wind has snatched my floating lights. And like I did as a child, I sure hope that one day soon, the wind will cede and I will be reunited again. After all dreams are just like Kites, it is their destiny to fly.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
For even the moon dithered to come near
Where hope abandoned
And, into this dark he spoke,
'I come today, to sell my soul
At this the man saddened
'There is a sorrow, tears can't shed
'Such a person sells his virtue, a soul such as mine , cried the man
'And only the worthy are given the pain
Back from the dark and into the light
Upon him, a new wisdom dawned
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Its been five years since I graduated from Father Agnels; my Engineering college. Of recently, there have been talks about a reunion, and so it seemed fit that there be an article on our days in Engineering. This post has been a long time coming, but it took a final push from a fellow classmate for me, to overcome my laziness and pen down my thoughts. Its a challenge to write such a piece. Its very easy to write an entire book on the subject, but to be able to condense it all into one post, thats a tricky needle to thread. So here is my attempt, and it is dedicated to the class of '04. I truly hope you like it.
Engineering is a testing experience for every person who graduates from Mumbai University. But I speak of a very specific one when I write about my batch of '04 from Agnels, Vashi. It is easy and indeed very tempting, to narrate the whole experience as horror stories akin to those of Nazi concentration camps. And it is easier to turn the whole thing into a teacher-bashing exercise that my fellow class mates would throughly enjoy. But deep inside, we know, it wouldn't be right. For, not all teachers in my college were bad. And so, I am not going to dwell on that unpleasant topic, except to say this; as I look back now, I have nothing but pure sympathy for the few teachers who relished in torturing us. Surely any person who derives such sadist pleasure in the abuse of power and wrongful punishment of helpless students - must have had a rather traumatic childhood.
My story begins in the fall of 2000. I was as naive and green as the rain soaked trees of sector-9A Vashi. Like most recent 12th pass-outs, I was hyper-excited and nervous that first day approaching my college campus. As I neared the iron gates, I saw a group of students to my left, they were laughing and looked happy, and I relaxed, thinking .... this doesn't seem too bad after all. It turned out those students were in fact not from my college, they were from our neighbor's. The mood inside campus was far less jovial, with gaunt, haggard looking students wearing a perpetual expression of distress. Their fervent glances pleading a silent warning: 'This is not for everyone, leave while you can!!' Call it 'Destiny' but I stuck to the place, and to - what would be - the best and the worst times of my student life!
Once the course has started, and the formalities done, you quickly begin to realize, you are in this on your own, the only friendly people you have in the world - are your class mates. And it fosters an intense, duty-bound sense of loyalty and friendship, one that is unique to the stream of Engineering. In just one month, you learn the unwritten survival law, that says, "You may not like your class mates personally, but you WILL help them in every way you can!" There are very few people you can relate to, once your training has started, your friends from before wonder, where is it that you go to - to come back so exhausted, and your parents do not recognize the frustrated individual returning home.
As far as I was concerned, the campus was to be my home. It was my social life, it was my academic, it was the place to study and it was the place for fun. In the middle of our chaos, I found a harmony. It was here that I learnt how to speak in front of a crowd and not flinch. It was here that I leant, how to prioritize and make decisions real-time. It was here, that I laid the foundational concepts of my career. It was here, that I learned to endure stress beyond my limits. And it was in this period that I enjoyed my most untroubled sleep.
There is a distinct quality to Engineers; given any situation, they immediately come to realize what is doable and what is not, they make calls without second guess and they handle events as the situation unfolds. It comes to them naturally. Any person can evaluate and take practical measures, except, Engineers do not feel guilty about the compromises they make. It instills a defiant confidence that remains with you for the rest of your life. And, it has saved me many many times.
At a research meeting, when my professor wanted a paper completed - he gathered my lab mates for a meeting and asked "How much time do you guys need?" My American counterparts answered - two weeks, I simply asked "When is it due??" I did not know how much time would I need, but it was the Agnel-instilled confidence that said - It doesn't matter how much time you need - All that matters is how much time you have!
It is hard to encapsulate the essence of my college and the experience I had, mainly because it doesn't lie in academic transcripts or the courses I studied. It doesn't lie in the concepts I absorbed or the ones I didn't. It is amorphous yet potent. It lies in endless cups of hot coffee over the front steps. It lies in the jokes we wrote and the chits we passed - while we sat day-dreaming and distracted in classes of theory. It lies in the time we spent sitting on stairs, 'bird-watching'. It lies in the distinct sound of that dot-matrix printer on the first floor, which was to us, nothing short of beautiful music. It lies in the intoxicating smell of kerosene and xerox copies. It lies in the suffocating air of notes-littered hallways, as we waited our turn for a viva. It lies in the euphoria of watching all required signatures on our submission sheet. It lies in painful aches and cuts from the workshop of first year - to the carpal tunnel from excessive coding. It lies in our convoluted sense of humor and in our tacit arrogance screaming ... "Yes, we did!"
It is the sum of all parts, greater than the entirety.
It is in the enduring qualities I learnt from my class mates. Every single one of whom - taught me something. They were my team, and I was theirs. Our victories were sweeter because we rejoiced together and our sorrows less painful because we suffered together. They were the support and they were the hope, they were the gems and they were the jewels. They formed the identity of my class, and in some way will always remain a part of me.
The class of '04 and the paragons of my memories! With a salute to all, I offer you these. Come, share a glimpse of my class room, the people who formed me....
Some are not so obvious, they are the silent geniuses like Unmesh Kulkarni.
Some are tall, athletic and capable like Sushant Kadam.
Some are whimsical, albeit pervert in their brilliance, like our very own Ajit.
Some are beautiful, compassionate, generous and have it all, like the beloved Sushma.
Some are the heart of a crowd wherever they go, unmistakably Manavi.
Some are fiery and feisty in everything they did, like Roshan and Nadeem.
Some are flamboyant and larger than life, like Maulik.
Some wont say a lot, but perform proudly, like Amol Gawli.
Some are painfully virtuous, like Tushar.
Some have kept me company and made me smile, Pritam and Priyata.
Some are always up to something, like Sandeep Kaul.
Some you just can't miss, like Divya and Richa.
Some are incredibly talented, like Kripa.
Some are touchingly simple, like Apoorva and Harshada.
And some, will give you a run for your money, like Pankaj.
That is Engineering, these are the people, the paragons of my memories and the best parts of me!
- 100026 (Sanket)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
The first voyage, is, in every possible way, a surreal experience and for the most part while its happening, you feel as though you are some place else. The reality is so intense that initially your mind refuses to accept it. Superstitions arise where logic ruled before - and you begin to wonder, Is it possible to ruin your happiness just by thinking about it ? Are you really tempting fate?? This is especially true if you haven't gone home for more than two years and if you have never stayed away from home before. There is a price you pay - when you leave to pursue a career abroad, a sacrifice you make. And its enormity cannot and is not, initially comprehended.
The moment you land, you realize that you have left everyone you knew, you are thousands of miles away, that even a simple phone call has suddenly become complicated. That you are in a continent whose culture and customs, smells and tastes, cost and currency, weather and warmth, and even time is as different from your home as it possibly can be. As you stand at the revolving carousel, hoping your luggage isn't lost, it dawns upon you - that against all instinct, you really did pack your life into suitcases and left the familiar - and you begin to seriously question your sanity. A sickening anxiety starts to grow in you, its shape: undefined, its origins: unknown and its length: uncertain.
After wonders of the first-world have worn off their fascination, after the charm of novelty has become stale in growing stress, the reality of your world sinks into your bones and its parameters stabilize. As you become busy with studies and are sheared beyond normal, as you juggle between a job and academics, between expense and incessant search for fund, you become pragmatic about your ability and even the thoughts of your country become too expensive to afford.
There is a price you pay, a sacrifice you make, and its magnitude cannot be read - at the time you make it.
Only after you have spent days and months and years in longing - Only after you have budgeted your phone calls and timed your cravings - Only after you have post dated your tears and hung by a memory, do you come to understand what was asked of you. You do know beforehand, that you are going to miss home. But you do not know that you will miss your best friend's wedding, or your sister's birthdays, movies and music releases or new trains and roadways. You do not conceive that the place you were born and raised in - will move on without you. That the mangoes of summer would bloom and crackers of Diwali would sound - with or without you.
And on some days, some horrible days, news comes that your city was bombed. That Mumbai is on fire, and you can not be there to help. That your loved ones, friends and family, the places you are from, rock, stone and buildings are left vulnerable - and there is nothing you have done, nor can you do, to protect them. How can someone deprive you of the right to defend everything you love and are made of ?? And you realize that - that someone is you - and you marvel at your selfishness and loathe every breath you undeservingly take. You realize you can drown without water and be suffocated even as you live.
But adversity builds character and sacrifice renders reward - and this does hold true, on some magical evening the forces of nature submit, and circumstances relent. The constellations in the sky are aligned just right, and you find that the miracle of miracles, you actually have enough savings to buy a ticket home. And so you make the purchase, eager yet defiant, and you count. Count the months and moments, the nights and minutes and days after painful days and everything inbetween. And you cross your calendar, you cross your fingers, you find a friend - and cross his fingers - and you wait.
And so I did, and I waited on the flight home, willing it to fly faster, land earlier and travel safer than it was supposed to. And on a December night, I heard the most melodious voice - that my plane was going to land. And I fastened my seat belt and pressed my face to the window, and on my cue, the clouds parted to reveal my India beneath - magnificent and majestic. And in that hour of the night, I beheld my city like the lover who turns to bride and through the moist of my eyes I saw those shimmering lights and braced my heart - for the Mumbai I missed, every single night. I surrendered tear after saved tear - and with the friction of those tires on home soil, I earned that - which was rightfully mine.
Home sweet home, you can travel the farthest corners and revel in riches beyond, yet there is no place - absolutely no place that can compare to your home. The first journey back - its special - its magical - its beautiful and its spectacular. It is worthy of the price you paid - of the sacrifice you made. It is afterall home sweet home.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As a little kid, I never studied in school. I hated tests and exams and never scored. In fact, whenever I used to get a graded test back, I would neatly fold the papers into quarters and twist the corners to make a paper boat! We loved our boats. You could throw away a dozen paper planes with no care nor worry, but a boat had to be watched and helped and nurtured for it to sail the distance.
[Image credit - http://moonmaid.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/paper-boat.jpg ]
Call it a sign from above, but the lower I scored on a test, the better of a boat it would make. For the most part, out of sheer compassion, I never told my parents and teachers where and how did I lose my test scores. My partner in crime, 'Bunty' - the ideal student boy next door, never uttered a word either. We thought it was better this way ...
Within the limited confines of our society compound, was a shallow canal made to drive rain water out of the premises. At the end of the canal, the water went into an underground drain and we never knew what happened of it. Bunty had heard from the old watchman that it all went to the sea. And thats what I believed in, one never questioned the old watchman.
During the months of monsoon, I came home only on weekends, and Bunty and I would beg, borrow and steal all the umbrellas from our homes and neighbors, open them up in my living room and cover them all with bed sheets. This would be our make shift tent. Under the tent is where we dwelled, every once in a while we would surface to civilization and ask my mother for more food. It was a good system and we stuck to it. Occasionally when a neighbor had to venture outside, he would find his umbrella missing and come knocking straight to my house. These were troublesome times, as our neighbors umbrella could very well be in the very middle of our tent establishment, returning it would mean a whole lot of trouble, so we would take out an umbrella from the fringe and ask the uncle to exchange it later.
Every so often, when we were busy enacting our adventures under the tent, we would hear loud thunder and rain drops on tin roofs. And I would grab Bunty's arm and say ... " Suuussh, Listen!! " And as soon as Bunty would hear the rain, his eyes would lit up, and we knew fun times lay ahead. And up the tent would go, sheets pushed apart and we would scramble away out the door! Often times without bothering to wear shoes. We would rush into Bunty's room, grab some old papers, and my test results and run to the water canal. We would take turns to shelter the paper while the other made a boat, and on the count of three set our boats lose in the running water.
As the boats took off, we would follow them eagerly around the building - till they reached the drain grill, the boat to touch the grill first, won. It was simple, it was fair, and it was the most fun I remember. As our skill at boat making grew we got more creative with our canal, and place tree branches and bricks in the canal to make it interesting for our boats to navigate around. When we ran out of things to put in, we used our watchman's shoes! On one occasion, our watchman came in to work wearing rubber flip flops, as we tried to set up our obstacle course, to our delight, the slipper itself went floating all the way to drain grill. Knowing we couldn't use the flip flops for our course, we promptly returned them to the watchman - "These are no good, but your chappal won the competition today!" We offered our sympathies as best as we could. Needless to say, the watchman wasn't impressed.
On one such fun routine, as we set our boats to sail and ran around the building compound, we were particularly thrilled, this was going to be a close race, usually one of our boats used to get stuck on the obstacles, but today, luck seemed to be on our side and both our boats were clearing the hurdles - ever so gracefully. The rain was picking up, too much rain and it could flood the boat and it would never float again. There was only a limited window for our race to take place. As we rounded the last corner - running excitedly towards the finish line, I was positive, my boat would have no trouble clearing the last obstacle. I was right, my boat sailed through, Bunty's got stuck. And as we headed for the finish line, I relaxed and beamed up at Bunty with pride, as if to say .... "Hail the victorious!" Though when I looked, I saw panic in Bunty's eyes, "The drain! The drain isn't covered!! "
I immediately jumped to the ground, clawing in a last ditch effort to save my winner boat, but alas! It was too late, the boat had sailed through into the mysterious drain. As the realization hit me, I looked up at Bunty with moist eyes, "Where does this drain go! Come we might still be able to save the boat"
We did not know where the drain went, we had tried before. But Bunty being the gentleman he was, still followed me outside the building and across the street, to see where the canal might be connected. To our expected dismay we only found one open groove in the ground, this one filled with ugly drain water. Surely our canal did not socialize with such filthy structures. Dejected, with a head hanging low, I returned to the building.
"Don't worry", Bunty said patting my shoulder, "Your boat was brave, I am sure it will find the sea."
"I hope it does." I said, "My paper boat little!!"
"How much did you score on that test ?? "
"7/10 " I answered.
"You really aren't meant to study and score, its unlucky for you!" Bunty concluded.
Often times, when it rains heavy enough, and forms rivers on the road, I am reminded of that day, and of that boat. Shortly after that incident, I lost touch with Bunty, his family moved out of our building. As the wet sprays of water drops hit my face, and the scent of moist soil fills the air, I remember our little game.
There is an innocence to childhood that does not breathe without honesty. No matter what the facts, as kids we had unquestionable faith in what was told. Perhaps its the part of childhood I miss the most.
Come to think of it, aren't all of our lives little paper boats. Fragile - with a ticking life span. Like the canal course, we do not know what hurdle our boat is going to encounter, nor what will come of it when it does. As dejected as I may be at times, I convince myself, I will find the sea. Bunty says so. And Bunty got it from the watchman, you don't question the watchman.
Made of paper, pretty and thin, floating away always, a branch and a spin. See my paper boat ... My paper boat little!!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Oh Sleep, O dear Sleep
‘Tis been a while, I last heard you talk
I know what happened, I know it’s hard
Dreams lost color, Dreams went mute
My heart longs to hear again
Your whispers in the dark
Oh Sleep, O dear Sleep
So bitter, So sweet
You have been a friend for long
You have heard the screams
The Nightmares, And seen it all
O Sleep so bitter sweet
Do you remember me?
The little boy you cared for
And the sweet lies you told me
I never let know, I knew
I knew they were lies, the truth concealed
Oh Sleep O dear Sleep
Don’t get me wrong,
Would you rather have me pretend
That you never lied
Tell the sheets, I never cried
Truth hurt the day enough
Lest my nights be spared
I needed your lies
Oh Sleep, My dear Sleep
I am a Man now, It’s ok
We know it was thrust upon
A rude harsh day without morn
Such a cold winter without the fall
My dear Sleep
Long have you cared me
‘Tis time I repay now
I fell in love and relinquished you
I’m not naïve now
The guard is set and the resolve strong
O Sleep so bitter sweet
Do you believe in God?
Run along and tell him
I call him a myth
With no use nor excuse
I am now my own God
My dearest Sleep
‘Tis the price I pay for a good heart
The bad ones go to hell they say
Why all the worry, Why all the bother
The good ones are punished alive
Enough is Enough
O Sleep, Hear me well
By Heart, Nerve and Sinew
I will bend this Destiny to my Will
And take what is rightfully mine
I deny the Fate, neither aid nor abide
O Sleep, Don’t be alarmed
That my words lose rhyme
Rhythm has many paths
Some walk on built ones
I just choose to build mine
O Sleep, My Dear Sleep
‘Tis been a while, I last heard you talk
Lets hear them again...
Your whispers in the dark
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009