Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This morning we were looking at some style issues and suddenly i came across something that made me sit up. "What is this? You have it wrong here," I asserted vehemently, because what I had in front of me was definitely wrong, and far away from the truth about mathematical equations that I learned in school. the style guide had the braces as the outermost brackets in a mathematical equation, in this sequence: {[(blah blah) x blah] + blah blah}. the person with whom i was looking at the stuff, somehow felt this is correct, but given her mathematical acumen (or what I believed was utter lack of it) I didn't pay much heed to what she had to offer. I know what it is like:


And I couldn't be wrong.

So I wrote both [{()}] and {[()]} on a piece of paper and went around our bay, to almost twenty people, quizzing them about what they thought was right. Some had always used the former, while some others, hold your breath now, had actually used the latter. So, soon we had two groups discussing and debating which one is right. Veena, from the publishing team, came to me with a photocopy from some style manual, which supported {[()]}. A vice president with a consulting company told me it is [{()}] and also that her son learns the same thing in his ICSE school.
Soon the entire office was abuzz with this issue and gradually we were losing out, the supporters of [{()}], that is. Only Lata Sundar was kinda nonchalant about it. Although she felt [{()}] is correct, she was the only one who didn't feel too strongly about it. How does it matter, she felt, as long as it is consistently used?

Meanwhile, some people looked up the Web and someone looked up the Chicago Manual of Style and it was {[()]} all over. I hadn't really ruled out writing to the Chicago Manual board of editors and wasn't ready to accept something other than what I had learned in school. It was like my faith being shaken. It turned out that the ICSE board still uses [{()}] while the CBSE changed to {[()]} according to some international rules, but it still wasn't clear.

I was constantly asking people around over chat and over phone about what they thought was right, still trying to digest the thought that some conspiracy this big could be hatched behind my back without me having an inkling about it, when I remembered to call up doc.

"What do you use doc? Do you keep braces or brackets at the extreme ends?"

"Oh, Arijit, braces and brackets are basically the same thing. Braces are made of metal or plastic, braces include brackets attached to the teeth and wires that connect them...
... but wait a second! I thought you needed a root canal treatment, and not braces! Where did this question come from?"

And I realized, the sequence didn't matter after all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

jealous pig

well, only in this case, the pig is not jealous, it is me who is jealous of the proverbial pig who has its orgasm for thirty minutes. strunk recently sent me this joke and although i knew abt it, i laughed again when I thought about it. laughed, with a tinge of jealousy. thirty minutes!

i have seen some blogs with a huge readership. always looked at those blogs askance, you know. like okay, what is this person writing about that it attracts so much readership? i have of course survived without almost any, so can't say not having comments is in any way detrimental to writing; i survived with the hope of getting published one day, and "wait and see who has more readership" was always my comeback, albeit uttered to myself. but recently i saw a blog with thirty comments on one single post. somehow, that reminded me of the pig. the joy of reading thirty comments on your blog is probably comparable to the epitome of all orgasms: that of the pig. it is a pleasure incomparable with anything else. you can buy a merc and tomorrow get bored of it; you can own an industry, but that will probably give you grey hair...but to be read and appreciated by so many netizens is like something i have always dreamed of.

some are lucky enough to be pigs. i am still striving to reach that suilline level. in both.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


according to AnandaDasa, the dharma of any object is the basic characteristics of that object. the dharma of water is to be liquid. it is the state you are in.

when did a religious connotation rear its ugly head into something that pure and essential? my dharma is clear thinking and not to be waylaid by any religious overtures. religion of any kind is like a multi-headed serpent waiting on the sides of the road that leads to salvation. if you can overcome the challenge and move on, you will soon be all alone, but free. your mind will see things in perspective. you won't be surprised when humans defy death or when aliens come visiting. you will wish you were with Daniken. you will look up Zacharia Sitchin's articles on the Web. you will work as a volunteer with Teach India. You will work for the Church that takes care of HIV-infected children. All this, with an open mind.

Come out. Let clear thinking be your true dharma.

the new mullahs

i have removed this post in the wake of the new violence that erupted in Orissa, initiated by the Hindu extremists against the Catholic missions in that state.

Monday, August 18, 2008

time to sleep

after five posts in quick succession, all with enough proof about my growing insanity, i give in to the temptation to sleep. try visualizing a light tap on a cymbal and it fading away in slo mo. try hearing it. and associate it with the fading out of conscious memories of the day. can u hear it any more? the nnnnnn fades and you slip into the darkness of a whale stomach. the projector is on.

which movie should i play for you, sir?

the rain

is sinusoidal today.
going up,
coming down
filling you with hopes of sinning
and new beginnings,
but going up again

origin of poetry

like an extended private moment during long hours of solo biking, another nice time to let your mind wander is in the morning when you are at the kitchen. a slice of sun through your window, which keeps out the early morning chill. you are waiting for the newspaper, the tea is brewing.

yes, the tea takes time to brew. about five minutes or so. the trick is to not let it get bitter or too dark. so, the best way to get that optimum level is to stand next to your teapot and wait for the right aroma. you must keep your cups ready, washed in boiling water to keep them warm till the time you take the first sip. sugar in the strainer. that's what my mom always did to ensure just that right amount of sweetness. she hated saccharine. ready, you can sense the tea ready, nicely orange, the leaves floating on the surface. pour it out and serve it with digestive biscuits.

when the water is boiling, and this is before you have put the tea leaves into the water, you can add a cut slice of ginger and a little piece of cardamom. after about fifteen seconds of boiling, turn off the flame and then add the leaves.

thankfully am not a technical writer. they would have found the sequence wrong, perhaps. why didn't you write about boiling the water first? you will end up confusing our makers of early morning tea. and then they won't buy the manual. but this is not a manual. this is the free state of a wandering mind. it is a democracy and no matter how you want me to prepare for the visit of the inspector of schools, i will remain free. and tell you about that private moment when you can stand in front of your teapot and think.

try it. am now going to embark on a therapeutic lecture. try it. it increases your love for the person in the next room, packing your child's schoolbag.

bad poetry

if you read my earlier post, you will have a good example of what bad poetry is all about. i have always held that poetry should be spontaneous (although I pretend to like the modernists) and should not be attempted when you don't feel it from within. some translations are weak, but the essence of the spontaneity comes through even through that. that is when a poem is successful. i have read some really pathetic poems in my lifetime, and some really abstruse ones, but the ones that are most dangerous are like the one I have published below. my own blog, so i can publish anything, but this was done with a purpose. is poetry always conceived and executed with an end in mind? is it just a means to an end? always? do love poems satisfy the lover and make her yield into an abyss, a victim of charm?

whereas this was an example of something that came out of casual flirtation, there are also serious attempts that are born out of deeper emotions. emotions are flirtatious too: they are always transient and seem foolish the day after. so, if your objective of using that emotion for creating something is met, you are successful.

I am not a fan of Derek Walcott. Or Ted Hughes even. Give me a footnote to howl or something, baby, to light my fire.

the same poem, written for the same person a year later when things are deeper, may read:

walking back to the kettle
another morning,
i drank straight from it.
my rational faculties,
awake by then,
didn't ask me a why or a how.

by then, after the night
i knew
it was tea to be savored
hot, cold, dark, or orange.

and from my lips
it went straight to His ears.

and hers.

darjeeling tea

i can feel something brewing,
and the heat seeping out in the form of smoke
from under the lid

i can feel something brewing
but i can't see the water getting its color
from above the lid

i can feel something brewing
but with a finite limit in time
and something tells me now
i must lift the lid and see
if it is my darjeeling tea

i walk out of the kitchen and stand in the dark room.
let it be a dark decoction
darker than the witch's broom...

she says she wants to fly
to srilanka and kashmir
she is not scared of bombs
"a witch is covered by virtue of being a witch" do you see?

i know something is brewing
let it be for you
my darjeeling tea.

Friday, August 15, 2008

India's next Olympic medal

Although Leander and Mahesh and the three boxers are still in the fray, I am gearing up for 2012. I will be 41 by then, and four years should be enough for me to get India's next Olympic gold. Only problem is, I haven't been able to decide my sport yet. Individual scull? Taekwondo? Or plain marathon? Maybe long distance cycling?
With my knees giving in, running is ruled out. I have to decide soon. Time is not on my side, but India gets a gold in 2012.

In something.

I will be famous then. I will get lots of awards. And if I write my book after the gold medal, it will sell too. But what if the book is not on sports but of sports of a different kind? What if I write about the emotional sparring and tactical gaming that you need to master when you date someone? Will that sell, you think? I think it might. But I can write a treatise on mindgames right now, right from fucking someone's mind to allowing another person to slide into a dangerous comfort zone with me? I can pass on the trade secrets to all the budding gamers and mindfuckers? So why wait for the gold to write? Let me write my book now and also work on the sport. Individual scull, I think, will be good. I can row faster than many. I could, some 13 years back. I could row upstream in the Ganges for almost thirty minutes or more. With practice I can win a medal. Not much time left. Let me continue with my pushups for the time being, till I decide which sport.

It wasn't Aravind, it was Akhil Kumar who said he will get the gold. So all the best, Akhil. I will join you next time.

This day, 61 years back, was the saddest day for millions of Indians from Punjab and Bengal. Rendered homeless and sent out of their country to another because of their faith. Millions died in the riot, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. Come let's celebrate the day our country was divided into three parts to make room for Muslims and Hindus. They could not cohabit any more, so the ever so thoughtful Brits made a hurried line on a paper map. Let's celebrate our Independence from the Britishers and also the going over to the hands of Indian politicians. And let's vow to get a medal each for India in the next Olympics. Despite the politics, despite our limited dreams, despite the fact that we are mere Indians after all.

We can kill though. If killing were a sport, how many Michael Phelps would we have created, I wonder. We kill after raping a minor, we kill when someone hits our car from behind, we kill when someone refuses to serve a drink after the stipulated hour, we kill policemen when a celebrity dies, we kill at our own free will. We kill Hindus with bombs, we kill Muslims in riots, we kill innocent Sikhs when Indira Gandhi is killed. Believe me, we are good at this. And there are plenty available too, to kill. More than a billion, in fact.

Think of a sport for me, people. I can't kill either. I can sleep, talk, and fart. I can blog all my life. I can talk of a gold medal and promise you the moon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another disappointing year

Although this is the most blogged about story these days, I couldn't help join the bandwagon in lamenting the poor show by the Indian contingent at Beijing. Every Olympics we hope against hope, give out our hearts to all the Indian participants, but they come back empty handed. Saina made me cry today. It was another matter that her dad cried on national television. She is the next Leander Paes in Indian sports, with a determination that we haven't seen in a long time. She won the first game after a long rally, lost the second one, and was leading the third one 11-3 when her nerves started to fail. She lost the third game to an Indonesian girl whose game is just about at par with Saina's, but whose nerves proved to be a lot stronger. The nation cried with her and there was this collective sigh, so near yet so far...

Take Anup Sridhar. He lost to Sochi Sato in the prequarters. Sochi Sato of Japan can pass off as a cold blooded drug peddler and has the meanest and most insular look amongst all the Japs you meet. The first thing you want to do when you see him is to tie him to a pole and arrest him on various charges. Anup, on the other hand, is the perfect gentleman vegetarian who has gone out there to play badminton. With Pullela Gopichand as his coach. Pullela Gopichand? He might have won the All England cup and might have been a world champion, but is he a hunter? Does he eat meat? Can he go out into a jungle and kill a wild boar and eat it? Does he have the instincts of a killer? If not, what is he doing as the national badminton coach? Why does his protege Anup, who is technically perfect, taller, and has a much better reach all over the court lose out to Sochi Sato, whom he has beaten in three out of five previous outings? Despite leading in each game?

Is it because he is an Indian? It is because he is from the Indian middle class. The middle class in India have limited dreams and they pass on their limited dreams to their children too. They are happy if their children manage to become computer engineers or manage a government job at the most. They are happy to excel at the national level (which is a pathetic level to say the least) and manage to get a nice job. Where is the winning spirit? Where is the scare of not being able to face a billion Indians if you go back empty handed? Sab chalta hai... after all who expects an Indian to win anything at the Olympics, boss, let me just have my share of fun and go home and start a coaching academy. Or join politics. Jyotirnmoyee Sikdar, after two golds at the last Asiad, is a member of the parliament now. Happy. What else does she want?

Who is fighting? Leander and Mahesh are. They are professionals, but they have to face Roger Federer's team in the quarters. They beat Federer and his other Swiss partner last time at the Olympics easily, so am hoping (and you all are hoping too) that it will be a breeze for them. But it is the Olympics, and we are Indians, so who knows after all? The nation knows we have this psychological disadvantage and there's nobody waiting with a stick back home. So why worry.

Take the archer Dola Banerjee and the shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu. World champions by their own right. The nation's hopes pinned on them. What do they do? They bow out in the first round. Dola was even seen smiling in an interview later. Go commit suicide, you loser, or go cry in the locker room. Don't come out smiling and give a silly press interview saying you enjoyed and gave in your best. Is this your best? You are a world champion, for god's sake. Is this ALL you can do?

Who sends them? Who chooses these guys? Who is this Kalmadi guy? Why is he there? Why don't you put him in jail for the next four years?

The pugilists are fighting. Sons of farmers and grade 3 government employees in Haryana, they are fighting. They are punching their way through each round. One guy, probably Arvind Kumar, even said he won't be satisfied with a silver or a bronze... only a gold. At least one guy has dreamed of it. May the force of a billion physically, culturally, emotionally, psychologically challenged Indians be with him. Or do you think he needs our support? He doesn't. He has reached where he has by himself. His dad is probably thinking of how to buy a tractor or how to repay his loans. He cannot afford a private coach for his son from Cuba. But Arvind Kumar has a dream. A lone ranger's dream. If he loses, he will go down fighting and for the handful of Indians who have seen him on TV, he will remain a fighter to reckon with.

Will someone else be able to give Abhinav Bindra some company up there? Anyone? Someone with even a little bit of pride for the country? With grit? With the instinct of a game hunter? Please say yes, please... we are waiting for you dear hero...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A lifelong experiment

teaching a child is a lifelong experiment and I have completely immersed myself into it these days. a child has certain learning huddles to cross, and crossing each one almost catapults the grasping power to the next level of difficulty.

here are a few hurdles that aaron was faced with. he wouldn't be able to figure what came after 19 or 29. This made it really difficult for us to teach him beyond 1 to 9. we realized that explaining the concept of zero always coming after 9 was what can help him overcome this hurdle. he managed to grasp it. so, soon he was able to figure what came after 39 or 49. After 4 comes 5 and after 9, it is always zero. So 50 after 49. It seems funny and rather simple, but at the age of four, with the schools moving on at an absurd pace, it can sometimes be hell for the kids.

later, he grew fond of math puzzles. we taught him little tricks to help in quick mental math, and instead of making it like a mandatory session everyday when he has to study, we made it a game. each time he missed one, I scored a point. because he takes me as a competitor in everything, this really spurred him on. he always had to score more than daddy.

we both are rather weak in math, so our obvious focus was on him to be good with the numbers first, but in this process, his English got neglected. it is still rather weak and it is always a work in progress for us. what he got stuck with were the vowel sounds. it is difficult to explain to a kid how a sounds like a: and ae or how e sounds like a. am still struggling with his phonics and trying to encourage him to read, but this, as i mentioned, is a work in progress. i used some visual aids to help him remember spellings, like the word acTiviTies became a battleship with two masts and ten letters, while consonanTs was a ship with a single mast but ten letters nonetheless. imagine the amount of doodling all this needs. am planning to read up about phonics in the next couple of days to be able to devise new methods of teaching.

the school, unfortunately, is an average school that focuses mainly on the higher classes and their mathematics. phonics and phonetics are absolutely ignored because the teachers are not capable enough to speak proper English themselves. in our obsession to make our children computer engineers, we have ignored all the other subjects. but in a country where basic civilities like not littering the streets or not jumping a traffic signal or not honking are never taught or practiced by the teachers or the parents, it is difficult to expect a child to learn to be a good human being...forget learning how to speak properly in English. I pronounced shove shov (show) or chores coarse for a long time and have still not been able to get my intonation right. These days you have these accent training institutes, so that's an idea brewing in my mind. but my English can wait. aaron's cannot.

like i said, it is a lifelong experiment and will continue for a lifetime. someday, i will also have to teach his children. i better equip myself to be a good dad first . . . :).

Planet X

If I mention some kinda expense my wife usually thinks for a few seconds and almost always tries to reason with me, but that night as she walked out the auditorium door and I hollered after her that I want to buy a CD by the performers we just watched, she just raised a hand in consent, much to my surprise. We had gone to attend a jazz concert at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore, arranged by Sandip Chowta, a famous music composer and jazz artiste. He got Virgil Donati to Bangalore, along with Brett Garsed, who plays almost as good as one of the 3G guitarists.

Virgil is this esoteric drummer whose sense of rhythm had the audience in raptures. He paused after a few tracks and probably thought it is better to explain to a Bangalore audience why his drums sounded abstract and offbeat. He played five different samples in increasing order of complexity, explaining how each one of the sample tracks he played were in 16 beats but broken into triplets and quintuplets. Brett accompanied him with a riff on the guitar, which made it easy for us to hold on to the actual rhythm and also realize how Virgil's drums always stayed within the strict 16 beats that he started off with. He started from half beats and often at various points from within two beats and by the time he finished, we were all on our feet asking for more.

I love Dave Mathews band (songs like Where are you going, Grace is Gone, Bartender, etc.) and the drumming there is quite interesting too, but it follows a particular rhythm that a even a novice can understand. Even if it starts at half beats, it is steadily like that for you to be able to headbang with. This, however, was nothing I had ever heard.

Bought one of the many CDs on display, Planet X. They had played some of the tracks live too. This music makes you want to drive fast and also increases your aggressiveness. Thankfully the roads that night were absolutely deserted after the concert and I hadn't the chance to indulge in some foolish road rage.

I took it out of my car stereo and put back John Maclaughlin's Live in Tokyo. The old jeep cannot take any abuse. Planet X is for my next round of psychedelia, to be enjoyed in the confines of my house, with other biker friends.

Watch Virgil here:

Read about their kind of music here:

Ghosh Rider

Two very important blogs about experiments in pedagogy and one on Virgil Donati and Brett Garsed's music are pending, but due to lack of time, here's a pic of Ghosh Rider, who came visiting me the other day...

say hello to him...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mindless Churning Out

Now that people are expecting me to write (even if it is one person), I feel this pressure, almost like many Bengali authors feel when they have to churn out good novellas and stories before the Pujas. People wait impatiently for these annual issues of all the popular magazines and whereas some buy all the magazines (Anandabazaar Patrika, Anandamela, Sondesh, Desh, Bartaman, Aanondolok, etc.), some others coordinate among themselves about which magazines to buy. If Rekha buys Anandabazaar, Madhumita will buy Desh and they will exchange later. I belong to the later class. I believe in exchanging books. It always gave me the opportunity to mingle a little more with the girls. To keep them happy, I even borrowed M&Bs from my cousins and lent them. The girls knew Arijit had a library. If they smiled in return, I would think about that smile for a lifetime. There were many such smiles, and I didn't remember any of those smiles for long either, but that was a later realization. That was much later, when I realized it is foolish to be crazy about a girl's attention. I hope to pass on my wisdom to Aaron so that he can concentrate on better things in life.

But then, I myself am scouting girls for him. While Ananya found him herself, I found him Arshita and Sanjana. Ritu Malhotra says her daughter Navya is a little older, but she will wait for Aaron to grow up. Aaron won't be very tall. He is my son, so maybe he will cross me and be 5'9" at the most. Does basketball help? Ritu and Daman are both rather tall, so Navya will be taller than Aaron. Ruled out.

Do you try to visualize how your child will look when he/she grows up? I do that all the time. Try to close my eyes and think what he will become like. Will his eyelashes continue to be as long and dreamy, or will they fall off? What if his eyes become small like mine? And the career choices for him are again as vast: rally driver, model, painter, diamond merchant? He has this absolute fascination for gems. Sometimes you can skid on the imitation gems and jewelry strewn all around our floor. I told him he has to speak Gujarati and has to have some contacts in South Africa to become a diamond merchant, but he doesn't seem deterred by all that. "treasure, treasure" you can see him jumping all around, without even having read Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was our most fave novel. I know it was probably your fave too. I must have read it umpteen times. And then King Solomon's Mines. Will our children read those books? Will they read at all? Or will they not be bothered. My friend Hamsa hasn't read one fiction in her entire life. Has it made her a little unromantic, a little less dreamy? Too practical? I don't have an answer, but I feel you are missing out on a veritable treasure out there if you don't read fiction.

These days I watch movies more than reading books. Reading books had taken a backseat long back. Right after I joined publishing, I guess. Looking at manuscripts all day and learning to edit has taken the joy out of reading without being hawk-eyed about the typos and other errors. Editors are mostly cynical people and can't accept anybody else's writing without trying to butt in with their ideas. It is a generalization (and I will still hold that sweeping generalizations make the world a funnier place), but there are so many live examples that I have seen. I wonder how the editors would react if their writing was to be put under the lens. I write without worrying about construction or spelling errors. You cannot write and go back to it. You have to let it live and breathe like a living organism. Once born and severed from you, it is on its own.

Is it then wise to think too much about how your child is gonna grow up to be? Or is a little bit of editing necessary?

What are you hiding? Eugene?

what is to be hidden is not yet clear, but something has to be.
something more than just friendship on friendship day between you and me. sneaking out in the rain wearing a parka, i wait for a nod from you. a nod enough to start my newly acquired KTM and start riding. while you drive toward me.
what i must hide is not clear, but something has to be.

the tobacconist, leaving at midnight, leaves me in more darkness than even a few seconds back. only the tall tree is darker than the night.
it houses the owls. the last few cellphones can be seen fireflying in the distance, walking away toward their respective homes. i call you up and you are driving. what is there to be hidden, you ask. it isn't clear, but something has to be.

am online now, waiting for footsteps in the corridor. hushed, with your pajamas brushing against the wooden floor. maybe you will open the door and answer me.
maybe you don't know the answer.

maybe i am rushing it. maybe imagining there is something while there is nothing. yet. nothing yet, maybe. am i killing the possibility of something? overreacting? trying to turn this into an inspiration? my muse?

will it help me write about mashi tomorrow? that's one blog post been waiting for long to happen. it is in the form of a draft. mashi. our mashi is probably not gonna live much longer. she is running around the house looking for her antidepressants like a maniac. i ignore her for now. she will be written about separately. she deserves a little more than some weird confusion in my mind. right now, it is this. do i find you beautiful? i can't tell, but definitely attractive. do i know you? definitely not. do i know myself? that's always had no for an answer. truman, right now, could say " case i don't see you...good afternoon, good evening, and good night"... and walk out the door in the sky. i could not because i haven't reached that door.

how far is that door in the sky? who is on the other side?