Thursday, September 03, 2015

The day I almost died

A lot died that day. Not just the possibility of death. But the idea of being taken off a plane, the ambulance, the EMTs, the sirens The bright lights of an unfamiliar emergency room Surviving Then losing again... I don't know which loss is harder to bear.. The loss of opportunities, making the same mistakes again and again. The friendly stents Aging Sunday New York Times and pike coffee Freshly-washed cherries The silent flow of traffic across the water The starting and re-starting The fatigue And now the life comes back in such short spurts that i had come here to re-live.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What If 2

Back in 2007, I wrote a post caled What If about a prediction from an astrologer about my death at Fourty-Two in an air crash.

I am Fourty-Two.

And still flying every other week.

It will be interesting to see if the astrologer was right.

It is a tricky situation. I wouldn't know. But you might.

Remembering Eyyafyatlayokudl

When Eyyafyatlayokudl erupted I was on the way to Budapest, Hungary. I wasn't particularly following the news of the eruption because it didn't matter that much to me. It was a rainy morning in Budapest and the lovely city looked less than occupied. Of all the things, the news of the volcano disrupting air traffic completely escaped me.

But the next day afternoon, when I had reached Bratislava in Slovakia it hit me. There were no planes in the air and no trains where you could get a seat. If you had to be stranded in some place Europe, Bratislava is not the best place. But in a pinch like this, for an escape route, it is a better place than say Vienna or Prague. Because fewer people get stranded in Bratislava.

I ran from the train station to the bus station and back. Bratislava bus station is a communist-era concrete monstrosity that at once is an eye-sore and a deeply unhelpful burocratic prison. Having run from counter to counter, the best answer I could get was that the earliest I could get out of Bratislava was by bus was TWO days from the day.

TWO days!

I went back to the hotel and tried to do something over the web. Slovakian bus lines do not accept international credit cards. I was about to pull the stunt John Cleese did when it occured to me that the best bet in these situations is to revisit the site of escape and stay put until the end of the scene. Either the hero lives or dies...

And I was the hero of my own life. So off I went back to the bus station armed with a ticket for a bus that would leave two days hence.

At 5:00 PM, right before the bus was about to leave, with some additional pursuation in the form of some extra Euros, a seat magically appeared. It was a bus coming from Kraków, Poland. I sat next to a woman infected with a chronic cough. Thus began a twenty-two hour journey by bus through Eastern Europe and Austria.

Unwashed, unslept and unshaven I finally rolled back into town just happy to be back. The only memory of the trip was a rest stop in the middle of nowhere in Austria where the waiters and waitresses in touristy-traditional garb poured hot soup on the bowls concentration camp-style.

Thanks Eyyafyatlayokudl.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Remembering Old Songs

Isn't it interesting how those us who grew up in India carry the strains of Hindi film music in our veins even when we actively not pursue it? There is something absolutely mesmerizing about the way the songs from the 70s and 60s act as the background music to our memories.

I happened to be surfing Youtube and without any forethought started listening to old songs. Raina Beet Jaye in Raag Bhairavi. If anything really makes me sad, this is it. But not sad in a despondent way, but more in a creative I-will-give-all-to-it sort of way. I really wish I could somehow time-travel and rediscover that part of India at that time.

But nothing remains the same. In front of me an old faded photograph of verdant fields outside a North Indian fort that was taken in 1992. That space is now covered up by ugly concrete buildings.

And the background music to those concrete buildings is something I don't quite recognize.

But it is worth remembering. We don't die when we get old, we die when we forget.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I think of dust, sitting here at midnight. Memories of dust settling everywhere. On freshly washed utensils kept to dry, on the coffee table, on the floor; dst when you wipe off your face at the end of the day.

I wonder if that is still the case. I am sure. Just because you run away doesn't mean, it all goes away. I wonder if there is a way to trace all of that on a tracing paper of memories; petromax weddings in Dehradun, barefoot chldren, Sunday night movies on DD where the sound rose and fell like waves from hundreds of open windows. But all I hear is the circular descriptions of Bollywood weddings and the stories of secret romances by scions of powerful families.

Perhaps I miss all this because it is time for another transition. Another chance at running away. Another city. This land has been a temptress. I miss her charms.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ankhon Ki Gustakhiyan

I sat in the restaurant surrounded by all these people and tried to have witty conversations. The restaurant was in the middle of the river Rhone.. a newly refurbished place. All day. Before that I reached out to some unlikeliest people. Then on the way home, I stopped the car and walked in the middle of the night through the silvery dirt path shining in the moonlight.

Because tonight was the night. Soon this place will be but a memory.

So many chances. So many missed opportunities. So many lost moments.

I moved here years ago to follow that memory.

And the memory has gone away. Rolling off like pebbles under the current.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


I like running into famous people in crowded elevators and not recognize them. I like easy-to-reach eateries. I like to walk around outside the stadium where they are playing for the ashes. I like the way shoes sound on cobblestone streets.

Mostly I like being anonymous in crowds.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mexico City: Next week

Next week I am in Mexico city.

The distance from Mexico city to Guatemala is 600 miles. From Mexico city to Los Angeles in 1150 miles.

I thought which would make sense.

And then I went and bought my ticket to Los Angeles.

In Redondo beach, there is a restaurant that serves tapas over flamenco performances.

And there is a sunset.

Dinner At A Batternberg Castle

Battenberg family is important to anglophiles. It was Prince Luis of the family that relinquished the German titles to become the first Mountbatten (Berg is mountain in German).

Two days ago, I had the rare occation to have a meal in one of their castles. Castle is perhaps a bit too fanciful a word, but it was nevertheless impressive, dating from the 15th century. We were a group of thirty and we walked from room to room eating bite-sized chunks of food and tasting a different wine in each room.

It was actually enjoyable for once. I just realized through the day that I was having fun. Which is something.

It was cold and rainy outside. Inside the fires were burning. I stood by a window where Queen Vicctoria signed her name by scartching the letters into the wood with her diamond ring. Outside, darkness was complete.

At 12:30 I got back to my hotel and realized that I had to iron my shirt before sleeping. So by the time I was done, it was 2:00. At 6:30 the car waiting to take me to the airport. I was the only passenger in the company plane that morning.

Landing back here, on the way to my office, I imagined what would it be to become the idle rich.

Then I realized I was late for a meeting.

Gruyère Again

I park my car at the exact same spot as before. Except this time, it is light out and the air is only just nippy. I did not lose my way and found it in the most intelligent way; using my GPS. I climbed over the winding path to the top. There on the cobble streets, tourists were still marveling the souvenir shops and the fondue restaurants. I stopped by the restaurant with beautiful panoramic views below and then went to the fort.

Like last time, the fort was closed.

I tried to remember a poem. Or a quote.

There was nothing. I wanted to remember. There were no memories. I wanted to stand still and admire the fort in its lit-glory. But the lights were off.

On the way back, I just looked out into the darkening vista and commiserated with the cows.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What is next for me?

I sometimes wonder when this life in the fast lane will come to an end. What is next? One day i will wake up and know when I have had enough of Europe and the travel and the stress and competition. And then what will I do?

I dream about being an olive farmer in California. Butthat may be more of a dream. I am not sure if that is what is in the cards next. Knowing my life, I have never had anything that i was actually looking for, even though life has indeed taken me to places where the end results were not terrible. Things could improve, and I have a few major regrets in my life, but in general, at least from a career point, I ought not complain.

So I think the more likely scenario is that i will end up in Downer's Grove, Orange County or Redwood City, some non-exotic and flavorless suburb back in America working in a job that perhaps would have less international travel but with a reasonable profile.I will probably keep better hours and travel less.

It is about giving up.

In one of the stories of Jorge Borges titled "The man on the treshold" he attempts to recall a story in second person from North India in Buenos Aires. He says, "what sort of exactness can the names Aritsar and Udh be expected to convey to Buenos Aires?"


What sort of exactness can these realities convey to you? what sort of geographic exactness comes through in my stories as they are spread through my own consciousness as think as butter spread over bread? Would it ever make sense to you why I am the way I am and why it is so difficult to change.

You couldn't possibly know.

As Sartre said, our life is only a long waiting; first waiting for the realization of our ends and especially waiting for ourselves.

I am still waiting for the first. But there is an olive garden somewhere in santa Ynes valley that is waiting for me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lights and sounds

Am I destined to follow the light around the planet?
I know the futility of this writing.
I know minds are made up and dreams are crushed
and movies are made and shown
Dirges are played
A house is bought and lost
an afternoon in a cafe
A dinner in a restaurant
An early morning
A breeze that comes like a whisper.

Am I destined to follow the sound
through the echoes?

Ps: I made a lot of calls today to California. Throughout the day I thought what it would be to look into the Canyon and the hills beyond it all over again. I have seen little conejos running around the place at night. an ocational cayote when I walk springs out and stares. I miss it. Today, more than ever.

Objects In The Mirror

I have an early morning flight to Rome tomorrow. Here I am sitting up sleepless and tired. I had a very very late dinner with Stefan at a restaurant where the woman apologized for running out of bread.

It is important to record these details of the daily grind because such days you forget. When you are seventy and you sit on the porch and wonder what you did with your youth, you need to remember the meal at the restaurant with no bread.

That is where your youth went. Also in the morning commute, in the irrascible crevices of memory and silly precipices of mere existence.

I have been dreaming weird dreams lately.My father's aunt has a house in a small town. When it was being buing built, I used to climb on top and look down from the terrace. I haven't seen that house in 22 years. Last night I dreamt that I eviced some Geneva partygoers from that terrace.

That is where my youth went. In nightmares and anxieties. In flight schedules and airports.

But I still want to live.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


In the darkness everyone looks the same.

The streets of l'Hivernage are dark except for

the light from passing cars

But I am not alone, there are many people around me

yet I barely see them.

A man comes straight to me and I tense and make a fist

but he passes without a glance.

My feet hurt.

Dead words

Today I wander. There is always a fixed route when I wander. so is it even wandering if one follows the same path?

The lake is where I usually start. Well everything must start at the lake anyway, it is a rule around here. The lake is noisy today with a fair. I pay very little attention to the people around me. Lasy year this time I was dancing in one of these makeshift dancefloors by the lake; this time i don't feel like going in. Instead I walk away and towards the hotel. I stop in front of the non-descript building where a missing woman's poster still lingers. Her body was discovered buried in her own backyard months ago. But the poster still hangs. On the door a polite warning reminds the reader that the building is under video surveillance.

The side windows of the bar display newer paintings; nudes of African women done by a female swiss artist. They are tasteful and competent but not captivating. On the other end of the street, I sit on a street bench under a tree. I count to ten.

On the courtyard in front of the Kabab place, silence lingers. There is no sign of life. A fallen yet forgotten rain has left a little wetness on the ground. I stand there lost and look at the door of Edelweiss. This is a central point for meetings and running-ins. The Turkish restaurant that no one ever went to is now Bollywood cafe. They seemed to be having better luck than the Turks.

The video parlour is open. I cannot see inside. If I walk past it through the narrow roads, I will get to my old apartment. There on the balcony, if I leaned back with a lit cigarette I would see the lake.

Black and purple. That is now imagine this world. Sometimes, after you walk long enough on a path, you forget to notice. may be because you know those things are there, even when you don't look. I know where the youth hostel is, where the best breakfast is even though my seat is invariably always damn near the toilet, I know how the monuments look even when I don't see it.

Wandering along, I forgot why I was wandering in the first place.

Because summer is almost over. And the words are still dead within me.

An unusual evening

Whenever I come to this city and drive around the neighborhood, I imagine myself living here. In one of these brownstones. I let my imagination wander.

There was a death in the family next door , so the house came on the rental market. Lucky. Perhaps.

May be that is not the story. But it is my imagination. If I want to imagine a townhome as fictional as this, it is indeed my prerogative.

The little townhome stood on a side street protected by one-way signs and no-turn signs right-off a main throughfare. Like all those places, it was non-descript. There was nothing that told that house or that street apart from any other.

There was an Ethiopian eatery within walking distance. Perhaps a laundromat. A twenty-four hour convinience store, a florist, a store selling hardware things and electrical components, a chinese grocery; a neighborhood. In the dark ethnic restaurant people sat around talking to each other as if it is a living room and service is just casual to the itinerant hungry person.

The house itself stood slightly raised from the ground. Perhaps the first floor is locked up or occupied by the landlady. On the second floor, there was a regular bedroom and a living room crowded with computer wires. The bathrom was small and the tub was covered on three sides by curtains. From the bathroom, one could see a small patch of green in the backyard. Beyond that, other houses.

On the roof, a secret opened up. A small table and two chairs. A private smoking den. A sliver of the sky. A three dimensional place to mourn, lament and laugh.

Houses come in different colors and shapes. They come with room to share and room to spare. This was a purpose. A calling.

If I needed a place to hide from my sorrows and find myself, perhaps it is here.

The fortune cookie said:' to you values in life are more important than wealth' -- True but sad. There is a whole life to live on this side of the fortune cookie literature.

The sliver in the sky just got smaller and died. I woke up.

Never a good idea to dream while one is driving.

Near Sudan Border, Lake Nasser, Egypt

One night in July, when the air was pure and the sky was bright like a million diamonds, I woke up without being able to sleep and came out of the cottage that was my home for that night. There was heavy military presence in this tiny hamlet and everything was watched. But within these walls I felt safe.

I was in Egypt, near the Sudanese border. Here what was Nile was now Lake Nasser. Here the landscape looks lunar, except for the emerald green waters. The Nubians are friendly. Earlier that day I had walked to the village square looking for something and in the scorching hear surveyed the complete absence of activity around me. The only traffic I ever saw was military vehicles.

I end up in unusual places.

I walked past the huts and onto the path that abuts Lake Nasser, the largest man-make water-body in the world. I was careful not to accidentally step on any vipers. Standing there alone was an eerie feeling. But I stood there smelling the desert night, not thinking or feeling. Not wondering.

Then I heard a powerful attack being executed in the lake below me. The lake is full of crocodiles and the extent of violence in the water could only have meant one thing.

Water gives life.

What it giveth, it taketh away.

Near Fatima-Setti, Atlas Mountains

It is already september and the air is thick with anticipated winter. Life moves in thick, halted pauses here, no sudden thrusts or wayward movements. I am climbing to waterfall number 5 through barren arid paths and rocky outcrops, like a lizard. My guide, Kemal, who probably is twelve is much more agile. On our path, we pass a wailing woman attended by others after she tore open the sole of her left foot. But other than that, it has been peaceful.

I reach a panaromic point and look around. All around me is waves of undulating mountains. I can hear the waterfalls below me and from somewhere far, comes a faint wave of an Arabic song. down at the village, at the foot of the mountains, I imagine the Berbers are still moving about in their donkeys as I saw them earlier in the day.

Suddenly I remember I haven't written anything in a long time. Not just blogs, but anything. When i don't write, I don't know what to do with all my feelings. sorrow. Melancholy. Joy.

But here I remember that all I need to do is to open my eyes and listen. Words will come flying down from their coops they abandoned me to. And they come like that, I write.

Thank you Cascade Number 5.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Arigato Tokyo

Last night, driving through the rain-drenched streets of Tokyo, I wondered if this was the beginning of the end. Lives spiralling out of control have a way of creating forewarnings. I am tired and listless. This is the fourth city I have been in five days. Two days ago, I sat in a hotel room in a London suburb and watched traffic on the highway on a foggy and slightly chilly yet-not-summer night, the ame thought had occured to me. It was still daylight at 10 PM.

But it is hot and muggy here and the nights are short.

Tokyo looks brooding and overcast. May be it is reflecting how I feel. I don't feel like writing much these days. Words have deserted me. There are happy days though. Sitting on a bright green meadow and I looked up at a spindley tower on a sunny day earlier this week and had smiled happily. It was chilly but sunny. There were jugglers practicing their craft and students reading under the suns. Why can't I have more days like that?

Rain is following me these days. In every country. Perhaps I am a messenger for climate change, tracking it from country to country.

In a few days, I will be in the US, and rain is forecast there as well.

The Gods must be crying. For me.

Bullets Over Janpath 3

They were in MD1’s home office. His wife, wife 1 as is customary, came out to be introduced and then disappeared into the large colonial era house with sure footedness and from where nothing else was heard henceforth. But through that silent vacuum, plates carrying vegetarian dishes emerged, carried by servants with sizeable moustaches and expressionless faces.

The seriousness of their conversation was justifiably counter-mirrored by a blank and assiduous blue sky that sat uncharacteristically outside up in the ether refusing to budge. Bullet saw the sky reflected on the thick glasses of MD1 and noticed how his lips quivered when he spoke. Every now and then a spray of spittle landed on his cheeks like the backwash of a great spray and Bullet accommodated this too with great cheer.

His proposal was quite simple, split RCC and RTC completely and make them entities that had nothing to do with each other. One will mind its business with tenders and such (and no prize for guessing which) and the other will be happy with maintenance of the roads. There is plenty to go around, he assured. After all, haven’t you heard about the bridge in Unnau that cost the taxpayers many a lakh in maintenance until the minister concerned (and he used the words minister concerned as if it was a proper phrase and not an anomaly of officialese) visited and realized there never was a bridge?

Bullet nodded. He had no heard about this specific bridge. But many such bridges existed throughout the southern block and through the entire Rajdom of Hindustan. One would argue that many an IAS-wedding was paid for by the non-existent bridge of various shape or form that sometimes took the form of an uninvited tender and at other times as a defense purchase.

MD1 let out a silent fart, the sort that lingers pungently like smoke from a paper factory on a humid day spreading malevolence and discontent. Bullet choked in his own tears and gulped down some whiskey. Another glass was quickly emptied. Dal dripped from his hands onto his safari suite and made stain marks in the shape of Orissa.

For all that juicy dal, he promised to be considerate to the wishes of MD1. As he ambled to the car, and rocked in its wavy motion, he slept a baby sleep and dreamt of Shaddo’s pear-shaped breasts. Then in the dark, he cried in his sleep.

MD2 was a little different. He met Bullet in his large office populated with books and a square table. It was an odd shaped room, Bullet noticed without irony, as if it was a large hollowed out geometric block of an isosceles triangle. MD2 sat upright away from his desk under a picture of Mahatma Gandhi and all dead prime ministers and stretched his long legs out as he spoke. He had a casual regal manner. His long hands moved in the air when he made a point as if he was preaching in a church of over attentive laity. Bullet slinked back into the couch as if he was a schoolboy. MD2 was much more senior to him and a retiree of the IAS. His moustache, a mere remnant of a former self (as ascertained from a picture on the wall where MD2’s moustache was presenting a garland to a former prime minister), was white in most part. This stood in stark contrast to his dyed jet black hair with its characteristic plastic sheen that comes from all the overuse of ammonia in the hair product.

The room smelled of a mix of gardenias and cigarettes. Every once in a while, a plump secretary with giant calves waddled in and handed him a file or a piece of paper. MD2 casually glanced at them and set them apart as he continued talking.

He made no demands. He didn’t ask what MD1 had said. He just said if you listen closely you can hear frogs at night even when it does not rain.

Then he chuckled over a cooling cup of tea.

That night Bullet had ejaculatory dreams about Coco. And Shaddo. In his dreams he interchanged the pear-shaped breasts of Shaddo with sizeable mammaries of coco and felt the tenderness of both. He imagined himself to be a schoolboy arrested in the sentimentality of motherly love as he was cuckolded by two pairs of tender breasts.

The next morning he awoke without shame or sentimentality. As he stood there in his undershirt contemplating the serious nature of the arresting beauty and sizeable asses of the poor dispossessed people without shame, he told Parashuram Singh, who stood there watching the master dress, how he was so interested in the tender nature of the local women.

Parashuram Singh sycophantically rolled his head and agreed a half hearted yes, the sort that was personally profitable to him like a salesman telling the customer how something looked so perfect on their pot-bellied porpoise-like torso. He pretended to be surprised that such talk will come from bade sahibs even though he was a master of this parlor game where many a bade sahib has prostrated himself after the sin and quite a favor was extracted for his continued pretence of respect.

The days in the office were humid and pointless. There was a loud ceiling fan that kept him company through the afternoon as all sense deserted him and he saw pictures of tenders and roads jump at him through imaginary convex possibilities of nothingness where none really existed. An imaginary bridge over Unnau stretched to oblivion in the afternoon orgy of sweat and non-comprehensible parade of bad English.

Favor me with a smile, he muttered under his breadth as Shaddo passed him by wafting in a malodorous cloud of domestic chores. She walked past hurriedly giggling under her duppatta. Emboldened, he walked to the open kitchen door and stood there with his arms on the top of the door and stared her intently.

He felt the hair on his forearms standing up. The scandal, he thought.

Shaddo kept on stirring the pot that ddn’t need to be stirred. In more ways than one. Bullet watched this and felt himself springing to life. His earthly need, hithertofore taken care of by the nocturnal self abuse protested. He stood there motionless and watched the pot-stirring princess of poverty. Then he advanced towards her in sure-footedness and grabbed her from behind in a fast sweeping motion, roughly and almost with intent to cause pain. She jumped even though she was expecting this. A spoonful of gravy splashed out from the pot around the kitchen table and a passerby cockroach that was minding his own business was hurt. The universe has a strange way of enforcing order.

There was violence of hunger in their love making. Right there on the uncleaned kitchen floor, smelling of masalas. Unclean and uncivilized, like animals, grunting and moaning, his black skin and gold-framed glasses over her light brown caramel skin body. Together they writhed in hunger and unspent passion of loneliness and winter nights. If it was a movie, there would have been fireworks and anxious mood-building music. But this wasn’t. So they made love to dogs yelping in the evening heat for a background noise.

They were not naked either. They looked obscene in their hitched up and scooted down compromising attire as they consummated and exploded in delight. Even without a convenient condom.

Shaddo, Bullet cried, what of us now?

Don’t worry, she said smiling, I never get pregnant.

He didn’t ask why.

Later in the evening, he joined Parashuram Singh on the veranda drinking cheap Indian-made foreign liquor and sat looking at the moon. Long after Shaddo had cleaned up and left, long after the smell of her cooking had faded from his unwashed chest, long after his desire for Shaddo’s bare bottom was replaced by a mournful pointless depression characteristic of IAS officers put out to pasture with no sights to move up or out of punishment. Like two men, unbound by official titles and convention, they sat silently in the darkness looking at the moon and taking their turns at smoking a cigarette. Parashuram Singh thought of his wife in the village and his children he hadn’t seen in months and thought why didn’t feel the need to see them. Bullet looked at the moon and thought why the sea of tranquility was not looking very tranquil.

- Do you where Washington DC is? He suddenly asked.
- Sahib is in love, Parashuram Singh said matter-of-factly

He wasn’t. Not anymore. Sure he felt those pangs for Coco on nights like these. But those were not from love. Those were from loss. Do you know the difference? Sure, they feel the same sometimes, but on winter nights, one hurts like exposed varicose veins, the other just longs to be stroked.

- Parashuram, let me tell you about Washington DC, he began.

For once Parashuram Singh actually listened. In the darkness he forgot to flash his sycophantic yellow smile and forgot to preach the preach-tried and true.

He sat there and imagined a place like Washington DC. Bhasingdon Deesee. A faraway magical place. Where girls with magical breasts and even more magical pudendas took men home and made love to them until they were lost.

A place like those stories about Krishna. And Mahabharata.