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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

30 November, 2004

Total Control

Soft as a whisper the idea came to my mind
Without any qualms I hid my find

As the sun rose bright and red in the sky
I gathered everyone and took up the cry
We were too great a force to be stopped
Before our determination authority melted
Our aim was to change the world
Bury all the dirt and bring out the gold
But not everyone was convinced
Now was the time to reveal my find
With my help everyone could be wise
No need anymore to live under a constant guise

The world overwhelmed by a simple truth
Followed me like a curious child everywhere


You And I

If you and I were married,
You would be Vikram Seth
And I, Sylvia Plath;
We would weave elaborate webs
That choke and kill and feed
On each other’s fires.

While you try desperately
To find your meter
I would have already dipped my sword
In ink and killed myself
Without any hope
Of resurrection.

You would then publish me
After you have happily wedded
A second time,
And my Pulitzer will hang
Like a noose
Around your neck.

Fame will pursue you
Yet you will keep wondering
Whether you have lost your music
Along with your unsuitable girl,
Whether the glory
Is truly yours or mine alone.


The Interview - Take Two

This multi-speaker narrative follows up on Geetanjali's The Interview. Am I being a presumptuous insect?

The Male Gaze

The next candidate comes in. It's a woman.

But what a woman! Great figure - Thin waist, busty. Long hair. Sharp features. Incredible - she could have stepped straight out of a Japanese manga comic.

Her hair brushes against her shoulder, with a hint of caress.

Carmine red, body-hugging waistcoat. A bit of cleavage, a sparkle of button-diamond earrings. Absolutely stunning.

"Please have a seat..."

"Thank you sir." Even the tone has a husky, dreamy quality. Finely cultured, like the rest of her.

As she sways forward to sit, her skirt shifts - it's a rich purple silk - and the hem lifts just above the knee.

Does she notice me looking at her legs - is that a tensing up I saw, or is it just my imagination?

"My Curriculum Vitae, Sir. As you can see I completed my Masters from..."

I am looking up from the nip of her waist to the bulge in the waistcoat to the proud tilt of her chin. There is a smouldering intensity in her gaze. Men have drowned in them, and she knows it. I feel a knot gathering in my stomach.

I lean back in my chair and smile. I am thinking - "How nice to have met you darling, except it's across this desk! Quite competent too perhaps. But could she be too hot for this office?"

"... my project on Oraon phonology under Prof. Ulhas Rao." She stops and looks at me.

I had better pay attention.

The Female Gaze

Its a big desk, miles long.

He looks up from the papers as I come in. I wonder if he can feel the tension brooding in me. PR trainee -- is this the job I really want. . .

"Please take a seat," he says. I feel his eyes looking at me. After all these years, why can't I get used to it?

This coat is four years old. Wonder if its getting a bit tight? I wriggle a bit, loosening the fit. I feel the waft of my hair.

"Thank you, Sir." I sit down. He has a slightly faraway look. I sit up straight.

I can hear the creak of the fan. There is an intensity to every moment.

I give him the paper in my hand.

"My Curriculum Vitae, Sir. As you can see I completed my Masters from..."

Even as I am speaking, I can see his gaze running over me. What a nuisance men are. This guy may turn out to be a lout. Or maybe it is all men. God! Should I even be looking for a job?

Hey! Girl! You better focus on your work.

"... my project on Oraon phonology under Prof. Ulhas Rao."

Finally, he is paying some attention.

29 November, 2004

The Limits of Endurance

This is no time for flowers, my sweet:
they sear in the winds of shattered trust.
The air hangs heavy with the musk of heat:
sluts and vampires rage in lust.



28 November, 2004

Final Light

The auditorium is huge. It is an ocean of space built in three levels. Diffused lighting lights the whole place. The light makes the space expand further, pushing the corners in and masking the details. The light lacks quality but makes up with its evocative display of vast space. The stage is the focus of the brightest lights. It shimmers like a mirage. The curtains hide in the corners like nervous stagehands, streaked with fine dust. And it is totally quiet. Quieter than even an empty house. The silence covers everything like cold dew. It drips from the dangling microphones, it fills the chairs flowing in like waves and it gives shape to the shallow shadows hiding under the seats.

I’m lying in the center of the stage, stomach ripped open. My fingers clutch the intestines crawling out of the jagged hole. I want to scream but the silence is on me too. It covers my mouth with a dry kiss and the screams struggle at the back of my throat. I do not want to fight it. I want it to engulf me. I squeeze my intestines harder.

Everything explodes.

Space expands and then contracts into a thin but intensely white line. I close my eyes and embrace Death.

(final part in a trilogy of short pieces loosely based on the themes of light and death)


Fragments, flotsam, detritus from the diaries. Perhaps one day i'll find a use for them. And then again, perhaps they just needed to be swept out to make place for new ones. Or, perhaps, they'll spark something off in you. Here they are, my stunted children.

On finding an old diary
Old lines
Old loves
Raw words
Raw emotions
Wish i could feel them now
that i know how
to write
and love.

Last lines
In love for the first time...
Been there, done that, wrote the poems
Now, i’m ready for the last time.
Don’t want to write any more poems.

All 4 you
Today was a 4 poem day
’coz that’s the way i cry.
That makes you a 4 poem girl.

The pain
the lies
The whens
the whys.
I’ve been there
So why
do i
when i’m safe
and dry
want to dive in

You’re everything I want to be
Do all the things I want to do
I’m consumed with jealousy
For a little while, can’t I be you?

Missing the bus
Do we settle, some of us, for someone
who loves us,
giving up hope that the one we love
will settle for us?

she who painted
Put some blue in the sky
A smidgen in your eye
Then do the same for all of me

There are two things
I still like to do
with my eyes closed.
Sit down beside you.
And sleep.

no money
and a deadline.
Why is it
always a

Found her.
But she,
she’s not
looking for me.

A teddy bear
is always there.
Around somewhere.
Whether or not
You care.
A little threadbare,
a cut, a tear.
Teddy bears
are always there.


27 November, 2004

The Interview

34-24-36. 5’6”. Shiny black tresses caressed the curve of her neck, brushing lovingly against her shoulder, much like a lover would. The red waist-coat faithfully moulded her body, highlighting her assets beautifully. She wore a skirt that stopped just short of her knees – some silky material that shifted sensuously against her legs with each step she took forward…
"Please have a seat..."
"Thank you, Sir." Those husky tones could do a lot for a man’s imagination, not to mention the libido. As she sat down, her skirt shifted higher drawing the gaze down to her thighs. She shifted, her spine stiffened as she straightened in the chair.
"My Curriculum Vitae, Sir. As you can see I completed my Masters from…"
Her voice droned on in the background as his gaze drifted idly upwards taking in the nip of her waist and higher up, the proud tilt of her chin to the kohl-lined deep brown eyes that were sparkling indignantly with fire. If looks could, he would have burnt at the spot. He leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"She would do. Oh yes, she would do alright..."

(Inspired by John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” – an influential book, in which he talks about the male gaze. He argues (successfully) that “men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Women continue to be “depicted in a different way to men - because the "ideal" spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him” Berger was speaking with art in mind, yet his arguments are highly applicable in a quotidian situation – aren’t we as women, constantly aware of the male gaze, perpetually modifying our appearance to please it?)

26 November, 2004

Liquid Silver Dreams

Yesterday, I got drunk
The staccato rumble of
God's laughter

Igniting pillars
Of crazy thoughts

With a passion
The rare bliss
Of heavenly communion

There were angels
Dressed like drag-queens
Smoking pot and
Drenched in cool acid

The Old Man
Lay in four dimensions
Layers of Earthly sin

Weird sounds
Grew from his ears
Blowing holes
Through the fabric of logic

I sifted
Through the sand
Under his feet
And found the spirits
Of mortality and immortality
Lying side by side

A curious copulation
Of beautiful extremes

We were surrounded
By a band of satyrs
Sampling the delights
Of drug induced paranoia

There was a crowd
Behind us
Filled with
Schizophrenics and hypochondriacs
Crazies and homos
Prostitutes and publishers
Capitalists and Christians
Pornographers and politicians

All chanting
The true name
In unknown harmonics

God smiled
And created a new world
Out of the surreal images
Floating in his blank eyes

I touched
His cloak
Made of lightning and thunder
To glimpse a vision of bright orgasm

It smelt
Like burnt ozone (there)
Oozing through
The leaky holes
Of my shattered brain

Wicked laughter
Echoed around me
From time to time
Pulsing like young stars
Shattering the crowded silence

I was restless
To undream
These fantastic visions
From heavenly hell

A slow dance
Of deep bass
In the confines
Of my confused mind
Disoriented, vague

I realized
The cruel weakness
Of proletarian mortality
A class struggle
Even in utter infinity



25 November, 2004

Laughter and Art

The following passage from a book titled “Immortality”, written by a Czech author I admire greatly - Milan Kundera - gave me some pause and I have been thinking an analyzing this for days until an engaging discussion on the difficulties of writing when ecstatic appeared on Ryze.

“A face is beautiful because it reveals the presence of thought, whereas at the moment of laughter man does not think. But is that really true? Is not laughter a lightning thought that has just grasped the comical? No, in the instant that he grasps the comical, man does not laugh; laughter follows afterward as a physical reaction, as a convulsion, no longer containing any thought. Laughter is a convulsion of the face, and a convulsed person does not rule himself, he is ruled by something that is neither will nor reason. And that is why the classical sculptor did not express laughter. A human being who does not rule himself (a human being beyond reason, beyond will) cannot be considered beautiful.”

Could this be true? Is this the reason we cannot create beautiful magic with words, with colors, with clay or stone in those cyclical periods of ecstatic joy, or in those fleeting moments where we are probably so “convulsed with laughter” that all rational thought has left us?

Our muse deserts us and forces us to choose between joyful creative impotency and melancholic fecundity!

Fruits Of The Earth

That's the title of an extra-ordinary book by the
French philosopher and writer Andre Gide.
This is not a book review -as the response to
my first book review here was negligible, so
I am avodiing it.

However this is all about how the book hit me hard
when I was a struggling university student, with a
bleak future staring me in the face like a wolf with
a week old hunger. Engineers were during those days,
jobless by the millions, and it is a telling sign
that badminton and tennis took up more of my time
then, rather than completing mechanical drafting or
applied maths -two of my pet peeves.

The first chapter begins dramatically, in an unforgettable
manner with a couplet from the great Persian poet Hafiz

" My idle happiness that slept so long
Is now at length awaking "

One can hardly believe that Gide wrote this book in 1897, for I am
a contemporary literature freak -having had no exposure to Shakespeare
not Milton nor Blake due to a science background that looks askance
at classical literature... and the fact that he wrote it whilst he
was staring at death without blinking. He had tubercolisis, completely
without a cure then.

"I will teach you fervour" Gide says addressing the faceless nameless
reader and goes on to sing the praises of body electric like Walt
Whitman did, or even Carl Sandburg did in their own inimitable styles
much later. One can get high on plain water, Gide mentioned, in this
wonderful dialogue between Nathaniel the student and Menacles, a sort
of caricature of good ole Oscar Wilde -one of my perennial favourites,
due to his irrepressible humour and his razor sharp pithy witticisms.

Menacles, goes on narrating his own fantastic story, and there is this
magic realism interwoven in a book predating the later masters like
Gabriel Garcia Marques -antoher favourite of mine- because of this
fable like quality to the tale. Fundamentally, in the hoary tradition
of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarthustra and even Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet
this book also treads the familiar path -though a comparison between
these three would be entirely unfair.

To the serious reader then, Menacles is nothing but Gide himself, as
he used to be before the dreaded disease made him a wraith who allows
the philosopher-writer to stop exalting the ego and embrace physically
and spiritually, pure joy. Easier said than done, I thought then, as I
think now : though there are decades separating the two events.

This then is an amazing book that could leave the reader badly smitten.

cheers !

Last Words....

Written by a young lady relative, one who had everything going for her, suddenly faced with imminent death...


“ Why me? Why did it happen to me?”- the most inevitable reaction to any fatal terminal news given by the doctor.

I sometimes wondered what would be my reaction if I am ever faced with such an life-threatening situation any time in the future. Little did I know that such a challenging experience was awaiting me not very far away.

No I never even thought of that question or uttered it.

I teach in a private university. This year , after the Spring Semester finals were over, on 12th May , in response to my cousin’s and few colleagues concerned query, at a university seminar, I visited the dermatologist about some allergic skin reactions on my face and arms the very same evening. Of course, for the past few months, I had noticed the red rashes on my face, arms & legs. However, I was too busy with the end of semester work load to bother about such trivial matters. My face also looked puffy. Therefore I visited a reputed ENT, who diagnosed I had developed sinusitis , and treated me with antibiotics.

The visit to the dermatologist yielded the answer that I had been having allergic reactions due to hazardous environmental working conditions. I was advised to avoid working in such hazardous area. Fortunately it was summer recess time, and since I would be going to USA to attend the 57th Zonta International Convention in New York , and to visit my daughter and brother, I need not have to worry about being in that poisonous atmosphere for the next three months! In the Autumn semester my considerate university manager would arrange another office room for me. The doctor’s advice made me think that a genuine situation has fallen into my lap to get the university to sue the unfinished building construction on the left side of my office room. I was not aware of this hazard, but I knew this company was not following the stringent Rajuk policy about using a safety net, even if it is made of burlap. Already , once their rickety ladder had fallen against my window, shattering pieces of glass shard all over the room. Fortunately I was not physically harmed , as , you can call it good luck or destiny. I had left the office fifteen minutes early that day. Furthermore two times bricks had fallen on the guard. He narrowly escaped injury. Even on Sunday ,4th Sept he told me about the second brick which nearly missed hitting him on the forehead, with concern in his voice about how damaging it could have been to the university, in case it had fallen on a student. I had assured him of taking necessary steps to inform the university authorities. Unfortunately the next day, on Monday ,I had to return home after the morning 9.30 class, as my body was getting ready to be assaulted. Inspite of guilty feelings about letting my students down, good sense prevailed.

After requesting a helpful junior colleague to deal with my next class at 12.30 I went home.

Assaulted. It is too forceful a word. But, please read on.

I survived a brush with death. On 6th Sept night I ran a temperature of 104 F. No amount of cold pads could bring down the consistent . Here I should mention that the previous evening I visited a chest specialist who had started me on high dose of two potent antibiotics . The next morning I told my husband I could not see my beloved daughter’s face just cupped in my hands in front of my nose. That was one second of panic I suffered during my ordeal. Little did I know how bloated and ugly red my face had become. They quickly called the doctor, and I was immediately admitted to hospital.

Bombshell. My immunity system turned upon itself. My body faced concentrated attack... resulting in facial cellulites, pancreatitis, nephretitis, sinusitis ( which could have resulted in brain death, lung effusion, heart effusion ( short of heart attack)fungal infection... you name it I had faced it. Quite bizarre. Reminded me of that scene in an old movie, Fantastic Voyage , where , the doctors become miniatures and enter the body after being injected through the vein, to treat a body disorder but all the T-cells became its own enemy and commanded “Attack’’ During my twelve days hospitalization over here everyone failed to understand. The doctors tried to make a diagnosis , but could not. Perhaps they looked at one aspect of each symptom that I had..,

Therefore on the advice of each loving relative, friends , and well-wishers on the 18th September I had to be flown to Bangkok , with lung effusion, and emergency oxygen arrangement with the airlines authorities.

I am grateful to God who decided to give me a second lease in life. On arrival over there ,a team of seven doctors took charge of my shell-shocked weak transitory shell of a body, and monitored me round the clock. The disease has been diagnosed as the auto-immune disease SLE ( Systemic Lupus Erythomus ) a rare genetic disease,from which unfortunately my younger sister has been suffering for the last 14 years. However her manifestation was different.It began with fibromyalgia, and now it has become full-blown lupus. She has survived ,although the ordeal is not over. In those days the treatment was not that effective even abroad. Nevertheless my doctors have assured me of hundred percent cure in six months time if I respond to the treatment, citing mathematical ratio of totally cured disease. Fortunately I have responded positively to the treatment, another potential hazard to the body- steroids. The one and only alternative. available. Definite side-effects which I am braced for are diabetes, hypertension, ostoporeosis, hair loss ( also due to lupus), increase of Levianthan appetite resulting in becoming moon-faced and humped .

No one is prepared to see me like that , I’ve always been petite. However I am prepared.

The purpose of writing this reflection is sharing my actual challenging experience with all my traumatized, loving , caring , relatives, friends and concerned colleagues, management , staff, the humble people I interact with in all walks of life , from all over the world, who suffered by agonizing over my condition, prayed for me day and night, and are still continuing to do so . I have been strengthened by this uplifting experience.

This rare heredity disease is supposed to attack once in three generations. Now I am certainly going to research why two sisters got afflicted in one generation. Is there going to be another victim? Perhaps my research or this article could help another family which harbour this hazardous gene.

I thank each and everyone for your tears, support , care and love.

I invoke the merciful god’s kindest blessings on all of you.



footnote : Jesse was diagonosed with a malignant brain tumor, she is in coma for the last two days at a hospital in Bangkok.

Lets all pray for her.


I must set this down, I must. But I face
the problem of every vexed chronicler:
event erased by the fickler
tides of caprice. And so must base

this traveller’s tale on no more
than the scattered flotsam of a wreck,
the spars and bobbing bits of deck
that once briefly bore

our cargo. So here a book, bought
for someone else, now bearing
Eliot paraphrased in a caring
line of love; there, a medal fraught

with shared memories of ancient wars,
perfect gift for marchers of the mind –
on such are built the blind
buttresses of faith, a fool’s recourse.

But there is, beyond this sad detritus
of a voyage, against a baleful dawn,
your face whose image is all but gone.
And a magic moment or two that knit us.


Pretty Flower

Pretty flower, I watch you
Rose, in petticoats of passionate pink
Holding your head up, indifferent
To my admiring gaze
Perhaps if you were still
Adorning your branch,
Not rotting away
In this swan-shaped white vase
You might have reciprocated
With shy acknowledgement


24 November, 2004

A bit more....of regional poetry

This should have been written as a comment in reply to my fellow-blogger Arundhanti, but for some quirky reason I am here... might as well the best I can.

And there is a reason too. I had done a painstaking translation of a modern Gujarati ghazal, and it got deleted from the caferati board. Rather depressing.

Well, Urdu/Hindusthani [let us not squibble over the epithets] throws up some hugely intriguing shairs/couples. Having watched the re-digitalized Mughal-el-Azam, I am in the mood to write a bit.

Aparna, a sensitive singer and one who loves Urdu despite Marathi being her mother tongue had sent me by sms a fitting reply to a sort of shair in English, two lines saying something similar to 'flowers never bend with the rainfall' which occurs in a song by Simon and Garfunkel.

Here is that massive missive :

Gul-se lipti titli-ko girakar dekho,
Aandhiyo[n] tum-ne darakhto[n]-ko giraya hoga !

I get goose pimples, writing this.

Rough translation :

hey you power-crazy winds who may have felled huge trees, show me how you separate the love-crazed butterfly from the flower....

Cheers !

The Universe According to Kids

Speaking to children with serious expectant faces, about the space travel and our solar system can either be a daunting task or a trifle… depending on how one approaches it. For me it was the former because diluting my talk to a level where 10 to 14 year old kids can understand the complexities of the Galileo Mission to Jupiter and its findings, seemed like a topic that had been eating chunks of my brain off for days. I decided to improvise according to their response.

The dreaded moment arrived and I started the power point presentation. It was a huge relief, as the talk progressed, to realize that kids who sign up for a model making workshop to produce a strikingly realistic model of the satellite that NASA designed, curiously the whole model was also from NASA, have to be familiar with planets and their moons. So Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede were not entirely unknown to them. Some had even seen close-up images, and some had information to offer too -pretty accurate information at that.

As I plodded through the entire solar system, and focused on Jupiter and its mysterious Red Spot and its many moons, curious faces sparkled and shone with question marks superimposed on their pretty little heads. Twenty-two eager kids, perhaps the brightest from each school, with an impatience that flipped and flopped underneath their stiff postures, and shone through their iron-clad discipline. So I dropped the plan to allow them questions at the end of the two hour presentation –and the kaleidoscope of child-like queries, started churning out like a roaring volcano.

Looking back, I feel very proud of their unbridled imagination, the uncorrupted romance and the inquisitiveness that fuels the fire inside those minds… I encouraged them to ask me the silliest questions, and they stumped me with highly sensible ones! One little girl who looked barely 6, though she was 10 years old, Rucha, asked the sharpest queries and added the juiciest portions to the explanations. For instance she wanted to know if there was a possibility of life on the cold moon Europa, where scientists have suspected liquid water… due to heaving up and down of the thousands of kilometres of thick ice sheets, sometimes cracking up.

I said it may be possible for organisms that thrive on anything but oxygen to survive in these inhospitable climes –don’t we have trees and micro-organisms here that thrive on carbon dioxide? Methane consuming bacteria have also been found in deep seas. She then wanted to know, if micro-organisms could derive oxygen from water –and I had to admit yes, electrolysis is a process that does precisely that.

Why do the ice-sheets heave, she wanted to know. Because of multiple-pulls from the neighbouring satellites or Jupiter's other moons and also the huge planet itself which is a failed star. Had it been hotter and larger, it would have been a sun itself, I replied. Why did we abandon the spacecraft that worked for 14 years?
Well by then it was one third of what we had sent out... and it could have never
broken off from the huge gravitational pull. How did it die? Not by high temperature
as we think, but due to immense pressure... Jupiter exerts millions of time higher
pressure on object near it than the Earth does...

Other kids wanted to know about aliens and life on Jupiter or its planets. Many seemed excited obviously –so I had to explain how hot the gaseous planet is, and the lack of rocks or mountains or terrain… also ruling out life on planets due to their very cold and very hot atmospheres. A small boy then diverted us by asking is it true that aliens came to the earth to teach the Egyptians how to make the Sphinx. This brought back fond memories of intellectuals sipping coffee in canteen at the Medical College in Baroda, and of late night issue-based parties, with my internship-doctor friends whiling away the hours during the interminable night duty. I have a lot of stories to tell about those… but lets focus on Jupiter. Well, I had to explain about he excitement brought in by Eric Von Danniken – a Swiss archaeologist who has written probably seven or more books on this controversial topic. I am a diehard agnostic and I hate to contradict anyone who has an exciting hypothesis till it is proven correct or otherwise. The kids seemed a tad disappointed that aliens may not be peeping into our workshops and taking digital videos of the proceedings… but then Carl Sagan also asked why would anyone on our planet bother to teach the ants our alphabet? If the aliens are here, why would they bother to stop us from being at one another's throats all the time? It is up to us to.....

Don’t know how many will become astrophysicists or astronomers –but I had a sacred glimpse into the young psyche –and I was pleased as punch by the peek. I came away with the resolve to do this more often and rope in the grown-ups who have equally guileless queries and that spark of learning still burning bright inside. Like my close landscape artist friend Satish Patel now lost to the US of A, asked me when I wanted him to join a stargazers club : how can we afford to be ignorant man, under this wonderful night sky?


Second Light

The chairs are empty, three of them under the lonely spotlight. All three are draped with a white cloth. One is slightly in front of the other two as if wanting to stand out solely in the light. One is without a cushion and is made of pink plastic. The other two are wooden and have cream-colored cushions. They do not look too old and appear to be waiting for someone. Someone to come and occupy the empty space and throw an additional shadow taller than that of the chairs but blending in with their manufactured uniformity. Perhaps they are like the Sirens of Circe placed there for people fate has abandoned in the alleys of failed ambition.

Time passes. Now there is a man. He is sitting in the plastic chair, the least comfortable of the three. He is foaming at the mouth. His hands are clutching a thin black rope made of plastic. At his feet lies a disposable syringe, old and ugly. His eyes try to concentrate on the spotlight as if by doing so he can find all the answers he ran away from every time. But it is too bright for them. His pupils dilate suddenly. The light overwhelms him and rushes through his open mouth, up his nose into the brain. As everything turns a brilliant white he sees a young child walking away from him, hand in hand with his mother.

(part of an eventual trilogy of short pieces loosely based on the themes of light and death)


You died young. But in your life the seven hills
rang with your love and filth:
lyric passion laced with sleaze,
fair Lesbia weaving perfidies.



Writing with by a computer

Consider this passge:
Dave Striver loved the university - its ivy-covered clocktowers, its ancient and sturdy brick, and its sun-splashed verdant greens and eager youth. The university, contrary to popular opinion, is far from free of the stark unforgiving trials of the business world: academia has its own tests, and some are as merciless as any in the marketplace. A prime example is the dissertation defense: to earn the Ph.D., to become a doctor, one must pass an oral examination on one's dissertation. This was a test Professor Edward Hart enjoyed giving.
If it hadn't been for my corny title, would you have guessed a computer program wrote it? Bad scene for us aspiring writers? In The New York Times, Daniel Akst's essay is reassuring.
Fortunately, flesh-and-blood writers are nowhere near having to hang up their turtlenecks. When I called Steven Pinker, the Harvard University psychologist whose research focuses on language and cognition, he pointed out that the human brain consists of 100 trillion synapses that are subjected to a lifetime of real-world experience. While it is conceivable that computers will eventually write novels, Dr. Pinker says, "I doubt they'd be very good novels by human standards."
And there's this:
It was Simon's ideas - particularly his notion of "satisficing" - that first got me interested in fiction-writing machines. Though in theory a person shopping for new shoes could consider all the pairs on the planet, in fact, the cost is way too high - an entire life spent shoe-shopping. So in the real world we visit one or two stores, try on a few in our size and buy a pair.
Satisficing in this way - settling, or even sensing, what is good enough - is something novelists must do as well. We think of an idea and go with it because pausing to systematically consider every plot twist, character or phrase that might come next would lead nowhere.
Computers are just as subject as humans to Simon's "bounded rationality." Computers cannot create narratives by using brute computational force to mindlessly try every alternative. It may be fun to think that 10,000 monkeys typing for 10,000 years will sooner or later randomly produce "Paradise Lost," but evidently this is no more plausible for silicon than simians. Computers don't even play chess this way, Dr. Pinker told me, having noted elsewhere that the number of possible sentences of 20 words or less that the average person can understand is perhaps a hundred million trillion, or many times the number of seconds since the universe was born. "The possibilities boggle the mind very quickly," he says.
Whew. For a minute, i was wondering if we'd have to dump the Stories at the Coffee Table project. Can breathe a little easier now. [Link via Amardeep Singh.]

Glimpse of a story: "Savera"

I love mornings. Always did. Even in this humid and hot room in a semi-private ward of the hospital, which my father once owned. But they could throw me into the general ward and I couldn’t care less because, I’d still have my mornings. It was morning when I met her. I remember it as if it were yesterday: her disheveled apparel, hurricane hairstyle and ruddy stench. I love that image more and more with each passing breath and I nearly forget what I was doing that morning. Of course, my morning walks with my father were among my most painful adolescent experiences. But that’s the rule of life and religion: to get your shine, first grapple with grime. And so this lackadaisical youth, that was me, eventually found that I had in me that which loved her dress, that which loved her hair, that which loved her, that which loved mornings.
There goes off the six o’clock alarm. Not mine. It belongs to, used to belong to my roomie, Richard D’mello. So it is morning! And there goes off the natural alarm. It belongs to, still belongs to nature (at least as long as she is around). The buzz of this one is composed of the irksome chirping of seemingly a hundred birds shrouded within the foliage of the peepul tree right outside the window that WAS next to Richard’s bed. Someone told me that all that noise is a kind of feedback for the birds, helping them to maintain their population levels. I haven’t a clue as to how they do that but I do have something on how humans do that. They just die. Pop! There goes one. POP! There goes a huge one. Pop! There goes Richard. Pop! There goes Zubin, me.
The birds in the peepul tree seemed to be gradually popping off too ever since Sheila moved in with us. You can almost feel the decibels decreasing by one bird on a daily basis. Sheila was Richard’s cat. She’s more a cat with a personality, if you could ever have one like that. Her personality would probably match that of Richard’s wife but he hadn’t had one. I think that being able to share in bachelor bliss made sharing our room more tolerable for both of us. However, there were more things uncommon between us, especially his visitors, or guests, as he liked to refer to them. He had come in only a week ago but I can call him my friend. He was one of those people whom anyone can call a friend instantly. Maybe that’s why he had so many visitors. I had none.

23 November, 2004


Dealing with heart-break is something the teenagers
try to come to grips with and usually fail. The adolescents
are slightly better at that, and practice makes one perfect.
But what about the emotionally brittle ten year olds and
slightly older ones?

Mimi my daughter is a versatile girl, one who is so busy
scoring up high marks in every endeavour that it came as
a shattering realization to her when she missed being chosen
for the national meet on archery.

First of all she had been imparted hardly a month's training,
we had been away on a long holiday and later on, she had
bunked the practice sessions with a cavalier attitude all
along, due to the unrelenting piano practice -she did well
there; quite well indeed.

When she found that she missed the boat by only 12 marks
out of a whopping 780 maximum possible, tears flowed...
nay poured. Strangely if one little girl simpers, a
whole group gets into the act like apes and there is
utter chaos then. It hurt her bad, since it had been
a neck and neck affair with Nikita her classmate who
was slightly more consistent all the time. Archery is
a complex art and science indeed.

I had spread the word around and was deeply touched by
a high voltage shair that my good friend Alok Shukla, a
management expert sent by sms in sympathy :

Girte hain shaho-savar hi maidan-e-jung mein;
Woh tufl kya girenge jo ghutnon-ke bal chalé ?

It means : Only kings and emperors fall in the battlefield,
Those slaves who creep on their knees, can never ever fall.....

It is amazingly heart-warming to see the effect of this sort of thinking
on even a child's mental make-up. One who has not learnt to cope up
with failures will never be able to digest success.

Cheers !
(c)Max Babi Nov.2004

22 November, 2004


I love watching a mosquito
torpedo to death

hands like stealth bombers
coming together at the point-of-impact
like a eunuch on Fridays
or any other day for that matter...

The fool spares the mosquito,
after all, it is my blood
that runs through
its veins
blood relations that count
for nothing,
a family lineage you hold on to
more out of habit than longing or
belonging for that matter...

Anopheles Confucius
That bastard philosopical insect
sat on your thigh
how many of my brothers
sisters must have tasted of this
delightfully bitchy, Mangalorean blood.
It convulsed at the thought
and you unwittingly slapped your thigh
like a high-five
to long lost relatives

It was, in some way, even though
it was sucking your blood. More like...
at long last!
than long lost
Anopheles Confucius
That bastard mosquito on your thigh.

That Young Wind

at the Read-meet in Delhi on November 20th; an unedited piece I wrote 26 years ago

There's a wind that is blowing
It's puffing its' way through my life
Dust in my eyes
And weed in my mouth
I'm walking with it - turning blind.

There's a wind that is blowing
into the corners of my mind
clogging up my dreams
bursting at the seams
I'm thinking with it - turning wild.

Let me walk against it.
Can I think without it
Can I possibly catch all my dreams
stitch back the seams
Can I wander alone
in a vaccum?

Stop this wind that is blowing
and puffing and hawing
Stop my mind from blowing away.
It's moulding my body
damp patches of moss
are starting to fill up my soul.
Stop this wind that is blowing
I'm searching for paths again.

(c)Anita 1979


did you?

did you know?
that behind every sigh
is an unanswered reason why

people mottle into greys and blues
and why fictional sob stories often turn true

that under each crushed fallen leaf
you may find a spider's web

a overturned fiasco
for you may have just erased a creature's bed

that in every misty-eyed deer
you will find the ode of a fallen mate

who was laid seige to by braggarts in a stupor
and was felled by their inanimity and the cruel twist of fate

that in every drop of morning dew
you will find a whispering of a star

that deigned to lie there at your sodden feet
because you could not admire it from afar

that pandora's box was not to be opened;
it was only a test of temptation

that a flowing honest river of life
is not to stain or pollute;

it houses now, the graves of a million drinkers
a cesspool of filth and a mire of refuse...

that a piece of wood fashioned into a chair
is not to be fought over;

it now resembles a design of the godly powers
that is used to lord us over...




Musings on the Readmeet at Manisha’s

Manisha and Mahesh have what I have wanted all my life. A home by the sea and a balcony looking into the sunset. Some day I would like to retire to a house like that by the sea and gaze into the sunset sitting on a cute wicker chair.

The fiery sunset and cool wind blowing just overwhelmed me at yesterday’s readmeet! I had read about Manisha complaining about the smell of drying fish near her home. I said I would endure fish smells and the loss of my right limb to see such divine sunsets from my own room. So I thought I would attempt a little reporting, though I guess the detailed one will be posted by Avi Das, the coordinator of the readmeet event.

“Gold Mist” it said on the nameplate. When I was directed to the entrance, I saw Basu Bhattacharya’s name written beside Manisha’s and Mahesh’s names. I knew I was in some distinguished company. Seeing Manisha in her gown and hair clipped on top of her head, I thought she was getting ready for the event. I said if I were early I would loiter around the seashore and then come back later when all was set. I didn’t realize from her posts on caferati that the lady was so charmingly and delightfully informal. She remained in the gown the entire evening, this good “bad” girl!

Indeed the golden rays of the setting sun had caused a mist to rise over the Arabian Sea when I watched it standing in the balcony with Vijay, Ratna, Manisha and Avi. We were the early birds except Manisha, of course, who was the hostess of the event.

6:30 no sign of people. The wait irritated Ratna who in her best schoolmarmish tone said later that we should all be present on time or not come at all. The problem with us Indians is that after several on-time appearances where we find the host having a bath or a harassed servant running around making arrangements we take it for granted that 6:30 means 7 or 7:30. So thank providence for people like Manisha and Ratna who, when they say 6.30, mean 6.30. I guess one should mention “Time 6.30” and “Reporting time 6.15” so that people do not assume they can saunter in by 7.

Aside from the four of us, the first to arrive was our “Zorba the Fenugree” Ajit Jani. Whipping out something that looked like a scrapbook he read his minimalistic poem “Etlo.” “Etlo” in Gujrati means, “that is.”

There was a longish short story, haiku-like poems about mobiles, a poem about a journey on the Bombay-Pune expressway, engineering-sounding poems, poems about seashells, my own short story, and the grand finale, a play reading by Manisha, Peter and Vijay.

Participants came from as far as Jaipur and Pune. There was Vincent who is an intelligence officer in the revenue department who wants to open a chapter of Caferati in Jaipur. He came with his wife who is a forensic expert specializing in genetic coding and their 28-day old daughter who never even once made a noise and was rapt in a world of her own throughout the event (talk of early initiation into the readmeet culture!).

That makes me wonder, why people meet to read an almost dead art form commuting long hours when they could have sat in front of a television and enjoyed inane recycled serials and skimpily dressed girls dancing suggestively? Why do people like Manisha open up their homes and their hearts to kindred souls who need a refuge from the overpowering cynicism of the world around them?

The answer is we humans have an innate need to communicate, as the ancient cave dwellers did. After a hunt they would gather around a campfire (remember, we have a campfire event coming), eat the cooked meat and talk (mostly in grunts and sign language) about the hunt and visualize about the future where their future generation would gather in a largish drawing room, sit on stylish mats and listen to others read their delicately created works. Have a heart writers, poetry or prose will never die with people like you around!

So what if an unkind word was said in criticism, an unguarded comment, or offense taken over a misinterpreted meaning? Let the writers of the world sink their differences and be bonded as one. After all when they need to write content for a website or copy for an advertisement or script for a play they have to depend on us. Writers today are paid well by the technology freaks and they had better do that or we would sabotage their software programs and dollar-dreams of BPO bliss!

As a people we no longer have the time to sit together and tell anecdotes, or read carefully written and edited stories and poems to each other. Our lives are like one long succession of routines where we do what others expect us to do. We do the obvious routines, even writing for a living, quite easily. But the challenge comes in writing with a purpose, to discover the beauty of nature, write about interesting people we have met, to encourage and to enlighten and to break barriers and experience the writer’s words as our own. The creative urge takes us away from this stereotypical life and makes us think, dream and discover new worlds. I think that objective was achieved at yesterday’s readmeet.

Later we dispersed to the dining room to feast on samosas, cutlets, and brownie cakes (mmmm!).


Chat Window: A drop of sky 14th December 2002, 18:36:41 IST

restless : u there?
restless : r u?
restless : < ding >
restless : whr r u?
neon memory : sorry sorry with sending some mails off...u ok 2day?
restless : so much work? U hardly have time these days! n see…it’s been raining here since dawn...pouring…
neon memory : ? ?...why?
restless : there was a storm here…just b4 sunrise…and since’s just been pouring...all over the place…books, my records...the cushions I keep in the corner of the blue room...everywhere...
neon memory : hmmmn
neon memory : why do u? u know...right? U sure know. I have no options open right now. U know.
restless : yep. I do. makes it worse.
neon memory : I don’t know what to say here. May be someday…u wont feel so bad over the nothingness we have here/?
restless : haha...see ...just these few words brings back the sun ...I can almost feel the warm slices of the sun pour over me…soft and light orange in colour…
neon memory : hmmmn
restless : ok…see u then...i just came to find my sun here…had lost it to the storm…just come once in a while and thaw the chill away...if u can...
neon memory : u will go now? So soon? U just got online, right? Just came for your sun and running away with mine in a split second ?
restless : I gave u clouds, storm, all the rain that was mine. Room full of darkness...go now...back to ur work…
neon memory : < ding >
neon memory : < ding >
neon memory : u there? u?
(Your message has not reached 'restless' as 'restless' seems to be offline)

(P.S. The way technology influences and changes language and expression fascinates me. Sharing a 'chat piece' with Caferati, hoping to receive comments and criticisms from fellow writers. )


Over the wires your sun-flecked laughter mocks,
its ripples teasing, "You deserve it!"
Pity I can't trap it in a box
and preserve it.



21 November, 2004

First Light

It was night and the lights were flashing, long streaks of them, white and bright. The air was still but not heavy. There were people around, curious and concerned. They were standing in groups, their collective whispers a pleasant background hum, faces lit up like old paintings in the intermittent light. Dull yellow tape marked off the inner from the outer. Bored faces on the inside going through the formalities. Their actions familiar yet unfeeling. Their clipboards and pens glinting under the flashing bulbs, the chalk lines flowing together to form an unknown constellation of connected paraphernalia.

In the center, the body of the woman, oblivious to all the sudden entropy. Her arms splayed wide open on either side, pointing to some lost direction. Her eyes open to the stars, taking in the empty splendor of the wheeling heavens above.

(part of an eventual trilogy of short pieces loosely based on the themes of light and death)

I Got ‘Em Shiftin’ Blues

Rosy picture: huge flat with terrace, my own room, furniture, luxury and importantly organisation. So why wouldn’t I want to move?

It’s been 3 yrs since we moved from Mumbai to Pune. 4th June 1995 was the big day. I saw myself living in this fantastic bungalow 6 months from then. However, six months later we were still living in the rented 2-BHK that was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. This was largely due to the steep property hike, not to mention the discovery that the bungalow was in the middle of a remote swamp. It’s now 1998 that the ray picture has become reality but in the meanwhile, we stuck with the rented place. I guess it’s normal to feel the pangs of separation when you’ve been sticking around for almost three and a half years.

I feel a strong urge to reminisce about some of the images of my current pad – my 2-BHK hovel. I’m not certain that hovels are allowed to have two bedrooms or even one for that matter, but mine does, in as much as the same way that a Dharavi-hut in Mumbai, would have a fridge or a CD-player. We let one bedroom to the stacked suitcases, the cartons and the boxes of all shapes and sizes. However they weren’t as satisfied as we’d anticipated and so some of them took over certain areas of the kitchen as well. Fortunately for us, the curios and other showpieces were a more grounded lot. They all squeezed in with the hi-fi system on the top of my 5ft-by-2 ft cottage piano.

All the furniture I ever wanted was going to be at our new place, so none was here. I have usually been sleeping on one-third, one-fourth and sometimes one-fifth of a bed of two mattresses on the floor. Changing sides in my sleep has become a bit of an experience! Of course, one doesn’t have enough time to muse over these sweet offerings of life then; one is usually more occupied by the unannounced barrage of well-wishers who measure their wishes by the length of their stay: longer is better. So one must always be physically fit enough to dig three suitcases below for spare linen or rummage through about five boxes for that spare pillow. Really, its nothing!

Life is definitely easier in any circumstance if you have the right ambience. In our hovel, we had the best. I mean, at any time of the year, we had north winds, south winds, easterlies or westerlies – in fact, all of them – gracing our hovel with their presence. It was the ultimate exploitation of natural resources because the fans would run without any electricity. Of course, the doors had to take some weathering for the team. But on the other hand, at least they didn’t crack with the heat; there was so much humidity all the year round.

Its one thing to have nature supplying personal climate control but it’s an altogether different experience to have her working as your interior decorator. And I’m talking living waterfalls in every room! They go drip, drip, and drip for most part of the year but during the monsoons, you can actually hear gurgling, bubbling and crackling. How absolutely delightful! And there’s more – maps, yes maps. If all the shops run out of study-maps, you can either despair or you can send your kids over to our place. World maps, maps of India, Japan, Czech and Finland – they’re all on the walls. Pure moss products, guaranteed! The only shortcoming is perhaps that they’re all physical maps. My reasoning is that you can’t really expect nature to involve in politics, now can you?

Our symbiosis with nature is probably more substantiated by the presence of various arthropods, reptiles, birds, mammals and you-just-name-it. We all live mutually in peace and harmony. If nothing else, then simply this spiritual equilibrium is what makes it so difficult for me to bear the thought of how much I’d miss our hovel. I know one thing for sure: our stint here was not a mere fancy of fate. There were genuine, solid grounds for not being able to quit it earlier. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The forces of nature are surely calling to me, beseeching me to go on living here. Nevertheless, with my sights set firmly on that rosy picture, I will have to turn a deaf ear to their pleas. But I’m so blue. I don’t want to move.

19 November, 2004


i wish i could disappear
with as much grace,
as the bud that disappears
when the petals bloom.

i wish i could disappear
like the mist over the mountains,
soft footed, careful
not to disturb anything.

i wish i could disappear
like the twinkle of a star,
and leave no trace
so morning comes unblemished.

i wish i could disappear
with as much relief,
like the last knowing breath
so efficient death can step gently.


Intricate Images

Blank pages, white curios
Clever fonts, simple sunshine
Eager hunger, blue wonder
Angry lines, limpid sounds
Polite panic, smooth tonic

A collection of intricate images
Hung out to dry
Under the benign heat
Of my innocent imagination



Saskia Laroo - Female Miles Davis

Those of you who love Jazz, there is a wonderful time ahead.
Due to my writing a column at the world's busiest and oldest
jazz portal,, I have made some really
great musician friends... which was expected.

Saskia Laroo is one of the top-billed amongst this list. She is
a Dutch lady trumpeter who miraculously sounds like the great
and nearly-worshipped Miles Davis. Everyone interested in jazz
knows that Miles apart from John Coltrane [alto sax] has been the
most influential jazzman in the history -if we turn our attention
from Louis Armstron, Duke Ellington and other Biggies of the
Swing / Traditional styles and earlier eras.

Jehangir, my close friend [after whom the art gallery is named] is
an amateur trumpeter and he startled me one day by saying that
the same trumpet will sound different in different hands... which
means, Saskia has mastered an impossible art. To be able to sound
like the demi-God Miles Davis is no joke. Scientifically the list of
variables is endless.

Saskia, basically an email friend for years but very close to me,
has agreed to perform at Pune on 29th Nov. 2004, around 9.00 pm
at the Jazz Garden in the ABC Farms complex, Koregaon Park just
a KM from the Osho Ashram. She will play with her quartet and
will bring the roof down, no doubt.

For those who are forever stuck in Mumbai as ninety nine percent
of Mubaikars are, there is a saving grace. Saskia is also going to
play at the Jazz Yatra from 26th to 28th Nov. You would have to
ask me for the exact details, if you plan to go and see her and listen
to her dark arts.... Life could change for you.
The venue is Bhabha Auditorium at the TIFR, Colaba.

She is an amazing person, having mastered 21 different instruments
she has finally chosen trumpet, rarely used by ladies, as her own
instrument. Give it a listen, jazzheads and music buffs and the very
choosy amongst the aficionados of good music !

cheers !

18 November, 2004

New Moon Sighting

This piece was dormant in my mind till I read Sunil Nair's poem.
Vaguely I remembered that a thinly sliced moon that drowns itself
too soon, usually engulfed by clouds appearing from nowhere like
hoodlums and whisking it away.... so when an astronomer from a
very well-known institution asked me to join him and his colleague
to go outside Pune city and look for the moon, I could not resist.

We drove towards Pirangut, where as soon as one leaves Bavdhan ghat
the city haze and the smog fades off. Near Bhugaon lake we decided
to halt and the two very uncomfortable-looking memebers of the Hilal
Committee who had come to witness this momentous event with us three
astronomers [two being amateurs] were soon chattering on my getting
down to explaining the genesis of my name. Their respect for science
showed in the intellgent queries they made about the moon.

We climbed a hillock on foot, and the first look at the mountains in
the West took my breath away. It was a clear sky when we had started,
now suddenly those hoodlum-like gangs had emerged and reddish glows
of innumerable shades filled the sky. In fact Nilesh, the other
amateur astronomer with me agreed when I pointed out a thinly sliced
moon at least 10 degrees away from where it should be. It was the
perfect moon, the right size, the right shine, the right place but
something was wrong. Nilesh said it was not slanting, yes indeed,
it has to be a slanted moon, a vertical moon seems like an artefact.
It turned out to be a refletion of the sun on a thin piece of cloud.

We searched high and low. The weight of our decision increased like
a bundle of dry clothes becomeing wetter with an imaginary rain. It
was going to be only 25 minutes, as far as visibility goes, and the
narrow five degree zone allocated by Arvind the professional astronomer
was too narrow for us -thus the pressure started building up.

Sophisticated binoculars were used, which changed hands. The sky also
changed, the clouds went away and a stillness without the moon stared
back at us, glumly and sternly. The bearded mullahs wanted to break
their fast -so they produced some simple food. A couple of juicy dates,
a few pieces of papaya and watermelon. I noticed no water... the little that
I have learnt about this terrible roza keeping exercise is that one
just is ready to kill for some water towards the end. However they
being used to these travails, probably found watermelon slices good
enough to quench the deadly thirst..

No moon.

That was sure. So wound it all up and drove back. Hundreds of calls
came flooding in on their cellphones, and all of us felt slightly
relieved that the Idd was postponed by a day. What does that mean?
Nilesh the youngest amongst us asked them. One more roza, said Altaf.
But Nizamuddin the older one had a joke there : one more day for the
hard-pressed tailors to go easy on. New dresses for Idd, can mean a
workload up to ten times the normal one, he explained.

I wish the moon had been there. It would have made an interesting
footnote to a new experience.

I Can Drown In You

Pulling one out of my archives... Does anyone still like nonsense poems? I write a good many but am very apprehensive about showing them off.

Two solar eclipses concurrently
Embellishing the heavenly skies
Dark, deep, still pools surrounded
By the snows of Antartica
My mind’s beacon in your eyes
Which speak of a million stories
Your eyes as warm as buried sea-turtle eggs
Your eyes, your eyes
I can drown in them

Mount Fiji and Mount Kilimanjaro
Together and side by side
Sharp contours from their foothills
Like the bottom of the Nile
Depict with accuracy so precise
The shape your lips define
Your lips as juicy as garden-fresh red tomatoes
Your lips, your lips
I can drown in them

Like India protruding from Asia
A bud of land divine
But softer yet as a waterbed
On which making love is sublime
That bulge of your earlobe
That you can’t perceive
Your earlobes as tender as sour pickled olives
Your ears, your ears
I can drown in them

The Grand Canyon, twisting, fidgeting
With each gusty, windy caress
Lathered with milk and honey
Sloping down from the crest
Your neck bewitching my mind
And flowing to shoulders perfect
Your neck as smooth as a long white pumpkin
Your neck, your nape
I can drown in them

The numerous craters of the moon
Only turned inside out
And few large ones of earth
That wiped out the dinosaurs
Like your curves do to me
Making me alive to my senses
Your curves as sizzling as grilled jumbo prawns
Your curves, your curves
I can drown in them

This world a myriad of collusions
Your universe conspiring mine
Exploding with multiple nebulae
Lurking the cess of black holes
Our auras beating synchronously
Yours engulfing me full up
Your body as inebriating as sweet clear Chardonnay
Your spirit, your soul
I can drown in them


Physical Fascination

Like a cup of hot coffee
On a cold day
Invaded my body
Your warmth
Seeping through
Strangely leaving
My heart cold—
For you take
Only to leave
With a part of me
And you drink
Only to leave me
Yet desire for you
Like an addiction
And your heat
Surprises me
For you don’t seem
To care
About the coldness
Within the heat
Of my responding body.



a hundred words. (my art director... "more than hundred, and it won't fit into the layout.") ...i'm paid to do that. write on demand, just so much, no more, whether or not i want to. which is why all i saw of noon was through the toilet window. i stared absently at the road, rain dampened, sun-warmed. once mills district, now office towers. cars. ties and filofaxes. cellphones. i’d rather be on a beach. or in the mountains... in my head, a noon siren went off. “new ad by lunch? cool. no sweat.” ah well. ah bloody well.

Published online long, long ago in The Noon Quilt, a trAce collaboration. The brief, as far as i recollect, was to look out of your window at noon, wherever in the world you were, and write up to a hundred words about what you saw. The editors then selected contributions which were worked into a virtual quilt. My "patch" in Quilt 1, row 2, column 4, top left - or cheat. A smaller selection from the online Noon Quilt were also pubished in book form somewhere at the very end of the last century, and this contribution made it in.

You will cast away every dream that is you...

And by the time you notice it flying out of your crammy little hole, you would have started grumbling about the many bits of paper you didn’t care enough to preserve over time.
While you stare at the walls bleak with reason, you will hope that one day you may be able to close your eyes. You will hope that your fear of losing the world when you shut your eyelids, may one day leave you.
You will fumble for old love letters and lick the ink off the paper. You will not like the taste of memory. You will curse every song that has been sung for nostalgia.
There will be enough damp matchboxes around you to give you a sense of utter barrenness.
The tip of your index finger will trace a block of ice. You will shiver at the thought of the icy glacier that descends into your stomach and extends its chilled tentacles through your limbs numbing your senses, every time you try to think.
You will pick up the ashtray closest to you and fling it to the corner of your room watching the ash fly all over the moss green carpet. You will try to write a name on the carpet using your thumbnail. But no name will stay in your mind long enough for you to recognize it. You will try to picture a smell that known names bring with it. A grey mist will cover your vision like a limp Wednesday afternoon just before a little drizzle.
You will float. And you will sink. And you will not be able to do hold on to either feeling as they will pass you instantly even before you raise your arm to call them back.
And at that moment in time it will no longer matter to you that you have cast away every dream that is you. Because by then you would feel like a bubble made of thin air and you will want desperately to believe in reincarnation in a parallel lifetime.

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Cloud in the Ramzaan Moon

Awake at 4 am,
when night is still sleeping,
and the day asks itself
the purpose of waking again.

I walked to the edge of my flat,
a peered around the slightly warm,
sweetish aroma
of two lives that lived within.

Then bored,
turned to stare at the sky.

Dark, dark like brooding.
no trace of the blues,
no the swirls of the winds,
just a vacant yawn between two
building with the same people
sleeping the same dreams.

One cloud hung,
hanging by an invisible tread,
lit by the Ramzaan moon.
Proud of the silver fringe.

A whisper passed my ear,
and I turned to look from where.

And my cloud in the Ramzaan moon
vanished into the space.

Shaking my head,
shaking itself to sleep.
I walked onto the bed
and threw the sodden sheets,
and woke up again to the shrill
Alarm ringing in the ear.

And the begining of another day.

18 November 2004

(c) sunil r nair, 2004

my first poem written directly on the blog. please do comment. and pardon the spellings - spellchecker on the blink


the search for prince charming

this was written for a friend of mine who is searching for an ideal man... if this description fits someone you know, please do tell me, so i can tell her there is hope for her still.. comments would be welcome...:)

so well then if a grim man it is for you,
then a grim man we shall find...
someone who's a little profane,
but not in the least bit unkind..

ofcourse a beard he shall grow,
long and lustrous down to his knees;
and when he curls up his upper lip,
the sparkle of gold we shall see! (rich man he seems!!!)

a slimy person he shall not be,
a gentle giant he is...
a charmer to the core,
and ofcourse, a science whiz.. (do i hear you say, newton??)

undaunted by the trials of life with you,
understanding he shall have,
and when the wounds of life are deep,
he shall provide you a salve..

a house in a country he'll possess,
and one in every town,
and for your wedding, he will make you wear..
Cinderella's dressing gown.. hahaha

no friends linger for long about him,
craved for companionship is he.
To release him from this unsightly plight,
he will look to you beseechingly...

to the arts and craft of the actor's guild,
you will have to introduce him
and explain to him, that to be of creative genius,
he must follow your little whims (won't that be convenient!)

you must take him gently by the hand,
and lead him upstream in life,
and take him back through his ups and downs,
as would any decent wife...

and back and forth then you two can go,
trading your old sob stories..
sharing your grief on a common platter,
dissolving your woes and worries...

well ducking and weaving under a million tombstones
during confession would be a definite feature...
but the acceptance of it all and then some more,
is what makes blackbeard such a lovable creature (to you)

and the usual means of thankfulness
would be quite reciprocal..
just make sure you don't bring down the roof
or disturb any of the locals...

baa baa blackbeard, have you any wool?
yes shets, yes shets, three moustaches full

one for your bedroom, one for your window pane,
and one for your mangy cur who whines down the lane (me...aaaoooowwwww)




17 November, 2004

Displaced Youth

My skin, hardened by
The cold snows of solitude
Tries to peer from behind
The closed shutters of displaced youth

These pores of porcelain
Have seen the waters of youth
Pour off in torrents
Under the cold heat of existence

Feel the tarnished texture
With your fingertips
Imagine a ploughed field
Ready for the next planting

It is time to shed
This withered vessel
Tottering on the lone leg
Of advanced age



Book Review: The Life of Pi

" ...this is a story that will make you believe in God."

Yann Martel's much acclaimed book "The Life of Pi", which won him the Man Booker prize in 2002, is the story of a small Indian boy trapped on board a lifeboat with a Royal Bengal Tiger, a Hyena, a zebra and an Orangutan.

But hold on. This is not another adventure story. This is not a 21st century rendering of Rudyard Kipling or George Orwell. It is a book in a genre of its own. A book where the fantasy of ideas meet the conviction of facts, where simplicity of narration meets the complexity of underlying philosophies and where the fast pace of the story meets the traditional slowness of the novel. Yann Martel's book is all about contrasts and contradictions, and how all that can be balanced in a book and also in life.

The first thing that will impress you about the book is its narration - or rather the absence of it. From the word go, Martel manages to pull the magic trick of making the whole book come alive in your mind’s eye. Some would say that Martel's narration is strong and vivid. I refuse to accept. A strong narration makes the reader notice the sentences, words and punctuations. In Life of Pi you notice nothing of that. Martel has metamorphosed images into words and put them inside the book. The moment you open the book, these words spring out as images and the whole story plays like a movie in front of you.

Then there is the breadth of issues that Martel touches upon - from the swimming pools of Paris to the religious pools of India and from the philosophy behind zoos to the philosophy of religions. Martel paints a clear picture in each case, with strokes that speak of a masterly hand and a picture that leaves everlasting impressions on the reader's mind. As you follow the first person account of Pi, from his childhood in a zoo in Pondicherry, to the voyage over the pacific and finally to Toronto, you begin to envy his life.

The description of a zoo leaves you wishing you were born in one. I quote from the book for evidence - "...To me, it was a paradise on earth. I have nothing but the fondest memories of growing up in a zoo. I lived the life of a prince...My alarm clock during childhood was a pride of lions...Breakfast was punctuated by the shrieks and cries of howler monkeys, hill mynahs and moluccan flamingoes or black swans or one-wattled cassowaries, or peach faced lovebirds, Nanday conures, orange-fronted parakeets..." You cannot resist a smile at Pi's simple, yet convincing argument in favor of zoos. If you ever subscribed to the "anti-zoo" school, you can no longer do that now. As you grow up with Pi and discover afresh the rationale behind Hinduism, the philosophy of love behind Christianity or the simple teaching of universal brotherhood behind Islam, your mind reaches new levels of understanding for the three religions.

The book reaches a climax with the dramatic entry of Richard Parker. From here this gripping tale becomes "unputdownable", and you find yourself turning page after page as Pi, Richard Parker and others face the odds of the Pacific Ocean. The excitement and tension in the pages rises like a wave and fills your mind.

“…Richard Parker, is that you? It’s so hard to see. Oh, that this rain would stop! …Jesus, Mary, Mohammed and Vishnu, how good to see you Richard Parker! Don’t give up, please. Come to the life boat…” You read these words eagerly, thanking that the small boy is not alone on the boat. And then you turn the page to find out who Richard Parker is – and a chill runs down your spine.

When you finally put the book down, a strange happiness and optimism invades you. You are compelled to draw parallels from the life of Pi to your own life, and suddenly the realization dawns on you that through patience and devotion we can conquer even the most seemingly insurmountable odds. You realize that this is what Martel has been trying to tell you all through the book – to keep an open mind, have faith in god and be patient till your turn comes.

Yann Martel says in the beginning that this book was born because he was hungry. We wish Mr. Martel an eternal hunger of this type, so that he may continue to produce more such books in the future – and enrich our hearts and minds.


The Waiting

I wander under a harvest moon,
Thirsty, and on tired feet,
Should I pause by the park bench,
Or to bed ought I retreat?

I rest until a watchman’s bell,
Disturbs my silent wait,
Another night is past, I sigh,
Tears enslave my gait

Fourteen days of counting,
Unforgiving is the morning,
I ache, I want, I yearn for you,
Does tonight bring a dawning?

I am wandering yet again,
Somewhere you wander too,
And our paths will intersect,
An alliance be born anew.

Close my eyes and imagine you,
You elude yet my sight,
My arms open wide I wait,
To become a part of the night.

At last am face to face,
Do you recognize me at all,
Winged Lord of timeless time,
Fated to meet me in the fall.

Read my thoughts as only you can,
The body burns with desire,
Seal the alliance with a kiss,
And take away this fire.

Heed my very last clarion call,
Blood to bloodless make,
Join your lips to mine, my love,
For eternity’s sake.



Time, you fool, its time,
Time you thawed distance and line;
I seem to be
Forever stuck in a grind,
Stuck between crossing a bridge
And reaching another brine,
On my way
To a wall.

Time, you fool, its time,
Time I cover my distress and look fine;
I should look well,
So the world refills
My glass account
That breaks each time
I try to thaw
Distance between you and I.


Book Review: The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Some writers are spinners of tales, some paint large canvases in myriad hues and yet others put select ingredients to cook up a sumptuous meal. But Amitav Ghosh in his The Hungry Tide weaves realities together to create magic in moments. In could have been a story or a piece of history or biographies of a few people who share very different histories and realities, but it becomes none of these. It unfolds at a point where histories and myths, dreams and realities, the personal and the political come together. The Hungry tide becomes the exact place where it is situated, a "mohana" in the tide country, the Sunderbans.

The tide country itself is the central character here. It almost playfully brings together Piya, the Bengali American cytologist, Kanai the businessman translator and language expert, and Fokir the uneducated silent fisherman, in close proximity of each other. Around them are shadows of Kanai’s uncle Nirmal’s diary, Kanai’s aunt Nilima’s faith in making small changes in the lives of people around her and Fokir’s wife Moyna’s ambition to rise above her own.

Here is where histories are repeated. The story of Kanai-Piya-Fokir unmistakably mirrors that of Horen-Kusum-Nirmal. Memories and realities of cyclones merge with each other. The son of the man who was once saved in a terrible cyclone is hoped to survive another. The altar of Bon Bibi visited by the father and then his daughter is also visited by the grand son and his son. It is almost as if there is a wheel of things that keep churning themselves coming back to the same point with unmistaken certainty.

The incident of the evacuation of the ‘illegal’ settlers of Morichjhapi almost becomes the strongest icon standing for the spirit of the people of the tide country and their zeal and vigour to live, fighting constantly against the odds of nature and whims of kings. Its relevance is almost of mythical proportions, where it today stands, like a story heard so many times that one does not know whether it really happened or it is collective imagination. But somewhere its effect lingers on just like the point where even after Nirmal’s diary containing his impressions on the Morichjhapi incident disappears in the river, it retains itself in Kanai’s mind.

Nature and Science come so close to one another in similarities and contrasts. The river dolphins that Piya hunts out for her research becomes the messengers of Bon Bibi in tide country legend. The same dolphins change their patterns of movement at the onset of the storm becoming both scientific indicators as well as Bon Bibi’s warning. Fokir, the man who is tuned to the ways of the natural world, becomes the guide to a scientist’s quest. Kanai, the language expert comes to understand how words are like the wind that blows over the river as the river flows on underneath.

The intensity of the written word and the visual imagery that it creates is exhilarating. The words move like the river in jowar, the high tide, and bhata, the ebb, with the gentleness and calm of the tranquil waters and then picking up the speed and gusto of the cyclone. The beauty of this dangerous mistress of the river, the Sunderbans could not be better experienced.


The Serene Volcano

(an Ode to the Caferati)

As I rode on rapidly to Ryze
Wondering when the volcano would subside,
I realized, the lava'd just begun to flow.
Wondered: would everything just melt down,
leaving me in despair, like at many an e-town?

And then began Caferati:
slow at first -- calming the volcano.
At times, perchance, adding some more oil
to the effervescent lava flow.
Then again, gently kneading it all,
unto a mild metamorphic glow.

There were them furtive glances
during those short poetic stances,
checkin' on friends of the moment.
And those cute li'l chuckles
when funny bunnies would reply
in verse worse than sly.

Then came them moments of revelation
as tears flowed freely - cheek to keyboard,
as hearts touched, melting drenched, wet lava:
for once, there was an assurance:
let the lava flow, let the moments glow.

Serene as I write, at this hour past midnight
time changes and warps, an hour falls back.
Have I transcended time? Is this maya of the moment?
Does it really matter? For, when space & time merge
sublime in their consummation, divine in their dance
I see Halloween, Deepavali, Ramzan Id, a novel new moon:
all at once, in this supreme transcendental twilight!

Peace & Love on Earth


16 November, 2004

Book Review: Lady Chatterly’s Lover According to Spike Milligan

A Case for Annotation

Ours is essentially a tragic age, therefore we refuse to live it tragically – thus begins, arguably the most notorious novel of the twentieth century. Notorious for the times it was written in, notorious because it used the forbidden ‘f word’ copiously in the text, notorious because it cocked a snook at English class distinctions – the eponymous lover was a gamekeeper on the Chatterley estate.

Notorious also because D H Lawrence’s novel enjoyed the iconic status of a forbidden ‘dirty book’ – it was, in fact, the dirty book to end all dirty books, spoken of in whispers, and only by its initials LCL. And naturally, proscribed and banned. Until, in 1960, the famous cause celebre Regina vs. Penguin Books finally drew aside the veil of mystery and it was available in its dubious unexpurgated glory on the bookstands.

Today one could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was all about. Sex is no longer dirty, and it’s permanently, almost boringly out of the closet. What’s more, there is even an award given each year for bad sex writing – and in retrospect, one can’t help believing that DHL would have probably romped home with the mitten for LCL.

D H Lawrence wasn’t ever in my first ten where my reading list was concerned. And long before the word spoof entered the language I decided that he was one writer who, if he had to be read at all, had to be read in glorious, merciless spoof. Fortunately, there was at least one fertile, level-headed mind who had roughly the same idea: in fact, he went one better and wrote the thing himself.

Where the original brought (supposedly) the steam of sex out into the open, without the waft of deodorant, Spike Milligan’s little masterpiece* clears that unhealthy sauna with a blast of wholesomely rude laughter. Dip anywhere into its 164-page riot and you could be forgiven for unseemly mirth in solemn places – as a matter of fact, this book has no business in solemn places. That includes bedrooms. Particularly bedrooms, because you can’t possibly get down to serious stuff with your pink negligee-ed partner if you’ve just read, This woman Lady Chatterley had cost him that bitter privacy of a man who had been a perfectly happy onanist. Or,
‘In a way,’ he said, ‘I’d thought I’d done with it all. Now I’ve begun again.’
‘Begun what?’
‘Fucking,’ he said.
‘Fucking?’ she said with a queer thrill.
‘Fucking,’ he said. ‘There’s no keeping clear of it.’
‘It’s just love,’ she said.
‘No it isn’t, it’s fucking!’
‘You don’t hate me do you?’
‘Nay, nay, you’re a good fuck, it was a good fuck. How was it for you?’
‘Yes, for me too,’ she answered untruthfully because she had not been conscious of much, even at eight thrusts a second. That was true aristocracy.
Understandably, the temptation to reproduce the whole book is irresistible, and the only deterrent is the copyright business – but here’s another snatch:
With both hands Mellors pushed her breasts up from underneath, up to underneath her chin, with a cry of ‘Wheeee’, and let them fall down and bounce to a halt. ‘Wheeee’ he said and did it again.
‘Look,’ said Constance. ‘That’s enough of that, I’m not a bloody fairground.’
It is uniquely a phenomenon of the twilight years of the century past that the door was all but firmly shut on sexual hypocrisy, its place being grabbed by a rollicking, insouciant – and vastly healthier – irreverence. But Spike Milligan anticipated it even in his earlier, better known works.

The delectable mincing of Lady Chatterley was merely an inevitable step in his breezy, boisterous progress.



I love you my darling, but
Please don’t use my bathroom,
And sleep to my left,
Don’t ever, ever leave me bereft of my blanket;
Eat my sandwiches or nothing at all,
I refuse to make idlis just for you
And dear, don’t be misled,
This coffee I get you every morning
Is not a sign of my love,
I make it for myself,
And just get you another cup.


Notes from Port Angelis

Part I

Grains of sand slide over my eyes scraping my lenses of illusion
I wanted a piece of the unseen river to be where I left it years ago
However, as the years slanted past and I moved each vein at a time to readjust the memories and ease the weight, my unseen river too inched away with its bottle green moss floating just under the clear sheet of water
Today I just want a sky to remain where I will not lose my wings

Part II

I will exchange every inch of word you have ever uttered for those you never will
Walk, if you can go so far that every telephone booth is a light year away
Sing, if you see a green sky and a kite that obstinately flies
Laugh, if you think of mirrors we read through our broken shards of glass
Bleed, if you must, till you soak and you sink and you loosen those spots that give you away



I took a walk
The unseen corners
Of my temple of learning

Along the way
I saw
Rusting wheel barrows
And red termite hills

There were

Silvery-white towers
Unearthly tunes

I observed

Distant explosions and
Flying rocks
Twisting the landscape
Into cruel metaphors

Objects seen
In the diffused evening light
Appeared in different dimensions
Portents of imminent collapse

I turned back
To spread the word
Handed down to me
By a frowning Gaia

Before it became too late



15 November, 2004

Rant: Wherein does one search for the origin of that relentless need to connect?

The call of the day being out on more essays, rants and opinions, I hereby answer.

You were talking about love yesterday. I agree with you upon the futility of love. We know it's a weakness. And yet, you and me derive our strength from love. We can't help being human. Humans, like software programs with bugs, are short-circuited and they're barely aware of this; but worse, cannot correct it. At least they cannot autocorrect because they're unable to even guess the distensions of their own short-circuitry. That's where sociability comes in. That's where that need to meet and connect with other humans comes in.

We are, innately but not acutely, aware of our imperfections and we constantly look to each other as if we're mirrors that could showthese imperfections. It's only after we've spotted our imperfections in a fellow-human mirror that we change. Ever heard the occassional, Love has made me a changed man!?

In changing for (the fellow human) the image displayed in some mirrors, we build relationships. Relationships is a big word. I'd rather use love - not only is it simpler to write but also to understand. I mean, isn't there love in all relationships irrespective of type? In fact, what differs one relationship from another is just the amount of love. So every exchange you make with another person, even a stranger, is an exchange of love. We have always known this. That's why we have songs like, Love makes the world go round, or old wives tales that tell how an act of kindness always comes around. (I use song-titles and tales to exemplify my point because they're works of art and consequently true expressions of the human self.)

I just wonder if love isn't that very same bug that's short-circuitingour near-perfect human systems, also featuring a virus-like ability to replicate. Speaking lightly, don't people usually ask you, Have you fallen in love? in the same way that they would ask, Are you down with the flu? Either way, it's a bottom-oriented state. Why then, does that feeling of I'm on top of the world! pop up?

The virus analogy answers this one too. People suffering from the flu get better quickly only so that they can spread their infection to the other healthy folk around. Similarly, humans in love infect everyone they come in contact with by unabashedly exhibiting their happy I'm-in-love face. So, the way I see it, therein lies the origin of that relentless need to connect.

Last poem in the preview of Silhouettes - Muse


Do I really want her?
Or is it just to know a person,
to probe, to provoke?

I think I am trying to etch her,
Into one of my books

To traverse her mindscape. With intensity,
To possess mentally?

A milestone probably
Along the way to my destination.

I am sure there will be others,
but each would be a mark,
Ones that never heal,
Nor fester, nor leave.

They are just there,
as cuts deep, private.

Until they explode
onto pages
in words, verse, prose.

And then she is eternal.


(c) Sunil R Nair, 2004


13 November, 2004


I smile at my God
and my diya glows
while a raging raucous festival
plays itself out
in the streets and markets outside


11 November, 2004


To you who wandered by this night
Of happiness and warmth and light,
Here's a wish for you, a hearty
Diwali wish from Caferati:

More chances taken, with a smile;
More craft, and skill, and strength, and style;
More words read, by more words smitten;
More words found, more words written;

More stories applauded by all those who
Make a difference to the inner you;
More verses that scan, and illuminate
Our lives, our loves and the mortal state;

And forever after, may your diya
Light up the same scene, only happier.


One Day

They were born to be dead. As simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less. Death does not need advertised adjectives to sound real or even worse familiar. All it needs is the single boring fact of an existence tumbling down the slopes of experience into the valley of eternal shadows. No textual tributes, no inane sympathies and please no existential empathy to explain away the equation.

He was a man who had lived right on the thin border between callous fantasy and a pessimistic present tense. None expected him to survive a serious relationship. For he was one of those types capable of burning soul-wood for the sake of completeness and ethical accuracy. But fall hard he did. He fell so hard that the ground beneath him recoiled and rippled in vicarious orgasms. It took him 18 years to find his muse, covered in flesh and made of blood and matter. But what a find it was! In times of yore the heavens would have opened up and showered on them the bright yellow petals of immortal adoration.

What about her? She was a being caught in the cross hairs of a painter’s tunnel vision. Life to her was like the backside of a billboard, wooden frames and structural adjustments propping up the glass dreams of a puerile hope. Her’s was a never-ending quest for perfect love. And she too fell hard, immersing herself in immunity’s other side, a four-letter misnomer for mood’s lesser child.

It was more than the end of a mutual struggle. It was the union of two organic personalities, one fitting into the imperfections of another. From that point there was only one direction to go. It was an inevitable invitation for the alter ego of life to come center stage, a silent symphony played by mortality’s old nemesis. How can flawed perfection exist in a world of hypocritical honesty? How can the crystals of pure emotion shine in the dull monochrome of human envy? How can a mythical union survive the impure fires of a corrosive construction called society?

Don’t think of it as a loss. Death is not an ethical excuse to claim final victory. No, they won by the very finality of their act. They won simply because they showed the union of chest and breast, control and cancer, action and reaction, tension and attention, silence and insolence, and solitude and attitude can occur within a periodic span of 1440 minutes.

10 November, 2004

River Circles

Tiredness flows through my bones
Like a river flowing over rounded stones
My eyes wilt and wither in tandem
While the heart beats at random

You talk, faint words in situ
I hear and disappear in love
You walk, a gloomy ghost
I see and be the gracious host

The river enters a valley
Silted, with my lonely dreams
The wind ruffles its edge
Breaking eddies of elegant energy

Switch the stream again
It is time for the daily ritual
Take my hands and whisper
"Sleep, sleep well my torn traveller"



Employee Census

In sixteen pages they want my life.
Birth, school, what college and where,
married or not, details of spouse…
I plod through the stodgy questionnaire,
uphill against a midday drowse,
cursing the author of this well-meant tripe.

But something stirs the torpid cynic,
steeped in three decades or more of gall:
“Promotions (indicate foreign assignments held)”
triggers some spring of wicked recall------
Do I go to town, say I trailed
their soulless paper chase, dubbed it moronic,

dropped out for good? Went from the odd beer
to being a rum soak (the only “promotion” I knew)?
Or again, the marriage that never was,
thanks to a mistress I never outgrew…
Outside, a horn’s urgency gives pause
to this bleak litany of uncheer,

as I scour this swathe of unmarked sand
for some tide line of ebb or flow.
But this paper inquisition’s washed out
in negatives, an omnibus NO
spread-eagled on this sorry rout
of a listless life gone out of hand.

And so at last, I’m nearly done.
The last few questions quite anticipate
journey’s end: a stillness settles over this mess.
The game palls, humour soured. Above the date,
Where it says “Permanent Address”
I flourish my last conceit: NONE.