Sunday, February 28, 2010

Did someone say traffic jams were a thing of the past?

The city of Bangalore seems like one big cram-your-circus-suitcase challenge. You know…the game where you have to cram your suitcase with all sorts of things – clothes, shoes, stereo systems, 2-inch dia stainless steel pipes, hacksaws, insect repellant, vinyl records, drilling tools, .357 Magnum shotguns, rexin upholstery, nuclear waste disposal canisters, lamp shades etc… and the winner is the one with the most stuff packed in while passing unnoticed through the security gate of the airport. Okay, so I made up that game…but what the hell, if there were such a game, Bangalore would be the World champion’s suitcase…do you get my drift?

There is more chaos than you’ve ever seen. Buildings and bus shelters are strewn around unashamedly, like a talcum powder spill in a miniature train set. In beloved Madras, for instance if you said CafĂ© Coffee day, Nungambakkam, everyone knew exactly where you meant. There would have been no two ways of interpreting what you said. Your word was good enough and you knew what you were talking about. You were a force to be reckoned with. Not so in Bangalore. There are 8 Coffee days in a 3 square km area in Jayanagar alone. It turns out it’s a big deal, because Bangalore itself covers only about 8 square miles. Now, this may be a good thing if you are in Jayanagar and are in the mood for some coffee, but not such a hot bargain if you have an office opposite to one of the Coffee days and want to give directions to someone so they can come and give you some money before they change their mind. Not a good bargain at all. (Actually, having a dozen CCDs around is not a great idea even if you are in the mood for coffee. In Bangalore, at least. Their coffee tastes like what gets poured down the waste drain in some chemistry experiment gone terribly wrong.)

Here are some facts you will have no difficulty understanding if you’ve ever lived in Bangalore. But if you have never lived in Bangalore, I might as well be talking in whale language:-

It takes me 10 minutes to walk from home to office, a distance of about 10 minutes walking-distance…if you walk as fast as me…which is fast enough to cover the said distance in ten minutes…(I guess that is settled now.) But if I drive, it takes me 15 minutes. I am not kidding. So, if I am in a hurry to get to the office, I’d be better off walking than taking the car.

The weirdest thing about Bangalore though, that which confuses even people born and brought up here, is that no matter which route you take to reach a place from some other place, there is always another route which is shorter. Get this: There is always a shorter cut. You may join two landmarks by a straight line – a straight road or a straight street and think to yourself, “Ahaa! What can possibly be shorter than this?” Well, your attention span, for one, because you weren’t listening. Moron. I said, and read this carefully, there-is-always-a-shorter-cut. It could be another road which has lesser traffic, maybe a one-way, maybe one that passes through a residential area, maybe one that has fewer rumble strips on the road. (Yes, there are speed breakers in Bangalore, though whose speed they help break is a mystery to me. I won’t risk asking this question in public, because given their fondness for flawlessly logical retorts, I am sure the Bangaloreans will respond by producing a snow-plougher from the garage of the MG Road fire station. And expect me to understand that through the stylish process of second-order reverse-logic, my question somehow stands answered.)

So, don’t reinvent the trapezoidal wheel. Just park your scientific curiosity in a place where it is unlikely to be ever found again, maybe on the shoe-rack in the Iskon temple, and just accept this as an axiom. Do not question anything. Questioning only leads you into dark corners of logical fallacy where your mother wouldn’t want you to go, especially after dusk. Remember also that in this imperfect world, dumbass cows with large breasts and bloodsucking leeches buy turbocharged Porsche Carrera GTs, and the intellectuals get sent to jail and have their skins flayed before having their noses eaten by Nazi dobermans. So just repeat after me – There is always a shorter route.


Saturday, February 27, 2010



Play. Fall. Get hurt. Bleed. Learn.      Play. Fall. Get hurt. Bleed. Learn again.      Bleed. Learn more.      Play. Fall. Get hurt. Learn.      Play. Fall. Learn.      Play. Fall.      Play.      Play. Fall. Die.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In great stillness...

When you reach great speeds, you reach great stillness.

As you go faster and faster, the frames become more and more blurred. Space begins to become warped around the helmet visor. The field of vision narrows down. The entire road and vista ahead shrinks to a dot in the centre of your visor. You are hurled towards this point at 136 km/hr by a staggering force. Every muscle in the body, from your jaw to the very tips of your fingers, is taut or clenched. The mind starts reacting to the slightest of provocations - a twitch of a chain link, a tiny movement of a dog 200 feet away, a cylinder misfire which might have been entirely anticipatory, the trajectory of a leaf falling from a branch. As you go even faster and faster, the mind processes more and more. It gauges, calculates, deliberates on, decides and acts upon an ever-increasing flow of information through the senses. When you stretch to an extremely high speed, you will suddenly find that the real physical world around you draws thinner and thinner. You will find that everything has slowed down, almost to a halt. The chain stops turning, the pistons stop in their tracks, the gears and cogs and shafts and bearings and sprockets all stop suddenly as if it were a change in timescale. Slowly you realise that time hasn’t entirely stopped, but is moving silently, impalpably, as if in slow motion. Then you turn your head around and see the landscape, which had suddenly become frozen. The trajectory of the leaf has become still and it is suspended in mid-air, slowly falling down. There is a lot more time in between heartbeats. You hear the buzzing of a bee, slowly flying by, as you view a macro angle, panoramic view of the suspended surroundings. You see the tacho needle nudging 9500 and shuddering violently as if in a fit, but it is strangely muted. You see it, but don’t hear anything you might expect to hear. Everything is still.

When you reach great speeds, you reach great stillness.

But it is difficult to keep this stillness for long. It is difficult to keep the mind stretched at this speed forever. Something is always bound to happen to break this balance, this beautiful harmony. A patch of rough road, or a truck in the hazy distance. Then suddenly you go just fractionally slower and the entire world screeches back to life! From nowhere the engine suddenly starts whining from the assault of nine thousand crank rpm, the chain roars from running too hot and dry. The intake and exhaust shriek in extremely rapid tandem, the tarmac below the foot-pegs suddenly an immediate presence. The rear tyre squeals as the tightly sprung rear suspension rapidly unloads causing it to lock up on downshift. The sensation of the earth moving backwards in a giddy choreography of violent physical movement. The pull back to earthly senses from that sublime speed is so tremendous and so sudden that it hits you like a bat in the face. As if dragged back by the force of nine thousand rpm.

Absolute stillness is pretty hard to explain. It is a state of mind. It is a place beyond fright or instincts or logic. A place beyond the immature eagerness to show-off, beyond the mortal fear of injury, beyond the calculated logic of riding physics. It is a state of being that is neither too eager to receive nor too keen to act. It is that fine line between peace on one side and fear, instincts, memory, courage, senses, pain and everything else on the other. It is beyond the limits of the road or the machinery. It may appear to the uneducated as a thrill or a sensation, but to describe it thus is to give it a false meaning. It is above thrills or sensations. It is art, it is electricity, it is poetry.

In great stillness we find ourselves.

PS: I feel obliged to write a post-script. The picture in this post was clicked by Boon when we were riding on the NH15 from Radhanpur to Barmer. That was Boon riding with a death wish on his P220 fitted with a K&N free-flow filter. On his motorcycle, he was safe at that speed. On yours, you wont be. Kindly ride safe. Do not cross 125 km/hr if you are riding an Indian motorcycle.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

The setting is a lonely dark street with a house towards one end. Outside a high window in the house a streetlamp tosses a puddle of light underneath. Juliet sits at the lit window, brushing her hair and getting ready for a party. A knot in her hair catches her attention for a moment, but otherwise she is engrossed.

A love struck Romeo looks at her from the darkness underneath her window. He steps forward into the light of the streetlight, and strolls towards the pole. He looks at her and says, “Hey, Jule”

Juliet shrieks and jumps with a start. She turns around and sees what’s going on in the street below and sees Romeo standing there, by the pole.

She says “Good heavens, it's you! Sheesh, You nearly gave me a heart attack there, you know?!”

Romeo just looks at her and smiles.

””So, my favourite boyfriend is back, huh? What are you doing here?”

“Er…. I don’t know, really. Just thought I’d come and say…er…Hi?”

“You really shouldn't, you know. What’s the idea? You can’t just go around sneaking upon people from underneath their windows and singing songs to them and frightening them half to death. That sort of thing really ruins their day. Anyway, what do you want now?”

“I… I don’t know. I would’ve already told you if I did.”

“So, are you just gonna stand there all night and wonder what to say?”

“I don’t know.”

“Know what, you can take the whole night to decide what to say, but I’ve gotta run in five minutes.”

“Hey Jule…you wanna go out with me tonight?”

“No, of course not! And don’t call me Jule.”

“Hey, lemme take you out, just tonight? Let me take you out to Koshy’s. I know how much you love their grilled fish.”

“Dude, let it slide, will you? You’ve tried this so many times before…when has it ever worked?”

”What the fuck was I supposed to do, Jule? What were the odds against us failing? The die was loaded from the start, and I knew that! I knew what I was letting myself into when we first met. But I still bet on it. And you know what, I’d bet on loaded dice for you anyday, because you are worth way more than the risk, Jule. So I bet and voila! You exploded into my life.”

“Hehe, yeah. Silly days, those…I remember how we could never get enough of each other. Childish days, if you ask me. How foolish were we!”

“But they were beautiful days, weren’t they? What was that song, Jule, that sounded just like our story? It was some movie song we used to hum all the time, I forget…”

“Okay, so there was some song. What’s your point now?”

”Have you wondered ever, Jule, that maybe it was all just wrong timing. At that time, maybe we were too young, too green. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for us yet… Maybe WE weren’t ready for us yet. Have you wondered ever whether things might have gotten better now? Do you ever wonder if we might make it good if we try again? Just once?”

“Not working, dude…There really is no point talking about the past now. Michael will be here anytime and he is gonna be upset if he sees you here. Don’t make any noise, and quietly bugger off to where you came from.”

“Jule, do you remember the time when we used to work two shifts a day, when we were hungry and all we had was each other, and a dream?”

“It’s all past, Romeo. What the fuck difference does it make now?”

“It happened to us, babe! We lived it. We dreamt of making it big.”

“Get to the point, Romeo. I don’t have all day.”

Come up on different streets they both were streets of shame
Both dirty both mean yes and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is real”

“It was never your dream. It was mine. And I’ve made it, Romeo. I’m living my dream.”

“Yeah, but what about our dream? Have we made it, Jule?”

“I think we blew it, dude. But honestly, it doesn’t matter a damn now.”

“But I still hold on to the hope we once shared.”

“Ha! Hope is sad business, mister. It sucks. It is the root cause of all the worry and misery in the world. It’s the reason for all the pain and jealousy and unfulfilled expectations. Hope is pathetic. It’s a delusion. Fuck hope.”

“Why did it have to end like this, Jule? Why is our past an unwanted presence in your present?”

“Why the fuck do you talk like that, dude? Like some fucking freak? Why can’t you just talk like, you know, like normal people?”

“How can you treat me like an outsider, like some stranger? How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?”

“Deals?! What the hell are you talking about? Are you accusing me of using you? Where is all this jealousy coming from? Romeo, I was never really in love till now.”

“Really? What was the deal with that doctor, then? What were you doing with that TV actor for three months?”

“But that was just a stupid crush! A brief midsummer night’s fling. And now don’t you read anything into flings!”

“What was the deal with me, then? Was that a fling too? Can I read ANYTHING into it at all?”

“Nah… Those were just butterflies I got attracted to.”

“But you loved them.”

“Hmm…maybe, yeah… maybe I'll always love them. All just butterflies, though.”

”When you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of gold
You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold”

“I never got tied down. I never made anyone any promises! I just walk around, Romeo.”

“But I fell in love with you.”

“Whose problem is that?”

“Mine. I believed you. I believed your promises.”

“I never promised you anything.”

You promised me everything. You promised me thick and thin…”

“Look, we had a good thing going, okay? But that was ages ago. It never meant anything. And it’s over now. Over! Stop feeling pathetic for yourself and get a move-on, now.”

“…I remember I was once your world. If I said something and the entire world said the opposite, you believed the entire world was wrong. And these days you just say “Oh, Romeo? Yeah…you know I once used to have a scene with him”

Juliet is silent.

Romeo says, “Jule, when we made love you used to cry.”

“I did?”

“You did.”

“Whoa, what else did I do?”

”You used to say ‘I love you like the stars above and I'll love you till I die’

“Fiction! I don’t think I ever said that!”

“Yes, you did. I know you loved me.”

“Okay, I must have said something that might have sounded like that. But really, Romeo, its not gonna work, do you realise that? So, stop following me and just bugger off and get a life. Do you understand? Stop stalking me. When the fuck are you going to realize that we just not going to work???

“But what about us, baby? You knew us back then! We were so good together, babe. What happened to us? We were invincible!”

“Things come and go. Times change, honey.”

“But I’m still the same person.”

“Do you realize how pathetic you sound? What have you ever done for me? What the fuck COULD you do anyway?”

“Yeah, I know. I could never cook for you. I could never make you happy. I kept forgetting our anniversary, and I couldn’t afford to get you that pretty velvet dress. I could never remember to water the plants, and I kept forgetting to call.”

“I’m telling you, no girl can ever stand nonsense like this. You’re lucky we had a good run. But no one else would have put up with you, because you were never good, and you’ll never be any good.”

“I’ll never be good enough for you, Juliet.”

“You were never good enough for me, Romeo.”

“But I did love you madly.”

“You’re just wheezing through a straw.”

“I guess I’ll always love you.”

There is silence for many moments. Both look in different directions.



“Maybe I can't do the talk like they talk on the TV
And I can't do a love song like the way it's meant to be
I can't do everything but I'd do anything for you
I can't do anything except be in love you”

“’Heck am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. I can’t really expect you to do anything about it, I guess. I guess it’s just me singing into the blank universe, waiting for an echo…like the wife of a fisherman, who awaits him when he has gone to sea; who gazes into the sea and hopes; who drops a coin into a well and prays. That’s what I do, Juliet. I just drop coins into wells and trust the Universe. That’s all I do. And all I do is miss you, and the way we used to be.

“So what do you do now?”

“I jam a little way down the street with the tough boys from the harbour. All I seem to do these days is keep the beat and the bad company.”

“Do you still do drugs?”

”I’ve always been possessed by poisons. But it is a prison I’ve chosen for myself, so I know where the bars are. Now my imagination is a song. Now it is lying next to you under an ocean of stars. Now my imagination is kissing you through the bars of a rhyme.”

“Orion? Did you say bars of Orion?”

“No, I said bars of a rhyme. I can only kiss you through the notes of a song.”

“Oh, I thought you said bars of Orion.”


“It sure sounded like it.”

Romeo beams at Juliet. “No, but I’d do the Orion with you anytime! You remember the time we used to do stars together from our balcony?”

Juliet giggles. “Yeah, and later we used to make love.”

Romeo smiles. “You used to cry.”

Juliet looks away. Romeo silently gazes at his hands.

Romeo says, “What am I going to do, Juliet?”

“How the fuck am I supposed to know?”

“How am I ever gonna fill the little Juliet-shaped hole in my heart?”

“Easy. Find someone. Maybe someone like you. A hopeless romantic.”

“I will love you till I die, Jule”

“Have I been speaking in fucking Icelandic?! I told you not to call me that. Don’t you get it?”


“Shoo off now. Mikey’s gonna be here, and he will be real pissed if he sees you.”

They both stand and look around, glancing at each other occasionally, and smiling whenever their eyes meet.

Finally Romeo says, “Juliet, I hope you realise that it was just time that was wrong.”

Juliet sighs, takes a step backward and smiles. “It is not going to work, my dear.”

She turns and walks off the scene. The street is dark and quiet. Now there is absolute stillness. The painful kind of stillness that sucks all life out of the air and leaves you numb. A deep mourning silence. The aftermath of a misfortune. But here near the streetlamp underneath Juliet’s window, there seems to be a slow jaunty tune floating about.

It’s Romeo. He whistles a serenade in the empty street to himself. Head down and hands in pockets, he ambles around the streetlamp and kicks a can. He pauses, turns back towards where Juliet disappeared and stares rather hopelessly at the darkness. He looks at Juliet's empty window, smiles and hums to himself, “Hey Jule…You and me, babe… how about it?

* * *

From the beggarly bottom of my heart, I owe Mark Knopfler a colossal debt of gratitude.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


What follows is fiction. But I might be making THAT up.

Loser 1: All troubles in the known universe have either or both of two root causes – words gone wrong, or a woman.

Loser 2: Or neither.

Loser 1: Never neither.

Loser 2: It is sometimes neither. It’s really funny then.

Loser 1(is taken aback): How?

Loser 2: Take the deal with Maldives for instance. Did you know they are fast vanishing? Isn’t that funny? I mean these islands are so small that they are like these tiny little specks of dirt on the beak of a chicken.

Loser 1: Tiny little specks of dirt on the beak of a chicken.

Loser 2: Yeah. Specks of dirt on the beak of a chicken which no one really gives a shit about, not even the chicken in question. They are so tiny that you can’t even notice them, much less know when they are gone. There are whales in the ocean bigger than these islands. You can’t even ride a bicycle because you’d get tired of making three-point turns all the time. And these islands are disappearing because of global warming. See, that’s a problem neither words nor women caused.

Loser 1: Don't you see?! That’s exactly what I mean. It is not caused by either wrong words or a woman, so it isn’t really a problem. You said so yourself. If these islands are not big enough to be even noticed, how is their disappearance a problem at all?

Loser 2: So, maybe its not really a problem....

Loser 1: Not at all.

Loser 2: Hmmm…Have you ever wondered whether…

Loser 1: Have I ever wondered how many women would be upset if the Maldives vanished?

Loser 2: …Yes!

Loser 1: Yes!! I have! I have! I wonder about it all the time.

Loser 2: Me too! Keeps me awake at nights!

Loser 1: So? How many women?

Loser 2: None?

Loser 1: None!

Loser 2: So, corollary to what you said, anything that doesn’t upset a woman isn’t really a problem?

Loser 1: Exactly… Er, did I say that, or was that you?

Loser 2: I think it was you…But Maldives was a class act.

Loser 1: Classic example, no?

Loser 2: Vintage.

Loser 1: One hundred percent.

Loser 2: (Leans back and gazes into the distance, putting his hands behind his head) Ah, the beauty of circular logic!

Loser 1: ( Also leans back and gazes into the distance, putting his hands behind his head) Man, we’re so smart, aren’t we?

Loser 2: Absolutely!

Loser 1: No doubt!

Loser 2: Yeah.

Loser 1: Yeah.

(Awkward silence for a minute)

Losers 1 & 2 (fiddling with their thumbs, not looking at each other) : Yeah…

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Of cumin seeds and comebacks…

So, after half-a-year of soul searching and other such nonsense, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really am no good at soul-searching. Firstly I didn’t know where to search, because I vaguely remember selling it to a slick looking man in a funny black cloak for an orange Popsicle when I was five. It may have been the devil, but I’m not so sure. It could have been Richard Branson, though what he was doing in a Dracula costume hanging around primary school playgrounds and selling orange candies, I don’t know. So I’ve let that one slide and decided to stick to cheap comedy cleverly disguised as sophisticated socio-political satire, which is what I’m good at. Cheap comedy, I mean; not sophisticated satire. I’m no good at sophisticated political commentary. I’m not good at sophisticated anything.

I wrote a poem. It began with “I have a head in my helmet. Not when its on my shoulders, but when its resting on the table. I have a head in my helmet which is resting on my table…”, but then I realized that it’s not really a poem because there is no rhyme or metre, and let’s face it, its ghastly.

Then I started writing a book, but after having written the page numbers and failing to think of a title, even a retarded one like Walk the talk or The River of dreams, I realized that I was pretty much scraping the bottom of the thought-bucket. So, I immediately dropped the idea. Smart move. Saved a lot of time.

And so, continuing in the fine tradition of quitting things that turn bad if I persist, I also quit going out in the sun, eating fruits, drinking coffee, talking to friends and riding the motorcycle and instead focused all my energies on staying indoors and taking a balanced diet of tomato pulao and narcotics.

Life is a bitch when you meet the wrong people at the wrong time. But you know you must have really run over her little puppy or something when she throws the right people at you at the wrong time. Perfectly right people at the perfectly wrong time. God is that cruel! Cruel!

I’ve lately been a bit of not-alright. Thanks for not asking. I’ve spent the last few months in a hazy mix of motorcycling and drugs. With this second chance, I will shake some of that off. Though hopefully not.

All in all, I’m thankful for raindrops, sunshine, butterflies, rainbows and other such general nonsense. I’m also sore about a few things, but honestly who seems to give a shit these days? So, to cut a long story short and to abuse an already overused clichĂ©, I’m back.

Thanks for the applause.