Indian, male, California, books, music, writing, trekking, beemer, cricket, squash, AID, 24-27.


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Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Sunshine, laziness and books!!

This Sunday was a very lazy Sunday, more than the usual. Woke up at around 11, had coffee and a nice decadent brunch of bagels with a lot of cream cheese :-) And then had no enthu to do anything else. It was a nice day, warm and sunny, the kind that makes one reflect on the beauty of the world and its people. Weather does affect behavior; I was all smiles and buoyant; evidenced by my extra-warm smile to the old lady behind the counter at the local coffee house. I was happy and I wanted to make others feel that way too.

Thought of going to the beach to soak the sun, and so, rolled up my beach towel, and left. But did not feel up for seeing too many people; it was a beautiful day, one that had to be enjoyed in privacy. I am very possesive of my "happy-days" feelings, and wanted to enjoy it by myself, without any company; sometimes company strikes a discordant note. But I blabber:-)

So, eventually ended going to this place called "Seaport Village" by the bay; this place has a nice grassy knoll, far away from the shoppes and people but with a great view of the boats on the bay. Reached there at around 1, and spent the next 3 hours lying on the grass, soaking the sunshine and reading "Sophie's Choice". It was one of the best afternoons that I have spent in a long time. No people, just me, myself and the sun-drenched afternoon. Read the book for some time, then sat and looked at the boats sailing by, went to sleep for some time, woke up and read again. At the end of it, left when the air was becoming chilly, and feeling immensely happy with life.

Moments like these make life worth everything, puts things in perspective. All the problems, trivial and not-so-trivial recede into the background like they are all backdrops highlighting this one glorious scene of joy and warmth. In some way, it is like the triumph of the ethereal over the mundane.

On the same note, an oft-realized thought that came into my mind was that happiness is not very tough to find; it is just that we probably spend too much time looking for it when it is within us for most of the time. We just need to find it.

(This post is inspired by the first few lines of a post by Ricercar; made me want to write about my Sunday.)

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Monday, December 08, 2003

Music, melodious music; thats the kind I like. I listen to all kinds of music but the kind that usually tugs at my heart strings is the pure melody types. Words do not matter, the music itself can say so much.

The first time I realised this was when I was in my undergrad (3rd year or so). We were fortunate to have a vibrant SPIC-MACAY program in our college, and it was they who got Pt. VishwaMohan Bhatt once. He played this one number, "Waiting by the River" from the album of the same name, which won the Grammy in 1994. No words, just the mohan veena and a tabla but one could almost see the scene of someone waiting by the river being played out. It was one of those "ahha" moments- and music has never been the same since then.

A few months back, I had gone to a concert by Pt. Ravi Shankar and his daughter, Anoushka. I am fortunate enough to live in the same city as Ravi Shankar, and so could see one of his performances; it was gratifying. He played for around 45 minutes before ceding the stage to Anoushka; during that short performance he made the world a much more happier place. I have no other words to describe the feeling.

Music is good.

On an aside, I recently attended a talk by someone from the Eli Wiesel foundation, about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the concept of Semitism, post-Holocaust. Was informative and thought-provoking, and brought up the question of "Why?" all over again. Some questions just do not seem to have any answers!!
Realization of the week: Most of the problems in our day-to-day lives are so trivial, so fucking trivial!

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Monday, December 01, 2003

Had an awesome Thanksgiving break. Met 2 friends of mine whom I had not seen since graduating. I had been looking forward to meeting those guys but there was some trepidation as well. The last time we had been together was on "Convocation Day", where drunk on the success of graduation and loads of whiskey, we had slobbered about things that could never be, but were still spoken of with longing and hope. Come the next morning, we all went different ways; now we were going to get back together, after visiting different places, experiences. I knew and expected things to be different (cliche bingo!!) but how different, was the question!! (bingo, again:-) 

On an aside, I had always been very interested by Segal's "The Class"; and I have always been intrigued by the survival (or not) of relationships, established during college, where one lives all of his/her life in a very public way with a bunch of people who do the same. College for me was this sleepy campus in Powai, which basically marked the transition from a kid coming out of home, to an adult who was in sync with himself; this was true for all my friends as well. We had all lived a part of the others' "coming-of-age pains". As someone said it so much more  succinctly

"Time it was and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence, a time of confidence."

There has never been another time like that; that is what made those relationships so important, and why I was looking forward to Thanksgiving so much.

So, we met on Thursday. N had moved in to SD for good, on the same day. A and his wife, T, had driven down from Palo Alto where A goes to school. The first thing that struck me was they were both such a sunshine couple, so obviously happy, and spreading cheer; A had always been like that, and it was nice to see that T was the same as well. They were a poster for marriage, with the slogan "It is nice if you get it right".

Anyway, so the four of us left for the San Bernardinos on Thursday evening. The ice-breaking was gradual during the ride but it did break, and the conversation was good, as were the silences. We reached Palm Springs at around 6 and  stayed there for the night. Btw, Palm Springs is a very nice, quaint town, of probably 20 blocks and 10,000 people.

Saturday early morning, we started on our trek to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto, which stands at 10,800 feet. The trek was like any other trek- cheerful with "It is still not too late to turn back" thoughts interspersed. Finally, we reached the peak at around 6 PM, after walking for around 8 hrs. While on the way up, we had stopped to watch the sunset (I had never seen the sun set, from such a height), and it was an ethereal experience. The colours were awesome, and the height gave me an immense sense of power. From the top of the mountain, it was as if I could see the sun even when it was below the horizon; a feeling that I had been in secret communion with the Sun, like few before me.

Night on the peak was awesome. We sat outside our tents and watched the skies. The skies seemed black, blacker and denser than anything that I had seen before, and was dotted with so many stars. The stars were like kids, being watched by their father, the sky, sombre and deep but caring; and the twinkling of the stars was as if they were chattering in their baby voices, incomprehensible and inconsequential, but happy. They seemed so close to the eye and to the heart.

I was trying to think for some time, make some sense of this beautiful scene, try and capture it in words, feelings, draw correlations with things I had known and seen earlier. Gradually, the noise of my thoughts too died down, and then there was silence, and the silence resonated. No one spoke, we just sat and stared, and then went into the tents and slept. All discussion of thoughts, feelings were left for the next day.
We did all that on Sunday morning, on the way back. I have always found it tougher to go downhill, and so it was this time too. Eventually, we did reach back to the parking lot. And after stopping for lunch at Palm Springs, we were on our way back. A and T drove back to Palo Alto, and N and I made our way back home.

Got back home pretty late, at around 9; like always, everybody else was also going back home after their Thanksgiving break. The roads were bad. But I did not let that take anything away from my post-Thanksgiving cheer. I had a lot of happiness to be thankful for.

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Monday, November 24, 2003
Hello World!!

It has been such a long time that it is like my first time. Hence the name. (Well, lack of creativity is not easily admissible!:-)

Read the news of TunTun's demise today, and it made me vaguely sad. And I was not really a fan of hers. But she always seemed to be laughing and smiling, allowing others to poke fun at her physical traits and making them laugh. They evoke a lot of respect and a vague sense of pathos, these people who make fun of themselves so that others can laugh. Well, may her soul rest in peace.

My life seems to have become very full and happening nowadays, what with thesis writing so that I can graduate, job search so that I can earn money (:-) , and talking to this one girl I really like. If you are reading this, good to have you around.
But at the same time, I will still keep these entries (on the rare ocassions when they happen) my own stuff. So, read at own risk :-)

It has become really cold nowadays, very unlike Southern California. A friend of mine who moved here, 2 days back from the East Coast said he found it colder here!! Thanksgiving's around the corner, and everyone seems to be making plans. I dont have any plans, yet. But I guess I would finally end up doing some totally random stuff like going for a hike into the mountains, and then die of the cold!! Experience is not the best teacher, after all.
And, that, my friends, is as profound as it gets!!

Time for a coffee break. More later.

Posted at 04:19 pm by reactions
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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
My 2-cents

Today while doing ego-surfing on Google (yeah, kill me for that;), I came across a friend's website; it mentioned something about his dream of seeing India as a "developed" nation. Very nice, I thought; but was he doing anything to make his "dream" come true? Maybe he is and I dont know about it. But the point of this post is not my friend, or his dream.

It is a very human trait to find faults/criticise/deride the efforts (or lack of them) of others. Indians, all across the world lambast "them" for the poor state of the roads, the poverty, the lawlessness, the ineffectual bureaucracy and the hazaar other issues. And most of these criticisms are very justified; there are so many things about the country that can do with improvement.

But then how about doing something for the country, to make things better in India, maybe for just one small section of the community, in some village somewhere? But that does not happen; we are all so enmeshed in our daily lives that it is difficult to find the time and energy to do anything else but the necessary. I hope this is not becoming a rave-and-rant post. Like my friend, I have a dream and I want to see it coming true.

But I do not believe in the trickle-down approach, and I do not think that India is a "developed" nation yet. A few months back I had been to a village in the Sunderbans, and the way of life on that island was an eye-opener. There is no electricity, no hospital, no roads on that island; the nearest hospital is 3 hours away, on the mainland; if there is an emergency, there is not much that one can do except pray and hope that the boat comes in soon. In the monsoons, there are snakebites and the nearest anti-venom is on the mainland.

I stayed there for 2 days. And now I know when I would say that India is a developed country. Basic health care and education in every village- that would be enough. What say?
And another thing that I realized is that everyone can do something about it; it may not be the most significant act but it would go some way towards the ultimate goal.
Doing our 2-cents worth rather than just saying it?

Posted at 09:51 pm by reactions
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Monday, September 22, 2003
"Pandals" and loudspeakers

It is that time of the year, when most Bengalis do a thorough housecleaning, stock up on their wardrobes, make plans to visit their spiritual home, Kolkata (if they are not already there), and generally have a good time. Durga Puja.

I grew up not in Kolkata but in this sleepy, little town in Orissa; but Durga Puja was always a fun time. We had a 15-day holiday from school, new clothes, lots of good food, a huge crowd of cousins, and lots of pampering by uncles and aunts. Around this time, the air would become slightly chilly, with the morning sun always veiled by a hazy mist, and "Shiuli" flowers strewn around on the lawn. These were the signs that "Pujo" was coming, it was in the air.

Each of those 4 days would be the same as any of the other 4 days when life was played out in technicolor, what with the colourful dresses, idols and the pandal decorations. I hated the "black-and-white" idols; whats with the sobriety?

There was this one pandal that was very close to our house; we would wake up in the mornings with the loudspeaker blaring out Hindi movie hits, and just sometimes, the mantras being recited by the priest. Me and my sister with all our cousins and friends would spend the days at the pandal, playing inane games and buying stuff from the vendors.
And, in the evenings, we would all pile into our old Ambassador, kids, uncles, aunts, festival finery, and loud enthusiasm included, and go driving around, paying our respects at all the different pandals. The fairs were the most fun, with the balloon-shooting, Ferris wheel, and the visiting performers.

Once I reached teenage, I would spend some time with friends, doing the rounds of the pandals. It was probably since that point that Puja lost some of its charm for me. I started noticing that for some people these days were no different from other days, that the way to the idols was lined by beggars, that the man at the "balloon shooting" shop was wearing a shirt torn at the armpit.

Durga Puja is still a special time for me, a time which makes me nostalgic for my family, and for that pandal next to our house, and one where I feel very thankful for all the good fortune that I have had. Sure, there have been disappointments but I am thankful for where I was born and the chances that I have had in life.

Over here Durga Puja is an one-day event, on a Saturday close to the actual days of the festival. Man being a slave to the demands on his time? Maybe.
But in these 2 years, it has become a more focal event in my life, an ocassion for me to get in touch with myself, and my roots, even if it is for one day. And eating "hash browns", which is what American-Bengali kids call "aloo bhaaja", or potato fries :-)

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This weekend was a very lazy one; I did not even try to come to my lab to work. It is not as if I did not have any work but I just did not feel like working over the weekend. Had Ethiopian cuisine for the first time, and in spite of all the jokes about it, liked it. Especially, the bread which they call "injera"; tastes a lot like the "pithas" made in Orissa, back in India.

Went to this party on Saturday. A couple of my friends had cleared their qualifies which means they are full-fledged PhD candidates now, with a year or so to go before they can prefix "Dr." to their names. Was supposed to be a beer-and-barbeque party but ended up being a cocktail party :-)

The inevitable drunken discussions followed. And owing to the presence of one guy who had just got married, the topic was relationships, succesful and unsuccessful (isnt that always a topic?). I was borne back to my undergrad days, when I was madly in love with this one classmate of mine, A. She was too (in love with me, for all you smart alecs out there!). But we had to break up because of the parent routine, and that was that. We continue to be the best of friends, the one person I turn to when I need a helping hand, or a shoulder. Her parents know about us being in touch with each other, and they are fine with it.

Makes me wonder how a label can affect things so much. Just because we are not "going around" anymore, it is acceptable to her parents; but that surely does not change the intensity of the relationship, or where we stand in each other's lives. Wouldnt a significant other feel threatened by it? I know for a fact that my girlfriend(s) have always been wary of A's presence in my life, although it is at a completely platonic level, and they have never had any reason to doubt that.

Maybe it is just a lot of baggage but then I have never travelled light.

On an unrelated note, I was rereading "Julius Caesar" for a few days. It is my favourite Shakespeare play, more than "Othello" or "Hamlet". Probably because it was the first Shakespeare play I had ever read, which was way back in Class IX, and I had an absolutely kickass English teacher. I love Brutus' soliloquoy, and the character of Caesar, especially in the scene where he is assasinated.

School was an awesome period, the best 12 years of my life. But more of that later.

Posted at 03:10 am by reactions
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Thursday, September 18, 2003
A thing of beauty

I am a very movie-illiterate person. When I was in undergrad college, my friends would keep talking about all these movies and I would never know anything about them but the names. The extent of my "illiteracy" can be gauged from the fact that I have never seen "Top Gun" and saw "Shawshank Redemption" just last week.
Awesome movie, isnt it? I think it is the greatest movie I have ever seen, which is probably again just a reflection on my movie watching habits :-)

I made a resolution a few weeks back that I would try and watch the classics, and make full use of the university video library. I have seen quite a few movies since then. Yesterday, I saw "Mr and Mrs Iyer", and the movie left me with a feeling of having seen something "beautiful". That was the only word I could use to describe the movie, it was "beautiful", showcasing all that was beautiful of human life. Even though there was an undercurrent of tension and a feeling that something violent was just about to happen, the focus was still on "Mr" and Mrs Iyer, and their relationship.

The cinematography was also nice, with the shots going along very well with the mood of the moment. I especially liked the one scene in the forest, when Rahul Bose takes photographs of "Santa". Doesn't Konkona Sen look gorgeous in that scene? I never thought that someone's hands could look as sensuous.

I guess the movie also appealed because of its "it-can-happen-to-you" storyline. We all meet so many interesting people on the road, who just come in through the door of a train compartment, and go at the end of the journey, leaving behind a vague, incomplete "what-if" feeling. This was the stuff of (some of) my dreams where the journey takes more time than it should; but it is all temporal.

And now I have acute "wanderlust"; has been ages since I have been out on the road. I think it is time to bring out those plans for the Mexico road trip, which my friend and I have put in the cans since the last 6 months or so.

Btw, wouldnt it be fun to live in a treehouse? Better than tents, I am sure!

Posted at 07:14 pm by reactions
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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

It was a nice feeling, coming back to my blog tonight; there were a bunch of comments on the blog. Felt nice. I have been very particular about keeping my blogs separate from all the people who have been a part of my past; maybe it is just prudence, maybe it is self-defence. Maybe it is stupid. But, hell.. it is my blog, and it is my life!

I have always felt that blogs are like journals, wherein individuals bare themselves, secure in the belief that they will not be judged because most of the readers would not know them. It is so easy to judge people whom one knows in flesh and blood, and the fear of judgement is what makes one dishonest, or rather, not completely honest. After all, lack of honesty is not dishonesty;)

But I am still a romantic, one who yearns for things that may never have been, and probably, never will be either. I still wish for an Utopia, where people are completely honest with themselves, and, consequently, with others. I try to live my part of this ideal but there are times when even my best efforts fall flat. Honesty is not an ideal which is easy to achieve.

The other day I had written an email to a friend of mine; I was surprised when she wrote back saying that she found my mail "romantic"! Was surprised because I had only been writing an honest account of things. Is honesty romantic? I surely think so; nothing appeals more to me than a brutal honesty in people.

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Monday, September 15, 2003
Seth and me

It has been a queer weekend, where I have been asked to be the Secretary of the organization I volunteer with (after just 3 months of being with them), been invited to dinner and then, breakfast at a friend's new house, spent some time on the oceanside, have watched "Unforgiven", cooked chicken curry, and have not thought any deep, metaphysical thoughts. Till this point.

It is 2 AM in the morning, and I am sitting at a computer, trying to write up some part of my thesis. The computer's playing "best of my love" by eagles, and I love the song, especially, these few lines.

Every night I'm lyin' in bed
Holdin' you close in my dreams
Thinkin' about all the things that we said
And comin' apart at the seams
We try to talk it over
But the words come out too rough

I think I have lived those lines, when nothing you do or say comes out right, and there is a deep, dark abyss, a little away to which one just seems to be led. For what seemed like ages, I held myself back, giving away only bits of myself to those who wanted more of me; and the minute, I decided to let myself go, I was not as wanted. And then began that inexorable walk towards that abyss. I hated myself for it, hated her as well.

And it brought out the worst in me. I was reduced to an insecure man, the kind that I never thought I could be. What triggered off this schizophrenic change in me? I still have to figure it out. Am I basically an insecure person who needs reassurance at every turn of life? Do I expect more of and from a relationship than is justified? Should passion be replaced by cold-blooded reason in a relationship, as time goes on? Is that the sign of a relationship maturing? Isnt that also the sign of a relationship dying out?

Too many questions, and I am nowhere close to the answer for most of them. All that I know is that I would rather not be in a relationship which makes me hate myself and others; so, I am a free man now. And I have been living life on a very simple day-to-day basis since then, optimizing my short-term goals; it has been a nice change. I have attained some sort of peace of mind.

Today, I was reading Vikram Seth (yes, I am a Seth fan). And I came across these lines again.

Perhaps this could have stayed unstated.
Had our words turned to other things
In the grey park, the rain abated,
Life would have quickened other strings.
I list your gifts in this creation:
Pen, paper, ink and inspiration,
Peace to the heart with touch or word,
Ease to the soul with note and chord.

How did that walk, those winter hours,
Occasion this? No lightning came;
Nor did I sense, when touched by flame,
Our story lit with borrowed powers -
Rather, by what our spirits burned,
Embered in words, to us returned.

And the memories just came tumbling out of all the dark spaces where I had stowed them, memories of the adrenaline rush when the phone would ring, interminable phone conversations, waiting for that one birthday wish. When things were so nice and happy at some time, why did they go sour? Is it a rule of nature that all things, thoughts and feelings are temporary, and have to change?

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