Sunday, December 27, 2015


Meh!’ He sighed.
Airports no longer fascinated him as they used to. He strolled around the departure lounge seeking a comfortable seat. Since it was still very early in the morning, it was quiet with just a few travellers around. Coming across several rows of vacant seats neatly arranged into two columns with a walk-way in between, he settled down in a corner and pulled out a book from his backpack.
He glanced at the handwritten note on the first page: “So that you don’t fly alone - Love, M”. It brought a smile to his face. Malini was a sweet girl. She had gifted him this book when he met her on his last trip to Delhi. It hasn’t even been a month and here he was, flying to Delhi again. He knew she would be delighted to meet him this time too. Yet he neglected to inform her that he was coming. Perhaps he wasn’t sure he could be bothered to meet up with her this time round.
Already bored of the book, he looked at the time. There was still an hour for his flight. There ought to be a way that all the preprocessing time ranging from check-in to boarding was reduced to reflect that of other transport modes, say a train. Was he the only one to find it weird that one has to arrive 2 hours early at the airport for a flight of one-hour duration, while one needs to arrive at the station just a couple of minutes before the departure of an overnight train?

Adjusting himself on the seat, he looked up briefly to see how many more travellers were now around him. That’s when his eyes instantly singled her out from the incoming crowd. Unmistakable. It was her. He could feel his heart quicken up as he squinted to get a better look at her. How long has it been? 2 years? Perhaps more. Has she changed in anyway? Just as suddenly, a thought occurred to him and he averted his eyes. What if she saw him looking at her? There would be a forced smile of recognition on her face and she would feel obliged to approach him and exchange greetings. He didn’t want to put her in that position. He slid further down in his chair and buried his face in his book.   
After many minutes, or maybe seconds, from the corner of his eye, he followed her footsteps going past him. After what felt like another eternity, he hazarded turning around to see where she was. He had to turn all the way around to look behind him, yet he couldn’t spot her. He returned to his novel and resumed reading. Although he tried to concentrate, running through several lines in the story, the words failed to penetrate beyond his eyes.

Narrowing her eyes, she stared at him. She could just see his side profile, but there was no way she could mistake someone else for him. She knew him too well for that. There he was, sitting at the other end of her row, turning around seemingly in search of something. He held a big book in his hands. Since when did he become such a serious reader? She could barely get him to read a magazine article in those days.
Her eyes searched him further. Has he changed in other ways too? Was there a white strand or two in his hair? She tried to look at his fingers but they were hidden beneath the big book. She turned away, wondering. Should she move away so that he doesn’t spot her? Should she go and say ‘hi’? Was she ready for this? Ready for him? Now, after all these days, all of a sudden?
She couldn’t contain herself any longer and looked in his direction again. The seat was empty now. He had left! She got up  with a jolt, surprising herself and even startling the old man seated next to her. Had she lost him? Again?

Anxiously, she paced around looking for him. After a lot of scanning, she managed to locate him  strolling aimlessly on the other side of the terminal.  A plethora of shops separated them.  She jogged to catch up with him and started walking beside him, looking at him. He noticed her and stopped.
‘How you been?’ she asked, hoping to sound gentle and pleasant.
‘Not bad,’ he drawled in his usual way. Somethings at least hadn’t changed.
‘And you?’ he asked.
‘Fine, I guess.’
They resumed walking.  She had so many things to ask him. And so many more to tell. Yet, none made their way out. She wished she knew what the rules were. Does she limit the conversation to only small-talk? Does she wait for him to ask something? Does she just say ‘bye’ and move on?
‘Where are you headed?’ she asked finally.
‘Delhi. You? Bangalore?’ He responded.
‘Still working for BP?’
They continued walking down the terminal.

Silence made its presence felt. He didn’t want to ask her anything that would be uncomfortable for her. But he had nothing else to converse either. His face turned to look at her more closely. She looked older now, but that only made her more beautiful. During those times, did he ever mention to her that he found her pretty? Perhaps she knew anyway. More and more questions were flooding into his head.  To ignore the raging ones, he tried to focus on making trivial conversation. He started talking about their mutual acquaintances and she joined in enthusiastically. Pretty soon, all of them were covered and the dreaded silence returned.
Then she opened her mouth to say something but no words formed. He couldn’t resist any longer and asked her, ‘Just tell me, was it tough to, you know…’ He grappled for words but only ended up waving his hands about in a weird manner.
Her eyes looked down as she muttered something inaudible. He paused for a bit before he asked again.
‘What was hardest?’ Was he being mean with the questions? Not really. He just wanted to know. A kind of morbid curiosity.
‘What all do you know?’ she shot back, still not looking at him.
‘Phone? Whatsapp, gmail…’ He began listing but stopped as soon as he realised she wasn’t listening. There are so many ways to keep in touch these days. And hence, so many ways to ignore someone. So many ways to exclude someone from one’s life.
She stood unmoving for a while and then stepped over and sat down on a bench, shielding her face with her hands. He didn’t know what to do. Was he to leave or not? Not being able to decide, he looked around, as if someone would spring to his help and advise on the right action. A couple of the  other passengers were staring at them, but silently.

‘Actually, Facebook was hard. I knew your phone number by memory, and I could unblock you on gmail anytime. But by removing on Facebook, I was no longer going to get your updates. I wouldn’t  know what was going on in your life,’ she said very softly, looking up at him
He went closer and stood next to her.
‘Why? Didn’t you ever think of letting me know about all this, about your reasons, a courtesy mail perhaps?’ He was careful not to sound aggrieved. This wasn’t the time to let out any pain. Did he even feel any, anymore?
‘I knew I .. couldn’t,’ she spoke slowly, pausing inappropriately. ‘It was really ... hard to maintain my resolve. I knew that a small comment ... a message from you would have broken me. Couldn’t let that happen. This was the only way I ... could do it.’
He searched her face for guilt. But all he unearthed was sorrow. Despite her ill-disguised attempts to ward the tears away, they were starting to envelope her eyes. She stood up, perhaps for the sake of doing something. She was still looking at the floor. Should he console her? That would be quite ironic given that he had kindled the pain with his questions. Should he place his arm around her like old times? Wasn’t he the everlasting, ever-present emotional support of hers? The confidant to all her troubles and joys? He ceased to be so two and half years ago, he told himself.
So instead, he just managed to mumble, ‘Whatever it takes for a happy married life. As long as you are happy with him…’ His voice trailed off.
She looked at him for a second, perhaps trying to detect sarcasm, and then said, grasping for a steady voice, ‘We .. we separated six months ago. Guess it was never going to work out with him.’
He just stared. He didn't even attempt to find any words in response.
‘And .. and to think, I gave up on you for him,’ she choked.
That was all he needed to hear. He averted his eyes from her and focused on the departure-screen beyond her. His flight number had ‘last-call’ flashing next to it.
‘I have to go now,’ he said and began walking away from her, though still facing her. Her imploring eyes were strangulating him. He turned around and strode to his gate.

Just before turning off his mobile for the takeoff, he searched through his contact list for a name and dialled.
‘Malini? Hi! Guess what? I’m flying to Delhi right now. What are you doing today evening? Let’s meet up at Hauz Khas!’

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Empty Core

Where are the fingers that could just tap out the thoughts on plastic and transform them into virtual memory capsules? The same fingers that then hide the keys in abstraction?

I now have the lexicon,
I now have the suave.
Can conjure metaphors on demand,
Words have become my wand.

Clarity of thought, lucid prose,
Perfectly placed semicolon;
All weapons primed for action
At the mere hint of any mission.

When I was yet a novice,
With nothing but emotions for battle,
The words were always lacking
And the style, just unbecoming.

The time has passed, and I have trained.

My skill is now ready
To pen emotions for eternity
But now, when I dwell within,
All I find is nothin'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Return of the late night post ;)

It's been years since I have written anything late at night. But such posts used to be the staple of this blog, as we can see if we roll down the archives and go back to the IIIT days. Not just writing late at night, writing on the blog itself is turning into an ebbing hobby. Today, rather tonight as I logged in, I saw the latest draft staring at me. It was created just a week ago and boasted an intriguing title - "The Perils of Work". I had no memory of what this draft post was about. And when I viewed the actual post, it was just blank. How much ever I try, I cannot recollect what I was planning to write in that post, under that title. Can't even say what the 'work' there refers to! But this draft was created just a week ago! All I remember is that I had logged into the blog and was on the verge of writing something but couldn't proceed further due to some reason. The reason doesn't matter now, obviously, but what was this lost draft supposed  to be about! I suppose the loss of the content of that draft doesn't matter either. Not as if I would have been unveiling pearls of wisdom in there.

With this current post, I was just wanted to experience what I used to have almost a decade ago. The ability to just type without giving a second thought or read to what I was saying or wished to convey. Just type. Just let the fingers go on. Almost autonomously. A centrally coordinated multi-agent system, if you like!

When did the blog turn from being just a medium to express myself into a medium where I compose and coherently put up a reasonably well-drafted article. It is not due to the readers. There are almost none now. At least during the glory days of haphazard posts of the long lost past, there used to be readers and their comments. That was the time when blogs still made sense. Now there exists the 'real' social media. Blogs have no place anymore.

In all places, especially in social media, we are bombarded by these wise advices -- "followyour heart", "do what you love", "live life in your own way", "Today is the day to start your new, better life", and so on and so on and so on.

Of course, I was paraphrasing above. We are bombarded by these in much more beautified avatars. But the essence of all of them is the same. The point, however, remains -- what if the heart isn't going anywhere, what do you follow? What if you have no idea what you love? What if you never had a 'way' to live your life? And what if you do not know what's a better life? The ills that ail you now, may ail you in a different way in that 'better' life. But they will still ail you! Taking another step back, what is an ill and what is not? Aren't they all just in your perception. While you might think you are not successful, someone else might think you are mighty successful. So, why change your life? That is unlikely to reveal any sustained benefit. Why not just change your perception? Why do anything? Just to arrogate an artificial purpose to your existence?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Snippets: Siam & Siem Reap

I really ought to blog about a trip soon after the trip -- when the scents are fresh and the images are yet to fade. When the experience seems worthy of a narration. With the weeks passing by, and as the mundane routine engulfs the days, it also infects the memory of the trip and strips it of the excitement. When years pass by, all that is left of the trip are some photos which hadn't been viewed more than once, credit card bills as evidence that the trip actually did take place, and a fridge magnet (which I unfailingly try to bring back as a souvenir) fighting for space on the old grey metallic almirah.

Lately, of course, I have been known to be taking the easier way out and just posting a collection of the photos on facebook to serve as my online record of the trip rather than compose a coherent blogpost out of the experience. The new year trip to Malaysia to welcome 2014 had fallen victim to precisely this.

The subsequent annual trip to Thailand and Cambodia to ring in 2015 has looked to be in pretty much the same danger. Until now. So here are some snippets!


£ It felt good to see the wide roads and the fancy bridges named after my name :D Their monarchy is in possession of excellent taste indeed ;)

£ The Grand Royal Palace premises are pretty big, and seemingly covered in gold. And while the locals are allowed to exit from any of the many exits, foreigners are allowed to leave only through the final exit, almost as if they don't want us to miss even a little of all the glory. True story.

£ Taxis are ubiquitous, well serviced and cheap. And very colourful -- red, green. white, yellow, pink! My companion even began to develop a preference for a particular colour with time. Somehow, she felt that red was more equal than the others :P

£ The charge of the metro for two people is likely to be more than taking a taxi. I thought that was weird until I began using the A/C buses in Bangalore. Mass transport in the "B"-cities have their own economics, perhaps.

£ The floating markets around the city have become more of a pier and stalls on the riverbank than actual boats that are mobile.

£ The weekend markets are a crazy place. Heaven for those jostling for fake goods :P, bizarre for me.

£ Standing in the queue for an hour for the best Pad Thai in the city (and consequently, the world?) is perhaps worth it. I am not sure, we just went for the takeaway and had it in the hotel. The memory still lingers. Aah, prawn oil!

£ Local Muay Thai is raucous. In the first round, there is more sizing up and less action (unless they are kids - who start going at each other right from the outset). But it picks up speed in the subsequent rounds, and finally, the 5th aka last round results in quite bloodied faces and torsos.

£ There might exist the most expensive clubs and the most lavish hotels in the city, but the place for the night life is the backpacker hippie area of Khao San.


$ Travelling in the third class section of the slow trains makes you feel like a local. Except for the fact that the real locals are better prepared for the long waits and delays. They bring their food and buy their drink.

$  All heritage ancient cities should come with scooters like this one. Best means of sight-seeing and the most fun too.

$ The destruction of the ruins makes one wonder whether .... .... well, just wonder.

$ Som Tam salad has to be prepared just so. Even when we ordered three, the lady made each one individually. After all, her measurements were precise; a precision attained over years of training and experience perhaps.


% The better beaches are not accessible. The walking street is too crowded to even walk. The traffic density is horrendous; at least on new year's eve :P.

Siem Reap

& The visa officials at the airport immigration have turned the visa process into a lesson in assembly line. They are seated in a row and each one has his specific task. Your passports goes in at the beginning of the line and is handed back to you with a freshly minted visa page (and your name entered by ink) at the end of the line.

& The town exists solely to service the millions of tourists descending upon Angkor. The tourists are mainly of two kinds -- backpackers and families with kids.

& The smooth, pollution-free and scented air of the town, with its vast empty stretches of lands, forested growth and vacant roads is a marked change.

& Angkor must have experienced more transitions from Hinduism to Buddhism and back than the number of reincarnations possible in either of those :P.

& The Bakong pyramid temple is more of a 3D trapezoid. (The above pic is of Bayon temple, not Bakong. Bayon makes for a prettier picture.)

& The non-primary and not so well-maintained areas of the Angkor are the more fascinating of the ruins. They have an all-together different kind of ambiance.

& Angkor Wat is beautiful. But the much heralded view of the sunrise is marred by the hoards of tourists who had trudged up at 5AM just like you, and click with their cameras, just like you, and all the flashes going off, just like yours. Almost feels like you are at the entrance of Madame Tussauds!