Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Wrestling with the groundhogs


Week 10 of the pandemic they call it. More than ever before, I had to resort to checking the calendar on the phone and push my mind into recollection mode to find my bearing with respect to the days and agree with the 10 week assessment. This is the same me who had taken a two year hiatus doing nothing much than staying at home and trying to stay alive earlier in the decade. So I should know much more and be much better prepared than most of you for living through a lockdown. Frankly? Yes, I am! I don’t find these days particularly constrictive or unnatural. In fact, I even find it strangely liberating that I don’t have to make any plans or think about the immediate future. There is no guilt to staying in the slow lane these days!

But how do you keep track of the days, the weeks, even the months? What happened in March versus what happened in April? Every week, there is a monday, and soon there is a friday, oh and here is a monday again. Of course, we have a saturday and sunday. But which saturday was it that we went out for groceries? Was it this one or the previous one? Did we bake a cake last sunday, or was that four sundays ago? Is the passage of time still a thing or have we managed to bring it to a halt? It might as well have all melded into an all-encompassing chronic blob. All hail the C. Blob!

This brings me to wonder if this is the situation for a habitual stay-at-home hermit like me, how are those exuberant beings, otherwise proclaimed as extroverts, braving it out in their social isolations?
Would it be a stretch to wonder whether the lockdowns may end up altering the distribution of the intro-extra-version spectrum? Will these unprecedented days push the density of the distribution away from the extrovert end to something more in the middle? Will the world emerge from this period having gained more appreciation for staying at home, deliberating into the void and perhaps, be ready to give more credence to thought over action? Is it too wishful to wish for?

Of course, all those who are juggling working from home and keeping young kids engaged and doing all the additional housework and having to shower after every grocery trip all at the same time every single day would snort at this discussion and invite me to exchange places with them for a day or two. To them, I just say - “No, thank you” :P

PS - I opened the blogger account after more than a year to publish the above rant. While choosing labels, 'atmos' and 'general' made most sense. Curiosity made me check what was the previous post under 'atmos' - and it was this post - The-Year-Of-Groundhog-Days (its other label is 'general'). Aha! I guess I should find it reassuring that I still share some characteristics with my younger self! 

Saturday, February 09, 2019

9th Feb

Collective made up purposes.
Chemical slavery dressed up
as survival of the fittest.
Continued existence on excuses.

The thinking mind dredges it up again and again.
But perhaps, recursive puzzles
are only resolved recursively.
Or maybe, this too is a pretense to remain sane.

I am conscious, therefore I question.
What is the point of this consciousness?
But maybe, to enquire of its own meaning
is the conscious mind's sole redemption.

There you go, birthday catharsis.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Losing my verse

The fingers stare expectantly
Standing erect, waiting for orders
The keys prepared, the page blank
The wait unending

The mind grapples, the belly rumbles
The brain synapses, the stomach convulses

Time ticks and tocks

The commands finally arrive
All jumbled

The need to write - immense
The words to convey - nonsense

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Silence of Happiness

Strife, both within and out
Thrives verses glorious
But why is it that contentment
Shuts out all with its peace?

Those outbursts of pain proliferate
To bring only joys of melancholy,
While happiness with its reticence
Withholds all the bliss, selfishly.

Is it because sorrow shared
Begets calm and sympathy,
While prosperity expressed
Slithers in envy ...
... dressed as apathy?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Twitter-Compliant Book Reviews - Edition 3

Following the path laid down here and here:

Elantris by Brandon SandersonA rare standalone fantasy. Magic goes bust. Prince goes dark and restores order. Princess foils fascists. Gripping and illuminating.

Shardik by Richard AdamsA huge bear - god or a mammal? Helps fisherman conquer and rule dominions of superstitions. Shamans, mythology, adventure and guilt trips.

With Their Backs to the World by Asne Seierstad, translated by Sindre KartvedtLife accounts of Serbians on either sides and times of Milosevic. Evocative and informative. A peek into the inscrutable human condition.

Stoner by John WilliamsNot about weed. About a teacher of English and a loser in life - travails beset Mr. Stoner. A tender study into a life of quiet desperation.

The Martian by Andy WeirMore scientific and realistic than the movie. Man stranded on Mars to grow potatoes and recycle water. Imaginative and technically sound.

IQ84 by Haruki MurakamiLove story or muddled fantasy? Vast canvas with minute details and unexplained phenomena. Cats and solitude. The lovers never meet, almost.

Predictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe myth of rationality through experimental studies. The frail mind and its fallacy of assumptions. Funny and delightful for a non-fiction.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. HeinleinA classic and a pioneer. AI heads lunar rebellion against imperialists. An exploration of culture, politics and possibilities. Witty Sci-Fi!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeDefies prejudices of readers and characters. The plays and thoughts of a little girl and her brother. Uncolored depiction of an era. Go Boo!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Twitter-Compliant Book Reviews Again

The first of this kind was posted many a sunrise ago here. Let's begin 2016 by resuming this ancient art of reviewing :P.

Gilgamesh - version by Stephen Mitchell: Perhaps, the oldest epic. A great king and a wild man - enemies turned friends. Gods kill the friend. King saves the country. First superhero?

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, translated by W. S. Kuniczak: Nero, Roman empire and persecution of the early christians. Love story and burning of Rome. Witty, imaginative, though long. Petronius rocks!

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Michael Glenny: There's Moscow, the master and his Margarita. A novel written and burnt. And there's the devil. Depressing to uproariously glorious satire.

NW by Zadie Smith: Four young adults living in London. Diverse lifestyles and troubles. Slow-paced and fast-moving. An insight into the urban British life.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: A teenage Japanese girl with troubled parents. A Canadian writer living in the wilderness. A washed-up diary. Evocative and immersing.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: Renegade rabbits in quest of a new home. To survive man, machine and predator. Hare-raising adventures. Politics! Not all rabbits are equal. ;)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Fables and analogies. Magic and madness. A hundred characters, stories and years. All jumbled up. The only novel ever left unfinished by me.

The next installment should contain the following works.
Elantris - Brandon Sanderson
Shardik - Richard Adams
With Their Backs to the World - Asne Seierstad, translated by Sindre Kartvedt
Stoner - John Williams
The Martian - Andy Weir
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
When the next installment might present itself is the real question ;).

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!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"I See You"

The screaming was screeching in its tone, yet faint. Distant as a background noise. Like a desperate, final cry before eternal silence could surround him. The silence never arrived. He knew the screaming was just in his mind. But it was more real than anything else. With a harsh gasp, as if he was surfacing above water after almost drowning, he opened his eyes.

Outer reality was calm. There was the ambulance siren, the expected bumpiness of the potholed roads, and the diffused amber street lights. But no noise. No traffic, no honking. The typical 4 AM. Keeping his head rigid, why he knew not, he scanned the interiors of the vehicle. Completely bare. The plank he felt below him was bare metal. A flimsy bedsheet, sourced from their house was all that kept the metallic coldness from seeping into him. Even the pillow supporting his neck was a piece of sponge that usually lay forgotten in a corner of the house. Where was the saline equipment, the oxygen masks, and all those other paraphernalia? Can this be called an ambulance? It was just a discarded shell of one.

The inside was becoming louder again. He knew he was sliding again. Sliding back. At least, this time, he was already lying down.


Surreal, yet ordinary. The bed wasn't surrounded by white or blue coats. No frantic discussions were being held above him. Of course, some needles had been poked and some sensors wired up to his chest, but all that kept him company now was the constant beeping behind his head. He could see five curtained chambers on the other side of the big hall. The large desk in centre, perhaps the nurses' station, was where a frantic debate seemed to be taking place.

“B positive, they tested thrice.”
“Medical history says O positive!”
“B positive...”

The beeping behind him had quickened somewhat. What happens if blood of the wrong group if transfused in? The beeping was louder. He had to see what it was about. How many of those machines were there, standing guard over him as robotic sentries? Careful not to disturb the arm that was hooked up, he tried to lift himself slightly to look around. The beeping quickened its pace. He could feel his heart beating faster. Was the beeping quicker because his heart had quickened, or did his heart quicken in response to the faster beep?

It was loud now, like an alarm. Quickly, he sank back, worried that they might come and castigate him for moving. But no one seemed to notice. Clearly, the beeping hadn't reached the stage that summoned attention like it always managed to do in those hospital-based television shows. His arm hooked up to the saline might have moved slightly. The coldness of the liquid seeping into his vein was more stark now. He could feel it flowing in, drop by drop.


8 AM. A female battalion in blue strode into view and stood in a line. Another battalion assembled itself from the far unseen corners of the room. The leaders approached each other and exchanged notes. One queen bee handing over responsibility of the hive to another. Allocations were done, and the new battalion moved into their stations. The previous ones gathered their things and, with their chattering taking on a sunny tone, disappeared.


Daylight, or no daylight, mornings were mornings. The buzz was more. Humans were more. Cleaners abound. Doctors could be sighted. But only one among the five beds on the opposite side of the hall stirred. These five beds were the only ones he could see. And only one among the visible five seemed capable of being conscious at will. The conscious one called out for the busy ward boy with authority and demanded his bed be raised so he could sit up. Clearly, he was a highly experienced comrade. A veteran of an inmate.


“Amma! Amma!”

Must be evening visiting hours. Even the visitors had to don the blue hospital gowns and masks over their faces. One per bed. Only one among the 4 unconscious beds received a visitor. A man with distraught eyes.

“Amma! Amma!”

The visitor patiently kept shouting into the unconscious ear. Was it more than a myth that coma patients are capable of hearing?

Another blue-clad visitor walked up to another unconscious bed. She settled comfortably on a stool nearby.

“Attamma, attamma!” She began her intonation too, though more gently than the other one.
Does the same person visit a patient every day or did all relatives take turns? To diligently visit every evening calling out their names, their nicknames, to retrieve them from their distant realities, and awaken their comas.


Darkened room simulated the outside night. The far corner of the five visible beds had attracted a gathering: all the nurses and both the doctors. Defibrillators made an appearance. The doctor held them up silently. Everyone stepped back silently. He placed them on the chest silently. He looked up silently. He removed them silently. He repeated the whole process, again silently. Everyone else stayed still. So the histrionics on TV shows when a patient ought to be revived -- the frantic movements, the shouts, the drama – are all perhaps just that. Dramatisation.

The only time the silence was broken was when the doctor announced the time.


New morning. A new body in the far corner bed. With a new attendant. With tears shimmering in his eyes, arms folded to avoid wringing, the son listened intently to the doctor. His face unabashedly displayed the pain within. The doctor, trying to be both professional yet sympathetic, focused on the explanation to avoid the emotion. Reluctantly, the attendant walked towards the exit with one final glance at the bed of his sleeping mother.

Presumably as soon as he left, the doctor shouted for the ward boy. He then began to angrily castigate the ward boy for daring to speak with the attendant, and probably giving him false information about the patient.

“NO ONE! No one is allowed to speak to the attendants except doctors. Not even nurses!”


“Arrre! Please!! Koi hai?”

Loud pleads in a crass voice broke his sleep. He looked to the source. An old man had replaced one of the unconscious comrades. And old man who was both conscious and seemingly in extreme discomfort.

“Arrre!! Evaranna!”

He kept calling out for anyone and everyone. But no one stirred. The nurses were all happily chatting with each other, the ward boys flirting with the maid, the doctor immersed in a file. The pain-ridden calls emanated, wafted through the room and dissipated through the roof without bothering anyone. How could all of the staff, who were otherwise so attentive, so blatantly ignore him?

Another doctor walked in.

“I'm dying! Bachaoo koi toh!”

Hearing the pleas, the new doctor threw a questioning look at the head nurse.

“That's the patient with the failed liver.”
“Oh! That guy. We could have put him in the ward but he just refuses medication!" 
“How long will the withdrawal last?”

The doctor just shrugged in response.


The phone rang in the middle of the night. The head nurse picked it up immediately. Then she walked up to him with a smile.

“Good news! Your room is ready.”

Being wheeled out, it was the first time he got to see the rest of the hospital. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The world 'not' through 'untinted' glasses

I remember when my eyes were renowned among local relatives for their sharpness. Or maybe they just praised me because I was a little kid.

I remember the year my eyes deteriorated to such an extent that I when I went for my first ever eye test, I couldn't even decipher the big A on the test-screen.

18 years later I no longer remembered what it was to be able to see without having the contraption constantly perched on my nose. When not so disinterestedly looking at the lists people made of the things they can't live without, or things they can't leave the house without, I used to think that if I ever bother with such a list, the top position would have to be taken by 'my glasses'.

And now, barely a month or two after the 'surgery', I'm so used to the new liberty that it feels like I never used to wear glasses at all! What this essentially tells us is that liberty is always underrated until it is experienced;)

Anyway ... let's make a list to denote the change :P

↑ Reaching for the glasses is no longer the first action upon waking up.
↑ No longer uncomfortable going for a haircut. I know now that the primary reason I used to find the experience daunting was because, having been forced to remove my glasses and going blind, I had to face the unknowns of what shenanigans were being played out above my head with my precious hair. But now, I can see!
↑ Being caught in rain no longer means suffering blurred vision through water laden glasses, but getting refreshed the most natural way ;).
↑ No longer do I have to put up with unusual refractions of light due to the dirt and finger-prints hosting lenses.
↑ No longer is the spare set of glasses the first thing to go into my bag when packing for a trip.
↑ Can actually consider going swimming or other 'watery' activities without going blind and without worrying about becoming that fool who waves at all the wrong people.
↑ Protecting my glasses no longer needs to be my top instinctive action when playing sports. Sigh, if I do actually play any more, that is .
↑ No longer do I need to avoid peering too closely into steaming food or bubbling liquids.
↑ If I were still in the UK, I would have written -- no longer would I have to temporarily go blind due to the rapid condensation on my glasses when I step indoors from the brutal cold outside.
↑  Can finally enjoy 3-D movies without getting a headache or being weighed down by the two sets of glasses (yet to try this out).

For the last one in today's list, a somewhat ironical liberty:
↑↑ Can buy sun-glasses and wear them without having to get them tailored first!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Let's go back to the start

Can't turn around
Can't hold on
Time keeps dragging me on
But I still am where I was

This is not the path for me
A path to nowhere
Would have taken a different turn
If only I had known ahead

Stuck in sinking sand
Grasping for a helping rope
Passers-by hurried by their burdens
No time to lend me hope

Let's go back to the start
Let me begin again
This time I'll not explore
And just follow the herd until decay.

Friday, January 31, 2014

ILL's well that ends WELL

We can think of health as denoted by a point on the x-axis. In that representation, -inf would be I suppose 'dead' :P, and +inf would be, err, superhuman? I suppose people who consider themselves reasonably healthy would lie on the positive side of the origin, and the sick people would be negative. I think I might be quite close to the origin now, but the direction of movement is never certain ;).

When we are ill, we become a somewhat different person to when we are not.
Before I become too well, I thought I better note down a few differences ... you know, before the memory gets blurred and becomes all rosy :P

Grey Power
£ It may not be a direct effect but caused transitively (less nutrition -> less Hb -> less blood/oxygen to the brain etc :P), but the mind becomes dull. Yes, truly. When faced with a reasonable puzzle, the challenge feels overwhelming. After more than a few seconds of focus, it would feel as if the brain is suffocating. You know, the mental equivalent of panting after a quick dash! Consumption would be simple and easy - reading, watching, listening. But if you are asked to produce something - write, talk, do etc - oh no, that's an impossible task.
+£ But if you are well, well, you do well! Sometimes you even amaze yourself and pat yourself on the back (if you are that good a contortionist :P)

Will Power
$ If you are not well, there is no will :P. If you seek to do something, your brain questions: 'What's the £*€%ing point?' And there is no good answer to that! Any effort seems invariable more than the possible fruits. So path of least effort makes most sense!
+$ If you are well and idle, well, there is always the itch. The itch to do something. It feels hard to just sit and stare and do nothing whatsoever. You will actually need the will to stay completely idle. Whereas, when ill, absolute inactivity used to be my favourite activity ;).

More Powers
€ The future feels tiring. Even making hypothetical plans for say travel, career, et al. feels unattractive. You don't even seek the so called pleasures of life. You just wish you weren't troubled by these silly things called aims, actions.
+€ But if you are well, you are eager for things. You'd want to see the world, own the world and all that.

A downside of being well, though, is that you are less tolerant of circumstances. You want and seek to make them better. I suppose that's what drives most of humankind :P

Does this mean I am getting back to blogging? It's been 7 months without a post. I suppose that's the longest hiatus this blog has ever had but I wasn't bothered about it, and I hope the blog bore the wait with patience too. I suppose we both (the blog and I, in case you were wondering :P) have matured into stoic beings that pretend to accept all circumstances with equanimity. Anyway, I didn't even attempt to post in this period because I seem to have lost the outlook that would lookout for events or incidents to document as a blogpost and neither was I ever possessed by that exact mood that used to make me spew out seemingly rhyming lines masquerading as poetry.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Year of Groundhog Days

Disclaimer: This post is not about scurrying animals.

The said year with groundhogging abilities was one whole year. But it wasn't a calendar year drably beginning on 1st Jan, or a financial/tax year that tends to commence in April for some reason, or even an academic one whose start date ranges from May to October (or more!) based on your affiliations. 

Introductions: The year of interest began and ended on 1st May (yes, this post is almost a month late, but then you weren't waiting for it, were you? :P ) when I completed an year of moving back to India. And no, I do not condone it being called Labour Day year - it was, after all, an year that was the complete anti-thesis of labour or effort of any kind. There were days when I didn't have a clue of what day it was, but was also not sure what month it was! While you try to follow the annoyingly repeating transitions between Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and so on, July turns into August without even bothering to notify you! How are you ought to keep up with the vagaries of the calendar when days could just be exchanged for one another? Every day, be it weekday, weekend, or month-end, presented the same routine: sleep, use interwebs, wake up, read paper, watch TV, read book & ponder nothing, in some order or other.

But like any good research result, there were enough exceptions and conditions to the groundhogging ability of the year that need to be listed, thus enabling me to extend this post from a short sweet paper into a long dreary one.

Excursions into the Kitchen: Though those familiar with my physique may not find it credible (or the sniggering ones may find it extra credible), but I used to cook on a fairly regular, almost daily, basis while in the Soton. The tidy bright smartly-arranged kitchen of my flat used to make it an agreeable experience. So having returned to parents' home, here in Hyderabad, and lounging in the bedroom for many many months, I slowly started making small furtive excursions to the kitchen. But the experiences seem to be indicating that I am not supposed to be cooking here. While back in my kitchen in Soton, though rarely confused with the unmarked containers, I could easily differentiate the cumin powder from the coriander power with a sniff or two. But here, to obtain the coriander powder from the shelf, I had to tackle not just cumin, but a couple of tea powders (okay, I admit those were easy to distinguish), some masala powder, some other masala powder, perhaps some rasam powder, some other powder that didn't seem to belong to the kitchen, and some other masala powder. I failed. So I had to contend with limiting my dish to just plain old salt, turmeric, and chilli powder. I was later informed that what I used wasn't plain old chilli powder, but some 'masala chilli' powder :P. Oh, and I was also informed later that it wasn't my olfactories that failed me while identifying coriander powder. How could one expect to find it when it wasn't even in the kitchen, but stored in the refrigerator outside! 

Excursions to the Outside: After 6 months of barely stepping out of the house arrived the month of November. It came pledged with the mission of not letting me be. After all, how can I be in India for half a year and not yet have relived the pleasures of a train journey, it seemed to have been wondering. So first it whisked me off to Bangalore which, despite tall claims, was only as cool as Hyderabad but with more traffic. I returned and barely got my lethargy back that I ended up in Chennai, and then Puducherry. Both were balmy but the cuisine was a welcome change, and the company was patently idiosyncratic. And then, towards the end of the month, I found myself in Kakinada. No idea why. I am still trying to figure out how I ended up there. 

With the arrival of the new year (the calendar one, not financial/academic etc :P), a car drive to Tenali was planned that I couldn't wiggle out of. And as the summer started hotting up in March, I decided to gain respite by going back to Bangalore using up some free, about to expire, airmiles. Plan worked out fine, but the supposedly pleasant weather of the city betrayed me. It was just as hot as in Hyderabad! And with more traffic, did I mention that?  

Incursions to the Inside: The first four months of life back here were qualitatively bland, especially the food. You know, all those jokes about 'palatability' of hospital food that we keep hearing? Well, those weren't sounding funny to me any more. Anyhow, with the passing of August arrived the Haleem season. After so many years, I was in Hyderabad for the haleem month and how could I not consume it at least on an alternate day basis?! So out went the food restrictions and medical advice, and in came the glorious delicacy. And I felt better ;). And my logical reasoning system started enforcing itself. If I can have a mutton and wheat mash and still remain alive, then why not test with some chicken too? And why deny fish?! And if the wheat had not exactly killed me, then perhaps some parathas may be risked sometimes. Why stop at parathas, why not puris? Well, if we are indeed venturing into the deep-fried matters, then the occasional pakodas won't be of much harm, would they? And so on, on a weekly basis, a dietary restriction was chucked out the window, and a new joy added back to the culinary life. And it did help me get better. Well, at least, my mood was becoming less sour ;).

I think the post is now long enough to not be considered short, so I will save us further trouble and conclude it here (But of course, you can always ping me for more detailed ramblings :P).

Conclusions: Nothing to say here. I just wanted to have this section because it conveniently rhymes with Excursions and Incursions.

PS -- "So, how are you feeling nowadays?" - the more concerned ones among you may feel obliged to ask. "Better than May '12," I would say, even though the quantifiable parameters are still stuck at May '12 levels :).

Friday, March 22, 2013


Staring at the little window in the corner.
It says ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
ABC is typing
ABC has entered text
But appears no text.
Lost to the interwebs?


The warmth prickles
Fingers tremble in withdrawal
Fever looks up in sorrow
Carer leaves for the morrow.


Jostling each other
Bristling with honks of urgency
The vehicles stray everywhere
Like ants bereft of a nest.


Where is
The cool breeze promised,
The pleasant shade assured,
The soft grass proffered,
The eternal peace imagined?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twitter-Compliant Book Reviews

For unreasoned reasons, I had developed the habit of posting short reviews of the books I read (which mostly tended to be of the novel types). However, on account of persistent bouts of laziness, the habit seemed to have gone on a sabbatical. The list of books read kept growing longer and the review task more and more daunting. But yesterday, enlightenment struck and an easy solution presented itself: reviews in 140 chars or less. So here they are!

The Art of Fiction by David Lodge: 50 chapters on the various aspects of a novel using extracts. The styles, nuances and methods behind the beauty. Wonderful authors exampled.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: Based in New Jersey, Dominican Republic and screwed up minds. Multiple first-person narrators. Peek into a different form of life and lingo.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed HanifDark humour. Hilarious and sad simultaneously. Features a plot to kill the Pakistani dictator by a gay military officer. Mangoes not harmed.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: A portrait of (mainly) urban India after independence. The search for a suitable boy is merely a sub-plot. 1400++ pages of delightful prose.

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham: Non-fiction! Not about hacking or painting. Many cool insights. Programming and startup experiences recounted. And about life and the world.

Transmission by Hari Kunzru: Below-par. Depressed Indian IT security hacker in US. A pompous CEO in London. Bollywood shooting in Scotland. Global havoc by a virus. Bah!

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi: A fantastical mix of mythology, history and culture. Writing style is passable and the plot decent but the references are quite imaginative.

Known Turf by Annie Zaidi: Non-fiction! Quirks from the forgotten depths of rural India. About the callousness, contrasts and complications. With some wit and humour.

Cloud Road by John Harrison: Travelogue! Trek and bus from Equator to Machu-Pichu along Inca roads. History, reality, archaeology and architecture. Donkeys and poverty.

The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair Maclean: Hollywood thriller in a book form. F1 races, blown up cars, secret agents and a heady rush. Enough action and plot-holes to make it a movie.

Room by Emma Donoghue: A 5 year old narrator. Was always only in a room and then not. A bit presumptuous, but spellbinding. Gripping and intense. Well thought-out.

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi: To be read only after The Immortals of Meluha. More of the mythological and historical references. Many more twists in the plot. More filmy.

Aah, that's all for today. More reviews should be written but they will be written later. The forthcoming include Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde (obviously), Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, Quo Vadis by the difficult-to-spell Polish author and so on...