Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Motor Of The World

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost (Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening)

While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
Dying to believe in what you heard,
I was staring straight, into the shining sun.
Pink Floyd (Coming Back To Life)

And she said, We are all just prisoners here, of our own device...
...Relax, said the Nightman, We are programmed to receive.
You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!
The Eagles (Hotel California)

To seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

It was the only thing I ever really wanted. And that's the sin that can't be forgiven--that I hadn't done what I wanted. It feels so dirty and pointless and monstrous, as one feels about insanity, because there's no sense to it, no dignity, nothing but pain--and wasted pain....Katie, why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.
- Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead)


Disclaimer: End of the year puts me in the mood for a confessional.

The Longest Year Ends

The year is ending. Common conceptions require us to start afresh. Begin anew and learn from the misdeeds, the pain and the failures of the past twelve months. Be thankful for your joys and resolve to be a better person next year. I wonder what I have learned this year. What joys and what resolutions?

I am thankful for having a best friend when I needed her (and this role was essayed by two different people in different times of the year).

I am glad I started this blog.

I regret that I inflicted my own needs on those I should have thought of first.

I am glad I chose my career.

I am thankful for having so many friends who care.

I regret holding on when I should have let go.

I am glad for Pink Floyd. And Hotel California.

I am glad I read The Fountainhead.

I have realized that all things change.

There are several ways I could look back on the past year. But I don’t really understand what to make of it. I have learned so much that I don’t appreciate or comprehend.

I’ll sit alone tonight. I’ll think about this and ponder over other things. Have I been wrong all this time? I think too much, I dream too much. I have been sourly cynical, and then irrationally romantic. I want things to be simple, even if sad. There’s a lot to be sad for and a lot to celebrate. What I dislike most is not knowing whether to be happy or sad. I don’t like this confusion.

Its been such a long year. I’m tired.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Knew It! Bart Is Me!

Now, I normally dont do this. But saw it on the site, and just couldn't resist. Give it a shot. I loved the questions!

You Are Bart Simpson

Very misunderstood, most people just dismiss you as "trouble."

Little do they know that you're wise and well accomplished beyond your years.

You will be remembered for: starring in your own TV show and saving the town from a comet

Your life philosophy: "I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I enjoyed it, and I don't know why I'll do it again!"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yesterday Was Christmas

Yesterday was Christmas. Well ok, of course you know that.

I went wandering hither and thither along Park Street, watching the lights and the festivities. The whole city descending down to one thoroughfare, to absorb the spirit of Christmas. The roads were packed stiff with cars, and taxis and autos. The pavements were packed stiff with people. Typical everyday families of one moderately frustrated parent, one jolly skipping-like-the-high-heels type and a little tyke being pulled in this direction and that to see the collective humanity of Kolkata out in their best. There were couples, finally being able to walk hand in hand without everyone else staring (hand in hand walking became quite a necessity really, seeing how easy it was to be carried away elsewhere in the crowd).

You could start off walking from Chowringhee towards Flury’s and not make any progress even after 10 minutes. The waves of people walking the other way simply took you in their flow. Atleast that’s what happens to me. I usually look at people. When I’m walking down a street, instead of buildings or the cars, I like to see the people going to work, or play in groups or alone. Its an observational musing sort of thing. I saw innocent happiness, and an unblemished contented joy in the throng. And that seeped into me.

I went to the New Market area, looking beautiful and decorous inspite of filth and dirt on the roads. I walked around Scoop, and saw it filled, all families inside. A band was playing popular music outside in an alley, with a large growing circle of people gathering around. The vocalist appropriately took on Phiriye Dao, and charged the crowd upto near madness. In no time, everyone was jumping up and down and singing in chorus.

The city was…resonating. Resonating with the sights and sounds of Christmas being celebrated in a primarily non-Christian city, solely for the joy of celebration and as an excuse to holiday and rejoice. Resonating with excited, laughing, squealing, happy voices absorbed in a million conversations or in wondrous amazement at the lights and decorations garlanding the pavements. I made my way through the throng in a happy warm daze.

Park Street was glowing with lights hung above. Flury’s was overcrowded with a queue extending outwards in double form. The pavements were packed to capacity. It was all a bit like Brigade Road in Bangalore on any goddamn day (I swear those Bangaloreans have nothing to do), but so much better. This mighty throng here was not a posh crowd of disco-goers or barstoolers. These were all kinds of people here. Rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, tall and short. There were families of different sizes, couples of all age-groups, friends, loners. All happy, smiling and content.

I basked in a strange alien feeling the few minutes I spent on Park Street. All of us who choose to gyrate at discotheques and inane parties instead don’t know what we’re missing. It’s the spirit of Christmas. I wish someone was singing carols somewhere. I would have sung right along.


Note (31/12/2006): But I bow to this tribute here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back In Circulation. However...

My end-sem vacations have started, finally. Last morning, I returned finally to good ol' Calcutta. As I stepped out of the airport, I took my first long breath of Calcutta morning air after 4 months. Having to cough it out again didnt help the scene much, but never mind that. Once again, I see the familiar littered streets, the pollution perenially hanging in the air, the F1 buses and the hawkers. It feels a little out of place from Manipal, yet oddly settling.

But the joie de vivre of return has already been accursed. I'm ill. I've been diseased. Not some easy to ignore or empathize with type of cold or cough or coma, but a proper debilitating and shaking-the-foundations-of-whatever kind of illness. The first semester at Manipal has slowly infected my system, and killed off the one force I always believed I would have in me.

How do I say it? Its embarassing. But I can't find a cure by myself. What am I to do? All inputs and valuable suggestions are called for. I need to find a cure, lest this become a permanent disability. I will be destroyed if it is. I know that for sure. People, what am I to do? I can't watch television! There it is! I said it! Why do you turn away in shock? Or is it revulsion? Please don't. Help me.

TV holds absolutely no charm for me anymore! I can't flick through channels at warp-speed, as I used to. I dont watch inane advertisements of people crying over house-painting. I dont laugh at the news. I dont watch the much broohaha-ed highlights of classic cricket matches. Am I cursed forever?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Steadfast And Strong : A Mess Story

Things, in general, are divided into 2 categories. There are things I can do, and there are things I cannot do. Alternatively, you could also choose to divide them into things I like to do, things I do not like to do, and things I don’t much care for either way (i.e. you force/bribe/provoke/interest me, and I might do them).

This, however, was a thing that belonged to the negative side of both the categorizations. It was a thing I could not do, and it was a thing I didn’t like doing. But it was something that I needed to do. So to say, it needed being done. It wouldn’t do to not do it. I had to do it. It was imperative, vital and necessary. Even mandatory. And compulsory.

Like bitter medicine.

Which also describes the food.

See, here’s the thing. I’ve been at Manipal for 4 months. And I’ve been eating all my meals at the resident hostel mess. There are several good-quality private messes scattered here and there and everywhere, but till the 1st semester your resident mess is supposed to be quite adequate.

We’d been sticking to the mess like good boys. But one day, out we ventured. And after that nothing was the same anymore. When after a gap of 3 months, you finally again have rotis which bear actual resemblance to what a standard roti is supposed to look like, and dals which actually taste like something, its tough to not go back. We went again and again.

I’d think, how does our mess really run? The food is bad. Nothing looks like anything familiar. The taste of good food is supposed to come substantially from its aroma. The food there doesn’t smell of anything. The roti is nothing like one. Its big, rubbery and if you hold it up, flour comes down like as if its suddenly snowing. The service is negligible. Nobody is serving you, and no one caters to any personal food requests. Hmm…

So I concluded it runs on fear. It runs on a person’s primary concern for his own safety and self-respect. On that what can also be described as every human’s first instinct to want to keep his dignity and pride. It works simply on that one unfair premise - that a fresher does not want to be caught outside in initial ragging months in the midst of a gang of feeding seniors, however good the food.

And here’s the thing. We hadn’t left our purana mess membership. And we were being charged doubly now – the money we paid across the counter at the private messes, and the fixed bill at our mess. And I couldn’t do the necessary thing.

Everyone else did it soon enough. It was obvious and practical. It made no sense to continue this way. But I’m a tad emotional about such things. Days went by and I couldn’t do it. Then finally, I took Pratik along with me to push me from behind lest my legs give way before the journey be complete.

Basically, here’s the thing. We had to leave the mess, but we’d keep our breakfast option because it made sense to have that meal close by in the rush-rush morning time. As simple as that. And I couldn’t do it. As I walked down with Pratik, my mind went back to the day we took membership of this mess. I had come with my father. The mess-guy had calmly explained the process of mess fees and the facilities offered by the mess. He had smiled at me, and assured us of good quality healthy food. His eyes radiated kinship, trust and a fatherly affection in this new land I had come to. I had eaten there for 3 months, and been member for four. So many times I had smilingly asked him to make more khichdi, because it was a lot like Kolkata. So many times he had smilingly said it was not possible to make it more than once a week. So many times I had walked past him and given him a smile. I remembered all the weekly juices and chocolate shakes I had had, and all the special (i.e. edible) dishes they gave every other day for lunch. All these memories came flooding into my mind.

Mess-guy was an old man – short, pudgy, with large thick glasses that magnified his eyes. For some reason, mess-guy always seemed to be a brooding and emotional person to me, about to burst into tears any second now. And that’s why I couldn’t do it. How would I face him, I asked myself? How would I say I wanted to leave his mess and eat elsewhere? That I couldn’t eat the things they gave us under the guise of food? That, basically, his mess sucked and I’d had enough of it?

I imagined his face at that instant. The magnified eyes welling up with magnified tears. The slow but sure throbbing at his temples before his genial face contorted violently in a burst of deep emotion. Would it be like that? Or would he just face me silently, his silent eyes looking up at me with unspoken questions flung at my integrity and loyalty. He had received several cancellations before, and had probably learned to accept these repeated blows. Now I would be giving him one.

I reached his desk. I gulped and almost took half a step back, when Pratik gave me a final push forward.

Sir…I want to leave your mess and eat elsewhere from now on. I cant eat this..I mean..err…I just want to leave the mess. *pause* Oh, but I want to retain my breakfast membership.

*a seemingly long and pregnant pause as mess-guy looked up and realized someone was saying something*

Ok. What’s your registration number? Hmm..Alright. Done.


A bit anti-climactic I know. But it was nevertheless a very nerve-wracking period of my life. This ordeal ended, my life seems less knotted, if you know what I mean. I eat elsewhere in peace, without the constant feeling that a pair of very large eyes are staring at me accusingly from above.

Afterword: The group of ours has now been reduced to a nomadic life, roaming hither and thither for food at the different messes on a pay-and-eat basis. We belong to no one. A bit like lone rangers, we like to think of it as. It’s cool.