Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fall from the summit of pride!

In a place where I smile but without joy,
Where I live but without life,
Where I walk but on fiery sidewalks,
Where even the air refuses to enter the soul,
And the chillness dries out the tears;
The Sun shines heavily but,
No warmth I can feel around me;
No shoulder to talk to and where,
Courtesy comes at a cost.
Is this how death feels? I ask myself.
No malady seems greater,
Than what is the present state.
The land is so foreign it confused me,
And sent my principles to hell.
Solitude took me prisoner,
And I it.
A prince turned vagabond, 
A fakir in disguise I was.

Thought I set out to find God, but
Instead took advice from the devil.
The mind wandered to dark places,
Against my will and control was futile.
I misread, missed my way and went astray,
Talked when I should have been silent,
Thought when I should have slept.
In a moment of fit, threw up a tantrum when, 
An unsuspecting angel,
Got caught in the crosshairs;
Its wings singed and pride injured.
Unable to help for fear of further injuring,
I stood there and my head bowed until,
I realized that it was no less than a death blow.

No amount of excuse would suffice,
To repair what has been undone.
A thousand births I would take
For the sole purpose of redemption.
But even that feels undeserved, because
The greatest sin is betrayal of trust.
How could I ever bring myself to reconcile this?

I lost the moral ground of which I have
Always be too proud of.
May be this is God’s way of telling,
“You are not as prefect as you think.”
To proud to realize how blessed I was before,
It is now all ruined.
There is no more hope.

Dare I say, that one day in the future
I can face my creator and seek forgiveness!
I will trade Him the benefits of all my good deeds,
In return for my guardian angel’s restoration;
Free it of all scars, past and present,
So that it may emerge,
Once again in all its glory and pride!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Mumbled Prayer

You must have heard or seen these statements at some point in your road life; ‘Don’t drink and drive’, ‘Drive safely because someone is waiting for you at home’, ‘Alert today, Alive tomorrow’, ‘Do not mix drinking and driving’, ‘No belt, No brains’, ‘No safety, Know pain’ and many more. Well, these are some examples of the coercive, emotional, passive aggressive, sarcastic and pun-filled carefully crafted ad slogans that transport departments across the world use to warn road users to stay safe. 

I don’t know about other countries but in India such messages mainly play the role of placing the onus on the road users to stay safe rather than honestly caring for road users; some elected officials deliver this hypocrisy personally in radio advertisements. Have you ever heard of an ad saying ‘Avoid the potholes or you will be dead’, ‘This road may kill you because there is poor lighting’, ‘No signals, use at your own risk’, ‘By using this road you accept the risk of dying and your kin can sue the contractor or rain for it’ and the answer is obviously ‘no’; No government officer will incriminate himself because that will be honest and stupid and honesty is the last thing you expect from a public servant and stupid they are not.

We can debate at length about how much each human, vehicle, road maintenance, victim and environmental factor contributes to the death and injury tolls that occur due to road traffic accidents (read here) but unilaterally accusing human factors in media campaigns may not help much. I have thought about this for a long time now but have learnt to accept the fact and ignore the possibilities.

Alright, let’s come to the point. My wife. She is a thing of peculiar habits. I cannot tell you about all but I’ll discuss one relevant habit today. Every morning when I leave for work, she accompanies me to the gate and sees me off till my car exits her line of sight. She has been at it since our marriage and so far I have ‘unsuccessfully’ discouraged her from doing so as she has many other important things to take care of in those busy morning hours.

I thought she was being sentimental but did not tell her for fear of hurting her feelings and did not bother her anymore. I did not put much thought into her 5-minute bustle either. As time flew by her behavior grew upon me and I almost became dependent on it; I would not leave unless she stood there at the gate and waved me goodbye. I don’t know why but maybe it just became a conditioned reflex!

Accepting the defeat of not being able to stop her fastidiousness, I gave into her and started observing her more intently during that 5-minute encounter between entering the car and driving off. This is when I realized that she was almost ritualistically following this protocol. She would do all the girly stuff, close my door and then mumble something, keeping her eyes on me all the time. I don’t think she noticed me noticing her (to this minute she is blissfully unaware, I guess). Many a time, I wanted to ask her what she mumbled every day while sending me off but refrained myself because I didn’t want to startle her and modify whatever she was doing (a truly observational study).

In fact, I did not have to ask her because I knew exactly what she was uttering so softly with such passion and commitment that you can see in a 3-year-old trying to eat an ice-cream without spilling. I most certainly think that she was praying to the gods (no, the God - she is a strict monotheist) to keep me safe on the highways of death.

I can’t say if god has the power to prevent road traffic accidents but governments surely do. I don’t drink and drive (because I don’t drink), I always wear seatbelts, I never drive in the opposite lane, I never cross speed limits, I maintain my car, I pay my taxes (in the hope that better roads will be built) and I follow all (well, almost all because I too am a human) the rules. I may not have been the best of drivers but I have strived to be better. But if the non-me factors such as the surprise pothole nightmare, the stressed bus driver who took on the added responsibility of population control, the malfunctioning signal, the signage lack, the corruption, the lack of political will and the bureaucratic apathy are not taken care of, what am I supposed to do?!

Even without any media campaigns advising me to be responsible for my safety on the roads, there is one thing that will keep me safe always; whenever I feel the urge to make a rash decision on the road I will be reigned in by the memory of the passionate face that utters the mumbled prayer.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mom, Sudoku and Women Empowerment

The conventional south Indian housewife, of which my mom is a typical example, didn't care much about leisure time activity options, because the modern marvel TV has made it easy for them all. The Box has been her true friend with all the tearing sop operas and scintillating news items it provided her constantly. Her afternoons were spent either pitying the poor silver screen daughter-in-law or awe-stricken at the latest divorce of the famous movie star. But in the last couple of years, the TV has failed to get my mom's attention, and my father remains the sole user of the remote. So what about other leisure time activity options.

For a regular housewife the newspaper doesn't hold much charm beyond the interruption of power/water supply info the third page provides. But my mom was anything but regular. Beneath that veil of a housewife disinterested in the more intellectual ways of the world, she had her own convictions about the working of the universe and everything in it. Even when sobbing for the unfortunate daughter-in-law, she would casually browse to the more serious news channels and update herself with the happenings, albeit less frequently and less intensively than Obama. Her focus was on middle east developments, national politics, the USA, the teardrop at the tail of India, origin of religions and their interconnections with science, of course Mugals, how can she forget the Mugals and lastly but not leastly the bullion rates. For such a woman, the newspaper must surely hold more as a leisure time activity. So which portion of the news would interest her more, there is the science page, the local politics page, the national politics page, the international page, the editorials, or the least likely sports page.

One afternoon when I was incidentally at home, I observed that in her room there was the newspaper wide open, with a pencil and rubber parked on it. I thought that these accessories had no earthly business there, 'cause there was no child in the house who would be using them. After some time I saw her entering her room with a vengeful look on her face and I thought she was probably going to relax for a while and by relaxing I mean, sleeping. 

Later that day I was informed by my father that solving the new math game that the papers are running on the last page has caught her attention. The game was a 9X9 Sudoku puzzle with different levels of difficulty represented by number of stars, one star for easy and five stars for a difficult level. So that explains the pencil and the rubber. She continues at it for hours at a time until she solves it. She began doing the easier ones and used to check with the answers that came in next day's issue. Slowly but steadily she has reached the four star level. It drives her crazy that she takes a long time to solve them difficult ones. But she is determined. No man in the house would dare to disturb her while she is at it, solving away the squares, constantly rubbing off her errs. Ever since every afternoon instead of sobbing or being bedazzled by sensationalism, she now retires to her room with the newspaper, pencil and rubber and strives to win the battle against the cunning and evil Sudoku. After she has won she awaits the man of the house to come home to proclaim to him what 'star' level she had conquered today. 

She has become so obsessed with this that I guess she must probably be thinking of the foe the next day paper is going to bring her before she says her bedtime prayer. It is only a matter of time that she conquers them all and becomes the modern Chengis Khan. Only time would tell us that after this conquest what leisure time activity is going to pick her interest.

Occasionally the unexpected, unthinkable and unimaginable things happen. Today universal women empowerment may seem a distant reality, an ideal that will never happen. But slowly and steadily women will achieve their dream and the world will be a much happier place than it is today. I pray and believe.

Random transmissions on research

Investigation of a paradox is the most likely path to a scientific breakthrough, that cannot be achieved by mundane explorations of the ordinary. Likewise, it is the weird people who add spice to life as the routine ones take away from it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Capital - 1.The Political Game Changer: aka Piyaaz!

This is the first chapter in this series and the topic for discussion was destined even before this idea was born. It had to be about the food. Nothing else could be thought of as being so mysterious and archaic about the north Indian food to the southee and vice versa. So there you go. Enjoy your meal.

Eating out in Delhi is a custom that is common to all metros. Mostly because the unmarried and educated working lads and gals do not have time to cook after a hectic day at work. The wealthy, usually afford a cook. But for post-grad-medico-students like us eating out is a routine act. It's usually the hostel mess, or the roadside dhaba and rarely the proper 'restaurant'.

Often I go out with my northee lads to such eateries. In the initial days, I wouldn't care less if someone asked for some piyaaz before ordering the meal itself or if someone asked for more piyaaz during a meal. By the way piyaaz is Hindi for onion or venkayam. Here in north, people use only the bigger version of the vegetable, I doubt that they would be even aware of the smaller variety that is so commonly used in the south and which is much more tastier (so says my mom!). Back to the hotel scene, as time grew I found myself wondering if this behaviour is normal. NO!! was the answer my brain immediately sprang at me. As any southee would tell you, eating raw piyaaz is a big no-no as it makes your breath go stale. It is true actually. However, the northee would almost obsessively and instantly look to chuck down a bunch of piyaaz springs down that throat, almost reflexively. The habit is so pervasive that they may have meal without water but not without piyaaz, even kids are affected. But, hey! who am I to judge?, they also drink sambar in a glass with spoon. 

Ever wondered why there is so much political conniption when the piyaaz prices go up. It has always been my inexplicable mystery while growing up down south. Political parties take to the road, agitating against the government, accusing each other over hoarding, poor crop management and illegal exports. Recently in Delhi, the ruling party was staging a 'road roko' for the rise. Confusing, isn't it? It would be even for the seasoned economist if he wasn’t a local. The mystery finally unfolded, and I had to come to the Capitol for the answer. Piyaaz is so entwined in the northee cuisine and so ingrained in their taste buds, that it is almost equivalent to the breathing air for them. If you ask me for a southee equivalent, I would probably think for a while and still I would come up with a few competing answers, no unanimous winner. History shows us that piyaaz holds to the key to government, here at least in the north. It has the power to make or break The Government. In my opinion, piyaaz symbolizes the true spirit of democracy in a country where common symbols are uncommon.

I must confess now, that after three years I have taken a liking to the piyaaz, as a symbol of unity, as a vegetable and as a revolutionary. However I miss the taste of small onions and the rice broth that goes along well with it.

The Wait on Valentine's Day.

Light from the screen of her mobile phone lit up the tear that had just landed on it and made it look like a pearl. She was trying to sleep but the dark room didn't help much, as did the moonlight casting a shy shadow of the window across her face. She awaited a call from him. “Or at least a text”, she thought. It was more than a minute into the day celebrated as Valentine’s Day. Deep down in her heart she knew that he did not truly love her and he was just performing a duty to her. But nonetheless she waited and expected. What is the loss anyway; they were bound together by the holy bond. Her logic tried to convince her heart that he would not call her, but her heart kept on believing in the impossible. The battle between the two lead to more tears and the fatigue had finally caught up. She fell asleep.

Throughout the day the battle continued. She kept checking her inbox and call logs. But there was no sign of love in the signal. The day was almost nearing its end as was her hope. The battle reached an impasse and she had almost given up. Probably he is busy at work, or his phone is not working or maybe it’s the poor network, she continuously thought of reasons to explain the non-event. However, she was consciously avoiding that particular reason which was possibly true.

She declared that enough waiting had taken place and vowed not to check her phone anymore. She switched it off and tried to concentrate on other things around her. But no matter how hard she tried, her heart kept imaging the impossible and imprisoned her thoughts like the bird in a cage. Every song on the TV, every hero in the movie and every scene in the day had his image all over. It was too much to bear.

She succumbed. She frantically switched on her phone and…

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Capitol: As seen by 'southern' eyes (coming soon...)

I plan to write a series of notes on incidents that occur in the day to day life of a common Delhiite that many south Indians esp. Tamils, find peculiar and goofy, and worthy enough to document here. These observations are only meant to be an archive of such goofiness, but by no means exhaustive. Since these observations are only mine, they might have to validated by concomitant comments. 

Disclaimer: The data provided here shall not be used for scientific research purposes without prior permission. Also, if anyone feels offended I would like to tell them that I am neither a naive nationalist nor a radical regionalist. It is only an attempt to document the cultural nuances of one party by another party representative in the true spirit of cultural exploration.