Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Khamoshi khud meri sadaa ho

Silence is the Way, He says.

But the way to Silence is chaotic, I find.
Like a recalcitrant, protesting child being hushed, patted, cajoled, murmured into quiescence.
Losing immediate fodder for its grind, the mind digs deeper, and brings up older, forgotten layers.
"I thought we were done with that," I thought in dismay, when it brought forward an old, particularly nasty aspect. I slept lightly, woke up in the small hours and remembered - uncharacteristically - every dream that had segued into the next in a playlist from my hell.

But it was good. A sensation lingered between the brows throughout. I got a few shelves cleaned, repaired a few garments... and I have the trick now.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

On Kriya

I left abruptly back then, do accept my apologies
Time was of the essence however, notwithstanding my sorrys

‘Kriya’, I said, and I see you blink
Why, I can positively hear you think

If you be as sharp as I think you be, you fasten on to that word
‘What manner of creature is this’, you ask, ‘what mammal, what bird?!’

A kriya, mon amis, is a process, an internal action
One, we believe, will bring a positive reaction.
As I do it – this is the hope – the mind will quieten
And spur me on to higher things, namely, Ultimate Liberation.

But let me dwell now on the exactitude that is needed
For you must be very correct indeed, if you will so be kneaded.
The kriya requires a precondition that goes by a name
“Empty Stomach Condition” – yeah, that’s the game.
A mere four hours after a meal will achieve it
But easier said than done, my friends, oh, do believe it.
As I countdown to the ES Condition
I must refrain from unthinking ingestion
Elevenses, snacking, munch, nibble – every such word
Is banished from your life, you’re forever altered!

And then you must be quite on the dot
To do the practice with the precision of a bot.
Should you delay, demur or procrastinate
Do you imagine your hunger pangs will abate?
No, au contraire, it often happens, as you linger
Hunger goes on to gain strength, rendering you asunder!
Still you must persist, pursue and persevere
It does not behove a yogi to baulk at circs. severe
A few hours of fasting – pooh! one must snap
One’s fingers at paltry travails and such crap
So it is much better, I say, to go by the ping-ping
Just do it on time than endure the whole damn thing.


I said this day on my facebook home page,
in reverential homage to Another:
Season 9, Ep 11: How I Met Your Mother.
Whosoever wrote it: you simply ROCK, birather!

A whole episode in rhyme, they said, and bedtime stories three
With a bus journey thrown in, why, simply, just like that, for free!

The baby Marvin will not sleep unless he is crooned to in rhyme
So we chuckled, we heard Marshall spin it out, and yes, we kept time.

It has inspired me, so it has; I find doggerel infinitely amusing.
So I’ll go on a bit, don’t mind me, tho’ you find it bemusing.

How long we’ll go on we cannot say, difficult to predict
As far as the mood lasts, or the habit is kick’t.

But I go off right now, off to do my kriya
I have to time it right, you see, or it’ll cost me dear.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Terrace survey

So fatigued by my social network timelines, the various issues, the stridency and the hullabaloo. Have we become even more chronically agitated than we used to be a decade ago? It feels that way.

Tired of being cooped up, I went upstairs to my terrace just now, hoping to spot the golden oriole that comes to sit on the cotton tree some evenings. It didn't put in an appearance but a shikra gave me the fly-by, and I saw green bee-eaters do that winter thing they do.

Overhead, I sensed small whirrs, and saw two shiny kites amicably whizzing about. Being held on a roof somewhere two or three houses to our right. I was glad it was two and not one - flying a kite by oneself is such a lonely business.

The coconuts are doing well. The tree drops one or two at judicious intervals (and considerately, when no one is underneath). Happily, the next crop is being readied too. We had two coconut trees at one time and when they did nothing interesting at all, someone decided they needed a fillip. Some fertiliser was introduced and they both reacted rather drastically. One died and the other shot up by a few feet in a month.

As I looked down to see if there were any lemons on the shrub that I'd missed from ground level, a frond of jasmine put its tentacles on my arm in the most friendly way. No buds or flowers at this time, but you know, just saying hello.

Then the mosquitoes came out and I came down. That's all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New days

I have made a few resolutions these past weeks – a promise to behave better. To break patterns, to haul myself out of ruts, to be aware... to consciously break habits, to be more alive than I let myself be.

It is not easy. You see, I like ruts. Warm, cosy places. So deep, so reliable, so always. The force needed to affect this inertia is substantial, often more than I’m willing to apply. But it must be done. The rut is not my home. I refuse to die there. Absolutely refuse to do that. So I must move. Keep moving till I come to a stillness.

So I try again every day. Some days are better than others. Some days are worse. But it will not do to exult or despair. There is no point in wasting time on such reactions. There is nothing to do but keep at it. But over time a trend will emerge, I think. More better days than worse ones. And THAT will become a habit, then second-nature. But in calling it second-nature, I make the mistake of taking it for acquired behaviour – such consciousness is, in fact, a return to my first-nature. Chidananda roopah shivo’ham shivo’ham...

So to replace Ann K Schwader’s seasonal haiku...
slow rain —
losing myself in
birdbath circles

...I put up Cynthia Puntil’s hopeful one:
another sunrise
a chance to do the things
I could have done before

Monday, October 28, 2013


I'm feeling 'chiti-chiti'. That's what we onomatopoeically say in Kannada -- it's a word that describes the crackle of mustard in hot oil, a word for a mood where you scatter just as effectively at the mildest pressure.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Links: Missing links and Other Things

I can’t go wrong today, it seems. Every day brings exhortations from my social media timelines – links that lead to news, videos, cat videos, absorbing views, activism, personal photo albums... the lot. Today, link after link led to gold, so I’m just collating it all.

First thing in the morning, my friend Samanth Subramanian’s most excellent and moving essay about his grandfather, whom he says he didn’t question closely enough when he was alive. (I find that shocking – Samanth has at least half a dozen questions for anyone.) But now with the man himself obscured by death, Samanth tries to make ‘forensic guesses’ about his grandfather’s life, to build a sketchy biography, and a tribute.

He says: “There is some complicated guilt here too, lurking in the corner but unavoidable. I have felt as if I am personally responsible for rupturing traditions that run back many generations and that are still alive, to some extent, in the person of my father... under my uncaring stewardship, a certain continuity has snapped, and a vast body of inherited knowledge has suddenly and irreversibly decayed.”

How this resonates with me! Particularly since my mother’s death, I find myself stupidly at a loss – and feel many pangs over this heritage that could have been mine if I had only respected, valued it more. Between my grandmother’s lifestyle and mine is such a world of difference and I know whose is shallower, poorer.

In the same vein allow me to link (although I came across it a few weeks ago) to another fine piece that speaks of a culture, a past we have wantonly let go of.

When Shweta and I discuss this loss, we are agreed that the blame lies with our parents’ generation – our doting parents who loved their parents but didn’t respect them enough, who looked too much to the future, to western educations, to success, to expanding their horizons beyond anything their forefathers had dreamt of. Theirs the blame for not holding on tightly enough, for their lack of conviction, for not insisting that we, their children, learn and carry on some of it, for letting it all sink before we thought to grasp it. Is that too harsh? I am not bitter, only regretful.


Another link today led to this wonderful interview with actor Kangana Ranaut. She’s astonishingly poised, impressively mature (she’s 26!) and devoid of artifice or affectation.


My Guru talks of knowing rain: “If you walk through the rain with utmost awareness, you will know rain in a certain way. But if you walk through the rain with absolute abandon, you will know rain another way.” Isn’t that like holding on to moon beams? Can one know rain? He says maybe. That’s what I’m after. Which way I still don’t know, but I’ll know in the end. Or it won’t matter.

But let Sadhguru speak for himself.


And though I didn’t come across these links today-today, these TED talks enlivened my week, so they go in here too.

Iwan Baan on how people carve out homes in unexpected places and ways:

This unexpectedly moving lecture on muses by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good intentions

Maine abhi khayal-e-safar hi kiya 'Safi'
Kaante simat ke raah ke paaon mein aa gaye...
मैने अभी ख़याल-ए-सफ़र ही किया 'सफी'
कांटे सिमट के राह के पाँव में आ गए।  
It is past midnight and I am sitting up, distressed, feeling very ill. I will spare you the details but I'm throwing up everything I ate all day. This happens occasionally when the stomach doesn't want anything but I'm too conditioned to regular meals to be able to deny it food altogether.
But I had tentatively started on a new regimen today to prepare for a program I'm about to attend: lots of fresh salad, no chillies, no beverages, plenty of good, nutritious, positive pranic stuff. It was supposed to get into its stride tomorrow, but I've hit a stumble today.

But now that this seems to have settled, perhaps it'll work like a breeze the next couple of weeks. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gorgeousness 2

It's been a 'nada yoga' kind of week. A dhrupad recital by Pt Uday Bhawalkar yesterday - he started with a gliding Madhuvanti, roused us all with 'Shiva, Shiva, Shiva' in Adana, went on to a soul-felt Rageshri and concluded with Behag (I think!). Mesmerising!


Thursday, October 17, 2013


#nowlistening to L Subramaniam playing Raga Sivapriya. What sweetness it is!
It sounds like Shivaranjani but not quite, and I don't have the expertise to put my finger on the difference. But it is enough to be able to listen.

The link is here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vijayi Bhava

My Guru says: "To earn the grace of the Divine is the highest victory."

Happy Vijayadashami!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What's on your mind?

Feeling sick. A not-so-great curry puff from three days ago is still messing up my stomach - I just wished I'd earned this with a nice pav bhaji at least.


I saw The Lunch Box yesterday and it was everything they were raving about. Excellent performances by everyone. (I remember Irrfan Khan from all those years ago in a serial called Banegi Apni Baat and feel a little particular pride at the long way he's come.) I loved the life they depicted for Ila. The upstairs 'Aunty' whom we never see (fabulous little part by Bharti Achrekar), their shared lives... Ila asking Mrs Deshpande to switch off the music because her husband has come home, the basket that ferries domestic essentials, the complete sympathy between their desperately lonely existences.

The credits included an astonishing number of production houses and organisations -- what on earth was there for so many people to do in such a small film?


Still feeling sick. What shall I do? Gruel and bananas till I get better or just gobble what comes my way - how long can this tum-tantrum last anyway?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Very silly hai inki love life!

I watched Shuddh Desi Romance yesterday and can't think why I wasted two-and-a-half hours on characters who simply didn't know what or who they wanted.
After a stunning debut in Kai po che, Sushant Singh Rajput was blah. The girls were better, esp Vaani Kapoor; and Rishi Kapoor was FABULOUS but that still doesn't make up for the jalebi plot. Not shuddh anything, not desi (surely commitment phobia is an imported angst) and definitely not romantic. Maneesh Sharma, you annoyed me so much.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

For a spotless mind

Something atmospheric has left me restless today. Impatient, bored and above being pleased.
I tried the old remedies and oiled my hair; tried the new and spent an hour on youtube... but neither took care of it.

There are several things I want to write about but this is not the mood to attempt them in. Sounds seem to grate on my skin, so music is out. A film perhaps, if I could zoom in on the right one? Or a spot of quiet mindless stillness. If it could be ordered.

Monday, September 02, 2013

My world against yours

I have raised an eyebrow, smirked in amusement, shaken my head and scoffed outright at so many opinions, people and attitudes this morning... and it's barely noon.
Some days, the world is just so wrong.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Monsoon raga


scent of
night-blooming jasmine
words get
in the way

...makes way for this:

slow rain —
losing myself in
birdbath circles

It has been an uncommonly persistent rainy season – many long days of incessant, slow rain, many days when the washing hasn’t dried at all, many occasions when we haven’t seen the sun in two or three days altogether... I’ve found kambli poochis (Red hairy caterpillars) on my curtains, virulent-green crawlies in the wash basin, and all the world seems to be thriving on this nourishment.

So Ann K Schwader’s haiku that so hauntingly captures the monsoon mood.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Some samosas?

It's almost two in the afternoon, and I had a less-than-usually-heavy breakfast and the hunger begins to set in already. But I still have my surya namaskars to do, which I can only do by 3 pm, so it'll be some time before I can snack.

It seems the right moment to be thinking of food and while I'm doing that, I may as well do it thoroughly. Some time ago, I mentioned in the passing a fabulous samosa I had had. Then I got thinking of all the wonderful/memorable samosas I've ever eaten and well... let me just bring you the results. In random order, because I can't do hierarchies with these.

  • It was in a cantonment in North India. I was staying with friends and, in turn, got invited to tea by Lt General A and his family, the first family of the community, so to speak. Now, M reported directly to the Lt Gen, and besides my friends were sticklers for proper army etiquette and managed to alarm me quite thoroughly about adhering to the mode in all respects. I was not to address the Lt. Gen. as 'Sir', we were to make sure not be late by so much as three minutes, we were going to spend just this much time, laugh at all their jokes and so on. I was in a tizzy before we got there. But the hosts were charming and glad of outside society. I ate moderately with one nervous eye on my friend's husband, and then only those foods I was sure I could manage with dainty grace. The samosas looked inviting, but was I allowed to eat them with my fingers? I wasn't sure, so I passed over them entirely. However the Lt Gen was keeping an eye on my plate and pushed the bowl forward: "You must try these, Sheetal, they're fabulous." They looked it and, now how to refuse, so I helped myself to one. Small samosas, amuse-bouche-sized, filled with delicately flavoured, perfectly cooked peas. I THINK, or hope that I took another. A third, I am quite certain, I did not permit myself - already M was glaring at me. But the memory of it lingers, mon amis, it lingers. 

  • Cinema-hall samosas are nothing to rave about usually but the erstwhile Anand Cinema in Secunderabad was an exception. The aloo masala was always nicely flavoured with a hint-but-no-more of tang and sprinkled with coarsely crushed coriander seeds. But the real winner was the pastry dough - not maida but wheat. In its final years, Anand gave us some truly horrible film-viewing experiences and it was pulled down to general relief but I miss those samosas. 

  • Now these matar samosas I'd had in the the Kangra Valley haunted me and it gave me great joy to discover them again. It was in Delhi, in a shop called Bengal Sweets, in the same market block as our office in Safdarjung Enclave. This restaurant supplied us with lunch when we hadn't packed any, gol gappas whenever we felt like it, and in the winter months, batches of fresh green pea samosas. Not as delicately made as those ones but good enough and plus you see, I could devour as many of them as I wished. 

  • Since I live in Hyderabad, Irani samosas - crisply fried, sharp golden triangles filled with thin strips of onion - are easily procured. There have been some amazing confections over the years. In the Charminar area, in university canteens, in people's homes with adrak chai... but one of my favourites is the Corner Shop, that is to say, just round the corner from where I live. My dad brings them wrapped up in newspaper but the smell reaches us even as he enters the house. No one can have just one.

  • The Hong Kong wala. My companions had been suffering the lack of desi chai for nearly a week. On the last day, there were just two of us, wandering the fascinating lanes of Wan Chai. We came to a small store called Kathmandu Store and here we could see was where the sub-continent community could come for products of Home. Hajmola, Kurkure, Maggi, MTR packets, namkeens, mehndi cones, bindis, DVDs with movies and music - it was a kirana shop, essentially. Plus, small tables and stools for those wanting to sit. Samosas were available. He whisked them out of the kadai, served them with a nice spicy mint chutney... the aloo filling was benignly spiced and we had to temper our haste with caution for the steam still rose from the pastry. Then 'milk tea' to wash it down. It was perfect. 
Honourable Mentions:
  • A small samosa filled with sweet corn that I recently had at Nishu's. Store-bought, I think they said, but excellent!
  • On a river cruise on the Zambezi (full story here), we stopped to picnic on an island in the middle of the river. They laid out the contents of the picnic basket and... samosas! It was a nice feeling.
  • A teensy Irani samosa that is sold on the Sabari Express on the return journey towards Hyderabad. The seller gets on the train at Bhonghir, I think, and gives us something like eight for Rs 20. Since this is always around noon, I'm in a dilemma every time - eat now and ruin lunch that's waiting at home or indulge and let later take care of itself?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Old friends

Something odd is happening.
"______ has shared a link" is a common enough statement to encounter on facebook. There is no reason for me to have read that, at first glance, as "______ has severed a link."
No reason at all.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Been there, done that

The comforts of habit. The solace of ruts. The seemingly inexorable juggernaut of inertia.
I make an effort to change a pattern, clear a space of old compulsions, but then I lose no time at all at filling the gap with another comfortable thing to 'do'. Human doings. Humans doing. Doing all the time. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yeh aankhein, uff tauba!

Eye hospital visit. I've been on these rather a lot seeing I got my first pair of glasses at age five.
Since I became responsible for my own appointments I rarely make them very promptly, and then only when I'm nagged to do it. But the naggers are gone - my mother, who would have worried me till I went or taken me herself, and my sister isn't in Hyderabad either. My specs broke on my travels last week and I thought I'd get a new prescription while I was at it. And while I'm going that, I might as well have my eyes checked thoroughly. The general ophthalmologist has looked at it and the retinal specialist is keeping me waiting rather long. I'm sitting here, with my pupils dilated, seeing everything in a haze. They've stopped putting in the dilation drops and I'm afraid they're starting to shrink again. I'm not being good either because it's more entertaining to blog this minute than close my eyes.

Ok, so I hailed one of the busy people here and she tells me my name was called and I didn't respond because I had my eyed closed and earphones plugged in. So she just moved on to the next patient. But the guy at the previous consultation room tapped me to get my attention, I said. Clearly that is not a service the retina department thinks necessary. That is your problem, she had the tactlessness to say. I have adequately given her grief over it, but she is going to keep me waiting, I know it!


I'm done now. Some spots, some opaque lines, blah blah blah. We'll keep an eye on it, come back next year. Ok, thank you and that's that.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hong Kong - Trip Report

  • Just back. The schedule wasn't rigorous as it sometimes can be, but I feel the world moving and juddering every time I close my eyes. I need some sleep.

  • And while it's not Indian Chinese, Hong Kong does very decent Chinese too - I'm missing them 'shrooms already. Noodles, I had a surfeit of, and they were really good to my very temperamental stomach. But glad to be back home. My father asked me if I'd like some Maggi noodles today. I looked at him over my spectacle frames, so he chuckled and proffered the idlis instead.

  • In other news, I can now assert that my 'Top Five Samosas Ever Eaten' includes an aloo confection by a Nepalese man in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hong Kong Diary - 1

It's been a few crazy days in Hong Kong. Normally, on a travel assignment, I get rather isolated. No news of the outside world trickles in and when I get back, it feels like ages even if it has been only a few days.

But this is Hong Kong where there is wifi in every street corner, almost. Plus, my fellow travellers include a couple of film journalists as well and they have a ear to the Bollywood floor. So, in the middle of a tour of the sights, we know about the royal birth, about the Really Big News in which Salman hugged Shah Rukh at an iftar party.
Everyone is so excited, I became infected too. The video doesn't seem like much, hmm? Just the polite thing to do. I don't see what the deal is.

Many thoughts on India, culture, chauvinism, cultural divides, Indians, the Chinese, their food, values and yes, (general human) moral corruption. Not bad for two days, eh?

Saturday, July 06, 2013


The restlessness that gripped me this morning has lasted all day. Unfortunately it has struck on a Saturday, which means I cannot do half the things I have pulled towards me as part of my 'to-do' list. My bank shut at 1pm, so I can't harass them. It's the weekend, so people who owe me money are probably lounging in lounge chairs by the poolside, surrounded by mint juleps and cool friends as I fret about the cheques that won't come.

But I need to get something accomplished, so I can go back to my state of innocence. I think I'll clean a shelf or two.



Woolly headed and vaguely anxious. There is nothing to worry about - except perhaps there is something I should be doing if only I could remember what that was.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Dil garden garden ho gaya

Midlife navel gazing having passed, it is time for this to come down. 

my car radio
on scan
--Christopher Patchel

But, in its stead, I have nothing to say.
My days fall into a pattern these days. At about five in the afternoon, the day has cooled enough and I rush to gather the jasmines that are blooming a riot on our creepers. The 'sanna jaaji' buds in particular tend to open by 5.45 and if I must weave* them into a small garland, I must get there early, or I get the half-opened flowers which are not so easy to handle.

Then with two baskets of flowers, I sit making these strands.The fat mallis take well to being strung by the needle but the juhis I must tie by hand: their stalks are too tender for the needle I have.

There is no way I can reach all the flowers. The bushes tell the tale conspicuously by wearing a cloak of white in the areas just beyond my grasp. As night falls, the air is redolent. As I eat my dinner, and as I follow the travails of Anandi, the Balika Vadhu, or the feisty Madhubala, these perfumes of Arabian jasmine waft in. But of that, as I said, there is nothing to say.

scent of
night-blooming jasmine
words get
in the way
--Thomas Martin
*does one weave garlands? what is the right verb? It is poNsodu in Kannada.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


How nice it is sometimes to sit in unlit rooms as night falls... night shadows everywhere. Light from a bulb in the neighbourhood comes in at an angle, the window grills throw sharp shadows on my walls, magnified here, curiously altered on that one. The leaves of the alamanda sway in the breeze, but I see only their obscure dance on the cupboards. A passing scooter throws a pane of light that flits quickly across the roof and goes away. The light reflected off some glass, bouncing off goodness-knows-what surfaces. Car headlights flood the room momentarily, their glare too bright for this mellow moment. Air stirs the curtains, bringing hints of jasmine and frangipani.

All this happens every night. Every night. To come alive, all it needs is my attention.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Kaagazi hai pairahan

My friend, Aasheesh Pittie, has many interests, and books have been a consuming passion with him for many years now. He sent me a link to a fascinating story the other day – where a sculpture had ‘appeared’ at the Edinburgh’s Leith Library, the latest in a series of ‘gifts’ that the mysterious artist was making to various bodies of her(?) choice: the Scottish Poetry Library,  the National Library of Scotland, the Filmhouse among others.

The works are intricate, inspired and incredibly beautiful. Someone has been crafting them out of printed paper, choosing scraps with delicate interest and creating these wonderful installations that pay tribute to words, books, movies and other forms of “magic”. And then s(he) has been giving them away, leaving them to be found in obscure shelves and ledges to be found by their recipients.
Many of them refer to Ian Rankin, but the artist has diversified of late. The latest one bears a quote from AA Milne: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”” What fun this is!

My favourite must be this scene of ‘books-turned-movies’ where horses and armoured warriors leap out of the screen, surround their audience in an utterly immersive experience.


But this one is funny too:

The whole story up to a year ago is here and detailed pictures of the sculptures are here.
And for more, LOTS more on book culture, http://www.bookpatrol.net/ Hat tip, again, to Aasheesh.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Ant populations crawling out of my keyboard. What on earth is happening here?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pulling it together

बदल रही है आज ज़िन्दगी की चाल ज़रा
इसी बहाने क्यूँ ना मै भी दिल का हाल ज़रा
सवांर लूं
... सवांर लूं...
badal rahi hai aaj zindagi ki chaal zara
isi bahane kyun na main bhi dil ka haal zara
sawaar loon... sawaar loon...

When the summer heat has abated, at a time when cooling winds blow, bearing rain, and tales of other places... bringing with them tokens of a larger world... it is perhaps the right time to set your internal world right as well.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sar jo mera chakraye

I've exposed my mind to such an array of impressions this last week that it is jangling like wind chimes caught in a blizzard. So wanting to blog, but the coherent words won't come. So this, to hold till they do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Pioneer

My Sadhguru says something very significant and profound in his latest Wednesday post:

This is clear to me that before I am done with life, I will see that Adi Yogi is recognized and acknowledged for the contribution that he has made in the shaping of human consciousness or the tools and methods that he offered for a rapid evolution of consciousness. In terms of exploring and understanding the human mechanisms, there has never been another one either before or after to rival him. In acknowledging him, all the possibilities that he offered can also be brought forth into currency. Raising human consciousness is the single most important task ahead of us. We, as a generation of people, are placed in a unique position where our survival process is organized like never before, comforts and conveniences like never before and above all, we have the capability, resource and technology to address all issues upon the planet like never before. The only missing ingredient is the human being whose experience is inclusive enough to propel into action of the right sort. Adi Yogi is a true antidote for all the ills of societies of our times. He is the man for our times as he does not demand belief or faith but offers a science of transformation.
Read the whole thing here

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's your birthday

I was cleaning a cupboard today (yes, I'm good that way, once in a decade) and unearthed a considerable bundle of Archie's and Hallmark cards. If only I could get half-price for the lot, I'd have a fortune. Birthday cards, 'do well in your exams' cards, notes... cards exchanged between ourselves, wishes from cousins, friends, neighbours, parents, one from Bapa (my grandfather) and three from a dog. A few are straight, sweetly sentimental but mostly the pile yields 'insult' cards that were all the rage at one time.

I found several wishing me on my 21st birthday - sigh, already they had started insulting about my age and at least two friends, I discover, urge me to be wild and drive Porsches. Err... note from the future: that would be a Nano, and no, I haven't gathered the guts to drive it around the colony at midnight yet.

I don't know how it started but no birthday card was ever, EVER complete without the adjuration to 'FREAK OUT'. It became a joke with us, and we never did fail to have that golden phrase figure somewhere. From Shweta to me, me to Shweta, cards from Nitya, Priya and Sriram... all bearing the famous words.

When she was here and cleaning her cupboard, Shweta uncovered a set of unused cards - no doubt purchased so to be handy when a dear close friend sprang an unexpected birthday. They are ALL age cards. She showed them to me and I chuckled over them. Then, she said, "No one gives anybody cards these days, so I'll just give them to you." But alas, I had seen them all. Never mind, she tells me bracingly, you'll never know WHICH one you're getting. That just makes me feel warm all over. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Baatein yahaan wahaan ki

I put to rest a deadline yesterday that has taken all this week. I woke this morning and stretched to a delightful feeling of freedom. Time at last to write to friends, scratch about my favourite time-waste forums, change a display picture and even blog.


One post about Bombay Talkies was in draft mode for more than a fortnight. Since it seemed de rigueur, here is my list:

1) Dibakar Banerjee. Lovely, lovely vignette. Hail, master of the short form. Whatsisname Siddiqui! the layers of sound in that film... hell, the whole world-view. Loved. And Anjali, the Emu. Seriously, man. I suspect, my eyes started bulging even as the lines played out. "Anjali ne saara besan kha liya..." already my mind was reeling with speculation -- wtf! who eats besan? and hehe, the frame moves to the phlegmatic bird. Haha!

2) Anurag Kashyap. The madness of fandom in India.  Allahabad vs Kanpur. Amitabh Bachchan, the last superstar. The human-ness of security guards. The casual cruelties of occupants of top berths. The unreasonable demands of parents. The principles of storing murabba. Nice!

3) Zoya Akhtar. Sweet kids but she bit off more than she could chew. The complexities of transvestism and deeper psychological/gender issues compounded by inept parenting in a short? Didn't work.

4) Karan Johar. Same topic. Unlikeable characters, all of whom behaved badly. Very *shrug* for me.

When's the next portmanteau film? Can I direct one chunk? Please?


Then, there was a bit of time for some Sufis today, and I found a couple of things I wanted to keep in my folder Poetry\Punjabi.

Shah Hussain says:
Ashiq hovaiN, taN ishq kamavaiN 
Rah ishq sooee da nakka, dhaga hovaiN taN javaiN 

If you could be a lover, you could earn love
The path of love is the eye of a needle, you could pass if you were a thread.


It's being a weird summer in Hyderabad, hasn't it? First it wasn't hot enough, now it isn't dry enough. Icky humidity. Bleah. Still, my father has brought home this water sprayer and I walk about phish phishing the air in front of me. Come soon, rain - the Bangalore walas on my timeline are getting unbearable.


I managed to see Star Trek into Darkness (is that the right name?). IMAX, 3D, good seats. And Benedict Cumberbatch was good only in spite of Sherlock. Also Kirk. And Spock. Liked Sulu also. Everything and everybody, in fact, except Klingons.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Khwab juda...

You know what annoys me? When people say - over and over - that they want something and then, when life offers their heart's desire on a platter, they're too... oh, I don't know... too damn scared to reach out and take it. They step back, they make excuses and then they become wistful at how free other people are to do whatever they want.

It's too inconvenient right now, it's too expensive, my children have exams, the timing isn't right... may be next time.

Either take it -- take a risk, make yourself uncomfortable, go out on a limb and see if you like it after all -- or SHUT UP. Be happy with the life you've CHOSEN! Just don't tell yourself (and me) that your life would have been this wonderful, many coloured rainbow, if only you had had someone else's luck.


The title of this post is from this wry sher by the most quoted poet on this blog, Farhat Shehzad:
Khwab juda, rang bharna aur
Kehna aur hai, karna aur

ख्वाब जुदा रंग भरना और
कहना और है करना और

Dreams are very well, living them is another matter
Talking is one thing, doing is another matter


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Night raga

#nowplaying Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sa'ab with a tarana in Malkauns.

I should do this more often.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On the go

There may have been a time before twitter when I would've liked to blog on the fly, eager perhaps to record my views of a film even at the interval, or the excitement of a match before I could get to a computer but blogger on mobile is by and large useless to me.

But again, during these long power cuts, why should we be deprived of pandering to our whims? We shall blog. Now. Be our material ever so slender.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


There comes a time in February every year when the Hyderabadi's heart throbs with dread. The winter - our version of it, that is - was barely here, we have not used even half our winter clothes and already there is a mix of currents in the air. Now and then, a certain warmth meets the skin, although the mornings are cool and delightful, the west facing rooms are reminded of the presence of the sun and its awful potential.

'It is only February,' we say to one another meaningfully. There is March to come, April after that and then there is May... a parade of escalating hardship. Slowly talk veers around to summer plans. 'Shall we get a big desert cooler?' my dad asks. 'Depends on the water situation,' I tell him. He grimaces. No water, no water cooler. It is like that.

Everyone is upset that the dark filters have been stripped from their car windows - it will make a difference to how much we get out. Already courier delivery men have started to request a glass of water after they have gotten their signatures. I have made enquiries among neighbours, asking to be given coconut fronds to line the terrace with. It makes a mess and I can't stride about the terrace as I'd like but the 3-4 degree respite in temperature is worth it.

But the good thing is that few summers are actually as bad as they appear in February. Once the season begins, it comes to us a day at a time... the koels sing, jasmines bloom, mangoes get bought... there are power cuts and a blessed silence reigns everywhere.

There is something very compelling about summer in our part of the country. It is our most extreme season. Look at me, it says. And we do. The cycles of nature that we brush aside as inconveniences that get in the way of our lives... summer breaks that idea. It is awfully inconvenient but it shows us how big it is, and how ineffectual our ways of taming it.

In the last week of May, I will probably write to complain of the heat but here, now: YAY!

Friday, February 15, 2013


I had a birthday last month and it has been creeping up on me these past few years that I'm in the middle of my life. No, I'm not about to wring my hands over the passing of youth or energy, the appearance of white hair, the onset of Hyperopia or the fact that I've had more medical tests this year than I've had in a long while. Right now is a good space.

This haiku, which I thought nicely appropriate, sounds more dismal than it is really. Youthful dreams have faded, written over with what actually took place. Some have been achieved perhaps, or they have mutated as you changed. Some dreams haunt still... the phrase 'some day' is alive, raising its head now and then, giving you a distant hope that you will some day have it THAT way. Some desires you have transcended, leaving you shuddering in relief that they did not, after all, manifest.

But it is midlife. There is some room to manouver still, there is potential yet, something out there that we could catch if we put the antennae out at the correct angle.

my car radio
on scan
-Christopher Patchel

I love the apparent everydayness of this poem. Driving to work... a motion that has been gone through many times now. Many, many times. If you're inclined to be bored, there is a mind-numbing sameness to the exercise. But the scan is on.

While on the theme, I have always appreciated the advice in this sher, where the poet suggests you dream, but lightly:

Ankhon mein jo bharloge toh kaanton se chubenge
Ye khwaab toh palkon pe sajane ke liye hai

आँखों में जो भर लोगे तो काँटों से चुभेंगे
ये ख्वाब तो पल्कों पे सजाने के लिए हैं

Fill your eyes with them and they will hurt like thorns
These dreams were meant only to adorn the eyelids

Friday, February 08, 2013

Something fresh

I need an industrial-strength fan to blow into my mind today - come, take away these merry-go-round thoughts, the debris that flutters here and there, never going anywhere. Blow away the stale air, rip away the faded but persistent scenes that line the walls.
Blow in something fresh, dewy and fragrant... something with a rose in it, or jasmine. Cool breezes would be nice, a change of scene. Or a challenge. A puzzle, a task. Anything. But something fresh. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Awwal, akhar

When I was reading the Gita for the first time a couple of years ago, this passage (Chapter 8, Verse 5) stunned me. Krishna says:

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः

anta-kāle ca māmeva smaranmuktvā kalevaram
yah prayāti sa mad-bhāvam yāti nāstyatra samsayah

And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

So, essentially, on your dying breath, you had to remember Krishna. Ok. It sounded doable. Obviously, there was a catch: the pun notwithstanding, what was it? And thus, we fell through the yawning chasm between bookspeak/theory and the actual doing. A lifetime – no, several lifetimes of Krishna Consciousness don’t apparently prepare you adequately for ‘smaranam’ at the ‘anta-kala’. “Me alone”, the god-man says, “mameva”. Pure awareness.

I am a smidgen more aware of the difficulties of awareness now. When you go to sleep, see if you can be aware of the last breath as you pass into sleep. Once my head touches the pillow, I go to sleep fairly quickly but I understand the romance of pillow thoughts. Mine are diverse. Pleasant things, mostly. Often a prayer, sometimes a flower, a story or a fantasy. All very nice, but what is needed is single-mindedness.

And we must go to Khwaja Ghulam Farid for that.

meda ishq vi toon
meda yaar vi toon
meda deen vi toon,
iman vi toon

you are my love and also my friend*
you are my belief and also my faith

meda jism vi toon
medi rooh vi toon
meda qalb vi toon

you are my body
you are my soul
you are my heart

Then he lists exhaustively: you are my ka'bah qibla, mosque, pulpit, the holy pages and the Koran, my duty, responsibility, pilgrimage, alms, fast and also my call to prayer…

meri zohd, ibadat, taqat, taqwa, ilm vi toon irfan vi toon
my asceticism, worship, power, virtue, learning and knowing

zikr and fikr
my remembrance, my contemplation

aas umeed te khattiyan wattiyan, ve te takiya raat taman vi toon
hope, wishes, gains, losses are you, and the night's contemplation is also you

He goes on, but I always linger a moment here. Takiya raat taman vi toon… the translation calls it ‘the night's contemplation’… it's possible I understand it imperfectly but is ‘you’ the all consuming focus of Farid’s pillow thoughts as well? Why not? After all, ‘you’ are also the tilak on my forehead, sindoor in the parting of my hair, my coquetry, my fortune, my henna, mascara, collyrium, rouge, tobacco and my betel-leaf.

Mera andar bahar
Mera awwal akhar
My inner, my outer, my beginning and my end….

I think Farid would’ve thought of ‘You’ on his last breath, don’t you?

*I’ve used the Coke Studio translation of this poem as basis, though I’ve altered a couple of phrases here and there. The original is here at the song Rabba Sacheya.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Where you sit is important. Will you occupy the higher seat or the lower one?
The higher, you would think. The higher, you would urge. Better vantage, more loft... isn't it obvious: the higher the better! I get that. But.
Take the lower seat.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tiger Warrior - a review

Tiger Warrior: Fateh Singh Rathore of Ranthambhore
By Soonoo Taraporewala
(Viking, Rs 499)

A Reverent Gaze

The title of this book is an evocative one. With the Rajput references and the many elements of machismo, it carries echoes of clanging metal, hints of tales of valour, images of a brave fighter wiping blood and sweat over hard fought battles. You will find all those elements in this book—only, the landscape isn’t the ramparts of some historical fort but the open grasses of a national park, and the battleground is tiger conservation in India.

The story of Fateh Singh Rathore—the man who carved out Ranthambhore National Park and worked tirelessly to create a safe haven for tigers—is tremendously inspiring. An exceptional naturalist, Fateh Singh was almost empathetic in his knowledge of tiger behaviour, “to such an extent,” the author tells us, “that he himself was like a tiger as it is possible for any human to be.” As a long standing friend, Taraporewala manages to bring to life many facets of this brave man, and the events of his long undulating career as a forest official and conservationist—his family background, his almost random-seeming appointment in the Forest Department, and his subsequent dedication to the tiger cause. Also, there is great insight into the larger operations of the Indian Forest Service and the Government.

The book holds, however, more due to the drama in the life of its subject—which the writer reports earnestly—than to the style of prose. The technique is more ‘tell’ than ‘show’. Barring a fervent foreword by Valmik Thapar, who grew to be a close friend of Fateh Singh’s, we get no voices but Taraporewala’s, not many quotes, no very interesting interviews or opinions, no commentary from the subject’s family or friends. The assortment of pictures is disappointing as well—a mere eight pages and not one image of Jogi Mahal, the beautiful forest resthouse in Ranthambhore that Fateh Singh restored and rebuilt.

For all that though, this is a book that both rouses and disheartens. We see the efforts that a single man is capable of, the fruit that can be brought to bear if the will exists but, equally, the heartbreak that comes from a world too mediocre to receive such dedication with gratitude or grace.

This was published in Outlook Traveller, January 2013. The link is here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Nach baliye

Current 'Bollywood Night' wishlist:
1) Lat lag gayi
2) Fevicol se (remix)
3) Party on my mind
4) Radha
5) Vele
6) Disco diwane

What am I missing, frands?

Edited to add:
7) Allah duhaayi hai
8) Daaru desi (recommended by One in a Billion, who would of course recommend this number seeing his blog can be reached with the words cachaca monopoly)
9) Hookah Bar (suggested by Sharada)

I've come to the conclusion I must like Pritam a lot.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Count: one, two, three...

I was discussing this with Sunshine yesterday and putting this up on the header seems to be the perfect way to mark the new year for myself: a reminder of my blessings.

This is from Adi Shankara's Vivekachoodamani.

दुर्लभं त्रयमेवैतत दैवानुग्रहहेतुकम्
मनुष्यत्वं मुमुक्षुत्वं महापुरुषसंश्रयः

Durlabham trayamev'aitat daiv'anugraha hetukam
manushyatvam mumukshutvam mahapurusha samshrayah

Only through God's grace may we obtain those three rarest advantages - human birth, the longing for liberation, and discipleship to an illumined teacher.
(Trans. Swami  Turiyananda)