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Transient Thoughts

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Ghazal - Part IV

The last few episodes of this series were supposed to contain 'case studies' of select Ghazals. But I realized that there are no 'select' Ghazals. Most Ghazals are good. And there are lots and lots of good Ghazals. This made me lose enthu in this series a bit. But I have revived my enthu because I simply have to post this particular Ghazal by Ghalib.

This Ghazal appears in the voice of Chitra Singh in the serial Mirza Ghalib by Gulzar. It is sung at a very slow, leisurely pace sometimes to the accompaniment of soulful saarangi and sometimes without any music at all. There are long gaps between shers (actually screenplay and dialogue) and this makes it sound even more leisurely and slow-paced. It's an ideal Ghazal to sing when you are taking a walk or fixing your room - long periods of silence and then you say, ok let me sing the next sher now. And since the Ghazal is sung to a slow pace, there is scope for packing in a lot of emotion if you can and want to.

Like I have said before, each Ghazal is made special by only one or two really really good shers. The rest are so-so shers, there to add bulk and consistency. The very good sher in this Ghazal is the second one: 'Qafas mein mujh se...'. I started liking this Ghazals only when I had looked up the meanings of 'Qafas' and 'Rudaad' in an online urdu dictionary.

The last sher, the Maqta, is omitted in the TV serial. This is unfortunate since a Ghazal is heavily incomplete without the Maqta.


Kisi ko deke dil koi nawasanj-e-fugaan kyon ho,
Na ho jab dil hi seene mein, to phir mooh mein zabaan kyon ho

[nawasanj-e-fugaan : loud noise]
I am still trying to get a hang of these opening lines. Any help around?

Qafas mein mujh se rudaad-e-chaman kahate na dar hamdam,
Giri hai jis pe kal bijli, woh mera aasheyan kyon ho

[Qafas: jail ; Rudaad: news]
Go ahead, tell me the news of home, my friend, when you visit me in jail,
Relax now, The house you say where lightning struck yesterday, why should we suppose it's mine?

Yahi hai aazmaana to, sataana kis ko kehate hain,
Adu ke holiye jab tum, to mera intehaan kyon ho

[aazmaana: trying; sataana: paining; Adu: rival]
I can't take your trials, my dear, they are now on the verge of being irritatingly painful,
by-the-by since you are already committed to my rival, what is the point of these trials anyways?

Wafa kaisi kahan ka ishq jab sar phodana thehera,
To phir aey sang-dil tera hi sang-e-aastaan kyon ho

[sang: stone; aastaan:home; sang-e-aastaan (perhaps): doorstep made of stone]
All love is the same, it boils down to breaking one's head
So why then, o stone-hearted one, should I choose your door-step for this purpose (I'll go someplace more sympathetic)

Nikaala chahata hai kaam kya taanon se tu Ghalib,
Tere be-meher kehane se, woh tujh pe meherabaan kyon ho

[meher: mercy; taana maarna: nag]
Oh Ghalib, you try in vain to get your way through nagging
Will she be merciful to you just coz you call her merciless?

Apologies for the translations having turned out light-hearted and un-serious. I am sure the Ghazals sounds best when sung with heart-wrenching melancholy. But I am feeling quite cheerful at the moment. Writing has that effect on me. Meanwhile might I suggest you set your hands on Mirza Ghalib, the serial. Video CDs if possible (Neena Gupta sings this Ghazal while she is getting her hair done for the evening). Music CDs/cassettes otherwise. And listen to this Ghazal. It will be worth the trouble. And you will like it much better, now that you know what 'Qafas' and 'Rudaad' mean.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Mid Summer's Day Dream (contd from two previous posts to be found, one each, in the Dec'04 and Jan'05 archives)

potboiler: noun a usually inferior work (as of art or literature) produced chiefly for profit.

Chapter 5

Sitting on the very last bench, Mannu was attempting to make a sketch of Professor X. The two pages of notebook that he was writing on, now contained six and half semi-likenesses of Professor X. None of the first six came very close to resembling the original and the way things were going neither would the seventh.

But one could not blame Mannu for trying. Professor X was the most sketchable Professor in the college. He wore a thick beard and moustache and dark-rimmed spectacles. If you could draw these somewhat then you were almost there.

Professor X's teaching method was amongst the most un-interesting. He kept filling the large blackboard (which was actually green in colour) with layers and layers of equations. His nasal, staccato, whiny, painfully earnest delivery combined with his speech-habit of inserting innumerable youknow-s in his sentences killed any life there was in his lecturing. Besides, whatever he taught was easily readable from the prescribed text book. Unfortunately, that thousand-page tome was also quite unimaginative in its style of instruction and X's classes were attended to avoid, if possible, having to read the book.

Once you were in X's class, however, you succumbed, like Mannu had, to the temptation of trying to sketch him. Quite early in the lecture the thread was lost and while you were still trying to find it, X had completed half a complicated sweater on the board. With a sigh, you gave up hopes of a warm winter.

The pen then moved, as though on its own, and quickly there formed another pair of spectacles, another set of whiskers and you were half way into your eighth attempt at drawing X.


With Chammo, however, the story was slightly different. For Chammo was a master artist. Sitting somewhere in the middle of the class ("last bench sey saaf dikhta nahi hai, Bandhu") he was putting the final touches on a full two-page, one-attempt portrait of X. His notebook for X's course was full of drawings of X - some caricatures, some portraits, some even paintings with crayons. "X", Mannu said like some hot-shot famous painter would, "fascinates me".

Today's X carried X's typical expression. A reluctant, laboured smile-grin and eyes that reflected a singular lack of humour through the spectacle glass. The beard was not one big black mass; the individual hairs could be made out. The touch of grey in the beard was also drawn in (Chammo came to class with pencils and an eraser). As a special effect today's X was drawn against a backdrop of mathematical equations. Integrals, Summation signs, superscripts, subscripts, braces and brackets, revered Greek letters and rank English ones - all actual expressions copied from the blackboard - travelled from left to right across the page. Some disappeared in one of the professor's ears and emerged from the other. Others lost their way hopelessely in the thick forest of the professor's facial hair. Some formed a light noose around his neck. It was an extremely clever piece of work. It looked, at the same time, both a portrait and a caricature.

Some six students sitting around Chammo were kept on a steady high of amusement as they watched him work briskly, effortlessly, lovingly.


With Dilli, again, the story was slightly different. Dilli sat in the very first bench and tried successfully to understand. If you kept your focus, the incremental effort was not at all large, he had found out. They were approaching the the end of the semester and he felt in full command. The subject was actually interesting - mathematical, complete within itself and entirely well defined - delightfully objective.

Dilli came to class equipped with photocopies of pages from the prescribed textbook. That way he did not have to take down many notes and could concentrate his efforts on understanding.

Sitting right under the teacher's nose, with all intentions of listening to the lecture, Dilli still could'nt help drawing a small picture of X in the top right corner on one of sheets of his zerox copy.

Everyone sketched Professor X. Everyone.


Meanwhile, TV was being spared the travails of heavy maths and denied the opportunity to sketch professor X by virtue of his belonging to a different department than Mannu, Chammo and Dilli.

Very coincidentally, however, he was sketching someone too. That someone was Vaidehi and she was up there on the dias presenting her term paper. The term paper was a fortunate opportunity. He could steadily look at her without her being offended, or even noticing. All he had to do was blink once in a while and keep nodding his head as if he was listening to her.

The sketch was'nt coming out too well though. Maybe someday Chammo could come to class and make a sketch...

(Sumeet, I resented a bit when you called this series a 'potboiler' sometime ago, but the more I write it, the more the story seems to fit that description.)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sorry. Another long post.
Another request to read at leisure. Don't read if you don't have time. Its not too well written anyway.

Manipal Days

What's written here may not be accurate. For I tend to make the weather more pleasant, (to use Sumeet's expression, modified) the grass greener and the girls prettier, whenever I am putting down memories. And yes, the food tastier. But I don't do it on purpose and I believe what I am writing to be true. So I guess it is ok. But half my readership has shared the Manipal experience with me and they are free to create an 'errata/addendum' section down there in the comments. Also, I tend to lose enthu abruptly while writing long memoirs and hence this below account may not be comprehensive. Lastly, I am reading the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' from a Douglas Adams Omnibus (which Som , you will be happy to know I have purchased - the last of the Gangaram Coupons which those guys let me use one month after the expiry date, following which I have forgiven them for remaining closed on holidays), and, if I am lucky, some of Douglas Adams' whacky style might rub off on me. (Dear reader, do let me know when you are really, truly, sick of my 'influenced style' disclaimers. I am getting sick of them myself, which maybe good news.)

Som and Sumt have both written about the Manipal Days on their blogs. I could'nt find the posts on their blogs though. Guys, put the links in the comments section so I can insert them in this post.

I begin with Douglas Adams. I remember Som, Koushik and I had gone to Sumeet's appartment. The outside was freshly rain-washed (which is how most of Manipal was during those three months). We were sitting in Sumt's room and the only topic of conversation I seem to remember was to do with mosquitoes and mosquito nets on the windows. When we were leaving I borrowed Sumt's Hitchiker omnibus (the same kind of copy as I now have) and he semi-sternly instructed me not to fold corners and always to leave the book face down when I take a break from reading. Reading the book once more now, I have just met the charmingly-depressed Marvin and can't wait to get to the place where they have the lifts with personality.

The rumours that we might be sent away for training began some 20 days before we got actually sent. I didnt believe them at first. We hadn't heard of anyone in Manipal who could train us better than the seniors at TI. Anyways as the rumours increasingly became a reality I became more and more happy at dropping whatever I was doing (which wasn't much) and starting something totally fresh. It's always very nice to drop whatever work you are doing mid-way and to start something new. Its somewhat like a rebirth, a fresh start. I know I am scandalizing the more conscientious among my readers. I don't know about Som and Sumt though. Those guys had just successfully inserted a couple of buffers in the next PG of a cable-chip and were pretty thrilled about it (Come on guys, admit you were thrilled and I'll admit I was jealous :-)

Vivek Pawar(the biggest boss as far as I could see) told us at a special meeting that the training was a huge thing for us. We were to make full use of the expertise our trainer in Manipal had (By then we had realized that our guide in Manipal was a hot-shot Guru who had co-founded Mixed Signal Design at TI before starting his own company in Manipal). We learnt that TI was paying a hefty fee for the training - didnt exactly know the figure. The Onus to make full use of that payment was on us. I never like it when the Onus is on me. What is Onus, by the way? We were to send in weekly, monthly updates back to Bangalore (which we thankfully, didnt have to after all). It was to be an all-serious thing actually.

At a preparation meeting, we were told it would be raining cats and dogs in Manipal ( We went sometime in August) and we were to carry warm clothes, water-proof chappals and umbrellas. Somehow the prospect of rain sounded grim that time. Little did I know. Leaders amongst us were appointed, were they? To send in the weeklies. I remember raising only one concern. Who will wash our clothes there? I had washed clothes for four years in college and now I was sick of it. In the two months in Bangalore so far, we had a maid. So what would happen in Manipal?

The departure from Bangalore happened quite casually. Maybe because there wasn't anyone to depart from. Post-dated cheques were given to the landlord (a criminal waste of house rent for we were to be away 3 months, but there was nothing we could do). Before we left I introduced Som to Vishal's where we ate egg/chicken biryani before getting on to a Sugama Travels Bus to Manipal.

Up on waking the next morning I could see rain-drenched landscape everywhere. We got off the bus and onto a Tata Sumo or Safari (still can't tell which is which). Som and I were the first to get off the Tata Sumo/Safari. We were to be roommates in Manipal too. What a fortunate coincidence. Still can't figure out how it came about to be so. Our appartment was oldish (Our host company, Karmic, had rented appartments for us and furnished then with basic amenities). But the toilet on our floor was big and nice and tiled.

Mahant Sir, the boss of Karmic and our tutor for the three months, came to meet each of us in our different appartments. We were to go have tea in the mess.

The food in Manipal was great, though vegetarian. For me it was home food. Nice idlis, Nice vadas, nice dosas coastal style, nice chutney, nice sambar, uppittu, banans, papaya, pohe. For lunch and dinner rice and daal and various vegetables. There was high-tea at five too. Pohe or some bajji or other. And at 11.00am and at 3.00pm, as we sat in the classroom listening to a lecture, a guy from the mess would come and abruptly announce 'Tea' and we would have an always-welcome five minute break. Basically full, proper food. Som didnt fancy the food much. He didnt like the style of cooking (Now that I am familiar somewhat with Bengali cuisine, I can see why not). Som was to lose weight in those three months and become the fittest anyone in TI has ever seen him. As for me Mahant Sir never saw me in Bangalore for a year after that without telling me that I had wasted down since Manipal.

The Onus, which was on us, was never taken - I can speak for the group, yeah? The weekly reports became monthlies. We kept our participation strictly to the 9.00 to 5.00 classes (hardly even that) and didnt put more than the normal enthu in the two projects we were to do. Sometimes my conscience opened the Razavi Book on Analog Design but without much progress. Sir would often leave for to Bangalore on business leaving our training in the hands of his lieutenants in Karmic. Though these lieutenants did try and do a job of it, we never really worked hard in Sir's absence. What to do? Human beings.

Every weekend or so seniors from TI would come to talk to us on technical subjects and we and the engineers at Karmic would sit and listen, rapt. Their wives (the TI seniors') would come with them to Manipal too. We sneaked a look at them and cheerlessly noted how TIers wives tend to look. The fortunes seem to have changed with our batch, though (wink, wink).

I remember borrowing Fountainhead from someone and having experienced the un-putdownable feeling when I was reading it. I remember finding the full collection of the Feynman's lectures and trying in vain to stick to a daily-routine and to try and finish them all. But they were pretty well written.

Karmic was obsessed with Volleyball. Every evening after tea they had ritual volleyball. Something Mahant sir had possibly introduced to foster team spirit. Anyway. I played only one day, I think. That day Basu (from Karmic) borrowed my hawai chappals when he went off to fetch the ball in the thick bushes on the other side of the compound wall, promptly broke one of them (the toe-hold sort of thing came off) and with shocking discourtesy did not even offer to fix it. I am a decent volleyball player. I can play in the back row and pick the low balls and supply a decent supply. But volleyball doesnt interest me for too long. And after the chappal incident I had had it with volleyball.

Fortunately there was a football and a few enthu people so we started playing football. A game I love and which I had hardly played in the four years of college. Though it was not always possible to have enough people for a game and I remember having to start lobbying for football right from the beginning of high tea. Som didn't have the enthu for football that he now does or I would have been completely spared the trouble. Often football lost people to volleyball and I had to go back to the house and read Fountainhead. But the days when we did play it was fun. The sloping, half-grass, half-deadly-pebble, ground and the fresh air and the blue/cloudy sky. And kicking the ball around. I often played on the right wing, on the downward slope. More often than not, the ground proved too small for Ashish's long, deep passes and I had to run after the ball to prevent it from rolling down the slope too far, too fast.

Sometimes we played lagori, the seven-tile-pile, hit with the ball, avoid getting hit by the other team when you try to reassemble your tile-pile game. Subhash would insist, with smilingly innocent malice, that we play simple, primeval, pittu. Just hit whoever you can with the ball and do away with all this tile-wile thing.

One day, just one day, me and Koushik went jogging to whatever circle it was. I forget the name.

Sir's second wife. Tasneem. I read somewhere that it means a fountain in paradise. Some ten-twenty years Sir's junior. She is a painter who took classes for us on 'Work culture'. She read out to us all these articles from Self-help books and business magazines. You know how those are. They sound like absolute god-speak when someone is reading them out to you. And there are so many clever sentences. But you have always forgotten the previous line before you have finished hearing this one. In some of those clever, poignant-sounding sentences Tasneem used to pack in Emotion, drama and philosophical melancholy like only an artist can.

She once told me, in class, that I have the flexible face of a clown (I tried to take as a compliment; the rest of the class didn't) that I could make people laugh. She once told Subhash that she felt like calling him Madhav. And lo! Subhash's brother's name turned out to be Madhav. These artists have instint, I tell you.

I had gone to their house to see her paintings. There were several of them and most very aesthetic. You felt like looking at them.

Karmic has a policy that whoever it recruits as trainees gets a monthly stipend of 3k and gets free training to drive a car and gets free driving license for car and bike. We too were came under the trainee category and these benefits were extended to us too. That was too much. Here we were, fresh from college, only getting used to a steadily rising bank account, almost without expenses in Manipal (except for the grudgingly paid rent in B'lore) and on top of that 30, 100 buck notes in our hands every month (the feel currency is something. 30 hundred buck notes give more satisfaction than six 500 buck notes or only three 1000 buck notes) God what punya did I do my in my past life to deserve this?

And there were the car driving lessons. I am yet to put what I learnt there to any real test. The license test at the end was a bribed breeze. But the car driving classes were fun. After a few days of being comfortable with us, Murthy, our instructor started to tell us half-x to 1.5x jokes. He used to call them 'family' jokes for some reason. No wait I know the reason. All jokes began with There was one father one mother and one small child. And went on to the father humping the mother and the child getting curious etc. Don't remember any of them. They weren't particularly funny. But he told them in a funny way. And KK used to repeat them to everyone (many knew driving already and didnt take the lessons, or some were in the same car-learning batch as Rashmi, the trainee from Belgaum engineering college in whose presence no family jokes could be told) with Murthy's style on the mess table. Murthy was all contempt for the people from North Karnataka (most Karmic engineers are from north karnataka) with their rustic, uncultured-sounding Kannada and he found in us TIIers people he could share jokes with atlast. The hilarious part was when he (and later KK) inserted 'clutch-clutch' 'break', 'third-gear' at unexpected places in the midst of the earnestly funny family story.

I remember all of us lying on the clean, tiled floor in Koushik's appartment and trying to watch Austin Powers out of a bad CD with Santhosh and Vivek - who were and still are our footballing mates. Koushik had got a brand-new house with a brand new TV (unlike the unpredictable black and white in our appartment).

Manipal is a college town. There is one popular medical college and one popular engineering college. Lots of young people. And quite a density of girls. There is a restaurant called Dollops where we went to eat Roti, Naan (Som used to pronounce Naan as Nun. We always had a laugh when Som ordered 3 butter Nuns. Sorry Som, this is a reveal all. Do feel free to make use of the comments section to sling mud back) and butter chicken, murg do piyaaza and chicken masala. We ordered and we thulped as though in a contest. Not Ashish though. He usually ate one chicken burger.

Then there was a barbecue place called Shack Point where we went to eat Barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes. On one trip to Shack point, in an auto, I stole a glance at a couple stealing a kiss in the shadows of some bush which is the only live kiss I have seen in my life.

I remember a mad unchained dog that barked its head off, got onto the compound wall and threatened to spill over to the road and get at us whenever we went to Koushik's house by the road that ran next to the pond which dried up in the summer and was used as a cricket ground.

I went with Batani (Venktesh) to his college KREC Suratkal where he applied for some duplicate mark sheet or something. After his work was done we went to the KREC beach which is just across the highway from the college.

Then there was the trip to Belgaum where Sir tried to get a local Technical conference going. Som gave a talk there and impressed everybody. I was excited to go back to Belgaum, where I had once studied years ago. I had grand plans of visiting my school which never materialized (the plans didn't materialize) owing to my extreme laziness. The food wasnt that great though. Most lacklustre North-Karnataka cuisine I have ever eaten. We took the train to Belgaum. Sir had arranged it so that we could see an amazing waterfall which falls on the way (sic)(forget the name of the waterfalls). After we had seen the falls and gone through low clouds the train stoped at a station which I can still picture but dont remember the name of. A station in the hills. Mist and cold. For me South India has always meant Sun and Rain and Sea. That station was like some magic Harry Potter parallel world kind of thing.

There was a cultural programme of folk songs which were pretty good.

Okay. Its late in the night now. And I am losing enthu in all this writing. There are lots more things to be said. The dial up internet connection that made ping ping ping ping ping sound as it dialed up. The fight for the internet. The farewell at Sir's place where Tasneem made us snacks. The dinner at Sir's brother's place in Belgaum. The mess walla's buxom wife and how they kuchi-cooed on the stairs near the tap where we went to wash hands and our plates after grub. The whole day power cuts which conveniently made work impossible (there is unfortunately power back up in TI in Bangalore). The Pizzas at some place whose name I forget. The trip to Agumbe Sringeri, the food at the temple, the indifferent sunset we put much fight to see. The movies in the mini-theatre (whose name I forget, naturally) watched for 25 bucks. The graduation ceremony - speech making, classical music and heavily contributing negatively to KK's attempt to get our group to sing Chalata Musafir Pinjade walli muniya. Loki earning the nickname of Lokarson with his dancing prowess. The peer review where we suggested improvements in our peers - where I opened my mouth too much and too arbitrarily - one of the sins which I will pay for in my next janmam. The hunt for the discotheque. The various opportunities to drink which were wasted on me cos I didnt drink then. Ankur Saboo losing his temper. Ankur Saboo giving us fundas on life the universe and everything about the stock market. Learning to drive the bike on Raghya's RX135. Bhaskey totally not understanding Hindi conversation. The precocious school girl that passed the mess whenever we were having our high tea at five. Sir telling me that I should smile more often, which only made me more morose in his presence. Washing my own clothes :-( What else? I am sure I am forgetting the most interesting things and if they strike me, I will add an update. Oh yes. The Udupi temple and the most adorable idol of Baby-Krishna.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I completed the Bangalore Half-Marathon

I completed the Bangalore Half-Marathon (yesterday) in 2 hours and 14 mins. A distance of 21.1 kms. To put things out of perspective, it is a distance of 2.11e10 microns or equivalently 3.01e11 mininum length transistors in c021.m lined end to end (ofcourse, there will be DRC errors).

It was my first half-marathon and a lot of fun.

Loki completed too. I don't know what timing he wants to quote ;-)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Here's a joke my sister made up and I fine tuned:
A guy goes to the loans department of a bank and says "Please mujhe loan de dijiye main hamesha hamesha aapka wrini rahoonga"

Had a very nice, very well timed, 5 day vacation at home. Well timed because the weather is pretty pleasant in Kumta right now and it is the season for Mangoes, Jackfruit and fish - all of which I ate loads of. Also my sister's college (she's lectures to BSc Students) is closed for summer vacation, so she was at home too.

Among other things, read Macbeth at leisure. It gave me a big kick. Though I had read Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar before, neither of them had hit me so hard as did Macbeth. Suddenly the much ado (again a Shakespearean phrase?) there is about Shakespeare seemed to make sense. And then, Shakespeare is drama written as verse and is much lighter, more enjoyable reading (if the book you are reading from comes with annotations) than Novels.

And Shakespeare has written hazaar hazaar plays. I now look forward to reading King Lear, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra - all of which I knew existed but only they have all suddenly turned extremely desirable. It's like someone who has a fridge stocked full of chocolates (or candy or ice-cream) and who one fine day suddenly finds out that he likes chocolates (or candy or ice-cream) much more than he thought he did.

After being so impressed with Macbeth I dug out my sister's book of college poems and read for the first time all the (deservedly) famous pieces: Alexander Selkirk, Ode to a Grecian Urn, An Essay on Man...I have brought the book back with me. English Poetry, here I come!

I think I will have one crib with Shakespearean Drama or English poetry and that would be that it is not very conducive to mugging up (unlike Ghazals). Though Macbeth had several stunning lines these are the only ones I could remember with some fight. They are the words of a murderer whom Macbeth has employed:

I am one, my liege,
Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world
Have so incens'd that I am reckless what
I do to spite the world