Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Breathing out into a police-walla's face and other stories

When my bike got stolen around this time last year, one of the things I said to myself in consolation, over the next few months, was that perhaps God wanted me to buy a car and learn how to drive properly. Cycling home on some rainy evenings, soaking wet, I promised myself many times over the last one year that by the next monsoon I would have a car. I kept pushing the car buying decision till the very end and then only the late arrival of the monsoons in Bangalore has helped me keep that promise. It rains almost every evening now [this was written last Sunday -ed] and I go home snug and dry in a nicely washed car.

Don't worry, everyone has to start from scratch ...

...a witty senior at TI is said to have said about anxious new-car owners. In my case it was not a scratch but a splinter. I broke the left parking light in a parking skirmish with some rugged steel part of Som's (stationary) bike. But since my car is only a second hand Maruti I don't care too much about a few bruises here and there. Besides, I have since found out that scratches on a white maruti don't stand out so much. Since then, I have, shall we say, taken liberties. There have been no more accidents with Som's bike and now I sometimes find it difficult to park if Som's bike is not there.

Releasing the clutch...

...was not so much of a trouble since I had learnt some driving in Manipal, but there were things to learn, such as remembering to release the handbrake before starting to drive. Som would say of my driving that it would be sometime before he could sit, relaxed in my car. I said it would be even more time before I sat in my car and relaxed. Every time I started I would take a deep breath and mutter "here goes..." I would slow down to a crawl if there were female pedestrians around. I will never be able forgive myself if I reduced that half of the population.

Breathing out into a police-walla's face

This was Som's adventure with my car and I grudge him that. We were going home after dropping off Prasenjit. Som was driving, and suddenly there is this police barricade asking us to slow down and stop. Som drives better than me, which is not saying much, and he manages to halt without accident. He has only a Dallas driving license. It is 11 in the night and I think we are in trouble.

"Drinks?" asks the policeman. "No No." we say confidently. Though we should have said, "Actually...a little. Maybe. Yes." "Ok breathe out," says the policeman and brings his face next to Som's. I think he makes quite some money out of the bribes for him to be so fearless. Som breathes out. "Ok go."

We go. And breathe. Luckily we had both had had spearmints, not as a precaution, just like that. I think it is a good omen for my car - not the spearmints, but this whole police episode.

But where are those garlic breaths when one needs them, I ask you?

Bangalore Public is nice (and I hope all this IT money does'nt ruin it one day)

There are more people who don't honk, than those that do. And motorists on the spot advise you patiently about how to get out of tricky jams. And general lookers-on take an interest on whether or not you navigate that bump or ditch.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Language Joke

A joke I am particularly proud of having once made - dont' know if I am not repeating it here on the blog:

We were going to Coorg I think, all of us in a Tata Sumo/Safari, maybe Qualis, and Sumeet and I were sitting up front. Som says to me from the back, "Anant, talk to the driver na, find out what all languages he can speak (so that we can communicate with him properly)"

I say, in the general direction of the driver, not loudly, semi-laughing in expectation, "Parlez vous Francais?"

Ishh...Gotta learn this language

"Onont-babu, ami Cinnamon thake bolcchi" was what the peson said if I remember right, I am transcribing right and am not exaggerating. For a split second I thought of saying "Hein" and letting him continue talking to me in the language. "Sorry. Can you speak in English. I don't understand Bengali."

Gotta learn Bengali. A good part of TI and of Bangalore is Bengali and learning the language would complete my access to other people's cafeteria/restaurant-conversations.

And Onont-babu sounds a good deal better than Mr Anant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Another nice clip/quote from The Times of India:

"Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or to usher storm,
but to add colour to my sunset sky"
- Tagore

How soothingly serene!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A long hard day's Work Ahead...

...in the office, on a Sunday too. Maybe some Ghalib will gear me up for it.

The following Ghazal was among the first Ghalib ghazals I heard - my very fortuitous introduction to Ghalib, in fact. Sitting in a lab in college, working on my summer training project and listening to a playlist someone had compiled on the comp I was working on I suddenly hear these magical sounds in Rafi's voice that seem to stand apart. I can't make out some of the lyrics but I can still feel the fine finish of the poetry. Then in the end the Maqta comes up "Ghalib, hame na ched ke, phir josh-e-ashk se, Baithen hain ham tahayya-e-toofaan kiye hue" and I think "Ah...So this is Ghalib"

That was four years ago. Since then I have heard this Ghazal sung by different singers in different albums - the latest being Iqbal Bano. It's a long Ghazal and each singer sings different sets of shers.

Hindi movie song buffs might find the second last sher a nice surprise. But don't look now, let the suspense build...

Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiye hue
Josh-e-qadah se bazm charagaan kiye hue

[qadah: wine-glass]
Long time since my love was my guest
Long time since the warmth of the wineglass filled the sitting-room
(There you go! I am a terrible translator. Sitting-room? sheesh)

Phir vazaa-e-ehtiyaat se rukne lagaa hai dam,
Barson huen hai chaak girebaan kiye hue

[vazaa: conduct, behaviour; ehtiyaat:care; chaak: torn; girebaan: collar]
All this painful etiquette is really killing me,
How I long for the days when even torn shirts were ok.

Phir pursish-e-jaraahat-e-dil ko chala hai ishq,
saaman-e-sadh-hazaar namak-daan kiye hue.

[pursish: enquiry; jaraahat: operation(fixing); namak-daan: salt container; saaman-e-sad-hazaar: facing hundreds of thousands]
My defeated love sets out to enquire if someone will fix my bleeding heart
But where ever I see I find them waiting to rub salt in my wounds.

Phir jii mein hai ke dar pe kisi ke pade rahen
Sar zer-baar-e-minnat-e-darbaan kiye hue

[sar zer baar: bowed head]
Once again I want to lie at my beloved's door step
With a bowed head, pleading the doorman to let me in.

Jii dhoondta hai phir wahi phursat ke raat-din,
Baithen rahen tasavvur-e-jaana kiye hue.

[tasavvur: thought, khayaal]
Where are those leisurely days and nights gone,
When hours were (generally) spent in thoughts of my beloved...

Ghalib hamen na cheda ke phir josh-e-ashq se
Baithen hain ham tahayya-e-toofaan kiye hue

[tahayya: determination]
Ghalib, you better not disturb me now, for egged by tearful passion
I now sit with a dangerous, reckless, stormy, determination.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


When I first read about it on Sumeet's blog , I did'nt quite understand what this meme business was all about. Last I heard (from Biman) was that a meme was an intellectual gene - just as the biological genes fight amongst themselves to survive and thrive amongst creatures, memes - ideas of culture, morality etc. - are supposed to joust with each other to see which held sway in human society.

Anyways, I was going to follow the links on Sumeet's blog to find out more but before that Som honoured Sumeet's 'tag' and his prelude to his reply threw light on what was going on.

As Som puts it, a meme is a chain-mail equivalent in the blog world. You write about a certain topic and then 'tag' your friends in the blogworld. The tagged people are supposed to then write about the same topic(s) and in turn tag more people, thus causing the chain to grow.


Number of Books I Own

As a rough estimate, about two hundred. Including scores of Tinkles, Chandamamas (most in English, some in Kannada, a couple in Hindi and I think one in Marathi), Archies, Richie Rich, school textbooks with favourite short stories, second hand books that I keep buying, several pirated copies, a few new books. Most of my books are back at home in Kumta, in cardboard cartons. Books I have in Bangalore are books I haven't yet read or am planning to read again. The novels I have are an arbit collection. No consistent authors except Agatha Christie who I once liked but now can't stand. Not more than four or five thrillers max - can't stand thrillers either. Some poetry. A big book of Van Gough's Paintings.

Last Book I read

The last book I read, if you discount The Hitchiker's Guide Omnibus that I am re-reading now and Khushwant Singh's Delhi which I re-read a few chapters of before that, was Shakespeare's Macbeth. It's difficult to fully explain what I liked about it. Phrases like 'struck an inner chord' seem inadequate. After Macbeth, I am ready to get hooked on to Shakespeare and it was with great difficulty that I postponed buying two thug collections Shakespeare's "Three Tragedies" and "Three Comedies" at Gungaram's.

Here's a cut-paste about what I wrote about Shakespeare some posts back. I might sound conceited 'quoting' myself but do try and see it some other way.

"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."

The last book(s) I bought...

...were the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Omnibus by Douglas Adams and Khushwant Singh's celebrated Train to Pakistan. The latter is a much thinner volume than I had expected it would be and I checked to see several times to see if it was the same book I thought it was. I haven't read it yet though. Before that, on a trip to Mysore I had bought some 15-20 second hand books including Moby Dick, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, The Island of Circe (Mulk Raj Anand I think), Ancient Indian Stories About Women (with a very evocative cover illustration. wink wink) and Fitzgerald's famous translation of Omar Khayyam's Rubbaiyat (with a even more evocative cover illustration. Sly Grin).

Books that Mean(t) a lot to Me

(not in any order and not at all exhaustive)

Ayn Rand's Fountainhead - A very heady book. Gives you a high. Propounds hard work, perfection and a passion for one's work which is a good thing. But is mercilessly unkind to people who some how did not manage to work hard, be perfect or have a passion for their work which may not be such a good thing. Written extremely well. Unputdownable.

Hemingway's Old Man And The Sea.

Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy - detailed, funny, non-judgemental, sunny, kind depictions of the lives of some forty-fifty people. The book is so big that at no stage do you really bother about the plot - what's going to happen to whom etc - it is almost like living another life with so many new friends and relatives. Vikram Seth probably wrote the novel like Amit Chatterjee, a writer-poet, one of the characters in the story is descrbed to be writing his big novel. In Amit's words "Like a Banyan Tree the story keeps dropping fresh branches to the ground. Some of these take root and become trees themselves others just fade away". A Suitable Boy has several firsts which I will not list here for you are going to read it yourself sometime.

A translation of Bilhana's Chaurapanchasika (Fifty Verses from a (love) Thief) - Written by the Kashmiri poet this collection consists of fifty erotic verses each beginning with Yadyapi Taan - Even Now...and describe the love between the poet and the King's daughter.
Translation of Kalidasa's Work - My favourite is a section from Ritusamharam (the coming together of the seasons) where the Summer is described to be having a queer effect on the food chain - the frog is shelters under the cobra's hood but the cobra does nothing, the snake shelters under the peacocks' tail but the peacock does nothing...When I read these translations I know that I have no choice but to learn Sanskrit some day and go exploring into the as yet unaccessible (to me) realms of Sanskrit literature.

The Catcher in the Rye - I used to use it, like Sumeet, as a pick me up of some sort. Don't like it now so much.

Upamanyu Chatterjee's English, August. I found striking, scary, similarities between me and the protagonist, Agastya Sen - not just in thoughts and attitudes but in actions as well. Which is why the book makes me feel reassured and really really good.

The Strange Case of Billy Bisaws by Arun Joshi and Distant Drum by Manohar Malgaonkar - both books bought 'by instinct' at second hand stores. Lesser celebrated of the Indian English Authors but just as good if not better.

Books I Wish I had Finished

Joseph Heller's Catch 22 - I found it very funny in the beginning but very boring very soon. People say that the book gets really pacy and drastic and profound towards the end. I will find out some day.

Melville's Moby Dick - Couldn't sustain interest till the I reached the supposedly really good parts. I had a very good copy which I have lent someone (if that someone is reading this please return my book). Now I have a front cover-less second hand copy and next time I start I am going to read till the end.

Three Men In a Boat - Jerome K Jerome. Hilarious Max. But couldn't read through the (semi-serious) descriptions of the history and geography of all those places in England. Maybe some other time...

People I Tag

Gans , Piyush , Sylvia

My tag list is small because most people I would want to tag have already been tagged by Som and Sumeet.