Smaller than Life
Why a blog? Simple. Cacoethes Scribendi -- the urge to write! My literary pretensions and caprices bring me here. Like any writer I write to be read. All my posts, though fettered to my small world and trivially myopic, will live and yearn that somebody connects to them someday. Cognitive frenzies, sardonic musings, aimless banters, incoherent ramblings and trivial indulgences; this is simply an episodic narrative of my trivial world -- in a grain of sand… Smaller than Life.
When I am dead,
- Hillaire Belloc
This is my letter to the world
Her message is committed
- Emily Dickinson
The thoughts of our past years
- William Wordsworth
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On the Stands
Watching pool in Vegas
A calypso for the master
Willows and Whites
Observations on Sachin Tendulkar
A Nameless Poem
Sheaves on the Shelf
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Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Does this ring a bell?
I did not believe it at first. When I heard temple bells ringing while fiddling, along with my friend, with forks, spoons and pizzas at Pizza Hut, Brigade Road, I attributed the carillon to my constantly hallucinated mind. I had suffered, in the past, from delusions of girls, delusions of cricket, delusions of directing movies; why, till date the most curious delusions I had suffered from were, perpetrated by the public, delusions of ringtones and delusions of cells! But delusions of bells... never in my life. Hence when I thought I was hearing temple bells at Pizza Hut, I was appalled at the rate at which my delusions were getting increasingly chimerical. Hence, it was a matter of no small relief to me when my gaze instantly shot back and found that there was, indeed, a bell. It, in fact, resembled quaintly a temple bell, except that it was smaller, polished, was bereft of vermillion, and was not rung only by overly pious priests with half-tonsured heads. Menfolk and womenfolk rang the bell everytime they passed by it, and everytime the bell clanged sonorously, "Thank you!" shouted voices from inside the kitchens.
The waiter placed the two huge books -- they call it menu cards here -- before us and asked us with overt courteousness if we wanted any more to eat. Ravenous as our appetite was on that day, we ordered for a second pizza which we planned to share. The waiter put on a smug grin on his face and politely clarified, "Your pizza will reach you in fourteen minutes, sirs." I asked him incredulously, "Are we to go and ring the bell as if to symbolise our protest and clamour for justice if the pizza takes longer than fourteen minutes?" The waiter's smug look rapidly segued into one of constipated apoplexy.
Later, upon more discreet enquiries to a different waiter, I came to find out that if people were satisfied with the quality of food and service, they were encouraged to ring the bell and publicly display their appreciation. I had not, in the least, expected such a literal translation of Tennyson's " Ring out the old, Ring in the new" into deed. They were trying their best to ring in changes, based on customer feedback, and they were making no bones about it.
As far as I kept an intrigued watch, two youths tolled the bell to see the girls at the nearby table giggle at the din the clangour was creating, a tot struck it to see if he could jump up to that height and strike it as hard as the elders, a lady with a pram tugged at the bell in desperation because the infant seemed more attracted to the bell than her and would only be quietened if the bell made the racket, most people trickling out struck the bell because of a collective consciousness to the bell generated down the queue; the waiters from inside religiously intoned everytime "Thank you Sirs and Ma'ams" for the Sirs, Ma'ams, kids jumping up, and babies in perambulators. Through my watch, the bell must have been tolled dozens of times, but not once did it strike me that the bell was rung as an intense gesture of appreciation.
I ate the pizza with a constantly lingering feeling of being summoned by the forces of nature to a higher calling. The weekend pizza was enjoyable to the troubled tastebuds and clouded olfactories. I was satisfied with the food and the service that night. Pizzas with ketchup definitely taste good. But pizzas with bells don't. When I left the place, fearing that I might rudely jolt other half-terrorised poor souls nibbling at pizzas, I consciously kept away from the bell.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Of Visa Interviews
When the situation comes upon people that will change their life within thirty seconds, it manages to bring out the worst in them. You eventually come to take cognisance of this universal truism – almost a tacit precept. I did, during my visits to the American consulate; my first visit, an attempt to secure a Visa and the second, as a companion and certified consultant (my success with the visa certified me, like only success does in these matters) to one of my friends who had an interview. Ultimately the above truth inexorably settles on you like the Pilani fog of January. So much so that there come days when you secretly hope and pray that such a situation befalls you sooner than later.
And the Visa interview befell me sooner than later. The whole process is interesting actually. A couple of hints for those the enjoyment is reserved for later: The Visa interviewer looks up and stares at you blankly when he is neither asking you questions nor listening to your answers; the moments of the actual interview are reserved for the computer. Don’t mistake the poor American’s etiquette for a squint. When your turn in the queue comes, the American will wave you, while peering into the computer, over to the counter with an exaggerated theatrical flourish, almost excitedly, almost like beckoning a friend over. That is the time for you to hold your nerve and think for the most logical answers. They do not screen in the consular officers’ computers made-for-the-Oscars anti-French or anti-Japanese movies that they want you to see; the fellow wants you in there for an interview.
My own interview was disappointing; it left me with nothing much to write about. Thirty seconds, a few cursory questions, equally cursory answers and it was over. "Your visa will be couriered within the next couple of days. Good Luck!" the visa officer boomed from the other side of the glass. Anyway, for us wannabe writers, our own experiences are seldom eventful and worth writing about. The others' experiences are those that often seem to fit into the writerly perspective. Anyway what better than wallowing others into the grime for banal pleasure and writing convenience. Hence, as usual, it is the other's experiences that I find more worthy of a description.
I was waiting for my turn in the queue when I struck conversation with one fellow in the adjacent queue. This person told me his University and, as a follow-up, matter-of-factly explained to me, with ample reasons, the reasons he had defected to another university at the eleventh hour. He was slated to attend Texas A&M University till two days before the visa interview, when suddenly the University of Massachusetts preponderated. He joked in a simulated sigh, toward the end when his turn for the interview came (even as the Visa officer motioned his hand in a brandish), that he had felt like an American each time he had enunciated an accented “Texas A&M University” to scores of people. On that parting note, he bustled up to the counter. He accosted the Visa officer with a sprightly “Good Morning”. He then began his first answer – rather stylishly, I thought, well counterfeited American accent and all – and said it in all exuberance and cheer. And then he gaped. The Visa interviewer looked at him quizzically, almost peremptorily, demanding an explanation for the mismatch between his admit letter from the University of Massachusetts and the rakishly uttered “Texas A&M University”! I must say he did rally well in the end though, articulating well the reasons for the slip of tongue: the sudden change of mind etc. Imagine his elation when the Visa officer finally told him, dead pan, “Your visa will be couriered to you in another couple of days.” He rushed out in ultimate euphoria thanking and wishing everyone on the way. And suddenly he stormed back in and to the Visa officer, who was now posing his first question to the next candidate, ejaculated a lusty well-rehearsed-but forgotten-in-the-heat-of-the-moment “Have a Nice Day, Sir!”, taking the unsuspecting officer completely by shock. It was the Visa interviewer’s turn to gape.
A thirty-eight page long PDF file which has christened itself the Visa Bible divulges that one of the ultimate secrets of getting a Visa lies in maintaining your cheer during the worst of times. But alas, this maverick friend of mine is of the opinion that Bibles, like classics, are those large volumes of tomes that must be enthusiastically spoken about without being read; he strode into his interview without so much as an askance at the Book. Iconoclasts, unlike vixens, seldom hunt in a pack. And he was the only iconoclast in his batch of interviewees. Hence he found it a little strange when he was afforded a generous smile by the first bevy of sanguine ladies that confronted him. But in his nervousness he just brushed the fortuity away into the deepest recesses of his mind. And he never thought about it again. Until a couple of minutes later when inside the consulate another three unknown roseate ladies sashayed past him to the Visa counter smiling at him unreservedly. All sorority was smiling at him and wishing him, and it gradually began to play on his mind and intrigue him. He couldn’t take it anymore when another portly girl walking towards the interview counter politely beamed at him en route. In all his college life, not even a single girl had returned his ogles with as much a glance. The sudden turnaround left him feeling extremely muddled, suspicious and weird about himself. So much so that when the portly dame gave him an unsuspecting smile, he promptly looked down, much agitated, to check if his fly was open!
And ah yes, I was outside the consulate the other day, waiting for my friend to return from his interview, when I saw this girl stampeding towards me, hair dishevelled, raucously shouting and vigorously waving the file in her hand. I sidestepped the juggernaut in time. She ran beyond me, without stopping, towards an elderly gentleman, her father apparently. I looked on, a little concerned; probably she had left a few important documents behind. It was upon further scrutiny did it dawn on me that she had actually cleared the Visa interview and was making no bones about her elation. I observed her make twenty-one calls in her father’s cell-phone; yes, twenty-one it was -- I was so distraught that I counted. I then vowed that seeing tense faces is a better pastime and did not so much as glance towards her side again. Except just once when my friend and I, on our walk back, saw her along with her father a little further down the road, hair dishevelled, shouting and vigorously waving the file in her hand in an animated explanation. She had, for the past half an hour, been searching for her I-20 that had, in all probability, fallen out of her file during her exaggerated celebration.
You cannot blame them. After all, when the situation comes upon people that will change their life within thirty seconds, it manages to bring out the worst in them. Ultimately this truth inexorably shines on you like the Pilani sun of May. So much so that there come days when you secretly hope and pray that you see your worst sooner than later. Why wouldn’t anyone, when it makes you a sensation amongst the rabble overnight. Free of cost.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
An Unequal Music
A few days back I happened to see the name of Mr. M.O Srinivasan in The Hindu’s obituary. His name brought back memories of my third standard ‘Music Periods’ in thatch-roofed classrooms of Vidya Mandir, Adyar in which he zestfully rendered to us Bhajan tunes that went like ‘Muthaana Muthukumara, Muruga Nee Odivaa’, ‘Danguravasaarirayya’ and some expatiations of Mohana Raagam – the songs I forget -- and cheerily urged us white-and-jungle-green uniformed tots to throatily rehearse the renderings leaving aside our inhibitions. We were asked by the school to buy a book of Bhajans, Dasanjali Bhajanavali, brought out by him and bring it along for the Music Periods, failing which we would be upbraided by our class teacher. I still remember that I found it, as a third standard schoolboy, quite incredible that despite being hard of hearing, he was able to be in line with the shruthi of each raaga; I took it for granted then that he, the teacher, had to be well in line and my mind, upon the verity of that matter, firmly refused to even skirt the realms of doubt. It never ceased to amaze me and I often questioned myself: how could he correct himself if he could not hear his own voice? I also recollect my third standard impishness of deliberately trying to sing Muthaana Muthukumara in the tune of another song and trying to investigate if he was able to pick me out, only to be promptly censured by my class teacher watching me from behind. Some people, despite having impeccably functional ears, are simply tone deaf. I suppose he would complete the perfect antithesis.
The music book meant little to me before and after the Music Periods. But I used to spend a lot of time staring at the ‘About the Author’ section in the back cover. The write-up went like this: “M.O Srinivasan, the dextrous former India wicketkeeper who made snaffling catches behind the stumps a habit, has now, through his music, been gloving children with the same ease.” The simile captured my third standard imagination for some strange reason and I am able to recollect it after fourteen years! The fact that he was an international cricketer enthralled my schoolboyish cricketing fancies. I was secretly cocksure that he could secure a definite entry into the Guinness Book of World Records if only he tried. I had never till then heard of any musician who had been good enough to be an international cricketer. I was certain that I would one day go and request him to try for it. I came to read later that he played once for India, and his undoubted skill as a wicketkeeper was made more endearing by his deafness (he appealed only after the slips had alerted him to the fact that the ball that nestled in his gloves had, en route, clipped the edge of the bat).
There are many people who touch your life without their knowledge by some complex surjection of societal or professional relationships or merely by the virtue of having been a part of your life at a time when you look up to a lot of different people. In my case, he was one.
The obituary write-up of The Hindu:
M.O. Srinivasan passes away
CHENNAI, JUNE 14.
M.O. Srinivasan, who represented Tamil Nadu in an unofficial Test against the Australian Services team in 1945-46, died on Monday. He was 86.
Regarded as a courageous wicketkeeper and right-hand batsman, Srinivasan figured in 20 first-class matches between 1941 and 1948, making 504 runs with an average of 20.16. Behind the stumps, he took 31 catches and made 21 stumpings.
Born on August 3, 1918, Srinivasan, a student of Hindu High School in Triplicane, was a prominent player on the city scene from 1941 to 1948. He figured in the Presidency Matches against the Europeans, and made his Ranji Trophy debut against Mysore at the Central College in 1941.
Srinivasan played for Rest of India and Indian XI against the Australian Services alongside Vijay Merchant, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare and Rusi Modi. He also turned up for South Zone against the West Indies in 1948-49.
He played for Triplicane Cricket Club in the city league along with the late M. J. Gopalan and C. R. Rangachari, and also for Sounder Cricket Club.
Srinivasan is survived by his daughter and son, M.O. Parthasarathy who played for Tamil Nadu and Bihar in the Ranji Trophy and also represented the East Zone in Deodhar Trophy.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
The Grand Slam
Nothing can be tougher. When I have to quantise, catalogue and pen down in an autograph book everything that has lent me fulfilment and joy in a relationship or assess a person's assets and failings like I were an Income Tax auditor, I search for a glass of water, stammer, scratch my head with the pen, blurt irrelevant things about the poor fellow's crooked nose or flap ears and break into a nervous laugh. (It is customary for the parting lot in BITS to fill up one's contact details their friends' 'slam books' and also as a matter of courtesy, jot down a couple of lines about the good times spent and best wishes.) I can find the creases of worry appearing on my forehead; not because I cannot find anything nice to write about, but simply because my mind refuses to make any comments about the closeness of a relationship reading which will make me (leave alone the other) uncomfortable. Which is why I feel like the shrugged Atlas, so to speak, when some good friends hand me out their autograph books. When they warn you in a jocular reproof that they will not brook a below-par write-up from a good friend like me, they mean precisely, "Hey! You had better write only good gratulatory pleasantries. Else you had better beware, your autograph book shall reach me someday." So the write-up either ends up becoming strangulatingly emotional or it gets excessively panegyric. Ultimately, whenever I settle down to write a heartfelt and earnest write-up about a close friend, it ends up being far from the truth.
Hence, it meant to me more than any small measure of success when I did compliment myself after I wrote in the Godmother's autograph book in our final Shatabdi train back home, the train that would separate our tracks forever. I liked it because I thought while it was impersonal enough to save my emotions all embarrassment, I achieved the task of providing pointers to the memory lane. I decided I will put the impersonal passages on my blog simply because I like the piece and want to archive it here (without getting very personal). Ah! That sounds good enough a pretext; but why would I want to demean the Godmother's effort of typing my entire slambook entry out meticulously and mailing it to me! (So Godmother, if you read this, please don't take offense :) ) These are the impersonal excerpts of what I had to write about the great Godmother:
A bucolic girl from Nanganallur: gangling, a little nerdy, a little nice – these were the opening lines that set up your entrée in my blog. I guess that wouldn’t change much today: Okay, probably, ‘A passionate and fervent Kali devotee’ would manage a squeeze in.
... The day you issued veritable prognostications of a philosopher, the day bedecked matronly women vied for a solitary microphone and you valiantly vied too, "Why are you on SMS", belled temple cows (!), when you sent me a solicitous ‘Where are you?’ SMS when I was enjoying my new-found comfort in the bushes, antennae and pin-cushions, NPK, the day when both of us found the declivity of ‘the branded coffee’ too vertiginous for comfort, your three words of wisdom, the 10 o’ clock morning pantry sessions that happened at eleven, your generous free Auto rides (not to speak of the KH), my TIP, Gmail, chats that later became Gmail chats, Table Talkers, the fish that felt like a fish out of water, planning the psenti-lachcha session, the 3 o’ clock train at 4:25(!)... (Oh! I am drawing very near)... the unintelligible scribble so far in your autograph book... It has been a tortuous ride to the present and now I am! But wouldn’t you like to muse as the granny grey about all these things one day? I’m mighty sure I would.
... Even as I set my pen upon your slam book, the silent voice within me quavered, my vision blurred with tears and everything that has followed has been a long jagged rickety illegible scrawl… How I would have loved to look at this scribble and ruminate thus. It’s actually the jerky Shatabdi train...
The Jack ;)
Thursday, June 10, 2004
I know these are your last words here. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it has been having you operating here. I daresay nobody, in my short life, has left me with a feeling of being so used. Contrary to the popular feeling, it is, in fact, quite refreshing and satiating to have been used so much. No more will blogs, wiki, Yahoo, Hotmail, Cricinfo windows thrive in as much proliferation. I will miss you...
Your First Love,
Sunday, June 06, 2004
The crossroads have come. The curtains are slowly drawing up on My Best Four Years. It's painfully slow. It has still not hit me that I will no more be a student of BITS, Pilani. A BITSian, I will forever be (I hope). But in the past few days, I've been plagued by the urgency to move on. To fresher air, to more vernal pastures.
The past six months have been eventful, turbulent and confusing. I do not know if I've emerged out of it a better individual. The lingering uncertainty hurts. Whatever be, it has been a whirlwind six months. Well, let me first try to arrest the whir of the reel and wind it back...
... New rendezvous, new milieux, enatic ramifications, strangers irrupting into my history, the Schizophrenic, vehemence, SOD, three salty pearls, tears of joy, blowing sands of separation, estrangement, prognostications of a philosopher, the genesis of an Adithi, the end of the incommunicado and the beginning of another, Vivacity, the pair of eyes, spreadeagling, airborne, Runic odes and Mrs Malaprops, a near soulmate, branded coffee, vertiginous declivities, chimaera, The Black Sheep, cardiac convalescence, abysses, trust, Siddhartha! The Haunting pair of eyes, Miss Poise, History flowing into the present, a long lost fraternity, Pearls of Wisdom, finally the exegesis, solace, the bumptious entree of Seven Years, the disappearance just as bumptious, quid-pro-quos, the bashful eyes, endearing absence, whither havst thou gone, return of the comeliness, if eyes could talk, the final rites, the juvenile edifice, the final motions, the search for a bracing, the grapple of an expectant Adieu...
The cognitive stream has been more tempestuous than ever. Plaguing self-doubts and primal obfuscations continue to plague and obfuscate. While the scars have made me wary, I am unable to asseverate to myself with conviction that I have become a stronger and better individual, mentally and emotionally. I still make the same mistakes, wring my heart with the same remorse. The same myopia, the same ingenuity, the same supererogatory elation, the same sting, the same bitterness. And a Life goes on so long as it is. But for now, the next diversion at the Crossroads has come...
Thursday, June 03, 2004
The Letter of the Aegis
Watched Maniratnam's Ayudha Ezhuthu -- the Tamil version of Yuva, rather the flick, of which Yuva is the Hindi version -- over the weekend. A thoroughly enjoyable movie. Made a few jots mentally during the movie:
Madhavan impresses one and all -- well, at least he impressed me -- with his portrayal of the recidivistic hireling-thug. What impressed me most was that he had studied the character extremely closely; it was evident from his portrayal -- the gait, the animalistic instinct, the makeover, the lingo. Even little things like salaaming the goonda way, and grabbing the phone disdainfully, brushing the receiver over the other shoulder in a quick jig, almost arrogantly, and holding the earpiece to the ear were executed with a careless flourish that comes with careful study.
Meera Jasmine plays perfect foil to Madhavan in the movie. A plaudit-earning performance. The brooding wife thrown in between the pangs of love and family, present and posterity was remarkably essayed. The screen chemistry managed to hold viewers riveted onto their seats. Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan were never quite the same forceful combination in the Hindi version.
Surya and Siddarth also impress, the former with his sheer screen persona and energetic action and the latter, simply because he fits the stereotype of the sophisticated upper middle class kid very well. In fact, Surya almost carries the film on his shoulders in the second half. The face-offs between him and Bharathiraja make for good viewing.
Bharathiraja communes with the audience with his eyes. A brilliant depiction of the corrupt minister. Encore!
Esha Deol sleepwalks (if she doesn't hinder the tempo) a bovine stroll through the movie. Trisha is passable as the modern day girl with a modern volitional temperament.
The screenplay was refreshing. Though throughout the movie, I was plagued by the feeling of already having watched a similar portrayal of a single incident from three different perspectives -- probably the earlier of Kurosawa flicks, probably Rashemon -- the narrative was well knit and well edited. Basically the incidences were well contrived.
If there is one thing without which the movie simply wouldn’t have been - it's A R Rahman's background score. The lilting fast-paced background scores simply set the tempo for the viewer. But, on a tangent, I couldn't help feeling that Maniratnam had once again succumbed to the commercial elements of cinema. As my good friend, The Rod Lord, would lick his lips and quip, the film is a 'Made for an Award' film, which is not necessarily a good thing always. Also, I felt that the unbridled optimism, in the face of a brilliant beginning and an absorbing screenplay, seemed a little ostentatious and could have been tempered. Looked like towards the end Maniratnam himself got a little carried away by the avalanche of built-up events that he had conjured up which set up for a grand finish.
But these were barely minor glitches in a brilliantly packaged cinematic expatiation.
The Hindi version was hardly a shadow of its Tamil counterpart. It was distinctly lacking in ethnic flavour.
The one reason for which I would most cherish the movie: P C Sreeram's camerawork. A visual delight. I have never seen good old Madras captured in so picturesque and grand a manner by a camera. Ever.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
I committed myself to a catastrophic blunder last weekend:
It appeared -- why, it was almost evident -- that i2 had some vacancies to fill for which they were looking for B.Tech. freshers. I was instantly reminded of one of my schoolmates who had lamented to me about the difficulties of getting a job these days if one is not from the top universities. I had felt genuinely sorry for him. Thus, when this news reached me, in a fit of altruistic sympathy for my kindred schoolmates, I instantly wrote a mail to our school's yahoogroup debriefing them about the situation and instructing the interested people to forward soft-copies of their resumes to my email. I was amply rewarded for my gratuitous fraternising; my inbox was flooded the next day with all kinds of unsolicited resumes from all kinds of unknown sixteen syllabled names. I later deduced, circumventing some self-contrived encumbrances, that the asinine prick had forwarded the mail to all his college friends. Why he chose to all-importantly circulate this piece of information to all and sundry while he himself had to fend for a job amongst thousand others is something that I am still grappling with. But, to my acute consternation, I have also been left to grope with the very rationale behind presumptuously poking my nose in others' businesses and trying to do good!
These days, I open my mailbox to find twenty new resumes everyday, not to speak of the aspirants' brave hortatory essays that would have done Martin Luther King Jr. proud. I envy the HR resource person who plays Soltaire on her computer everyday. Deluged by the disastrous entailments of my action, these days I am a nervous wreck whenever I see the cathode ray tube staring me in the eye. My life will never be the same again.
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