Tuesday, 13 July 2010


The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,*

Even ideas to stay alive need fresh air. They have taken a holiday.
How can they be denied?

*Holidays by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Fossil fools

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

We all know them. The unfortunate among us meet them everyday. In offices, on the roads, in the queue standing before us. Even misanthropes who are social media addicts meet them online. There is no escaping them. Like cockroaches hiding in old, decayed woodwork we know they are there even when we can’t see them. The fossil fools. In the corporate world they are known as ‘middle management’. And everywhere else as those middle-aged men.

They have achieved a level of mediocrity– comforting and self-sustaining. Even though they may not rise any higher up in life, they know, as they occupy the ‘middle’, that those on their way up will have to go past them. And the rest will soon join them. So they are comforted. Somehow this makes them more than a little proud of themselves.

Due to the above-mentioned advantage they build an entourage consisting of other “middle men” and juniors who in a few years time will morph into them. The accolade from juniors flatters them. The support of others like them empowers them.

But their life is not without its unique pitfalls. For how long can these fossil fools last? The wheels of progress won’t grind to a halt just because they have achieved the pinnacle of their mediocrity. There will always be smarter, bolder and more efficient ideas waiting to take over. What do they do then?

Thus begins the vicious battle unimaginatively called ‘defend the turf”. The motto being– he who blows his trumpet the loudest wins, never mind if he is out of tune and giving everyone a headache. Ruthless missions are launched to shore up large ‘followings’. Every bit of mediocrity is not only applauded but also richly awarded. Every little spark that threatens to burn down the entrenchments is mercilessly rubbed out. All middle men combine forces and they are out to take prisoners. Those unwilling to tow the line are ignored. For what one isn’t aware of, doesn’t exist. If one can’t see it, surely nobody else can. So says the cat among the pigeons as it closes its eyes.

Watching these desperate attempts to perpetuate mediocrity, we should raise our fists in anger and howl. Instead we gently shake our heads and whisper,

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret,

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

–Men at forty by Donald Justice

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

New Learnings

When misanthropes become social media addicts, and no one notices the irony, you know it’s the worst of the times. And the best of the times. A time when every day brings new “learnings”.

Here’s what I learnt in the past one week.

1. Missing classes meant copying notes and catching up with what had been taught during our absence. Lessons weren’t repeated for our benefit. If we had doubts we could discuss them after class. Unsurprisingly, the world too operates on this principle. You missed what’s going on; it’s your prerogative to catch up.

Even to become a contrarian you need to understand conventions first.

However, if you are under 40 and don’t know what ‘tactical media’ is, despite being active on facebook and twitter. Despite doing PhDs from Oxford or Harvard. Despite working for a media outlet. In that case, it is simply time to re-evaluate your ‘education’.

2. People tweeting from their blackberries shouldn’t accuse those tweeting from their iPhones of being Luddites. Please get a dictionary. Or open a new tab and type ‘meaning Luddite’. Same rule applies for comments on facebook.

3. If someone claims to be an atheist and a meat eater chances are very high that they are most obsessed with religion and vegetarianism. That’s the curse of assuming ideas based on negation. The anti-ideology.

4. No matter what meat eaters, who may or may not be atheists, choose to believe - yes, being an atheist also requires following a system of beliefs, there’s a reason why most men and women capable of reasoning are calling for people to consume less or no meat at all.

If you don’t understand the problem with factory farming, over fishing, or how eating a solely meat based diet is resulting in wastage of resources and is unsustainable, don’t make facile arguments about plants being helpless (plants aren’t helpless they have been on this planet since before humans evolved).

That is unless you haven’t ever laid eyes upon any biology text. In that case read more.

5. Everybody has to live with his or her own peculiar contradictions. No matter how ridiculous.
Richard Dawkins on Vegetarianism: “What I am doing is going along with the fact that I live in a society where meat eating is accepted as the norm, and it requires a level of social courage which I haven’t yet produced to break out of that. It’s a little bit like the position which many people would have held a couple of hundred years ago over slavery. Where lots of people felt morally uneasy about slavery but went along with it because the whole economy of the South depended upon slavery.“

6. Everything is connected. Often there is less than six degrees of separation. E.g. your desire for sushi for dinner once a week - extinction of blue fin tuna.

7. In the US, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, people think house sparrows grow up to become pigeons. This gives a clear idea of how much thought people put in before arriving at a conclusion. We see how deep the abyss is. We realize how much patience is needed to fill the gap with.

Postscript: Yesterday I realized bandhs are good for the country. Smashing public and private property, coercing people to stay at home through threat of violence, putting the country under an emergency like situation is the only way to get “people like us” to talk to the "poor" (okay just the taxi driver) and realize that inflation and price rise are badly affecting them. Shouldn’t we be calling for more bandhs?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Postcards from islands by the sea

Here is where the sky is blue! We reflect. Reality maybe deceptive.
But the truth is always true.

Home is a metaphor. A four letter word. A synonym for hope. A handful of twigs.

Everyone is equal beneath the clouds, besides the sea. The breeze that
caresses her, brushes the cheeks of he.

No one ever walks alone. There are the shadows. There is the sea. The sea.

(Mumbai, or Bombay as it was formerly known, is made up of seven islands. In 1782 the Hornby Vellard project was started to build a causeway to unite all seven islands into a single island with a deep harbour. With its completion in 1854, along with laying down of roads and the railway, Bombay became a major sea port in the Arabian Sea.)