Thursday, 26 August 2010

Laughing at the sky

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky - Buddha

Thursday, 19 August 2010


It is already Thursday! There is much to be done. Things to do– lists, yes there are multiples of them in a futile attempt to arrive at the best possible way to do everything in the least possible time. Prioritise. How can one do that? Wont it mean placing greater value on
one thing over the others? But they are all things that need doing, and each on completion will lead to a certain sense of fulfillment and other things to do. The choice isn’t simply between vanilla and strawberry. Though you may argue even that isn’t so simple sometimes.

Then there is the rain. It has been raining continuously for two days. How can one do anything but watch it rain? A river flows beneath the parked cars. Wouldn’t one like to find out where it goes? Shouldn’t that be on one of the lists? The sparrows are settling down in the balcony. There is much to “chee chee” about before they are all comfortable; organized according to their pecking order. Then silent and still they will watch the worst of the rain pass by. Time to pick
up the camera. But for the light.

And then while sorting through all these sensory impulses one looks back at the screen and there is Patti Smith reading from The Waves by Virginia Woolf. After replaying it three times one goes on to hear Dancing Barefoot because that’s how the mind works. Then the book Street Haunting is picked up and after reading a few lines from the first essay one starts to recollect the gulls swirling around the dome of St Peter’s at 10:30 at night. Such poetry. And one instantly whispers, “Send a philosopher to London; please God no poet!”*

A truck carrying construction waste blows its horn. Somewhere a house of cards collapses. Is this the butterfly effect?

Coming back to the desk and everything else it encapsulates one catches sight of the work to be done. And the lists. Multiples of them. Ah! But it is only Thursday.

*Heinrich Heine. More about this soon.
You can watch Patti Smith's performance here.
Or read Street Haunting– the complete essay here. Go on try it. It's only Thursday.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Tread lightly

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle– Albert Einstein

Watch what your hand brushes past. That curled leaf is an origami nest housing the single egg laid by the female giraffe weevil. The mother has thoughtfully injected a chemical into the leaf, so that its tissues undergo a cancerous growth and the larva when hatched gets sustenance.

Watch where you put down your foot next. The water running across the trail houses tiny monsoon crabs. Soon they will get busy burrowing into the soil, bringing in oxygen and keeping the cycle of nutrients flowing. But right now they watch you closely (almost sizing you up) for a split second before scurrying to safety.

Don’t come too close. That is not a dead leaf. It is the master of camouflage– the blue oak leaf butterfly. Its underside mimics a leaf perfectly down to the midrib. Would you believe that its upperside is a vibrant indigo?

So, please tread lightly. Here miracles abound. The tarantula has built trap doors out of silk thread, another spider is mimicking an ant as it goes out to hunt them, and another is weaving a fine web between the branches of the Kadamb tree– diversification and
specialization are the hallmarks among spiders too. Then there are the trees, the birds and maybe even a pair of eyes watching steadily.

Every mushroom, every termite, every falling leaf– every breath that is taken in and every breath released demonstrates a miracle. So, tread lightly and don’t forget to keep your eyes and mind open.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Take birth on Facebook and die in the pages of mainstream media: The short and irrelevant life of protest movements in urban India

Let me start by saying: I have nothing against “we the people” ensuring that errant citizens are brought to book or forced to comply with the laws of the land. That is worth commending. But I’d just like to add a caveat: Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.

Meaning, dear fellow citizens first learn to wear the helmet, drive in lanes, not jump traffic lights, not unnecessary blow the horn, not over speed– you know follow basic traffic rules, (that you are required to be aware of to get a driving license) before trying to force autos and taxis out of the roads. That the recent attempt to keep taxis and autos off the road in Mumbai failed miserably, no matter how people like us choose to spin it, is an entirely different matter.

Which brings me to the more important point. Autos and taxis aren’t the "villains” and autowallahs aren’t “chors”. The fact that the problem was framed in these terms is the reason why the solution offered was inappropriate, if not downright silly. In another India, educated (and might I add civil) citizens would first attempt to understand what does public transport mean? Then go on to wonder why don’t we have good public transport and instead have so many autos and taxis on the roads in our cities? Then find out who are these people who drive these autos and taxis, where do they come from, and why do they leave from wherever they have left?

When we have asked and sought answers to these questions we would (I hope) not come up with "protests" that only widen the gap between “us” and “them”. Instead we would concentrate our energies in ensuring that the real errant citizens obey the laws of the land and the real “chors” are bought to book. Okay, maybe simply start a social media campaign and get enough “likes” to make it to the pages of the mainstream media. But at least then it wouldn’t all have been so vain.

Meanwhile an educated and enlightened take on auto-rickshaws and the life of those who drive them can be found here.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Upon meeting old friends

Recently we had a reunion. It was an almost unplanned coming together of old friends. Each had been busy in their own world, getting on with life, doing the best they could- being as unobtrusive as they could. There were no grand achievements to boast about, or pictures to brandish as proof. That we could once again come together for a few moments was enough.

But most importantly, no one said, “You haven’t changed at all!”

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Wild flowers

A thrush, because I'd been wrong,
Burst rightly into song
In a world not vague, not lonely,
Not governed by me only.
(Having misidentified a wildflower by Richard Wilbur)

As I wander'd the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a wild flower
Singing a song.

I slept in the Earth
In the silent night,
I murmur'd my fears
And I felt delight.

In the morning I went
As rosy as morn,
To seek for new joy;
But O! met with scorn.
(The Wild Flower's Song by William Blake)

The good Will of a Flower
The Man who would possess
Must first present
Of minted Holiness.
(The good Will of a Flower by Emily Dickinson)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Measure for measure

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.*

*Oliver Wendell Holmes