December 29, 2003

Very very long

After a few hours of agitation it all settles down. As much as it can disturb you, the good thing is, it also tires you down. You no longer have the strength to be enraged, upset or even remember what is it that started all of it. Whoever that said "there is a good side to everything", is right in the most ironic of ways. The key to peaceful sleep is a prolonged and intense state of agitation.

What I realise is that I need a slight course correction, maybe I have already effected it. I might not know the destination, but I need to know what waters to avoid. Even if the journey's end in itself is not certain, there is no point in paying homage to that by crashing at the nearest available rock. It is thus forcing me take an honest look at my own life, what goes into it and what comes out of it. Accountability, be it just to myself even?

I am getting a bit too old in life to keep saying over and over again that something went wrong because I did not know or I did not account for it. The truth is, most of the times I do know, it is only that I do not want to accept what is there. Somehow, it feels good to be responsible for every wrong thing out there, the martyrdom phenomenon. As if what is already there is not hard enough to deal with in the first place.

The hardest thing then is to is to lay your life out like a map, because its only topography are people and memories, and study it in detail. Some turn out to be mirages, some turn out to be gold after looking for a lifetime like rock and some just do not make any impression at all. But it is never all of just one of them. And if it is a map, you better know what you are trying to describe with it.

Sans verbal decoys, what I think I am trying to say is that I want to avoid feeling like what I have been for the past two weeks. It has not been like that without reason, but the intensity is multiplied due to my own stupidities. The principle being, something concrete/positive has to come out of it and with this there is nothing but heartburn. This makes no difference to anyone than maybe my own longevity.

Memories, when allowed to linger on are like ghosts of a time long-dead. They only serve to disturb you and make you see apparitions where they do not exist in the first place. You have to move on. Everyone does. If you do not, you become to the only one to stay behind, conversing, giving and expecting with things that are not there anymore, or anything that looks similar. If you let five minutes hold the rest of your life hostage, there are no prizes for guessing who is the loser.

Since 1999 my life has been one huge adventure, one that started off from trying to not be scared of a huge, alien city which was thousands of miles away from anything familiar to me. From there I have come a long way. Life is far from perfect now, in fact I often wonder what is the point in being so much on my own based on some principle which I cannot name or describe. Why should I not take a lesser pill and settle down for something comforting, something more certain?

You know, there are times when I wonder if I have run so far ahead, in search of a destiny that I have no clue of, that I cannot spot even a single familiar thing for miles around. I can be scared of not knowing where I am, whom to turn to or even be certain whom can I trust to be there or whom I cannot. But that is not an option, I have come way too far to ever be able to retrace my steps.

Once, trying explain something very difficult I told my parents, "There is no point in giving someone size 4 shoes when you can now only wear size 8". There are certain things in life which hold value only at a particular point in time, beyond that it is of no use to anyone. Emotional dismemberment happens in the same way, unless treated in the relevant time, it just falls away, no amount of crying brings it back.

I think I finally realise what is the thing that is the most fraudulent in me. It is that I bring upon me troubles that belong to others so I can conveniently look away from my truckloads of baggage. However noble it might be, in the end it is just an excuse and if you are looking for one, there are always millions available. If causing hurt is all what stands between me and setting something in my life right, well, what can I say about it.

What you need to understand is that there is never charity on earth, there is always a purpose to anything, there is a purpose to commonplace charity too. A leaf does not stir for no good reason, no one takes a step or stay unmoved without a reason. And you would not be reading this for no reason. Baseness or the nobility of intentions is a totally different thing, it is not for me to bother about.

I know I will continue making mistakes, it is a given, but I need to understand that I need better reasons than "I have no idea" as the reasons why I made those. If what is around me won't ask or listen, it is up to me to find something else that would. Being stuck never improves anything, does not give improvement itself a fair enough chance. Holding back out of respect is one thing, being held hostage is something totally different and there is no worse crime than to mix the two.

Still, I do wonder about how it is to be otherwise at times. To have a degree of certainty in most things about you, how does it feel, how does it work and why I cannot do the same. And I wonder at times how in the world did I get here? The funny thing is I do know, I have made cottage industry of being distrustful of everything and in my own way I guess I am only trying to disentangle my own muddled knots.

December 26, 2003

Wishlist

Do you know what I really want to do? I do not want a miracle, I do not want endless and pure love, I do not want people to call me up or message me, I do not want people to ask me out, I do not want anyone to tell me that they care, I do not want answers, nor do I want the slow numbness that alcohol provides, last but not the least I do not even want a warm embrace, be it from just one or a crowd and I certainly do not want a patient ear, for I have nothing to tell you, you or even you.

All I want is a high point overlooking the city, the cold breeze for company and a mug of hot coffee to keep me warm and to then look blankly with moist eyes at the city lights in the distance. Only trouble being, in this land of endless plains there are no heights as far as the eye can see and in this thick fog if you can see your hand you can call yourself lucky. As usual all I can ever wish for is only something I can never get. Consistency can be such a bitch.

December 24, 2003

Peace

What is the point in speaking if no one is willing to listen? What is the point in listening if no one understands? Have you ever wanted to just cry all day, if only it would make you feel better? Have you ever been beyond words? Beyond consolation regarding something that just disappeared and no matter how much you can talk it is just not going to come back. It is gone, took less time than it takes to snap your fingers. And all I did was to say nothing, well nothing that mattered. I was just too busy taking the blows. Bloodied even, I had to live. Towards?

Why would anyone want to compare themselves to anyone else? Are words that say precisely what you want to hear the only way to measure anything? Does actions count for nothing? As imperfect as everyone is, is there any justice in expecting perfection in me? Everyone talks about being there and so on, but very few realise what it really stands for, very few realise that it is not something that they will ever do in their lives, because it means that you put everything, including doubt, away for another's sake, with blind trust as your only companion in a dark alley. In the end, no one does it.

In the end the only crime that you commit is to not cry out loud every five minutes that the world is an unfair place, that life is tough and it is more pain than pleasure. In the end your only fault is that you lived, suffering in silence, instead of putting up all that pain as some blood-smeared epitaph that might stand a remote chance of being judged as worthy of the feelings it is supposed to represent. In the end as long as everyone else stands vindicated, the world will happily go on, as long as you are short on imperfections, you should not really care.

Everyone believes what is convenient for them. Everyone thinks they know about what the other person is supposed to feel, that is during the rare occasions when you can take the time out to grant another person feelings regarding anything. Ever stuck your neck out for anyone beyond what makes sense only in your immediate context? Ever been stupid enough to place others before yourself and walk away once the moment is over? No, it is not about recognition, it is about being treated as a human, but I guess these days even that is just way too much to ask.

December 17, 2003

Twenty five

In a few more days I would have crossed another insignificant milestone, leaving behind in the process yet another number, only to claim a different one. And the only thing that I have learnt in all this? Not much else than that there is very little black or white left, there is only grey and vast swathes of it. And yes, after years of bounding up dark alleys in search of a non-existent destination, I think I am finally getting to be at peace with my restlessness and its insularity.

As I held that photograph in my hand, enveloped in the bubble of warmth that is to be treasured, I saw her face in my hand and the face in the photograph. I felt at that moment that this is so ridiculously wrong, that is one place where she belonged and she is not there and at the same time you realise that the warmth is there only because it is wrong. How does a right lead from something that is wrong? How can you substitute one with another? I asked and I got no answer. A rebellious teardrop was bravely wiped away by her.

In all these years I have fought like a madman. I have fought giving up on people, I have fought giving up on emotions, sentiments and memories that litter places, events and silly songs that can transport you in time to the deepest recesses of a cold storage where memories toxic to your system are stashed away. Now, in this season of overwhelming changes, I am learning I have to let go, I am not the one with the magic wand to set another's life right. Hell, I cannot even find that elusive spell that would set my life right.

There was no sleep for a long while after that, a part of me just walked away. And when it walked away, it took my blanket of hope with it, leaving me exposed to the elements. I was there, alone and shivering, facing that same breeze I so dread, yet one that I am so familiar with. Strangely, I did not feel bitter, I just wished things would only revert to the way it was meant to be, the way it was. I wanted to believe it can be, even at the risk of feeding the poisonous cure of hope, I lit a low flame, I hope it would burn and burn bright.

One of the very few things I had learnt from my father, when he was teaching me how to drive, was to never drive into something that you are not sure of or something that you cannot see. I follow it to a great extent when I ride to and fro from work, but in life and people I have never done that. I have always believed in an element of good that is intrinsic to even the most cruel of people. I owe a majority of the mistakes in my life to precisely that, but it has been worthwhile because every now and then it works and I do not give a damn if I look a fool because of that.

She fell asleep soon after that, leaving me stranded at the shores of helplessness. It is the hardest thing to come to terms with when you face another just like you. Eventually, sleep did come to my side of town as it rained heavily outside, I muttered a silent prayer, for someone who I will have to let go, to a God whose existence I do not acknowledge. Like I recently did for another. Morning had to interrupt. I charge in my usual fake currency of disposable fantasy. Click once, keep the picture in your mind, throw away the context.

Fear is not about what you cannot see. Fear is about what you can see. About what you are and where you are headed. It is about how miracles are there to happen only if you want it to happen and sad for you if you do not want it to happen. Fear is about realising one fine day that there is no "life is elsewhere", this is it, raw, painful and imperfect, without any of the finery. Fear is about having to finally take a turn in life because you want to take that turn and not because you want to avoid the other turn and not knowing for sure if this is THE turn and that there is no going back.

Miracles only happen if you believe in them. If you want to look at it, just being able to live is a miracle. I know she will have one soon. I cannot explain it. It is just a gut feeling and this time it will work and extract a huge price from me in its passing. A price that I am willing to pay. Does she know? I do not know. Does it matter? It does not. I might be poorer than a church mouse, but I am a very proud one at that. Letting go is an acquired taste. After all you do not give away parts of you without a struggle.

So, where to from here? I do not know. I am as clueless as I was before. Just that the cluelessness is kind of growing on me. The thing is, I am learning to appreciate my company and the scintillating conversations that we have at times. Most of the times it scares the life out of me. It truly does. But then, it is only me I am up against. Strangely, I am not bitter, I am not running anymore. If this is what it is, then let us face each other and see what happens. Twenty five years I have run, its time I put an end to this.

December 13, 2003

Defeat

It is strange when all you have for expressing yourself are just a few blocks of plastic with a character each printed on them. Anger, love, sadness, frustration, you can name each and every emotion these plastic blocks can cough up. And in real? There is nothing, nothing but a choking silence, few words of comfort and more for making a graceful exit from the scene. It is not your turn, it is never your turn. Listen, always listen, but never speak, you are not allowed to speak.

All the extravagant statements come to naught. Words are precisely what they are, something that endless clattering of a set of plastic blocks produce. In action all of them point to the same thing. Which is nothing. They are empty, like the emotions they signify, just empty containers. You can be wrong most times, you can be wrong some times, but can you be wrong all the time? Does silence automatically imply you have nothing to say? Maybe it does, after all I am not saying much here.

I am tired of metaphors, of veiled writing and I am tired of a million other things that I do not even want to start with. Is understanding so hard? Or is understanding purely a work of fiction in the mind of the beholder? The thing that I am most tired of? It is nothing fancy, it is something as simple as telling myself time and over again that it is okay, just let it be. Even without saying anything you do deserve a chance right? Who am I trying to kid here? Wake up stupid fool.

I feel worn and tired most times, just want to get off the busy road and sit and wither away on the pavement. It is not like I am not trying. I am now a well behaved individual, I have cut down on my quixotic outings, though the prospect of getting fatally maimed on one of those windmills is always enticing. But I just do not have the strength anymore, but how much more do I cut down? Will I be pushed to the level where the only way to survive would be to be a living corpse?

But that is not the hardest thing. The hardest thing is to save yourself from pressing that button which says "self-destruct". It is not impossible to shred everything that you value around you to bits in just a few moments. It is so ridiculously easy. But remember, I am trying to save energy here. And it solves nothing, it costs me the most, you get the drill? You cannot win here, you can only lose, the only options are between various forms of losing. Shall we play eh? A round, just a round, please?

November 23, 2003

Hogwash

Every system has a finite set of terms of references, or we could even call it an interface, that enables elements within the system to interact again with a finite set of objectives. The objectives could vary from cooperation, to the opposite where you do agree not to cooperate and fail in a graceful manner or even mutual neglect. The success of the system is entirely dependent on how well one can compress the maximum number of possible terms of reference into the minimum number of symbols, signs or anything else you can choose to call it.

Even if the world functions in a strictly non-binary way, I could wake up feeling 'slightly' more happy than what I woke up yesterday, the end result is always strictly binary, I could only have woken up happy or sad. Even vague is slotted into either. Ultimately, how successful you are in a system is entirely dependent on how well you can converse naturally using the terms of reference. Natural is important here because when things are pushed to the specific nothing is binary, every instance differs, so you should not have the time to think. You can only believe.

If you cannot believe, then we have a problem, rather big one at that. Because how do you know what you see is what another sees. What is orange other than a word that represents something of a certain colour, as agreed to by the majority. That way orange could even be yellow and still be the same if enough of us willed it. But that is another story. In the same way, like representations, relationships too require you to believe. We function based on these beliefs labelled into finite categories and if you do not believe, tough luck, you lose.

In a lot of ways, the things that we keep close are often the thing that pulls us farthest. We are scared. Systems do not react well to non-binary infusions and if you are not willing to take the risk of walking on the edge, it is very likely that you would end up freaking out over a system totally clueless as to how to react. The interface does not have a term of reference. Abort, Retry, Fail? The nature of the way the system is designed ensures that such instances are minimalised with a possible nearest match to a finite term available as close as possible. Failsafe? No. Graceful failure? Yes.

That is why we look for signs to tell us that we are not alone, that there is a greater purpose to what you cannot make sense of. Often, our failure to fit things into a known context leads us to look for greater or alternative meanings and agendas that makes it all sensible. You could thus be communicating with people on other planets or live in hope of having a greater truth or purpose to your life explained to you at some point in the future, just because your immediate context does not make sense. This was not the way it was not meant to be.

Thus interpreted, destiny or fate is not what is slated to happen, but what is core to you that you always sidestep. Or alternatively, it is what you believe in at the core than what is peripheral. It is the eventual finite term that you lock yourself into, be it in terms of career or your normal life. One is always either a "great doctor", "a good father", "a funny person" , the list can just go on. If you do not believe, you are either cast out under other broad terms like crazy or if you are smart, you fit into the fringe, just under the limit that tips the scales over the permissible margin of error.

November 18, 2003

Quizzical

I have run out of things to write about. No, this is not yet another of those "shutting this blog down" thingies. Just feel this journal has become so singular in tone that if you put in a bit of effort, you can almost predict what the next metaphor is going to be. In the three years it has existed, this journal has meandered from being a place to experiment with some fancy technology to an endless whining session in different metaphorical shades. I just do not have anything left to write about.

Over the period of its existence, it has evoked various reactions. People who have known me for real first and then read the stuff here always find it impossible to believe that I can come up with such depressive things. And people who have known me through the journal first are almost always shocked to know that I am capable of laughing even. But the truth is that the words here have often described things that I'd not tell most people in person, only that it is always well hidden.

You know, there has never been any earth-shattering happenings in my life. It has often been little, minute things that you or anyone else might have gone through. Nor am I blessed with a unique or wide enough perspective to see things differently from most others. So I often end up wondering, what do the 30 - 40 odd people who visit this place keep coming back for almost every day? I am not complaining, I am very grateful, still I cannot help but wonder, don't you get bored?

I have always lived my life facing up to my fears, always trying to push the envelope a bit further. In doing that I have walked in shoes that are larger than my size, worn clothes that would fit me and another of my own size and made my thoughts look as if they were of some great significance. In the end, it is all about the same little things, love, loss, pain, desolation and any other thing you can name.

Now I do not even understand why I did all that. Even in different sizes the world still looks the same. The only difference is that I have procured a fancier vocabulary, the lack of understanding is still the same. I could wax eloquent, but I'd be only serving the same tripe on finer silver. Somehow I am choking on things to say, but I do not want to utter even a single word. Expressionless, purely functional, will I pass? Do we have a deal here? Say yes, say no. Who is even asking you?

I've been down on the bottom of a world full of lies

I ain't looking for nothing in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there
Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan

November 09, 2003

Hindsight

With another day slowly winding down and with time gently slipping away from me, I sit down, think and wonder, again, what would I like to be remembered as. And the answer has not changed from the last time I had asked myself. I would not want to be remembered at all. Even though death is not something that I look forward to nor am I suicidal in the least, I would be happy when it finally happens. It would mean the end of such a long sentence for me. It would finally be over.

For all my protestations, I know only too well that I am the one who makes my own life the most difficult thing on earth. I have gotten very few things in life right, I do not even think I have made a difference anywhere, most I have done is to just about contain the damage, from my actions, to myself and to others. But I cannot help it, that is the way I am, I have gone too far to ever change from all that. This is my path, be it lonely, it is just mine to walk and walk it I shall.

Two days of time off work has finally given me the time to lay back and take stock, to what it all amounts to. Other than for the selfish takes, there is nothing of any reasonable degree of sincerity within me. The flurry of posts only reflect a part of the chaos. I have made the best of whatever little that was given to me and it amounts to nothing. That is minus all the bravado and the fancy words you see here. I find myself totally clueless as to where I take this all now.

All this gets even more hypocritical and awesomely funny when I ask people near me to take care of themselves and to go easy. Soapboxes of the world unite, you only have my grand mindblowingly boring speeches to look forward to. For a long while I thought, as I ran from one destination to another, that this was a time-limited aberration. But it is not and that realisation is slowly dawning on me. Suddenly all the glamour vanishes, the walls close up and the sentence drags on.

Potpourri

This must be the longest that my journal has gone without a facelift and my blogroll has pretty much stayed the same from the early days when there was some kind of joy to be derived from maintaining it. I hardly use it anymore to keep track of the sites that I read regularly. And my reading list has changed so vastly that I prefer to use the favourites drop down in my browser and that very evil RSS aggregator to get my daily textual fix.

The key to maximising the value of time spent reading on the Internet is to identify points of aggregation that suit your needs. Doing that saves me a whole lot of time from having to trawl through numerous news sites for a ratio of information to junk that might often be as low as 1:10. But sites that provide only links do not interest me, it has to have commentary and participation, so that I can concentrate on possible alternatives when the norm is more than well accounted for.

And that is the beauty of the Internet for information junkies like me. And if you do not know what information junkies are, they are people like me who obsessively read almost every mail header to see which route it took to reach them or even what a system that relayed the mail is called. Armed with the treasure trove called as Google and the invaluable view source button, there is such a lot to be discovered and read out there. But I digress.

My normal reading is a mix of News (Google News, Samachar), Technology (Sam Ruby, Mark Pilgrim, Kottke, The Register, Slashdot, The Inquirer), political weblogs (Calpundit, DailyKos, Tacitus, Atrios), books (Guardian Books) and a handful of personal weblogs. Of particular value to me are the political blogs that has pretty much eliminated the need for me to read most of the media from the US, same goes for the sideblogs at Mark and Kottke's.

Which brings me to a recent post by Tacitus. It is funny how even as person who is politically oriented more towards left of centre I value and enjoy the posts and commentary at his blog, which is more right leaning than a leftie home base like DailyKos. The post in question reinforces my belief about how easily I form the wrong opinions about people I would have no clue about.

The post is also a sad reflection on how even in this so called global village we are meandering further from each other as normal, simple people. After so many wars and strife we are still so distant from going beyond ideology to see the human being behind every action. It is alarming to see people dying being talked of as "cost" that will have to be paid and how it is acceptable for a group to subdue another in the name of freedom or safely. Is this the best we could have done?

One benefit of being in the media is that you learn to listen to people than to talk all the time and I honestly get alarmed by the hawkishness that is thrown about by most people of my generation and the ones that are younger. These are people who have never seen suffering, other than on television, in life. As a generation, most of us have never had the misfortune of having gone through a famine or a large-scale war, the worst we could recollect would be not having a television or something similar.

It is always necessary to have fringe elements in any system, as much as it is necessary to have elements that would resist any change. It is in the counterbalancing of the two extremes that progress and sanity is to be found. These days the fringe is in the driving seat, with no space for dissent or another opinion. The only way to live is to link your own survival to the system's survival and that is how bad it is.

Thaw

The seasons of change are falling upon me again. Things won't be the same again after this. It is like the cycle of life, only that this one is a minor cycle within a larger one. Where a set of people, colours, words and memories are dated, labelled and put in their respective boxes of remembrances. In my rare moments away from a lifetime spent on shamefully self indulgent thoughts, I prepare my new arms, resolute in my desire to not make the old mistakes again and get ready to welcome the new.

I must trudge on, I should not be slowed down by the maze of cobwebs which are nothing but the thoughts and memories that trip me. I must not let my lack of purpose, nor the lack of understanding defeat myself. If it is in five seconds of flickering that all the light I have in myself is spent, then I shall yearn to flicker the brightest I can. You might not see it, I might not see it, but the sheer darkness in which I reside does. And it is this darkness that I walk alone even as I light up your way.

I can't wait any longer for the answers, I cannot afford to be disheartened by their unwillingness to acknowledge their own existence. I have put in way too much effort into making an ordinary life to disown it for the lack of extraordinary answers. It is my little house or cards in which I live by myself, I have to learn to love it, for this is the only home that I have ever known. I want no recognition, I want no badge of honour, nor am I too sure if I want love anymore. But I just do not know what I want.

At the risk of making the prose more dreary than what it already is, I can even venture to say I have even come to feign bitterness, I feel old at times, there is just no fight left anymore. Making me feel like the old warrior who is left alive out of pity in the war field, depriving him of the only thing that is rightfully his - a glorious death. But then, there are no wars these days, only miles of endless traffic and polite conversations. This is just a tapestry of music woven in words unheard and feelings never felt, feelings that never die.

Pill Pushers

Now that I have finally watched The Matrix Revolutions, the line "Everything that has a beginning, has an end" almost sounds apologetic in retrospect. The last instalment in the trilogy has unmistakably upset many a fan to no end for various reasons. I too am disappointed, not on the specific count of the movie in itself, but for the fact that the director duo has almost knowingly walked away from a formidable legend status being conferred upon them by winding up the saga in the way they eventually did.

The single point of failure of Revolutions is that it leaves you without much to think about, once outside the movie hall door you can forget almost immediately that you just finished watching something you had been expectantly waiting for such a long time. That is so different from the first which left you winded with the plot and the visuals or the second which left you in a maze of questions and possibilities, with various interpretations oozing from every line and every shot. This one simply leaves you untouched.

Once again, in retrospect, it was sort of inevitable that Revolutions would not have much substance in it. The conclusion was pretty much evident in Reloaded. We had to find a black sheep who would take the fall, so that the franchise could continue on at a later date. And in the process, we lose the excellent Hugo Weaving who plays Agent Smith and Trinity played by Carrie Anne Moss, whose much reduced role is ultimately put to an end, just in the same way her name is shortened to "Trin" by a very subdued Neo.

But I believe the first one will live on as something of a minor legend, not for its heavily borrowed philosophies and taxonomical deftness, nor for the special effects, but for addressing a feeling that is always alive, overt or covert, in every one of us, which boils down to a question of how much are we in control or to what degree is what we define as real, really real? It would have been wonderful if Revolutions blew away everyone like the first one, but that would have been a stroke of genius too many to have expected from the team whose best work till date was the mediocre flick The Assassins.

November 03, 2003

Dividers

And I cannot help but wonder what is it all about. Like the yellow line that escapes from under me, the more I reach out to grasp it, the more I see of it behind and ahead of me. There is almost a sense of delicate beauty about it. Something like, you just keep going, as long as you can pretend, as long as you can hope, that there is a destination at the end of it. But I do not even know whether I am running away from or towards it. The funny thing is, I know, I just do not want to see the obvious.

Seeing the obvious takes the element of class away from you, it strips every thread of fine livery that ever adorned you. It puts you down on earth, vulnerable, susceptible and gullible, to every little breeze that ever touched the surface of the life of mere mortals, all flesh and no skin. It hurts, does it not? To be that vulnerable. To feel each and every miniscule thing to that degree. So then, why should anyone look up to the mirror and analyse the person you see like you analyse the others?

As long as it remains my treasured weakness, my most valued secret, why should it bother me? It is only I who needs to know it, why should I shout it to the whole world? Maybe I need to convince myself of my own ordinariness? Maybe I only like to believe that I admit it and like everything else I am nothing but a show, a play of 12 months of carefully constructed acts woven together thorough seamless scenes spread over pages numbered in weeks. I do flatter myself, only to deceive.

But is there really something beyond all the show? There must be something right? How can so many people live life as they live if it cannot be? Every love cannot be all that ordinary, all relationships cannot be fake. There must be more to things than just conditional attachment or unconditional detachment. What is the golden key to that secret lock? What is it that makes you believe? What keeps you going? What is there in you that I do not have in me? What am I missing out on?

The problem with the obvious is that it is solely dependent on the validity of one's judgement and mine is hopelessly jaded in a million different ways. I cannot often make out if what I believe in is what I really believe in or if it is some convenient assumption that makes my day a bit easier. I am so hopelessly lost most times that I can even laugh about it. Can I point at my own face and ask you, "Have you seen him somewhere?". Now you see why I can laugh about it. Join in, we can make one merry gang.

October 28, 2003

Of maps

What I love most about the new job is the ride to and from office and the return trip is the best of the two. Threading your way through hazy Delhi roads at eight in the night has its own magical rhythm and the evening traffic rarely ever has the edge the morning one is notorious for. After a hard day's work there is nothing like the ride back home, stopping at the numerous red lights, only to get moving again with nothing but your own thoughts and the looks on the faces of strangers for company.

As time moves on at its merry rate, something that I have come to realise is that I have crossed the peak where I can afford to keep accumulating new things or live with extraordinary levels in anything. Somehow it is more now about being ordinary. It is not unique though, everyone makes these choices, some choose career, others choose family and children, while for others it might be adventure. I guess I have made mine too, no more fooling around, I need some consistency, be it even an ordinary one.

Mind you, the ordinary bit is not something that is new to me. I was not born into poverty, but to just ordinary middle class working folk who worked their way up from owning just a bicycle to things considerably grander than that. I have never been excellent at studies, never won any competitions or sports, nor have I ever done anything that anyone would remember five weeks after I am dead. For all practical purposes, I am just a nobody. And from that point of view I have done pretty okay I guess. Cannot really ask for more, can I?

See, it is something like being handicapped, just that mine is purely emotional. Other than the odd moment or two when I kid myself with rather extravagant fantasies of what would be "normal" life to other people I just do not feel the need to share my life with anyone and more importantly I cannot see where is the space that I can fit another person in. I am much more comfortable being on my own, living with my own little idiosyncrasies and never having to ask another's permission before I do something.

Yes, It does feel bad at times, when you see people walking hand in hand, there are times when you wish there was some reliable amount of warmth you could count on. But I just cannot deliver on the other part of the deal. I just won't be there for you when you need me the most. It is not something fool proof though, I still have not figured out what can be done about keeping company just for the sake of the physicality of things or even something as vain as killing time. It is not like I can totally do away with people too. Well, all I can hope is that I picked the right door.

I honestly have no idea where my life is headed, for that matter I have never known something like that in all of my life. For the most part it has been running away from something or hiding from something. It is just that I need to stop to try and make sense of it, like I said, I need to drop a few things. I do not have the old strength anymore and living all by yourself is not exactly a cakewalk. And really, it does not matter which way I classify it, when ignorance would be the best knowledge I have about my about my own life.

October 26, 2003

Blindfold

So how do you manage it? How do you make it work? How is it that you believe strongly in something or the other? How do you get all those things right that I cannot ever seem to? How do you know you have loved too little or you have loved too much, or even just about enough? How is it that you know so much, while I know nothing even after years and years of being a student? Why is it that a single expression on your face says volumes more than what I can ever say with even a million words?

Cross-purposes, I keep seeing that everywhere these days. I keep busy most of the time in hiding me from myself, only to find that I cannot often find myself when it is needed the most. And once I find it, we go back to square one as it has no place or importance in this world. Unrelated incidents often set off chains of thought like coils of blue ink in water. They spiral up from the hidden depths to the surface acting as painful reminders of the very rare presence of colour from the past.

Work is the only thing that keeps me from falling apart. It has gradually become my most favoured choice of rock to smash against in the same way that waves do in the ocean. I have passed the critical one week period and I am slowly finding my way around the new place. It is absolutely monstrous in scale, things take its own time and the job has way much greater visibility than the previous one. So there won't be any entries here related to it. Being an unknown goes a long way in getting people to talk.

It has become a matter of considerable amusement for me to now try and figure out ways of not being 'different' or 'special'. That too after years of trying to be precisely the opposite. Cross-purposes, remember? But why? It is very simple. When you have contorted yourself in every aspect into shapes different from everyone else, there is nothing in common to refer to. And if I ever write an autobiography, it would surely be tilted "My Life: The Endless Damage Limitation Operation".

No, it is not that I regret anything. I would not do most things differently if I had another chance. But what bothers me is that with time the degree of understanding I have of any damn thing has only gone down and right now it is hovering somewhere near zero. What tires me is to dig deep into my soul's empty pockets and have nothing but bits and pieces of emotions turn up. I do not know what is more scary, that you do not feel anything most times or that it does not seem to bother you that you do not feel anything.

And that is what infuriates me. That, I cannot seem to make it work either way. That, me as the public face is still as high maintenance as me just by myself. But I guess that is the price you end up paying for having a extraordinarily high quota of intensity in your blood stream. It is a 24/7 operation then to save yourself and others from yourself. It just gets way too tiring at times and once in a while you do wish for some reprieve from it. Some corner where you can be yourself for even just a little while. It is as simple as that.

Most of the time, life in its present continuos sense feels like being surrounded in a holographic image. The elements that it consists of, like people, memories, places, voices are almost like stars in them. And I am the man with the magic brush who puts together constellations from these same pieces. It all feels so artificial at times. Especially when you have to remind yourself at times what you are supposed to feel with regard to a certain star. And at times the real people just fall away, but the stars remain in their place.

I am very adept at pointing out to others the element of fantasy in their lives, especially the degree of make believe in most relationships, but like every other bad thing I throw around, that too comes back at me later. My life is nothing but a case of extreme make believe, a castle of cards of complicated constructs with a 20, 000 page operating manual. And the crowning glory is that it is mostly my own making and I have only myself to blame for it. Bravo. Well done. What a spectacular mess.

October 19, 2003

Haze

It has been a collage of psychedelic colours, staccato images and ambient voices set to the background of the predictable arpeggio of a round trip of 34 kilometres. To coax oneself out of the detachedness takes an effort, only to shudder, shrink and coil up like a scared reptile, when it gives in finally. Sensitivity is tricky game of hide and seek. It is a game I will never understand. It is a game i will never win.

Sometimes you wish that you could reach deep inside and listen to that voice not heard in ages, to try and grasp at those faint flashes of feelings not polished to levels of slippery smoothness by time and see if it still feels the same. It does. But it feels alien. It feels like baby skin, tender and very unlike mine. To endure and celebrate the joy in mourning the loss of yourself is the prize.

Is it just total blindness or a vision that is too perfect? Why is it that you wind up alone with those very thoughts and feelings after years and years of running away from it? Why is it that for you there is no peace, be it in purity or at the impurest? Why is it that everything is perfect and beautiful, like a flock of pigeons in a park, till you reach out for it? Why can't I just give up?

As a new routine settles in, I strive the most to recreate the old. I go in way too early, so that I do not have to look rude, high-brow and sophisticated by default. The flooring creaks under my step as I work up the courage to face the day with a renewed lease of fake ambition. This is unfamiliar territory and I change roles by the dozen during the course of the day. At the end of which I wonder: Who am I trying to kid?

Orange Gerberas do not look half as good as the bright yellow ones that I usually buy. They have become five rupees more expensive by the bunch. If you feel for it, the traffic here has its own pulse too, like how crowded localities seem to breathe and sigh together if you look at them from a point of height in the night. At times it is nasty, at times it considerate. Most times I am just glad to make it home. Or am I?

As usual I lie to you about things personal. It does not really bother me much since I am past caring what happens on that count. I just wish the numbness would be more consistent and constant, so that I could concentrate on having just one kind of problem than two that are at loggerheads with each other. But I have not yet mastered the art of lying to myself. I am trying hard though.

October 13, 2003

Nascent Navigation

I really thought I had worked out a perfect analysis of what was wrong with the world and superbly identified the single point of failure, which if we could overcome would make the world a much better place to live in. I went over it once again and found myself laughing at it, for I could not figure out if it was just too right or just way too stupid. But the moment has passed, I have disowned whatever little seriousness I could attribute to it and moved on to more mundane and routine problems related to the daily drag.

Actually, I have been wanting to buy candles. Candles, a lamp shade and a lava lamp for reasons of pure self-indulgence. I need to buy a new quilt too. The old one is wasted. Winter is gently making its overtures felt in the air, by early morning, night and late evening. By six the light is dull, with a mild orange hue, masses in search of warmth, group. While, above a mild haze gathers. Roasted peanut and boiled egg sellers shall set up shop soon, selling warmth in search of a living while we make a living to expend ourselves in search of warmth.

I am a fly-by-night operator, I am your choicest hit-and-run thug, pay me loose change and I am your man for all occasions, only if you do not ask me to stay for long. I always have to keep moving. I am your long-distance truck-driver with genuinely bogus delivery schedules. I am just driving round and round in the city, while pretending to be on the highway and I cannot find my exit route. Twenty-thousand miles I know by-heart, I know every nook and cranny, every by lane that ever existed, I have a full tank, all I have ever needed is a destination.

I can't call you tainted, I can't call you imperfect, I can't call you ugly, I can't call you a sinner, I am all that and more, in degrees that are worse. My silence is not one of understanding, but of guilt and I smile not out of joy but to get a temporary reprieve from the constant onslaught of boredom born at the edifice of pain. You are the cast that I mold myself on, the newborn skin I paint on myself to fake a better appearance. You are the being that gives form, albeit temporary, to my nothingness. You are my fickle measure of time, in my sentence of eternity.

Or we could just run, I could hold your hand, run across the land with wind-swept waist-high grass till the edge of time and watch the rocks fall into the deep dark unknown. Just moments before the sun rises above the horizon casting another of its daily spells on the landscape, changing the tall grass into buildings and the interim into their ugly shadows. And to turn around to find the feeling of your gentle strands of hair caressing my face had long transformed itself into another of the cold gusts from the alleyways, which I will take again for that flight again in search of the light of darkness.

October 06, 2003

Muse: Bovine, gasoline & others

What would you remember a person for? The best of his qualities or the worst? And even if you were to make a conscious choice, how would you weigh a good in relation to a bad or vice versa. And that, my friend, is the key to amazingly complicated puzzle called as relationship, be it romantic or otherwise. Time to get off the soapbox. Your turn now.

On a festive night, inebriated, the man had no reason to budge from where he lay. The middle of the road, semi-conscious and a constant stream of decked out crowd passing by without wanting to even find out if he was dead or alive. Confession: even I did not want to. My friends did, they shook and slapped him and he came around for a while. We ended up picking him up from the middle of the road and left him on the pavement. Contrary to popular perception, compassion still does survive, at least in the hearts of people I know.

We were singing as we walked down the road from market one to market two. To be honest, I was pretending to, since what sounds like orgasm induced braying does not really embellish the better, and in a few cases really good, singing qualities of the rest of the rowdy gang. For those few hours I was granted freedom from being whatever I have transformed myself into these days. Almost felt like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar to be in the college frame of mind again. Do not worry, I am very much inclined to being a repeat offender.

One high on grass, another high on his ego trip, a couple of couples and us a single couple in a mass of humanity, living out the ultimate manifestation of the herd mentality. First impression of the puja pandals: Everyone looking at everyone else in anticipation of spotting that elusive embodiment of perfection. Other than the odd undocumented case, success is not known to be spotted often enough. Anticipation and expectation, though, have a field day. And I had a nice time.

Back home at six in the morning for a day-long wrestling match with the 2.6 series Linux kernel. Blame it on the impromptu ride, alone and at the break of dawn towards the Tughlakabad fort on the rickety old bike with the ever-enthusiastic two stroke hum and the odd long distance trucks's monstrous roar for company in the audible entertainment category. One of these days I will just fill up my tank and ride alone all the way to Alwar or Jaipur.

September 30, 2003

Tripwire

If Pandora's box was all yours and if the single word that would unlock it was just on the tip of your tongue, would you rather let it roll out by itself or would you let the moment pass, forget the word and forever live secluded from the results of the averted action, but always in doubt about what it could have been? Only if you had walked that extra half distance towards the known conclusion, even if is was just to prove a point. Is the responsibility towards another, as it is often claimed, or is it only towards the self? As it remains as the veiled truth. Just another of those games, that forms the part of another, patterns that refuse to take any form, like rings of smoke.

Exhaustion is a well-earned punishment. The trick is to keep you away from yourself as much as possible. Minimise the damage, restrict access and a pleasant dullness prevails as we wander over countless miles of routine and norm. Useful pollution obscuring the skies when there are no stars to be seen. What cannot be seen cannot exist. Every inch of earth has been traversed, we have studied all the patterns, we know each symptom by heart. Two ounces of shifting winds, three units of loose red soil and a bit of inexperienced rain for taste and we have cracked yet another of those 'complicated cases'. One of those must be mine. Keep searching.

As the solitary sidewinder too slithers into the unknown and yet another hot, burning day changes into some cool, airy night clothes, we master the art of walking the desert. Wherein the trick is to forget speed, irrespective of whether you run or you walk, there is always more of the same till it consumes you out of its own free will. As the dunes fall over each other, we learn to give each one a name, form associations, note patterns and learn. To unlearn all that was learnt and to re-learn it all over again. For the dunes they keep shifting, what was there yesterday is no longer there today. And tomorrow is just another mirage for the believers. Look.

Fear of reprisal. Bad karma. Unsettled spirits. What you do unto others, would some day happen to you. Nonsense. Poppycock. There cannot be ledgers large enough to keep track of all that. Why fear what will eventually happen. For it would happen anyway. Does clerically administered divine absolving defer what is on its way anyway? Or does pages and pages of scientifically interpreted phrases achieve something to that effect? What does it matter if "D" is what you get in the end, irrespective of whether you put A and B together or if it was X and Y. Are we interpreting the end from the beginning? Are we interpreting the beginning from the end?

Finally we measured the distance between us in words spoken and noted it down in units of words unspoken. The unit that had an inverse relation to what it measured was named silence. As we approached values high enough to be happy, we realised that there was nothing to be left unsaid, since we had said it all. We took down astonishingly high values of silence. And that is how we came to talking without talking, where I could say everything that I wanted to say and you could hear everything that you wanted to hear. Eventually, we could not remember if there was anything to be said, we just hoped there was. Maybe there was nothing.

September 21, 2003

Hopscotch

I can almost smell the dust here. Been quite a while eh?

For starters, I put in my papers sometime early last week. I am leaving what has essentially been my problem child over the last three years. It has been some ride, one that has taught me quite a lot more than what I ever expected to learn and changed me in more ways than one, a pleasant mix of the good and the bad. It has been pretty hard work, but I guess I owe nothing to anyone. Guess it is time to try and create another little corner of comfort from scratch. Another place, another time, another cause. Forward ho! We do not look back.

If anyone were to have told me in early 2001, after two disastrous one week stints in two major media organisations, that I would be working the three years that were to follow on minimum 8 hour a day shifts, six days a week, I would have laughed it off. Me, the forever restless human doing something like that? No way! Never! Unthinkable. That is the sort of thing reserved for ordinary mortals, no, not for me! And how the mighty fell and rolled further and deeper into the ravine of a set routine and an ordinary existence.

Honestly, I do not have any regrets, nor am I complaining. I am just serving the facts on a neutral plate, ruminating, contemplating during one of those rare periods of time off work. The effort has taken its toll though. Strangely it has been pretty impartial and the effects are pretty much across the board. I have lost a little bit of everything, cynicism, optimism, pessimism, and any other "ism" you can come up with. I have come quite a long way and yet I am nowhere.

I am relieved though, to be away (hopefully!) from pushing news on a daily basis. Every now and then you do end up questioning if there is any bit of shame or humanity left in you when all you can think of, even when reading about some tragedy, is how well you can play it up. There is one photograph I will never forget, of a man dying slowly at the site of a train crash. It still disturbs me, makes me wonder if I would have still seen it just as "saleable news" if it was someone I knew, someone I cared for. Maybe I won't feel anything. After all, it is just a symptom of a deeper-set malaise.

On a news desk you get to see all the agency photographs, raw and unedited and also stuff clicked by your own photographers. At the high resolution that we get to see them, you can see every cut, every drop of blood and the pain and agony on the face of every victim of disasters, created by man or nature. When you read around 70 odd stories in a day as a part of your work, there is a lot of crap that runs through your mind, makes you feel so bloody helpless. There is so much of it out there and all you do is to try and sell it well.

I know I am doing it knowingly. No one is forcing me to do it. Still, I cannot just ignore the detached irony of the situation. It makes you feel so yuck, still all that you are going to do is to push it. Laughable, two-penny, pathetic sensitivity that is of no good to anyone. Every story has spin, every story ignores some important fact, every story makes or destroys a case. Fact? What is it? I do not remember when was the last time I saw it. Do you? I am just a conduit to push an agenda and I am a pretty good one at that. I speak the language they love to hear.

And they do love me. They love the fact that I am dependable. I am clockwork personified. 6 days a week I can be found here from 9:30 PM to 7:00 AM, come rain, snow or sun. It is not rocket science. It has been more about endurance than ethics. It has been more about escapism than principles. If the cowardice in sheltered survival is mistaken for outstanding acts of bravery, who am I to complain? Who am I to reject another of those shiny medals? But I have to admit, it does amuse me to work the system. It is fun.

Actually, I do not know for sure anymore what is real. Any given point there are two other referential points. One, the old rough, reckless, raw self and the second the new, smooth, calculating one. I am neither. In fact I am not sure if that is actually the case or is it just that I want to believe that I exist somewhere in the middle, detached from either. Gives you the best of both worlds, minus the responsibility of either. It was not me monsieur, it was him! Schizophrenia elevated to the status of a practising art. Not a bad prospect?

But I do miss the certainty of the old days, of actually being able to just move on as and when the need was felt , as well as believing in it. The old days when all I had in this strange, alien city was a duffel bag, a mattress and a bucket. An ode to choice, out of it or the lack of it. I am getting rooted. It is not a comfortable thought. I want to have a mobile foundation. I miss the days when I could comfortably find a couple of hours in a day to finish a hundred pages of a book or when I could think of wasting five minutes in my day without having to think about a similar five in the coming day.

But I am having fun. Yes, I am. To let you into a secret, I really do not believe in the crap that I am good at. I am just bluffing, you see, and everyone thinks it is genius. It is like you are the emperor and is yelling at the crowd "Damn it, I am standing here stark naked" and they think that it is something like a cool new fashion statement. But it is time to leave this beast and head for the new one. Yes siree, I am now giving "internal examination" a totally new meaning. I am looking at the beast from the inside and the view is.. umm.. cool?

August 29, 2003

Mid-Week Break

To wake up at 3 am and to sit and write in the only light of the computer screen has to be, arguably, one of my most favourite bits of time that I get to spend in a week. After a prolonged stretch of time in the dumps, I am finally beginning to find something that remotely resembles strength that would help me pick myself up and get back on the same old struggle, this time with a little less whining and the odd stroke of silver lining making a rare appearance for a refreshing change.

It has always bothered me why is it that most things that I do, do not have any particular reason behind it. I keep doing the stupidest of things over and over again, even when I ask people close to me to refrain from doing it. I think I have come around to the reasoning that, it is more like a message in a bottle. It is a little favour that does not cost you much. If it comes back at you, it would be wonderful, even if it does not, it would have made a little change in someone's life.

Began writing again on paper this week, it is not really a diary, just notes, observations and so on. It feels nice to write to amuse just yourself, but my handwriting is a nightmare, looks more like an ECG machine itself suffering a serious stroke or something. Last time I kept a diary was from 1997 to 1999, it contains some of my most psychotic crap. That along with the very few actual fictional bits that I have ever written remains now with someone as a parting gift.

I still have small bundle of letters I received from that time, written on sheets torn off notebooks, in cheap ballpoint ink. Have not read them in years now, nor do I intend to. They are not a painful experience, on the contrary, they are the only bits of relief from fast fading memories of times of past. When the grey ones finally give up on me, at least I would have those yellowing torn sheets to age with, to read and have something to fondly smile about.

An author must take risks. I cannot know what millions of readers over the world will think about what they are reading. I write for the one person whom I know reasonably well - myself. Every creative undertaking is an adventure which is at once painful and fascinating: on the one hand, there is the fear of discovering our own ghosts; on the other, the excitement of knowing we are more interesting than we thought we were.

— The soul's harvest by Paulo Coelho.



I have never read Coelho, but cannot agree more with him. Maybe not the whole extract, but most of it, minus the last bit. I honestly do not think we are that interesting. In fact, I believe most of life is about coming to terms with how ordinary you are. Take away one redeeming factor about a person and what is left is mostly quite ordinary, nothing fascinating about it. Somehow the presentation is where writing matters, after all the sun can actually set in only one way.

Screen narrative is not about writing dialogue and writing action descriptions. It is about events, and the order in which they take place. The outline stage presents you with an opportunity to prototype the story until you get it right. It ensures that everyone in the film-making chain knows what to expect. And it forces you, as the writer, to nail your vision of the film in a simple, declarative form.

— Who's afraid of Sylvia Plath? by John Brownlow.



I guess the same holds for every act of creativity and not just for writing a screenplay. It is the reason why, other than a sheer lack of discipline, I would never write anything substantial in my whole life. It would mean putting yourself out for judgement by all and sundry and then what is most scary is that I might not even be half as good as what I thought I was. Or even scarier, it is like having a total brain fade during the two hours when it matters the most, an examination.

August 26, 2003

And more

"Why in the world did you turn left? We should have turned right, taken the short bumpy ride and gone home."

"I do not know, I do not have any particular reason."

"Oh God, we are going again on one of those early morning 'dude-I am-so-cool-and-free-wind-in-my-hair' rides, are we not?"

"You can get off if you want to, no one is forcing you and you know that damn well too and by the way, the wind in the hair bit does not apply since I am wearing a helmet."

"Whatever!"

"You know, these rides are valuable, they teach you so many things about life in very simple terms. For instance, take this red light, I love the fact that it is perhaps the greatest leveler. I have nowhere to go, the people around me are in a mad rush, to schools, to offices and god knows where, but here we are all equal, time stops for roughly three minutes. We are bound for those 180 seconds by the unwarranted pause to our purposes, or the lack of one in my case."

"Err.. I beg to differ there. You have a home to go to. You are hungry, there is breakfast to be fixed, sleep to catch up on and around 40 pages of print outs that you took 15 minutes back to read through. So please spare me this hideous amalgamation of Deepak Chopra, The Traffic Light Shrugged and Edward De Bono. By the way, do you seriously intend to read all that? Struts, MVC and other gobbledegook? "

"Well, the house can wait, it won't die if I am not there in another hour or so and there are plenty of roads to be ridden. As for the MVC, if I think I am describing an apple, they too think I am describing an apple and apple it is that we both want to discuss, what is the problem if we are actually describing an orange? We all are happy in the end, right? And oh, you can now please stop begging."

"But honestly pal, ease up, don't you think you are overdoing it a bit now? When was the last time you went home straight instead of taking the long route around as if you were doing a detailed study on what effects this strange and prolonged spell of rain has on the city roads? I do not mean to criticise you, but I just do not get the whole point about all of this."

"The point is that there IS no point. Do you honestly do not get it or are you always this daft?"

"We just passed yet another U turn, how much further do you want to go? Besides, the traffic is getting worse now, it is more pain than pleasure, even the sun is now uncomfortably bright, please stop acting like a jerk, let us turn around and go home. I might even fix you breakfast for all you know!"

"Yeah..."

"Now, stop acting like a sulky 4 year-old child, you know as well as I do that even without my saying we would have turned there. And do not forget to get that half pack of bread, have you noticed how brown bread these days is much softer than the regular white ones? And for heaven's sake please stop humming that song, I do not know what is worse, that you can't sing or even hum for nuts, or that you are humming my favourite song? Oh God, oh God, did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That girl in the green car yawned at you as she passed by, congrats, you are not the only person to be yawning and driving early in the morning."

"Thanks a ton, you just done wonders to whatever microscopic quantity that is left of my ego. I mean, the best I can do is to elicit a yawn, these days?"

"You know, I am having second thoughts about going home, now that I am off my high horse."

"But we have to, traffic, breakfast and you know the drill..."

"Yeah."

"Yeah, let us go."

August 24, 2003

Conversation

"The patient is not to be allowed any visitors, continue his time in isolation in the box with a box and the picture cards, routine medication to continue", says the doctor to the nurse after a cursory look through the case sheet.

"I am not getting any better doctor?" Asks the sullen patient.

Putting his best smile on, the doctor says, "Of course you are, you are doing quite well, it is not as bad as it looks, you will have a normal life, within the box with a box and of course, we are happy to have you here. So, really, there is nothing to worry about".

"But I have not been feeling well doc, I feel as if the world is gradually falling away from me, that I am entrapped in this box, and a box within it and the picture cards are fake. I can hear music, I can see things like I am told to, but I do not feel any of them, there is only a growing numbness."

"Nonsense! it is all very real, see how they all like you, how they all love you, how you love them and how it is all perfect"

"But I am sure you have not felt the way I am feeling doc"

"Like how?"

"Have you ever felt like disowning every single word you have every said, to drain yourself of every single bit of emotion that has ever existed in you, to give up your own self and watch it roll down the hill and be devoid of hope any desire to desire anything?"

"But why would anyone want to give up on hope, don't you think it would be wonderful when it is all better?"

"That is my point doc, I can see that you are fake, the box with a box is fake, that you are only artificially creating what does not exist in me, hope, the concept of life exists for me only in the gut-wrenching pain I feel, the pain that you cannot see or feel, the pain that all of these little toys only serve to increase."

"That is a fine yarn you have spun mister patient, but I will have none of it. Not a single word in my big fat books match the description of you condition. So it cannot be!"

"But doc, I FEEL it!"

"That is immaterial, this is just a phase, it will pass, now get some rest, tomorrow is another day!"

After pulling the drapes on, the doctor vanishes.

August 22, 2003

Free Fall

Between unhealthily large doses of caution, trepidation, flashes of love and all-encompassing desolation, the watch for that thing continues. The enigmatic proportions of the concept is growing so huge on me that I am slowly being forced to accept that it could possibly not exist at all. Part of the problem is that the concept in itself looks quite hypothetical or downright unrealistic at times. Does that mean I can stop looking? Do I have a choice either?

Time as it progresses has taken a great fondness for marking its passing in an extremely staccato fashion and so does the moods associated with it. There is so much beauty in every thing at times that your little spot of darkness does not amount to anything and living becomes worth the effort and pain that goes into it. Then there are times when you stick to the shadows for the fear of the world seeing the real face of your self.

Maybe the only consistent bits in this game are the meaninglessness of statements. It does not matter how, what and why I appear as anything. Labels do not matter anymore nor does belonging. What good is any system of, when your own system can't find a footing of its own. When my mind speaks in words that mean different things at different times, what does it matter that the language we speak cannot express truly what I want to express?

It is when regularity becomes the curse of avoiding the mundanely regular that you know that you have become way too successful at dismissing everything. Congratulations, you just defeated yourself now and thrown away what was probably your last straw. Belief system? What is that? Are you awake or are you dreaming? What is it that thing that makes you what you are? Do you even know? Would you survive if you were separated from it?

How much of what I think I am is actually what I am? How much of it is what you want to see me as and what I want myself to be seen as. If the majority agrees that I am a 'nice' person, would that actually make me nice? It would not matter, right? Because neither you nor me is interested in what I actually am, we are just interested in what it is made out to be. It is way much more convenient that way.

Alternatives? I do not know. Does it matter at all when there is no demand for it? Sounds overly pessimistic or fatalistic? Or is it just that it is quite a lot more comfortable to dismiss things to the cheapest available denominator? A blank cheque of being causally carnal carries the day much more easily and effectively than having to deal with explaining an emotional investment in its place and its repercussions. Cheap, indeed, does sell.

August 21, 2003

Strange

How come a test of our strength is actually only a measure of our weakness?

August 16, 2003

5:39 AM

Two national flags, three running computers, can't be assed to count the ones that are not turned on, two empty, unwashed coffee mugs, open bag and helmet, weirdly large number of chairs talking in silence among themselves.

Colleague one: sleeping in his chair. Colleague two: pottering around the room, shuttling between her computer and the printer.

Me: Drowning, in headphones pouring out heavy jazz tracks from here.

Who needs dope when there is music like this?

When you spend half a day drying and cleaning the innards of your cell phone, only then dawns the realisation that you have been riding out in the rain way too much. Life number two started around evening.

The line with which Coyote Ugly ended. What do you do when all your dreams come true?

Answer: Kiss the bitch and wait for the credits to roll with a mush mush song song as the background score. And there was no spare cash to shoot the sunset after the cameo by LeeAnn Rimes.

August 15, 2003

Technophobia

When my father started using computers at his office, it must have been way back in the late 1980s, it had an operating system that used to reside on a floppy disk, no intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) or any of the bells and whistles that we take for granted in a computing environment these days. So one would assume that as things progressed towards the new millennium and the average computer user's experience began to become more synonymous with the eye candy of Windows XP than that of the monochrome command line, things would have become a lot more easier. Rather interestingly, the answer is a definite no.

To be fair, the story is of a double-edged sword. To drive down the entry level cost of the computing experience, it was required to drive up adoption on a massive scale. This was not quite possible with the rather non-existent ease of use features of the command line. It is quite pointless to go into the story of who gets the credit for the GUI or any technology or brands related to specific companies. The angle of interest here is on a different line. Coming back, the "for dummies" approach, it did end up meeting the adoption and price targets, maybe it even overshot it. But, my father just cannot make any sense of it.

It is rather baffling for me to understand why a person who could once comfortably trot off 50 odd commands and majority of the flags associated with them could not have a much better experience with the "point and click" paradigm. Before we head down this road any further I would like to furnish some disclaimers. What is going to follow is thinking that is mostly speculative and opinionated in nature. I would not in most cases have specific instances or studies to back up my assertions nor am I pretending to be an authority on what is being written about. If you have a problem with that, this is where the exit button can be pressed.

As far as I can understand it, a lot of the lousy user experience can be blamed on, yes, lousy interface design. If you put three people together and ask them to achieve the same objectives in the same computing environment, the odds are quite high that they would have three different approaches to doing the same thing. I have observed this a lot at work, where some people even go to the extent of downloading and reinstalling a software just because the normal shortcut that starts the program has been changed or is absent. Even within broad categories, be it a power user or a novice, per user approach differs.

Ideally, we should not be discussing the shortcomings of UI design and the end user experience in this age especially when the GUI is credited with winning over so many users to the stupid white box that takes away so much of our time. Yet, for some strange reason the "cancel" button on the latest Red Hat Linux distribution was on the left side, before the "yes" or "save" button, causing me to impulsively cancel things instead of saving them. For a software philosophy that is so strongly grounded on "freedom" most of the GUI add-ons on Linux end up being a disgrace by trying to a better Microsoft wheel than charting a new and better course.

But then, can Microsoft be left far behind when it comes to messing things up? There used to be this nifty yet hidden configuration utility in Windows 98 called as msconfig.exe. Mind you, it was something that could still have given the average user quite a scare, if he decided to use it. Msconfig's main use was to show the settings and importantly most of the programs that would be launched on start up. And when they launched the Home edition of their latest OS, Windows XP, instead of improving on the utility, it still remains hidden and the only visible method to check services that run at start up is to fiddle around with the "Service Control Manager". Any XP users here know what "Provides the endpoint mapper and other miscellaneous RPC services" means?

The malaise, though, is not totally the blame of a few misplaced buttons or icons. It is symbolic of a much larger issue, of the over-dependence on the API paradigm to approach interface design problems. An API, in very simple words, are terms of reference provided by a program that would generate a specified set of responses, without necessitating an in-depth understanding of what the program is or what it actually does. To further simplify things, it would be like having a few common hand gestures for communication all over the world, enabling anyone to survive anywhere.

I am not saying for even a single moment that it did not have its uses. A lot of what we take for granted on the Internet like web-based mail would not exist if it were not for the use of this approach. If it were not for this layer it would have been impossible for the programmer and interface designer to provide the context to what is often just meaningless integer or character data sitting in a relational database. Yet another very important function would be the consistency of interfaces and rapid application development and deployment.

Time to bring the father back in. The problem now for him is that there are too many layers or just too many complications in a single layer. So many that even most of the programmers who make these programs are getting distanced more from the core technology and the end user (the API decides what the interface looks like) at the same time.

In another 10 or 20 years we would have a generation of coders who would not have any idea about the most basic of things like the transport or the protocol layer, because there would be some one line procedure that would do it for them. You do not believe that? Take a look at the number of new projects being released on Gotdotnet. This is the next stepping stone of the experience I had at my first job, where I had excellent Visual Basic programmers working with me, who did not know what a system DSN meant.

The issue gets even more complicated when you take the case of the average user. Take even a single aspect out of their normal user experience and they are stuck, even when there a dozen workarounds for it. But there is literally no "thinking out of the box". They are not encouraged to it, they are not used to it. The layers are scaring people off technology, so much that as long as it works the way they are used to, they do not care what other things it does at the same time or what it is capable of. Case in point is the large number of machines on broadband connections used to launch distributed denial of service attacks.

The apt word is intimidation. And that is what the API approach does to most users, it scares them from using and exploring things further because it looks complicated while it is not. The fundamental framework of computing even now is the basic 0 and 1, and everything must translate down to that at some point or the other. And adding to the whole mess are the geeks at the core of the development process.

A CEO of a respected and suitably large newspaper's online edition, faced with the question of implementing syndication via RSS feeds, shot off the question to his tech head "What the hell is an RSS feed?". Even the other chap had no clue. And development is already underway for the next syndication specification. It does not matter as long as at least the developers understand it. End users and the rest of the world can be damned. We can always write a new specification.

A result of this disconnect is the phobia for technology from people who do not understand it. The most adverse impact this has in on privacy issues. A 10 minute packet capture of any corporate network can make for a very interesting study of insecure communications and the port/worm scans that I get on the dial up from home is even more scary. I know at least 20 people with computers on broadband lines who would not have heard of the latest RPC worm and some of these are system admins of large networks that span the country. And here I am worrying about my father!

August 12, 2003

Destinations

The warmth of a child's touch so easily shatters the wariness for the cold comfort offered by an adult. So natural, so pure, there is no conditionality, no need for external interpretations, meanings, it is so self contained. It shows the futility of putting up a fight, there is nothing to fight for when the greatest one is already lost. What is left are a bunch of two penny jokers and the odd traveller waiting for the last bus that is to arrive any given time.

Initially it is a bit strange, you fight because that is the only thing you have known all your life, gradually the realisation dawns that the only absolution is in the defeat, you can choose any road you wish, it does not really matter when all roads lead to Rome. Between the start of the journey towards yet another promised destination and the deliverance of absolution in the ever-consistent failure, lies life in all its much-abused whorish glory. Relish.

There is only so much you can cry. After all, there is no Greek tragedy that is being written here, no sad tale of the forfeiture of childhood innocence. Some of the ilk are born wicked, covered in grime and filthy in the mind, so much non-special, so much non-pristine, so much stop-gap and so very discardable. Little kid misbehaved again today? Disown. Find fake smile, you are not allowed to cry, draw one one your face, mix in. We like you again now. Very well done!

When the last of the stolen logs ashen in the wake of its previous life as embers, the cold starts to gain in strength again. The city has closed out, doors and windows firmly shut, the light that falls from the windows have no useful warmth in them and there are limits to even a thief's best abilities. There is only so much one can steal. It is another cold winter's night, no more firewood in sight and I still don't have a home to go to.

August 11, 2003

Home Truths

One of the hardest things to get a grip of when you are living alone is the right measure of "how much". Ideally, it should be something as simple as half the amount of whatever you were consuming when you had a flat mate. Apparently, it is not quite that simple and even half a handful of rice that you add or subtract from the amount that is already in the cooker can make the difference between having just about enough to last you for two meals or throwing a considerable amount of it away or even running short if you happen to be in a particularly peckish mood.

Or take the case of vegetables, if you buy them in bulk, one or two items inevitably rot and get thrown away even without being used and if you buy too small a quantity you always run short at the most inconvenient of times. And it is not rare for me, even after almost twelve months of the solitary existence, to find half a packet of biscuits that I had earlier stowed away in the larder for consumption at a later date, only to forget about it. But the most ridiculous instance has to be the time when I had two large packets of detergent at the same time because I had forgotten to check before I went shopping.

Housekeeping is a great way to learn how economies of scale function. Cooking for just one person is not very cost effective if you cannot get it right. The more people you have to share the costs, the better it is, as long as everyone contributes. But it is quite a healthy way to live since you are cooking only to satisfy your own taste buds, So, it is not unnatural for me to start with something that is an Indian dish and then make it bland in the way I like and improvise later to add touches of Italian or Thai to it. Would you like your double omelette fried potatoes with salsa chunks?

But something I have come to appreciate and respect from all this is how women, especially housewives, manage all this. Keeping a house running is 24/7 operation, there are virtually no off days and there is always something that needs your attention or fixing and it is absolutely unthinkable for me to imagine adding kids and a job in the the equation. I for one would certainly lose my mind if put in such a situation. Hats off to them! But there are the bright sides too, to have a nice organised place in which you can live just by your own rules is a huge huge plus that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

August 09, 2003

Twilight

If it were not for the crickets there would be total silence around the house. A faint glow of light from it paints an uneven circle de-marking itself from the surrounding ever-threatening darkness. In the windless still of an orange sky, the trees line up shoulder to shoulder, unmoved and frightening in their silhouette.

Cold comfort, behind and under me, in the form of the black, polished rock of the verandah makes for the usual perch. There are toys and footprints scattered barely visible in the glow. Everyone has left and the last of their echoes die into a graceful exit.

There is still not a sound, even the crickets have gone quiet. It is going to be yet another long evening with nothing but the voices in the head for company.

August 07, 2003

Rules

I never thought I would get down to writing this, but then what the heck, it is much better than having a long winding inconsequential commenting spree. Let us get one thing very very straight here, this is a personal journal, I write purely for my own personal reasons. The primary, or for that matter even the tertiary, reason for this page existing is not to satisfy or make sense to any of you. Of course, if it happens to make sense for you too, great, I might even go out of my way, a little bit, to try and make it happen, but that is just about where I draw the line.

The stuff written here is not by any means the standards relating to anything ethical, moral or whatever other benchmark you can think up of. And you are quite free to form your own opinions about me or what I have to say, I have no problems with that. The moot point being I do not give a damn. I just do not have the time, energy or inclination to explain myself endlessly and this certainly is not a forum such a sort of discussion. And this is certainly not your 6th grade text book to have 30 guides published after it so that you can understand it.

The long and the short of the story is that I am quite grateful to the fact that people do bother to come here and read whatever is spattered on these pages, but that in itself does not mean I will sit and explain or justify every little word that I write. If you can "separate the signal from the noise", brilliant! But do not expect me to do that for you, nor is this some codification of some law or standard that it has to stand up to everyone's scrutiny. If it makes sense in my world, it is good enough. Hell, I thought it was my personal journal!

As long as no one is being pain in the posterior vis-a-vis in the comments or start offending other people who are also commenting, we should all get along fine. I do not have any issues with people disagreeing with what I have to say and there is certainly no assumption that I am right all the time, nor that what I have written about is the only way to go about something. But please respect another person's right and space to differ from what you might think or have to say. Like I said earlier, this is not a forum for all that, it was never intended to be one.

This page by no means is wholesome reflection of my life. So, the purely academic exercise of arguing or making sense of things here is not something which I give a lot of importance to and the effort that I make towards it would reflect that. No one has put a gun to your head to come and read all this and hey, all it takes is just a little click to make your way out of here. And that is more or less what I have to say.

August 02, 2003

Printline Pontifications

For the very few regular visitors here who also know me on a personal level must have noticed that I almost never write about work or things related to it. For those who do not know me, I earn my daily bread working as a journalist, but I am not your typical microphone/dictaphone toting in-your-face kind of journalist. The profile is more or less of what my former boss is fond of defining as a "Swiss Knife" and those who have worked in the murky world of online journalism would easily understand why it is defined so.

The problem with writing about your profession as a journalist are two-fold: The first is that it is a very thin line that you have to stick to when it comes to maintaining professional integrity and the second is that it is too complicated a beast to get even a mild grasp of, even with many years of experience backing you. Why integrity matters is quite simple, more than any other profession, appearances matter the most in journalism. Even if the majority of the industry treat the "Fourth Pillar" concept as a joke, with huge helpings of cynicism added in, the average bloke on the street still believes in it.

If you are looking for me to state the obvious, I would gladly admit that the image of a journalist is quite very much a lie and an elaborate one at that, since most of our value judgements are made from sitting on our high horses, when we even do not have the moral or ethical authority to ride even a lowly snail. Which, incidentally is also the reason why it amuses me to death when people start campaigns to boycott certain publications, because they openly place stories for a tidy sum. What I wonder is how much of the regular news media would escape such a ban boycott if the same criterion is applied to them?

But why should the others be banned boycotted? It is because they too do the same thing stupid! You are just too blinded by the fine livery of idealism that appears on top to see what actually goes on beneath the sheets. Placing news for money is nothing new. Any journalist worth his name should have at some point or the other done his share of spade work to get that coveted junket. More covert ones take the form of official, but undeclared, policy of giving undue coverage to companies with whom you have tied up in other sectors. It then becomes laughable when the same publications are cited as examples of ideal behaviour. If only they knew better!

So why don't I do the whistle blower act and go riding out in a blaze of glory? Simple reason is that I do not give a damn about the idealism bit. The first baggage that you discard after you get acclimatised to the media industry is the one relating to ideals. It does not exist, swallow it the easy way or the hard way, but you are not going to change the world through this, better sweat it out in NGO if you are keen on that. You will get used to ignoring a greater wrong and write miles worth of text on some inconsequential moronic thing as time passes by. It is just another profession that operates on the principle of margins.

Four years back, when I first set foot in this industry it was around the time the dotcom boom was bottoming out, still I decided to give it a shot after chucking the relative security offered by a deskie job with one of the major newspapers. It was one of the most miserable conditions that I have ever worked in, the peak of summer, 40 degree celsius plus temperatures in a stinking room and an average of eleven hours of work, six days a week. The money was not great either, it got me a paltry Rs. 4000 in a month for all that effort. But the important thing was that I learnt a lot there.

At the same time, the boom boys were rollicking on, it would be a good 8-12 months before the attack of the pink slips would start and stories of wild office parties where they would order 70 large pizzas from Pizza Hut for a staff of barely 100 people was still quite commonplace. But there is another side to this story, one that was set in the years from early to late 90s. It was a time when hiring was practically non-existent in the mainstream media. Very few publications were doing well, circulation was rock bottom and it was next to impossible to retain your subscribers and yes, cable television was everyone's new favourite poison.

Of course, there were exceptions like The Hindu. But it snugly fits the definition of a niche and not everyone can have a hyper-rich private trust running the show and still manage to sell a copy at over Rs 3. Meanwhile, "the others" still had to contend with astronomically high rates of newsprint, turf wars between territory managers that often bordered on behaviour normally seen in ghettos and paltry late city print runs that would not even cover the expenses incurred in running the printing facilities each night. It was literally do or die for the print media and something had to give.

The traditional dailies were in a spot of real bother as far its brand placement was concerned by now. The instant version of news was the monopoly of the television channels and the long winding analysis was firmly the domain of the weekly and the fortnightly. The brunt of this downturn was borne by the newcomers to the industry around that time and it was not uncommon for people to start their careers as print journalists for Rs 2000 or less. Compare this to what a trainee gets to earn these days, Rs 6000 - Rs 8000, and that tells a story in itself.

And then there was colour. Not for showing gore, not for showing pain, but for showing skin. That "Times of India killed the news in the daily" is an absolute fact. But all they have done is to create an opportunity from a point of real desperation. They went back to the basics and hit at what is the most basic of our vices - titillation. The corollary is also that it is idiotic to assume that Times of India is a newspaper anymore. It is a daily entertainment magazine, one that appeals to the masses that rush to the movie halls to "detach" themselves from the reality of the real world with the regulation Govinda flick.

It is by no means ideal, it is by no means right, but you do have to give some credit where it is due and admit that they did turn the situation around and made the traditional news media worthy of the effort and attention that goes into it these days. The age where pure idealism gets you places is gone, it is history, finito. You have to first survive these days to even start thinking of any ideals and ideals certainly does not get the Seth to sell you more newsprint on credit the next time he comes to meet you. And if it was such a bad idea, why would it be selling so much and why would every Tom, Dick and Harry follow them too?

What we are seeing is a huge transitional phase. Most of the industry is still run by people who belong to the era of The National Herald and the disconnect shows in most places. The Statesman still uses language that would make dear old Queen Elizabeth squirm in her seat at Buckingham Palace, it is that archaic. It has an audience now, but what happens 10 years on when most of the same would have died? And right now the only thing that gets the attention of everyone from the bloke on the street to the executive being chauffeured to work in his E Class is the barely covered babe on the front page of the Delhi Times.

Around the time when I started working, it was assured that you would be skinned alive if the obviously American words like kids, cop or movie ever showed up in your copy. To understand how much things have changed, grab a copy of the latest edition of The Indian Express and you can see the same being used in aplenty. And what is even funnier is that they are trying to sell what is "proper news" to an audience that would belong to The Hindu with language that ideally belongs in The Times of India, while The Times of India itself uses pretty unfancy language to push news to an increasingly yuppie audience. Confusion!

Like I mentioned earlier, it is a huge transitional phase. It would be hard to believe, but most editorial desks in print media still run computers based on the ancient 486 DX and the mentality towards pushing their product is sort of based on the same era. And on the other hand we have the new media crowd who push things to the other extreme. And mind you, it sells. I have personally done and seen how quoting something out of context or creatively slanting a headline to make it more sensational or titillating gets a crowd, that comprises mainly of Non-Resident Indians, to click on a story that they would have ignored otherwise.

It is very important to not take our eyes off the ball in this game. Ten years down the line we would most probably use portable holographic displays to do most of our reading and it is absolutely imperative that journalism as it used to exist is redefined to find a role in that age. And that lies somewhere between what The Times of India and The Statesman is doing today, but both are equally important and both need to survive. What we see today is not where we will be. The industry is still struggling to find its feet and it will be a while before that happens. And for a change I will have to be optimistic as to where things would end up.