March 28, 2003

Late Afternoon

I have lived most of my life based on things that I wanted to be or things or that I wanted to have. It is not really about being a doctor or an engineer, it is more about being with the kind of people whom you want to be with and expecting the emotional support and care that you yearn for. It ranged from feeling terribly jealous, as a child and as an adult, of friends who had supportive parents to looking at couples who, even with their imperfections and incompatibilities, used to make me feel a certain hollowness within myself. Somehow, life had always meant for me a trip where I am always the last one to leave and the one to look away or to keep quiet when something that I wanted but could not have passed right in front of me. It sounds quite noble, but it is not quite that.

All of it used to leave me in a very bad position, for no matter how much one tends to delude oneself there is really not much in this world that is unconditional and even when I would have liked to believe that I did not expect, I did, and feel bitter about it deep within me. So, gradually I had reached a point, where everything was defined by what I could not have, where the worth of anyone in my life was measured by the degree they failed me than by the degree they made a difference in my life. And then I began to notice, that I just had the same old stories of struggle, the same old stories of how I had to do something just because I wanted to avoid something or someone else. In short, I am a marvellous enterprise whose sole principle of operation is escapism.

Close friends tell me I have changed in the past couple of months. Some have noticed the change, some have not. Of the few who have noticed it even ended up asking me where had all my compassion vanished. In the days I had spent away from here on my vacation, I noticed a very significant detail. That the world around me would survive, even prosper in some cases, even if I am not there. Everyone had something to call their own, an idea, an aim or even someone to live after. Strangely, I had none. A simple, but significant omission. And I realised that I had to respect, first myself for my life to be worth anything, then others for what they are than a charitable display of what they cannot have.

Now it is different. There is now no bitterness that I cannot spend more time with someone that I like to spend time with, for it is not possible for me to spare a significant amount of time and effort over anyone that way. And I do not mean it in a bad way, it is just a fact that I love spending time with myself, not all the time, but a significant amount of time that I have. That being the case, almost everyone suffocates me for space after a certain limit. It is not that I have stopped caring, I still do, maybe even a lot more than what I used to before. But, the sad fact of life is that the best you can do is to live your own life to the best of your ability, you really cannot live another person's life. Do the best you can do for another person and hope for the best and I guess I know where I stand even though I am sure it sounds a lot like "I really don't give a damn about you".

Other than that there is a sense of calm for me that has come after a long long time. Even if it is sounds like sophistry I really am comfortable finally with most things in life. I know where my limitations are and also about how lucky I am to be where I am today. So, I have the choice to look behind and say it all is so miserable and gloat in a pall of gloom or to feel scared by the totally alien surroundings and the unknown. Or I can say, "What the hell" let us make the best out this and move on. I honestly have no idea about where all this would lead or what all this means, but I really do not like to stick on to a single approach if it does not sort things out for me after a while, life is really too short for that.

All the fancy crap apart, I must grab some sleep now. Just watched You've got mail for the nth time just a while back. I am such a sucker for mush, especially when it is delivered by Meg Ryan. But no, I did not like City of Angles. Nick Cage looked totally out of place as an angel. As if I have seen angels. Hah!

March 27, 2003

War-rant

A week into the 'liberation' campaign and the media coverage still continues to astound me. This, by far, is the lousiest coverage of any war that I have seen in my time. Call it the first war of the electronic-age or not, the sheer number of statements that are made and carried without proof virtually unchallenged or ones that are just plain lies is nothing short of inducing shock and awe.

To cite a few:

According to the coalition, the Iraqi administration has been starving its people and diverting the money from the oil for food program. This has been told over and over again, by anyone and everyone connected with them. On Wednesday, they interviewed an official from the UN who was handling the program before the campaign started. In quite an embarrassing three minutes, he went on to say how the country was well stocked for a month or so with food and it was the cancellation of the program that is now causing shortages and the chaotic scenes that were seen when the first of the relief convoys reached southern Iraq.

At each and every press conference, the men in uniform go to great lengths to explain how the people of Basra are being denied drinking water by the administration. And in other separate reports they mention that there is no water there because of a lack of electricity, which incidentally was taken down by the coalition. There is hardly any mention of the fact that the most serious problem affecting the Iraqis is a lack medicine for children that was blocked due to sanctions, but there is constant mention of the regime that has ruined the country.

The day the troops moved into Umm Qasar, the port city, there was the rumour that the Iraqis might have mined the entrance to the port. The "might" was picked up by the 'embeds' as a fact and within a day or so we had Tony Blair exclaiming how this was yet another example of how ruthless the administration was in denying the port facilities to the local people.

By late Wednesday evening, it was reported that the port was open for traffic and no one bothered to ask how was such a heavily mined port demined in such a short time? The secret of that rapid progress was hidden in three sentences in an interview with an 'embed', who said there was not a single mine found laid in the port. All they could find was a vessel with mines that had sunk. Yes, they might have been planning to lay them, but journalists are not supposed to be on the US Army's payroll, they are meant to ask questions and very few are doing that.

Another instance was the so-called chemical weapons factory which was discovered by the coalition troops on their way to Baghdad. When asked, they said they had no definite clue that it was a chemical factory, but since it was defended by some high ranking Iraqi soldiers, who apparently did not even put up a fight, it had to be a chemical weapons factory. Fox News even went forward with the assumption, only to sink the story later when even Centcom refused to say it was true. Of course, no one asked about the story or did a follow up on it.

Then comes the great story of the nuclear weapons program. This is important because the case for attacking Iraq has been made out a lot based on this bit of information that was brought out by the CIA, saying the Iraqi administration had aimed to buy enriched uranium from Nigeria. Upon scrutiny by the IAEA, the documents were found to be so shamefully fake that, it was quoted that their "jaws dropped". Of course, this also does not count because when Bush and Blair says Iraq has WMD's, even if there is considerable proof that makes those statements questionable, the press would not question it.

In the past three days or so, none of the press briefings are mentioning the body count on the side of the coalition. The Centcom spokesman once even said they would not comment on it. The statement was allowed to go just like that and no one even asked why the case was so. This is especially curious since there has been a pitched battle going in Najaf for four days or so and according to the coalition the toll on the Iraqi side is about 650, as reported by the BBC today morning. It is a bit incredulous that they managed to kill 650 fanatics who were armed to their teeth without taking even a single causality. So what is the actual story? Only if the people who are supposed to ask them would ask.

There might be two reasons why the figures are not coming out. Other than the obvious reaction to the body bags back home, if the figures are true there is a chance that they were bombed to shreds when the air support was called in. Now, that is not a pretty sight and not really clean combat, which would 'win many hearts' in the country to be liberated.

Why this coverage is lousy is because of the 'embeds'. When you side with a particular side in a confrontation, the truth naturally goes for a toss. Of course, you will only hear from the BBC about how what Rageh Omar had to report from Baghdad was monitored by the administration, while nothing would be said about how all the footage from the 'embeds' were done according to strict rules and cleared by the authorities. In the end, both are cases of censorship, what matters is just which side you happen to be and journalists are not supposed to take sides, at least not this blatantly.

What is certainly noticeable though is the shift in the stance that BBC has made from the initial days of the attack. There was virtually no difference between it and CNN in the first few days, when it was assumed that Gen. Tommy Franks would be running Iraq just in matter of days. As the story shifted from "shock and awe", to "long and protracted", the Beeb made a slight skeptical turn in its view of things. Now, it has slightly more unnerving questions to ask and often they end up getting their own kicks from extracting the riot of an answer "We do not have any reason to not expect that they would not use chemical and biological weapons" from the the defence analysts. Of course, it is an inconvenient fact that in the past 12 years the only state to have used depleted uranium in its weapons is the US.

In all honesty, the war has a foregone conclusion. It was evident in November 2002 itself that the strike would come around end of February 2003 and here we are. Now, it is just a matter of making it palatable to the people of the 'civilised and free' world. Bush really cannot afford to have Saddam do an Osama, no matter how many contracts he many hand out for the 'reconstruction' of Iraq and Tony Blair also needs a success at whatever cost it has to come. Even though, they have all bases covered as to why they had to hit (primarily with the unproven terrorist angle) with WMD and democracy, it would be quite a huge dent in the collations's image to make all this noise and let Saddam go.

But what is unnerving is the lack of enthusiasm among the 'liberated' people. Even in the Kurdish autonomous region, there is not much of a welcome they are getting and whatever little footage they manage to extract out of the populace celebrating has a maximum of a few curious children looking and clapping on and an even lesser number of adults. And if this is an indication that if Baghdad falls and Saddam flees to fight the more and more visible guerilla war, then it would really be a tragedy to have gifted a whole new breed of 'freedom-fighters' to an already wrecked country.

Something that most Americans do not seem to understand is that no one likes to be told what they should do. Liberators or not, they are foreign troops in a country with people who are terribly sensitive about their pride and already it is contributing a lot in the form of nasty dents to the Islamic psyche. A psyche that is being hunted down and victimised a lot from the jobless and helpless teenager in the West Bank to the the ones who are getting screened compulsorily in the US. These are where the mind seeds of the next perpetrators of 911 are sown and the grounds are already uncomfortably fertile.

The main call to action to attack Iraq is the existence of WMDs that threatens the US. One, even the theoretical best WMD that Iraq has, cannot be delivered ot the US and a Scud is not small enough to be carried in a suitcase to LA and and sent straight into Hollywood. Two, the only weapon in 911 that converted the 747s into lethal killing machines was the same psyche mentioned above. If the US is aiming to stop that, then it is failing miserably in it, for it is only adding to it by already making a dictator, with no external assistance and antiquated weapons, look like a hero by holding out against the world's only superpower.

Three, the so-called democratisation program has never worked till date. The only place where the person they opposed was thrown out was in Yugoslavia, but it was not the missiles that did the trick, but the people themselves. The most recent example where lots of reconstruction was promised and nothing has happened is Afghanistan. The government there (not democratically elected incidentally), even with the Western forces backing it, does not have any effect beyond the capital and the neighbours (including India) are slowly carving out pockets of influence for themselves. That bomb is ticking once again.

So, where do we go from here? I honestly do not know. The whole war is real game of cards, where even victory is no guarantee of success in the long-run. It is simply amazing to watch as a strategy game as it unfolds and scary to imagine it ever happening to you and really lousy to watch on the television, where you are supposed to get great thrills watching grainy pixelated images and black and white shots of missiles thudding into buildings. The real fun, though, will start once it all ends, when the finger pointing and the rush of the vultures to feed on a dead nation would start. The only question that would remain then is: How meaty a bone will we get?

March 25, 2003

Memories

My friend tells me that I have a very good memory, only that it is selective, while I tend to believe that it is not what is used to be. But I guess she is right, choosing to forget things that I am not comfortable with or things that I cannot deal with has been my pet technique to get on in life. It is very effective in the way it allows you to deal with similar things later in life with as little prejudice as possible. But it also comes with the distinct disadvantage of blanking out entire patches of my life. There are bits and pieces that I remember, but not really a lot.

For instance, I remember maybe just a handful of instances from the school years. They were never spectacular, mainly because I was not a spectacular student. I was equally non-participative in curricular or extra curricular activities with a sold laid back temperament and a pristine laziness that used to lend a generally non-eventful life some more dull sheen.

I remember the long road trips that four of us used to make on the family scooter, me standing in the front on the footboard, father, sister and mother following suit in the same order with our belongings stuffed into a black suitcase, that was secured to the carrier in the rear with long black thick rubber bands. That came to an end when we bought the car, a Maruti 800, that ended the misery that my legs used to suffer during those trips.

It was, I believe, in 1985 that we got it after a long wait. It was bright red in colour and was my parents' pride and joy because a Maruti in those days were what a Mercedes SLK would mean to us in these times. They say smell is something that memories are connected the most strongest to and I can still remember the smell of the new car quite clearly. The new upholstery and yes, the little jet that squirted water on to the windshield when you pressed the lever with the wiper controls towards the steering. It was a new feature in those times and was thus accorded the status of what computer controlled suspension would have gotten today.

But, that is pretty much it. From there on all I have is again patchy memories of high school and onwards. Five years of college were a blur. Cannot remember much more than a handful of days from that time. What is more unbelievable is that I do not remember more than a handful of people from the place where I spent half a decade of my life and I am sure a lesser number would remember me. But I pretty much remember the four years in Delhi well, somehow I cannot afford to lose them as I already do not have much of a past to look back at, though somewhere deep within us it all lies perfectly preserved for eternity.

In playing the perfect friend and many other countless roles, I have lost myself somewhere along the way. All this is just an effort to try and see where did that happen. I have piled up the few chapters I can remember all around me and I am taking them apart a letter at a time, stripping them of intentions both mala fide and bona fide. I honestly do not know what I aim to find or prove, because I see so many corners that I painted myself into, so many mistakes that I would commit, if the same circumstances were to occur again. Maybe I am a sum total of all of that or maybe I just have a chronic case of extreme self-obsession. But I can always conveniently choose not to remember that.

March 24, 2003

Spaces

What do I value most in a person? If I were to exclude the ephemeral qualities like spirit and independence, it would always be the ability to have a conversation, the ability to communicate, the ability drown me in a whirlwind of words that originate from the deepest recesses of the mind. Maybe it is thus because I tend to talk a lot, there is only a hailstorm and hardly ever a drizzle when it comes to conversations and me. But, words are not necessarily a good measure of anything, they can assume values totally different from what the person who spoke it could have ever meant to give it. And it works both ways, it can make a person happy or hurt a lot more than what it was ever intended to.

The fascination for words is at the same time mired in a deep disgust for it. The magic in those spells strung together by odd shaped characters and empty spaces is the sincerity with which it is spoken. That, like most things in life, varies on a day-to-day basis and it can never be demanded of you. The magic just fades away then and the lips engage in verbal prostitution. The listener is satisfied, the speaker enacts a well practiced ritual for the price of maintaining relationships or one of the many forms of instant gratification that is used in place of honesty. Is it worth it? I honestly do not know. But, prostitution has always been a thriving profession, so there must be some purpose to it.

How do you react when you awaken into pitch darkness? How do you react when you realise you are miserably lost? You cannot be really be scared of what you cannot see and every road leads to nowhere when you are lost for the lack of a destination. Every alley is a blind opportunity or is an invitation to an unseen disaster, to find out you have to walk ahead, no matter how dark it is. For whatever it is that enriches you, or whatever it is that destroys you, it will eventually get to you and tomorrow's answers cannot sway today's questions.

To be honest and to cut the crap, I am miserably lost. I am happy for the load that has gone off my shoulder and sad for the lightness that I feel and the people that I am afraid I am losing because of it. It is very hard to deal with newly found space and air after a long time when you clean up the messy room of your life. It is extremely difficult to deal with circumstances when answers that originate from outside your self do not serve any purpose and inside there is nothing but emptiness echoed by a million answerless questions.

The world is essentially an open road and I have to pick my own route to a destination that I have no clue about. There is a sense of joyful anticipation that is underscored by a sense of trepidation whether what is to come will be set again to a feeling of deja vu, albeit on a different scale. I have always lived by what I have felt is right and in the end that is my only satisfaction in life. I have messed up and hurt people a lot more while on that path, but there is no other way for me. I need to move on, for I believe that even if one were to live for 100 years, it would still be a few hundred years too short to have lived, even with all the unfairness and pain that is there in living.

I hate it when words fail me, especially when they fail to convey what I feel, when all I can come up with is just the same old sentences repeated over and over again, like a broken record that mocks at me. I hate it when in my heart I want to reach out and touch people and spectacularly fail in it due to the dislike of invoking those same paltry words that provide a sense of comfort and belonging that my actions cannot convey. I hate it when words that I said are not heard and the words that I heard are not what they meant. Afterall, what good is communication when it is not backed by understanding?

March 18, 2003

Whither

So, we are going to have a war. A short one, a long one, a bloody one? No one knows. What is known is that the so called lesser people of the world � the lesser developed and the people under the 'them' regimes � have no say in anything. They are going to have yet another 'liberating' experience thrust upon them, like it has happened in Afghanistan and the erstwhile Yugoslavia before. I wonder what life is like for them, on one side they have a moronic dictator or a ruthless regime and on the other hand you have the crusaders of the modern 'white man's burden' telling them who is best suited to rule them.

One of the things that has always bothered me while working in the media is how it is used as a tool. A tool that is often deadlier than the most powerful of bombs. Case in point is a report shown by the BBC two days back about how the Iraqi's had previously used chemical weapons on its own people. The report was shown after three other reports that gave ample airtime to the US and UK point of view. Towards the end of the report was mentioned a small but significant detail, on how the US had nothing to say about the usage of the chemical attacks then as Iraq was an ally during the Iran-Iraq conflict. Nor is any any mention given to the fact that the Ba'ath Party in Iraq was basically one of the brainchildren of the CIA, just like the Taliban and the Contras had been at other points in time.

This approach to news is typical of the BBC. They always leave themselves enough space to wriggle out in the future, in case their version of things turn sour. When you mention the US involvement with Saddam's regime during the Iran-Iraq war as an afterthought in a report that comes after three other reports that support the current stand, the opinions have already been made. And once you position a fact at the fag end of of a story, no matter how strong the point is, it is pretty difficult to change a person's viewpoint that is already bombarded with the angle that you have a threat there.

What is really saddening is how much they are allowed to get away with. There is always this "threat perception" of Iraq that is mentioned by the people who support the war in US and UK. No one ever asks them how is it possible for a country that is surrounded on all sides with hostile armor and with no capacity to fly over most of its own territory be a threat to anyone? One essential quality that journalism is losing slowly these days is to question the facts that are thrust down upon you. Most media briefings in the Iraq crisis has been mostly the administrations' public faces playing hopscotch with what is not proven. You start with terror, then chase the token of evil over different squares that ranges from democracy to nuclear threats, none of which are yet to be substantiated in a way that would justify the pouring down of roughly 4000 cruise missiles on Baghdad. Yet, very few journalists question them.

What still lingers in my memory is the bombing of the market place in Sarajevo during its siege by the Serbs. It was a turning point in the war, one that convinced quite a few people about the direction that the international community should take in the conflict. Everyone on the spot, including the illustrious Martin Bell who was then BBC's correspondent in the region, filed away reports that said it came from the Serb side. Later, it transpired that the shell was actually Croatian, but by then story was stale, saying "we are sorry, we screwed up", is not good news and it went against the popular feeling of that time. The BBC did correct itself, a long while later, when no one actually gave a damn and claimed the moral high ground. But, opinions once made are very hard to change, even from the same news source.

CNN does not really deserve a mention as it serves as a much better public relations department to the US administration than the actual PR reps of the administration do, still this one deserves a special mention. Once Kosovo was 'liberated' by the NATO allies, there was this CNN reporter who was reporting live with the troops from the towns that were being 'liberated'. He made a curious observation that the so called tortured townships, where people were being supposedly dumped into the mass graves left by the dozen, life seemed to be normal. They were living normal lives, there seemed to be no fighting there and most action seemed to be on the front lines. Of course, that report was never shown again as it went against the image of the 'liberators' brining joy to destroyed villages. What the media often conveniently forgot in the Balkans was that, historically the region has been one of the most violent places to be and when you mix an ethnic conflict in it, there would not be anything called as remotely decent in the behaviour there.

Still, we have testosterone driven 'India is an emerging power' zealots, kicking and screaming that we should support the American stand, ignoring the fact that the Americans are happily sleeping with a character, who fits the description of a nuclear armed despot that is bestowed on Saddam, right across the border. The sad thing is, once the bombing comes to an end and Saddam is killed or exiled, we would have another set of people joining the already swelling ranks of miserable people in the Balkans, Afghanistan and all the other countries who were offered a better future with the 'liberators'. And also lost in the whole melee is the answer to the question � Why does the world hate Americans? The answer being that no matter how horrible the ruler of your country is, if you have even an ounce of pride alive in you, you would not want another country to decide who is best fit to rule you.

I have been listening to the BBC for roughly eight hours now. Robin Cook has resigned from Blair's cabinet and in doing so he made the case for why there should be no war in a way that no one has done in all this while. On CNN's website, even on the Europe edition, there is no mention of this fact other than a passing reference in one of the main reports. The full text of his speech in the House of Commons, that ripped the pro-war camp's contentions to shreds, is not to be found anywhere and above 90% of airtime is still given to the US and UK whining about how there was opposition in the Security Council. In a couple of hours President Bush is expected to give a 48 hour deadline for Saddam to pack up and leave and once the focus shifts to the the theater of war, objectivity would die an unnatural death with the first bombs that would fall in Baghdad.

In the meantime, this and this would give a good deal of information of the people who are not given much of airtime or column space in the midst of all this posturing. All the best to them, though it already sounds like quite a lost cause.

March 15, 2003

Paths

A part of me is a frail silhouette in the distance and fast disappearing. It talks to me in a language that I am being forced to learn due to its sheer incomprehensibility. It paints pictures in colours and gestures I have never seen before. I am scared, I am excited, I am emptied of innards, pleasant and unpleasant. Behind is another silhouette with its own familiar language and a tattered book of meanings, poignant and now ephemeral. My lengthening shadow envelopes it in one final embrace as words, old and new, chokingly fail me.

March 09, 2003

Changes

What good is life without a good bunch of them? First up I have to rethink the whole deal about my career. After having slogged for over three years in the realm of online media, doing things from plain old writing to glorified copy-pasting to even part time server administration, I think it is about time that I moved on. The main risk is that the opportunities in this segment as a hybrid between a content and tech person is drying up rather rapidly. In my opinion, it is just a matter of time before expensive workflow integration software takes over the entire production part of the work away from people like me. So you really have to pick between staying either cent percent as a content person or a technical pointsman.

The reasons for wanting out runs deeper than that though. Most of it is fuelled by three years of self-discovery where I have surprised myself in a lot of areas and have been not very amused by others. Right now, the main urge is to settle down into a part that would involve just writing. But writing what or where is the tough question. Do not have my clues or ideas as far as that goes, but I think I know for sure that I am through with this. Even the former obsession of downloading music or testing out new software as fringe benefits from the job does not really appeal that much anymore and it takes a fair bit of effort to pull through each and every day. The body is half-willing to take the effort, but the mind is lagging and that too by a fair bit.

It is not as if I am not doing well. In fact I have done considerably well if I look at the other people who started working around the same time that I started to work, if you make enough allowances for things like a distaste for authority and dressing that I am a bit particular about. But, I feel that in mainstream media, beyond a certain level, you stop learning. It is more or less about doing the same 23 things with a fair level of consistency day in and and day out and of course protecting your own turf by means of petty politics and king-size egos. And it really scares me to think of winding up at age 32 as an also-ran, a spent force, someone with who promised a lot, but never delivered.

All of this won't happen overnight though. It needs a lot of thought as I am very impulsive and it takes often the tightest of leashes to keep that factor under control. But, I do know that this is not the way I want to spend the most productive years of my life. It really should mean a lot more than countless hours spent staring at a 15" CRT monitor and fatigued fingers dragging themselves all over the keyboard. Maybe it is just the backlash from the vacation about how much better life can be out in the real world that is prompting all this, maybe it is just a phase like so many others. Whatever it is, this is something I am going to be spending a lot of time on.

March 07, 2003

Summary

I wonder what is it that I like so much about this place. Indore, by any measure is not somewhere I would want to work or settle down. It is dusty and dry, the roads are worse than what I have seen anywhere in India yet and from where I am staying, it is a nightmare to get anywhere if you do not have any form of private transportation at your disposal all the time.

But I am making the most of the precious few days that I have left in my vacation and finally found the time to catch up with my reading. It has been a good six months since I had started on Isabel Allende's Paula and for various reasons, the strongest being the tragic and depressing nature of the story, I have been putting off finishing it. Now that I am through it, Paula easily fits into the list of my all time favourites.

Since then I have started on Rohinton Mistry's Such A Long Journey and it is quite a study in contrasts as far styles go. Mistry initially appears as quite thick, needlessly descriptive and constipated as far the flow of narration goes, especially when one starts with him right after one of the Latin American authors like Allende or Marquez who have the talent to make everything magically ebb and flow with the narration.

To be fair, I guess it is not right to compare most Indian English authors (with the exception of maybe Rushdie), who have it sort of ingrained in them to make the text almost intentionally viscous, to English authors from other countries. We still have a sort of self-inflicted stigma in most of our writing that takes the driving seat before the form or content.

When someone naturally gifted like Anita Desai goes into a three page long description of the coconut grove in the Village by the sea, it not only fits in with the whole text, but it also enhances it. With Mistry though you can often see the effort bogging down the narration. The transitions jarred most of the times and often there is no attempt to explore the depth of a character beyond the usual stereotype.

Besides, every cobweb in the room is not necessarily worth a five-paragraph description, even after you provide adequate flexibility towards artistic license. But the book is gradually growing on me, now that I have learnt to ignore the almost apologetic attitude towards our past as a nation and its poverty and lack of development that forms the stigma was mentioned earlier.

Back to Indore and the vacation. Of all the places I have ever been to, I find the most inner peace here and it is difficult to name one factor to attribute it to. Maybe it is the location of the house, which is set in a semi-rustic environment on a vast expanse of arid unused agricultural land with few other houses dotting the landscape before everything melts into the numerous hillocks in the distance.

There is nothing but the noise of the wind blowing gently and birds chirping all day. If you have lived for long in a place like Delhi; that is something you know you have to value a lot. There are hardly any beggars or vendors and certainly no one wants steal 30 minutes of my precious time to sell me a pair of new underwear if I can knock myself senseless enough to sign up for a year's supply worth of detergent.

All day I can cuddle up with a book in the living room with plenty of sunlight streaming in through the massive windows, or keep reading in the open verandah with an almost unbroken view of the solitary road up ahead in the distance to look at. There is a computer here though :-), which allows me to scribble all of this down, even though there is no net connection. So, when you would get to read this, it would be after I get back to Delhi on the 7th.

The perils of an almost solitary existence mean that a whole of bunch of problems are awaiting my arrival in Delhi. From unpaid bills to a bust brand new cell phone (I am jinxed with this contraption eh?) there are a zillion things that are waiting with open arms to rudely jolt me back into reality once I set foot there. Not to mention the fact that the whole place needs to be rearranged, since I had given into my landlady's wish to whitewash the place once I left for my vacation.

In a lot of ways this vacation has been a sort of a pilgrimage. The places that I have been to and the people that I have met have been elements that have caused me the majority of grief in my life to date. I really wanted to take the time out and take them out of the equation as far as possible, so that I can finally have a jab at making my own way with things, than events deciding the way for me.

In one go, I have dealt with the stages of growing up, falling in and out of love and a recent and emotionally expensive misadventure. In a way, it is sort of sticking your hand in the flame to see if it still hurts. It does, but not as much as it used to. In one go I have somewhat totally let go of a past that was certain, in anticipation of a future that is totally uncertain and vague as it can get. Cannot really ignore the irony of insecurity being welcoming, right?

At the same time the feeling of not being in sync with anywhere is growing stronger and stronger. I felt totally alienated and lost back home this time. Had a feeling that even the tourists I had met at the beaches were feeling more at home than me. It used to be different here, now I feel alienated here too. They adore me here and I adore them too, but I really do not know what they adore me for, when even I am at a loss for most of the times what I stand for.

It is something like playing a part in a script that is totally alien to you. You dance and sing along and make it look natural, but deep down inside you know that you do not belong here. Where do I belong then? I have no clue. I have more questions now and less than a handful of answers of which maybe my name and whereabouts account for the most in terms of numbers. Right now I am just nothing more than a body bag with a name, address and some tangible characteristics added in. Nothing more.

There is this beautiful sentence that Allende has written in Paula: Silence before being born, silence after death, life is nothing but noise between two unfathomable silences. Guess I am trying to extract some coherence out of that noise and going really hard at it.

Oops & Updates: Marquez and Allende are not English authors from other countries. Big duh for me on that one, did I not knock the wind out of my sails with that?

Well, I am getting sort of tired of this, but it has to be done. My cell is in the Nokia infirmary till Monday the 10th at least. So sorry to have entertained the lot of you who have been trying to get in touch with me, with the stupid Airtel message that says phone switched off. By the way, Delhi is chilly, quite chilly.