December 11, 2006

The End

Just a final update if you'd missed the devil in the details of the conclusion of the last post, this little five-year-old experiement is over for good. The same fate is applicable for the work blog, you won't see any new material in either place. I do intend to write at the Wordpress blog, though even that's not been updated for close to two months now.

I have made some great friends from this little joint, I'd not list them down because I do talk to them fairly often even without using the blog as a platform and I know almost all of them in real life too by now. Looking back, that's the best part that I get to take away from this. My life's been all about people and I've had the pleasure of knowing some really good people because of the blog.

Otherwise, I don't feel bad about the closure and I can't bear to read most of the older material anyway. Guess I could safely say that I won't miss it much. So this is one big round of thanks for the tiny handful who still bother to keep dropping by and the friends I've made from this place.

Shyam/Codelust

p.s: for the majority of the visitors here these days who are misled by Google, I do not have naked pictures of Deepa Sahi or inside information about prostitutes in Noida.

December 02, 2006

The Walk

There is certainly a lot of magic in Delhi’s winters. Of course, it is hard to find and hidden away from the hours that we get to normally see, when we honk and snake our way through the working day, lost in our thoughts, arguments and other worries that plague our mundane daily existence.

And when it turns up, like at two in the morning today, while walking back from a late night movie with only your own shadow, an empty soul and the empty road for company, it is indeed sheer magic. Places filled otherwise with noise and people now welcome you with the most silent of appraisals. There is almost a feeling of mutual acknowledgement, but that’s just my imagination speaking.

Regardless, it is like a slow sigh of relief expelled by the day, now an unburdened soul, dark and widespread, breathing quietly into your being, and gradually resuscitating life back into your near-dead self. It can’t speak, but it does talk back. It can’t feel, but it does touch you. It is meant to be asleep, but it certainly is wide awake.

During the day, there is colour everywhere. The mushrooms are back on the shelves of the roadside shops. Hands dig deep into pockets, mufflers tie gentle knots of warmth into every other body you can see. It is a season I dread and look forward to at the same time, for things inevitably go wrong, in the worst possible manner, around this time, every time.

For most parts I am rediscovering silence. I am rediscovering nothingness and discovering its value for the first time. I have a million memories to let go of and thousands of instances to step aside. Strangely, the story has never been about me; but it is and it is not at the same time now. Does that make sense? I guess not.

It was inevitable that the seasons would change again, like how it is inevitable that I must finally make a move. This is not home for me, even when I’ve called this place home for the past seven years. This is not love for me, even when I have, arguably, been in love for the past four years? But, honestly, I have no complaints, no regrets and not even a fleeting sense of loss. I’ve felt and done all that. This time it is for good.

I see glimpses, of myself and feelings that I’d thought I’d long lost, every now and then. Sometimes it feels like childhood all over again. There is a familiarity I yearn for. There is that elusive smile I wonder if I’ll ever see for real. There is the warmth of an unknown embrace that I know by heart and one that is familiar to every inch of my skin. I know exactly, inch-by-inch, what I am looking for.

Sometimes I think I have a lot to say, that I will write once again those thoughts out here. Then I realize that this is a conversation that I am having with myself. I am explaining, putting into shape and form my feelings that I probably never tell anyone, maybe not even myself. After 27 years, I’ve realized that I’ve never listened to myself with even half the care or concern I’ve always given others.

I do not know what value this blog will ever hold. It is a twisted logbook of my life since 2001, played out as elaborate game of metaphorical hide and seek. But for all practical purposes it is an endless repetition of the themes of loneliness, sadness, desperation and longing. I’ve threatened to quit doing this on numerous occasions, for varying reasons, but as the updates dwindle to the odd missive credited to the force of habit, I think I am finally willing to let this too go, but this time without regret, pain or anger.

November 17, 2006

One times one

When your latest resolution in life goes something like “try and not sleep with friends and people who mean a lot to you,” the connotations are staggering since you could not sleep with strangers in the first place anyway. In a way, you can consider this more as your own sanity’s spaceship (the other one – morality – exploded mid-flight long ago) sending mildly panicky messages back to earth.

“Houston, we have a problem.” And a mighty complicated one at that too. It could have been termed as a life so interesting, only if it was not half as funny as it sounds. Seriously, there should be a default number of attempts at solving a problem available to all of humanity, after which, even out of pity, the problem should resolve by itself. I think that’s a fair enough deal, don’t you think so?

It is not the easiest thing to step back or stand aside from the only meaning, be it transient or misplaced, that you have to cling on to interpret your actions in life. Thankfully, robust and important players, like objectivity and purpose, have returned to the stage. Anger, in the meantime, has played its important part and what a stellar performance that was too. I guess the drama is indeed quite a spectacle; only that it is anything but that when the stage is your mind and the players are elements that constitute your self.

On the other hand, withdrawal need not always be a spectacle, nor should it always be noticed. You can slink away in a million different ways and still be around in the same twenty different ways. And it is not like it has not been done before, but this time it is different. Bridges left uncrossed till recently are now a faded vision in the past. This, in all probability, is territory that we shall never cover again. I guess some equations were changed; a few victories were won and some were lost. The sum of all that maneuvering though remains unchanged. Is that not strange? Maybe it is not.

Meanwhile, the weather is brilliant and the rooms bask in a mildly golden glow of a new, cheap lamp that I’ve grown very fond of. But I don’t like being home much these days, even when most of life is as perfect as it could ever get to be. Sometimes I do feel like a part of me has left me, leaving this shell for someone else who is not me to live in for the rest its assigned life. There is moderation in most things and controlled excesses in others. Life is a fine balance. Life is a walk on the razor’s edge. Life is the fear of a fall on to insanity and irrelevance either side.

November 07, 2006

Reflect

10-26-06_1235I think it would be a lie if I said I was tempted on more than one occasion in the recent weeks to update this blog. It is not like I have lost the urge to communicate; it is more like I have not much to communicate that is new or interesting enough. Life has pretty much settled down into a downright predictable rhythm, even accomplishments and disappointments are factored in according to preset levels. It is not exactly sterile like a sickly green hospital gown, but it not a chaotic celebration of desired excitement either. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle.
You walk straight ahead and the road goes around in circles. Actually, there has never been a definite goal in your life. All your goals keep changing as time passes and as locations change, and in the end the goals no longer exist. When you think about it, life in fact doesn't have what may be called ultimate goals. It’s just like this hornet’s nest. It’s a pity to abandon it, yet if one tries to remove it one will encounter a stinging attack. Best to leave it just hanging there so that it can be admired. At this point in your thinking, your feet become lighter, it is fine wherever your feet take you, as long as there are sights to see. Gao Xingjian in Soul Mountain
Sometime towards the end of last month six of us headed out towards the deserts. It was meant to be my break in Goa in November, but circumstances and planning over much alcohol deemed that it be done in October, right after the folks and relatives had left after their latest visit. The picture you see posted alongside is from the same trip, shot with a camera phone atop a very young and feisty camel. It was good fun. Fun enough to have almost compelled me to do a volt face in my car while driving back to work on the Monday morning when we returned and head out on a full tank wherever the road would take me to. Only if life was that easy and simple. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. The only thing that counts is that I did not turn around and dutifully went back to my regular life.

Truth be said, I am completing this entry a handful of hours after I’d started writing it. In those few hours the hues that colour my perspective have changed yet again and I come face-to-face with my favourite rhetorical question: It does not have to be this difficult. Will it always be like this? Will it always be this hard? As much as the realization alarms me, I know that it is very much possible. Is this what I wanted life to be? Having sworn to stay away from feeling grateful for the pieces of pity thrown my way, why do I find myself back here, in the same familiar wretched situation? I can’t imagine that I ask for it each and every time. Something has to go right somewhere, does it not?

At the same time I guess I know most of this is vain posturing. The world is nice. The world is good. Everything happens for a good reason. Everyone loves you, you love everyone and the world is a place that loves each other. I have ratified the findings as much, I know. Then again, if your core being argues against it when it matters the most, do you think it is fake, it is selfish and easily discountable? I don’t know, I think I am rambling on. And I seriously think you have better things to do in life than to read this crap. Really.

October 18, 2006

Cold Love

It is that time of the year again when the shadows creep in pleasantly, much earlier than normal during the afternoons. The days have an almost-golden glow to them, it is a bit too warm now, but in another couple of weeks the chill should blunt it considerably and with that would come out the first of the winter clothes. Winter in Delhi is a heady romantic drink that affects all the senses. Veils of fog adorn the day in differing denseness, there is always a riot of colours on street and late evenings bring out the roadside fires and leftover embers that glow milder every time into their eventual demise.

Thus, it is no wonder that winter always brings with it the memories of all my past relationships - both cold and warm - drifting back into my mind. While watching Closer recently, it struck me that people who have loved me the most have also pretty much hated me the most too at some point or the other in their lives. I never thought that was actually possible till the pattern was way too obvious to ignore and too commonplace to miss after all these years. But the good part is that I don't feel burdened by them. In fact I feel quite free and it is the best I've felt probably all my life.

But what exactly is love between two people? Does "I love you" signify more the fact that I love you for loving me or that I love you just like that? And what exactly is love expressed in terms of percentages of caring and concern? And no, it is not like I don't believe in love anymore, it is just that I think a lot of people misplace it for a lot of other things.

October 15, 2006

Revenge

Call it an epiphany or call it whatever you would want to, but when you are up late in the night, largely unwillingly, in a strange room full of snoring people, aided by the laptop that beams out today's Orkut's fortune as "Our first and last love is.. self-love" you'd have to admit that life has a stellar sense of irony or something like that. It all harks back to a time long gone and situations that I just don't fancy ever being a part of, if I could have my way. But life does extract its two penny worth of revenge every now and then by making sure you that don't have it all your way, at least not all the time.

If it can't be irony, then it has to be the proclivity for life's events to repeat itself that must be commended with a royal gesture like the Nobel Prize. It was about a similar set of circumstances, after being in the same building, that I'd written rather bitterly about on this blog a couple of years ago. But this time, there is no déjà vu. I am not about throw in the towel, sport a major sulk, half a pout and despair endlessly about how it is just not worth it and how things will always suck. Thankfully, things have changed at my end, but I can't help but wonder how much change is actually good, right or even justified.

As things stand, I have very little in common with my roots anyway. Not that I care much about it, since I do enjoy most of what I do these days without any regrets, but it does have a funny angle to it when the dear mother mentions on more than one occasion that 'back then' you never used to be this way, which is again a sentiment echoed by acquaintances/friends who have run into me after a very long time. Though I can't exactly say that I am unmoved by the derision I've felt way too often in the past couple of days, I've honestly been intrigued more this unrelenting progress of the self into the unknown without any particular reason behind it.

In a weird way, I am getting to know myself - the real me - in all its good and awful glory for the first time in my life. It feels like fresh, warm blood flowing into veins that have remained dry for a lifetime. It is a journey of discovering the most basic and tiniest of things that most would have taken for granted for most of their lives, even at the risk of sounding like an imbecile most times these days. But for now I think I should get some sleep. It is past 2:30 in the morning and the snoring has subsided in line with the gradual demise of my questions regarding what the hell am I doing in such a cramped set up when I could comfortably be sleeping in my bed at home.

Then again, remember the part about revenge. Yes, that is what this is all about.

October 02, 2006

All things remaining the same..

To the lovely folk at Jhanki.com (no linky love for the naughty peeps), blindly pimping your own product in comments on other blogs is not the most brilliant marketing idea that anyone had ever come up with. For prior art, refer to to Sulekha vs the Indian bloggers, ruling 100101. Since I am commenting on it, I would also suggest that it is also not the best idea to run a website that aggregates content related to India on pages with the ISO encoding, switch to UTF-8 and be happy me hearties. You know, everything that RubyOnRails or the next coolest framework with scaffolding and the works suggests to you is not exactly the gospel.

Meanwhile, Shashikant (he's been my favourite blogger for a while now, he really _should_ write more often than he does) tears into the latest broadside on bloggers by someone who I guess is a veteran deskie. The points mentioned there are not worth responding to. Really, everyone deserves to have their monthly, quarterly, annual episodes of outrage a la Oprah Winfrey. Let the man have his in peace. Though, some, like Shivam, seems to have taken it rather personally and as I speak write, is said to be on his way to stage a sit-in outside the Times House at ITO. The man is also said to have hidden a few Google bombs too his jhola to spray the MD with. Ouch.

Life merrily moves on otherwise. It is day three of an unintended mini-break from work today. Since it is that time of the year in north India when painters and construction workers become more sought after than film stars or politicians, the same fate has befallen my humble pigeon hole and it's been a case of mini migrations within the house, from one room to another, for the past three days. I think it is a nice thing to work from home. I should try this more often, but the speeds allowed by GPRS is just one degree short of being truly unusable. Time to get MTNL on the line and make my little Linksys WRT45G visible to the outside world.

September 23, 2006

House Shopping

Oh, I have a blog that I used to write frequently on? Good that you reminded me, because I'd almost forgotten that I had one or what it looked like. You can blame the sad state of affairs here on life getting incredibly busy of late, the rediscovery of Orkut by most people I know (and also by people I'd not known in a while) and not having much to complain about in general. It is hectic at the best and sedate at the worst, but in all honesty, it is quite good.

Now that most people that I know have stumbled down the aisle (it happens in some cases after they've reached a fair distance down that lane), the latest fascination in town is to now 'invest' in a shack of their own. It was not for me, but for someone else, that we went house-shopping last Sunday and it was quite an experience. Some of the places we had seen were like a sneeze away from the back of beyond, bordering bona fide villages (with authentic buffalos too thrown in for good measure) and even thick woods in some cases.

If you want to buy a two bedroom apartment (known as 2BHK in Delhi parlance) in South Delhi, chances are that you'd end up spending anywhere between Rs 16 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, depending on the locality. And yes, I am one of those much-derided South Delhi snobs, so sue me. But the sweetest one I had seen was in a place called Freedom Fighters Enclave - a three bedroom beauty that was way too well built to belong anywhere in the land of butter chicken and bhangra, where quality construction is as much an urban legend as good caramel custard is in Delhi.

Only problem was, as you could have guessed, the price. At over Rs 45 lakh the place was a steal, but it was considerably over budget for the couple who were looking at it from the point of view of a second house. For myself, I have decided to keep off any purchase options for at least another year, which should probably convince me that I am more or less settling down here. Right after which, as luck would deem it, would follow the unexpected uprooting of the self. You know, life's like that most times.

September 15, 2006

Updates

To think that at some point in life (not too long back, probably five years at the most) I used to write emails with "dat" and "coz" sprayed all over it strikes as nothing short of, well, extreme silliness for me. It is amusing at the best and embarrassing at the worst; the things we have done and the things we continue to do! Ah well, probably the only good thing about life in all of it is that it continues to be unpredictable. Wonder what else would I look back and laugh at some more years down the line? Not that there's been much time to sit and introspect, but that's another story altogether.

The past weeks have been very hectic, in fact dizzyingly so. It is not fun to serve the cricket crazy fans in the country on a high traffic website on a day when Murphy's Law works much better than any service that runs on your servers. That apart, I managed to go for a crazy gig last Sunday (grainy, awful videos here and here), bought two new books (Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain) and a bunch of new music (INXS, Billy Joel, Talvin Singh and Beautiful South). Ergo, I have been doing quite well other than for missing out on 'My-Time', which mostly denotes spending time by yourself precisely in the way you want to spend it.

Eco, as usual (okay, I never liked Baudolino much), is an absolute pleasure to read and you can always sell me any book which is about trying to figure out who you really are, so it is all the more sweeter when it is written by one of my favourite authors. I have sampled only a couple of pages of Soul Mountain since I am not too fond of reading more than one book, time constraints notwithstanding, at the same time, but the tiny nibble I got was stunningly delicious. Of the music acquisition, INXS, Billy Joel and Beautiful South are typical 'best of' compilations, while Talvin's HA is refreshingly different from his normal work and I've been listening to 'The Beat Goes On' almost non-stop ever since.

It is hard to believe that I've done over a year in the new job. The work is not exactly risk-free and doing well is rewarded with even higher targets to achieve, which I actually do enjoy. I think the dreams of doing something on my own is now firmly in the back burner and I do wonder if it will ever be back on top of the priority list. The idea right now is to work really hard for another four years and take a call whether I can slow things down or not. The four year plan depends a lot on optimising resources and generally living better, which I have been able to do little by little, but I still have a long way to go.

p.s: If you have not seen DailyLit by now and if you are one of us lazy readers, you really should. All they are missing is a PDF link.

September 06, 2006

Notch

Personal management is an art that is as highly specialised and complicated as personnel management. While the latter involves finding common grounds and meeting targets within a group of people, the former involves finding common grounds and meeting targets within your own group of necessities and limitations. A post today by Jace on 'Moving up in life' pretty much summed up the way I have been feeling for close to the past year now.

As you might have guessed by now, this post has nothing to with the personnel part of it. It just made for a nice compare and contrast situation and nothing more. And coming back to the topic, I can't agree more with the fact that finally, when it all becomes a bit easier and achievable, you can't help but wonder if it was you or the target that ended up being too ordinary, that now keeps you wondering constantly about the next impossible that you should chase after.

But it sure does feel to be taken seriously when you say something, mostly shorn of the 'too-young' cliche and to have things to worry beyond where and what to eat any given day and also not have to keep a constant eye on the expenses just because you splurged a bit on yourself on the odd day. Somewhere along the way you start to believe that you can actually get things done and that good things eventually do happen, even when you are going through a really bad patch.

September 04, 2006

Net Vibes

Help! Both The Hindustan Times (in the delicious Brunch) and The Times of India have declared that the Internet is the new happening social scene in India. While HT takes a look at it from the point of view that it has not done a great deal of good to the singles (welcome to my world, thank you) in the city, ToI does a 'what-the-hell-is-it-all-about?' story on the same, with a new mental health therapist (Samir Parekh is on vacation?) also thrown in for good measure. And to add to the mix, we have K's post on the struggle within traditional print houses on how to deal with the whole internet juggernaut, which I could not respond to because of a lack of time and the office firewall barfing on the infamous media blog he'd linked to from his pages.

Internet and social networking is hardly anything new in India. Just because Fropper spends a great deal of money on advertising, it does not mean that social networking, blogging and other 'community' oriented stuff has taken off in India. One of the best kept secrets of the online industry is that you don't necessarily diversify into other areas because there is essentially a market available for your wares, or even that you can do it better than anyone else out there. You often do it out a sheer lack of advertising inventory to pitch new clients with.

For most online properties, organic growth flattens out after a point (with the notable exceptions of Youtube and Myspace) and with that comes stagnation in your numbers related to your most visible property - the hallowed homepage. Almost every top website in India struggles with overbooked homepage advertising slots that are not available for any rates or for anyone for months to come. Thus you end up doing the predatory act, of moving into areas that really do not belong to your core set of competencies - like email, social networking - just for the sake of beefing up your stock of inventory. It often helps, when you get into such forays, if you are a Rediff or an Indiatimes, whose presence in the average Indian internet user's psyche is mind boggling.

Even with a 10% conversion ratio, for such major internet players, the numbers can turn out to be quite beneficial. Let us assume that of the half million unique visitors that an Indiatimes or a Rediff would get on a daily basis, the 10% conversion would translate into 50,000 users from the word go, which is an awesome number for any new service. In such set ups, they are not limited by infrastructure or development costs that constrain smaller start ups. And if you can convert even half of that 50,000 into regular users, you end up with 25,000 users who could comfortably be generating upwards of 8 to 10 page views per user. That's at least 200,000 page views worth of ads you can now now serve on a daily basis. Not bad, huh?

In all of this, the odd man out is Orkut, which is yet another of Google's much ignored services. For some weird reason India has fallen in love with Orkut all over again. The phenomenon is nothing short of an alternative lifestyle, where you have to be a wizard to follow conversation threads in forms of 'scraps' with everyone's replies stacked on different pages. And really, what is it with high traffic websites and awful user interfaces? Myspace, Hi5 and Orkut are nothing short of third degree torture to use. When did they change the rule book that you need to be completely unusable and slow like hell to be successful? And here we are breaking a sweat in trying to brand even our second newborns as a 'two point ohs' and pouring DHTML and Ajax goodness all over it.

Coming to K's post, what I can say for sure is that credibility is not a major factor anymore. One of the good and bad things about recent developments in media is that we are gradually throwing out the 'unbiased' label. Media was never unbiased. Hell, no human is. So how can something that is created by the same humans ever be unbiased? The difference between print and online right now is that they represent different activities. Online can't do a print. Most people don't log on to news websites to read stories in excess of 1000 words. They want it in a jiffy, scan and run back to whatever they were doing earlier. At the same time, print can't do an online. It can't really 'break' news anymore, that's a competency it has long forfeited to internet and television.

What has changed recently is reach. More people are on the internet these days, while you've probably reached everyone you'd want to reach with print as the medium. And even then our penetration is so pitifully low that the potential numbers are worth bucket loads of marketing and ad sales drool. Print also has a problem in terms of inflexibility with target demographics. I can advertise in a publication knowing the target audience, but my message would still be lost on a small percentage, who are the minority within the publication's readers, because they don't fit the profile I want to advertise to. The beauty of online ad delivery is that I can specify by region, by platform, by time and by frequency, who and where I deliver the ads to, even without forcing them to register on the website.

But none of this what is going to create the maximum amount of trouble for the traditional forms, print and television. What is giving them trouble are costs, of production and distribution. In print it is not good enough that you can create a lovely newspaper in QuarkXpress every night. You still need someone to dirty feet, hands and risk other parts of their anatomy in the awful world of print distribution. Costs of newsprint are awfully high and from what I remember it is a process that is still strictly regulated. Most of the publications can afford to sell their wares for an 'invitation price' because it is underwritten by the advertising, the rate for which is hiked every time the new circulation numbers come in, provided you've held your ground or even improved on it. Effectively, the reader gets an increasingly smaller piece of the pie because, well, he does not really figure in the picture.

Television pretty much follows a similar pattern, though production costs are considerably higher there (unless you are one of those fancy nuts in print who still own a printing press of their own), which shows up in exceptionally high advertising rates. Again, distribution is the nasty piece to bite on here. Ever wondered why some godforsaken channel that nobody wants to watch still shows up in your prime band? It is not because your cable guy has a soft spot for the channel, it is because he's been paid a nice sum of money to do it. That guarantees the channel a minimum degree of viewership, which in turn brings more than enough cheers to the ad sales teams.

That leaves us with the question that was asked, how do you monetize your internet audience? For starters, start up costs are minimal on this side of the town. A cheap dedicated server with truckloads of bandwidth will only set you back less than Rs 6000 these days. The average internet set up does not need more than a designer, a technology person and two for the editorial. Even with page views in the thousands in a day, an optimized website will generate enough cash by means of AdSense to cover the costs of at least half of the set up. That, of course, is doing things on the cheap.

When you have the moolah to throw around, you profile your audience like your life and your entire family tree's depended on it (a certain company based in Mountain View is very good at doing this, raking it billions every month) and keep your costs under control (not in the maha kanjoos way, but in terms of spending in places where you can actually recover your cost or acquire a new bunch of visitors). Marketing and advertising yourself does get you new visitors, but if you don't have a good product to flog, they'd never stick around. So, it is generally a good idea to be at least excellent at what you intend to in the first place. Rest is to incentivize every damn thing. How do you do that? Well, that's worth a lengthy post in itself.

But, to answer the core question, yes, people do make money publishing on the internet and some of them make a lot more than what you or I would give them credit for. The industry still suffers from the age-old ailments of inflated numbers and other artful misrepresentations, but the clients are wizening up and it is a practice that's very much on the decline. The numbers are still nowhere in the region of what print or television can boast of, but, like I said earlier, the production and marketing costs are lower in this side of town too, thus making my margins much more healthier. All you need is a bit of patience, a good product and oodles of respect for the user.

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September 02, 2006

Identity

The air too, like the skies, always turns a dull shade of grey when it is overcast and rainy here. Much before I finally started for home, sometime past eight in the evening, what was left of the late evening sunlight was already being given a tough time in finding its way to the ground by the millions of tiny, needlelike drops of rain.

It is a very strange kind of rain, for even when it rains hard, it is more like a shower of micro-sized pins, than the usual mid-sized splotch that we are normally used to. Surprisingly, it was all fine at the first flyover and quite okay at the second one; but it all came to naught after passing under the third one, when I was caught in another of those infamous traffic jams in the rain.

Logically, it has to be an unsavory situation. The windscreen fogs up, the lighting is always lax, traffic crawls along in four unruly lanes and you can hardly see anything, nor can anyone see you. But I adore such situations. I’ve always loved strange, dark places filled with strange dark people, where there are no set rules and everything from your ancestry to your professional status are of no import.

Chasing down such thoughts, I end up with the essential irritant of a question: who am I? I am afraid I don’t have any answers for that. I represent varied things like a decent professional, a wayward and quasi-estranged son, a good friend who is no longer that to so many and a former lover to some others. But, what do I mean for myself? I don’t even know.

I’ve always lived with ideas of what I should represent, but I’ve never known what I actually am. I could almost never identify with the way I look (helped in no smart part by the fact that I don’t look good from any angle), though I could not figure out which look I could have identified with. And I could never believe, even without any indoctrination, in things I was supposed to have believed in when I was growing up.

Flash-forward to now and having been in this city for seven years now, I can hardly identify myself with where I came from or with anything here. Apparently, my accent has gone a bit wonky in my mother tongue, I speak the language here with shades of my mother tongue and my English represents the places I’ve been, the things that I have read and the things that I’ve seen. In a sense, I can belong only to a feeling of being perpetually lost.

But when it all works out fine, there is this most amazing sense of calm and lucidity; for you are moored to nothing and there is nothing to fight against, because you are for and against everything at the same time, thus amounting to a sweet nothingness. When it does not work, well, it is a mess. You struggle to clasp on to foundations, even virtual or non-existent ones, while searching for even a single smell, a familiar feeling or verifiable memory to hold you together.

Meanwhile, the deadlock disintegrates, and after another traffic light, trees, vehicles and blurry lights fly past me. It is quite unsafe, for I can’t see half the things, including vehicles, potholes and people crossing the roads, out there. But I have grown to like uncertainty to the point of it even being quite a flirty relationship. We don’t quite ‘get’ each other, but we certainly do seem to thrive in each other’s company.

August 29, 2006

Percentages

When do you know for sure that enough is enough? It is applicable in both cases - good and bad. If you go by a purely numerical definition, good or bad enough could probably be defined as anything that is 'x' units above the halfway point. That way, if you spend even 49% of your time in a particular situation in a good way (and 51% of the time in a bad way), you would still end up with two additional units of bad. Would that mean it would be a good idea to cut your losses, ditch the situation and move on ahead? Of course not.

The problem with people and relationships is that you can't ever really quantify either. A fair number of people exist in situations where 90% of the time spent is practically living hell for them; but the other 10% is, according to them, absolute heaven, which redeems the otherwise lousy situation. Naturally, in such circumstances, the good is given a higher weightage than the bad. Is that a smart idea? Well, I don't know. Whatever that rocks your boat, as they say, even if I may not agree with it. Moreover, factors such as practical considerations, only serve to muddy the waters further.

The question actually covers a whole lot of things other than just relationships. For example, you know you are putting on weight, but you are not overweight yet. So you get a particular weight in mind that would quantify the state of being overweight or a state of lurching rapidly towards it. But where exactly is that point? Is that point somewhere you can easily climb down from, like a minor flirtation over the lower limit or is it the minimum possible gap towards the upper limit, from where the climb down is a long way off, but not quite over the upper limit?

These are interesting questions to ponder, but very real ones too. People face it every day and deal with it using different methods. Some morbidly overweigh the little good and sign up for a lifetime of unbearable suffering, others make well-judged and sensible decisions that hover around the 50-50 level, which is more or less failsafe, while other idiots like me look for the 90% good and 10% bad to make the call that it is actually enough. Strangely, it is probably the 90% good rule that is the most prejudicial, especially if the other party has the lousy fortune to present the bad 10% up front first.

August 27, 2006

Reasons

I think it is about time I gave up on the ‘have no time for this’ excuse and wade out into the open with the possible real reasons as to why I have been blogging lesser and lesser these days. First on the list would be the fact that my blog is awfully boring. I mean, there are only so many ways in which you can put forth the same crap again and again, and when you yourself have trouble reading all that you’ve written, it is a fairly good indication that it has become somewhat more than unbearable.

The second reason is, no matter how much I would want to deny it, that the loss of anonymity has taken a bit of a toll. In the early days, only a couple of close friends knew about the blog, which later grew to include a lot of friends. These days almost everyone knows - including a lot of people at work – about the who, the what and the where. By nature, I am a bit of a private person and these days I don’t get any time to be that. If I have to pretend to be nice and write about how lovely the weather is when it is not exactly beating down with niceness out there, then there really would be no point to this.

Then there is also the fact that I am a bit bored and disappointed with the entire blogging circus, especially in the Indian context. There are a couple of reasons I could come up with as to why it is so, but I can’t put my finger on the real big issue that could be the reason. Quite a bit of it is the inflated participation numbers. There are un-conferences and whatnot going on these days about it, but it does lack the personal touch of the early days. There is just no warmth, but a lot of vain posturing and turf wars over almost everything. Maybe it is also the fact that I find the other side – of facilitating conversations and making the business case for it – more exciting than the conversations themselves now.

These days, every time I sit down to write, my mind just blocks the thoughts out. As an old habit and as something I used to like doing, I do want to write; but, as something that involves going out into the open with what I feel and think, I don’t feel like doing it anymore. At a personal level too I’ve become more guarded, a lot less expectant and generally a whole lot less willing to put a lot on the line. It is not the most brilliant state of mind to be in, but it is not all that bad either.

In general, I think the truth is that I’ve been yearning better company, better conversations and better ways to spend my time. It is true that I have very little of it with me these days and I can’t honestly complain much about it because I quite like it this way and I am treated quite well too. But that does encroach on my personal time. As a person who used to lavish a lot of that on friends and close ones, it is a bit of a struggle now to do that any day or even as infrequently as once a week. That said, the realizations it has led to has been quite intriguing.

The thing is, a lot of the interactions you have on a daily basis arise out of necessities. In regular, mundane life, that could be having polite conversations with people from the milkman to the cabbie, not because it is absolutely necessary (you won’t exactly stop getting any milk or be left unable to hire a cab if you don’t do all those), but because it makes things easier for a variety of reasons; some of which makes things easier for you, while the others make it easier for the other party.

In personal life too, things tend to be the same. It is not that you’d exactly stop being alive if you were to suddenly stop being nice and caring on a superficial level. Most of the people you know and interact with often, would gladly give up stopping by you if you were to guarantee them safe passage in terms of what they desire from you. It is quite the same if the roles are reversed too. How often do you say “that’s so awful” to someone else almost out of an impulse than because you actually feel that is awful? By the same turn, how often do you count on hearing the same from others? Of course, you can accuse me of extreme cynicism, but I don’t think you can accuse me of being not right.

But what’s blogging got to do with any of this? Beats me. But the strange thing is that after what I guess must be a couple of hundred words, I still have not mentioned important things that have happened to me recently, like developments at work, an excellent trip to Bombay and even the fact that I went to work and back on a bike after almost a year and how overwhelming an experience it was. Instead, I am putting up a smokescreen to pretend that I am saying something useful or important, while all that I am doing is to try and bore you to death to see if you ‘really’ want to hear what I want to say?

So, what if a voice stands up and say ‘yes’? That would be quite an interesting turn of events, for I have no clue what I would do in that case. See, I guess what I am getting at is that I am quite a boring person who pretends to be more interesting or intriguing than what I really am. Of course, none of the older imagery regarding myself has been accidental. I’ve played, more than willingly, to the gallery and contributed to the situation in huge parts. I guess I am asking to be left alone, but it is hugely interesting that anyone should ask for precisely that on a blog.

August 26, 2006

Bloggitus Interruptus

Honestly, I can't pick between Bombay and Delhi, both seem awfully bad at the same time, though the familiarity of Delhi is always something to look forward to, while the eateries (they almost always do good food in the seaside town as a rule and the decor does not smack of cheapness under the covers) are a pleasure in Bombay.

To cut a long story short, it was three days of not much else but a lot a lot hard work, heavy eating and heavy drinking in Bombay. Now that I am back here, it is time for the follow up, I guess blogging would be one of the parties to suffer immediately as a result, if it has not already. And I've finally gotten an invite at Vox, and it rocks too.

August 18, 2006

Inconsequential

I do not know what is more scary, that you have settled into a risk-free rhythm with yourself without any effort or that with each passing day more of the frivolous aims and targets disappear one-by-one? Maybe these are the essential rites of passage, before you take the final steps into the hallowed portals of definite adulthood, that the lack of any real expectations fail to do much more than amuse you, when you can spare the time for it.

There are places where things used to be kept, which now gawk back empty at me and I am baffled once again, for I can't remember what used to be kept there. There are faint echoes of familiar laughter and memories that streak away like shadows flying from light. To strike up a marginal flame, to aid the vision and warmth, I feign curiosity. I feign a genuine inclination towards learning. But I already know how the story goes and all the lessons that are to come. I am such a fake and an excellent one at that.

I could almost say I am married. To predictability and a lack of surprise. The crimes I accuse others of, are the crimes that I too specialise in. I look into your blindness with my darkened soul and float in and out like the tide, soaking up everything, yet retaining nothing and stay un-retained in everything. It is fearful to contemplate that this sentence might be for a lifetime, for a singular count of the ghastly crime of being born.

I look into the eyes of complete strangers, wondering, hoping, that you are one of them, but they never look back, so would you. If your lips were to break, even into the hint of a smile, I could genuinely laugh back, even at the risk of being mocked again, but they never smile, so would you. I plan and I plot, as I walk and I drive around that curve, of the things I could say and the things we could do. But you were never where I was and will never be where I could be.

August 15, 2006

Sail

It so happens once probably in everyone's life that you tug really hard at the rudder and hoist the sails in a direction much removed from the one where the usual winds happen to pass by. I have gradually been spending lesser and lesser time under the temporary shelter lent by the awning of youthful exuberance. I am not sure if it was intentional or if it all happened by chance, but the days of endless revelry, reckless love and pining over all things strange have all but disappeared. For better, than for worse, it is finally a good time to chart a new course and look for destinations new, without actually going anywhere.

The Upgrade That Was Not

Hell has frozen over! Blogger is rolling out a new backend. On second thoughts, it is only getting a bit chilly out here, but it certainly ain't cool enough for things to freeze over. At least not yet. Apparently, the greatest of the changes is in a place where the end user, like you and me, don't see much of. Blogger is going off the static publishing set up (one where it would pick up content from its database and spit out static HTML and XML files based on the templates and settings you had specified) and moving to a new set up where all the content is served dynamically (the way in which Wordpress blogs functions now).

The immediate change you'll get to see is a top bar, quite similar to wordpress.com once again, that will show you as logged in and also display other useful information, if you are logged in. Behind the scenes, and I am guessing here, the entire operation would now move to an application server (probably the same server that handles the posting/editing backend) from the old set up which was probably serving a directory of files based on the host header. The other significant change is the authentication part, for which you can now use your Google account (for new blogs, not for existing blogs) or your old Blogger account. The logic there is quite mixed up and needs a lot of work.

That said, the new beta is a complete dud compared to Wordpress.com. The interface is still the dated, clunky one and true to the beta label, some of the stuff is broken, like the new WYSIWYG layout editor that was spewing out Ajax debug information on to my screen when it was not functioning as intended. Access control is nice, but I did not see the option for controlling access per post and determining access on the blog level is not a fun thing to do.

The good points? Well, the archive links are laid out much better now and there are Atom feeds for posts and comments (per post too) now. There is also something called "labels", which looks like a bastard child that resulted from a love making session between tags and categories. Pretty nice, but once again it is something they should have had yesterday.

But someone really has to get some new default templates into the system pretty soon. I am sick of seeing the same 10 all over the place. And the upgrade itself is symptomatic of how Google treats Blogger, more like a stepchild than as a product that deserves a whole lot more of attention and resources allocated to it. Yeah, I know, it is not easy to roll out features for a framework that supports a huge number of users, compared to something like wordpress.com that is new and had a clean sheet of paper to start with. But it can't be that difficult either. After all, it is all just a data, pulled in and out of database servers and presented on web servers.

August 14, 2006

Lovely Writer

Thanks to Chris, I stumbled upon Windows Live Writer. Till date, I've used a variety of blogging clients like wbloggar, ecto, Performancing for Firefox (the current one) and almost everything else that supports the Metaweblog API. And I have to say I am quite impressed. The only weak point I can see is that it does not allow easy Technorati tagging like how Performancing does. Now, for the positives:

  • WYSISWYG authoring with non-MS Office mangled HTML source.
  • "Web Preview" that allows you to see the post within your blog's layout without having to publish it.
  • Multiple account support (meaning that you can post to Blogger, Wordpress, Windows Live Spaces etc).
  • Spell check (ahem, one feature that's badly needed for most bloggers).
  • SDK to integrate other services (that should take care of my tagging complaint).
  • Support for RSD, Metaweblog API and Movable Type API (in layman lingo that means it would support most of the blogging services out of the box without forcing you to wade into the ugly tech details).
  • Absolutely spanking support for embedding images.

So the verdict for now is that it is really a non-Microsoft product in terms of being usable and irritation factor. There are downsides like being based on .Net and a standalone application. But for most Average Joes, this would really be a great addition to the regular blogging toolbox.

p.s: The spell checker does not have the word 'blogging' in its default dictionary. Now, that's really hilarious.

Update: Tim Heuer, as promised, has made the Flickr and Tagging plugins.

tags: , ,

August 10, 2006

Satisfy Me!

When you start a new business in an already crowded market place do make sure you get one thing right - go out of your way to satisfy your initial set of customers and treat them like you'd treat the most valuable person in your life. This holds true even more in the food industry where established tastes and loyalties are hard to switch and you get more or less only one go at getting them to move.

Yesterday night, I wanted to order out from a new joint in Saket, called The Blue Tandoor, because I was more or less sick of the existing joints there. There are more than enough eateries out there, mostly around the PVR Anupam area, but almost all of them follow the cost saving approach to cooking non vegetarian food, which uses the base marinated meat that's given the final treatment/masala/garnishing according to the order.

The only other joints in the vicinity, who do it differently are Cafe Rendezvous and Swagat in Malviya Nagar and neither specialise in doing Mughlai. So, at least in theory, they do have a window of opportunity in serving to a niche within the food spectrum that has a ready and massive audience in the area they are located in. But they botched it up and in a terrible way.

Firstly, their menu card did not have the minimum order figure listed anywhere. Second, it was priced too high, at Rs 500. When your price point of your main dishes is at an average of Rs 250, it would be hard to top that figure. And most people who use home delivery don't often order three course meals, thus making the "sir, please get a starter or a dessert" line a non-starter.

I spent five minutes with them ordering what I wanted to order, after which the chap told me that it fell short of the Rs 500 mark, following which placed the order with my regular chap who was only too glad to serve me, and even better they call up the day after asking if there were any problems with delivery and quality. Five minutes after I placed the other order, the chap called me back clarifying that the manager had said they would serve me. Nice, but it was too late by then.

I have seen this across Delhi, that new joints or even older ones, don't value their new customers. Most times, going out of your way just once for a new customer could win him/her for you for a long time. And good service also works to get you brownie points in terms of peer-to-peer reviews. One satisfied customer often leads to many more from the same segment. Just one among the many points that's lost on them.

August 07, 2006

Company

On the daily late evening drive back home there is often not a lot to lift my eyes and thoughts away from whatever that is occupying it at that point. On most days it is mostly all about nasty traffic and roads, messed up by both the weather and the never ending construction and the exceptionally brilliant evening skies on those days when I can manage to drag myself out of the office before sundown. On the odd occasion, when the traffic holds up for long enough, I get to see a couple or two, sometimes in a car, or like today, on a motorcycle zip by and I wonder what is it that they really feel?

Sometimes it is very evident, like it was day-before-yesterday night, on the table adjacent to ours where there were two couples with expressions on their faces that ranged from indifference to regret. Then there are the happy ones, at least they appear to be so, and you wonder if they are one of those couples who appear to be shipshape on the surface and in quite a bit of a mess underneath. But appearances were not what I was getting at here, it is more about that empty feeling that often greets you when get home, park the car, pick up the bag and walk in and there is actually nobody home.

The strange thing is that I am not depressed or down in the dumps about it. I don't have the time for any of that and honestly I am quite happy with where I am and what I do; but I do crave for company that I like every now and then. The world+dog, of course, has the age-old quick fix solution for it: Get Married Like Now! I really don't have anything against it either, but really, I can't look at a person and decide in five minutes, or even five months, if she is the right one. More so because I am completely anal about a couple of things that makes my pool of possible/probable options even more miniscule/non-existent.

A major issue is that I've pretty much crossed the part where I could change myself to fit into a relationship. I've put in a lot of effort to get to where I am and I would, probably never, throw away all that in the name of love or things similar to it. Speaking of which even romance or its embryonic stage - attraction - is something that I've not known in a long time. Relationships are mostly a practical arrangement, but for even that you need to give people and circumstances a chance and enough time. I have neither to give right now. And after three major relationships and a handful of flings in six years, curiosity and intrigue does fade a fair bit.

Strangely, I don't want to be with anyone to get hot steaming food when I come home or get my clothes washed. I manage the former quite well by myself and money does afford good part time domestic help who do their part in keeping the place clean. That said, I do genuinely regret not getting enough time to spend at home. The empty feeling notwithstanding, I love the familiar smell that it greets me with when I open the door and turn on the lights. Then over to the fridge freshly stocked over the weekend, the tiny kitchen and later on to the low bed, the triumvirate of pillows and the television that sits now on the wardrobe.

It is really not that bad and life is good, but who said you can't ever ask for even more?

Oh, just shove it, really

Because I am number one, very old and very naked too. No other Indian blogger, (and I stress NO OTHER), features on the first page of results for Google search for "looking for females in bangalore for fun with cell numbers", "Nude deepa sahi" and "prostitutes in noida film city". Which other Indian blogger can claim to have done such a lot of invaluable service to the Indian bloggogol? I repeat, like dear Mr Leghorn would have said, I am the nakedest, oldest and number onest. Now that the point is clear, old, loud and very naked, feel free to get on with your respective blogging lives.

p.s: for my honest (cross my evil dark heart) take on this and background information do read this. For I know (because I am the oldest, nakedest and number onest Indian blogger) that all of you clothed, younger and non-number one bloggers have too much of time on your hands. Please to be clicking the Google ads on your way out too and help this naked emperor get some clothes. Please, purty please?

August 01, 2006

Afraid


Threesome
Originally uploaded by codelust.
"If you have an infant and the baby has gas, burping the baby is being a good parent. But when you have a 10-year-old who has metaphoric gas, you don't have to burp him. You have to let him sit with it, try to figure out what to do about it. He then learns to tolerate moderate amounts of difficulty, and it's not the end of the world."
-- From A Nation of Wimps.

Almost a month ago I ran into my niece again after seeing her for the first time when she was some seven months old. It is scary to be around the little children of today, for they are anything but children as we know them. They are almost born competitive straight out of the box and have feelings, needs and reactions that are quite different from what we used to have as kids. It must be so very difficult to be one of them these days.

I think we are gradually forgetting that it is okay to be not okay all the time. Somehow we have to project an attitude/image of invincibility and ruthlessness even when we don't quite feel like it. In the process, we often forget that we are human after all and that the same is the case for people around us. Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, step back and count the good things, including whatever bits of sanity left, we have in life.

We don't need to be scared, at least not all the time.

Enough

I think a week's worth of self-inflicted torture should be good enough punishment. Don't you agree?

Hello, world. Again.

July 31, 2006

Aside

One of the funnier sides of the recent blog ban is that it has given a bit of a glimpse into possible numbers related to bloggers in India. From the numbers on BloggersCollective, which I guess is the largest number of Indian bloggers/blog readers from India assembled in once place, we have more hype than actual numbers to back it up when it comes to participation.

At the last count there were 432 members in the group and if we were to invoke the 1% rule and extrapolate the audience possible, the number would be 39600 (99*400) who contribute to the process strictly within the Indian context. I'm not taking the other 32 into account because a lot of the bloggers become part of the 39K number due to their participation on other blogs and also there is no way to account for Indians who read blogs from India while being abroad.

Attribute an average of 3 page views per user to that number and you'd still get figure of only 120,000 per day, which across 432 blogs is a very low number. Low enough maybe to start a whispering society, but not large enough constitute a readily marketable or easily targeted demographic. Please don't tell me that such a number has been quite effective, as shown by the banned blogs episode; effectiveness and scale are two different things. Besides, a lot of the bloggers are media people, which certainly did help in getting good enough traction on the mainstream media.

Another contentious point is that blogging by itself does not do much. It does well only when it is sold as part of something more easily recognised, like how Indiatimes does it with 'News Blogs' on timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Does that mean blogging in India is no great shakes? Right now, I think the answer is 'yes' and I don't think it will take off at a major level till the vernacular crowd moves in and that is a different story in itself.

Meanwhile, NDTV.com launches its blogging service, replete with avenues for cross domain scripting attacks and numerous other holes. A ten minute inspection of it already has shown ways to steal posts from other people, requiring almost no technical knowledge, making our gaffes look pre-pubescent in an instant. C'est la vie, I guess.

The First Week

Day one: Well, I am experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms. All of a sudden, there is no third window to alt+tab to. But the thinking has slowed down, emails and issues are being tracked better, but no significant bumps in productivity yet.

Day two: It feels like a million voices, all shrieking at the same time, have been silenced. There is a huge void, a deafening silence. I can think of at least four things I could have written about, but would not have written about. I do not know anymore what's the latest list of top ten things that are being consumed at any time by a million RSS aggregators.

I think I have observed it earlier, but I hardly know the domain names or the layout/design of most websites that I read with the RSS aggregator anymore. I can, sometimes, identify by the style of writing who the author is, but most times I just cannot. It seems to be a case of consuming information without the personal context, which is exactly opposite of what blogging is meant to about. It is raw, it is ugly, but it is all about data and the connections they make to each other.

My fingers are very thankful about this hiatus. I am sure they must have been sick of me going through the 300 plus list, clicking and clacking away one feed at a time. But I have not managed to switch yet.

I've managed to miss the new Netscape.com being hacked. I am being unfaithful to my hiatus here, though I did not reach there via the aggregator.

Interestingly, due to searches for nude pictures of various Bollywood actresses and prostitutes in Noida (?!!), traffic keeps coming in, thus proving that with popular enough content, websites don't really die in this age of Google and a multitude of other crawlers who keep revisiting your brain dump. Which begs the question, would it really be a violation of the ToS of Adsense if you create your own content (bona fide) across a vast variety of topics and leave it as it is, earning you dough for doing nothing at all in your old age?

Another interesting observation is about social interaction. I did not know when someone called up yesterday and asked "did you not read my post?" what the post was all about. The thoughts are no longer about what another blogger is thinking/writing/doing and other online things. Life in real life is considerably slower and you get a lot less of interesting things to read/do.

That said, on a blank browser, it is hard to find interesting things to do. Without the delicious 'popular' list and the other feeds I track, there is hardly anything to read other than boring media websites. The future probably belongs to the aggregator, but certainly not only to the aggregator.

Day three: Not good at all. I am tempted to fire up everything again.

Day Four: I am not as bothered by not reading blogs and writing them as much as the weird manner in which I seem to work. Miles and miles of improvement possible here. It would be nice to blame the blogs for your crap, but the problem is deeper and wider than that.

Day Five: I have run out of observations, sue me.

Day Six: I am kind of getting used to this, but it still does take a bit of an effort to keep myself from clicking on the GreatNews icon. But I guess the main theory still holds that for people who can multitask well, the extra reading only adds to your capabilities. But that has the downside of making you feel like you've accomplished something even when you are struggling with your other tasks. In other words, isolate different tasks, compartmentalise time and activity, tweak and optimise individually and the the whole will follow the parts.

Is time for an update?

July 25, 2006

Pause

I am considering a mini break from keeping alive the blogs that I run. The office one has been more or less dormant for a while and the Wordpress.com one has not been updated since my return from the vacation. It does help that I don't have much of an audience here, so I can start/stop according to my whims and fancies, but this time it is not about the blogging habit, but about getting the time management and priorities in life right.

The vacation was the first step in setting right a lot things that have been wrong in my life. I am not overweight, but I am certainly not the right weight either. I don't eat right (being fixed now), I don't sleep right and don't get any exercise at all (as demonstrated amply by a running out of breath after playing football with the kids near home for 15 minutes) and I have not been able to find any time to do any amount of serious writing or reading. I am also considering shutting down the desktop aggregator for a week while I sort my life out.

You can run with an existing model, with minor tweaks here and there for only so long. At some point, the patching and rejigging (which progressively keeps taking up more and more time for negligble results) becomes unsustainable and then it is a good idea to junk it all, start from the basics and build from the ground up all over again. And I am at that point where if I don't fix the problems (the number is too high to be solved a couple at a time) right now, I'll be playing catch up for the rest of my life, which is an unacceptable situation.

So this would probably the last transmission for a while now. I would, of course, be available on email and IM. Cya'll in a bit.

p.s: This has nothing to do with my dwindling traffic, Honest. ;-)

July 24, 2006

Switch

After a couple of days of swimming in a pool of illogical rage, today, the waters have finally calmed down and I think I can just about see my usual somewhat likeable self in the reflective surfaces. One of the rather detestable byproduct of having to manage more than just yourself is that you can't just pull a glum look and expect the world to just fuck off or do whatever it deems fit. Mix that with a semblance of signs of maturity and you stop believing that the world will end the morning after and that life's not really worth it every time something does not go according to plan or if a lot of things don't go according to plan. If you persist enough, things do somewhat even out in the long run.

Yet another awful result of the 'growing up' is that you lose space for everything - to make major changes, to eke out major chunks of time from regular, boring stuff. It then becomes a matter of minor tweaks, little adjustments, take a bit from here, add a bit there, regress, test again and go back to the drawing board every time it does not work as intended. It is tedious and frustrating for the naturally impatient like me and to add to the mess, episodes like the rage one throws a spanner and the entire toolbox into the works. But yeah, it is a learning process and fun at times too.

July 21, 2006

The Return

There are more than a couple of questions I need answers for. They were quite on the lines of what I said I had expected to find, waiting for me, back here when I would get back from my mini-vacation. I am not sure if I had accounted for all the specifics or even prepared for it, but it certainly is no sideshow in the relentless move ahead. I think it was at her place that I read, You have to keep moving, to keep from falling…, and I could not agree more with the statement and its relevance to my  situation.

If it were not for the days firmly notched on the calendar, I would have had a hard time believing that it was only last week that I took my much-needed vacation. Things have been that hectic, though I am glad that it is quite enjoyable too. Guess it is just one of those days where you look for inspiration, direction, a helping hand or a sympathetic touch and are unable to find anything in the vicinity.

Evenings these days, with its cloudy skies and the anticipation of the onset of autumn, are a treat for the eyes. It is so wide, open and rich with possibilities that you can't but want to believe that there is still so much more in life to be experienced and lived. It is not like the present is a facade, but you can't always keep smiling or hold back the odd tear. It is not dishonesty, but is not quite the whole truth either.

In the night that eventually follows, sometimes you just have to reach deep within yourself and find a place of warmth to see yourself through, till daylight breaks in through the half-drawn blinds with the promise of a new day. It would have been wonderful if the cycles were not that predictable, but it does aid in the survival of the self. And sometimes that is often a small mercy we are just not thankful enough for, after all that we manage to put ourselves through.

Switch flips back on

As the greater mortals decide among themselves and pass the buck on for the outage and bring back light into the lives of about 180 bloggers and readers out here, we now pay homage to the expired windfall that manifested in the form of three days of increased productivity.

In other news, Google's servers hosting blogspot blogs get tickled by a nano level slashdotting from newly unshackled desktop aggregators from India and lets out a faint giggle. All is well now in India's blog gol (or gaol?) as non-existent love lives and litter habits of urban pets get an outlet all over again.

Except for a certain third eye who takes oodles of umbrage over his name being misspelt in the contributions thread and threatens to get all of Bloggers Collective banned with his new super powers that extracts secret documents out of deep, dark orifices of the Indian Government.

p.s: suggested garnishing include plenty of pinches of salt and good humour for intended intake.

July 17, 2006

Hold

I am back, but caught in a deluge of email, humidity and other vaguess. Meanwhile, the photos are up here.

July 12, 2006

Eventually

I have said "it is okay" so many times in my life, but I never thought that they day would come when I would say the same to my own mother, even though I'd forgiven everyone here a long time ago. I had not realized that it was important to say as much, in as many words, and having seen the reaction, now I know better. In that simple act of admission I have managed to, without really intending to, resuscitate a life that's been overturned and turned painfully bitter much more than mine has ever been. At their age, they certainly don't deserve any of it. I think I've finally achieved the only thing that I ever wanted to do here. I am happy.

July 11, 2006

Sand in my feet


Generation Gap
Originally uploaded by codelust.
The early morning at the beach was a sight and experience that I have always loved from my school going days and today I got to revisit it, with the parents very much in tow, leading to the odd situation where I, who has not been there much in the past six years, was explaining to them how the whole set up functioned.

The beach in question, Shanghumugham, was pretty much been eaten up by the sea, as it almost always is during the season of incessant rains and sadly, there was not much of the earlier sandy expanse left for me to walk on. That was no deterrent for the desperate fishermen who would venture out into the sea, late in the night, to set their net that would be dragged out in the morning to the shore.

During the vacations, when we were in school, we would go early in the morning to the same beach on our bicycles, fool around a bit in the water and then watch the fishermen do their backbreaking and dangerous job. They would start from two different ends of the beach and start dragging in the net from the sea. After what took more than a couple of hours, the last crucial part of the net would finally make it to the shore and the surprise would come to and end as to whether the catch was any good at all.

It takes around 20 of these men to pull off the entire operation and it is crucial for them to get a good catch every time to make all the effort any good in terms of money and their livelihood. The fish thus caught is mostly sold off to street side vendors who would sell them in different locations in the city with a bit of a mark up.


fishermen
Originally uploaded by codelust.
The problem with retailing fish for anyone is that the damn thing, as you can guess, is a perishable commodity. By late evening almost all of them are desperate to sell off their wares, as in the morning after it would be only fit for the dustbins. It used to be a worst-kept secret to buy fish from these ladies only late in the evening to get any ridiculous price that you could quote.

I can only guess that the margins in it are too low for them to do anything much with the trade other than to barely sustain themselves and their families. And on days like today, when, after the hours of struggle, all they end up with is a catch that even the street vendors would not feel too enthused to buy from them. It is a real hard knock life these guys live. For the effort they put into living each day of their lives, what they get in return is almost nothing. They live the same struggle through generations and a lucky few manage to escape from its clutches, but most largely live and die in the same manner – from one generation to the next.

Not that my heart bleeds for them or something, but it does show up a weird set of contrasts – my reality of double digit increment percentages, fancy cell phones and eating out practically every night and their reality of just endless hardships. Some twains just don’t meet and I feel somewhat awful in admitting my selfishness that I am glad it is so.

July 10, 2006

Day One

Expectations - a million different things have been said about them and even then I am not sure if we have said enough yet. I had built this trip up on so many different things and so many different levels and now that it has finally begun it certainly does not feel like much. How funny it is that I expected it to radically change things for me in more than one way and now I sit here, in the same house where I’d lived for 21 years, watching the World Cup final and writing on my laptop as if this was the way it has always been.

Everyone told me the city had changed so dramatically that I would not be able to recognize it. But, other than marginally wider roads, a lot more of mid-sized shops and a lot of IT-fuelled new money, there is not a lot that I have not seen before. On my way home from the airport and the subsequent outing later in the day, I could still see a lot of the same old shops I used to frequent. Yes, they are a lot spiffier now, but spiffy does not necessarily equate to new and I have not been to any of the famed ‘malls’ and I am not sure if I’d seen any in the first place.

But the air here is awesome. It is only when you come to a place like this you realize that respiration, in a place like Delhi, is a distinctly masochistic experience, where you learn to get used to the slow suffocation that is passed off for breathing and make it a part of your life. The traffic is also considerably lovelier and it does feel somewhat like driving around in your living room. Though, after the average 70 kilometer per hour insanity called driving in Delhi, life behind the wheel here certainly does have a slow motion-like quality to it.

The first thing I did after coming home (interestingly, after jumping over the compound wall) was to run around like a happy puppy going into all the rooms, followed by the backside of the kitchen and the terrace. And the funny thing, you know, in everything I’ve seen here again – roads, places and the house – is that they all look smaller to me. I do not know what to make of it, I am sure there are more than a couple of interesting explanations for it, but it certainly does feel like a small pond. I have always known it was a small town, but now it looks scaled down by a factor of one. Weird.

July 07, 2006

Excerpt

In the morning mist, on the third day after his arrival, it drizzled for the first time in many months in the little town. It was not unlike the region to have a few drops do more than just moisten the dry and mostly brittle ground underneath their feet. If anything, it was a bit late, but not by much – just like his lumbering presence that came into view a few feet away from the flowers and their seller – the unpredictable arrival of an expected guest.

Though, it needs to be said, he was anything but expected there. His arrival was announced in advance only to the old caretaker who now had a definite purpose to his regular scurrying around. With age advancing rapidly on him, the caretaker could only do the cleaning, dusting and stocking up on provisions and firewood at a slow clip. But his pace and gusto was anything but slow in scrambling together the stories of other visitors - regular, irregular and long dead – to be narrated by the fireside, on those long, quiet nights.

On mornings like that, the internal silent debate invariably shifts towards the necessity of any kind of protection against the elements. Not that it acted as a major deterrent against the walk through the milky whiteness of the early morning in the hills, but, significantly enough, it could make or break the desire to extend it, by another couple of hours or a few more miles. The right decision could make the difference between being drenched in a storm of absolute satisfaction, derived from the stunning desolateness of a distant hillside bathed in a shade of moisture-laden vibrant green and having to rush back to the cottage, having taken on board enough droplets to lay to waste any possibility of the desired recuperation.

On the third, in following the end-game of another such debate, he emerged into his usual point of insertion into the town’s market. And as all rural markets go, this one also did not have much more than the hopes and sales of its sellers resting above and underneath temporary flimsy structures. Over the past three days, he had become less of an oddity for the townsfolk. They guessed, intelligently and predictably, thanks to the regular stream of the cottage’s visitors, him to be another of its dwellers, there for a couple of days, a week or a month at the most; for, other than its desolateness, the town had little to offer, to both visitors and its inhabitants.

July 04, 2006

Some Loves

In the past couple of months, ever since the 'no-laptop-at-home-on-weekdays' policy came into being, my interest in reading has somewhat picked up a bit again. One of the major casualties of being able to access constantly updated information online and on-screen is that these days I can seldom bring myself to make time for things like books and movies. Both require patience and a degree of comfort (or discomfort) that grows with each passing frame and page, which is hard to acquire and maintain, just the same way relationships work out. Sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is just not meant to be, no matter how hard you try.

In that time period, I have finally managed to finish off Cat and Mouse by Gunter Grass, over a year after it was gifted to me, Pankaj Mishra's Butter chicken in Ludhiana and now I am spending some quality time with Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Reading Grass is a bit like dating someone who is from a foreign country with the help of an interpreter. The translation is never THAT perfect and the idiosyncrasies of Grass' writing only serve to make things even difficult. This, incidentally, was not the first time I had given Grass a try. All previous attempts always ended with the second or third reference to Mhalke's bobbing adam's apple, which is constantly obsessed over in the book. All said and done, it was a relationship that promised a lot, with large dollops of childhood innocence added in, but it also fails to deliver at the same time.

After Grass, Pankaj Mishra and his travels all over India would have to rate as a classic rebound scenario. Reading him again, after my last shot with him in The Romantics, only serves to bring forth a mental grimace that only the constant presence of the most depressive of lovers can bring forth. The gusto which with he travels all over the country, in an excruciating attempt to find faults and snigger at everything, would make even Julian Barnes bitching about having a bad hair day in England look like Mother Teresa at her gentlest best. But at Rs 35, even if it was a copy phased out from the DPS R K Puram library, it was one of the better books stacked up at PVR Saket. After all, it did cost much lesser than a packet of Classic Milds cigarettes. Though, in retrospect, I have to say the cancer sticks would have been a better waste of money.

Woolf is the archetypical difficult relationship that you love to be in. You can't really figure out whether it is prose or poetry, since it looks like a bit of both and delving deep into her and her words is a process that takes dedicated time and effort. She does not give in easily, sending you off on tangential wild goose chases and an awkward writing style, which structures sentences in a manner that would make what's written inaccessible or incomprehensible for a fairly large percentage of the population. Which begs the question, why would anyone write something that difficult? Is it like a first line of defence or is the author being knowingly obstinate? Regardless, the book has a really delicious opening line "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself..." that got me to ignore the obstinacy and solider on. I might fall in love with it, but I won't count on it.

In its opening 20 minutes, Sideways makes you feel as if you are watching a low budget, badly scripted, badly shot and badly acted movie. In other words, a relationship that is way too wrong and way too common to have any chances of survival. Then it gradually grows, like the theme of wine that runs throughout the movie, on you. Though I will clarify that I am not a winehead to make any claims of 'knowing' my wine. I will also admit that the lead character, Miles, with his failed writing attempts, marriage and negativity reminded me quite a bit about myself and don't get me started on Virginia Madsen. I could have loved the movie for her alone.

So, the big day has drawn quite close and, rather predictably, I have nether done any of the shopping nor have I figured out for sure what I am going to do there for seven days, other than fending off the "son, it's time" comments from the world+dog there. That said, I am getting a day of extensive pampering, with a full body massage and whatnot for myself there. I should not be online most of the time, though I would try and blog it extensively when I get the time. Hopefully, I should have some pictures too up. Even if nothing happens, I would just love to curl up for days on end and watch the rain fall through the windows and do nothing else but eat good food, write and relax, just like the old days. But it won't quite be the same. Some loves are just like that. They happen only once to you.

June 28, 2006

The Drive Back

To the handful of the regular readers here, my constant harping over my past is not something new. Sometimes I take it back all the way to my childhood, the way I grew up, the metaphorical overkill of the incidents that shaped what I have become and more recently, taking a step into the future, the trip I am going to be making back home in July, after a gap of three very long years.

On most occasions, to the people I know in real life, it would often come as a surprise to find out that it has been that long since I ventured back there. Actually, the time gap is even longer than that. The first time I went back there after I came to Delhi was because I had managed to overwork myself to the point of exhaustion, I could not carry on any further without risking a great deal of harm to myself and I was way too poor to take a proper vacation anywhere else.

The second time was for my sister’s wedding, for which I rather disagreeably managed to turn up just two days before the event. After spending the event in a trance, where I smiled a lot at strangers and politely talked my way through a harrowing 42 hour period, I started back for Delhi a couple of days later. I don’t remember much about the third time. I was way too stressed out and almost had a nervous breakdown a few hours after I landed at the airport. For all practical purposes, I have not been there in spirit in more than six years now.

All things considered, I guess it would not have been much of a secret that I did not ever want to go back there after I left home in 1999, but it did come as a surprise to many that I voluntarily chose to go back there this year. Most friends do believe that it is because I have somewhat succumbed to the growing influence of age and parental pressure and have decided to sneakily go there and do the logical thing – to get hitched and cross on over to the other side.

All my life I have run away from various things, from my disappointment about the people who should have been there for me, the hurt that has been caused to me by them and even disappointment in myself that I’ve walked away from the responsibility of taking care of parents who are only growing older and unwell with each passing day. My life here was meant to be a clean break from all of that. I had hoped to find my real self, change my life for better and be happy for a change. But that never happened.

Somewhere along the way, I’d forgiven everyone and everything, but I could never find my own feet and would always lean on problems and joys of others to make my day. That, of course, never works. It is not your life, your problems or your joys that you are living. It is borrowed and it is even stealing to an extent. It never lasts for long. Thus, I would end up in various replicas of my past, of feeling unwanted, left behind and feeling that I was just not good enough to deserve anything good. Nor could I ever summon up the courage to stand up for what I felt.

I never thought I deserved something decent; it was the norm to have the second, third or even the most unwanted best. Why should I deserve any of it? After all, I was lousy where it mattered. I could not make it work in my past. It was a pattern, a design and a norm for all the things to come, while exceptions were meant for others. I thought the problems in my life would end the day I forgave everyone and moved on. I did, but the problems never stopped because I missed a minor detail – I forgot to forgive myself for being imperfect and incapable of pulling it all together and have the happy family I always wanted to have.

It has taken me six long and painful years to realize this. It hit me in February this year, when I was driving back after having one of the most happiest (for no particular reason) times in a very long time, that I was feeling inconsolably sad because I felt it fit a pattern – that I was being left behind once again, that I could not ask even that little bit of joy to last for a little bit longer, that I’d have to once again make way for circumstances beyond my control. It was then, when she pointed it out to me, that I realized I had become the sum total of all my regrets, which was gradually consuming me and turning me into one of those bitter, cynical and jaded creepy people. And that was an image I could not stand.

From thereon, it has been a hard climb back. I have stumbled more than I have managed to walk, but at least I have not given up and slumped on the ground as I had earlier. I had fixed my working routine to a better one, gave up on a lot of my craziness and I still could not find the missing piece in the puzzle, which is my childhood and my memories. I had come to terms with it only by mostly wiping it out forcibly from my psyche, but it has always remained there, lingering in the background and casting a shadow on everything I’ve done, most often without my knowledge.

Which is why it is important for me to go back and face up to it. I am not going there to get married or settle old scores. I am going there to bury a personal ghost of mine, which I need to do to finally move on ahead in life, for my own sake. In a lot of ways, it would be a final goodbye of sorts, not probably in the way that I won’t ever go back again, but in the way that the pattern has to end – but not me, not the way I feel for everyone and surely not my life – for me to move on. Maybe I will go back there again, maybe I won’t ever, but it surely will be the end of the phase where that place has played a part in everything I’ve done.

I think at least a couple of friends have noticed the minor changes. I am not there as much for everyone as I used to be and I don’t even feel apologetic about it most of the time. Things will only change further once I return on the 16th. It does make me a considerably less interesting person to be not that dark and cynical about everything all the time and I probably don’t even write that well anymore as a result. But in general, I have come around to accepting that things do go wrong every now and then, but that does not mean they won’t go right ever, but you have to leave a window of chance open for that to happen and I am happier about it.

For all this I do owe a considerable amount of debt to her, for telling me during that drive back that I was being extremely silly, that I could be liked and probably even loved, even when I was not being the stud who’d always have to walk away from everything, with the patented shrug, even when my entire being was screaming inside about the unfairness of it all. Even that I did not have to be anybody to be cared and bothered for, that there was something more to me than just all these and the piles of hurt and regret that I’ve carried along the way. And hopefully, someday, similar to the unexpected set of circumstances that led up to the drive back, a bit of luck and destiny happening my way should enable me to pay her back for it. Otherwise, the least I can do is to say “thank you” for the umpteenth time, to my dear friend Laure.

June 22, 2006

Breadcrumbs

It is when you close in rapidly on the crucial 30 mark that you realise that the best of your years are gradually slipping away through your fingers. Hell, I could have sworn that I was 18 almost like day before yesterday. It was a wonderful time: mindfucked beyond compare, fresh into college (I did not do the regular 10+2 scheme back home), cigarettes, booze, a bona fide driving license, plenty of porn (Indian and foreign) and no clue about what I wanted to become. Can't believe it's been almost ten years since all that happened.

Today, cradled in the creature comforts of moderate success, I wonder where should I take my life from here. The truth is, with my non-existent expectations from my self, I have done over all that I've ever wanted to become, which was the rather lowly benchmark of being able to convince someone to pay for me anything that I did. As the infamous 'three oh' draws close, I have to figure out if I want to move further ahead in the same manner or call it quits, settle down and stop trying my fortune with lady luck.

On one of those rare occasions I do wonder what would have happened, if a good friend had not pushed me, rather forcibly, into the train for Delhi that I did not want to take, for I'd all but given up on everything in life. I wonder what would have happened if I had taken up the print job that was offered to me there. I wonder what would have happened if I had said 'no' on the many instances that I'd said 'yes'. And I struggle, more of than not, to stack up all the things that I can remember from the time I've been in Delhi.

It is then I realise that it is all different from what I've known. Things are different. My life is different. For better or for worse, by my choice or due to a lack of it, this is my life and this is the way I live it. Even with its uncertainties, this is the clearest and the least confusing a perspective I have ever had. With the exception of a couple of recent horrendous mistakes, it is only now I can look at things, without regret and without fear.

It has taken close to thirty years for me figure out what it takes - to spare myself of the numerous regrets that I've burdened myself with over the years and the turns that I have taken, not because I wanted to take them, but because I wanted to avoid other turns. Yes, culturally and geographically I am a lost creature, but being rooted was never my thing. I like to belong everywhere and yet belong nowhere at the same time.

Dare I say it and tempt fate, who never rules in my favour, but it just might finally be a good time to live.