May 31, 2006

Tubular Tragedies

One of the greater disappointments of 2006 has been the rate at which new seasons of my favourite sitcoms have gone down the drain. I do not know what hit Max Mutchnick after season 6 of Will & Grace, but the series has become completely unwatchable. Actually, even season 6 was nothing short of a mini-tragedy. The jokes don't seem that funny anymore, almost everything is predictable and even Karen looks like an also ran. I have been watching season 7 on and off and every time I feel nothing about it.

And you know all hope is lost for television, when even minor indulgences like Amy Peitz, who is delectable as Annie Spadaro in Caroline in the City, turns up with a double chin and longer hair that makes her look like any average brunette in the latest season on air these days. Tragedy truly has no limits. Of course, there are minor consolations like Lost, Desperate Housewives and Coupling, but none of them are good enough to be cult stuff that you'd want to live and breathe with, be it every day or every week.

Truly captivating television is really part black magic -- an art rarely practiced these days. During the early Doordarshan-only days it used to be the mostly tragic Buniyaad and an English dub of a Japanese series called Johnny Soko and His Giant Robot. As kids we would be glued to both and even indulged in the odd mass prayer during one of the all too frequent power cuts. I also remember cheesy, but interesting, ones like Kashish, Fauji (featuring a very raw SRK) and another Japanese dub called Oshin.

The following years saw the launch of Doordashan II on the terrestrial network and endless reruns of Estranged by Guns and Roses in the (two hour?) slot MTV used to have on it, immediately after its departure from the Star TV platform. Axl Rose must by now hold the record, for the most televised jump from a ship, till time and television ends. I guess it all started going haywire somewhere after that, with successive years and seasons of even lower expectations leading to a situation where there is almost nothing truly entertaining on television anymore.

I guess you could point out a couple of the 'K' serials to me, but I can't stand the garish make up, overacting and the endless song and dance sequences. It is all too melodramatic and reeks asphyxiatingly of having been done a million times over again. Discovery Travel & Living, with Anton Bourdain's Cook's Tour and a lot of other programs does provide some relief, but quality Indian stuff on television? Perish the thought.

To end the sad post, I'll point you lads and lasses to the best answer I've come across about why men always entertain thoughts of threesomes in the woman-man-woman combination than the man-woman-man combination, on the internet. And as usual, you can trust rotten.com to come up with the best explanation. Read and enjoy.

p.s: crossposted at the office blog after the required sensitisation of content.

May 28, 2006

Nomenclature

Sundays are actually one of the better days to come to office. I popped by today to finish off some minor stuff that had been pending for a long time, organize the 'messed-up-again-in-60-seconds' inbox and also kick off a major technology migration that we have been planning for a while. Seventy percent of the floor's weekday inhabitants not being there makes for a much quieter environment and a lack of phone calls and meetings only help to focus things much better.

But I do wonder if the concept of weekend off or holidays truly hold any water anymore. Even though I have more or less strictly enforced the policy of not switching the laptop on during weekdays at home, it is hard to stay away from work-related thoughts. After all, all it takes is to switch the television on and surf to channel number five to be back in the 'work' mode, followed by the wild goose chase after the 'bigger picture'.

On Friday, rather unexpectedly, I had one of the vintage TC days. As usual, when we have a good time there, we normally end up behaving rather outrageously, but in good spirit, and for a change I did not have to be in 'high' spirits to have a ball of a time. I do not know if it is the unbearable heat and humidity, but I have been gradually going off the boozy nights of late. Call it growing up or anything else, but waking up to mornings that feel like an internal 'Little Boy' explosion is not an enticing prospect anymore.

Saturday was Da Vinci Code day. The movie was unbearable. Not surprising at all, considering the fact that the book itself was barely bearable and in translating it on to the big screen, Ron Howard successfully stripped it of whatever little that was there in the story to appeal to the grey cells. Tom Hanks looked so lost that he could have easily passed off as someone who had a walk-on part in it. Audrey, of course, was delicious. Still, I can't figure out for my life why she did the movie in the first place.

To conclude, you might have noticed a minor change on the blog. I am letting 'codey' die a quiet death and shall, from now on, publish under my real name that I am not too fond of. I might probably consider keeping codelust to myself, I have a love-hate relationship with that one. At some point, publishing under a pseudonym used to make sense in terms of privacy and all that jazz. Now, when people call that to your face, it just sounds plain silly. Much sillier than the dislike I have for my real name. Just to clarify, I don't have a favourite name or a name that I would have liked to be called by. It is just that I don't like this one too much.

May 25, 2006

India Seething

One of the rather interesting recent developments in the blog landscape is the mushrooming of angst-ridden blogs by media professionals. If one were to go by what most of them had to say, you'd have to believe that the entire media circus is staffed by angry frustrated journalists, who, given a chance, would jump in, change the way the system works and eradicate all of the industry's ailments in a single swipe.

On these blogs, I have read everything from exemplary displays of copy editing skills, news judgement and operational finesse that would turn even a Fortune 500 CEO the deepest shade of green with envy. I do not know where the great idea came into play that media professionals have to be saints and superhumans to be doing their job and that each and every one of them have to perfect in what they do, even when you know that a copy can't ever be subbed enough.

The curious point in all this is that, if there is so much of goodwill that is waiting to be unleashed behind the numerous computer terminals that dot our offices, why don't any of us quit, start something that would represent all these noble intentions and change the landscape? Of course, that would involve a lot of sacrifices, hard work beyond being the angry young 101st keyboarders and things not as rewarding as annual increments and appraisals.

On an unrelated note, I do not know what to make of the reservation ruckus. I don't like the idea. It is counterproductive and I have always advocated making as much of education free or subsidised as possible to give everyone a level playing field. It ain't perfect, but I believe that is the only way to go ahead with this with the least degree of discrimination.

Besides, you can't exactly overcome social inequality just by making the seats available. You still have to be able to pay your way through expensive schools, colleges and other institutions. But the practicalities of all that is another insignificant story, best saved for another day. What scares me is that, if you were to look at the developments, you'd think that this is a personal battle between the HRD minister and the medicos.

We have a PM who does not open his mouth on the matter, an opposition - that has an opinion on anything and everything - being quieter than a church mouse and whole host of byte givers who have nothing to say about it. I don't have any love lost for dear Mr Singh, but to pull this stunt off he needs the support of a whole host of people who have just melted into the background, waiting to come out into the open once it becomes law, to reap their harvest from either side of the divide.

Those are the real culprits, who will get away, once again, with it, while we chase down the Arjuns and other figureheads. Lage raho India, tera kutch nahi hone wala.

May 20, 2006

Advertising Sense

K had asked in the comments to enlighten him about the mysterious ways of Adsense. Since I have been thinking for a while about the possibility of earning a bit of spare change by running a blog or a website I figured that I might as well flesh out a little bit on how it could be possible. I will add a very obvious caveat -- that I am writing this based on my experiences from running a highly-trafficked media website. Applying the same to smaller blogs and websites will require minor modifications and your mileage would also vary depending on the kind of content you are serving.

Before you start on any 'Make Money From Adsense' program, you have to keep two golden rules in mind. The first is to never ever game Google. They watch almost everything pretty closely and even not-so-significant hikes, like from $20 in a day to $100, will easily get eyebrows raised in the Googleplex, which could be followed by a removal from the index of all your pages, earnings and any other good karma you might have on their systems. The second is to generate good content, the stuff that people would want to come back to your website for. If you are going to do content, do it well.

There are three ways to make money from Adsense. The first is the bona fide and perfectly legitimate way, all well within Google's guidelines. The second is to take the dark route and do link farms and automated aggregators like a lot of (even good people) are doing these days, which will eventually get you into trouble. And the third is the grey area, where you are flirting with going over the line, but never actually going over it. It is a risky approach, but you'll need to visit that zone at least once in your great project. But, if you can, always play it safe.

The key to doing well with Adsense or any other online advertising program is numbers. Most advertising programs are of two kinds 1) The spot ad 2) The CPM ad. The spot ads are fixed price slots where you get paid for just showing the ad on your website. With the CPM ad, which Adsense ads are, you get paid only when someone clicks on the advertisement. The simple rule of thumb is that the more visitors you get on your website, the more you get paid for it. With the spot ad, you can ask for greater rates if you have large enough numbers in traffic. With the CPM ad, the greater numbers only increase the chances of the ads getting clicked on. Get your audience first and the rest will follow.

Now, how do you know what the audience wants to read and how do you get them over to your website? With Adsense, it always helps to be specific in terms of content niches always work well in the case of new websites, since they won't stand a chance in getting anywhere near the first couple of pages on Google searches for popular or generic topics (ex: India, India politics). If you write on those themes, there is a fairly good chance that you end up somewhere on the 80th page of the search results. But if you write about something more specific, like how to find a second hand car with buying instructions for non-resident Indians, you'll have a much better chance of being read. The other, easier, way is to find out what people are talking about.

Which is not that huge a deal, but it requires a lot of dedicated effort. Trawl the Delicious popular list and popular tag list every day. Same goes for the Technorati 'Top Searches This Hour' page and the Google News 'In The News' section. Between the three you should have a fairly good idea about what a majority of the traffic on the Internet is all about. The easy way out from this point would be to link to such interesting stories, but that won't get you too far. So, be a nice guy/gal, and add value to the conversation. Put in your own two bits, contribute something unique. Give a reason for users to come to you for the first time and for many more times after that.

Most of the popular content on the net falls into technology (personal tech, computing, home), lifestyle and living (eating, partying, clothing, health food, exercise, sexual health), news (hard core news, gossip, commentary) and the gateway to interesting content (sites like Fark) categories. Most of these have better paying keyword-based advertisements that would be displayed with them. You can even sign up for an AdWords account and see the rates for the different phrases and there are websites that list the top paying keywords (last I checked the highest paying one was above $40 per click), but do exercise caution and not step out of the grey area at the most. It is tempting, but once you get dumped in the Google black hole, a comeback on the same domain is very difficult.

Now we shall deconstruct the numbers game a bit further. The idea in stage one is to retain your regular visitors and then get them to keep coming back regularly. You can interact by either posting regularly or kicking off conversations and replying regularly to comments or even make it a place for people with similar interests to hang out. Basically, give them a reason to keep coming back since all of us are not famous personalities to have just our names pull in the audience. What we are looking at, over time, is to get the same bunch of people to incrementally spend more time at your site week-on-week, in effect getting more from the same.

Next is to keep getting new users all the time. With the old users ads often hit the fatigue/blind spot problem. Even though Google now actively encourages you to 'blend' the ads with your content, regular users soon get used to the idea of a particular corner or a layer being an ad. For getting new users you have to reverse the trawling process by getting listed and pinged on all the major blog trackers and also using the Delicious listings to good effect. With that we get back to the basic idea -- that it is hard work making any decent moolah from Adsense/blogging.

This is by no means a comprehensive or detailed entry on how to get all this done. It is more or less of a stream of thoughts regarding the subject, that first started a comment reply, which grew long enough to be a post on its own. In terms of pure numbers, with good placement and smart content, anyone who gets above 300 - 400 page views on their blog (not personal stuff, unless you happen to be Dooce or the next Dooce in waiting), should be able to start making a tidy sum from their blogs. But to finance anything other than the odd bottle of booze every month from blogging takes dedication, discipline and an innate feel for the medium.

Crossposted to the 'serious' blog.

May 19, 2006

The Menace Called Verbosity

Since I really nothing much to blog about today, I guess I will blog about the blog itself. I will not pretend that I am speaking for all the bloggers out there, so don't come after me with a lynch mob for having either berated or emboldened the family of fellow bloggers into paths and destinations bolder or crasser than what they might already have in mind. As I've contended for a long time, blogging is not about the community or the readers for me, they do matter, but they are not the raison d'etre for my blogging. It is an overbearingly selfish pursuit for me, maybe even something of a game of truth or dare in thoughts that I play with myself.

By nature, most people who do blog, be it under a pseudonym or as their real selves, do have an element of exhibitionism in their nature. Why else would anyone grab a bunch of their thoughts and plaster it on a medium where you have no control over who gets to see it and when? Think about it. You can do all of the same very comfortably in a text document at home or do it in the classic way -- to keep a deadwood type diary and pen down all your thoughts. Yes, the audience does matter. The only questions are why do they matter and how much?

When I started writing personal stuff on the net, sometime in 1999, it was on the Geocities platform, using hand-coded HTML. Those were mostly immature, youth-fuelled rants. Then I wandered among many of the early blogging champions -- edithispage, manilasites etc -- based on the Frontier platform, because I am the naturally curious types, who always wants to have a swipe at anything new or interesting. Then came the LiveJournal blog (once totally purged), which was followed by the birth of this blog in late 2001, started purely to test a nifty piece of software called Blogbuddy.

Since that time I have made a lot of great friends thanks to my mad ramblings. I have seen groups form and disband, communities grow and disappear, pointless flamewars and a lot of other things. But I never thought I'd keep this going for this long. Yes, there have been numerous instances when I have wanted to shut it down or when I went for long periods without writing anything. It was largely anonymous for the first few years. Then friends started coming over, which unfurled the veil of abstractions that has been on ever since and the cover in the professional sphere was blown in stages in the past year and a half.

It was never like I absolutely dreaded being found out. But yes, every now and then I can't help but wonder what everyone I know in my real life would think about what I had written. The good thing is that I can't be assed much to figure all that out. For whatever weird reasons they might be, doing this has grown on me and I do enjoy it enough to say "fuck it" to all of that and write more or less all of what I want to write, which is not exactly the easiest of things to do when almost everyone who's been involved with you emotionally/romantically/physically (and daddy dearest too!) keeps dropping by here fairly regularly.

Strangely, from 2001 till date, the things that I've written about have largely remained the same. It has been an almost endless stream of love, longing, living, family, loss and even the odd smattering of lust. Is it not strange how almost all the words in there start with 'l'? Coming back, it does make me wonder how on earth can someone keep regurgitating the same themes over and over again, year after year? Honestly, I don't have a clue. Sometimes, when I can muster up the courage to go through some of my archives, it does shock and please me at the same time to see that certain things have just not changed. Otherwise, honestly, it is really boring to read.

Which is why I keep saying that the audience does not matter much. It is nice to get the odd pat on the back in the comments or on e-mail, but I write primarily for the sheer pleasure of the act, all for myself. It is also interesting to see how the thoughts translate into the written word, like how much you spin it, justify it and paint things in colours that look nicer to you. Somewhere along the way you can't help but smile at yourself doing the transformations and subtle rationalisations. It is as much an exercise in communication as it is an act of introspection. I don't know if it changes things much, but at least for someone like me, who has a whole lot of trouble remembering things, the blog does act as a book of clues to a time long gone.

That said, the exhibitionism is also a major part of the motivation. It is a bit of a performance too at the same time. You reveal enough to keep people interested, but keep the larger parts hidden away, making it, in some ways, like a softcore flick, leaving a lot to the imagination to salivate and run over, all on a public platform. The curious thing is that by nature I am not a very public person. It takes a long time for me to open up to circumstances and people. Maybe it is like standing in front of an audience and delivering a speech. You just gaze into something unobtrusive in the distance and let the words flow. It is terrifying and satisfying at the same time.

Irrespective of all that I do not know for how long I would keep this going. I am terribly bored in life right now and something as forced and unthinkable as stopping this would make for an interesting challenge. Just flick the switch off one day and start living a different life, all on a whim. I am too much in love with that concept for my own good. And I do miss being able to speak without the abstractions. It must be wonderful to just spew out all the crap in your mind without having to think much. Then again, it is hard work and minus the audience it just won't work out.

Moreover, I have three active blogs now -- this one, the office blog and the secret non-personal stuff one that has been running for over a month now. I have not found the right work/life balance yet to do justice or the right way to generate enough content for all three at the same time. Having finally figured out the mysterious ways of Adsense, it is quite tempting to finally move to a domain of my own and earn a couple of hundred dollars in a pretty bundle of loose change to indulge myself. Besides, towards the end of this year, I really do need to do something different with my life. If it can't be the dream scenario of running something of my own, I would certainly like it to be something like making a living out of writing what I want to write about, on my own terms. I think it is not an unrealistic scenario altogether.

May 18, 2006

Climb

Well, this is one of those days when you just don't want to do anything other than curl up with a glass of nice wine, some good music and a nice book at home. I have done whatever little bit I could bring myself to do today. The list of pending projects are stretch further than what an A4 can hold. This week, I just don't have it in me to unclog my head and inject some much-needed direction into things. The groundwork is done, I know the scale, the numbers and the timelines. But it will have to wait till Monday.

I am gradually rediscovering my cooking skills too, that is, if you can if you can call my brand of making meat and other things edible cooking at all. I have been eating out and ordering takeways so much that I must have made at least a couple of joints near my house quite rich in further developing my already well developed paunch. The end result though may not be of everyone's liking. I end up with dishes that are not bland enough to be western or spicy enough to be Indian. I guess you could call it  the globalised cuisine. But I like it, which is what counts the most I guess.

Meanwhile, I am looking for better/healthy/non-kinky ways to spend a decent amount of time away from work-related things, and the computer, once I am home, during weekdays and on weekends. One of these days I should go and buy myself a guitar and learn to play it properly than to play it just about enough to make it look like I know what I am doing, while actually I don't. Another long term fascination of mine has been sport climbing. Sadly, at least from what I could glean from Google, there is not much of that in Delhi. Does anyone have any clue about this one?

May 15, 2006

Rain

It is lashing everything outside and the time is past midnight. I have waited for this for so long in the searing heat of this summer and yet it is scary and thrilling at the same time. I know not why I fear it. Maybe it is because the accompanying gale is a pretty stiff one and every now and then I hear things falling or crashing, as it often does it this part of the world. I worry for all my friends, some are out of their homes enjoying the Sunday, while I have not heard from some others. I wish and hope they are all safe and that they all are fine.

As it has been the case of late, time spent doing nothing is a commodity that has been hard to find. But I have managed to keep myself happy, more or less, with limited expectations and a slightly better or even positive outlook on the way things are. Maybe it is after all only about perspective and the old adage about the state of the glass being half full or half empty as you may desire to see it. I don’t think life will get simpler from this point on; while the opposite will be the case with complications.

Honestly, the change did not happen accidentally. It just struck me recently that I had become an unbearably brooding personality. The job has also helped a lot in realizing that. Unlike in my previous jobs, this one requires me to interact and carry along a bunch of different people with me constantly, to keep it all together. What I noticed was that even when I wanted to perform efficiently and with excellence, the pall of gloom would cut in, blocking everything off. Eventually, nothing gets done and that is not acceptable for me.

Of course, I could manage the odd day by covering up the darkness and I have always liked the thrill of a crisis, which always makes me perform at my best. But that is the point too, that it does not have to be a crisis or some form of pretence for things to work. That’s just not right. And I don’t like people who are negative all the time or people who are insecure and constantly complaining about things and I’d become all that and much more.

I am also disgusted by the riders that accompany every positive statement I can dig up. “Things are fine right now, but they can go awry anytime.” “I had a wonderful time, but I can’t accept as much because I am afraid it won’t happen again.” I think the twenty plus odd years of my life have hardly been exemplary, but that does not mean that what’s left of it have to be in the same vein too. I have made mistakes, let down a lot of people and been a rank jerk at times, but it is really about time that I let all of that go and try to be happy for a change. I think I do deserve that much for myself.

May 10, 2006

Dream On

After two days of being lost in a sea of XML, XPATH and XSLT, I think it might not be a bad idea to resurface on my mostly-ignored blog and post whatever that comes to my mind. I should warn you that there is no particular destination that I am aiming to reach with this post, nor am I looking to make a point. This is just a slice of thoughts from my exquisitely mixed up mind. Read on only if you have time to kill in plenty.

Since life has been pretty good to me of late with a significantly reduced level of self-induced drama, I thought it might not be a bad idea to sit back and take a look at the road ahead and the immediate concerns in my life. And surprise! I could not come up with more than two ever-prevailing themes: career and loneliness.

Of the two, work has been pretty good, especially if I could ignore my own impatience and extremely high expectations. I want everything to happen, at the best levels, like overnight. Which, obviously, does not happen, leading me to wonder every third day if I am any good at all. But yeah, two or three more years of this and I would want to do something different.

Sometimes I think I’d eventually want to build something big and successful, become unimaginably rich in the process and then give away most of it to people who actually need it. Other times I want to throw away all of what I have now, go to a remote place, find my own little peace and write down a lot of things that I might not even show anyone. Is there some way by which I can do both and be the happiest man on earth?

On the personal front, I have always been a weirdo, with different tastes, preferences, opinions and aims than most people I have known. I did not grow up wanting to be different; it is just that at times what the rest of the world was doing just did not make any sense. At a younger age, I used to argue passionately over the things that caused this senselessness. If I remember right, I think I also used to believe that you could make a difference if you wanted to. That makes me laugh now.

But I could never figure the reasons for why I was different, if I actually was different at all. It was never the case that I was exposed to a lot of people who used to step away from the norm. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It was probably because I had practically brought up myself. The only things that keep you any meaningful company then are the different people you conjure up in your own mind.

There are no real value systems to speak of then. The imagined world becomes a huge canvas that you can paint into landscapes and characters more palatable to your own sensibilities. The chasm between that and the real one gradually drifts so far apart that what people actually do and mean stops making any sense after a while, nor they carry any import. They are just there, like an appendage, while the fantasy lives on your own mind.

But I have digressed. Yes, the loneliness. The first time I fell in love was when I was 17. It was amazing and somehow it pains me to realize that I’ve never felt that way in the relationships that I have had after that. Even though I was the one to put an end to it, some four years down the line, since it was not going anywhere, I was only pre-empting a ‘no’ that she was having difficulty telling me since I had just about made it out of my first brushes with the absolute pointlessness of my life. But, to my credit, I could not have tried any harder in it or done much more and she had already gone beyond her limits in trying to keep me propped up. We were just evading the inevitable for as far as we could.

The second relationship. It started as fling; at least we had convinced ourselves that that was the case. I could not digest the fact that relationships could take life in a fling, she could not understand why it could not be so. Two similarly stubborn people getting together is always a bad idea, especially when your respective approaches to the same concept are diametrically opposite. I kept denying it, while she tried endlessly to convince me. Much heartache and tears ensued, mixed with the first chapters of my latent heartlessness. It could have ended better and I knew better, I just chose to ignore it.

The third relationship. What do they say about people who never learn from past experiences? Back in fling land again and that too with some vengeance. Faces, bodies are an indistinguishable blur. I am working nights and running rapidly through different people during the days and somewhere along the way, in the background of a major personal disaster, one of them, known rather famously as ‘friendships with benefits’, turns into familiarity.

Instead of contempt, it bred convenience, with the constant tolling of the warning bell that this was not meant to be, in the background. She moved in with me for close to a year. It was a case of extremes. The things in it were really good, while the bad was the worst. The bells were ignored; I gave up practically everything else that was important to me. I knew I only had a short lease on that life and had to take in whatever I could at that point.

Somewhere along the way, convenience turned into comfort. In fact, too much of it and we all know how know too much of a good thing can be bad. Many an honest conversation later we decided to call it quits when the going was still good. It baffled everyone who knew about it for various reasons. I laid out my escape plan, stuck to it and made my way through, even if it was a struggle.

Which culminated in the fourth relationship. Rebound, stupidity, wishful thinking, intolerable cruelty – you could rightly accuse me of all those and still not be done with it. I must have broken all sorts of records for being insensitive with that chapter of my life. Looking back, I don’t see what I was trying to achieve other than to mess up someone nice who did not need anymore of that in her life. But that’s the bitch called hindsight; she’s never there when you want her around.

Then there are the many friends, with whom my emotional involvement is never a comfortable equation. Somehow, I seem to take great pleasure in stretching the limits of the emotional connections that are made and if you are looking for stability in life, that is not just the route to take.

The trouble is that all of the above is every bit a part of me. I can only walk away from it all at my own peril. The foundation stone of any relationship is a weirdly pure element of selfishness. You need to have something to take in it, failing which it becomes charity and those don’t survive for too long, nor is it fair on anyone involved. If my selfishness commands such weird and infeasible conditions, is it any wonder that I do wind up being alone most of the time?

Even otherwise it is not that easy. I don’t look like a million bucks, I don’t have a million bucks and my job won’t ever earn me a million bucks. Those three not being there dents the desirability quotient in my case considerably. In other words, it is only another weirdo who can stand by me and survive me, if I were to be just myself and be happy about it too.

I’d love to say that none of the regular stuff like marriage and family bothers me. It does, especially when you have parents who don’t leave a single opportunity to hint that somehow my marrying would make them secure and healthier overnight. I would also love to have my wedding, not a grand or lavish ceremony, but by a beach, surrounded by just a handful of people, facing the wide blue ocean that would open out into eternity.

I can almost hear the chorus of voices shouting out loud “dream on!” Bring ‘em on.

May 06, 2006

Untitled

Actually, I have been quite at peace with the way things have been progressing of late. There is a staid dullness to the proceedings, with the (dis?)pleasures of a predictable routine that shines through each passing day. But I am not one to complain, since there is not much by means of things going wrong and that is a luxury in times like these. Each day is nothing but a name and a number that changes on the calendar; nothing is lost, nor is anything gained.

There is, though, a lot going wrong around me. Elderly people becoming frailer and more insecure than what they ever were, ghastly accidents, best laid plans going awry, best of intentions bringing forth the worst of results, differing degrees of chaos and little instances and incidents that I choose to turn my head away from, rather than observe, analyse and worry over endlessly. If I were not fully awake, I could have even mistaken it for sleep walking.

There is something new in all this about me – an enhanced degree of selfishness that I have gotten quite comfortable with. I have worn it like a tight jacket around me; tight enough to keep me comfortably isolated, but not tight enough to cause me discomfort. If I had known these splendid virtues of selfishness earlier, I would have willingly subscribed to it, but you do learn such things only at the appropriate times and not a moment before when it is meant to be. You can’t obviously learn it a moment after, if the ‘appropriate time’ theory is actually right.

And I am learning to keep quite a few of my thoughts to myself. Not that I really want to, but I don’t want to rush over them with anyone, like the passing dust storms that are all over Delhi these days. If you have the time, patience and diligence, then I might. Otherwise, I am quite glad to keep them to myself. They are not quite secrets. The circle of friends who are closest to me know practically every little thing about me, including my best fantasies and the worst nightmares. But these are different. These are more like observations. I don’t even know if they would make any sense to anyone at all.

Why does being with someone almost always turn us into the kind of people we have hated? Maybe we don’t see it when we are in a relationship, because even I have done the same at some point, allowing mistrust, than trust, to lead the way. We twist, bend, wriggle and contort ourselves into these mummified personas that are at least a million miles away from who and what we really are. Relationships are not meant to do that us. It is weird when all of us – educated, uneducated, liberal, conservative, intellectual, non-intellectuals – end up in the same shitty corner once we are with someone. Why is it so?

After a lot of the above-mentioned contortions, I have had enough. I don’t want to waste my life trying to be someone that I am not. This is me at my ugliest, clumsiest worst; which if you can meet eye-to-eye and still find something worth trusting, putting a bit of faith and effort into, we might have something to go ahead with. Otherwise, this is the part where I get off the play that has been acted billions of times already.

Meanwhile, do welcome a close friend of mine who's taken a sudden shine to blogging. And yes, I do have a huge thing for shoes, I should warn you, before you read all that she has to say.

May 01, 2006

Return To Sender

Verbosity has always been my bane (or boon, depending on which end of the deal you happened to end up on) and mixing technology with that does not always bring forth the best of results. That joined with a natural ability to ponder over points and nuances that mean nothing to others (and everything to me), leads to interesting collections of conversations in the various e-mail accounts I have used over the years. Oh yes, I have a huge addiction for communication, at least I used to, and some of the e-mails date back to as early as the year 2000, when using impropah English to communicate did not result in summary execution by the grammar Nazis.

Some of the e-mails are amusing - youthful enthusiasm, extreme idealism and the works. Others are acute embarrassments, to put it lightly, including episodes in my life that I can't remember without feeling sheepish beyond what I can explain here and numerous silly dalliances with rank strangers on the internet (that is another saga in itself, best saved for another time). But most are about the chaotic relationships I have had with my friends. Amusingly, some have even had e-mail accounts at Garfield.com and I have seen one that was sent using Pine. I have certainly lived an interesting life, even if you were to ignore conversations that were held on one side  almost entirely in koans.

I have lost touch with most of the people I have all these mails saved from, some for good, while others blip back in on my radar every now and then, only to disappear again. I can't be quite accused of being stupid in feeling like the old bridge under which a lot of water has flown over time, can I? But it is nice to have these to look at, since they are pretty much the only genuine and un-obfuscated accounts of how I ended up being who I am and where I come from. The blog with its myriad decoys is of no good there. Redundant storage and the free email model willing, I should have these to keep me company in old age too. Technology with a nostalgic hue, now, who would have thought about that one?