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.

June 19, 2006

Stale of two cities

The weather in Delhi, compared to Bombay at least, is delicious. The two day trip to the latter was quite a lot of fun in terms of things other than work. That did not turn out as well as it could have, but they don't always go the way they are intended to, do they? I met more than a couple of bloggers, (apologies to Vikram whom I ran into again at Toto's, while I was in one of my lousy and morosus maximus moods), caught up for a bit with some of the old friends, ate copious amounts of fish, drank a lot of beer and have more or less sworn not fly Air Deccan ever again, other than for the tickets I have already done for July 9th, for its unnerving similarity in user experience to the Delhi Transport Corporation buses.

On coming back, I was greeted by a Delhi bathed in a shade of vibrant green; apparently it was raining here for the two days that I was not here. On most other occasions, I have been kind of sad to come home back to Delhi. This time I was relieved to get back home, it was almost like running into the arms of someone familiar again. The way it smelled (kept clean by the maid, just to clarify), the way the sunlight filtered in, weaker, into the room and the warmth of my own private space, was more welcoming than I can express in words.

Maybe it is also because over time I have stopped being in awe of Bombay. It is big, smelly, dirty and horribly expensive in terms of real estate. But it also hits you suddenly that there are no great demons in the place (first time I went there in 2001, I had mentally prepared myself to be attacked by a gangster at every corner; don't laugh, I am not kidding!) and if it came to it I could move there, or any other town for that matter. I do not know, I am in quite a weird mood right now. Maybe it has nothing to do with any of these and is all about the trip to back home in July.

The parting shot has to belong to the Football World Cup. It has been a bit of a let down even though I am no great football fan. The way some of the major teams have been outrun in the midfield almost make believe that some of them have been playing in the Indian league for bit now. And what is it with nobody wanting to shoot at all? It is unbelievable. Which is only trumped in terms of disappointment by ESPN's coverage of the event. Harsha Bhogle looks as lost and pretentious as Britney Spears would at a Mensa convention and the less said about Vinay and Ranvir and their two bit crummy show, the better.

June 15, 2006

Tripping

Oh yes, I am still around and very much alive, but kicking around a couple of things. Between cranky webservers, having to manage another team too as a stand-by arrangement, a pending deadline to write something and planning a trip to hot and sultry Mumbai, there is not much time or energy to spare to write things here. And yes, I have finally booked my tickets for my first official and longish vacation in three years, in July. The place is not much of a surprise, it is back home and I have not been there in more than three years.

In any case, there has not been much else to report. On Saturday I made another visit to Elevate, where DJ Heat from UK was listed as the guest. The opening set was done though by a DJ who I've not seen or heard anywhere in Delhi before. I could get only his surname, Mehra, and he played two absolutely rocking sets of mostly Bollywood, bhangra and Indi-pop, leaving the guest DJ, who played the most crappy set I've heard anyone play, wondering why people were moving off the floor when he laid his hands on the lovely Technics 1200s.

In fact, most of the guest DJs I've seen playing in Delhi (I could not go for the PVD gig, I have to clarify) have been really terrible. The worst of the lot was Dr. Zeus (yes, I will admit rather shamefully that I've watched him perform live), who could not mix even a cup of tea, leave alone two different tracks, to save his life. The golden rule of mixing is that if you cannot beatmix, you should not and just cut/fade into the other channel. That lesson was obviously not taught to Zeus, who made the beats overlap so much that even a herd of horses, on an acid high, running on a wooden floor would have sounded much better.

Musical adventures apart, I must beat a hasty retreat now and get some packing done for tomorrow. I should be in the M city from Friday morning to early Sunday morning. I am not sure, with the amount of stuff that needs to be done there, if I'd get any time for any socialising. So, don't hold it against me if I am just right next door and still somehow not get time to meet any of you M city people.

June 07, 2006

The Other Life

On the surface, the Mahajan saga (including both junior and senior) seems to be yet another tale from the rich and the powerful crypt gone wrong, but there is a darker and often untold story in the happenings that won't find much mention in the numerous analyses being played out endlessly in the media these days. The untold story is not of the pressure (when has pressure not been there in any social set up?), peer or otherwise, but that gradually we are leaving ourselves very little space or acceptance for people who are not as good or successful as the cream that shows up on top.

It is no longer acceptable to be just good enough; you have to be excellent these days. Failures or the ones who don't make the cut are ostracized and are left with nowhere to go. If you are not wildly successful these days (with or without the backing of your family or a fabulous legacy to lean back on), chances are that nobody will like you or want to be with you. Minus a high-flying/paying job, expensive car, fancy gym membership and an ability to eat out at the choicest of joints every other night, you don't stand much of a chance in today's society. Strangely, if you look around, most people you know would display the same qualities.

Most of us live by the "work hard and play harder" mantra. Once upon a time, going out and having fun would have meant a simple dinner or a couple of drinks at your favourite joint. That has now been replaced by a trip to the latest swanky pub/club, looking sharp and showing off the latest moves you have picked up at the twice a week salsa classes. What if there is not enough time? We can always make up for it by sleeping lesser, partying even later into the night, gymming and jogging at the most unearthly of hours. I am not suggesting, not even for a second, that it does not feel good. It feels awesome, it is quite a high. But it is a ride that is so highly strung that at some point something has to give. And more often than not, some does, eventually.

If you ignore the circumstances that Rahul found himself in, you can probably empathise with him for a moment. It must not be easy to have a father who was as charming and wildly successful (once again ignoring the 'how' part of it) as the Late Pramod Mahajan. From the reports, it is evident that he was not as successful or as good as some of the other famous politico kids like Pilots, Abdullahs or the Scindias and something did give in his case. The only difference is that he fell in full public view, under the glare of the media lights, unlike so many others who fall off the wagon, away from the flashlights, with only smiles and success plastered all over them.

June 02, 2006

Lease

The weather is absolutely wonderful here. I can see the spots of rain marking the open area on the floor below ours and the sky is deliciously overcast in a very Brit manner. Actually, it is about fucking time too. I am sick of my allergic reactions every time it becomes too hot or too cold or when the seasons change like twice in a year and it has been godawfully hot and humid here of late.

In another month, on the 4th of July, I would have completed a year in this new job. Of late, I have taken a significantly lesser role in day-to-day operations and other than a couple of instances where the escalation had gone over-critical, I have not stepped in even during times of significant issues and things have not fallen apart. And that is pretty much a good indicator that the core framework is in place and stable enough to run on its own.

There are quantity and quality issues that still need to be sorted out, but it is gradually falling into place. There are a couple more of minor projects that need to be pushed out, but nothing really major and I can feel the need for a new challenge slowly creeping up inside me. After reading this article on MySQL AB in Fortune Magazine, I've been wondering what are actually my options, in terms of what is already available and what I'll have to work towards.

Half of the fun (and the hardest part to crack) in starting something new is finding the right people to get the stuff done. We've largely managed that here, but it is also brings the dilemma of having to let go of the baby you've so carefully brought up. Initially, the most difficult thing for me here was to come to terms with the concept of getting things done by others than to kill yourself in trying to do it all on your own. Hell, I even used to feel guilty about it most times.

After six years in Delhi, I think it is about time I moved somewhere else. The pragmatist in me has taken time off from things like marriage and family till the time I am thirty, by when I hope I'd be saner/stabler in my mind to do all that. So, it is one of those things -- to travel to a foreign land, challenge your own worst fears once again, meet new people and most importantly get away from this godawful dust that I am really sick of -- that's taunting me again.

As it always is, the specifics of the plan of action are missing in my case. I think I'd rather deal with it once I am done with facing up to another major fear of mine -- of going home. I have not been there now in more than three years and before July ends I should be making a splash-and-dash there. Quite a lot of uncomfortable facts await me there -- family, marriage, property, relatives -- but I think it is a smarter idea to hit it first before it hits you later when want it the least.

I think, on the whole, I've been much happier. At least I don't reek of negativism anymore (or so I hope), but I want more from life. More interesting people, more interesting things to do and more interesting places I want to visit and live in. It would be wonderful to go clubbing in Europe, read the morning paper with a nice hot cuppa in a cafe in Paris, once the south of France has been thoroughly explored and many other such geographical fantasies.

Honestly, the problem I have with getting married and all is that most options I've seen, or how most people would want to have it, would bring for the opposite of all that. Funnily, the ideal life partner would actually be a travelling companion with whom I could probably get married to somewhere along the way. Family, relations and all the cultural mumbo jumbo hold no value or relevance for me and I am particularly selfish on that count.