Friday, September 30, 2005

Forbidden

He saw the leaves being swept off their feet and flying towards him. In an instant he felt a shudder going through his body. The flight of the leaves had served a warning. He should have been prepared. Damn September cold, he muttered. He composed himself and looked lovingly at her. Surprisingly, she seemed unaffected by the breeze. She was covered in black, and it always set his heart aflutter to see her so. He could feel his heart beat faster. The anticipation, the excitement was killing him. He loved these moments. Bitter-sweet, tender, careless, expectant. A lifetime rolled into the space of a few minutes. He wrapped his hand around her. Her breath came out in wisps of smoke that rose a few inches and vanished. She was warm and inviting. Her touch invigorated him. He soared above the ground in that feeling, not knowing where earth started and the sky ended. He knew then that this was special. Special because it would always feel this way, every time, until the last. The wind howled. He woke up from his reverie. His heart skipped a beat again. Is it criminal to want something you can’t have? Is it impossible to stop? Is it not permitted for a man to be weak? Follow your heart. Isn’t that what they say? He knew he couldn’t have her forever and that ripped his heart into two. Time to take a stance. Time to be a man, he thought. His forehead shrunk with a frown and he turned to her. She looked back at him blankly, as if to say, ‘it’s your call’. He considered what his friends told him. “You will be destroyed for good. She is poison. She will ruin your life.” Just one last time, he said. It’s a pact. He pulled her closer to his lips. No more after this, he muttered. Moments flew and ecstasy reigned. He closed his eyes in contentment and the sad realization that it was over, for good. He opened them again and turned around to look at the windows of his balcony. The reflection stared back at him, questioningly, understandingly. He gazed back at it. A man of 40, who just had his last cup of coffee.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oblivion

The banalities of life overpowered him for a fleeting moment. Bills, loan, work. He smiled, amused at his thoughts. So irrelevant, he mumbled. His eyes followed as the car screeched away from the street. Some bodies stepped in to block that view. And then faded. Slowly. A curious voice from the dispersing masses queried. “Accident?”

This was in response to being tagged for a 55-word story by Geetanjali. I thought this was a very interesting tag to have and have given it a shot (no matter what the result). Let me know what you think. In the tradition of tagging, I am going to have the following people try the same

Curbside Prophet
Shantanu
Ragini
Ramya

Monday, September 19, 2005

Frequently Questioned Answers

Ever been advised by an adult on the right things to do in life? The common wisdom passed down to us by generations? I have decide to challenge that. If these pearls of wisdom were so effective, wouldn't our problems be solved for good? Wouldn't we be paragons of perfection? I guess we aren't. Its time to question the wisdom of the ages.

1. Grass is always greener on the other side
Hmm. It implies that when we get to the other side, we are always going to be dissapointed. Hence, we should never try anything else, because we know that we will find that we are doing is better than what we will be doing. By the same token, we should not be doing what we are doing because not doing it was a better option in the first place. Oh, I am already lost.

2. Hard work always pays
Yes, it does. It pays towards my company's profits.

3. We are constantly evolving
Into what? The more I see around me, we are evolving to sufficiently drive us on the path of destruction. Would we be completely evolved when we would have burned up massive holes in the ozone layer and left nothing to consume on the surface of the planet?

4. Sab Moh-Maaya hai (everything is an illusion)
That's wrong. Sab Maaya ka moh hai (don't expect to translate this, the charm is lost)

5. Contribute. Do something.
Disagree. Doing nothing is definitely doing something. I am not damaging the fragile fabric of the universe that way.

6. Practice makes man perfect
Tell is to the guy who took the car on the road the first time and ran over two pedestrians, a beggar, a dog and a lamppost. Life is not a dress rehearsal! Ask cricketers who were dropped after their first test match, or guys who must have stuttered to ask Aishwarya Rai out in school.

7. All you need is love
... and a car, a house, a TV, French Fries, Gulab Jamun, Tendulkar's straight drive, coffee ... don't get me started

8. Slow and steady wins the race
I'll remember to mention this to the 100 meter sprinters and Inzamam Ul Haq and all the tragic movie heroes who sacrificed their love for their best friends of brothers.

9. Looks don't matter
Aishwarya for President. Beauty versus brains. What would you choose if you have to choose it for someone else? Oh, this is a hollow materialistic society. You have to pay for two seats in an aircraft if you are too fat. Even Indians have stopped relating paunches to prosperous times. Most people are not normal. They are either too fat or too thin or too tall or too short. Show me one person who isn't measured that way.

10. Each generation is doing better than the previous one
Yes, we have more devices to complicate our lives. We have more luxuries and die sooner. We spend half of our lives staring at a screen or trapped inside metal coffins we call cars. We love and have heartache, and love and break our hearts again and decide that cynicism will prolong our lives. We are so uncomfortable with our inferiority to nature that we trample it, and become urban warriors. Oh yes, we are getting better each day!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Surviving Water Induced Morbidity

Here's my current standing joke. I was late for swim class ..... by 20 years. Yes, me of the ocean lover yuvak sangh, resident of Washington state which is ripe with water bodies, me of the glorious visions of rains and water and mist and dew, the quintessential lover of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen … never learnt how to swim. I couldn’t swim to save my life. Somehow in the multitudinous extra-curricular activities that I indulged in, swimming never featured. No rational explanation. None is required. It doesn’t matter. Or does it. People say that once you learn basic skills like swimming and cycling, you never forget them. On the other end of the spectrum is also the theory that the older you get, the tougher it is to pick these skills up. Some of it makes sense. I guess you are become more aware of your own fear as you become older. In that sense, swimming does sit in a different categories of skills. There is definitely something to worry about. I mean, its not tennis. I won’t wither away and sink into the ground if I miss a couple of shots. But swimming, that’s a different ball game.

I started lessons last week. It is a group of six people in a basic beginner’s course. The lessons are 30 minutes in duration and I have had three so far. They taught us some basics like how to breath out through the mouth inside water, how to propel yourself with kicking (can’t do anything without floaters, or noodles, as they are called), how to float on your back and move yourself with kicks. Now, I have a general belief that I am good at picking sports. It is true upto an extent. I have seen that in the past with table tennis, badminton etc. I can pick up the basics well, improve rapidly and then plateau out. This one seems a tougher nut to crack. Perhaps it’s the fear factor. My instructor has told me that my body is too stiff, that I should relax a little more. I also find doing multiple things: kicking, breathing out inside the water, doing strokes with the arms, and then breathing in by taking my head up and looking sideways quite a handful. More often than not, my feet find the bottom of the pool quickly (it is a four feet deep). The funniest and the most frustrating part is that I just can’t seem to move in water. I keep kicking all the while, whether it is on my back or trying to push myself forward, I barely move anywhere. More often than not, I am carried by someone else’s wake. Aah, it is frustrating. I think it’s a mixture of slight phobia and a lot of technique deficiencies that is making it tough to pick this up. But I am not going to give up without a fight. It will be an epic battle with these forces. And then shall follow a post titled S.W.I.M. (Surviving Water Induced Morbidity) recounting that.

While on the subject, here’s some excellent advice from someone I should have learnt from when I had the chance at TAMU. A man tailored for the teaching profession if there was one.

“Parth, Having read your description of your attempts at swimming it seems u are trying to punish the water. :-) Don’t do that. Stretch out your foot and leg fully behind your body and try to think that the flat portion behind your leg fingers is a paddle. Kick so that u splash water AS LESS as possible, ie. smoothly. As a general rule, the more splashy u are the more the water will resist u instead of helping u. U will tire quicker. Plus remember that this motion only allows u to stay afloat. to move u have to use your hands. As u progress try and keep your head under water. This makes your profile in the water more spearlike than the flat board of your shoulders and chest. It reduces drag no end.”

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sunsitive

Some people reflect the weather outside. Their moods swing up with rays of sun hitting them in the face, and gloom sets in when gray clouds gather. We have had some moody weather in Seattle off late (as they say, if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes). The sun had been beaming 0n us for a while and now wet and cooler weather has begun its onset. I was thinking where I fit in the reactionary scheme of things. Sunsitive, I guess. But in the opposite sense. I like the sun, don't get me wrong. But I wouldn't give an arm and a leg to be in California. I like the sun in sporadic bursts, but what I am concerned about most is the heat. Cooler temperatures are much to my liking. I like gentle cold breezes or zephyr's (if I remember my last word list in Barron's GRE book correctly). I like greyish skies, with moisture hinting at a potential downpour. A drop almost condenses and falls on your hand. I like the sun partially hidden behind the clouds, providing just enough lighting for the show to begin. Alright, I am a monsoon lover. I love the rains, and flooding notwithstanding, that is one of the reasons I loved Bombay. Some great memories and feelings are associated with it, and that I guess is matter for another post.

Rains in the US however are different. Cold, wet showers, which one cannot enjoy drenching in. Temperatures drop sharply when the rain comes and one prefers being indoors. That said, there is a small pocket of weeks (well, like the current period) where the mist is predominant, the clouds are grey but the temperature is bearable. I love the thought of sitting outside on my patio furniture (yup, four months into my house, what do you expect?) and sipping coffee. Of course, in my parallel universe, when the clouds gather and the temperature drops, I'd love to be on the terrace of an old house in a village, with a hint of cool breeze, with clouds warning of impending rain, with a cup of coffee in my hand while I stare at the vast expanse of land in front of me with the sky lighting up at the edges in varied colours and the trees fluttering in the breeze.

A post to nowhere, about nothing in particular, just reflecting what I want right now. Nonentheless, its out here now. So, why don't you share what kind of a person are you? Sunsitive? Rainman? Hot and happening? Chime in.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Double EnTender

Two pieces of art, worlds apart, that impacted me over the course of a weekend.

Rarely has someone thoughtfully conveyed something to me that relates to me and directly affects me. Thank you. For understanding, and for finding the right words.

Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can waitawhile.
You're twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

-Vikram Seth

This ghazal owns me at the first line itself. I have a version sung by Noor Jehan of this excellent lyric by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. What starts off as a romantic poem speaking off desirable love turns into a brilliant social commentary. There is more to this world than love and that the poet would see his view of the world corrected before he sees his love go through till the end. Don't miss the transition from the first stanza to the second. The lyrics and the meaning have been sourced over a few places on the net (I knew most of the words, but not all).

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang
Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang

Maine samajhaa thaa ke tuu hai to daraKhshaaN hai hayaat

Tera Gam hai to Gam-e-dahar kaa jhagaDaa kyaa hai
Teri surat se hai aalam mein bahaaron ko sabaat
Teri aaNkhon ke sivaa duniyaa men rakhaa kyaa hai
Tu jo mil jaae to taqadiir niguuN ho jaae
YuN na tha, maine faqat chaahaa tha yuuN ho jaae

Aur bhii dukh hain zamaane men mohabbat ke sivaa
Raahaten aur bhii hain vasl kii raahat ke sivaa
Anginat sadiyon ke taariik bahimaanaa tilism
Reshm-o-atalas-o-kamaKhwaab mei­n bunawaae hue
Jaa-ba-jaa bikate hue kuuchaa-o-baazaar men jism
Khaak men lithre hue Khuun men nahalaae hue
Jism nikale hue amaraaz ke tannuuron se
Piip bahatii huii galate hue naasuuron se

LauT jaatii hai udhar ko bhii nazar kyaa kije
Ab bhii dilakash hai teraa husn, magar kyaa kije
Aur bhii duKh hain zamaane men mohabbat ke sivaa

Raahaten aur bhii hain vasl kii raahat ke sivaa

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang
Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na mang

[daraKhshaaN = shining, brilliant; hayaat = life; dahar = time, world;sabaat = stability, permanence; niguuN = bow;taariik = dark; bahimaana = dreadful, terrible; tilism = spell, magic; atalas= satin; kamaKhwaab = brocade; silk woven with gold and silver flowers;jaa-ba-jaa = hither-thither; lithaDe = imbrued; amaraaz = diseases; tannuuron = ovens; piip = pus; galate hue = festering; naasuur = ulcer;vasl=meeting]