Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Thoughts Exactly




Probably sums up the way I feel about people best.

In obvious awe and admiration.

T.O.

PS: It is amazing how someone so reclusiv e can have such deep insights on life- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Waterson#Retirement

Monday, December 04, 2006

Other Peoples' Words

Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
- LC


Been hearing some lovely music over the weekend. For instance:

Famous Blue Raincoat
It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record.

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake --

She sends her regards.
And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear


-- Sincerely, L. Cohen

Also a Johnny Cash cover of U2's One. That wonderful baritone voice, those beautiful lyrics from Bono. Just blissful.

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot.
You gave me nothing,
Now it's all I got
We're one
But we're not the same
Well we Hurt each other
Then we do it again

Then Alfie. On a late Sunday night. Bad timing, but wonderful movie. Blessed with an absolutely haunting music score from Mick Jagger.

Alfie: "What have I got? Really? Some money in my pocket, some nice threads, fancy car at my disposal, and I'm single. Yeah... unattached, free as a bird... I don't depend on nobody and nobody depends on me... My life's my own. But I don't have peace of mind. And if you don't have that, you've got nothing. So... what's the answer? That's what I keep asking myself. What's it all about? You know what I mean?"

Old Man talking about his long dead wife: "We weren't very fond of each other, but we were very, very close."


Reminds me of someone I hang out with all the time. But the thing is you never ever ask yourself, "Why?". When I meet her again, probably will ask, if she spared a thought. More about this later.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Closing Credits

For Lucio:

Because we are also what we lose.

- Amores perros (2000)

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Leaving

Somewhere within your loving look I sense,
Without the least intention to deceive,
Without suspicion, without evidence,
Somewhere within your heart the heart to leave.

All You Who Sleep Tonight. VS

Sleeve Notes for "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?"

Coming down off the nova somewhere near the boiled egg that is the Royal Albert Hall, we watch Paul's sun crossed with John's star and hold ice cream hands. Someone slipped on a cassette as the one you wanted left with someone else but somehow it was cool because as the music filled the shadows, you heard a sound that was a million miles away from fakery and a step away from your heart.

Just like it always did, this sound puts the swagger back into your step, the rush into your blood, but somehow, and I don't know how, they had become deeper, wider, soulful, better at their craft, inspired by so many things like a world that is tilting who knows where and the applause they always knew was theirs but waited so impatiently to receive. Words cut you from all angles, backed up by a monumental sound that rises high, high and high to crash against your rocks and then changes, majestically and magically to soothe the wounds inside.

As you are dragged inside on this trip abandon, you hear a council estate singing its heart out, you hear the clink of loose change that is never enough to buy what you need, boredom and poverty, hours spent with a burnt out guitar, dirty pubs and cracked up pavements, violence and Iove, all rolled into one, and now all this.

At the end you flip over and start again because now you are not isolated. They have gone to work so that you can go home. High above the day turns pink and you feel your feet lift above the ground as new roads open up in front of you. In this town the jury is always rigged but the people know. They always know the truth. Believe. Belief. Beyond. Their morning glory.

P.H. in the summer of '95.
(from the Oasis Official Website)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The un-Usual Suspects

The abduction of master Anant, aged 3 years, coincided with the commencement of my mandatory leave for the year. As a result I was able to follow the event with unusual attention.
When I first heard of it, apart from the usual indignation, I was upset at the state of affairs in UP. I mean these things are so common place there that if not for the fact that the incident involved the son of Adobe's CEO it wouldn't have made news. The sight of the crying father was actually quite disturbing. I mean this guy must be a complete rockstar in office heading the India operations of such a prominent US firm, and he's been brought to his knees by the mis-governance in UP.

Some three hopeless days into the case I heard over lunch that Adobe has moved the US Embassy on the matter. At that point of time, I told my Mom, I think this case is going to be resolved in the next 6 hours.

Sure enough by dinner the dude was back at home, sipping from a large bottle of Coke, having been left back in an auto rickshaw to celebrate his Happy Budday!!! All's well for Mr. CEO who now says no ransom was paid. Mama, Papa and Didi crowd around the little boy, have their photos taken, all smiles. At a hastily called press conference the police narrates the events which led to the recovery of the child- a story which has such gaping holes and contradictions, that it will put a third rate pick pocket from a BEST bus to shame (for instance it is not clear whether the ransom was not paid, or was the Rs. 50lakhs paid returned). I shall not bore people with the details fabricated by the police. But I definately have some questions.

How come nothing happened for 3 days, and then finally everything fell in place within 3 hours of the complaint from the US embassy?

How come the people arrested in the crime have no past record? I am sure it is easier to solve crimes in such record times when they are committed by the "usual suspects". And I am even more sure that in the state of Uttar Pradesh there are many such usual suspects.

I feel that whoever was responsible for the abduction has not been nabbed. And that the child was recovered in such record time implies some frantic calls between the PMO, the Foreign Office and the Home Ministry. Of course, given the context of current fibre of US-India diplomacy, the interests of Uncle Sam have to be taken cognizance of. But I am not complaining. For once a word from the Big Brotha has ensured that something good gotten done.

So does that mean that the police, if pressurized can always produce such amazing results? But then why don't they do it everytime? Did the police know all along where the child was? And if yes, then why does it let such crimes continue? The answers will not be provided in this post, but I guess they are failry obvious.

I feel more than anything else this is an expose on the corruption in the police forces. If the recovery was an outcome of genuine crime solving, then the stories being floated from official quarters would have at least tied in, sounded gullible. Someone came under pressure, was told to make the problem go away, did so, but then forgot to cover their tracks. Whoever saw the press conference on TV would agree to that.

Recently, a distant relative was kidnapped in a certain eastern state. His brother's friend, a prominent crime journalist decided to take up the cudgels and began pursuing the case. Within hours of it being known that investigations were being done by this particular journalist, the relative surfaced. No money changed hands, no threats. Nothing. Isn't it amazing that when almost every other case ends in the ransom being paid, or in death, these cases had such speedy resolutions.

Someone, not me, has to ask these questions to the powers that be. But then, who's listening. Till then "Always Coca- Cola: Long Live Uncle Sam".

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hirasat Mein

Its that time of the year when I am supposed to hang up for the year and go away for a couple of weeks.So here I am - as a consequence of poor planning, sitting at home in Delhi doing nothing, at least for the time being.

I think for a while the Orkut wave had passed me by. So now that I have unlimited time, I decided to try my hands at it. It is a good way to kill time. Most people who Orkut say its a great way to meet up old friends. Hardly any of my old friends seem to be on Orkut. I guess the Orkut wave missed us all. But there are interesting things to do on it, especially in my current situation. For instance, joined a debate on the best Woody Allen film, or whether there'll be a sequel to Before Sunset.

I am doing sundry things. Catchng up on sleep, friends, good food. When I am not on the comp, I sleep. When I am sleeping I can hardly wake up- mostly because of the lack of nicotine in my bloodstream. And when my parents are firing away their 20 questions on marriage, I play Brickbreaker on my Blackberry.

Today I am meeting an ex-girlfriend. Tomorrow another one. Both are married. Both called me. I wanted to meet both of them together, but they wouldn't agree. The only other girl I used to date in Delhi is Still single. She hasn't called me. Hasn't even returned my calls. One of the disadvantages of having a fecund imagination is that one tends to draw conclusions, patterns. I am tempted to exercise that now.

IK has given me the responsibility of planning our hard core trip to Thailand. I did pack the LP but haven't really gotten down to reading it. IK is going to be cross when I get back to Bombay, but what the heck.
Anyway running late for my "DATE". Haha...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Root of the Problem

The problem does not lie with the man who runs over a family of twenty on Carter Road after a few drinks in the wee hours of the morning. The problem is not with the people who keep such places open late. And the problem definately is not with those who go to such places. What will follow is that the moral police will be out for blood, bars will be forced shut even earlier, places like Marine Drive, Band Stand and Carter Road vacated by sundown, unnecessary harassment of people out in the streets at night so on and so forth.

By calling this a cultural problem, the System is merely skirting the real issue. Shutting bars down early is not a solution. At present most places in Bombay shut by 1-1.30AM and that is so ridiculuous. On any average day, most Mumbaikars reach their houses only by 9-9.30PM. And then to shut everything by 1.30AM, even on a weekend, severely restricts the city's lifestyle.

I recently went for a walk at night on the city one of the most posh promenades. Not just were there people sleeping all over the pavement, they even spilled a good 3-4 feet onto the street. Now whoever's driven, especially at night will agree that it is not easy to watch out for such obstacles, and then cars do run out of control. To transform it into a debate on morals is in itself wrong. The people sleeping on roads and pavements have no business being there. The real villain is the government which does little as it watches the situation worsen year after year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What is the bloody point...

Sunday evening it rained. After the hot, sultry excesses of October complicated by consumption of unusual amounts of alcohol on Friday night, the sudden clouding of the skies and the outburst that followed was more than welcome.

Then the evening out with D, that long conversation- at CCD, Boat, Bandstand (night time high tide is awesome, I concluded) and then home- deep into the night. She spoke and I pleaded guilty as charged.

I guess my life closely resembles a bad case of the random walk theory. Wake up each morning, get to office, work, work, work. Evenings out, mostly alone, mostly very late, and no dinner afterwards, otherwise with inconsequential company, the rare date with D, while dealing with baseless speculations of my active social (or dating scene) life. Ahh!!!

There is absolutely no plan, no plot, not even a little desire to set things up in my life. While most people I once thought I knew go about finding nice houses to life in, drive around in fancy cars, get married, I continue ageing, rotting, turning alcoholic, wasting away arguably the best years of my life- just a constant unending drift.

As someone I particularly dislike told me recently- there is no particular reason why anyone would want to hang out with me. All that I have on offer is the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol, an irrational social budget, boring unlimited funda on music, and then when I’m high, on most other things. So, why?

According to D, all this stems from the huge sense of comfort that I seem to be in with most things in life. Most things in my life essentially means work- and the thoughts of it which occupy my mind for most waking hours. I think spending over five years with the same employer does that to you. There is a huge sense of comfort, that misconception that you are the BSD on the trading floor, that comfort which comes from doing the same things, with the same people, the absolute familiarity with the circumstances, and all that.

In the conversation that followed, she stated my repeated dissatisfaction with various things- the smelly cabs of Bombay, the peeling walls of my house, the random stresses at work, the lousy food that passes for dinner- when I end up having it, the thick veil of seclusion which covers almost everything I do and finally, the fact that I still talk to and about someone I dated long ago and who now stays in the western hemisphere, and is planning babies. Everything that I can help resolve if I engage myself, and the fact that I haven’t done anything about in the last many months.

I began wondering, when was the last time I did something new in my life, when was the first time I met someone new outside of work, and who remotely interested me. Can’t even remember, however hard I try.

And she asked- why? Why is it so difficult to uproot myself, to shift bases, start life afresh. And if things are so doomed, why not get married? Why not, T.O.? Why not?

Actually, the good part of all this is realizing that even though I remain oblivious to these issues, someone is doing the thinking. But then it doesn’t matter since all that needs to be done has to be done by me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Low Today

I am feeling strangely low today.

Someone I used to date (and was particularly fond of) called to say that she’s getting engaged.

I know I’m being extremely silly, but well, that’s how it is.

And I wonder- that this is how it always goes: the cycle of getting in, getting out and then getting out for good. And somehow at times like this, I am always low- sometimes a bit, and on other times a bit more.

But then today is one of those days. Suddenly, post the conversation I lost my appetite, skipped lunch, and then by 4P.M, I suddenly realized that how silly I was being, and how hungry I was. And then ate too much and that made me feel very sick.

But then I am happy for the person who once was very good to me, and made me feel special and all that, for however long it lasted. Unfortunately, I am not the large hearted, benevolent type, which puts the goodness of the world beyond their personal petty issues of the heart, however irrational.

So I guess it is time to brood. And because this has happened after a long time (I am nearing 30- most women I used to date are planning babies) I have decided to go the whole hog. BossMan who is currently overseas has been Blackberry-ed a day’s leave request. Colleagues warned that I won’t be around to share the blame tomorrow, and so on.

And yes, if you’re the kind which likes dark posts- watch this space.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Barely Alive

Saturdays in office can hardly be nice- I mean its not even debatable. However, if one is woken up from alcohol induced sleep and forced to work, it ceases to be even pleasant.

Anyway, that’s what happened to me this Saturday. Somehow dragged myself in, and feeling extremely sick from the consumption of extraordinary amounts of alcohol the night before. The dull throbbing vein on the side of my temple, the acrid taste in the mouth, the irregular heartbeat, the faint but noticeable shiver of my fingers. Half and hour into the ordeal, it occurred to me that this might just be it- that last night I had hit what was the alcohol limit for my BMI. And that now I was about to die.

That thought led to a few others. Whether it would better to die at home or at work? Surrounded by people, drawing attention, or quietly at home? Probably it was not such a respectable way to perish- by alcohol poisoning (what would my parents say- is it more palatable than death from a disease acquired by sexual profligacy?) Moreover, there was a possibility that I wouldn’t die after all if I were to pass out at work. There would be ambulances, doctors and then hospital ceilings. So the question really was whether I wanted to die after all.

I thought for about two minutes. Stood up- saw that most people around me had phones stuck to their ears. Walked up to BossMan, waited for him to finish his conversation. When that seemed distant, I simply tapped his window pane, ran my index finger across my throat waited for his nod, and left.
Die young while I still can.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musings

A warning- Most people might find this post a trifle boring.

First things first- I am feeling really proud about the fact that if the Tata deal goes through, technically, FDI from Indian exceeds that into. Of course from a financial markets perspective it might not be all that good, but one will have to wait and see. Of course, in the meantime media- print and otherwise will continue deflate your ego by running stories of how people affected by starvation in UP got cheques of Rs. 20, but then in our countries there is no dearth of such happenings- so one must find their little joys as and when they can.

One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is the state of the Indian economy. I mean, among other things I am paid to have a view on such things. At this point, let me first state that whatever follows are my personal views and not that of the organization that I represent *** feels really important, pushes his tie-knot higher, chokes***

Later this month the central bank sits down to review the monetary policy. It is something that every one around me is talking about. People are wondering if the central bank will raise rates. In my mind given the current state of affairs in the economy it is not really so important. First, when the economy is as overheated as India it is unlikely that any hike in interest rates will anyway have any effect on controlling inflation, much less GDP growth. I mean with everyone thinking of a hugely steep forward earning curve, it does not seem likely that anyone is going to think about deferring consumption. For instance, some really young people will take twenty-year loans to buy houses, thinking that they’ll repay it in the next 5 years or less, so they think that they are much less affected by a hike in interest rates. There are two reasons for that. In a country like ours one can either invest in assets or invest in a lifestyle (which is just a fancy way of referring to consumption). When consumer sentiment is thus, cash is really the most negative carry asset around. Leverage is the king. If people were to invest, they will look at asset classes that are potentially likely to grow in tandem with the real economy- read property, equities etc. Secondly, creation of assets like these often leads people to think that when the value of these assets appreciate astronomically, it is likely that further leverage is possible against the same. It is a vicious cycle, but then everyone just keeps consuming hoping that the guy next door is wiser. Actually, I don’t think anyone bothers at all.

What I was wondering is what does a central bank- whose essential means of managing the economy is monetary policy, do when faced with a situation like this. I mean tweaking interest rates is what a central bank can do best. Or so I thought. It seems my shortsightedness stems from the fact that I have not really seen enough economic cycles to list down the possibilities. A similar situation prevailed in India in the early nineties when we witnessed a similar boom in both equities and real estate. This was primarily fuelled by the emergence of the IT sector- an event unprecedented in the history of the country. No one really cared what money cost as long as they had it, and as long as they could buy that one scrip that every one had been talking about or that one apartment block which had swimming pools on every floor. These are times when the central bank looks up and sees the writing on the wall and it reads inflation. And monetarists don’t like inflation- especially this kind of inflation which comes with unbridled economic expansion.

Hiking rates at a time like this doesn’t really help. While it does little to contain private spending it does definitely make the cost of state borrowing higher, leading among other things, in a developing economy as ours, to a slowing down in creation of social infrastructure, as well as increasing the burden of welfare policies- thereby promoting the inequitable distribution of wealth. The solution is not to make money expensive, but rare. So, most central banks approach such a problem by containing liquidity. Now it is a fact that nothing much moves without money- so if equities are hot and speculative- assign a risk weight of 200% on bank lending to brokers, if housing is a bubble do the same to home loans- get the picture? Worse- intervene, buy the local currency from the market, flood the market with bonds. Nothing bothers banks more than two things- tight liquidity and low capital adequacy. Banks essentially rely on overnight funding for a lot of things and when those rates reach double digits, or their capital adequacy is in single digits panic sets in. they simply stop lending, for no price or love of money. And then everything comes to a standstill – trust me to the dyed in the wool central banker a tumble in stock markets or property prices is not always the biggest worry.

But this time things are definitely different. The economic growth is much more real, definitely more fundamental, more brick and mortar. This must be a big source of comfort to any policy maker. Industrial growth is hot, but I really don’t think credit growth is in line with it- it is a lot more benign. So while it might not be necessary to take all the drastic measures mentioned above – some of them have already been taken, it might just be the right time to hand over the baton of economic policy to the fiscal guys. Needless to say fiscal reforms are a much more structural means of economic development and policymaking. Greater transparency in the spending of the government, tighter tax nets and reining in of the “black” economy will do just as well, and go much further in an economy such as ours. More than that, while the private sector increasingly assumes self-sufficiency, it will be more important to bring about a quantum change in the magnitude and quality of spending in the social sector. And it will go a long way in ensuring that people don’t starve to death and those who survive starvation are not handed twenty buck cheques to feed a family of fourteen. Of course if all goes well, there might not be any family of fourteen in the times to come. Amen!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tag Again

Been tagged by D&C, and hopefully this will shake off the terrible infliction of writer’s block (if I dare call myself one). Work’s been too hectic- what with the entire paranoia of the year nearing the end, and closure being the buzz word- BossMan walking up and down the trading floor yelling at everyone around at the same time, shouting mostly the one word- “Close, Close!!!”

But tonight’s Saturday. Things are different. Meeting Anuja later in the evening and looking forward to it. And then BossMan is away for the coming week, attending an all important conference in a far away land- so that means I can do as I wish.


So D&C, eight things about me? Well you asked for it. I mean that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for over a year and a half on this blog, but now I can blame my narcissism on you, and with documentary evidence.

#1. I’ve wanted to be on a ship for a long time. Do random things, soak the sun on the deck with a beer by my side, get off at one port, and return once I’ve had my fill of a place, and wait for the next ship and write while I am on it in between. I have wanted to be a travel writer for too long. I mean, my attempts at fiction have failed miserably thus far. Travel writing is different. There are no heroes to create, no villains to kill, no marriages to concoct, or heartbreaks conjure. No great love, no mystery. Just the things which suffuse your mind through the five senses and sometimes the sixth. An easy and enormously entertaining activity. It obviously is an entirely different thing that I can’t ever get down reading anything that isn’t fiction, but then that’s different.
#2. I am often (wrongly) called a miser, but actually it’s a combination of laziness and procrastination. I mean, about a year back I decided to (and even blogged about) buy a house, upgrade to a car that would probably incentivise driving, buy myself that Harmon Kardon amp- but a year down the line nothing’s changed. Its not a nice thing, but it isn’t too bad either. IK (who incidentally is on a upgrade drive of late) after drawing up my personal balance sheet with remarkable accuracy pointed, prophesied I’ll never get hooked, because irrespective of the money in the bank, I’ll never add value to another person’s life just by being around. This accusation of not loosening my purse strings is most often flung at me by D, but I guess I have called for it. Of course she accuses me of many other things, but those later.
#3. People bore me. Probably it works both ways, and probably it’s a wrong thing for a sales guy to say, but then since this post is about me people can go fuck themselves. Most people insist they are uncomplicated, simple, nice and easy to get along with, and this turns me off in about twenty seconds flat. Simplicity is criminal- it is a denial of everything that’s beautiful. If you’re around me its gotta gotta sting- otherwise its not going anywhere.
#4. I’m a workaholic- and this is another of D’s accusations which I deny all the time. But its true. Nothing obsesses me as much work, and nothing drives me than the feeling of being driven. Sometimes even I am amazed with how much I love my job and everything that goes with it. The sheer thrill of moving markets, the pressure to closure, the rush of adrenaline, the magnitude of the moment, the here and now of things – it is just so addictive. So much so that I can’t even remember the last time I felt lousy about waking up at 6 in the morning and heading to work.
#5. I hate, and I don’t use that word often, hate people who use the word “Dude” to address me- and twang the “U”, if you know what I mean. It just sends the blood to a vein I didn’t know existed in my head, and I just downgrade that person to the list of people I wouldn’t meet if I had a choice. Dude- what the fuck- sounds so fucking borrowed. Go take it elsewhere pal- don’t try your just learnt to speaky English twang on me. And I really don't appreciate people who send me forwards. Never read a single one of them. Never. Staright to the Trash Can.

#6. I need to get married. After spending two consecutive weekends with female batch mates who extolled me on the virtues of long-term companionship and on how even my biological clock is ticking, its just looming large on my mind. I mean I am growing old- turn 30 next month. I can’t drink as much anymore- and that is a great reminder of age, and neither as frequently. But the entire stress of finding someone I’d remotely consider spending the rest of my life with seems so daunting. I have met people I like, but I realize that’s a finite set, and that there’s this entire universe of people like me for them to choose from. And I have a short attention span- really short, and that doesn’t go too well with such people. Incidentally, according to D, I won’t manage to marry ever.

#7. I hate driving. Simply hate. I like the feel of the wheel; the mechanics of the automobile- can spend an entire day fooling around with my car, and doing things. But somehow the thought of weaving through traffic, watching out for people and cars around me just scares me enormously. Its hard to explain- probably an outcome of my now famous attention span, but that’s it. It obviously has its inconveniences- women don’t like getting dressed up and being bundled into a smelly cab, neither do I, but the prospect of driving, of not being able down drinks, of abandoning caution is just too much.

#8. The last one already- umm, that’s a tough choice to be made. I am one hell of a narcissist. Though I make it a point not to bring it up in conversations, it somehow sneaks out. People sense it. They realize that I hold hardly anyone in awe, and in fact probably have a very low opinion of everyone else and that they the rare few I appreciate are genuinely stars in their own right- I mean I do posses a great sense of judgment in deciphering the good in people, but am not quite as discerning as I rank their shortcomings in my mind.
That's it- if I still have you.
I for myself tag Anu, Shuchika and Shikha
PS: What to do- bad mood!!! Been like this for sometime now.

Limousine Eyelash -2

“Repeat?” asked the waiter, shaking me out of the trance-like state which for a moment had gripped me. I nodded. It seemed like it would take a few stiff ones to digest this one. I then called him back to order a pack of cigarettes- the urge to smoke was almost undeniable at times like this. And I hoped Tua would take her own sweet time.

It all began many, many years ago- an innocent click on a social networking site, a consequence of the amusement of finding someone who worked in the same monolithic, stiff upper lipped organization. A voyeuristic peep into someone else’s life, someone who probably between the uninspiring hours of Nine to Five wore the same mask as I did and probably even sat a few floors below in the same building. An outcome of boredom on a languid dull Thursday after a long week in front of a merciless workstation.

Who would’ve thought that you’d figure out that I’d been sneaking around, and come and looking, who would’ve predicted what followed. It was the textbook cyber-romance of the 21st century. For months afterwards I threatened to write about it, only to give up when you threatened back to disappear forever.

And so a year passed and then a few months. Marriage did cross my mind, as it did yours- sometimes vocally, though never at the same time. For us it was mostly “I’m in the mood but you’re not” kind of togetherness and that characterized almost everything about our relationship- our insecurities, our passion, our sex, the fights- oh, almost everything. It was about this togetherness, which was neither nice nor cosy, but just that- a little stitch every now in then on the sides, just to remind us why we were in the relationship.

Finally, one day I came back from that Paris trip to find your cupboards empty. I waited and waited and tried calling you again and again- first the dull ring of your unanswered hand phone, and later presumably after the battery like hope ran out, replaced by the soothing but ineffective voice telling me, almost prophetically, that the number I was trying to reach was unavailable. You had simply disappeared. All attempts to trace you failed. You had stopped turning up at work, emptied your bank accounts, paid the sundry bills and left. Even your parents had no clue, or chose not to disclose. Finally that call to Cynthia- who first feigned ignorance and then said- If I were you, I wouldn’t want to know.

Those were difficult days initially. First the phase of not being able to believe what was going on- of course there was that initial fear of some harm having befallen you, some mortal danger, but that passed soon. No newspaper reports- for weeks I actually developed a more than casual interested in those columns in cheap eveningers- suburban housewife strangles four daughters and kills herself; elderly couple hacked to death in posh condo etc., and then that absence of morbidity that always prevails even if you’re subconsciously aware of harm to a loved one. No, that was not the case. What followed were those days of hard work, of finding solace in front of a screen full of unforgiving cold numbers, in graphs, of pie charts, of presentations, of the clink of a deal closed, the finality of money in the bank. Of evenings spent in many bars, mostly this one, mostly alone, drinking away arguably the best years of my life. And then the worst- the nights of drunken loveless sex with near strangers, which led me to wonder- which was worse- sex for money or that without love?

And then it happened. I came back home from one evening, two months away from my Thirtieth birthday, uncharacteristically sober. I had met my numbers at work for the year earlier that day, and even though it had happened year after year, I just couldn’t get over the elation of it. I just felt like treating myself, but it took like three phone calls to figure out that the worst realization of loneliness is not when there is no one to share your grief. It is when you realize that there isn’t a single person you know who can forget their own mid-week exhaustion to join you in the celebration of your little successes. Grief is mostly a concoction of our own dark imagination. Happiness is a more genuine emotion, and hence more memorable occasion to share.

After that action was swift. A week later I bumped into Priya at a meeting. Soon we were dating, and this time the decision to marry was swift and easy. There are things in life that you want, and there are things that you can get- and somewhere in between there’s this thing called happiness. I was married before my 30th birthday. I remember how we would get drunk almost every other night, just to drop the inhibitions. And finally, now, a few years later I feel like I am running a nursery with a woman I once used to date. Easy.

But then there are so many questions that I still want to ask you. Questions that I have asked myself again and again. Do you still wear your nose-ring on the wrong side? Do you wear it at all? Do you still have my letters from the passage of various Eurail trains – all tied up in that red string? Where do you live now? Do you still lose the house keays with that alarming frequency? Do you still sit on the staircase, waiting for whosoever you share the house with to return, sometimes sobbing, because you want to use the washroom? Do you walk around barefoot at home and at work? Do you even now holler at the maid, and at work the Janitor for not keeping the floors clean enough? Are you still edgy about the way your shoulders stand out against your frame? Do you still get sent back by hairdressers, refusing to snip your lovely tresses? Does your nose still crinkle and turn red when it snows? Do you still launch into action on a hung-over Sunday morning and make life miserable for those around you- and where do you manage to draw up that energy at that unearthly hour? Do you still smell of nicotine and mint when you wake up? Do you still scribble numbers everywhere and keep looking for them later? Do you still doodle at work- finishing your notebooks from the last page to front before work can fill otherwise? Do you still etch names on glass and every else? Do you still…?

And that night remains etched in my mind. The first night you spent at my house. When after a brief discourse on morals and the like, you asked me to go down and check if you’d locked the car door properly. I walked, grudgingly, not knowing where this would lead to. Then you parked yourself on my side of the bed, put your knees up, blocking my view to the TV, scolding me for not polishing my plate clean at dinner (“You don’t eat too well, do you?”). You even took away my favourite soft quilt (and wouldn’t share it with me in spite of insisting on a full blast AC), and the bolster, and most of the pillows. And repeatedly threatened to leave till I fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, I felt two hands pulling my shirt, dragging me under the soft quilt. Perhaps you saw me shiver slightly and curl in a little more than usual. Perhaps…


Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder- and I looked up. And I heard a once familiar voice say- “Can I join you?”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Limousine Eyelash

One of the many great things about catching up with Tua is that one never needs to feel apologetic about being late. The odds are always against her being on time, and hell in the seven-sigma event that she did turn up at the appointed hour and crib, with over five years’ acquaintance and evidence, it is an argument I can easily win.

The weather was a classic City fall. Confused sunbeams from behind the orange-rimmed cumulus, at war with the long shadows, sometimes bounced off the glass of the skyscrapers, whose steel scaffold the business district skyline. A crisp, tad nippy breeze, ruffling empty paper bags. The crunch of the autumn debris - leaves and twigs, under the hurried feet of weary homebound suburban human traffic.

Stepping into the Bar and the cursory glance over the heads- I was not surprised to find that she hadn’t yet turned up yet. I took my place at the table I had reserved earlier in the day. From past experience, I knew that the wait could last anywhere between right away to an hour or so. So I ordered my poison and set myself down for an indefinite wait.

To be absolutely honest, I cannot really blame her for being late today. Earlier in the afternoon, I happened to leave behind my hand-phone in a cab, and hence she would always have that exit. Well…

As I sipped in the amber liquid, and sank in my chair I began to contemplate on the day gone by. It had begun on a terrible note- I was about an hour late into office, having dropped Priya and the kids at their mother’s the previous night. Though I had intended to head back immediately her family had insisted on dinner, and then some more. It was amazing how these people could go on forever. By the time I settled into my desk, my day’s unread message count had reached 67.

Actually, I am pretty ok with drinking alone as long I don’t have to stand. As a bachelor, living away from parents for over a decade- most of it with only “settled” friends, I have had ample experience at it. I proceeded to survey the occupants of the restaurant, subjecting them to the vacuous introspection of the habitual drunk. The blonde at the bar, the redhead further down the hall, the brunette who just walked in - another day another time they would’ve been of some interest. But today, and possibly for the rest of my life, they belonged to a section of the menu that my diet did not permit. Sigh!

The thought of the menu reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since morning, which was also why I probably felt a little heady just into my first drink. As a regular at this place many years ago, while the waiters would keep an eye and ensure that my glass was never empty, ordering anything non-standard took forever. Things hadn’t changed much over the years- I craned my neck to search for the once familiar orange and black shirts that the waiters here wore.

For a minute, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There had to be some mistake. After all these years nothing seemed to have changed. Nothing. The same backward tilt of the head which went so well with the hearty laugh, the same glint in the eyes, I could almost sense the lilt in the voice as well- and I thought, well, I must be pushing my luck now. But it had to be her. For across the bar, the first time in over seven years, I caught a glimpse of Tanya.
(To be continued...)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Daydream Delusion

Two questions I asked myself this Sunday afternoon.

1. Am I looking for a relationship?

The answer is maybe. Who isn’t? But I am the difficult sort that wants to be loved but not give anything back in return. I’ve been in and out so many times that, I just can’t escape this truth. Relationships are great, but in my case they just don’t last. And I hate breaking up, because I like my comfort zones a bit too much. Getting in is difficult, getting out is painful. And then when it happens, i.e. when somebody is breaking up with me, I remember the last time I broke up with someone, and how little I thought about her. I want to think that both of us are going through all this pain and everything, but hey its actually more like- I’m just glad its over.

The bigger problem is that every once in a while that all-important connection happens, and then I think I should make that attempt. I read somewhere that if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. That if there is some kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. And for people who suffer a delusion of this degree, it is almost impossible to succeed.

2. Will I get married anytime soon?

I see married people all around me, all the time. Sometimes I too want to be a good husband, share spaces and it feels really strong at times. But then at most other times the whole idea just feels really silly and that it would screw up my life entirely.

Someone who I recently met after a long time told me how in the early days of her arranged marriage they’d drink almost every other night so that the act of sex didn’t have to be rationalized. So that lust takes over, and after that it’s the libido. How they’d keep condoms all over the house, because the only planning they ever did in having sex was downing a few stiff ones. I know exactly how that feels. And I don’t want to feel that way ever.

Of course there is this bigger problem as well, because when I get married, there’s got to be love. And considering what I wrote in 1 above it is unlikely that it is happening anytime soon. I get extremely bored with nice simple uncomplicated caring people. Like in one date flat. There’s got be complication, which needs to be sorted out, or lived with- things that poke into my ambient self every once in a while, to remind me that I’m with this person because she’s special.

Parting Shot

I have this little theory about class. People either have it, or they don’t. Those who do, think very little of it. Those who don’t, attempt to acquire it by association. D is one of the more classy people I know, but she’s the unsocial sort and as a consequence always rubs people the wrong way because they just want to associate with her- everyone, people at work and otherwise, and she keeps pushing them away. And she often asks why it happens like that? And I tell her this is why. (As a corollary, I’m reasonably fond of D and hang out with her often. Does that make me a “not have”?)

P.S. Don’t ask what led to all this. Oh well, this was what happened anyway… Bumped into her at JATC this afternoon. She was wearing pink and looked stunning and was with a pretty faced guy- nattily dressed and everything. And I thought of what I probably looked like- skinny in my shorts and T-shirt, with my weekend stubble, hair all over the place. Eyes red and my skin sallow from last night’s alcohol. And it struck me in there that women like their men well hung, not hung over. After that the choice must’ve been obvious.

P.P.S. This thing about marriage is getting on my nerves. I guess there is no escaping it now- that I turn Thirty this year. The problem is that on a Sunday I can’t even say I’m busy. In terms of turnaround times, my parents are more demanding than my employer- and at work at least I am genuinely interested. Every time my parents call there’s little else to talk about, and that is so terrible.

Oh, and there was a Third one too, but forget it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

“Haven’t we Met in Odessa?”

It probably began when, as a kid, I was reading the adventures of Jim Hawkins aboard the Hispaniola or of Fletcher on the Bounty, Edmund Dantes before he became the Count of Monte Cristo. Or perhaps even Ishmael fighting the God within, and the whale called Moby Dick. With each account, I was progressively smitten by the sea. As a kid it was probably just the sense of adventure, of time to be spent away from the prying eyes of parents, of sneaking out of bed at night, to explore, to hear the clink of gold coins in my pockets, to get lost and find myself.

Later, in my hormonal teens, I heard somewhere that a good way to see the world was as a passenger on a freighter. Pay for passage, and work to earn your meals. Going from one port to another- Rio De Janeiro, New York, Tangiers, Genoa, Naples, Rijeka, Port Said, Port Sudan, Aden, Karachi, Yokohoma, Frisco, Penang, Singapore, Djakarta and Hong Kong… hopping off one ship and waiting for another after I’ve had my fill of the port. Would love to use the line- “Haven’t we met in Odessa?” at some point of time, but for now “Didn’t we meet at Paris?” is probably the best I can manage.

There is something about the sea that plays games with me. At times making me run wild, and at times just ponderous. Thoughts racing or just sinking deep within. Arrows leading to nowhere, or perhaps, the deepest of revelations. No experience in this world comes close to be lying face up on the deck of a ship, late at night, with a clear sky above and infinity all around.
And of course nothing can match the seas in its fury either.

But I guess I have made a start. Or am about to. In about twenty days, I join sailing classes in Bombay and set sail from the Gateway. The monsoon is over, and the time I am told, is right. It is an ideal pastime for drifter like me.

In Mark Twain’s words, twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

Seaward Ho!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tag Attack!

I have been tagged by Anu. So here goes:


I am thinking about...

Joining that sailing class, buying new shoes, now that the rains are almost over.

I said...

"I am going to be so late!"

I want to...

Say something mean. But then she's bigger than me, and holds a black belt in karate.

I wish...

I didn't have to work everyday

I hear...

Into other peoples' conversations, and file away religiously

I wonder...

If I'll ever take to driving

I regret...

Nothing for too long, or for that matter, too seriously

I am...

Like a river. I think. Sometimes meandering, mostly bubbly

I dance...

Best when alone

I sing...

Loudly, very loudly. Especially when drunk.

I cry...

Never really.

I am not always...

Easy to be around.

I make with my hand...

Doodles of swastikas, stars, cubes, cones, arrows to nowhere, and other assorted shapes

I write...

Mostly at work, between spreadsheets and presentations.

I confuse...

People for a living.

I need...

A swank hair-do (considering I won't have any left in a year or two)

I tag...

D&C, Shuchika

Friday, August 25, 2006

An Ordinary Rant

A few days back, on a rare occasion, I happened to be watching news on TV.

On a certain channel they carried a story, which made me believe that fact was really rarer than fiction. Six members of a family in Rajasthan were stranded in the middle of a flood-swollen river, when their car got washed off a bridge. In the five hours, which followed, hundreds of people hearing their desperate pleas trooped to the banks of the river. This included a state minister who apparently arrived with much fanfare.

However, while the entire episode was captured on cameras- including the poignant moans, as they held on to each other for dear life, nothing could be done to save them. Not one chopper was in sight, not a single Navy diver. Nothing. Just the six of them, and hundreds of people on the banks. And time, ticking away. One by one, tired by a desperate fight for life, they let go, and were washed away by the merciless waters.

It makes me wonder how little we value human-life in our country. I mean for all the technological advances, and the 8 per cent economic growth, our people still live like cattle- sometimes getting washed away in rains, or are packed into trains like livestock, twice daily. What a living.

And I wonder, what must be going on through the minds of the men when they find themselves in a situation like this. For a while, a fresh hope with each development on the banks of the river, each arrival. And then after a while, hope evaporates, and is probably replaced by a panorama of your life, a bitterness for what you did to deserve this agony; the people who you have helped in your life, and why they couldn’t be here today. The great harvest this season, the baby on the way, savings for junior’s college education, the new roof. Five fucking long hours, to think about such shit that doesn’t matter anymore. And finally, flashes of your loved ones at home, and how this will change their lives forever, and then the final prayer, and the decision to let go.

I think today’s news channels are the single biggest contributors to a social befuddlement and a mass erosion of the national IQ. Take the media’s handling of KANK. I haven’t seen the movie, but am told by even those who douse themselves daily in the sentimental lather of the variety dished by Karan Johar, swear that they are not going back for more. I don’t intend to see the movie, but I am told that it is a soapy handling of a mature subject. Kjo, it seems, has broken paradigms of Indian cinema and thrust the ugly face of human infidelity upon the ordinary moviegoer. Thus, in the eyes of the media persons, he is a champion, a path breaker- someone who has taken the road less traveled, risking social ostracism. Well, then what about Silsila, and those many other movies? How about Arth? Apparently, they were not mainstream enough.

My problem is this. Someone makes a bold but crappy movie. It will recover costs, but definitely never be a box office hit. Unfortunately, the director is not used to such treatment at the hands of the average Indian audience. So he takes to the streets, or worse, the TV screen. And the media just panders to it. On a certain show on NDTV, where 80 per cent of the talk time is hogged by Shah Rukh and Kjo, who incidentally have hogged practically 100 per cent of the screen time in a 3 hour 45 min, are found explaining their stance on the subject- and how the movie does justice to it. Great! I have no problems on who spends their money how- even if it is to buy airtime, but it makes me sad to see the media pander to mediocrity.

In my humble opinion, even though it is a serious issue, there is nothing new to infidelity in any society. People by nature are polygamous, and by conditioning monogamous. I have never been married, but feel that everyone feels a stirring, down under or up there, every once in a while. But then society and individuals who make it up, have been dealing with it since mankind made the transition from trees to caves. Sometimes the stirring wins, sometimes the inertia. But we have dealt with it. Debating the merits of something so basic to humans, though makes for interesting conversation, is unlikely to serve any purpose. So of course there is nothing ground-breaking about this movie.

Of course, I am the wrong person for such a debate- I have a congenital commitment problem anyway.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time watching Manhattan. The audio was a bit screwed, till about I figured what was wrong with the configuration. Beautiful shots of New York- the city of a million dreams, and a few passions. In monochrome. Just wonderful. Woody Allen’s impeccable portrayal of the complexity of human relationships, how we come together and how we tear apart. And what we do with all the despondency that goes with it. And at the end of it all the single, looming question- Why?

I do so want to watch Factotum, but can’t just get my hands on the DVD!!! Any leads?

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Thought Last Night... Over Alcohol and Onion Rings

If you can't make an exception, it probably wasn't worth in the first place...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ah... Love!!!

“Love is Lucy always lifting the football at the last second so that Charlie Brown falls on his ass.”
-Jennifer Weiner

For a change I had a delightful ride back home this afternoon. For one the traffic was bearable. And then it was one of those times when the rain kept playing catch-up with me. Sometimes went past the car, spraying my lenses with blobs of water, sometimes tugging my sleeve, asking me to slow down and savor the moment. And the breeze, when the rain was behind, and I could roll down the window, was this wicked thing, wafting in and out and smelt so fresh that for once I didn’t have to worry about acrid, sulphurous burnt fuel residue in my hair.
So love… and I have been thinking about it lately. First an update- after a brief brush with a “relationship”, I am back to my steady state single self. There was that instant and unexplainable attraction, those butterflies, without which it is never worth the effort. In retrospect, I realize that we took the completely wrong path i.e. Connection, Chemistry, a debatable Relationship, Mistimed Expectations, Bitterness, finally Disaster. And now the worst - misplaced nostalgia. A month and half of frenetic activity, followed by God only knows how many weeks of despondency. At some point she decided to draw the line, so did I, and made the LJBF offer (Let's Just Be Friends - I don't quite like the thought, primarily because friends don't put themselves in such boxes, and personally, I'd never do something unless she was entirely comfortable with it, but when you're nearing thirty, it is not very advisable to burn bridges with people you get along with easily), and she seems ok with it. Suddenly, everything seems strangely somber, the alcohol less heady, the smokerings less dense, the music a little less foot tapping, the rain a little less romantic. Well… but whatever it was and however short, it was good!!!
Everyone my age has been in love at least once. Reciprocated or otherwise. However, brief. I guess like death and taxes, a desire to belong, albeit for some, fleeting, is a given. An attribute, which like speech is given only to humankind.
Now historically, in the long run, I have had a problem with relationships. The malaise is actually a commitment problem- I either over commit or under, and at most times, it can be such a pain. But then this post is not about my problems.
The thing about relationships, and this I remember writing some time back, is this- that they are unavoidable. The consequences of the impulse (which might include the option of doing nothing), under the scope of the present discussion are immaterial. I am often reminded of this line in Annie Hall where Woody Allen in a then famous monologue likened relationships to a person going to a shrink and telling that his brother thinks he’s turned into a chicken. When asked by the Doctor why he doesn’t turn the sibling in, he replies simply, because, um, I need the eggs. That’s it. We NEED the eggs.
The interesting thing about life though is what I wrote earlier- that relationships are unavoidable. They’re always lurking around the corner, waiting to happen, to catch you unawares, just when you’re settling down in your own comfort zone. Being in the places I have (for instance, an engineering college), I have seen people pine for a relationship for years and finally bump into their partners many years later, in a Wal-Mart checkout lane in Idaho.
Now comes the tough bit- staying in a relationship. Even in today’s day and age I am surprised to find so many of my friends, relatives, acquaintances stick around in relationships long after the expiry date, long after time has peeled the label off, primarily because they now wear the hat of a husband or a wife. I realize that being in a relationship is not so much about being in love, but about sharing experiences, spaces. It is about a steady state, a sad but undeniable search for someone else.
Personally I feel converting an impulse into a relationship is disastrous. The surest way of straitjacketing a cosmic encounter is to tame it by making a relationship out of it. Why we do it is a different story altogether. Whoever has been in love will vouch for the fact that the first few weeks or so are the most memorable. Who doesn’t remember that first glance, that touch, the bitterness of the first fight, the intensity of the first lovemaking … I could go on. However, they will also tell you that it was also humanly impossible to sustain that kind of intensity for any considerable length of time- the cracks begin to emerge (the shows on TV, which plays to see, I don’t really like reading what he writes), insecurity surfaces, and basically the enormity of the situation looms. And hence the decision to apply a few thumb rules, turn a few knobs and viola, the proposal, the relationship (or perhaps the denial) and here we are, in a few months- possibly man and wife. The problem I feel is this. People attach too much importance to being in a relationship. Being alone in most societies still a mild stigma, which one would rather not deal with. Single women, irrespective of their age, looks and sexual orientation, are hit upon by men at work and elsewhere. And single guys- well, that’s a different post altogether. And once you think you’ve hit upon the first speck of doubt, you just over estimate the searches costs, and convert, no matter what.
And then there is expectation. Since most people I know are by conditioning monogamous, they seek to fulfill all their expectations through the ONE person in their lives. And that is the root of disaster. Since you think your partner must admire Schubert’s second symphony as much as you do, and since she doesn’t and since that new person you met many years later, at the Laundromat does, doesn’t mean that you’ll click with that person on all counts. As you will not with your present partner. Likewise, most suspicions of infidelity have roots in the sense of insecurity, which stems from a notion of not being able to share a certain aspect of your partner’s life, which someone else can. I mean have been dealt with insecurity in an absolutely amazing individual, who felt that since I shared an evening with someone else who appreciates Sukumar Ray’s poems a lot more than she does, I was probably losing interest in her.
The truth is that there is no 100 per cent match (even though I admit having told this lie, sometimes successfully, many times over). If I connect with somebody, it is likely that the person will have traits I will discover eventually that I don’t like as much. If I can continue to remain with that person in the knowledge of both the good and the bad, it is left. However, it is unlikely that I will be able to reconcile myself to that.
Having said that I must also add that I do know a few couples, who seem to have reconciled to all this and more. Who have managed to find happiness which each other, despite the odds. Having spent a number of years around one such lot, I figured that sometimes you just don’t know what caused the attraction. Not even years down the line. If you don’t know what brought you together in the first place, and aren’t extremely bothered about it, there is no question of losing it and suffering the nostalgia by consequence, which goes without – “You’ve lost that loving feeling”. And as long as the place downstairs is still warm, and most other things broadly in place, there is no reason to look for love elsewhere.
Now that’s the pragmatist’s view of love and such things. What follows is mine.
According to me, love is not a feeling. It isn’t a sentiment. Love is a person. And not realizing that is the mistake we often make. We look for reasons to be in love with a certain person, not realizing that the object of our desires is the reason itself. We view a relationship as a means to a certain end and not an end in itself. And so if things don’t go so well, and you end up being out of a relationship, it depresses us to no end.As far as relationships go, I have been in a few, the durations of which range from a few weeks to a few years. I don’t take separation well. When I walk out, I feel lousy. When I am dumped, I hate that as well. But I guess I recover better than most people I know, because somewhere I realize that at the end of it all and irrespective of the consequences, I am a better person, because I know myself a bit better. And because every relationship, every crush, makes you a slightly more evolved person. Indulging in God’s greatest gift to mankind has to be an uplifting experience after all.
Being in a relationship is an experience in itself. Having a certain person in my life tends to open me up in a way that nothing else quite can. It makes me ask questions to myself, and makes me do things, which in a singular state I would find idiotic. That there is a pleasure in idiosyncrasy is a documented fact. That being in love makes you indulge in it more often is a fact too. Love (and remember, I am using the word as a noun for some time now) heightens your senses. We seek highs from various things- work, nature, the rains etc., but as love grows old we often forget that Love itself is a 24x7 high. That a certain person can deliver that to you is an incredible thought. And forgetting that, or not feeling that way in your life, is I guess the greatest loss of them all.
In a certain respect, all relationships are quite similar. I mean a lifetime is all about experiences. It is such a crucible of a series of highs and lows. If you’re lucky, you go through them all. Perhaps it was pain that characterized your life. Perhaps rejection. Even that is a fairly potent experience. And in the endgame, what really matters is what you have experienced rather than what you have achieved, and who you have experienced it with. The one thing that all successful relationships do (and I do not define success by longevity) is to amplify the impact of each experience. The birds chirp louder, the grass is greener, the mornings more beautiful, the night deeper, the wine headier, the music more sprightly, the rain, ah the rain, that promotion at work. Almost everything.
And that is precisely the reason why, after a rough experience, one must never close the door on Love. It might never come knocking again, but keep looking. Each time I break up, I might end up saying never again, and I hear people saying it all the time, but I also realize that the reason why it happens again and again, is because to Love (verb) is to make an exception. That’s the point, when we let someone into our lives, we make the exception. Because every relationship is unique in its gene code. Because every individual touches you in a very different way. A relationship is a set of beautiful individual experiences, which in retrospect you lay out on the mantelpiece of your mind. Yes, as I maintain, no two relationships can ever be compared, cannot ever be replaced. But then I guess that’s only because of the way people are. I think of each one of those rare people in my life, and remember in them such unique and specific little details that move me and that I miss about them. And miss the trust they placed on me. And I always will. And I remember writing this a long time back- you can never replace anyone, because every person is made of such exquisite specific details. And I treasure each little specific detail, each memory, because if not anything else, then at least in the winter of my life, I will take them from the mantelpiece of my mind, and smile, and say to myself- “Yes, I’ve lived it”.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We met and passed, like shadows.

It must go down as one of my shortest lived crushes.
It began with a few clicks, and ended likewise.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Like it French

This a long delayed post about a film I liked. I have this thing for continental European films. This one is French. Title translates in to The Apartment. Actually, I had seen the Hollywood remake - Wicker Park, some time back and had found it interesting and visually impressive, but the ending was far too tame. But the original is really something. Really, really something else. It is an intense romantic thriller. The first hour or so is bizarre, absolutely. So much so that it took me about 6 hours of real time and multiple separate sittings to get through the first hour of screen time (in between brunch at Indigo– which was awesome, but more on that later; trip to a book fair in Juhu, the weekly catharsis at the Mission, dinner with my sister’s friend and then Ashes- again phenomenal).

So this movie has this guy who is this young, upcoming investment banker in Paris, who is on his way to Japan to close this mega deal, and otherwise engaged to be married to the partner’s sister. So everything’s perfect? Think again. The guy is having serious second thoughts about the girl etc. and a chance overhearing of a conversation in the adjacent phone booth in a swank restaurant brings back memories of a girl he once loved two years ago, hours before his flight throws the plot in to a different orbit.

Needless to say, the flight is missed, and the hunt for the woman begins. I shall stop the narrative here, because you will call me a spoiler. The imagery is vibrant, set mostly in a Parisian winter, along the streets of which I have such brief but fond memories of. The entire story is told in a series of tandem flashbacks. The beauty of the French version is the tight leash that the director maintains over the plot and characters, even as he weaves through every possible permutation of intense relationships between five individuals over three different time periods. Man… it is so elegant, and so crafty, and so absolutely gripping. The imagery is so damn powerful that even while this complex maze of relationships is woven along the coordinates of time-space-fantasy, that one would need an IQ of 80 for it not to register. Not once in the last two hours I felt lost or left out. The sheer talent of the director, the script is something one just cannot miss. Colour, music and everything else is used so, so beautifully. The suspense is killing and riveting, the ending is so much more powerful (unlike the Holly version which is just so flat, so predictable after an otherwise decent build-up) and leaves such a powerful etching- I just can’t seem to get it out of my head.

The high point is the characterization. While the leads play their roles really, really well- Monica Bellucci plays the female lead, the other woman who plays a slightly deranged friend is splendid (so is Rose Bryce in the remake, but Diane Kruger in the lead is so ordinary). Her face is so, so real, so expressive that … well, I don’t have words for it. Anyway, I think Monica Bellucci is brilliant. And in stark contrast to the Holly version, her on-screen chemistry with the male lead is pulsating (probably has to do something with the fact that they were briefly married in real life as well). There is this one sequence when she is shown looking out of the window with a distant look in her eyes and wry smile on her lips, while in the same shot the other female lead is shown, on a spilt screen, relishing a secret and long sought after victory, hidden on her lips but given away by her blazing eyes. In fact the woman who plays that role in Wicker Park is also quite good. But there is no one quite like Monica Bellucci, anywhere in the world . Malena, this one and then so many others…

Monday, July 17, 2006

...

It has almost been two hours since you left for work. I guess you’re going to be late again- like you have been for most of this week. It is always like this, the week before you head abroad for your on-site projects. I remember you telling me that this trip is going to be shorter. Yes, they have become shorter, a few weeks at most, but a lot more frequent.

Have you seen the hibiscus in our backyard lately? They have come out quite well. The red seems so, so… intimate. It’s a pity though the chrysanthemums failed this year. As did the Zinnias. But I am very pleased with my work. I know you’ll notice, once you manage to get away from the laptop and the sitcoms on TV.

I am sure you’ve even forgotten that our house has five rooms now, just for the two of us. Four of them to take turns to sleep in, and that one big hall, where I spend most of my time. Not like the little studio apartment we moved into when you began working. Sometimes at night I walk around the house. After you’ve gone to bed, after I hear you snore softly into your pillows when I walk past your door in the dark, after the Guptas have switched off their lights, after the Mahajans’ daughter has been dropped back from some party. I walk in the dark, from one room to another. Two nicely made beds. Unslept in months. I feel happy as I realize how well you’re doing for yourself at work to be able to afford this house for us. Sometimes I think of suggesting you to buy this one. But then … things are so complicated right now.

Have you noticed, how few people come visiting us these days?

(I forgot to tell you that the agency lady called last evening. I think the new lady should be coming in tomorrow. She seems nicer than the previous one, doesn’t she?)

I have trouble remembering things lately. I guess my medicines were of some use after all. I haven’t taken the pills from the red bottle in two weeks. The other one, the one that doctor said I couldn’t afford to miss if I wanted to avoid being sent away, I still take. I have this feeling that you’re going to be wild.

But there are things I do remember clearly.

I remember when we were kids, and I used to tell you that we’d be married and live in the same house with our respective spouses. And party all the time. And always have quorum for carom. I guess this was what you had in mind when we moved in here. When we were kids… aha… seems so distant now.

I recall the night you, after years of living in denial, after many men in white coats, after numerous referrals, finally began to believe the diagnosis. That it could happen to me, that everything could be normal, and yet not quite. That life would never be the same again. That my mental disorder was for real, and not just a random case of short attention spans. And that it was degenerative. How you brought me back from Delhi, and locked yourself up in the bathroom for hours.

I remember that look in your eyes, when Maa died, in the same manner as Baba- quietly in bed, in grief, knowing that after me there would be no next of kin. The cold look, that held a steely resolve, which told me that I wouldn’t be taken away and locked up somewhere.

And how about your absolute conviction that I should do the household chores, buy the groceries, the meat, the vegetables, oversee the maid, the laundry, the cooking. Almost as if so that you could tell the world, and yourself, that I was paying for my subsistence. (And yes, I do remember how you held me once when I came back home, tears streaming, because I had lost the shopping bag and all my money, and how afterwards you made me go look for it.) That I should continue writing and sending it out. And that I should check the mail for replies. Have not written much lately, but like I said, I have been strangely distracted.

And I remember that infrequent string of men in the house. Don’t know how you met them. I think they worked with you or something. At least that cute guy Vikram told me he did. (He was quite nice- once tried to explain to me what work you did, and how you were the only woman on the floor and how I must be so proud of you.) And then some went inside with you. And I remember, standing next to your half-open door. In the dark, while our eyes met for a flash. The first time it happened, I saw shock- and I guess for a while you froze in the frenetic motions of passion. I remember how gradually, on subsequent occasions, that initial shock hardly lasted, and a pain took its place- a pain much deeper than I’ll ever feel. They probably didn’t even notice the slowing in the rhythm, the muting of the moans. No, I’m sure they didn’t.

These trips of yours are beginning to irritate me. I feel so lost with these women in the house. The last one talked so much over the phone that I just couldn’t work. She’d figured her husband was cheating on her, I guess, and by the time you returned I could’ve done a libretto on it. I wish you’d stop leaving me with these caretakers while you went away. I know it’s a part of the deal you cut with my doctor. I know, but sometimes I wish I could just tell them to sign somewhere and vanish for the day. But I don’t- I know you’ll be upset if you found out.

You know we’re getting on in years. In fact I can’t even say I’m in my early thirties. Lost that privilege two years back. And you, can barely do so- may be for a few more months. And then what? How much longer can we swim together in our dreamless little fishbowl? Have been asking myself that question often lately. There is way too much beauty in this world for you to ignore. I heard Sriraj had a baby girl. I quite liked that guy- a bit heavyset, but a great sense of humour. The two of you should’ve carried on. Wonder why you split? Or perhaps I do. Like the others. But the rest, they were just OK. I think by now you’re getting the drift.

Chhaya is not coming in today-I gave her the day off. Instead of having leftovers from last night, I had two bars of Toblerone. Don’t worry, there’s still one left for you in the refrigerator. And then I had some of that Stoli you got last time and then smoked one of your long Chinese cigarettes. It felt so, so good, and almost took me back to that special place, so far away. I shaved today, after your numerous reminders.

Like I said, you’ll be late from work today. And I am feeling very drained now. I guess it has something to do with the three thin lines I cut on my left wrist about an hour back. Which now dangles in the luke warm water of the bathtub next to me. Into which three rings of red spirals dissolve- not quite as deep as the hibiscus outside, but just as intimate. The razor might find it weird- its steel misplaced, against my soft brown skin. You will be berserk once you get back. Very, I guess. Somehow I don’t think you’re going anywhere in a long time. I hate myself for doing this to you, but much less than I despise myself for letting your dreams die.

I’m sure that you’ll play along, just this one last time.

(Dedicated to S and K, living in peace in their dreamless world. And with many thanks to G, who wanted in, anyway.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Humpty Dumpty's Song

In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight -

In spring, when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean.

In summer, when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song:

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down.

From "Through the Looking-Glass" Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Leaving

For G- who left today for greener pastures.

Another farewell, and when the optimists, finding the glass half full, have left looking for new beginnings, the pessimists, finding it half empty, have left predicting apocalypse, it is left to us, the realists, to hang around, finish the drink, settle the bills and head home, in a contemplative mood.

I step out, refusing the offers to drive me home, as a soft rain soaks Bombay’s remaining nocturnals- the Drunkard and the Destitute. A soft drizzle, the halogen shimmer under a street lamp, allowing a slight rustle in the few trees that inhabit this part of town. And an occasional thunderclap- a noise I had been told happens when a white, fluffy, lazy cumulus, finds itself in the way of a darker, sprightly and more blithe stratus.

And I wonder, what is family. Do we reserve the sentiment for the unit we’re born into: father, brother, sister, mother- in singular and plural, alternatively. Is it the one we acquire, the spouse, the kids?

Or does one attach a similar importance, which one normally reserves for the text book family, to people who change you in a certain way, unique in the way they do, and not always making you happy, but affecting you, definitely and irreversibly.

So G (short for Gamma) was gone.

Gamma, that letter of the Greek alphabet, which simply implied that in our professional scheme of things he was third in the hierarchy. Globally. But to us the word had a special meaning, which had no meaning outside our little world of volatility traders. That unpredictable element, the irrelevant first derivative of Delta, which whipsawed us when we least expected, or on better days left us with an unexpected but welcome profit. The one who would Smile upon our minutest errors, or Smirk, at the greatest achievements. Yes, that he truly was. Unpredictable.

G and I assumed our respective roles at around the same time some three years back- me at the bottom of the pile, and he, leading the pack. In fact he was the one who took me into this line of work. I think that, more or less, caused a certain bond. Apart from the usual rigmarole of making money for the desk and the room, I ran his errands, as is the norm in our line of work. Pulling out data from Bloomberg, formatting his Man Comm presentations, spreadsheets and spreadsheets, with tons and tons of numbers. Very vital, very confidential, and at that time very meaningless.

Since we couldn’t compromise trading hours, we sat through these things on late evenings, Saturdays, holidays, Sundays too. His work was too important to delay, and even though it didn’t form a part of my mandate, I’d do it. One such holiday, on a festival of utmost importance to most, he told me that he loved to come into to work. To watch the markets move around the world, around the clock, unrelenting, without passion, without sympathy. Just the cold blinking numbers on a screen, and the unusual dead of the trading floor. And slowly, I got to like them too. Flashing. With or without any meaning.

And between these things we talked, and talked. About markets, about the volatility, the future of interest rates in Brazil, or exchange rates in New Zealand, breaking down of correlations, commodity prices in Russia, relationships, my imaginary girlfriends, out of the money personal equity exposures, in the money positions which we couldn’t book profits on, because of some silly compliance rules which debarred us from selling too soon, and property markets. While macros ran on complex spreadsheets, while pizzas were sliced and cokes were downed. Complex questions of life easily crystallized, and randomly resolved.

And over the next three years, even when I didn’t really need to do that stuff, I carried on nevertheless, much to the delight of those who followed my footsteps into the trading floor. Just because, he’d stick his head out of his corner office, and holler- “T.O.!” I spent hours at his house, sometimes partying or just chatting, late into the night.

From him I learnt… oh what a shit load I learnt. I learnt to trade, to sell, to buy. When to sit out, and when to take the plunge. When to respect greed, when to resist it. I learnt that there is a method to the madness, to the numbers flashing on a Bloomberg terminal. That complex algebraic formulae, do mean something in the real world. That the Taylor’s and the Fourier Series, are not just words. That there lies a beauty in numbers and models, in equations of variables and that the Greeks aren’t always just that. That people are intelligent, and weak, all at once. I learnt to make deals, I learnt to walk away from them. I figured that I this world there aren’t just big things and small things- that there big things that you must ignore, and small things that you just can’t afford to. And that’s what has made the difference between- Greed and Greatness.

I realized that greatness lies not in numbers, and not just in your account balance, but in realizing your responsibilities and reacting to that realization. That there is a time to holler, and a time to pat a person on the back. That your anger has a value and so does your compassion, and if you use either of them too often, you risk losing respect. Respect. I learnt that respect is not reserved only for those above you, but also to be showered on the perceived insignificant, when they deserve it. That putting your arm, that mighty arm of G, around a person when he’s down, means so much, as it does multiply your elation when the going is good. That to reach out, you must do it at a level which is neither too high, nor too low, but just right. That you must retain that humility and the humanity to be able to make the difference. Make the difference.

I learnt that the biggest thing that you can have in a relationship, any relationship is trust.

This has taken me 2 days to write. Now, I sit in the empty dealing room once more, only that this is the first day that you’re officially not around. I’ll miss having you around… but I know, I know that one can’t bind themselves to people like you. You were meant to move on to bigger things, like I will one day. That we were just meant to brush past each other, and yet make that slight ruffle, an occasion to remember, to rejoice.

And today as I shut down my PC and I collect my things, my debris of existence, I find myself realizing that things will never quite be the same.

All the best!

(Delta is the change in the price of an option for a one point moves in the underlying.
Gamma is the change in an option’s delta for a one-point change in the price of the underlying
Volatility Smile refers to the long-observed pattern in which at-the-money options tend to have lower implied volatilities than other options. The pattern displays different characteristics for different markets, and is an area of significant academic research (i.e., it is not well understood). A closely related concept is that of Term Structure of Volatility, which refers to how implied volatility differs for related options with different maturities.
Smirk is an inverted Volatility Smile)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bombay...

Of all the things I’ve been reading on the Net I am inspired by Shuchika’s somewhat morbid post. Shit… all my efforts and happiness have been brought to naught. By the way people, Shuchika’s unwell and I wish her a speedy recovery, which enables her back to the Internet.

Just got back home from my 4 days a week bar to watch the game between Argentina and Mexico and that I am out of Old Monk. It is a brand of alcohol I have been consuming regularly for close to 10 years now and it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable to be out of it. Anyway…

For people of my vintage (or experience, if you wish) my employer conducts a review, which is called … never mind. Essentially, the 120 mind-numbing questions of the survey result in a scorecard, which among other things spells out two factors – the employee’s Long Term and Short Term Value to the Business. Interesting.

Now the results!

T.O’s employer of five years considers that on a score of 0 – 100, his short-term value is 100. Which means that if I don’t turn up at work tomorrow, it would result in a panic situation leading to loss in earnings and immediate bottom line impact. Ahem… now that is very flattering. But its something I have always known. Anyone who’s worked in financial markets would agree on that aspect. Pipeline deals, key market levels, run-rates, intra-day stop losses in my kind of a job are always pretty much in the mind- and not documented to the last decimal.

However, just in case I was getting pleased with myself, my long term value is around 15, which is a number that I now think has been put down only to make me feel a little less miserable. So essentially, if I were to quit or vanish, over a period of time, somewhat considerable, my employer would continue to do business as usual.

Of course there is a one and a half page disclaimer-if one wishes to read that.

There are at least two things in this world that don’t work on me- consideration and counseling. So when the Bossman, sits me down to go over the result, and tries to assuage my perceived fears on why the second part reads the way it does, and why I shouldn’t really be too excited about the first. I put on my best don’t give a damn look, and stare beyond his shoulder and out of the window- as the Bombay skies weep to some unknown loss.

Now contrary to the impression I may have conveyed to my boss, I consider this to be a very important analysis and is exactly the feeling I have about my life in general.

No more on that. A few very interesting episodes have occurred in the last couple of weeks- things which made me think about a lot of things. I will narrate the incidents, but not what I thought about them.

There is a certain bar near my house, not very up market, but not quite down market either. The booze is cheap, the food edible, the women are not made up like a Christmas Tree, the music is awesome at most times (they play Gasolina on Hip-Hop nights and take requests only on Tuesdays- how bad can that be), and at most times one can carry out a half –decent conversation without having to raise the decibels. Needless to say, this is my four-day a week bar.

I enjoy certain benefits there, mostly because I tip handsomely and go regularly. Don’t need to place orders. They play my rare requests even outside of Tuesdays, and since I mostly go there alone on weekdays, find me a table without bothering with the occupancy. Never paid cover- not even on a weekend.

Now, according to me, there are two kinds of bar regulars- the ones who chat up the Doorman to the DJ, the Bouncer to the Barman, and everyone in between, even memorizing their wives names. Then there is the other type- my type- who essentially park themselves in a corner, remain obscure, and mostly invisible. Hardly ever request songs, and notice nothing around them. Speak only with their wallet, and leave without a trace, or even a nod of the head. They are typically the people who drink because they enjoy it, and that’s it.

I went to this place a few Saturdays back- something I hardly do, with some not so very close friends. We sat and drank, and drank, and drank… and when the place shut, for some reason, I had an altercation with a guy on the way out. So suddenly they stop their car, and some six dudes jump out, all taller than 6ft, broad Punju types (the kind which spends weeknights at the nearby Gold Gym, unlike me) and one of them yells- So you want to die? And then someone pushed me. Now given our relative sizes, and states, that could be dangerous. What followed was beyond my wildest imagination.

Out of nowhere some 15 bouncer- waiter varieties emerge. So do some other guys, who I faintly recall seeing on weeknights. And I sip what remains of my drink and stand where I have been pushed to and watch these people pounce upon the six gym types and start threatening them with dire consequences if they ever approach this bar again. One girl comes and stands next to me, and her male friend announces that if anyone so much even touches their friend, they’ll have to pay the price for it, even as my friend looks on bewildered. Finally the jocks are bundled into their DL-3C Mitsubishi Lancer and packed away.

Since then, whenever I visit this bar, I nod at the doorman, the bartender, the bouncer, the waiters and the DJ. And they smile back.

The second episode happened this Friday night. Again after a night of wild, and trust me, seriously wild drinking (which involved the mahurat of a Bhojpuri film- but more on that some other time) with some filmy type people who my cousin brought along, we start looking for food, ending up with downed shutters. As a last resort, my cousin takes us to this place he eats about 3 days a week. The shutter is down but one can make out that there are people inside. We force our way in, and sit down to be told that the cook had left for the night. The owner of the place emerges, slurring, which is when one of my cousin’s friends (probably to impress his item number cohort) says- “Lambaji, aap toh bole the ki aapke dukan se hume kabhi bhookha nhain lautna padega.” This apparently happened when recently, the two had been drinking together at this very place. And then Lambaji disappears and the waiters are running all over the place muttering under their breath. Apparently, 3AM in the morning Lambaji has taken upon the responsibility of cooking. So the ovens are fired, the dough is rolled, the veggies are cut, the mutton is chopped and the rice is boiled. Lambaji’s head emerges out of the kitchen five minutes later, shouting- “ Khilane ka waada that, order lene ka nahin!” all this while, we continue drinking, shrinking into our corners, by the minute.

Food comes, and then so does Lambaji, bathed in sweat, and looking extremely pleased with himself. Due to us, another couple has also managed a meal. No words were exchanged. We ate quietly, every bite tasted like heaven. I ate a quite a bit, and so did every one else. There was this hush over the place, a distinct sense of gratitude had set in. we ate, and when my cousin pulled out the wallet, Lambaji refused to take the money- “Raat ke is time pe meri dukan toh band hai, par ghar pe toh doston ke liye koi time nahin hota!”

That’s it. Two episodes, and guess what, they are worth a hundred times more than any loyalty program that any firm in the whole fucking world can ever conceive.

Truly, this happens only in Bombay. I love this city.
And yes, its true-
The Colours of the Rainbow so Pretty in the Sky
Are also on the Faces of People walking by.
So, Shuchika, the only person who'll miss out is You. There is just too much beauty in this world to leave behind, though sometimes, you just have to look a little harder.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Impossible is Nothing

Some people listen to themselves, rather than listen to what other people say.
These people don’t come along very often, but when they do, they remind us that once you
set out on a path, even though critics may doubt you, it’s ok to believe.
There is NO Can’t, Won’t, or Impossible.
They remind us, that it is ok to believe.

Impossible is just, a small word thrown around by small men,
who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given,
than to explore the power they have to change it.

Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is, nothing.

Wish I could write like that!
(Thanks to Shuchika for this lead)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Drifting...

I have seldom been so bored as I am now. After a hectic (and quite productive) month of May, June has been somewhat of bummer. So I decided that taking a day off mid-week to attend a friend’s wedding at Hyderabad wouldn’t hurt much. Tuesday morning I was in office, all charged up for a long day at work, had this thought, and found myself in Banjara Hills in the evening. (The Boss Man is certainly the KING!)

First, I must admit that I was really impressed by what I saw of the city, both the new and old. The wide roads, and I think on that aspect, living in Bombay has created a bias; the lovely old city, of which TinMan gave me a late night tour of his city, and then I also walked around a bit later the next day; the food, the bars, the weather- quite nice!

But the high point of the trip was meeting Saffy. We’d been in the same work group for about 90 per cent of our courses at B-School, and whoever has been to such places knows exactly what I mean. Saffy’s now married, and I’d heard that she even had a kid- which she was quick to refute.

We met at a pub called TDS, as it was supposed to play “solid” music on Tuesdays. We were a largish group, and joined later by her “better” half (which in this case I must say was not quite the case), and it ended up being an interesting evening- at times noisy, at times nostalgic.

The thing about meeting old friends is that they have the ability to touch you in a way no one else quite can. That they bring back memories that nothing else quite compares to. So when she took my arm and dragged me to the dance floor, we knew exactly what each of us were thinking. And since we’d danced together often enough, on campus, we knew each other’s moves well. So much can change in life, and yet on the dance floor it seemed so obvious to me that time was such a lie. And then we talked, and talked and made everyone around feel invisible and miserable. But then five years is a long time, and we had a lot to catch up on.

Later at night, as she drove me to wherever I was sleeping over, she said, “You haven’t changed at all, except that you dress a lot better now.” I slept well, ignoring the fact that it had little to do with me, and a lot more with my thoroughbred employer.

(D&C: Saw your post only after I got back. Next time.)