On a drowsy afternoon…

I am a sucker for music really. Nothing changes my mood as music does. A few moments back I was harboring violent thoughts of smashing the screen of my laptop ( that would be good). Now.. as I have ?Summer of 69? playing in my earphones.. maybe I will defer the demolition for another day.

I am 27 years old?hardly an age to feel old. But sometimes I feel as if a generation has passed me by. They do not play my music anywhere anymore.

That brings me to me a more basic question, what is really my kind of music?

The first songs of my childhood were scratchy long playing records of ?The Sound of Music? and ?My Fair Lady?, shining black discs with a huge crimson dot in the center, and a thoughtful Dog peering into a gramophone?. Or Bright Green circles with Colombia written in Silver blocks?. It took me a fair amount of growing up before I was allowed to put the needle head onto a spinning record?.

How many summer afternoons were spent listening to songs of places and people I had never seen and hardly expected to see ever, twiddling with knobs on our two decade old Bush Radiogram. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, when someone would procure a functioning Video Cassette of an old classic in a hole in the Wall library in old Lucknow? we would gather in front of flickering VCR screens, trying hard to make out if we could see the face of Maria , trying to locate that one picture that adorned the cover of our records in the shelves?

Its almost an anticlimax now? to see neat stacks of ?The Sound of Music? CDs in Crossword, where people just have a look and pass them by. Hardly as exciting as the Sound of Music of my childhood. At times feel sad for the kids now? with everything just there for the picking?.

Is it not, that at times a memory that is a bit rough around the edges, exclusive and a bit hard to define.. becomes so much more to you than it would otherwise have.

Anyway, I digress?. My Music.

There was Cliff Richard?. Our boy from Lucknow. Trust any Lucknowite to name at least this one English singer as one his favorites? and this has more to do that Cliff Richard spent a couple of years at a local Convent school before his father packed his bags and left India in 1947.

But honestly, ? The Spanish Harlem? and ?The Evergreen Tree? are songs that I still hear at times? played anonymously on the piano, as background fillers at five stars?

I never really had the conviction for rock music? like so many of my friends in school and college? I guess I always was a bit ?Out? of it.

Asha Bhonsle was the most beautiful voice I heard growing up, and it still is?.

And then there was this band called The Corrs in the 90s? their debut album was a beauty? as much as their second one was bummer. Almost like our own home grown Silk Route?.

Recently heard a guy called Josh Turner? sings Country music and makes you go back to all the good things people sang about in the songs of old?.

She plays John Denver on the stereo when she is in the mood for cleaning up the house. So every time I hear strains of ?Leaving on a Jet Plane? wafting through the house, I know its time to get out of the way and curl up with a book somewhere? My father sings Talat Mehmood when he misses my mother, I listen to ?Summer of 69? when I have a lousy day at office. Ha !

Diwali vacations are a day away, yet my inbox is flooded with ?Happy Diwali? messages? kind of takes your mind somewhere else altogether.

Wish You All a Very Happy Diwali !

Comments from the past:

21 Oct 2006, 8:11am

and Happy Diwali to you too

25 Jan 2007, 1:32pm

one very long drowsy afternoon? no more posts?

25 Jan 2007, 4:13pm

Call it a coincidence? Just posted one today !


Just a story…

Just an attempt at telling a story, tell me what you think:

Have you noticed how different a string of electric lights on a misty cold evening can be? If you are with a crowd its ?its probably a party, if its just the two of you, the lights form a pool of sleepy stars, slow, languorous and undulating

And if ,like me, you found yourself sitting alone on a balcony in an empty house, with the railing edged with electric wire and yellow lights, it can also bring memories that sting your eyes.

The table in front of me is filmed with dust, the glass makes a scraping sound as put it back on the table , the moisture down its sides trickles to form a circle round the base.

There is now a wet pattern of circles on the table, some intersecting, and some alone, and some so close to each other that its hard to tell them apart, their boundaries smudged with intimacy.

A few hours ago they carried the last of the Ganpati?s away. I watched them all pass by, one by one. Standing in my balcony, I saw them all being led away, tamely to their watery end, surrounded by dancing teenage boys high on religious fervor, or maybe something else as well.

She used to love watching the processions go by. Every year, through the night, she would sit at this very balcony and wait for her favorites to pass. ? Why should I visit all the Ganesh Panadals? The Ganpati come to my doorstep !?.

I would normally sit inside, annoyed with the noise that invaded my street annually, trying to convince her to close the door to the balcony and come inside. After all, all this revelry really did not fit in with my scheme of things. So much of money wasted, burnt and squandered. Every Pandal set to outdo each other, the devotees bent on redeeming their sins with a shower of bank notes. No, such a gaudy festival was definitely not mine.

While she would sit in this very balcony, eagerly awaiting the next procession to go by, the interludes interspersed with steaming pakoras shared enthusiastically with the neighbors who would gather in our second story flat to watch the processions, crowding me out as I sat in the hall, unhappy with the ruckus, and angry with her for putting me through this year after year.

She would call me, again and again, ? Come Now, it?s the Shankarshet Ganapati !? ? At least see the Tulshibag Ganapti, its made of real Sandalwood?

I would pretend not to listen, and glare at her silently, ensuring that everyone around was aware of my disapproval and her scant disregard for my wishes.

Each year, as I lay next to her at night, hours after the last of the procession had long gone, and the last of the pakora eating guests wished away to their houses? she would sullenly complain, ? You could have come at least once, I called you so many times. Mr Sharma even took his kids to the roadside, you should have seen how Krishna was laughing with him?

And I would listen to her, searching for my cold victory in her sadness. My pride somewhat mollified for having taken away at least some of her enthusiasm? I had proved that I was stronger willed than her.

And last winter, she died. Suddenly and without warning. They placed her in the hall on slabs of ice. Trails of water streamed across the hall as the ice melted, and found their way into the balcony where they collected in a puddle. Her forehead was red, smeared with Sindoor, and she seemed more beautiful than I ever remembered her to be.

I sat next to her, for an entire night, trying to fathom her face for a million answers. In the morning, they covered her face with a lotus bloom and we carried her off down the road to the riverside.

They handed me a staff to break her skull as she burnt at the pyre. That was when I cried.

Its been six months, and I have become used to having an empty house to return to from office. Every evening as I unlock the door, the silence greets me with an unsettling familiarity.

I still find long strands of hair when the maid moves the furniture for cleaning, or swabs of cotton with her perfume in the almirah?.bits of cloth in a bag sorted away to make a quilt for the next winter, or an unfinished embroidery.

This year, I sat in the balcony, alone. Not too many people visit me these days.

They have decorated the society with strings of yellow lights, which blink with sudden brightness in an unforgiving pulse.

I watched the Ganpati?s go by, all seventeen of them. I gazed at the lights and breathed in the incensed air. Tried hard to detect some familiar sensation, or a smithereen of memory being carried away down the road.

The crowds have dispersed now. The street seems unusually wide in its emptiness. I rose to go back into the house.

They should switch off these lights now?

Comments from the past:

5 Sep 2006, 5:10pm

it came ‘from the depth of ur being’, am sure:-).The feel is tragic but the profound message is ‘the clebration of life’….the indulgence for the
‘ritualistic-need’ rather than on the object of worship.

6 Sep 2006, 11:17am

you describe a sullen spoilsport of a man nicely. they should be dunked along with Ganesha.

well written! but what’s with the gloom n doom? very touchy tho 😦

They must be sleeping back home…

27th March 2006

Grey, imposing, silent, quiet, efficient, impersonal, assured, different, large, cold?..

First impressions of the United States of America? probably since I have landed in Minneapolise when they are yet to shrug of their winters?.trees with barren branches line the horizon, broken by banks of snow, the white enhancing the grey around?

So here I am, in the space of one blog post, transported across continents typing away in an impossibly empty airport terminal deep in America. I face a wall of glass, opening into a view of the Airport runway. I have never seen so many aircrafts taking off in an hour in my entire life !

Its been an eventful journey, to be honest, I started off pretty glum, making such a long trip alone, and that too on an assignment where I am not too sure of what I am supposed to be doing !

So the flight from Mumbai to Amsterdam was late by ages, so I missed my connecting flight to Detroit?. But that sweet lady at the KLM counter booked me to Minneapolis in the only available flight at the moment, and that too in business class?.

Maaan, that is the way to travel. Having spent half my journey in a company sponsored cramped economy class, I guess the effect of the Business class travel was evident all the more. The chairs provided you three options for a lumber massage, they serve you real champagne when you board the craft, and there is actually a Menu card from where you can order food a-la-carte

I just reread the above passage, and man do I sound like a pakka country bumpkin !

Honestly though, I had often thought to myself what would be the effect of being in the USA, what will be my first thoughts, whether it would be so different to actually make it enjoyable?

And, again, I still do not have an answer. I feel somewhat indifferent; it seems a bit of an anticlimax. Guess you already know what to expect when you go abroad , so there could be a classic case of an expectation mismatch.

Possibly what is the most remarkable thing for me is the silence. An airport terminal reasonably full of people is more silent than my college classes used to be?hmmmm

It?s a strange feeling? to be in a country you cannot call your own, to know that you do not even share the same continent with the ones you love?and frankly it is yet to sink in.

I am here on a three month long assignment, working at a place called Danbury Connecticut..

Was pulled out of India at a fairly short notice, and I hope I will manage to get back there equally quickly.

So right now I have Rahat Fateh Ali Khan humming Jiya Dhadak on my laptop ( Thank God for MP3 !) a small pic of her sipping coffee from an Oversized mug, and a Starbucks for company?. Comforting images and flavors in an otherwise unsettling setting.

I really wanted to come to the USA, to try an figure out what is it about this place that makes millions leave everything they call their own, to be become aliens standing in a New Immigrant queue trying to answer the official why they wanted to go to America?

I think, to some extent, I have gained an answer? My flight attendants till now have been a mix of men and women from every racial background possible, from the Blond haired Nordix pursers to the Black lady at the checkout counter with a toothy smile?.I got my traveler cheques encashed at a counter manned by a south American woman, and now I am sitting across a Japanese guy typing away something in his hand held?

In the space of the last 24 hours i have been confronted by a range of facial featurer, heard new accents, tasted flavors all different, all linked by a smiling courtesy.

Even in the space of my first few hours here, it seems evident to me that there is a lot more dignity possible for an individual here than it is back home.

Too many things floating around me at the moment, and I am yet to form an opinion, once I do that, I will let you know 😉

April 1, 2006

So the above passage never got posted?. In the meantime my first official week at the client site got over. Till now USA for me has been a series of pretty roads ( wish we had such roads back home). This Saturday morning was spent unpacking? I think I have got way too much luggage. Am sharing a condo with a guy from Kerala who apart from being a very friendly chap, is a grand cook? thank god for Sulekha.com

So for the first time after having arrived in the USA, I have some time to spend on myself. Have some Bollywood music playing on my walkman ( ok guys go ahead and cringe? but right now I am loving it !)? and my plans include going out to explore my first Barnes and Nobles bookstore.

After a very hectic first three days which literally gave me sleepless nights.. things evened out yesterday?

My flat is a mile away from my workplace?. So in the morning I take a long walk through a Danbury waking up from slumber. It?s a beautiful place. Settled in the bowl of surrounding hills, air crisp with freshness, and a civility that somehow belies the image of America that we have back home.

They say in the books? that traveling opens up your mind? how true?

I took a cab from Hartford to reach Danbury? and the opening greeting of my cab driver was, ? Aur Bhai Kya Haal Hain?? Mr Malik from Karachi Pakistan?

He spent the next 1 hour ride quizzing me on Lucknow ?my hometown? Invited me to visit his home? and waited with me at Danbury till someone came to pick me up?

What is it about being away from home that makes people bond so much in foreign lands? is it the shared memories of India? of faces left behind and memories carried along? or the tears in your eyes when you miss the smiles shared back home?

When the beats of India echoe in the music you hear and accents of people around you. When you see immaculately manicured lawns and streets and imagine to yourself.. hey where are all the people ! When you travel on a freeway and think about that auto in the middle of a traffic jam with smoke from the MSRTC billowing in from the side…when you do not see a single two wheeler on the roads for 3 days straight?

When you realize in the middle of the day? they must be sleeping back home..

and when you open American newspapers and discover that your own country does not find a single mention in all its 36 pages?.

And for some of us?. Its home now?

India?.. can?t wait to get back?..

Comments from the past:

2 Apr 2006, 12:41pm

What is it about being away from home that makes people bond so much in foreign lands? is it the shared memories of India? of faces left behind and memories carried along? or the tears in your eyes when you miss the smiles shared back home?


jus thinkin of old day… dont ask me why, but yer post put a smile on my face. 🙂

3 Apr 2006, 12:58pm

yep, even the busiest of the malls are quiet…

but hey, no place like home 🙂

8 Apr 2006, 1:12am

Hey S, nice to see you on my blog again… and June, am glad that I made you smile…and I am not asking why.

Thanks for reading this

16 Jun 2006, 9:59am

you seem to be a lost soul in an inhospitable terrain- ababe in the wood. Dearest Chhotu, grow up- manzilen aur bhi hain wasl ki rahat ke siva; mujh se pahli si mohabbat mere mahboob na mang. Go ahead and enjoy life as it comes, and dont be homesick. love Mama.


The Cliched Year Ending Post

So yet another Friday evening finds me staring at my coputer screen. Splayed all across it is something that is called a data model?.. block and ovals? connected to each other, passing cryptic clues to each that that I have been trying to decipher for the entire eveing today.

Its been a blessed year for me? honestly, as I luxuriate in company sponsored self introspection? this was probably the finest year of my life till date?

The year started off ( as usual) in the midst of drunken revelry at Mahabaleshwar, and then sped straight to April, when I shifted base to Pune from Hyderabad, ambled through June when we got married.. fast forward to October when we began our house hunt?. to the day before yesterday, when we got the keys to our new home?

So, at the cusp of bridging years, we finally have a place that we can truly call a home. It?s a house on the 8th and 9th floor of a fairly decent society?

It?s a duplex? so we have set of fancy stairs that lead up to a bedroom on the topmost floor of the apartment, the ?Tower Room? as she calls it?.

I love this place, the main reason being the view?.

On the left the scenery is contained by the Pashan hills, but on the right, its only the smoky horizon which limits your view. At night, as the lights twinkle in the Pune suburbs.. I cannot wait to open that first beer on the terrace?

We move into the house in January?.

And May I say? that it has been probably the best new year celebration I have ever had !

Wish You All A Very Happy New Year

Comments from the past:

1 Jan 2006, 4:23pm

See you around my new neighbour! See how long before we bump into each other…

3 Jan 2006, 12:10pm

Happy New Year Ahead………….:)

8 Feb 2006, 7:11pm

long time no see… hope all’s well with u


The Gift

Been a long long time since I have been here, the absence had not been more to do with my state of my mind rather than anything else.

In the last one month I hovered between the thoughts of quitting my job, appearing for interviews, considering alternative offers, making a general nuisance of myself at my company, getting appraised, doing appraisals, house hunting, negotiating prices, assisting old ladies at hospitals, buying a cycle for a young girl who traveled the length of Pune on foot to help ends meet at her home, obtaining the stamping date for the coveted H1, trying to spend time with my father who spent long lonely days at my home waiting for me and her to come back from office, loving and being loved?.

The last few days have made me look hard at what I want out of life, really hard. My job and my sense of security had lulled me into a state of complacency that made me respect myself a little less everyday?

Change takes time but it surely does happen, I have set the ball rolling in my life, and with a fair wind on my side, I will be there in some more months?

But the question is, what happens to the little girl who studies at a municipal school and works in the evenings scouring utensils of Pune?s middle class to raise an income for her wretched brood.

Do people like me ever make a real change in her life by ?donating? money for a new cycle, or is it more like a reaffirmation of our superior financial status, the ?Haves? and the ?Have Nots?

When I pledged the money I did not even think on these lines? but now that I am applying for Home Loan to buy a house, and find my finances subject to scrutiny of some petty bank officials, I sort of understand the humiliation of taking financial assistance.

The passage above sounds strange as I read it, but that?s the truth.

When I gift a cycle to a girl, am I not taking away a bit of her dignity. A gift is a gift among equals, equal in terms of either intellect or finances, otherwise, does it not become something which is somewhat humiliating for one and gratifying for the other?

I know what I am going to do, I am going to meet that girl and make sure that I remain in touch, and try to be a part of her life a bit more, maybe live with her a little, so that at least we become equal in that we share a piece of our dreams with each other.

Maybe then, my gift , will really be a gift.

Comments from the past:

14 Dec 2005, 5:30pm

May there be more who think like you!

Many of the so called ‘haves’ think they have done their bit in giving back to the soceity, just by scribbling their signature on a cheque to charitable organisation. Everyone knows thats barely enough. But ..

To borrow words from Emily Dickinson, you wouldnt have lived in vain.

14 Dec 2005, 8:32pm

just by scribbling their signature on a cheque to charitable organisation. Everyone knows thats barely enough. But ..

but what?

15 Dec 2005, 3:49pm

long time since i’ve visited blogs too.

on topic, the girl might just go on to do the same for some other person in need. gifts don’t have to be between equals. it’s pretty pointless to some extent. but when u give someone something they need and appreciate, it brings immense happiness to both. like the time when u are ready to use an ink-pen and someone gets it for u 🙂 Make sense?

16 Dec 2005, 12:09am

hopefully, she will pass on the good deed to some one else in the near or far future. Together, half the world can bring a difference in the the lives of the other lesser priviliged half. You have done a good thing. Rest will join too. 🙂

16 Dec 2005, 2:26pm

Folks… thanks for reading this.

San, I have lost your mail id… are you at Pune now?

16 Dec 2005, 2:42pm

very much so. been here since end of Nov. had very busy 10days finding and setting up home! lemme see if i can find ur mail id…

16 Dec 2005, 3:59pm

Take mine… its ashishkec@yahoo.com

16 Dec 2005, 4:26pm

very much so. been here since end of Nov. had very busy 10days finding and setting up home! lemme see if i can find ur mail id…


Misty Mornings…

I seem to have developed this small morning ritual of pulling aside the curtains of my bedroom window and spending some time breathing in the fresh morning air ? watching Pune rustle from its sleep..

My window overlooks the apartment next to ours? and there is a small lane between the two?

In the evening the lane is occupied by kids.. and the narrow strip of tarmac functions as their cricket pitch. The morning however, finds it barren, except for a row of two-wheelers parked alongside.

I like watching this lane in the morning? the morning walkers passing by; the young with a focused and determined expression, completing their morning exercise regimen? all pony tails and sweatpants? and the more relaxed retired stroller, for whom the joy of the walk far supercede the aftereffects? white shorts and canvas shoes.. and in some cases ? a white handlebar mustache?

Today at Pune , we had the first misty morning for the season. The Sus hill range that is ever so green in the distance was hardly visible, my breath curled around me in a lingering good bye as it became indiscernible from the wisps of steam rising from my tea cup?

The weather was so much more silent, somber and gray. The folks at the bus stop, attired in dark formals? seemed to agree with what the climate had to say. Cold mornings seem to have this effect on people, as if they withdraw into themselves to seek that lil extra warmth..

It reminded me of so many wintery mornings gone by and yet not any one morning in particular?

The misty cold of Lucknow? with small fires buring by the road side, where you share the warmth with the ragpicker who set aflame the refuse he gathered off the roads?

The biting chill of Kumaun? where the snow gleamed of distant mountain tops while you contemplated the right time to draw a bath?

The strings of lights at beach shacks in Goa? dimmed by the euphoria of music and alcohol for a 30 day new year eve?

The slight nip in the air at Hyderabad , which reminds you to carry along that sweater? Just In case it became colder.. which never really happened..

As I said? reminds me of so many mornings? yet not any one in particular.


Wind Chimes

Something has changed out here? I have been leaving my office at 6 PM everyday for more than a week now. I am not used to it and am a bit unsettled by this. I am in the process of changing my project?. So I am in what we call in IT jargon, ?Transition Period?

Things are really cool nowadays, I get emails by the dozen but in almost all of them I do not need to take any action ! Just delegate it- Delete it ? forget it !!

Life is different if you manage to come out of office everyday at 6 !! You get to read so much more, browse a little longer in the neighborhood library, strum the guitar while sipping that amber fluid?. In short, its quite good.

But then, in the extremely convoluted logic of an IT guy?s mind, my self worth seems to be determined by the number of issues that require my attention ! Now that I hand over the Admin passwords of all project related systems to newer folks, I feel as if I am giving away something personal. Stupid, but thats the way I feel?..

As I leave office at 6, there is this guilty conscience nagging me that dude, others are still at work?.Anyway, whether guilty or not, I am quite happy with having some more time for myself, especially since I know that the coming week is going to be hectic as usual.

Anyway, I did not start this post for cribbing about the way I feel about my job, I have enough posts on that subject already?.

What I want to write about today is my fascination for wind chimes?.

The first time I actually saw and heard a Wind Chime was when I , attended a 10 day Vipassana course at Igatpuri as a part of my Bschool curriculum. They make you stay silent for 10 consecutive days, you cannot speak, or see eye to eye with another guy? no I am not writing about that experience either?.

The Vipassna center is a campus in the cusp of a hill, wooded and shaded, and so very quiet?

I had a favorite place in the campus, they had a small Pond, with an ornate roof supported by marble pillars?

The surface of the pond was so covered by a patch of water lilly that water was hardly visible.

Around that pond there was a grove of ancient trees, dark and green.

And suspended from the branches of one of these trees, was a Bamboo Wind Chime?

Have you every heard the sound that a bamboo reed makes as it strikes another reed? No its not quite like a knocking sound? its much more hollow and so much more musical.

I spent hours sitting beside that pond and listening to the wind chimes and the rustling of the trees?. I skipped lunch and bunked the meditation classes ? and escaped to my solitary dreaming beside that pond?.

Now in our house at Pune? we have three wind chimes of our own?.. One is an ornate fiber affair, tall, decorous and somewhat pretentious in its own plastic glory?. Greeting each burst of air with majestic swish of its many crystals, musical and a bit dashing.

The other one was a gift from a common friend, and it possible reflects the personality of the person who gifted it !

It is small, has slim metal rods that clink with a delicate ?ting? whenever the wind brushes by, unobtrusive and immensely adorable.

And the latest addition , is brass one that hangs from the window of our hall, it has 5 bells, that need more that a mere gust to make their presence felt. Its beautiful, with a curving brass stem with bells attached like leaves. It has a habit of making you forget that its even there, only to tinkle suddenly out of the blue when a gust of wind manages to rouse it from its slumber?

Its nice, really nice?.