Thursday, July 23, 2009

Flying to the Moon

I can hear her, when she comes calling.

The moon, when she croons.

The sweetest song, enthralling,

which she whispers, to us loons.

When she bathes the world at night,

our stage is flooded with her spotlight.

The dogs and cats let us know,

and await us, as their eyes do glow.

And the winds that rush through the trees,

bring noises and messages with the breeze.

A whole world ripe, ready for taking,

filled with chaos of our making.

The fools who term our freedom as madness,

shiver with fright, that we harness.

Your deepest fear, always thus,

that you too could be one of us.

Why bear one life, when you can be,

not one person, but rather three.

Why live chained by a moral code,

and not take a journey down our road?

To do as you please, live in the now.

Focus not on the why, but the how.

fearing death, why live so weak?

Stop the talk and start to speak.

See the world the way we do,

break the cages you're shackled into.

See reality, so mundane,

bland enough to turn one insane.

It's not too late, even for you.

Take not one life, spare not two.

Behind every circle lies a square,

happiness is a mask for despair.

It's not a thing entirely bad,

to be called a person mad.

It means that you don't conform,

like these idiots, from the day they're born.

The moon, she knows all this.

Smiling as she sees our bliss.

As long as she guides our flow,

our blessed tribe will continue to grow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Day At The Beach

The first image that “Chennai” brings to my mind, is the vast expanse of sand against which the Bay of Bengal introduces itself, gently. The beach has remained eternal and constant, while the city adjoining has undergone a 'sea' change.

As we so proudly proclaim, we are blessed with one of the longest coastlines in the world. The sight of the Marina beach on a Sunday evening can be a sobering reminder of the multitude that reside beyond it's shores. I've read in several books that one can smell the sea much before gazing upon it. Sadly, that remains another art that I've yet to master.

As you approach the water, you become aware of the noise of the city, slowly ebbing away until you reach that magical mid point, where neither the city nor the bay intrude upon the aural senses. A time where you can actually hear your inner voice, feel your heart beat, temples throb. Then you feel the caress of the wind, that welcomes you like a lover, long lost. You soak in the warmth of the sand as it slowly sinks, to accommodate the rude intrusion of your feet. And as you proceed, you hear the gentle grunt, not the mighty roar, of the water as it crashes upon the eastern shelf of the Indian subcontinental shelf.

Once you look back at where you came from, you realize that this is a city built around the shore. This becomes apparent as you gaze upon the several Victorian architectural splendors, each with a rich history, all along Kamaraj Salai. Then you look forward to the coast and notice the litter strewn across the shoreline, all the way from the light house to the harbor. Such callousness towards a natural wonder leaves one seething with anger.

That anger soon evaporates when a gust of sea breezes pushes you as you push against it, to reach the grayish muddy waters. Water that approaches discreetly, as if shy of it's coolness, in calm defiance of the scorching mid day sun. With each wave that laps your feet, you feel the tug of that ancient bond. The bond that we, children of the ocean (after all, life did take it's tottering steps in it's nurturing depths) can't deny, though our history of progress has made us forget.

And then the knick knack vendors, beggars, horse riders all clamor for your attention, breaking the idyll of the spell. It reminds you of the noisy bustling and ultimately soul sapping world that you must return to. Ever notice how one always “Rushes to the shore” but always “Trudges back to the land”?

As you return back to the mainland, and look back at the sea with longing, you also notice that your footprints are lost in the midst of a billion footprints of all shapes and sizes. Which will be replaced tomorrow by a million more footprints, all lost and swept away by the winds of change and time.

The only things that will remain eternal are the waves, still gently trying to reclaim and bring back the errant land, that ran away from it's fold, eons ago.

Six Degrees of Solitude

Questions that sear and plague the mind.

Riddles whose answers seem unkind.

Despair that seeps into your bones, so cold.

Worries that leave the young feeling cold.

The burden of the world we seem to bear,

taking on risks we'd never dare.

All for a smile or a loving look,

measuring one's worth, summed up in the pass book.

Envying your peers, as they move on.

Trying to shake off that attitude forlorn.

Lack of opportunities, your only excuse,

which lets you sleep- the classic ruse.

Never admit that you're bored.

Bored of yourself and insecure.

Make a resolution, determined to change,

and fall back into the routine you wanted to disengage.

Now your chair creaks in an empty home.

A shrine to the past that will soon be gone.

And you're forced to admit – you weren't that good.

No one will mourn your passing,

nor they should.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Civil Disobedience or Public Nuisance?

We are a nation that is in love with it's history yet mystifyingly ignorant of it. We're great on the names, not so good on the details. For e.g. We know the main ruling dynasties – the Mauryas, The Guptas, The Mughals etc. Some naughty people would also include the Nehru Gandhi family in this category. Yet ask any college going (Non History obviously) student to name all the rulers in succession and you'll hit a stone wall 9 times out of 10.

There was an auto strike called yesterday, to protest the rise in oil prices. While i appreciate the fine samaritans that the auto wallahs of Chennai are (after all, it's not like they fleece their customers , or demand non standard fares, or tamper with non functioning meters, or anything), what drew my ire was the lack of uniformity in their protest.

Now, being currently domiciled in the northern parts of the city, i had to rush to the western side pretty urgently. As i neared the bus stand, i saw a large crowd, which was explained by a bystander – Auto strike Saar! Naturally this meant an unusually tense struggle, trying to get into the bus. That was fine. However, when i reached my destination, to my surprise, i found various autos plying. When i asked one guy why this was so, all he said was – those guys belong to a different union sir. We dont have any issues.

Here's my gripe. On what basis, or authority, does one bloc of public service decide to suspend activities, restricted to one part of a city? What were they protesting really? Didn't we have a severe hike in oil prices last year too? And isn't it the government itself which is fixing the prices, and not some shady private company?

Our civic authorities have not designated areas for bus stops in most of the city. So, elderly and sick citizens often have to stand in the heat and wait for a bus, or as a recourse, employ the services of an auto. Never mind the fact that our buses are extremely hazardous for any senior citizen, right from the steep steps, to the lack of adequate support while standing, or the impatient driver, who just can't wait to get out of the bus stand.

When i quizzed a protester after returning, he claimed to be a follower of the glittering example set by our father of the nation. “Sir, Gandhiji launched a civil disobedience movement to protest injustice. We are also protesting the harsh raise in price.”

To cut a long story short, i was so astounded, shell shocked and overcome upon seeing such accurate understanding of our founding fathers' beliefs, that i silently muttered a prayer. A prayer to save us from such stalwarts of public order. Jai Hind!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Roger That!

I can recall watching the Sampras Agassi showdown in Wimbeldon, back when i was in school. Which happened before humanity discovered the joys of Twittering, Social Networking and sold it's collective privacy to online marketing. But i digress.

Watching the match, i could feel the goosebumps on my skin, and a sinking awareness that i was witenssing something that was transcending the much abused "great" and settling into the abode of the "Immortal". While the tennis on that day was nothing short of genius, it was the poetry that it inspired on the next day, that etched the occasion into the forefront of memory. One particular line still brings about a smile to my face- " Today, Pete Sampras did not just play tennis. He walked on water."

Roger Federer is one of the unfortunate men to inspire awe, appreciation, respect even. But never love. Just like Michael Schumacher, Sir Alex Ferguson, Lennox Lewis, or even Pete Sampras at the peak of his powers,  Federer is a sporting champion. But not a People's champion.

Perhaps it has to do with envy. Envy that singes most of us, when we see examples of God's gifts seperating the tremendous from the common. We like to cherish heroes who give us hope that those hailing from our world can ascend to the heavens. We cheer heroes who seem to carry the same flaws, suffer from the same anxiety and moments of doubt that plague our daily lives and act as excuses, holding us back.

And when sheer genius appears, slapping our complacence and laughing at our idiotic beliefs, we react with anger, envy and derision.

Yesterday's match was one of the greatest displays of tennis you could have ever found. A true sporting afficionado would not have held it to be below the drama and skill of last years epic battle. There seems to be a unanimous opinion that this match simply didn't have enough "Attacking" tennis. Hey, it wasn't for the lack of effort from either player, who spilled their guts and then some, on the court.

The reason why most people still seem to put down Roger Federer ("he hasn't achieved a Grand Slam like Rod Laver!, "Hey, Rafael Nadal owns the guy! Let him come back and then we'll see!") is because he laughs at the time honored theories of how to succeed in tennis.

The man makes his tennis effortless, which somehow, to the majority of the public, doesn't seem exciting or magical enough. We were mesmerised by the speed of Roddick's serve. Yet were baffled by how 50 of Federer's serves went unreturned. We keep hearing about how good his forehand and backhand is, how he uses angles and dips the ball into his opponent. But none of that craftsmanship is visible to us.

No matter how many grand slams he goes onto win, some of us "Sporting Gurus" will continue to lay doubts on his legacy and place in the pantheon of sporting gods.

Federer could aptly care less. While Sampras did walk on water all those years ago, Federer has created a symphony on the lawn court, with the racquet as his instrument. We who are deaf, are yet to hear the magic of his lute.

The Return of the Native

Almost a month has passed, since my return to my homeland. A return that had conjured thousands of scenes in the confines of mind. A passage that i thought would mark an evolution in my thoughts and approach. A journey that i'd eagerly anticipated & somewhat worried over.

And now? All i can think of is -"For this? You devoted the focus of your cortex, towards this?"

You know, it's funny how most travel stories always center around the disenchantment of a traveller when he returns home. But i think we always get it wrong. It's not the wandering and now returning native who finds his home "Alien". Oh no, it's the home that's moved on and made peace with his absence.

I spent a week, furiously noting down what i felt were brilliant notes on what exactly is wrong with the system of our country. The noise, the crowds, the chaos, public displays of Litterage (PDL anyone?), random chaos, failure to provide basic infrastructure etc. You know the routine. It's happened to all of us, when the fabled "US Relative" makes a visit and starts on the "This country" rap.

But two quick trips to different cities have proved to be a boon. Travel is a gift bestowed on us, that we seldom appreciate or indulge in. Yet it presents us the only opportunity, to hear our thoughts, while in transit. It gives us refuge from worries of the present, regrets of the past and fearful anticipation of the future. 

I realised that India can function with all it's weaknesses, accomodating the dreams, desires, schemes, ambitions and anger of a billion people.Yes, things are wrong. Terribly wrong here. And salves for our festering wounds still seem far away on the horizon. But at the end of the day, the grumbling voice of one, is lost in the uproar and cries of a billion. A system that somehow seems to work, trudge towards progress at a pace that would grant a snail a gold medal at the Olympics.  

A system that can be summed up in two phrases : "So What?" and "No, it's not possible".

And you know what, i've settled into the movement of the city, adjusted to the roar of my people, sweating like the rest of us, prostrating, cursing, resisting, screaming as we go about trying to be better than the person sitting next to us.

I know what you're thinking: "Yeah yea. So you've returned from the Gulf. So What?"