Monday, August 30, 2010


Neruda beckoned as my restlessness grew and I happened upon what must be not only the perfect anthem for a Gemini, but the perfect collection of words for anyone who's ever wondered if they're not really who they think they are.

Okay, all this obscure obliqueness aside, here we go -

We are many

Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
They have departed for another city.
When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of intelligence,
the fool I keep concealed on my person
takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.
On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous self,
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations.
When a stately home bursts into flames,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. There is nothing I can do.
What must I do to distinguish myself?
How can I put myself together?
All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.
But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
I would be like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly me,
because if I really need my proper self,
I must not allow myself to disappear.
While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have already left.
I should like to see if the same thing happens
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to themselves.
When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in things
that, when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.

Thus spake Pablo.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Night on the Sun

I'm attempting to study orthopaedics from this mediocre textbook as my iPod shuffles and serendipitously begins playing Jeff Buckley's "Lover, you should have come over" and like I do for every Buckley song, I pause to stop contemplating Pott's spine and begin contemplating the lovely song.

The song begins characteristically with a sound that tugs me right back to the first time I'd heard it and wondered what exactly produced that sound for about thirty seconds before I realised how simple the answer was.

I close my eyes as if this wud help me listen better. The song starts off part-plaintive, part-despairing in Buckley's deliciously intimate voice and then, takes a fast turn for soulful longing before finally settling into aching passion and sensuousness.

And I realise how missing someone so much that their absence starts to physically hurt you can be a soul-searing sensation transmitted directly thru this breathtaking song.

I grab my iPod about ten seconds before the song ends and play it again. This time I actually listen to the lyrics.

"Maybe I'm too young
To keep good love from going wrong
Oh lover, you should've come over
'Cause it's not too late.
Well I feel too young to hold on
Too old to break free and run
Too deaf, dumb and blind to see the damage that I've done.
Sweet lover, you should've come over
Oh, love I'm waiting for you."

And I realised I'd missed an emotion in the rendition the first time around. Regret, sadness, guilt?

And then it ends with Buckley gently intoning "Oh no, it's not too late." And I smile. All will be well.

The song ends and I suddenly feel the absence of this music as a real tangible loss as the iPod shuffles onward to Remy Zero's Fair. The spell is broken.

I am reminded again of the tragic circumstances of Buckley's premature death. I take a moment to imagine what songs he cud have produced had he lived longer, knowing full well that thinking that way serves no purpose.

I shake my head as if that wud help me empty it of these thoughts and turn to the page I've been neglecting for these fourteen minutes.

Remy Zero are singing "It's cold as you fade into the sun." but I'm barely listening now.

I think of Buckley again only once before the song ends. Tonight, the sun shall see its light.

Friday, August 20, 2010

(May You Stay) Forever Young

What is it about evening time and ceaseless rain and Bob Dylan that makes me think about unfashionable things like the relentlessness of time, growing old and Peter Pan?

Smiling to myself, with Uncle Bob's warm nasal twang in my head at the bus-stop has never done much to help the handful of people who are inclined to believe that I'm a (somewhat) sane person.

Nor has clapping and shouting out "I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!" while jumping on a particularly bouncy mattress.

Yes, it has been that kind of a day.

Perhaps, a big cup of chocolate milk will soothe these frazzled nerves. Now if only it wasnt such a windy, rainy evening.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

O Captain, my Captain!

I have been fascinated by Walt Whitman since the first time I watched Dead Poets Society ages and ages ago at the behest of C. This wild-haired, bright-eyed monkish figure that loomed above Robin Williams' classroom, a figure Williams' enthusiastic revolutionary of a teacher used in frequent memorable scenes to inspire his impressionable young students. Last week, I bought a Wilco Classics edition of Leaves of Grass from the Crossword sale and I intend to read it in its entirety. But much like my textbooks, I find it impossible to read any manner of poetry at a stretch becoz for me, it demands more concentration of thought than I can supply for longer than an hour. Otherwise, I feel like I am not reading it with the sort of passionate attention that it surely deserves.

So, for the present, I am content to read his poems from my trusty poemhunter ebook, like I usually do, sporadically and hopefully, with the kind of joyful focus it calls for.

Having read many of his lines like the lovely Song of Myself where he says "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you", I now think that he was an incredibly learned man, as much aware of the world of science that governed the exterior as he was understanding of the innermost questions, thoughts and workings of his own personal world, literally, "insightful" and "introspective".

This poem by Whitman holds sway over my imagination since first I heard it in the film, I suddenly thought of it again today. Isn't it wonderful?

O Me! O Life!

O Me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring - What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here - that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

The lines of the answer fill me with this strange soaring feeling, it is like a knowledge that others have pondered what I have pondered and that Whitman gives a most reassuring answer, dont you think? :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

But diamonds are a girl's best friend.

'Twas the day I wore grey
The day you fetched me
a red velvet box and took my hand.
Held up its contents to my face
before I began to understand.
You slipped the catch off
of a necklace of blues
and in your best fawning voice said,
"Darling, they're sapphires, see these hues?
Dont they perfectly match
the glitter of your glorious eyes?"
I turned away, lowering my gaze
before you could even surmise
the depth of my despair as I fled the room.
You claim you never understood
the suddenness of my gloom
or why I refused to see you
inspite of all your pleading.
Shall I tell you now or,
or do you see where this is leading?
Do you remember now, my love?
Do you remember my dress?
Now that was the colour of my irides.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


For the life of me I cud never finish The Fountainhead inspite of having attempted to read it on three different occasions as many as three years apart, hoping that perhaps at 21 at last I was mature enuff to read the whole thing.

Well, no such luck. Now I just randomly skim the book, stopping and reading wherever my gaze happens to land at that particular moment in time.

Regardless of never having reached the ending, a lot of lines and vignettes come to mind. The one that follows is perhaps one of the book's best-known lines but today, I really envy Roark's self-centered detachment from the world of mediocre minds.

I think there's this famous scene from the Roark's trial, but I cant remember precisely where that falls becoz of my disjointed reading habits. In this scene, Toohey confronts Roark and says to him,

"Why don't you tell me what you think of me, Mr. Roark?" to which Roark replies,

"But I don't think of you."


I have a mental image of me whooping and cheering in the courtroom when he says this. But I'm sure Roark being Roark wud care nothing for it.

Now I imagine I was the one saying that and derive even greater satisfaction from it. Altho' this whole exercise makes me feel like I have missed the point by miles. No matter. My aim is achieved and I am in a much, much better mood now. :D

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jo khayaalon pe pehre daale woh aankhen hain kahaan?

At a quarter past three in the morning on a rather rainy muggy Friday morning, when insomnia drives all longing for restful sleep from my rather expectedly sluggish mind, I cannot, inspite of trying hard, banish all thoughts from my mind, so it will be clear and I cud finally sleep.

But as easily as this was achieved once before, an empty mind and easy sleep remains rather out of reach tonight.

So, here I am, hoping that writing will be therapeutic and set my mind to rest or atleast tire it out sufficiently.

So little has happened in the past day that I am surprised that a novel I'm midway thru is effectively disturbing my mind enuff to prevent sleep and as I type this after two hours of tossing and turning in bed, I cant help but get a somewhat tenuous grasp on what it is exactly that is so troubling about this book.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle, (this is an intentionally distorted title, its new revised edition is titled In the First Circle) or atleast the 1968 edition I have borrowed from A. is unlike any other novel I have read before. And since, the only other Russian novel I have ever read is War and Peace, I cant help but wonder if it is the specific conditions of that place that inspire such sprawling, devastatingly perceptive works of literature or if that is just a lucky fluke.

The book, the title of which suggests Dante's idea of the First Circle of Hell which was a relatively benign "zone" reserved for saintly folks who for some reason ended up in Hell but were kept away from the scary, hard-core fire and brimstone, is set in a special prison or sharashka in the Soviet Union of the 1950s where the prisoners are scientists, professors and engineers, all imprisoned on flimsy, mostly cooked up charges, forced to work on the megalomaniacal Stalin's crazy pet projects.

These prisoners are highly intelligent folk, whose intellect will now power the invention of new machines that will in turn empower Stalin's stooges a.k.a. Security Officers (glorified thugs, dimwitted but ruthless) to spy on and imprison ever-increasing numbers of the hapless populace. Apart from these privileged prisoners who are educated and somewhat well-read, we learn that the rest of the country and even the Party members are indoctrinated with Communist propaganda that consists mostly of distinctly anti-American platitudes and a truckload of not-so-clever lies.

Therefore, anyone who questions these State-sanctioned beliefs is immediately labelled anti-Soviet and jailed for ten to twenty-five years, except for the (un)lucky folks who're immediately shot. Ironically, a lot of these anti-Soviet terrorists are former Red Army soldiers who at the end of World War II were transferred promptly and efficiently from German POW camps to Gulags or labour camps with no regard for their wartime bravery and without any real court trials.

There are atleast fifty different characters in the first 300 pages of the book that I've encountered so far and some of them make more of an impression than others when the book's focus flits from one character to another, seemingly randomly in the beginning.

I'm beginning to see how they're all connected and how this style of narration (which I'd found incredible in My Name is Red) is fleshing out the characters, exposing their backstories, clearly etching their motivations and their internal conflicts while providing a terrifyingly sordid picture of the external threat, a bleak militarised communist state with a sinister yet obviously and dangerously insane leader.

Reading thru the book, my brain kept feeding me references like V for Vendetta, Das Leben der Anderen, 1984 and Animal Farm before I wud remember with a jolt that this novel is based on Solzhenitsyn's real-life experiences and the characters are based on real people he met in one of these intellectuals-only special prisons, where life is arguably easier than the cruel labour camps of Siberia, but where the prisoners are shackled by invisible chains reinforced by informers and spies, where these brilliant people cannot trust the canny cleverness of their equally brilliant compatriots.

I am not certain if I liked the experience of reading this novel. It overwhelms me like it has now, becoz I am terrified and repulsed by the world the author evokes and even more nauseated when I realise that this is not mere fiction. As the Washington Post reviewer on the back-cover says, there are no villains in this book, only a cold, detached system that effectively dehumanises every person it touches. Even Stalin comes across as a pitifully obsessed, happily self-imprisoned madman, terrifying tho' his actions are, moreso becoz they are oddly random (like Amon Goeth from Schindler's List times million), he is himself trapped in a prison of his own making behind bulletproof glass windows and gunmetal doors, a comfortable, safe cocoon where he confines himself on account of his morbid fear of dying.

Also, there are no true heroes. Everyone has made bad choices inspite of or perhaps becoz of their great intelligence or exasperating stupidity respectively but there is a chance, slim tho it is, of redemption, of freedom, for the spirit if not for the body. There are tragic love stories as well, considering many of these male prisoners left young wives behind, but the tragedy is not dramatic but quiet and therefore, more brutal.

When as a nine year old I first heard of socialism, I had thought it a noble idea, one that I had supported and argued for even, in a very memorable debate long ago. When I realised how it all had panned out in reality, I felt very disappointed in people who had let this great monument of the human mind crumble becoz of the flaws of human nature. Which is why this book becomes even harder to contemplate for me. It really is a hell that this book describes, I wud gladly pick the eternally downward bound boulder of Sisyphus over this claustrophobic prison(I do believe that is not supposed to be a tautology).

I am not close to the end of the book yet but I can predict that the end, like the course of the book, will be bleak and dreadful for some and filled with hope of the future for some others of these varied, numerous characters but then, what else can one expect from reality?

Therefore, I think I'll try my luck with dreams once again. Hopefully, these runaway thoughts that kept haunting my mind are now exorcised onto the blog.