kid-reading
Observations

Stories

I have a niece. She’s currently six but this story is from when she was mere three.

I’d gone to stay at her place for a few days. Not her place exactly but her grandparents’, but since she was the cutest in the family I’d brought her with me from her parents’ place. She was real fun that day. We played trains, went to the park where she climbed the slide for a hundred times, and we sang the tamaatar-wala-gaana over and over again (Ik Junoon from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, in case you are wondering!). Then we got tired and went to sleep.

The next morning, she was the first to wake up, and the first thing she did after waking up was to saunter into my room and start shouting Mama! Mama! at the top of her voice. Of course, I woke up. Who wouldn’t? :-)

She then completely ignored my sleepy good morning, climbed onto the bed, stacked a few pillows on top of each other, sat on it, and launched into a completely ridiculous, but fascinating nonetheless, tale.

It was that day when I realized that children are full of stories, and that you just need to hear them.

For a three year old, her story was magnificent. It talked about a dragon which was hidden behind the bucket in her bathroom who had a habit of eating up small children. Since it was her best friend, it didn’t eat her. But if any other child went to take a bath in that bathroom, it would gobble him up in an instant.

Once there was a dog who went inside the bathroom. The dragon rose to eat it, but the dog barked loudly. The dragon was scared and it went inside its hiding place behind the bucket again. Apparently the dragon was mortally afraid of dogs!

The dog, on the other had, was scared of butterflies! Whenever it spotted a bunch of them, it would run away in the other direction and would not come back until all of them were gone. It would chase the cat in the meantime, and the cat would hide behind another bucket in the dragon’s bathroom. The dragon wasn’t afraid of cats, but it couldn’t eat the one hiding behind the other bucket because it couldn’t see it. And because there was a dog in the bathroom at the time too!

She could’ve gone on and on, and I could’ve kept listening to her forever. But then her grandma woke up and took her away for a bath. In the dragon’s bathroom.

While she was going inside, she looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back soon. The dragon is my friend, remember?”

Image credit – Greg Lawler 

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Observations

An informal treatise on Mumbai

I don’t really remember what fateful day it was when I decided that a trip to Mumbai was warranted. I was still a student perhaps. Or not. I don’t know. All I know was that I, a resident of the National Capital, was dying to see the Commercial Capital for a long, long time. And that after years and years of failed plans, one of them actually came to fruition in the beginning of May.

For me, there hasn’t been anything like this before—full of unexpected surprises, mouthwatering delicacies, profound questions, observational overloads, and drama! So much drama! What more could you want from a holiday? I won’t go as far as to say that I’m back as a completely different person—but I’ve definitely gained experiences that I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry.

As a born-and-bred Delhiite I was excited to observe a city from up-close which terms itself as truly cosmopolitan, and I was not disappointed! There are subtle differences between the two cities, which a keen observer can easily spot. Just like Delhi, there are numerous milk booths that dot Mumbai, but instead of Mother Dairy, they say Brihanmumbai Milk Supply. Similarly, green DTC becomes red BEST, dustbins promote Chakachak Mumbai instead of Clean Delhi, Green Delhi, the minimum auto-fare is Rs. 15 instead of Rs. 25, the roads are narrower and real estate lot more expensive. They actually juice watermelons and nobody seems to mind the excessive humidity much!

I stayed there at a place called Seven Bunglow, in Andheri West, at my Mama-Mami’s place (Ajay and Rekha Munjal—wonderful people!). This is what you see when you look out of their window –

Sea View!

Sea View!

I know, right? Breathtaking! When the mood is quiet you can even hear the musical sound of lazy waves. The very first thing I did after reaching there and freshening up was to perch myself on the window ledge with my diary and my pen. Writing in such a soothing atmosphere was a delight! Other than an infrequent stench of fish, it was a great experience.

The first half of my first day in Mumbai went like this. Since we were exhausted after the long journey by Rajdhani Express, Mom and I slept for a bit before catching up on news and the first venturing out in the city. It was the famous ISKCON-Juhu.

ISKCON-JUHU

Mumabi’s ISKCON temple is situated in Juhu, in a sprawling four-acre campus that houses the shrine, an auditorium, and a towering guest house too. Due to the venerable luck of “knowing” somebody, Mami arranged for someone to guide us around the temple. He turned out to be a rather short, bespectacled IITian who was spending his break from a HolidayInn internship at the temple in order to learn the scriptures. Quite a jovial and honest chap! He gave us a complete tour of ISKCON-Juhu, starting from His Divine Grace A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s living quarters (his office, as he used to call it!), to the main sanctum sanctorum. As expected, the idols of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Radha Rasbihari and Sri Sri Sita Ram Lakshman Hanuman are beautiful and exquisitely decorated. The devotees in the main temple hall were transfixed to their own bhakti. You could see them dancing, or chanting, or singing, or playing music—all in the name of God. To an outside observer like me, the scene was nothing short of magic. Walls adorned with paintings depicting scenes of Krishna’s life… Beautiful exhibits of various saints of ancient and modern India on both sides of the main hall… The very air charged up with the electrifying presence of hundreds of devotees… The whole visit was awe-inspiring.

ISKCON-Juhu is much more than a temple though. Other than being a host to Swamiji’s living quarters, is also houses a library where you can peruse the ancient texts as well as works by Swamiji in almost every Indian language. Inside the library you can also view a miniature exhibit of Jaladoot—the freight ship which carried Swamiji to the United States for him to preach the teachings of Krishna.

In addition to the library, the temple campus has a meditation center, a sweetshop (yum!), a bookshop (heaven!), and an eating area where they have ISKCON’s biggest attraction—the sumptuous food! (Devotees would argue that it is the sanctum itself, but the foodie in me would tend to disagree.)

Siddhivinayak

If ever they give out the prize for the most glamorous temple in India, or the most newsworthy one, Siddhivinayak will easily be one of the top contenders. The trust that manages the temple is already the richest in the country, and it is the favorite divine destination for many a celebrities that live in Mumbai, or even elsewhere.

I had the chance to visit the famous temple on the second day of my Mumbai stay. For some strange reason I had the notion that visiting the temple required climbing a lot of stairs (maybe I have watched too many Bollywood movies!). So I was pleasantly surprised to find none.

I was also longing to taste Ganesha’s favorite sweet—the Modak. There are a lot of shops (stalls, I should say?) that sell so many varieties of it in the temple complex itself. Apparently they come in a lot of sizes and a lot of colors! (They all agree on the shape though). The complex has a typically Indian arrangement—you need to get into a large serpentine line in order to get inside. The sanctum is small and not so well lit. Pujaris surround Ganesha’s idol, police officers man each nook and cranny of the place (there is one inside the sanctum also). And no one is allowed darshan for more than a few seconds. Very unlike ISKCON though, where the very idea of God is larger than life and there is virtually no restriction on attendance.

There is also a unique way in which the devotees express themselves in front of their favorite God in Siddhivinayak. After Ganesha Darshan, they go to the idol of Mooshak—Ganesha’s rodent transport, and whisper their wishes in its ears! (I did not witness it firsthand as the day I went there, the idol was removed due to a large number of devotees present).

All in all, it was really worth paying a visit to this legendary temple. True, it doesn’t match up with the utter magnificence of ISKCON in any way, yet spiritually it is its equal in every way.

Spirituality

All this temple thronging gave me a lot to think about. Why is it that people attach so much devotion to mere idols of stone? Why is it that some temples are considered to be more holy than the rest? What good does it do to people when they pray, hoping for divine intervention in their mundane, everyday problems?

The way I see it, I don’t think that there is any divinity in praying. And average person goes to a temple mostly for wish fulfillment. (I know I’m generalizing, but stay with me). People visit temples either because they want some of their wishes fulfilled, or they have suffered some major loss / disappointment in their life and they want to recover from it. They visit temples hoping the God will help them, and they go back to their lives looking for signs of divine intervention. They keep faith, that God will help them. And you know what? Help comes too. Their wish gets fulfilled, or they recover from whatever misfortune that had struck them.

Did God do anything? No, not really. I don’t think so. It’s their own faith and hope the works wonders. Yet many don’t understand this. they still praise God for whatever good that happens to them.

No doubt faith is a powerful ally. When you have faith in some omnipresent power to set things right for you, you fail to realize that there is, in fact, no omnipresent power. It all is a matter of willpower. Those who lack it, turn to God for help. And He does help, but not in the way you like to think. He doesn’t raise an invisible hand and takes away all your troubles—you acquire the strength yourself to fend them off, because you believe the somebody up there is helping you. The mind works in mysterious ways, and the power of thought is limitless!

Mumbai Darshan

After Siddhivinayak, I had exhausted my quota for Godliness in the city of Glamour, and I was longing to see the sights that the city had to offer. So Mama took mom and me to a guided tour that lasted most of the Sunday. He has lived in the city for nearly three decades and knows Mumbai intimately, so it was a pleasure traveling with him. He showed me so many things that I scarcely remember them all!

We started with Nariman Point, where the power brokers of Mumbai come to work. We saw Hanging Gardens with their lush greenery and ample fruit trees. Kamla Nehru Park with the famous Boot and the incredible view of the Queen’s Necklace. We saw the Governor’s house from a distance and marveled at the luxury in which he lives. We saw the Linking Road—which is compared to London’s High Street as the shopping destination favored by who’s who. We saw the Cuffe Parade road where property prices are sky high and houses are only accessible to the super rich. We saw the Breach Candy and the Lilawati hospitals—where the ailing glamorous regularly go to get themselves treated. We saw the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, which is an engineering marvel in itself. We passed the Worli sea-face and had the most delicious bottle of flavored milk ever! We visited Colaba and saw the Leopold Cafe—where many of the events of Gregory David Roberts’ magnum opus Shantaram take place. We took a ferry ride from the Gateway of India (which is just a cheap way to go somewhat further into the filthy waters that is the Mumbai sea, but enjoyable nonetheless).

We passes the houses of the richest industrialists and the most popular Bollywood celebrities. Looking at them, I could only imagine the affluence in which they lead their everyday lives. Being a die hard fan, I even clicked a picture of Mr Bachchan’s house. (Also, having a friend who is a die hard SRK fan, I clicked a picture of his house too, for her sake!). We saw the Bombay Stock Exchange, the famous Haji Ali dargah, the ever-so-intimate Juhu Beach, the imposing Taj Palace Hotel and the boisterous Chowpatty. We saw the grounds where Sachin Tendulkar played cricket as a kid (which now serves as a mecca for aspiring players), and also the stadium where he bid adieu to the game. We saw the Jogger’s Park, and also a lot of joggers on the streets. We saw some of the richest neighborhoods of Mumbai, as well as some of the poorest. We were greatly dazzled by the riches, but slightly shocked by the poverty too. All in all, a typical cosmopolitan experience!

The Taj Palace!

The Taj Palace!

BOM vs DEL

Touring the city from a stranger’s viewpoint, observing everything that could be observed, I could not help but make comparisons between the City of Dreams that I was visiting, and the City of Djinns in which I was born and brought up. I have never lived in any other city, much less in a city like Mumbai, which is a behemoth in itself! So I was pretty excited to observe each and every facet of a city which was completely alien to me. (I have always been fascinated by the unknown). I was confident that Delhi would win in the end—that Mumbai would turn out to be just another Indian city. But now that I have seen the sights and heard the sounds, I’m not so sure.

No power on earth can take away the glamour that is instilled in the very veins of Bombay. In which other city of the world can you go out for a stroll on a breezy night, pass a row of houses, and be informed that one of them belongs to Madhuri Dixit? In which other city of the world can you sit outside Amitabh Bachchan’s house and wait for him to come out in the balcony? And he actually shows up? Mumbai is the nerve center for the star struck!

Yet there are a number of things that are better in Delhi. We have wider roads, and (compared to Mumbai) ample parking space. I love the absence of humidity and excessive sweat. I love the fact that Delhi can expand, that colleges here have real playgrounds, and that you don’t have to smell fish if you don’t want to!

I also felt that Mumbai was in a constant turmoil. Ever in a hurry—never stopping, never looking back. Ever so resilient! Delhi’s street hawkers can never churn out burgers and momos at the speed with which a typical vada-pav vendor in Mumbai serves them out. A Delhiite can never imagine buying a Samsung Galaxy S5 from a shop that is filled with shoppers like a peak-hour metro and that also sells cosmetics and T-Shirts. Mumbai has stricter parking laws and enough policemen on duty to enforce them.

In the end, I can safely say that this Mumbai vs Delhi debate can never end. Each city is good and bad and unique in its own small ways. You cannot compare the two cities. One is an apple, other is an orange.

Thus concluded a rather whirlwind Sunday on the streets of Mumbai. As anyone would be after covering the length and breadth of a city in a single day, I was dead tired. But as it turns out, the day’s surprises were not over yet. When we reached home, we were treated with Mami’s magnificent cooking! She really is an innovative cook. I mean, can you imagine having a vegetable dosa, filled with cheese inside? I bet you can’t!!

The Great Indian Railways

As Monday inched closer, so did the time to leave. Yet there was one last thing to be done before going back—making sure that our return ticket was confirmed! Believe it or not, it turned out to be easier said than done, especially when Indian Railways was involved.

I’ve always loved train journeys. The long rides, the idyllic atmosphere, the scenery—farmlands, industries, towns, and hordes of cattle passing by, the relative calm and unhurriedness—they all fascinate me greatly. Which is why I had booked the onward and return journeys by Rajdhani Express. As is the custom while booking train tickets during summer holidays (not mine… the school kids’), they were heavily waitlisted. As dictated by the tickets, I waited on the list, hoping to get a confirmed berth by the time the date of departure arrived.

Tickets for the onward journey were confirmed just a couple of days before we were scheduled to go, but the return tickets were still waitlisted. We were supposed to leave on Tuesday evening, and by Monday the waitlist stood at 16. No wonder I was panicking!

Even an early morning trip to Andheri station did nothing to help, as even the Tatkal quota had filled up. That was the time when real anxiety set in!

I spent the entire day refreshing the PNR status page of the Indian Railways website. While doing it repeatedly, I cranked up my addition to the QuizUp app by several notches and ended up reaching level 42. For a short period of time, I stood at #1 globally for Harry Potter topic too!

By Tuesday morning, the waitlist had gone down to a healthy 7, so I was confident that we would make it. It kept getting closer and closer to the magic figure as the hours went by.

Alas! The battle was lost by a hair’s breadth. The reservation chart was prepared with our tickets finishing at W/L 1 and 2. That was when we decided to book a flight.

It cost a bomb.

IVP-Mumbai

While all this Railway drama was unfolding, I took some time off and paid a visit to the Mumbai office of IVP (I work in their Noida office). There are a fair amount of people who I know there. There are people from my own batch of joinees who attended their training in Noida before moving to work in Mumbai, and there are people with whom I have extensively worked with for the past few months in the same project. So I’ve always wanted to pay a visit to this particular workplace. Now that the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed at it!

The office didn’t turn out to be very far from my Mama’s place, and I got to meet my colleagues (some of them for the very first time!). Yet… it didn’t feel that I’d never met them in person before. I knew them, and they knew me! Some of the pleasures of telecommuting I guess!

The next steps

I visited the astonishing city for a mere four days. I perceived all I could… Took in everything that I laid my eyes on… Yet it feels somewhat incomplete. And why not? Whoever heard of witnessing whatever Mumbai has to offer in mere four days? Yes, another trip to this exquisite city is warranted. I want to experience everything that I haven’t. I want to spend time in Northern Mumbai, in Navi Mumbai, in India’s largest slum and the greatest Stock Market, in big air-conditioned malls and in sprawling outdoor markets, in cafes and in pubs, in a BEST bus and in a local train. I want to walk the entire shoreline and get drenched in the famous rains and see a shooting and find a writing corner on a beach and visit Ajanta and Ellora caves and experience Mumbai like a true Mumbaikar (although I ain’t one!).

I’m gonna have to be back. Soon.

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Observations

Readers, and Writers

I guess people are fascinated by people who write. Or sometimes even by people who read. They fail to understand the pleasures that can be derived from losing yourself in a mass of written words that have the power to transform the mundane reality into a fantastic landscape of intrigue and mystery, among other things.

Getting lost in such a world is one thing, creating such a world in which other people would want to soak themselves in is quite another. It is a hard computational problem, as the engineer inside me would like to say. But you get to invent so many things that it is well worth it! The feeling of being a master puppeteer who controls the fate of all his characters, who laugh and cry, live and die at the stroke of your pen is empowering, and slightly sadistic too if you ask me.

Those who practice the art of storytelling are compelled to do so. It’s not a choice but a passion, an obsession. Once they start, they cannot stop. They will continue visiting the vast arenas of thought that exist in their minds, continue to extract stories from them, and continue to enthrall their readers with them.

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Observations

On doing too many things at once

Technology – the great saviour! Technology – the evil depressor!

Technology has blossomed the most in the last decade or so. Websites and social networks have mushroomed. The amount of devices one has to interact with virtually anyone on the internet has skyrocketed. So much so that a working internet connection has become a necessity in many a household. No business nowadays can be imagined without the huge fiber-optic cables laid down under sea across the world, and without the satellites that encircle the earth. The dream of the entire world being a global village has finally been realised. But technology has also brought upon us a curse. Two actually – the multitude of devices and the multitude of options.

The multitude of devices

Just think about it. I have a desktop computer that I first bought in 2001. Although it has been sliced-and-diced multiple times in the intervening years, I have added and removed components in it so many times that now it hardly sports anything that was bought thirteen years ago, it has remained a steady presence in my room ever since. It was the most substantial technology investment that my parents had made at that time, and all I had used it was to play Road Rash in it on Windows ME.

Still, the desktop lingered and I did many great things with it (finding out mom’s long lost friend after nearly three decades was also a part of it, and that was before facebook had happened!). I spent hours upon hours staring at its screen during my school and college days – learning programming languages, discovering the joys of wikipedia and blogger and yahoo and google, freewriting whenever I felt like it, watching countless movies and TV shows and what not, tinkering with images with photoshop, experimenting with different flavours of Linux… You get the drift.

Over the past few years though, I have been plagued with a multitude of devices, all intent on accomplishing the same thing over and over again, and using different paradigms every time.

Two years ago I bought a laptop. And.. Things changed since then. Now that my desktop wasn’t my sole window to the world, it’s role started to diminish. Now I didn’t use the desktop for photoshop for example, because the laptop had an HD-ready screen and a dedicated graphics processor. Programming was a different ball game on a laptop though, so that stayed with the familiar desktop. Also, at that time my laptop’s graphics processor wasn’t properly supported by the Linux platforms, so my FOSS experiments stayed with the desktop too.

I had felt constrained by the limited resolution that my desktop’s monitor offered (1024×768, imagine!), so I bought a full-HD monitor for my desktop in March last year. God was I happy! I could finally watch HD movies on my system, and using Visual Studio / Photoshop was a delight with all the extra screen real-estate I now had. On a whim I installed some games too. I’m not really a hard core gamer, but I enjoy killing some enemy soldiers on screen every now and then. But then something else happened. Another device entered the ecosystem.

A Smart TV. This had built-in WiFi, could be controlled with a mobile device, supported DLNA, and was accompanied with a state-of-the-art Yamaha home theater system. For obvious reasons watching movies on the desktop was now out. I could just stream it onto the TV and enjoy the more immersive experience. During this time I also realised that I no longer enjoyed typing out long passages (blog posts, for example) on the desktop. The laptop was more convenient, and more intimate. I could even use it in pitch darkness – a setting that I happen to like. The desktop was reduced to a mere downloading machine by then… neglected in a corner but switched on 24×7 to download new TV episodes and movies in full-HD quality.

As luck would have it, during August my company gifted me another device – a Micromax FunBook. It was my first experience with Android, so naturally I was excited. I loaded it with apps of all shapes and sizes. Being a low-end device it wasn’t able to bear the load of many of them, yet I liked to use it. In the end it served as a Kindle for me more than anything else, and I managed to read a number of volumes on it, including a translation of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and Gregory David Roberts’s magnum opus Shantaram. But my zeal to acquire more devices wasn’t over as yet.

Next up was Google’s flagship smartphone – Nexus 5. It got delivered right on time, on my birthday itself! And I spent the night cutting up my SIM card to perfection, applying the screen guard and loading it up with numerous apps. What did I use it for? Phone? yes. Whatsapp? yes. Facebook? yes. Kindle? yes. Flipboard? yes. RSS? yes. Music? yes. Podcasts? yes. Youtube? yes. In short, it was the perfect convergence device that I was looking for. The silver bullet. Same thing for everything.

You must be wondering that I must have stopped after that, no? After all, what more I could want? Sorry to disappoint you, because two days ago I bought another device.

A second generation Kindle Paperwhite. Why? Because I couldn’t stand the glare while reading ebooks on my tablet and phone. I like it too. I’ve already read The Secret of the Nagas on it and it feels exactly right. Feels like paper, visible in the darkest of room and in the brightest of sunlight, and sturdy. I can see myself reading books upon book on this thing and not grow tired of it. It really is an amazing device.

But even after owning so many great devices all at once, I feel empty… constricted… tied. I feel like this -

Slave of Devices

Slave of devices – Courtesy Harleen Kaur

Yes, the above picture talks about charging devices, but I feel like a slave of them on a more fundamental level. I feel confused… with so many devices around, which one to use when? Should I read this blog on my laptop, or is my phone more suited for it? Should I post this facebook update from my desktop, or tablet? Does Reddit look better on its android tablet app, or should I prefer chrome on my laptop? First world problems, anyone?

The multitude of options

Having all these devices vying for my attentions has another side effect, as I’ve realised. I’ve become more of a consumer than a producer. When I just had my desktop, I’d used it to build stuff. I loved to create wallpapers and web layouts on Photoshop. I loved to write. Once I created a WordPress theme from scratch, and another time using the underscores framework. I even tried to create my own CMS in PHP, and succeeded to a large extent too! I used to tinker with Linux so much that once I had three flavors installed on my PC, along with Windows! Back in school I had famously completed two years’ worth of my Computer Science syllabus in mere three months, and had managed to top every single exam they could throw at me. During my BSc years I learned so much about Web Design and Development that I still draw upon that knowledge – nearly five years later! But now I do nothing of that sort whatsoever.

Earlier when I planned to do something, I usually got it done to perfection. Even the things that I couldn’t make wasn’t due to lack of trying. I tried and failed, and felt good about it later. I used to do just one thing at once, and whatever I did, it took me forward, somewhat.

Now what? Now I am a chronic planner, and nothing else. So much so that whatever I plan on doing it never gets done. I had planned to write a short story sometime back. I have it all in my head. But I can’t bring myself to actually writing it. I had planned to make a really nice app for my own use. I have everything needed to make it all written down, and even got the development environment put together. But I can’t bring myself to actually code the damn thing. I had planned to refurbish my homepage… that thing has been on the internet for nearly three years. I have the new design all mocked up. But I can’t bring myself to actually open Photoshop and layer it out. Only recently, I conspired with a friend to write a novel. Yes, an actual novel. I have the story all figured out. But I can’t seem to bring myself to start writing. All this because of too less time on my hands, but mostly because of too many distractions that I suffer from. There’s simply so much to do!

What should I do on the two days of week that I get off? Write a blog post? Read one of the numerous unread books? Catch up with housework? Go out with friends? Plan the next scene? Do some coding for pleasure? Watch a movie? Listen to an audio book? Go for a walk? Organise my stuff? Daydream?

I have so many unread books lying around that these days I’m even reading multiple of those at once. I read a paperback on my way to office, and an ebook on my way back home. Nowadays I’ve even started the Harry Potter series on audio, and with the new Kindle I’m on my third book of the Shiva Trilogy. I watch two movies during a weekend, but download a lot more during the rest of the week, because you know, my TV is awesome.

And all this social sharing that has become the part-and-parcel of modern life is driving me crazy! You go somewhere? You post it on facebook. You read a book? You update goodreads. You bought something online? You rate it on the website and cross-post it on twitter. You listened to a song? You scrobble it on last.fm. As if the locus of your own life has been externalized. You live for others, not for yourself. And you try hard to keep up appearances. It’s all very depressing.

Where does it all stop? In order to cure distractions, the powers-that-be came up with more applications – that of the distraction-free variety. So my phone has a distraction-free note-taking app. My PC has a distraction-free text editor. Even WordPress, the software on which this blog runs, has a distraction-free mode of its admin backend. Does that help? Somewhat. Of course, getting rid of all distractions would be akin to going back to the first principles. Not using any of the devices. Not heeding to any of the beeps. But for a citizen of the internet like me, it all seems much too harsh, no?

I’ll just need to live with it.

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Random!

Paranthas at Midnight

All times presented here are approximate.

11:05 PM
By some insane twist of fate, Saurabh Luthra, Mayank Misra and I end up in the same cab. We feel that it should be fun, and at the same time sarcastically mourning the loss of the fourth passenger to another cab, who is sarcastically the best person around.

11:15 PM
We’re cruising the expressway with speed that befits the structure. Old songs are playing on 91.1, and Saurabh is humming along. There is slight chill in the air, and the weather gods are threatening to make it rain anytime. Looking out the window, seeing trees and cars whiz past is an experience in itself.

We talk about investment banking and unbiased research. About the most used phrases in IVP (phat gaya tops the list!). And SM, of course.

11:20 PM
First sign of trouble. Our cab’s front tyre on the right gets punctured, and we’re parked on the rightmost lane on the expressway. We get out of the car (Mayank takes out his bag too), and Saurabh gets talking about the traffic rules in the US. And about how he took a U-turn once in Minneapolis.

Out comes an orange from Mayank’s bag and we start eating. Saurabh comments on our lack of litter awareness as we throw off the peels there and then. Mayank contradicts him by saying that this is biodegradable waste which is actually good of the surrounding trees. We throw off the seeds too and mark the spot (right next to the Mayoor School it is), for we will be coming back to look at the orange tree in a few years – the legacy of us being there!

Somehow the two of them start talking about relative velocity, and making fun of me in the process… trying to measure the velocities of each and every vehicle that passes us. One of the cars stop, asking for directions to Delhi. I send them on their way, and then we wonder about the consequences if they had been going in the wrong direction.

11:35 PM
The tyre is replaced and we are on our way. But our car troubles are not over yet. We hear a strange sound, and smell a strange smell. It turns out that the newly replaced tyre is about to go bust as well. The car shudders even at ~40 kmph. We stop again, while the driver examines the damage-to-be. The cab supervisor is called up, who promises another cab at another place.

We move along, slowly this time. At every sign of shudder the driver slows down. At every sign of its absence he speeds up again. We’re in for a tough ride!

Saurabh doesn’t worry though. He inexplicably draws a leaf on the window. And the old songs on 91.1 continue. Slowly, but not so steadily, we cross the DND Flyway… Ashram… Nehru Place… and reach the Moolchand flyover, where a cab is promised to us.

Midnight
Saurabh has the best idea. Why wait for the cab? Why not have paranthas instead? He remembers a nearby place, which he and Abhishek used to frequent in another time. Off we go, (Mayank brings his bag here too. He treats it like his siamese twin!) and as luck would have it, we find it too! It is small and utterly crowded. But our chances of getting through the crowd look good because we have Mayank with us – the tallest BA in IVP’s history. We send him in. And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Fifteen minutes pass like this and he still hasn’t got through. We curse ourselves for sending him in. We get the order changed to get it faster. We prod him… incite him… goad him… egg him on… Anything for the egg paranthas now!

Eventually he comes through. But instead of three, he brings in only two, and that too inside a paper लिफाफा! We are horrorstuck by the notion, but start eating anyway. He gets the third one a little later, in a proper plate this time for a change. And we eat them like there’s no tomorrow. The entire thing is finished in a fraction of time it took to get it ordered and cooked.

12:30 AM
The second cab comes through… just as we are done eating. We hop on, and joke about the utter absurdity of the whole thing. And also about having to work during the weekend. The rest of the journey home passes without any cab-related, or parantha-related incident.

1 AM
Home sweet home. 127.0.0.1

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Reflections

Relative Velocity

Over the years I have come to realize that people are necessarily transitive in nature. Man, being a social being, cultivates a string of relationships as soon as he is able to do that. He then (wishfully) thinks that they will last for a lifetime. Of course they don’t. Because people are necessarily transitive in nature.

Think of it this way – every person living on this earth has his own pace. Some proceed slowly, others are fast. Some have a habit of racing ahead when they feel like, but slack away when they don’t want to go on. Somehow somewhere in between, you are bound to cross paths with someone. You are bound to come within their radius of influence, and benefit by it. (or even suffer due to it too… depends on what you get served with!) Yet as each one of your influences have different speeds of moving forward, you will lose out on them some day or the other. The higher the relative velocity of you two, the sooner you will lose them. Either you will move on, or they will. There is no other possibility.

Wait.. It seems that there is! What if your relative velocity is so low that it is almost negligible? Then you can be inside their radius of influence for a long long time. You can become friends with them. And perhaps this is the best definition of a friendship - relative velocity tending to zero.

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Observations

On Comics

Comic Con turned out to be far less than what I’d expected. It felt nothing more than a book fair for comics. But then, what else I’d expected out of it? I’m not really a comic person. I’m a novel person. I prefer to be absorbed into a book for hours on end, and prefer to visualize the author’s world on my own. I don’t need help from an artist to do that for me. I feel that a part of the magic is lost when you read a comic, or even a graphic novel. What if the dragons were supposed to be bigger for you? What if you wanted your superhero to be grander? With comics your field of vision is constrained.

Not that I abhor comics entirely. I’ve read my fair share of Amar Chitra Katha. I even read them aloud to my five year old nephew, who absolutely loves them! For him the visuals help, because he still needs to develop the grand scale of imagination needed to picture mythic worlds. He would often come to me, his favorite comic in his hand (these days it’s Tales of Hanuman), asking me to read his favorite parts to him. He would point out the characters and settings, recognizing them from the pictures. He even tries to draw them – speech bubbles and all – imagining the conversations between his favorite heroes. But I never did that when I was his age. I could never draw, you see.

Some part of me is jealous of the artists too, because they do what I can’t. And that’s another reason why I don’t read comics. I feel somewhat inferior.

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Unformed Thoughts

Fighting the block

“A lot has happened since I last wrote here…” Umm… No.

“I’ve not been writing since long…” No no no.

“Once upon a time there lived a boy in a far-off land…” Definitely not!

Writer’s block is real. And I’ve been affected by it yet again! Hours upon hours I gaze on a blank sheet of paper (which, by the way, is another of my cliche phrases), and come up with nothing. Nothing at all. And then I start to wonder whether I’ve lost my ability to write anymore. 54 days and I haven’t written a single post here. I’m not that busy. Not anymore at least. Yet I’ve been shirking away from writing. Reading is going on, full steam ahead. Already completed three books this year. But writing.

So here’s what I have thought. I’ll do some freewriting for a couple of days. Maybe more, if the block doesn’t go away. I’ll just pick up a piece of paper and start scribbling… the first thing that comes to my mind. It won’t be pretty, I know. But at least it will be something. I might post it here if I find it suitable. If not, then I’ll take it to my grave.

Ciao.

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