Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Spirit Carries On

The journey continues. The quest for true knowledge though, eludes me. Was this the way it was went to be? As they say, you have to know what the system is and how it runs, to effectively get out of it and possibly fight it. The second semester at TISS has been brewed with familiarities unlike the first. The same old faces, the same 'old' alcohol, songs and the discussion that follows, hurt egos and everything that you associate with life. Sports brought fresh new life into the college only to be killed by flak by the so called anti-engineering movement.
Do I know what education is now? Do I feel 'educated'? How different is it from engineering?
I do not know to what extent I can answer that. Nor am I entitled to voice an opinion against this 'idea' of education that linger in my mind. Sitting here on this revolving chair, looking outside at Mumbai's erstwhile dump yard - Chembur, one can't help wonder or in fact question whether knowledge is simply passed on through textbooks, assignments and JSTOR. Did text books and classroom knowledge help convert the waste-yard that was Chembur to the extended city that is Chembur? Having lived for more than two years, the carp knew every pebble in the tank? But did she know the world? 
The pigeon which had been constantly trying to make a nest all this while, seem to have given up. Isn't it interesting how the birds have adapted so much to human life. Where did the pigeons make their nests before humans started making these big buildings? Out in the open they must have been an easy prey. 
I remember sitting, dressed up to please the interview panel from XLRI, in a luxury hotel in Bangalore. The watchman was trying shoo away the pigeons from their resting place on the eastern balcony. Sun light simmering through, as silhouettes discussed frantically about inflation and GDPs. 
During the interview they had asked me what i planned to do with my MBA. I had given the answer as I had rehearsed but they were not convinced. So they had asked me again.
"What do you want to do in life?" I still remember how everyone at that juncture had shifted their focus from whatever they were doing. This was the make or break question. I had anticipated this question prior to the interview but somehow I chose not to give away the answer I had thought of. Instead I sat still for two minutes. Not photography, not travel, not meet new people. My mind kept blocking my options as I searched for the right answer. Such situations can be incredibly tiring. Even minutes drain more energy out of you than a work-out in a health club. And finally I broke the silence that probably was the laughing stock in their post interview discussion. 

"I want to change the educational system in India."
I knew I had dug my own grave with that answer. I knew I had stayed in Bangalore for a week wasting parents' hard earned money for absolutely nothing. But the confidence with which I defended wave after wave of questions is something I still can't come to terms with. The fact that I believe a college or a school is not giving you 'education' yet pursuing one...
Sometimes I wonder what I have gotten myself into. The promised land across the black sea has not turned out to be green. In fact I can't decide which among the banks were more greener. I am now in the world of academics. Where knowledge is a brutal war. There exists a bread and one thousand hungry minds. They will cut it, share it, reuse it, reproduce it, patent it, copyright it, plagiarise it... And then claim to have saved man kind with their 'knowledge'. All a day's work. 
Two weeks they give, to go out and see the world, get the data and produce 'knowledge' called dissertation. Their brilliant scheme to make the world a better place. 
I am troubled. Some years ago I realised that I was a product, one among millions, on a conveyor belt that would dictate my destiny. I had struggled, pushed, shook, broke, to gather enough momentum that would help get out of the conveyor belt. And I had succeeded. But now I realise, that I had only fallen into another belt. Is there no escape from this world? These people, these faces that I see around me. Do they know what is happening? Why are they smiling at me? Have they tried getting out of the system themselves? Is there a way out? Have they given up? Are they who control the system?
I will escape. I wont give up... 

1 There is a belief in the college that sports is what engineering students do in four years of college. So much for future social scientists.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death

As a part of "Audience studies" course, 1st semester, Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social sciences.

“Amusing ourselves to death” by Neil Postman was first published in 1985, more than 25 years ago, when television in India was still a commodity that only the elite could afford. Hence his work, though increasingly speaking to an American audience with his references about TV shows like ‘The Newshour’, can still be perceived as fresh and relevant in our country. Moreover, like his son Andrew Postman wrote in his introduction for the twentieth anniversary edition of the book, the beauty of the book lies in how we can relate the fetishization of TV in the past few decades with the new age amusement for platforms like the internet.  The core of the book, as highlighted by the author himself, is derived from Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” which introduced the idea of how ‘people will come to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.’
The book revolves around the idea that ‘presentation’ is more important than the actual content shown on TV (or other media). This has resulted in a huge decline in the standards of media products and commoditized politics, economy, religion etc. into a package like the ‘news hour’.  As per Postman, TV gives more emphasis on the need for entertainment as a result of which the quality of information suffers adversely. In the modern day one can easily find examples to substantiate this point. The use of dramatic background music during the news coverage, abrupt entry of commercials, bright large fonts for ‘flash news’, the sudden shift from a very important news to entertaining content (Postman described it as ‘Now…this’), all shows a greater need of entertaining the audience. This is not limited to the electronic media though.  ‘The Times of India’ had ordered its correspondents to cover the coming elections ‘bearing the entertainment and personality angles in mind (Sainath, 2008).’
Postman also argues how the tele-visual communication has moulded the way even politics work. Today’s politics has more to do with how the candidate appears/comes across in a television or other media, than his/her ideas and solutions. This is very true in today’s context where the visual media carried every action to different parts of the country. A candidate is often judged on how flamboyant he/she is in their presentation than their actual content. Politicians termed ‘proactive’, ‘vibrant’ or ‘innovative’ by how they deliver a speech and not by what they deliver in it.
From TV, the internet has taken over the baton. It is now the object of desire that makes man voluntarily sacrifice his rights. Browsing the internet or watching the television, according to Postman, curbs the need for the audience to have an ‘intellectual involvement’ unlike reading a book. The passive involvement of people, coupled with the lack of true rational argument in the programs, has resulted in a form of control. Like Frank Lloyd Wright famously put it, “TV is chewing gum for the eyes.”  One can see an increasing demand for internet in the present generation that is extremely staggering. With smart phones and tablets, our lives today depend on it. Social media networks have taken up chunks of our day that at times we exist more in the cyber world than we do in the real world, constructing identities that would get recognition and be ‘liked’.  The social media can be connected with Huxley’s idea of control where he believed ‘no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history (Postman, 1985).’ We ourselves are constantly watching other users and in return are under constant surveillance by many. There is no central power that controls us. We are nothing but slaves of our own creations.  As Herman and Chomsky highlighted in their book ‘Manufacturing Consent’, the media today is also is a part of propaganda by the elite to control the audience. Television, radio, newspapers are all more keen on promoting commercial, social and political agendas. One can see how, for example the state of Tamil Nadu, the two main political parties try to influence the people. Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy and a media tycoon, is again an example of how powerful a medium television is, especially in developing nations.


The cartoon can be seen as an example of what is trying to say in his book. The frame gives an impression to ‘passive audience’ that is completely contradictory with the reality. Neil Postman’s book is a work that is cogent and well put forward. It highlights the dangers of Television to the society and how it is bringing about subjugation of our rights. But what can also be seen is a fascination of the writer with an age that has passed – that of written society and intellectualism. What must be noted is how human beings have moved on from an oral tradition to written work. Now a new age has come which might not be as catastrophic as the author has imagined. Mankind is constantly evolving, albeit in ways that might not sound conventional to a certain era. He associates the age of Enlightenment with the written for intellectualism. But it can be seen that the printing press existed much prior to the renaissance. We are slowly embracing a new culture that depends lesser on written work. There is still hope that once we get familiarized we will start acting.
A study by UCLA, which used a three-year, individual-level panel dataset to study the impact of cable television on women’s status in rural India, found that ‘the introduction of cable television is associated with significant decreases in the reported acceptability of domestic violence towards women and son preference, as well as increases in women’s autonomy and decreases in fertility.’(Jensen and Oster, 2006) Perhaps the biggest criticism of Postman’s work is the dismissive attitude he showed to television and the future media. He is skeptical and leaves no space for hope. A hope that one day television viewing can be for the good.


1.       Media ownership trends in India by Paranjor Guha Thakurta Retrieved from:
2.       Quotes by Llyod Wright Retrieved from :
3.       Shrinking spaces, New Places by P. Sainath Retrieved from:
4.       Postman,N(1985) Amusing ourselves to death, Penguin Books, New York.
5.       Printing Press History Retrieved from

Sunday, December 15, 2013

TISS Against 377

After the outrageous ruling by the supreme court, which criminalised "unnatural sex" (article 377) overturning Delhi high court's ruling in 2009, TISS has been consistently fighting for the rights. The re criminalising of "unnaturalness" (as they claim) is a gross violation of basic human rights, not just for the LGBTQ but for every human in the country.
Some photos of our first gathering near the dining hall in TISS campus

Monday, November 4, 2013

That Halloween Night

Sarppakavu. Photograph via
I do not keep track of the dates. Everyday is another twenty four hours to me. Be it Sunday or Friday. Which probably explain why I was outside on a Halloween night trying out some photography. I do not believe in Halloween. It has always been something Americans did on certain nights, though India like every other thing, have started copying the western fascination for pumpkin headed ghosts. But the question is, do I believe in ghosts? The super natural. Its a fascinating question, perhaps what pushed me to blogging in the first place was a need to put forward some theories I had about afterlife and multiverse.
Almost all my life, I've spent in the corner of the Ernakulam corporation (Kochi as it is popularly known), once a small town famous for its churches and temples, now for having Kerala's biggest malls all stacked in a kilometre radius. Edappally, the face of the 'metro', also has a history deeply interwoven with rich folk culture and religion.
Edappally Raghavan Pillai and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, 
often compared to Keats and Shelly for their astounding works in Malayalam literature, come from this little suburb of Cochin. While their life stories, especially their coming together, are known to many in the state of Kerala their personal lives still remain a mystery. Very few know about the death of of Raghavan Pillai's mother. Or his own tragic death, committing suicide at the age of 27 after a love affair with an upper class girl forced him to flee the town. Inside the town, rumour always was that the poet's family had destroyed a 'sarpakavu' (an abode for snakes, especially the sacred cobra) and the curse of the Naga Raja has been with them ever since. Raghavan Pillai's life is filled with tragedies. Changampuzha himself died at a young age of 36 falling prey to Tuberculosis. And there are other stories too about the town. Some not so popular like the tale of the Mozhangumthara family who had no children. It is believed that around 60 dogs lived in that compound, all ferocious, trained to eat children. I still remember having had to jump into their compound to fetch a cricket ball once. Some five dogs had sniffed their way to us right after we climbed the wall. They were not exactly beasts but they still barked like mad. Stories of spirits, yakshis, bison legged men who roam about the streets at midnight.. the stories of the town are endless. 
Why am I saying all this though? Who believes in all these stories in the 21st century? As I was saying in the beginning of the post, I was outside trying to figure out some functions in my camera. But later that night when I was analysing the photos I found out some disturbing patterns. I had put camera on sequence mode and taken some photographs. But the shadow patterns on the tiles were very disturbing. It was different for each photo. 

I am still seeking explanations for the changing shadow patterns. And these are continuous shots. So moon or other sources of light changing positions is out of the question. What caused this sudden change in shadows?
I woke up the next day to see this.

Neighbours car had broken the wall and entered our compound. Strangely at the same place I found the shadows on the previous night.
What do i believe?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dear Daughter

Live your life to the fullest my dear,
Go out there and challenge the norms.
Make love, make merry and see the world.
Loiter when the moon is out
And fight them if they ask you why.
They will push you, scare you,
And always discourage you.
But what more can they do?
That they curse you to hell?
But don't you see my little child,
That we already live in one.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A requiem

Life as such is hard at TISS. Day and night they make me work. Periodically filling me with more and more 'duties'. Many times I protested. Squealed, squeaked, coughed out smoke. All to no use.
Last month they 'found' me a partner. Yes, those Kurta wearing social scientists around me who preach about 'choice' and 'love marriage'! But I wasn't complaining. It always feels good to have someone to share things with. Especially work. And my life did become easier for a while. Everyone called us the 'perfect couple'. Spending our days and nights in two separate rooms, serving people - their idea of a honeymoon I suppose. I moved on. What other option did I have anyway? And then it all 'fell apart'. I can't blame him though. Succumbed to the pressure and guilt. Stopped working...
Today I work alone. The night is about to die and I would like to sleep. But people around me are still sending me requests that I cannot say no to. Afterall, that is the purpose of my life - to serve.

These days I dream a lot...
I stand, in the middle of the forest, watching trees fall as I carry on with my work. Animals and birds moving around in panic, while the clouds make way for scorching sunlight. Work, trees, cries, work, trees, cries, work, trees, cries.... silence...
What can I do? I was made to serve. Education has not taught these people. Or has it made them worse? I feel like a hangman at times. Just doing a job. If the world does not care, why should I? In technology I had belief. 'Had'.
I see the boy taking away a lump of 'work' I had just finished for him. I hear cries...

                                                                                            Yours sincerely,
                                                                                            9040 library printer.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Analysing Space : Ground floor on TISS Library

Sir Dorabji Tata Memorial library is perhaps the most ‘happening’ space inside the ‘Old Campus’ during the day time. In the ground floor one can witness loud discussions, people with headphones waving at laptops, ‘under the desk’ romance and amidst all that, people genuinely reading. This is perhaps what intrigued and finally convinced me to analyse the same space after midnight.
The reading room can be broadly divided into three sections. The 'couch space' in the eastern corner with glass tables to rest laptops or keep books on. The centre of room has six tables, each with six red chairs around it. And on the western corner are three tables, again with six chairs around it. But the difference is that the chairs are green in colour and the plug points on the table works. It is interesting to note the colour signifiers - the table with red seats does not have electricity supply while the table with green seats have. There are individual reading lights for every table but the hall is well lit that students hardly use it.

Quite contrary to the day time, there are no fights for the ‘green seats’ next to the plug points or corner couches. The book lending section is closed by 8 and it is roped off, so the ground floor is limited to the reading room and the lab for the visually challenged. Most of the chairs were empty but lay at different locations, sometimes quite far away from the desk, constant reminders of the day that had passed.

When I walked in, at the stroke of midnight, there were around twenty five people in the entire room. Two girls sitting on the couch, with their legs on the table, were deep in conversation. It is interesting how the table turns into a space to rest the legs once the crowd has reduced. Very few spaces inside the TISS campus are under surveillance and the library reading room is one such place. The sofa is one place that the camera does not cover and hence one tends to see more intimate conversations there. I do not think its deliberate. It could also well be that the sofa is much better a place for a comfortable talk. Throughout the talk they kept shifting their gaze from their respective laptops, which was placed on their stomachs, to the entrance of the library as if they were expecting someone.
 A student sat on the couch facing the ‘The Speaking Tree’ painting was shuffling vigorously the pages of a book that he had made photocopies of. Another student, who wore a T-shirt which had ‘School of Health System Studies’ written on it and was facing right towards me, had switched on the lamp on the table lamp and was scribbling notes from what seemed like a video of a seminar. During the day the people who are more interested in their work tends to be concentrated around the green table. After midnight they are more scattered as there are more vacant seats and lesser noise.
There were two groups having conversations around the 'red tables'. I could not over hear what they were talking about but from their actions it seemed as if one member in the group was explaining to others about something. I have always been curious as to why groups chose to meet at library ground floor which is a 'reading space', for their discussions. One of the biggest reason should be the lack of such a space inside the college. Apart from the 'quadrangle' and the new campus dining hall, there are no places with uninterrupted internet supply which is open throughout the day. Especially in the evenings, people often choose the library space, because of mosquitoes.
The security guard was asleep on a green chair that had been dragged to a spot next to a pillar where he could rest his head. The reading space is only accessed by the students of TISS. Except for the staff who cleans the tables every day morning, hardly anyone else enters the space. Even the security guards, even if they are upset with something happening inside the space, stands outside and tells. Understandably, they do not like it when the students make noise or switch on the lights next to the space were they sit.
At around one in the night, the majority in the library walks out to the 'SMS' canteen to get a snack before the canteen closes. The return back at different times, some don't, but generally, I noticed that everyone are back with an hour. After they return, some people move to the cyber library on the first floor. By then the staff in the cyber lab, who wouldn't otherwise allow laptops inside, would've have left. The lab is often more quieter and the air conditioned, so many prefer the place for getting the work done.
One thing that can be noticed about everyone in the ground floor (excluding the security guards) is the way they have all chosen to wear comfortable dresses. Most of them are dressed like how one would be inside in one's own house and that reflected how comfortable people were in that space. One of the student I talked to even had his tooth brush and paste with him. With filtered water also available, for many the ground floor was equivalent to their home.

The night was pretty dull and there were hardly anything that made you look at someone or something. The people inside kept moving in and out, mostly for a small walk or to attend phone calls. Students from the cyber library kept going out but nobody wanted to use the space in the ground floor. By around three, only one person had left. Surprisingly everyone had maintained their levels of intensity in whatever they were doing.  

The only incident worth mentioning, was my brief conversation with the security guard sitting outside the library. He had woken up by the sound I made while entering the library after a brief stroll and could not come to terms with the fact that I was a student. ID card and persuasion convinced him to finally allow me to enter.

The whole night was a huge contrast to the day time where there is life bustling in every corner. It is very difficult to come to a conclusion as to what type of people who generally visits people. One can safely assume it gets more crowded on during the exams. Most of the remaining group left by 4:00 a.m and the one person who was remaining lived in a house outside the campus.
My observation and analysis of the space is in no way complete or comprehensive. It is not exactly the same group that visits the library every day. What one can safely assume about the ground floor in the library is the fact that it is much beyond a reading space. It is where people like to meet up and discuss things. Silence is next to absent in the hall and there are hardly any boards/signs asking the students to keep quiet. The saddest part is how the library is no longer very reader friendly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Other Side Of A Palli Perunnal

Matthew 21:12 : Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Every May life takes a different course for people of Edappally. The “palli perunnal” (festive season at the St. George church) from 31st April to Mid May brings in ‘believers’ from all over the state to this place in the northern end of Cochin Corporation. And with it comes days of terrible traffic management, unofficial power cuts (to supply the Church with the necessary power) and various forms of health hazards.
I am not being entirely honest if I say I hate the festive period. I love it when people assemble. These are occasions when people celebrate together -The rich and the poor. They come in flocks, eat street food (at inflated prices), drink sugar cane juice, buy cotton candy, pray for petty things and rejuvenate their lives. Little girls running around searching for that perfect bangle while another pack stack up their ammo with 'Potas' (a very mild gun powder) bullets. It is my miniature heaven. Everyone is happy. The parents constantly reminding each other of what it used to be when they were kids. Infact these festivals are something that preserves a little bit of the past. Same old cotton candy, same  old guns, bangles, coloured candies, rosaries... Very little change has happened to a 'perunnal' or 'utsavam' in the last twenty- thirty years.

I am person who generally likes my free space and solitude but love and happiness of a Perunnal cannot be paralleled. I love the overall energy that brings.
But at Edappally there is a strange practice that really does bother me. It is considered holy to be cooking chicken at Edappally during these days. And the believers are encouraged to buy chickens from the church itself (at beefed up prices). And why wouldn't they. Nothing sells like Brand God.
People come in groups, kills chickens in dozens, cooks them, be freed of their sins and leave merrily. But what happens to all that waste? The skins, the feather, the internal organs?
Every year around this time there is dramatic increase in the number of rats, crows and flies. You probably guessed what they feed on. We laugh about it every year saying its a good sign that these creatures are feeding on it. Not GMO and all that.
But life really becomes terrible. Everything we cook at home has to protected from flies. Dead rats on roads starts becoming a common sight. The air becomes so stale that it is hard to breath. Along with the imminent danger of rat bites and related diseases.
It has with time become better. Earlier May evenings used to be like a vampire infested Transylvania. We would all lock our gates and switch off the lights early. Otherwise people would get inside our compounds and start cooking. And there are drunk men we are talking about.

Now the killing has been restricted to school ground and the roads surrounding it. But there is no shortage of flies and rats.
Nothing I say is going to change things. You simply don't mess with religious beliefs in this country! Especially not when it tastes good. But I wanted the story to be out. So that the next time you come with your chicken, you will atleast remember to put the waste in the bin.
As Gloria Gaynor sang once albeit for a totally different reason, "I'll survive" this period like i've been doing ever since my family moved to Edappally.
"Blah", as my friend rightly puts it, "at least it's bio degradable."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Conversations On a Cliff Top #2

Read the first part here...

"What brings you here Ma'am?", I asked, keen on diverting the subject of conversation from my marriage. She smiled and replied, "Why do tourists come here?"
"They have their reasons. A friend once told me how 'staring at the sea' helped him 'reclaim his life'.", I said.

She laughed and said, "I have something like that in my mind as well. Though I find the word 'reclaim' a little too polarizing."

The waiter informed us of the distinct possibility of a storm and asked us to head back to our hotel rooms as soon as possible.

I nodded while the lady kept staring at the sea. Strangely, I could sense 'joy' in her face. Anticipation coupled with freedom. The look of a prisoner who had been freed.

"I've been married for 28 years. Today, for the first time in my life, I walked out.", she said while twisting her cup of coffee. I remained silent but did not take my eyes off her. She needed a listener and I did not want to disappoint her.

"I should have done this a long time ago. But I was too scared.", she said. The sea was beginning to look more intimidating now, as waves thrashed against the human made barriers. Some of the tourists got up to leave while the more seasoned campaigners stayed on, knowing perfectly well that they had at least half an hour more before the storm started moving in.

"I was raped on my first night by the man my parents had found me. 'Lack of knowledge' the families had called it. But to be honest, my husband had problems that needed to be treated. Going to a psychologist was considered taboo in an upper class family but domestic violence wasn't
. The fact that my husband was regarded by many, as the finest gentleman in politics, did not help me either. To the public he was Mr. Charming. To us, including our kids, he was nothing but the devil."

She was not looking at the cup of coffee anymore. Instead her gaze was fixed on a deep, long scar on her left wrist. I had spent too many sleepless nights at the 'Emergency' ward to not realise what it was.

"Did you try calling the police?", I asked.

"I never had the courage. Police stay away from politicians for obvious reasons. It would've been..suicide.", she said, volume dropping a little.

"The family said things would get better with a baby. And it did for sometime. I delivered him a baby boy like everyone had wanted. After an year he wanted another. I did not think I was ready but my vote did not matter. We had another boy, only this time my baby was autistic."

She looked at the sea again. The sky had gone remarkably dark and there were flashes of lightning in the horizon accompanied by long rumbles. She was crying. Tears running through her cheeks until gravity pulled it to the napkin on her thigh.
The glass window of the coffee shop reflected her sad eyes. Her face, now highlighted by the dark grey clouds in the background, told a story of a woman who had lost her motive in life. It was highly likely that her son had passed away recently. She wiped her eyes with a tissue paper, pointed at the clouds and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"

The news channel had reported a storm. People were being moved to regions of the city with higher altitude. Schools had been set up as emergency camps for the under-privileged.
At the hospital, we had moved all the electronic instruments to safer heights and were busy shifting the patients when I spotted one sitting on a bench in the park, next to the rehab center.
She was bald, due to a recent chemo, and was looking at the clouds when I reached there. She smiled, pointed to the sky and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"

I looked at the sky, like I had then, and succumbed to the sheer magnificence of what lay above my head. What some of us never sees in our lifetime.

(To be contd..)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conversations On a Cliff Top

"My husband I could understand...", she said while taking a sip of the new cup of coffee the waiter had brought. The wind played with her hair, which had been let lose. "He needed help. But it's his family, mine, including my parents who had loved me throughout their lives... It was them. I could never understand why they were so persistent."
She kept staring at the sea as she delivered the words in a low monotonous tone. I found myself lost for words. I didn't know to react. Did she want me to react? Or contribute to the argument perhaps? Was I better off as a silent spectator?
Fate or as non believers would say "lack of seats" had brought me to this seat facing the lady.

 I could not come to a conclusion on what was to be done so I gave a very timid "Hmmm" in response. I was partly lost in the complex world of memories, constantly jumping from one to another, like a convict who had escaped the prison, haunted by the guilt and a deep sense of fear. I did not wish to come back to reality. Yet this lady, who had been silent all this while, had aroused a sense of curiosity in me.
A week ago, while I was on my regular rounds at the oncology ward, I had listened to a relative of little Gina (a four year old Leukemia patient) tell her mother the story of a two year old cancer patient. I had wondered why people, usually close relatives or friends, always assumed that stories of sorrow acted as relaxants to the ones suffering themselves. 

Yet I found myself incredibly drawn to the lady in front of me, glued to the belief that her story was far worse than mine. The truth is, nobody likes to believe his/her life is going really bad, and would readily swallow whatever reassurances they can get.
"You are not reading. One doesn't blink that much" she said, staring at the sea. 

Old fishing vessels tied to wooden poles were dancing rhythmically to the waves which were gaining strength steadily. Dark clouds were filling up the horizon. A storm is imminent, I thought, as the cool breeze knocked an outdated table calendar off its upright position.
"I was thinking...", I replied.

Noticing her callous attitude, I looked around for free tables but the probability of a storm hadn't scared away the tourists from this hut, precariously positioned at the edge of a rocky cliff.
For the first time after starting the conversation the lady looked at me in the eye. I could sense the depth of sadness on that face devoid of any make up. Her eyes looked a little watery as it reflected the sea. I could easily imagine a younger version of hers, perhaps 30 years back, giving men a real pinch in their hearts.
"Are you married?" she asked.
I looked at the sea again. Sea gulls circling around the coast with real interest. Sometimes big storms and violent waves drove schools of fishes to shallow waters making them easy targets for their aerial predators. For a second I wanted to be a fish. To be that one in the million, riding the waves and just doing what everyone else does.

There was blood. It started out as a small drop. I was finding it hard to breath. My companions were all gone. The school had left me alone in this strange sea.

Suddenly my right fin stops working. I realize my time has come and that I am going to die. I was beginning to lose my balance. The currents were carrying me to different places.
I am astounded by what I see. There was light piercing through the water. I couldn't understand where the light was coming from or what its source was. I have not seen such a sight all my life. It has to be something super natural.
My body hits the sea floor and I realize that my right eye has gone completely blind. I am looking at the surface with the other eye. Images were getting dimmer.
All my life I had lived looking 'sidewards'. I had missed out on such a beautiful sight. And to think it was there, right over my head. If only..

She had been staring at me as I suffered another attack from dreams. She analyzed my face thoroughly once and then turned to watch the storm develop. The clouds were all assembling, like allies before a war, gaining the minimum strength required to wreak havoc. It was fascinating how the elements of Nature worked. Constantly striving for equilibrium, that fine balance... Where there was low pressure, the winds rushed in to nullify the difference. We mankind are a total contradiction to the laws of Nature. Even our systems like 'money' and 'love' are.
"Yes...", I replied.
How had it come to this? To that very question I had wanted to run away from? Why can't I avoid the 'present'?

(To be contd..)

Link to part two HERE

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Everyday I am Shiffining

An original green hero pen.
We all have that story of a lost friend, don't we? Images and experiences lost in that vast world of memories. Those lost 'visions' that pops up in your brain when you least expect it to.
The story behind 'Shiffining' is something similar. The relatively newer generation ( because I like to think I belong to the new generation) would find the story a little hard to relate to. 

There was a time in our lives when mobile phones and cameras were luxuries that most of our parents could not afford. When 'Hero' fountain pens still meant a lot to kids. Infact it is exactly a green 'Hero dupli' ( a replica of the original pen ) that motivated me to write this article.
Shiffin and I first met on a Sunday morning Bible class at the catholic church's parish hall. I was disliked by everyone in the class (as usual). I was the boy who "would not take a bath" (which I agree was true upto a certain extend).  And Shiffin was the new guy in class looking for allies in the back seat. The friendship clicked instantly.
This is not a story of how we cracked jokes or stole mangoes (we actually did quite a lot of that) and how life had defined different paths for us. That is what every writes on their blogs. Neither is it the story of the 'hero dupli' pen he had gifted me after the tenth standard bible class exam ( the last time that I saw him). He had no phone at his home so we did not even exchange numbers. It had been a very casual ending to what now seems like a real boyhood friendship (we were also glad to be rid of those boring classes).
I don't remember Shiffin all that well now. It is strange but that can happen in this age of technology where you rely completely on hard data while you tend to neglect the memories.
Photo via :
The frail boy in over sized clothes raids my mind occasionally like an omen. Therefore I'm engulfed in this sense of anticipation - That I will run into him one day.
This has developed a very queer habit in me. Whenever I see people wearing over sized Shirts I check them out and make mental comparisons with the young Shiffin that often visit my memories. It is strange, he might have even started wearing correct sized dresses now. Younger brothers like us, we get to use a lot carry overs (funny how sustainable consumption was always a part of our lives and yet need textbooks to make it complicated). But I do it everyday that I've deiced to call this process "Shiffining".
The sad part is, I could've very well seen the right 'Shiffin' and not realised it's him. He does not come to the church any more either. So there practically remains no way to know. I've searched Facebook but there is no profile picture and he has not accepted my friend request yet ( assuming  that I found the right guy).
It's amazing how such a story can exist in these modern times where communication is so easy. It is also fascinating to see the kind of growth technology and science has had in the past 8 years. My quest to find Shiffin and 'Shiffining' will keep on going until I find the person someday. May that be soon.

Shiffining kinda matches with the word shufflin'
Try singing this song with the Shiffining now...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The 11th Hour

The next time someone says his/her plans to buy a new AC owing to ‘global warming’ to you, smack him/her on the head as hard as possible. It is this kind of ‘immediate solution’, the inability to foresee, that has brought mankind to its 11th hour. We’ve abused Earth and its resources for a long time now. There remains very little on Earth. We’ve reached that penultimate hour. Our very existence on this planet depends on how we react to this predicament.

Yet you are surrounded by people who ruthlessly loot the environment in the name of ‘development’ and livelihood. Quite hard to believe, when you see the effect these moves have on the people - The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Recently I had the unfortunate displeasure of visiting the Mithi River in Mumbai. The distressing sight of the river along with the words of Mr.Abhay (a friend and local resident) gave me nightmares for weeks. “When the chief minister himself calls the river Mumbai’s sewer, what hope can one carry”, he had said.

The situation is the same everywhere. The story of River Yamuna and its troubled marriage with Delhi is another example of such gross negligence. Indian government, for its part, has been doing nothing. The ‘developing nation’ tag must not mean money at the sake of environment. It is not a license to rape Earth of its resources. This is precisely the “inability to foresee” that I had pointed out initially. Isn’t it only sensible we that invest on environment friendly technology?   Neglect river Ganga and build IT farms everywhere. And what happens (in the near future) when the water in the holy river is termed undrinkable? You will provide the entire central India “technological solutions” to quench their thirst?
A body floats in River Ganga

A man drinks water from the same river
(Image courtesy:

Source :

Deputy Chairperson of the planning commission  Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on a recent global investor’s meet ( ‘Emerging Kerala’ project) asked the Kerala government to “move on from its insistence on traditional paddy cultivation and use the farms for creating IT hubs and tourist resorts.” 

“These paddy fields are not merely production centres of paddy, but are wetlands and the richest water source of Kerala, maintaining the water table. If the average water level in a paddy field is one foot, an acre (0.4 hectare) of the field would be holding 1,200 cubic metre (1.2 million litres) of water. This percolates down and replenishes the ground water” - Usha S, national convener of Save Our Rice campaign, a network of interested groups working for the sustainability of paddy cultivation. The lack of political will to support anything that goes along with the Nature’s way is shocking. 

In the following days I shall be highlighting some shocking environmental dangers that Kerala ( where I live) face.

Stay tuned…

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