On the beach. Again.

Many of you who have been gracious enough to follow this continuing collection of barely coherent stream of thoughts would be more than familiar with the passion and periodicity with which the Ocean and it's embellishments figure in my ruminations. Time and again, I have let my puny self be overcome by the grandiose view of the Pacific and several times the sorry imagination that I, in a self deceiving attempt, try to pass off as my creative streak has had to rely upon the primal response that that infinite water hole evokes in me for it's subject matter. But then it really has so much to teach us that to just sit there with our minds closed would be doing a disservice to ourselves that only we as human beings are capable of. Sometimes though, the mind does race and it was just one such day today.

You would probably go, 'What a retard', when I say that all the interesting action in an Ocean lies just at the beach. And I am not talking about bikini clad 20 somethings bouncing around playing beach volleyball, although that's always a garnish that is ever welcome to half of humanity (and some more) and I am no exception. Anyways, what I am talking about here is the intense restlessness of nature just at the beach when it's juxtaposed against its placid solidity far from it. Near the beach, the waves break with the fervency of a bunch of children bursting forth the school gate at the final whistle. They disintegrate into a soapy residue culminating in an intense white cover over the dark blue of the ocean below, accompanied with a constant clamoring that serves well to challenge the otherwise stately dignity of the majestic one. And the waves almost seem to be in a hurry like a teenager who cannot wait to reach the legal drinking age. And like the teenager, it's an anti-climax that awaits their enthusiasm. Their frothy disposition and their fickle form, like youth, is a testimony to their shallowness but like youth, their beauty has nothing but their immaturity to thank. Their existence, although trivial and vanishing, nonetheless is brilliant and ornate. Whereas the deep ocean lies constant with the immutability of death itself and in fact with the magnificence of death (or it's romantic idea at least). Deep and bottomless, it's the painted ocean of Coleridge. Mature and sensible, it's everything that Wilde resented and associated with age. The shadows of the clouds and the peeking Sun on the largest canvas Nature can offer. The brilliant shimmers and the pallid blacks with the vanishing ink of a dying day. And all of it so frozen in time and space that you get a feeling that if only you could hit it hard enough with a hammer, rather than fluidly malleabiling, it would break apart with the din of a window pane.

You must have heard the saying that a fruit laden tree stoops whereas one without any fruit stands upright. We have an unfortunate propensity of drawing parallels between nature and life. Somewhere down below I truly dislike this instinct. The instinct of the Western Aesop (fables) and the Eastern Panchtantra. Why I do not like it is a completely different issue but I guess I am also guilty of drawing some parallels here. And for all that I purport, you have my apologies.



She enters the pass-word and passes the entrance, alights the stairs and switches on the lights with a light switch on the switch. She frisks with a brisk approach and whisks the blinds to view the view outside - The moon looks down at her with a mooning constitution and the stars star in his play with a lugubrious inclination, constituting to render a gloomy night benighted with glum colourations. And the dimly woken hours, in the wake of a Friday, still bear a mildly miasmatic manifestation of moldy malt.

Phew!, that took much longer than I had anticipated! Tired. Too tired :(.

P.S: It's titled untitled because I am too tired to even think of a title.



It's been 2 years now since Gunti and I enrolled in a Verizon contract. I remember voraciously sieving through the Internet in search of a phone set that would stand apart elegantly in a sorry crowd of sluggish, feature overladen mobiles who had the stylistic sensibilities of Frank Zappa on a late night talk show. I wanted a Carla Bruni in a world infested with the likes of Pratibha Patil who doddered and tottered and hobbled and toddled in a senile dance of outmodishness. I sneered at the antiquated anorexia of the Motorola Razr and jeered at the jarring sophistication of the Nokias. It was a time when the world seemed full of possibilities, when the blood was hot and the heart was sanguine, and eyes with that twinkle of possibilities were fixed far out onto the horizon where a new day was struggling to break free from the clutches of darkness... Well, maybe I have become more emotional than the situation demands but it's our loss that we underrate superficiality so much, a topic that we shall leave for some other time, some other day. For the time being, my eyes got fixated on this new model that LG had very geekily and unimaginatively named 'VX8500'. They had a nickname for it too. And I am slightly flushed to admit that in all their campy incompetence, LG nicknamed it 'Chocolate'. Which didn't make sense at all since the phone came only in black. I just wished they were not referring to it's taste. At that time though, the only thing that mattered to me was its seductively glossy screen which lit up in red to reveal a touchpad when you slid it open. What else, I thought, would anyone need in a phone ? Huh.

The phone, I must admit, had a prodigious disposition to begin with and I should have understood then that any effort to tame this wild beast would be an exercise in futility. It had far too much personality to begin with. You see, it had a touchpad as I have mentioned before and not a very good one at that. You slide it open to activate it and all hell breaks loose. The phone, in the hands of a novice, has a tendency of taking him for a nasty ride. It's a bit like Microsoft word. Show them a gesture even slightly miscalculated and they would bite back and take your head off. At the very least they would make you regret your birth. Even today, the matter of actually succeeding in calling the number that you intended can only be discussed in the hushed voices of probabilities. Taking the photo that you desire is asking for too much really. My phone follows the Hindu philosophy in the sense that you can activate the camera but you should not expect it to fire at the right time. It has Heisenbergity inbuilt. I was quite content in playing the second fiddle, you know the stupid sidekick to the hero that is my phone as long as it allowed me to get on the wireless network every now and then. And in the infinite generosity of its magnanimous self, it indeed has allowed me this privilege over the last couple of years. Things have taken a turn for worse though and it is quite evident that a bloody struggle is in offing.

It all started a month ago when my phone, one fine morning, decided to deactivate the 'Cancel' button. Permanently. Now I could not go back. Phone menus became unidirectional and grammatically correct text messages, almost an impossibility. The only way to end a call was to slide the phone back in. A few days later, upon opening the 'Contacts' list my phone started scrolling down ad-infinitum. And I thought: Owwwww! how sweet. It was almost an amusement. It was only a few days back on a sinister moonless night while walking back to home that I realized its menacing plan. I slid it open, went to the 'Recent Calls' and the next thing I see, my phone is happily calling the first number in the list. I hastily disconnected it, tried it again and the same result. Next time, I went to the 'Contacts' list and upon finding itself here my phone promptly went into it's scroll mode and to my bulging eyes, stopped at my adviser's number, probably gave a derisive chuckle, and started calling. I slid it in hoping that it would end the deluge. My phone, waited for a bit in this deactivated position, suddenly woke up with it's touchpad all red with baleful energy, opened the 'Recent Calls' list and started dialing the most recent one, again my adviser. I tried shutting it down with the master switch but it conveniently ignored the commands of the most powerful button and finally I had to take off the battery. For the first time, I was happy that we have not seen the invention of wireless power yet.

Things have gone worse still. It doesn't show me if I've got any new voicemails (which is fine I guess :)). And only today, it didn't show me at least 2 missed calls which I distinctly heard from the next room. Frankly speaking, I didn't even know that so many things could go wrong with one phone until they did with mine. And I still do not know the surprises that fate has for me. Maybe it will start giving me electric shocks. I am afraid of the day when it grows a set of pointed teeth and chews my ear off. If there is one thing I have learned in these last two years, it's that, like Bauna Vaman (for those who get the reference), my phone always has one trick left up it's sleeve.



I have recently started Charles Schulz's biography written by David Michaelis titled 'Schulz and Peanuts' and obviously, being the smart-ass that I am who just has to have an opinion on everything under the sun, I have one here too. People have often said to me that they do not read autobiographies because they are too pompous. I have read a few and I must say that autobiographies are rarely pompous. If anything, they are too demeaning of themselves. It's the biographies that I find dishonest because they are the ones which are more often than not colored by a partisan adoration.

Moving forward the book, I must say, is not exceptional. From what I have read, it doesn't quite measure up to the linguistic standards I have come to enjoy and appreciate lately but it's a bit like 'Peanuts' itself. What the book lacks in language, it more than makes up in the story it narrates. Schulz's life so uncannily mirrors the world he created, it almost brings a tear to my eyes thinking that a life of such hopelessness and dejection as Charlie Brown's is not entirely fiction. 'Peanuts' is not about ephemeral jokes and vanishing gags. It's not about the punchline in the final panel that we have come to expect from conventional comic strips. 'Peanuts' is dark. Extremely dark. It's about an innocent child's need to fit in and his failures at being able to do so. It's about his unrequited love and his brutal heartbreaks. It's about his constant search for success and his relentless defeats and it's about his almost boneheaded refusal to accept them. It's about his insecurities in a world infested with seemingly self-assured brats and insensitive brutes and cold sweethearts. For a comic strip it shows a pretty dark world indeed. And then it tries to laugh it all away at the expense of the protagonist, Charlie Brown. And we do smile don't we ? But for me at least it's a smile of quiet resignation at being made to realize, quite beautifully, the helpless cruelty of our world.

Peanuts in other words is a bit like the works of that brilliant Russian raconteur, Chekov. People do not like him because his endings are so ridiculously mundane in conventional wisdom. But how brilliant his stories themselves and how poignant their emotions ? It is customary for language to lose it's bite when it is translated from one form to another. We can see it in the crudeness with which we call Kafka's Samsa a 'vermin', a word that still provokes dissent in the camp of German language purists. But the fact that Chekov retains much of his punch even after translation just goes on to show that his stories are so much deeper. In the same way, my appreciation for 'Peanuts' is neither for the language nor for the twists, for it has virtually none of either. It's an appreciation for a bittersweet story that has been well told with frankness and honesty and subtlety. To me, those two dots between parentheses that are Charlie Brown's eyes convey more insecurity than the best actors ever can with a million words at their disposal. To me, 'Peanuts' represents an exceptional example of the kind of creative instinct that has so alarmingly disappeared in popular consciousness. Honest, intelligent art.


Religion's hideous wallpaper

To quote an incident which in turn was quoted by Stephen Fry; Oscar Wilde, when asked as to why he thought America was such a violent country, replied: "I know perfectly well why America is such a violent country. It's because her wallpapers are so hideous."

It's extremely easy to think of the answer as just a camp remark from a dandy Oxfordian who both excelled and reveled at making comments whose worthiness vested not in their content but in their dazzling form. But as Fry pointed out, it does have immense meaning in the Wildesque concept of rationality. And obviously, no religion, and few humans have come even close to matching the incisive perfection of that intellect that rested on those shoulders clothed in those silk and velvet raiment. In many senses, he was the Albert Einstein of the art world. His stature continues to grow as time passes whilst his contemporaries are reduced to midgets in our memories. He was the irreverent rebel who refused to weigh the world in the balance of conventional rationality. Instead, he chose to invent his own. And how beautiful it all is and how indebted our sensibilities to him.

Anyways, what he meant by his remark was this (again paraphrasing Fry slightly): Nature is absolutely and unreservedly beautiful. It's beautiful in the aridity of the dune riddled deserts and it's beautiful in the frigidity of the arctic wastes. It's beautiful in the vast expanse of the humbling oceans and it's beautiful in the delicate balance of African wilderness. It's beautiful everywhere. Except of course in places where it has come across humans. Humans have done exceedingly well in despoiling this beauty not by being trespassive but by being unimaginative. We have ravaged this elegance by employing mediocre architecture, building ugly factories, creating horrible music and, in general, succumbing to the whims and fancies of the lowest common denominator. I suppose another reason for this remark was the fact that the period was late 19th century and New York still had to wait for another 5 decades to lay it's claim as the center of world art and truly revolutionary music and science were yet to be born in this country. In any case, it was a time when the citizens were surrounded by dull ideas and their duller manifestations and naturally they saw themselves as belonging to a specie that could only uglify that which is completely beautiful. It instilled a sense of guilt and as Freud suggested, this guilt led to a violent disposition. This is what Wilde meant then and my god how very true is it today.

And we see the wheel turning all over again in the form of religious intolerance. The fact that religion today is incapable of delivering artists who could paint another Sistine Chapel with the elegance of Michelangelo or compose another 'Payoji maine' with the aesthetic sensibilities of Mirabai or pen another Odyssey with the grand artistic vision of Homer just goes on to show that God, if at all real, has at least lost all taste. Since morality is hardly a prerogative of religion, in the absence of beauty, all that religion exclusively teaches is divisiveness. And in the absence of contemporary examples of grace and elegance, all that it has to offer is rhetoric in the self-righteous ramblings of cocksure leaders who are the mediocre doyens of the unsure and the unimaginative. And it is these people, who obviously have a screwed up if not completely absent concept of beauty, who have either the time or the inclination or the desperation to strap up an IED and blow themselves up for a notion of paradise that's, to put it mildly, completely fucked up. I understand the need for religion but I cannot grasp it's unreserved, unquestioned acceptance. It will take me the rest of the week to elucidate the number of things I find wrong with it so I would rather pass.

The point is, good art is not a luxury that we can dispense with. We need assurances that we are capable of creating beauty in order of maintaining our sanity and science and art are the two avenues which help us realize that. Religion used to be in the form of a willing and able patron but, I'm afraid, it no longer is.

P.S: Here is Kowsik's reply.

About Me

My photo
Like a particularly notorious child's tantrums, a mountaneous river's intemperance, a volcano's reckless carelessness and the dreamy eyes of a caged bird, imagination tries to fly unfettered. Hesitant as she takes those first steps, she sculpts those ambitious yet half baked earthen pots.