Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Whatever, I can never become that, even if I aspire to:

I cannot have the patience of the oak tree, that is shown when tackling adversity...
I cant be so devoted to someone with zeal that pales passion into looking ordinary...
I cant be so strong on something thats as significant as life, at the same time so fragile with something thats so unimportantly insignificant...
I cant imagine that I give up some material joys, so that someone else can lead a better life...
There are many things that I cant be. But you are...

I'm sure when the apple-of-your-eyes grows up, he would (be able to) look back in awe for what you have done for him. For us.

Happy Anniversary!!! Heres to Banishing you to another spell of 'வநவாசம்' !!!

[No comments :) ]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Mist

She walked briskly. At that hour, the pathway alongside the lake hadn't begun to fill with the early morning walkers. She searched the faces. Would he be there?

Last night at the art show, he had said, "Ever since I moved to Bangalore, I go to the Ulsoor lake to jog every morning. Half an hour and I am ready for what the rest of the day brings."

His smile had crinkled his face and she has ached to touch the corner of his lip.

She paused for a moment and stared at the islands that dotted the lake. When she was growing up, she had always wanted to spend a day there by herself.

What am I doing here? She asked herself. I barely know him.

She stepped out onto the road and began walking home. At the corner, a car slowed down. The tinted windows slid slowly down. Shalini peered into the car, through the early morning veil of mist, beyond the sliding windows – it wasn’t Dev; it was a middle-age gent peering at her; Shalini quickly turned her head away, hid her disappointment.

It was a cool early October morning with a very light drizzle – she drew the parka over her head and thought again, ‘what am I doing here, I hardly know him – this is really pathetic and stupid ! I’m 29 and I’m falling head over heels…’, she smiled wryly and muttered aloud, ‘…all over again’.

She had earlier met Dev briefly at the art school where she taught – he was a businessman, appeared to be in early 30s with a keen eye and interest for paintings. About a month ago she had bumped into him at an art gallery. She had talked to Dev for about 30 minutes – she found him to be interesting, engaging and very thoughtful; she didn’t think he was handsome, but he had a certain charm about him – Shalini attributed that to the kindness his eyes had exuded. Then last night she had met him in the art show; and at the after-show dinner, he was at her table. The discussion meandered around various topics – food, health, tea and some on the art fraternity. Shalini had decided then that she would accidentally bump him to him at the Ulsoor lake. She had come in around 6.30AM this morning, realized the futility of bumping into Dev around the vastness of space around the lake, listlessly done some work-out and was now returning home disappointed.

As she walked back, her mind drifted to her past – losing her mother early, growing up with her father and her disappointments. Sometimes, Shalini wished that her father had remarried, so that she would have had a women’s influence in her life. Shalini was a very gawky kid growing up, physically much uncoordinated. When she was in school, she ached to belong to a clique, but was always in the fringes. Her father tried to help, but it was only so much she could talk to him. As she grew, she appeared to become more gauche. All her lack of grace seemed to even out by her natural talent and flair for painting and art. She produced art that epitomized elegance and allure. At college, she found herself getting interested with one of her college mates and slowly falling in love with him. She soon found out that falling for someone has to be two-way; and for her it usually ended up as a one-way street. It seemed that because of her inherent niceness, lot of people loved her for she was, but never did one fall in love with her. Lonelier after her father’s death, Shalini also ended up writing a lot of poetry and notes that were locked away in her diary. She had so much love to give and the lack of reciprocity left a dull aching in her all time. Ever a romantic, it did not deter from hope that she would find the right man. The right man was always around the next corner.

Shalini was jolted back to the present by a barking dog. She still found poor visibility ahead of her due to the cool fog. The mist cover reminder her of her own life. It wasn’t very clear what the future held for her. She wondered…

Beyond this mist,
Would there be a tryst?
Not with a pot of gold,
Just his hand to hold.

“That was crap”, she told herself; If only she were a bit more elegant, if only she was less clumsy, if only she were to carry herself better, if only she wasn’t the Jassi… Life, it seemed to her, were full of precluded possibilities! Somehow time had stopped still for her and she remained an ugly duckling ! “Clichéd !!”, she muttered out aloud, and added, “I should stop talking to myself aloud” and broke into a smile at the paradox.

Shalini turned into the St.John’s road and was close to her apartment block. At the entrance to her apartment, she found her way blocked by someone. She looked up

“Hello, Good morning – I was in the vicinity I thought I’d drop by and give you the book”

It was Dev in his track-suit, holding a book on contemporary Indian art, with that smile.

[From here-on, I've two possible closures - tell me which one you'd like to see]

______________________ [Ending 1] ________________________

“To be honest, that was just an excuse, I was hoping to see you and perhaps have that special tea you were talking over dinner last night”, Dev continued with mischief in his eyes and the crinkle in the corner of his mouth.

Shalini managed to say, “oh sure, do come in”.

As she looked up, she also saw that the bright sun was beginning to break through and the fog was clearing.

______________________ [Ending 2] _________________________

“To be honest, that was just an excuse, I was hoping to see you and perhaps have that special tea you were talking over dinner last night”, Dev continued with mischief in his eyes and the crinkle in the corner of his mouth.

Shalini managed to say, “oh sure, do come in”.

"One sec", Dev said and turned around to wave towards a car parked a few yards away. He continued, "I want to you to meet my fiancee..."

As Shalini looked through the veil at the car, she just could make out the person's contours - it was blurred. She could not decide, if it was due to the mist that suddenly seemed denser or her tears.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Past Imperfect, Present Tense.

As I was flipping through the channel on late Sunday night (the 20th Aug 2006), I caught a set of surprised TV commentators who were talking about history about to be made.. I got a call from a colleague asking me if I was watching the idiot-box – I sure was, with morbid fascination of what was about to unfold at the Brits Oval ground in England. It was the 4th test between Pakistan and EnglandPakistan having gained a huge first innings lead, were in driver seat, with the last of English recognized batting pair at the wicket. One more wicket they’d have breached and England were still 30-odd runs in deficit. Tea was taken and Pakistan refused to take the field after the tea-time.

The trigger being, earlier the umpires – there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was Darrel Hair, who was driving the agenda – had called for a ball replacement; the fielding captain, Inzi was given no explanation as to why the ball was being changed; after the change Hair awarded five penalty runs to the batting side – which clearly implied that he was docking Pakistanis for ball tampering. I caught another TV snippet yesterday that had Hair following the bowler walk-back to the top of his run very intently – he obviously was very convinced that the Pakistanis were tampering with the ball. The problem however is this – in the age of legal challenges and the need for substantive proof rather than circumstantial evidence, the 26 cameras on field had not caught a single Pakistani fielder or bowler scratching the ball; the fact that the ball was 55 overs old and it had some natural wear and tear and the fact that it has been hit onto the stands by hard hitting Pietersen could have resulted in the scruffing that Hair was indicating to the other umpire Billy Doctrove (an inept umpire if I may add).

Pakistanis felt naturally aggrieved and wanted to stage a protest. After a confusing period of events that gets stated in a different chronological order depending on whose side one is on, the umpires had called of the match and awarded the test match to England, since according to them, Pakistan had forfeited the match as they failed to turn up after tea. This was the first forfeiture in the history of cricket.

After all the froth and fury on either side, let us take a look at the past record of both parties. Hair’s run-in with the teams from the sub-continent and his apparent policing of sub-continent teams more sternly; and that of Pakistan’s record in the ball-tampering saga (event details, thanks to Cricinfo).

First, Mr. Hair:

Australia v Sri Lanka, December 1995: Hair called Muttiah Muralitharan for an illegal action seven times during the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. Murali was brought on from the other end but was not called by Steve Dunne. At the tea interval on the second day, Hair told the Sri Lankans that he was prepared to call Murali from the striker's end [which implies that Hair had already made up his mind that Murali throws]

November 1998: In his autobiography, Decision Maker, Hair noted that Murali's action was 'diabolical' .

New Zealand v Pakistan, January 2004: Hair and fellow umpire Billy Bowden reported Shabbir Ahmed, the Pakistan fast bowler, for a suspect bowling action.

England v Pakistan, August 2006: The match in discussion.

Now to the Pakistan team:

The English tour of 1991 (?) – When Wasim, Waqar and Aquib Javed were suspected of ball tampering, because they could get the ball to reverse swing prodigiously throughout the tour. Pakistani’s had attributed to the heavy overcast weather through the tour and to their ability.

Waqar Younis Pakistan v South Africa, Singer Cup, 2000: Received a one ODI ban and was fined 50% of his match fee. Azhar Mahmood was fined 30% of his match fee for "abetting'' Waqar in the same match. Moin Khan, the Pakistan captain, was also severely reprimanded.

Six Pakistan players fined for ball tampering Ramadan Cup, 2002: Naved Latif, Qaiser Abbas, Yasir Arafat, Sajid Shah, Zahid Saeed and Rao Iftikhar Anjum were found guilty of ball tampering during the Ramadan Cup domestic one-day cricket tournament in Pakistan.

Shoaib Akhtar New Zealand v Pakistan, Dambulla, 2003: Fined 75% of his match fee and banned for two one-day internationals for ball-tampering after television footage showed him scratching the surface of the ball during Pakistan's 22-run victory, over New Zealand, in the Bank Alfalah Cup.

Another theory is that the umpires started to watch closely after Alistair Cook was out LBW to Umar Gul after a reverse-swinging yorker got him plumb in from of the stumps. Strangely, when Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff, used reverse swing so well in the 2005 Ashes series to defeat the all conquering Australians, there was no talk about ball tampering.

On the other hand, Pakistanis had not pulled out matches when both Waqar and Shoaib were fined; which does imply there is some substance to why they feel aggrieved this time.

To me this looks like a case of judging by past events. Cricketing-wise, I’ve seen Hair make some perfect decisions including on LBWs. I believe he is one of the competent umpires on decision making. I also believe that Pakistan cricket is getting its act together under Inzi and Woolmer and are converting their talent into results. This is the case of prejudices and biases on both sides that has clouded either of their judgments; and hence perhaps pushed truth to the background. It was a good fodder to all the TV channel, newspapers and people like me, who watched this with ghoulish interest as cricket degenerated. Sad, since test matches were again getting interesting moving away from the boring 5 day draws in the 80s and early 90s.

The next few days would be interesting – ICC would make its usual inane statements that have no relation to the reality of where the actual sponsors are. The boards will get arrayed on either side – one group with ICC and the other with PCB – hectic parleys would go on behind doors (perhaps such skill can actually be put to use to bring about World peace, I’d think); Both sides will talk at each other without trying to understand the cultural undertones of certain behaviours. We will all be left to wonder if the international cricket is headed towards Splitsville. As is wont these days, anything cricket is just not cricket; it has become anything but the actual game.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Pall at Mall

[This story was published by Deccan Herald on 31/Dec/2006. The link is here (or):

I looked at my watch again. She had said 9.45. She was late. I looked around me. The mall wore a strange forlorn look. A cleaning woman mopped the floor. Her mouth drooped and her eyes stared at the floor as her hands moved pushing the mop this way and that.

What did she think of all that she saw here? I wondered. The abundance. The greed. Hungry mouths. Grasping hands… I shuddered. Malls frightened me.

"Are you out of your mind?" I had said when she suggested we meet at Garuda Mall.

"At that hour, you don't have to worry about the crowds," she had said with a laugh. "Think of it as a social experiment. A mall at an unmall-like hour. What happens there? Bring your notebook. You can make notes…"

I had smiled into the phone. Divya could be funny, and persuasive. Garuda mall was too much in the heart of the city and I had wanted to avoid driving in the Friday night traffic. So I had proposed a newer mall that had come up at the outskirts, still incomplete, but occupied enough with shops to loiter around; or help conduct ‘social experiments’ that Divya had suggested. She had agreed.

Here I was, waiting for Divya to turn up, biting into one of the small chocolate bars I had bought to satiate hunger and boredom – I had bought a couple for Divya as she loved those; As I was killing time going up and down the floors, shopping at windows that were downing their shutters, avoiding weird look from the shop keepers, I noticed something beyond the cleaning women. In one of the dimly lighted corners that had an offset into the toilet areas that was still incomplete.

There was this girl, about 10, wearing clothes that was neat, but clearly old and frayed at the corners. She was feeding the boy of, perhaps just over 2 years old. The way she ran up to the cleaning women, talked to her, it was obvious that the woman was her mother; with the mother busy, the girl had taken up the role of mothering her brother. Alongside the construction materials, there were a stack of papers, from which she picked one to clean-up her brother after the feed.

I settled down at the one of the ornate benches, and watched. As the women came closer to the seating area to clean-up, I lifted my legs up to help her swab the floor; she looked up to me in thanks and I smiled at her. She returned the smile reluctantly; her son came running up to her playing catch and run with her sister; the woman with a resigned admiration, like any other mother, let the kid climb over her and push her. I took one chocolate bar that I had and held it out for the kid – the kid looked to his mother for approval and tentatively took it – and then ran with unadulterated joy, screaming out his sister’s name.

I started making small talk with the cleaning women. In any case I was killing time, waiting for Divya to show up. In a few minutes, I heard the oft-said story about a poor woman in India – Santhamma’s husband was a drunkard and had left her only to return to beat her up for money. She takes care of her children; her daughter goes to school sporadically; but of late with her brother in the family the living was taking its toll. The daughter had started doing odd jobs and graduating to regular jobs. Santhamma was repentant that her daughter could not go to school, but she had no way out. Her daughter earned some money that helped feed the family and very basic needs and help retain their dignity; there was no help from any other quarters.

Santhamma moved on and yet no sign of Divya; I sighed and called her on the mobile and it was not reachable. “Damn Networks”, I muttered. I looked at my watch, it was 10.45 and the mall-security in his beat gave me the strange looks; there were just couple of shops still open.

I saw the girl do a ruck-sack kind of carrier around her back and she lifted it to her back along with her brother. She gave the sheaf of paper to her brother who playfully handed one to her, as she walked to every shop and slipped one under the door. It looked like some ‘notice’. I saw Divya walking in with a smile. I waved to her and motioned her to wait a while; as the girl moved closer to the shop behind me, curious, I reached out for the notice and took one to read it.

As I read it, I was stuck the incongruity of it; I could feel my anger rising – I was getting incensed. Then the futility hit me; and I laughed out loud, at the irony of it all. The girl, puzzled, went about her work that would help put food on the floor for the family.

Divya took the notice from my hand and read it aloud,

“Whomsoever it blah, blah… … Government of India blah, blah, …, ban any children under the age of 14 employed blah. You hereby have time till 30th of September 2006 to comply with this order… blah”.

I walked up to the girl, gave her the remaining chocolate bar. Her eyes lit up. I quickly averted her eyes, took Divya’s hand and walked out of the mall. I’ve had my social experiment for the day, perhaps for a long time to come. As a 52 year old mother, holding my daughters hand, I had trouble deciding if the Government decision was right or wrong for someone else’s daughter.


Author’s Note: I wrote this story for http://www.refreshbangalore.com. The starting lines of the story were already published as a part of “kathe Korner”; that story needs to complete those lines. Those lines are the ones in italics.
The winning Story is at: http://www.refreshbangalore.com/shortwinner.asp

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Deconstructing Shylock!

He wasn't aware,
Nor did he care
For that lilt from a bamboo
Those colors of a rainbow
That caress from the breeze
The quiet rustle of the leaves
That sounds of a mynah
The sweet smell of the flora
The world could dress itself in all glory,
Shylock would see dreary!
He would just walk away
from those that dont pay.
The colours he could ever see,
was that of money!!!

He knew he had a disdain,
Looking at the weak and pain,
That was until today;
Facing that child's stare.
Nor was he aware,
That something so forlorn
could breach his scorn,
That something so tall
could be in that heart that small,
holding him in thrall.
So much love, so much fear
in those eyes with a tear
Looking up in innocence
seeking his acceptance;
Apprehensive and yet bold,
wrapping fingers, in a unsure hold,
His cold apathy begins to sink.
The orphans eyes blink
and the tear drops falls -
The stone resolve stalls;
The moist's first diffident signs
Appears in Shylock's soul's confines.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Writer's Block

The self-proclaimed and twice published author was in a quandary. He was going through a bad, bad writer’s block. He was sitting in most idyllic sorroundings that touched him, made him feel good and made him want to pay tribute to it; but still he could not write anything. EnGeeTham (not his real name, a pseudonym, if this writer may add), the author in question, pondered on, looked for all possible plots, but still could not come up with a plot that he could write on.

Engeetham was sitting on “The Ridge” at the Simla, watching the people go by, in an unhurried way - the locals and some tourists. It was start of the summer and he was told the tourist season had not yet begun. He saw that famous church picturised in several movies awash with a lovely glow of lights. He had been sitting there since the evening, but still had gotten no clue nor a divine intervention nor a bolt of lightning (although it was beginning to drizzle) for a story; but just failed to come up with a plausible plot.

Engeetham was captivated by Simla’s beauty. The mountains, the valleys, the pine trees, the greenery and the vast expanse of forest were a treat. The air seemed to cooler and cleaner. The surrounding areas around Simla, as one moves away from it was even more refreshing. The stillness of the air lent to the surreality that the life itself was going in a slow-motion; it seemed to add a time-dimension for him to step back and survey in a detached way. It was philosophical; yet he could not come up with a plot.

Engeetham has been in Simla for about a week then, with his family staying as guests in his friend’s parent’s house, along with the friend’s family. It was kind of first visit up to the hills and he had enjoyed it thoroughly. He also knew that his wife and kid too were enjoying the visit; the wife the hospitality and the scenery; the kid – the horse-rides, the new place, the yak-rides, the serene pine forests and ability to walk around. Engeetham knew his family was experiencing something different. He looked for angles there, but still no plot or a sign of a story.

Engeetham loved the simplicity of Simla. It was much uncomplicated and the flow was slow. People had time to do things and they were not rushing from here to there. People seem to take time off, even during the work-day to walk on the Mall road. Just walk up and down and have some ice-creams or any other such eats. It seemed one could have a lot for a lot less. The undulations on the road provided a lovely setting to watch the imposing and rising hills all around. He found it specifically very very strange yet child-like when people stopped on the streets, said hello, shook hands with their acquaintances and moved on their earlier trajectory (refer to mention of undulation above) of walking. Engeetham could sense a possibility there for a story; but try as he might, he just could not convert it.

Engeetham and wife were touched by their hosts; there was this endearing non-urban, village-like quality in them – the community feeling. They seem to have that something that urban population like himself seem to be yearning for – having the time, quality and willingness to care for someone other than themselves. He found his hosts were most welcoming. He was sure their visit has introduced chaos into their lives and intruded into their normalcy. In spite of inability to communicate effectively across the language barrier, it was still special. Engeetham’s wife was touched that his friend’s mother insisted that she buy a shawl as a parting gift. Where does this happen? Engeetham could see a possibility of human interest and emotions that the TV News channels effectively peddle these days. He thought hard, but still no cogent plot.

It was more than 2 months since they returned from the vacation. Today, Engeetham was on a plane, on a flight home, from one urban jungle to his home (another urban jungle) – Engeetham took one last attempt; but still nothing; He sighed, as hard as he may try, he just could not get a story out of it. As he gave up, it stuck him: YES !!! Here was the story, with that recommended twist in the narration towards the end of the story that Jeffrey Archer wrote in his Twists in the tale.

...Eureka !!!, Just convert the writer’s block and present it as a writer’s blog.

Authors Note :) Googling Writers Block spurts out 1000s of pointers. One interesting one is
Someday, this blog would appear in the top 8s list :) ;)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Scene1: A few days ago, I came to know that my son loved a song from one of the recent tamil movies – the song is “Vazhai Meenuikkum Vilangu meenuikkum” from the movies Chittiram Pesudadi (which I thought is a pretty decent movie for director who is making his debut). The song itself is in the Gana genre of tamil songs (folksy). My wife had found an internet site from where he could play the song; but he knew if that something were to happen to the network connection, he can hear that song no more. So his goal was to get the song to play on “winamp”, as he calls it. Which implied a download session; and hence my project to download that song started. After googling for the song, after several aborted attempts including a network failure, I could download the song only on the 2nd day of the project. As I had told him that I had downloaded the song, there was unmitigated joy in him. He was so happy, that he gave me a hug, sat next to me to hear the song out (a couple of times, if I may add, including restarting from the middle of the song again), and doing a sing-along. He was so glad that he could now hear the song regardless of how the network turns out – “its on the winamp”, as far as he was concerned. I looked at him and I could see that he was just overjoyed at that moment; unadulterated joy over a simple thing. Those were so exciting and fulfilling. No grand things. Be excited about one that touches one in away that is not fathomable. A clean refreshing statement on innocence.

Scene2: For the past month or so, I have been thinking of buying a new TV, partly influenced by the fact that one of my friend has bought a 36” Plasma TV; but mostly influenced by the need to have the progressive scan feature on my TV, so that my DVD player that has the feature of progressive scan is compatible with the TV; it gives clearer picture, I was told; and I needed better picture clarity of the DVD movies I would like to watch. So, did my DVD player have the progressive scan feature? It does now, after I replaced the older one, since the older one did not play some of the DVDs well enough. Now that my new player has a feature that cannot be enabled by the existing TV, I’m looking to replace the TV. My existing TV is a 29” model that is working perfectly (well, not so perfectly, but that’s my excuse anyways J ). So, the chain of wanting new things is now on. I wonder if the new TV would lead to connecting my home theatre and finding that I need a sub-woofer, which would perhaps leading to changing the whole speaker set; and perhaps then the upholstery… the possibilities are endless. All for that probable two hours in a week, utmost, of watching a DVD movie…

With human imagination and wants, like I said, possibilities are endless – we have reversed the natural cycle of evolution. We have learned to change from a beautiful butterfly to an ugly moth!!!