Posted in Random, Thoughts, Weather

A Charging Port

Do you have one? A charging port for the soul? Something that lifts your spirit and mood and everything else and makes you feel better in general? It could be some place, something, it could be someone.

I have multiple. People, places, objects and some activities.

Among these, I’d probably rank my ancestral town-village among the top three. It is, hands down, the best place ever to exist. It’s Santiniketan, some 200-odd kilometers to the north of Kolkata. I like it because of what it is, I think. There’s greenery there, but then so is my campus. I could wax poetic about avenues shaded by massive trees arching across them, but Kolkata is full of them. I could say it’s because I have a home there, but I have a room of my own in college, and a home in Kolkata. I wish I could nail it down to a particular factor, to one thing that I could point at and say, “This thing. This is what makes this place special.” On second thoughts, I don’t. Maybe if I distill it down to exactly what is the allure of the place, I wouldn’t find it as captivating anymore.

There, I made sketches of trees, and took pictures of a river. I went to an ethnic village market that I really disliked,because that was an exposition of stuff you could get from any roadside hawkers in Kolkata, being sold at ridiculous prices to rip off unsuspecting visitors. I took long walks, read a bit and played with my younger cousin brother. I relaxed, and had fun. It was a good experience.

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Indeed, this entire vacation was good.

You see, I am supposedly an electrical engineer, by vocation, or so the college would have you believe. And I, not to put too fine a point on it, suck at it. My grades aren’t too good, in fact they are on the verge of bad, and my interest in the discipline leaves a lot to be desired. Let’s just say I don’t really like it. Needless to say, academics-wise, my semesters are pretty glum, though the people and activities more than make up for it. This summer, we had PS (a sort of internship program that counts towards my grades) which let me work in my fields of interest, and helped me cheer up considerably, at least as far as work and academia goes.

Anyhow, we were talking of places. So I went for a walk in Santiniketan, one night after dinner. It was silent, in the way nighttime is silent, chirping crickets and rustling trees, and a very delicate whoosh, as the wind blew by me. It had rained, not long ago. The unpaved roads were still muddy, fresh bicycle tracks imprinted in them. There was an unsteady drip-drip-drip accompanying me all the way around, as the trees shook off their leaves in the slow breeze. I didn’t see a single person out there other than a couple of security guards, engrossed in some chitchat of their own.

Non-urban air has a kind of clarity to it that’s difficult to describe. But it is dusty, especially in the evening and night. Just after rains, it acquires a kind of… well, it’s hard to describe. You just don’t notice it anymore, except when the breeze rises. The trees were just dark shadows, the branches spreading silhouettes against a clear sky. It was a moonless night. I was alone, on the road, with my thoughts, and it felt so glorious. And it nagged me a little too, the fact that I had to be alone with my thoughts. But it felt good, which is what matters, I guess.

Santiniketan, literally translated, means abode of peace. It lives up to its name. And I haven’t yet found out what makes it so peaceful. Maybe that’s the frame of mind I’ve conditioned myself to be in, that I’ll be zen-like once I’m there. I guess the point here is that for inner peace, outer peace is necessary too.

Fairly obvious, I’ll agree.

In other news, go watch Dunkirk. It is a really good movie. It’s unmistakably Nolan, though it’s different from everything he’s done so far. I won’t talk any more about it, other that it’s probably one of the best expositions I’ve seen, till date, of the filmmaker’s craft.

And in the end…

This probably deserves to be more than a footnote, but Chester Bennington killed himself. That man meant a lot, I think, to my entire generation. He was my gateway to a lot of music, and it’s sad to see him go like this. It might have been the way out he needed, but not what he deserved. I have followed Linkin Park’s music for seven years now. I heard them shift to electronica, and the try to make a pretty unsuccessful transition to their original sound. I liked their last album, though it was no Hybrid Theory. Few bands had so definitively carved their place in the pantheon of music, laying claim to an entire genre.

Anyway, In The End was the first song that I had memorised. I loved it. I still do. I’m running though the words in my head. My favourite song was The Catalyst. It’s sad, the way he passed. I won’t quote any lyrics, I will not present you with that kind of a cliché. I hope he is in peace now.

Posted in Random, Thoughts, Weather

Things that I think

It is hot. Even worse, it is humid.

It’s humid, and here I am, trying to pour out what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about old cars, old music, new cars, good books, happy people and new covers of old music and machine guns.

Machine guns because of the drums on this (https://youtu.be/fkP3urtYCkc) cover of Immigrant Song by Karen O and Trent Reznor. I think it’s because of the overall grungy feel of the song. The drums feel relentless, pounding on without flourishes, and then get lost in the murky grungy sounds as the song progresses, but you can hear them in the background, forming the backbone of the song. They feel so powerful, but inhuman. The sound is more of a sampled beat than a drummer. Probably is so.

This is a cover of a song by Led Zeppelin, and both versions are great. The cover does retain the spirit of the original, but some of the hugeness that the original has is lost. And if you pay attention to the drums, you’ll find that the beat is similar, but there is a man rocking his heart out behind that immensely powerful sound, and it shows. There are very few sounds more definitionally rocky, more celebratable, than Led Zeppelin at their archetypal best. https://youtu.be/hC-T0rC6m7I. Check for yourself. And I’m going on about the drums, but there’s Jimmy Page on the guitar. He is, if you don’t know, a God. And the lyrics, too. Very deep, and accurate too, historically. Well mostly.

And I enjoy cars a lot. Personal favourite is a ‘69 Ford Mustang. Very beautiful car, and the well maintained ones are a treat to look at. And the engines sound great too. I am guessing that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea anyway.

The fan is on at full blast, but it blows down hot air onto me. The worst part of humidity is the sweatiness. As much as I love Kolkata, one thing I’d like to change is this sweaty, sticky climate. I’m playing Crazy by Aerosmith on my earphones. I pause the music for a bit, and pull out the earphones. I can hear the occasional whoosh of a car go by, a beep or two from faraway horns. The TV next door is blaring some serialised inanity, with dramatic music all over the place, and their dog is barking. Someone barks a command at the dog and it quiets down, only to start in a couple of minutes. It is a crime to keep a dog in an apartment. Poor creature gets no exercise, and barks its lungs out all day.

I look back up at the fan and down at my keyboard again. Apparently I haven’t stopped the music, I can still hear Steven Tyler howling his heart out in the chorus. I pause it. It’s a good song, I’ll replay it.

Incidentally, y’all should listen to https://youtu.be/QCVGpvzcHko?t=39. This guy is a modern-ish stand up comic, and his brand of comedy is this self aware, self deprecating, ironic jabs at the state of modern society. A sort of “What have we become?”, regretful, but fully aware that he’s a product of the same society, and he’s been contributing to the same. It’s like one of those evolution memes, where the penultimate character turns around, saying “We messed up”.

Anyway, I will stop now. The thoughts have stopped flowing. This is a weird kind of writer’s block, where I want to write, but I can’t write stuff. Not stuff that I’m satisfied with. This is okay, I guess. Feels natural and coherent. I think the necessity is a creative recharge, and also effort. I guess.

Posted in Random, Thoughts

Necessary. Not Evil.

I am angry.

Rather, I was angry. I’ve sort of calmed down since then, and decided to be less angry and more calm and composed, and do something about what was making me angry. And so, I decided to take up what was bothering me on the massive platform that is this blog, with all of its twenty three followers. And twenty visitors on a good day.

Here’s my problem:

People have an issue with women menstruating in India. At least, it’s very visible and open in India. It happens outside India too, this stigma, but especially here, among Hindus, it’s a kind of bordering on stupidity. It makes me angry. Very angry. I had heard and read about this. That women are not allowed entry into temples when they are on their period. That they are not allowed to enter the kitchen on their period, and they have to eat separately and not directly touch any other people because that may defile them.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

According to this stupid rule, a woman, whose domain, according to the scriptures, is the kitchen and household in general, is not allowed to go into the kitchen, or into the thakur-ghor (a room for the gods, a mini temple room. Most Hindu households have at least a cabinet or shelf of images and idols, if not a room). She is to be ostracised and treated like a pariah for the simple reason that she is a woman and can bear children.

Fun fact:

Recently, a Goods and Services Tax was introduced by the Hindu leaning BJP led government across all of India. What this tax aims to do is replace all the various taxes and cesses levied by the central and state level governments by one single tax, making the general functioning of markets easier and so on. This tax levies a 12% tax on all menstrual sanitary products and makes sindoor and bangles tax exempt. Sindoor is a red pigment that married women wear on their forehead. Both sindoor and bangles are considered symbols of a happy and auspicious marriage. The irony isn’t lost, I hope.

Feminism, circa the stone age.

And before you shake your head, remember that this is the same government that, to further the Hindu devotion for cows, illegalised the purchase of cows for slaughter a few days ago. That’s another thing I am angry about, I do love a good steak. And they just made it harder to get one.

https://goo.gl/mOE1xc This is what triggered me, and made me angry enough to write about this. A couple of these stories are heartbreaking.

And a lot of you all can immediately go, “Well, this doesn’t happen in my family” (I hope to god you can). Neither does it in mine, as far as I know. At least, I was never told to not touch someone, not for these reasons anyway. But there are people I know, who have to face this. And it is really sad, that in educated households, women are treated like this. Even in the educated and urban parts. Chew on that for a moment.

And to the guys reading, it may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Think about it this way, you’re being punished for something perfectly normal and natural. Let’s say people treat you like you’ve got some deadly disease cause you breathe. Makes no sense? I know. You need to breathe to stay alive. It’s a bodily function. Right? Everyone does it. Right? Yeah, right. Same here. Every woman has periods. YOU EXIST BECAUSE YOUR MUM HAD PERIODS. And yet, we treat women like this.

There is no way this kind of behaviour is acceptable, but it’s a special kind of wrongdoing when children are brought into this. Poor girl, she is hurting, she is confused and scared, she isn’t used to this.The pain and discomfort isn’t enough, humiliation needs to be added to the mix. And so, on top of that, she’s isolated from everyone else, because she might pollute the others. She might induce menstruation in the girls who haven’t yet started. Science at its finest. She is not at all comfortable with the fact that she is bleeding, and the teacher announces it to the entire classroom, that the girl is to be avoided. That she is impure. Imagine, if you can, what that girl is thinking. And if she is unlucky, she has to go home to the same treatment. Her siblings cannot play with her. She’s made to sleep separately, and her food is put out on separate plates, in one corner of the room. Anyone who touches her must wash themselves. From childhood up, girls are indoctrinated with the idea that they are impure and foul when they have their period. If that isn’t pathetic, I don’t know what is.

For someone who hasn’t faced this, imagine someone made to feel they are unclean, being left out of everything because of something they biological. Now imagine how they would feel about this if they were made to feel so by their own family. They didn’t ask to have periods. No woman likes to put up with this, but they have to. This is probably the time when a woman feels most vulnerable and has all sorts of aches and cramps going on, and instead of offering care and compassion, the custom is make her feel like she’s committed some filthy sin.

I don’t know, what I want out of this. There’s not going to be any sweeping social change among India’s masses thanks to one post in an obscure blog by a college student. Heck, I’m not even angry anymore, just sad. It feels bad to know that I won’t be able to exorcise this devil. The best I can do is rant. And that’s it.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Thoughts

An appreciation of Hitchhiker’s

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. Perhaps the most remarkable…

-The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Things you might want to keep in mind-

  • I LOVE THIS BOOK
  • I will gush my heart out. Honestly, I am a voracious reader and I’ve never found a book that I connected to or enjoyed more

So, the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. The book is about a hapless and very British human, Arthur Dent, as he pinballs across the galaxy after his home and planet are destroyed by construction crews (different ones, of different scales and scopes). It mostly involves him being blown up, shot at or having something unpleasant happen to him every few paragraphs.

I will digress now.

I had been staring at my wall for the past half an hour and now I will tell you what I am thinking about. On my wall, I had written, in an attempt to personalise my room, “Cogito Ergo Sum”. It’s my favourite quote. “I think therefore I am”, by Rene Descartes. A very neat little piece of reasoning. He wanted to arrive at some fundamental intrinsic of the universe and his method to arrive at that was to question everything, and not believe in anything that he thought wasn’t true for sure. He ruled out sensory input, you may hear or see wrong and so on. He ruled out his own thoughts, as he may make errors. And so on, and he ended up with pretty much nothing. There was apparently no thought or idea, that he could think of, which was perfectly, intrinsically correct. And then he realised he was thinking. That was impossible to deny, that he was thinking. Thus, his mind, hence his brain, head and body existed, else it would be very stupid to have a thought without a mind, a mind without a body and so on. Thus, Descartes, for sure existed, since he thought. He thought, therefore he was.

“Cogito ergo sum.”

That had absolutely nothing to do with Hitchhiker’s. I just felt like writing it, so I did. I will now return to what I was doing. Trying to review that godly piece of perfection. Now the thing is, this book is very different from almost any other book, so it makes it pretty difficult to dissect and analyse. Quoting Stephen Fry on Wodehouse, “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour”. Pretty much sums it up.

There is so so little plot that it won’t satisfy a three year old’s demands from a bedtime story. On second thoughts, it would, but that’s about it. As far as just the storyline goes, it’s the bare minimum necessary. Just a set of highly improbable things happening one after the other. But that plot is supplemented by the most brilliant language, and extremely British humour.

And it is full of very weird sciency things, absurdly plausible, but absolutely impossible. An example-
How do you fly?
You fall, aiming for the ground and miss. The missing part is difficult, it involves distracting yourself so completely that you forget that you were supposed to hit the ground, and before you know it, you’re flying.

Another such example would be the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, a most dangerous creature who is also mind bogglingly stupid, so much so that if you cannot see it, it assumes it cannot see you. So if you are cornered by the Ravenous Bugblatter, all you need to do is put a towel over your eyes and it will leave you alone. There is also a bit about how, given the Universe is infinite, everything, no matter how improbable, must occur naturally. So out there somewhere is a planet of mattresses (all named Zem, for some reason), which are harvested, cut up and dried out and sent off to the markets. Fresh mattresses from Squornshellous Zeta. There is also a tree which grows screwdrivers as fruit. And a planet of ballpoint pens, introduced in an entirely different context. There is also an infinite improbability drive, which allows for practically instantaneous transport. One of my favourites is the Babel fish, which feeds on brain waves, and acts a universal translator. So it absorbs all your brainwaves, feeds on the unconscious ones and excretes the conscious ones telepathically. The practical implication of this is that if you put one in your ear, all your conscious thoughts, that is whatever you’re saying, are relayed as pure brainwaves to everyone else in real time. Pretty neat.

Yes, this isn’t proper science. It is nonsense, and the author had absolutely no intention to appeal to common sense. But at first glance, it does seem plausible. And no matter how nonsensical, it’s funny. It’s sort of like one of the crazier XKCD comics, humorous and doesn’t take itself seriously, while it makes sense on some level. SMBC too, for that matter. Actually, it’s closer to SMBC than XKCD.

Incidentally, there isn’t much character development either. After 5 books of being an occasionally heroic wimp searching for tea, at the end of it all, he’s… well, he’s still that, with a daughter, obtained via surrogacy. Ford Prefect is still in search of the fountain of alcohol at the end of the Universe. And so on.

The very broad storyline of the thing is this. At least, this is the part that might sound familiar to some of you who haven’t read the books. So millions of years ago, there lived a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings. Lets call them mice. You’ll understand why. So the mice made a computer, the greatest of all time, that would answer the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything. So this computer of theirs, Deep Thought, ran for 7.5 million years and came up with the answer 42. This didn’t really satisfy the mice. They wanted something a bit more deep and meaningful. Then, Deep Thought gently reminded them that they didn’t know the ultimate question, and that he’d build an even greater computer, a device so complex that organic matter would form its physical structure. And so the Earth was made, to find the ultimate question, and its program ran for 10 million years. And 5 minutes before the read out it was destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet. Here onward, it’s Arthur and Ford and other people who don’t always stick with them stumbling across the Universe, getting into some kind of trouble or the other.

The actual Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy features in here as a literal Guide to the Galaxy, a sort of encyclopaedia of worlds and attractions and interesting people. It has, apparently replaced encyclopaedias as the standard repository of all knowledge since it is cheaper and has DON’T PANIC written in large letters on the cover.

There are pretty weird side characters. My favourite three, in ascending order, are:
Fenchurch, Arthur’s love interest with whom he gets to spend a month after which she goes missing. She was sort of the mouthpiece for the grand readout of the ultimate answer, it is implied. Nice character, overall.
Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. An alien who had immortality thrust upon him as a result of an accident with a time machine and some rubber bands. Getting completely bored of his immortality after outliving everyone for a few hundred years, he decides to insult every creature in the Universe (in alphabetical order).
Agrajag, a being who keeps getting reincarnated in various forms, only to be killed by Arthur every single time. He is born as a rabbit, whom Arthur kills to make a bag, and then as a fly, whom Arthur kills with the same bag. And so on. He’s later (or earlier, depends on how you look at it. “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so”), transfigured into existence in the place of a missile as a bowl of petunias and thus, falls to the surface of the planet and dies.

So, in a sort of TL;DR, I’ll say this. The plot ain’t much to speak of. The characters are well, they are ragdolls being tossed around as and when the author decides to blow up stuff around them. The language is beautiful, purely humorously English in every sense of the word. And the humour, at least for me, is spot on all the time.

I think you’ve sort of formed an idea of the book by now. Again, you can’t really analyse this thing. You either like it or you don’t. There is no partial, no sort of. It’s no cup of tea, it’s a swig of some heady drink. And you can take it or leave it.

Posted in Random, Thoughts

Nice People and Introverts

 

Couple of days ago, Kenneth “Kenny” Sebastian, a stand up comedian came to our college. He is pretty good, and brilliant at what he does, which is make people laugh. He had one set about so called ‘nice people’, the ones who are meek, quiet and good to others, usually too much so for their own good. Basically introverts, ones who are very good to their fellow men.

 

These nice people, I tell you are the gems of humanity. These are the people who the rest of us should love protect and cherish, because while we’ll never admit it, they are the ideal we should strive toward. They are the gems, the hidden treasures, so to speak.

 

The other half is characterised by, in a nutshell, brashness. They will go up and talk to people. Initiate conversations, ask random questions and in general reach out and try to make friends with you. On the flip side, they will speak over you. They will interrupt you and try to finish your points, even when they don’t know for sure what you are talking about. They are trouble seekers and makers, people who will cause problems about things someone can tolerate and/or ignore. At the same time, they might solve your problems too, which is good.

 

So, these nice people, the introverts, they are fundamentally the quiet ones. Not the party types. They would like to socialise, but they are unsure, usually of themselves. Whom should one approach when one is at a party where he knows nobody, and all the people are new to him? Is it okay to express his [even if slightly controversial] opinion just like that? Or should one wait and hold off? What if you disagree with someone? Is saying “I disagree” offensive? These nice people, may they live long and prosper, are too nice for their own good. I know someone who will not take a decision about anything and will leave the choice of everything, from where to eat, to which route to take to college, to others. Though of late she’s gotten slightly better. She at least chooses the time, even if only occasionally, when we meet. Which is better than nothing.

 

The other half has a sort of knack for saying what they want. They will be loud and clear, even if saying something wrong. They will make sure they are heard, which is pretty nice. Only, every time an extrovert speaks, they speak over and interrupt at least two introverts, who enviously wish that they could also just sling words about so effectively. They are, naturally, stealers of the shows.

 

Speaking as an ambivert, I sometimes understand the effort that a nice introvert needs to open up and speak to people, to make decisions and to socialise in general. It is much easier to stay at home and read a book. But I also understand where the people persons come from, what they enjoy about the whole “interacting with people” process. Making friends, it’s way less painful a process than an introvert would think. It is actually fun to go up and talk to people, to know what makes them tick, that they like knitting and Celtic heavy metal, that their dog’s name is Bobo and their phone is shit. But yes, I do need to take time off and recharge, get some alone time and not be social all the time.

 

However, it remains that the extroverts are going to stay as the public faces for all of us. The introverts simply aren’t, well, extroverted enough. So, it is our sacred duty to take care of these nice little introverts the best we can, while they do their thing. They produce so many nice things that give us so much joy, books and paintings and if nothing else, blogs that you check in on for happy little updates on what is going on all around.

 

PS: Sorry for the long delay. We had a literary fest going on in our college, and both of us, Aditi and I were involved in organising. I will write about that presently. Also, we will try and adhere to a more rigid posting schedule. Let’s see what the future holds. Keep reading 🙂

Posted in Random, Thoughts

The Instant Gratification Monkey

https://youtu.be/arj7oStGLkU

 

From the Keys of a Chronic Procrastinator

 

The YouTube link in the beginning is a TED Talk. Specifically, the one that granted this post it’s title. In case you didn’t guess, the talk is about procrastination. The speaker is a blogger, Tim Urban, writing at http://waitbutwhy.com/wait-but-who. Here’s how he breaks down the mind of a procrastinator: there’s a Rational Decision Maker, which is the same as the mind of a normal, non-procrastinating person, and an Instant Gratification Monkey. There’s also a Panic Monster, who however isn’t a permanent player. So what happens is the Rational Decision Maker does exactly what he sounds like. He thinks a situation through and comes up with the sane thing to do.

 

So, say I have an exam tomorrow (I do have one the day after, but anyhow), the RDM will tell me to stop this right now and get down to study. The Monkey is the one that messes all this up by saying go on, do what you like, finish off the whole post at one go. Then, read up on the different kinds of biriyani in India. And if you’re done somewhat early, reorganise your Music folder.

 

The Monkey wants immediate fun. The here and the now and the this. FUN. NOW! The RDM works more rationally, and thinks of longer term stuff. So giving the test well gets me a good grade which increases my chances of having a better job and so on, but may not be very interesting or fun at the immediate moment. The RDM is a grown up in these ways. It’ll allow you to relax and everything, but only on times that are actually relaxation times, like Sunday afternoons when all the chores are done. The Monkey is more of childish and wants, well, instant gratification.

 

And so, when the deadline is tomorrow and it is crunch time, the Monkey will want… well, anything that might make it happy. And thus, it descends down a spiral of worthless unproductivity (there’s a very nice Lennon quote which goes “Time enjoyed wasting is not wasted”, but try saying that when you find yourself watching all of Taher Shah’s masterpieces on YouTube) until it gets to the point where it’s now or never, and if you miss your chance then, you miss it forever. And that’s where the third guy, the panic monster steps in. What he does is, he scares the hell out of the Monkey and hands the control over to the Decision Maker, who then makes the best of a bad job. And this cycle loops for whatever work a procrastinator does.

 

The life of any procrastinator who wants to get anything done involves setting traps for himself that may somehow force him to get stuff done. Take for example, me. Resolving to wake up early and get lots of work done, thus making the day nice and productive (inner self sniggers), I decided to get one of those puzzle solving alarm clocks (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kog.alarmclock  | I never sleep through alarms, but I do snooze a lot of them, which is just as bad. These apps make you solve puzzles to turn them off, or even snooze them. Sounds perfectly ghastly, is so too). Day one of the new alarm, I go to bed at 12:00 am, confident that the new alarm will do it’s job and wake me at 7. At 7, the alarm wakes me, interrupting a particularly nice dream involving a chocolate sauce fountain. I turn off the alarm, uninstall the app and go on sleeping till 8:30. The Monkey, well rested, ensured my day was a very wholesomely happy one.

 

I could give you a bajillion examples. The countless times I stayed up nights trying to finish homework. The night before exams, crashing through the entire semester’s worth of knowledge in hours. The blog articles written after missing three posting deadlines and multiple stern admonitions from Aditi (who am I kidding? Aditi just nudges me ever so gently as yet another deadline whooshes by). And the cycle repeats. Relaxation and delay, realisation and panic, rush and regret. And so on.

 

So I have decided to stop. It’s sort of simple really, to kick the habit. And it’s not that bad. “Everything in moderation, including moderation”, and so on. That was Oscar Wilde. And he was right. Mild procrastination increases creativity. Letting those ideas marinade at the back of your mind really helps them cook, so to speak. And once in a while maybe it’s good to let go and relax. Emphasis on ‘once in a while’.

 

So I have to make detailed timetables and timelines, dividing upcoming tasks into bite sized chunks and arranging them in such a way that I don’t get bored. I’ve got most of it planned out in my head. I’ve even allowed little breaks for relaxation. So all I need to do is make an actual timetable or feed it into my calendar. Heck, I’ll start on it tomorrow. Till then, remember people, consistency, punctuality and a serious approach to work is key.

 

Posted in Collaborative story, Story

Chapter Three

Rohit Agrawal was satisfied.

Winding back a couple of months, the Mumbai branch, for some reason was not performing as expected. All the cash inflow, the years of effort gone into setting up what was to be the new headquarters, gone down the drain. A most regrettably spectacular waste, it would seem.

To not let reports of his pure incompetence reach his seniors, the ex-branch manager had sent in reports containing only estimates and worded in the most aimless generalities, and included almost no concrete facts, other than an occasional parameter which happened to paint a roseate figure or the newest branch’s operation. Even that was rare. The visits to Mumbai themselves were fruitless. Rohit didn’t have the time to monitor the operations himself, with all the running about it took to set up the branch.

After replies to mail after mail were sent in as colourful presentations and quarterly reports containing bare slivers of usable information, Rohit asked in his immediate subordinate, Anand Vyom to look into exactly what was going on. Finding the branch grossly deficit in meeting its targets and horribly mismanaged, Anand replaced the manager with the first somewhat suitable applicant.

Rohit, finding the new manager inexperienced and way out of her depth, had taken it upon himself to oversee her initial months as manager. Long story short, Jyoti proved to be very competent and the time Rohit had expected to spend teaching her managerial strategies were spent discussing where Agrawal Enterprises was headed, and then on to where they were headed.

Things, it would seem, were going well. Well enough that the Mumbai visits were more recreational than supervisory.

And so, yet another day spent in his chamber in the offices, he went through his daily grind of mails back and forth, looking out to a most spectacular greyscale view of Marine Drive, when a voice on the intercom sent chills up and down his spine and the waves washing in to the coast started rolling in shades of blue and the sun spread warm yellow along the road and in through the window, lighting up all the room, colouring with it the carpeted floor and the light blue walls, the brown door and the woman in azure walking in.

An hour later, as she walked out, the blue hues of her dress wrapped up the rainbow in itself and took it along, leaving behind a rich businessman in a pale grey reverie.

Posted in Random, Weather

Musings on Mausam

Silence pervades the hostel. Well, not silence, but pretty near. Crickets chirp outside, I am busily clicking away at my keyboard, and the raindrops keep steadily doing their drip-drip outside the window against the fuzzy static of the rain in the distance. So it’s not really silent, but all these sounds can be taken for granted. A nice little excursion into the phrase ambient noise. You won’t notice it unless you want to.

I focus on the rain sounds, on how the rain is affecting me. My typing has somehow synced with the steady dripping. Out of the blue, someone starts playing Maroon5’s Payphone very loudly. Jarring. I am unsettled. Shaken out of the rut of my mind, I go back into the rain, picking up the threads of my consciousness where I lost them.

It’s uncanny, how much influence the weather has on us. Almost as much as say food, or people. Maybe even more. We are but slaves to the elements and the atmosphere. Think about it.

Imagine it’s summer, outside it’s a bright sunny day, so you’re bouncing and full of energy. Until you go outside, and then you lose it all. The sun is up there, sapping away all your energy and your enthusiasm (this is from an Indian point of view, so summers are extremely hot and horrible) and you turn into this limp, wilting vegetable and decide a nice cool drink and a nap is probably the order of the day. The evening brings with it coolness, productivity and/or the desire to chill around with friends. The day promises productivity, but doesn’t deliver. Might, if spent indoors, with access to air-conditioning.

Now imagine it’s mid monsoon, and you wake up to the sound of steady rain, a continuous dull hiss outside, dark grey skies and a confusion as to whether it’s evening or morning. The bed seems too comfortable and inviting, and all your senses tell you to stay in bed. You give in. When you do wake up, it’s midday and the rain has lightened up a bit. So you go out and about your business, packing an umbrella, using it whenever you go out, and then cursing as to what to do with the wet floppy thing indoors. The day passes, well enough if indoors and exceedingly wet and irritating if outside. But there’s this sense of general dissatisfaction and a feel of a day wasted. Wasted? No, not wasted. But not what it could have been. Not what it would have been on a drier day, maybe.

There’s honestly few things that solicit mixed feelings more than rain and rainy days. The ‘cry in the rain, the droplets hide your tears’ and ‘splash around in the puddles and make paper boats’ crowds are out in equal force. The rains put some in romantic states of mind, and some in various moods of productivity. If you have the time and will to venture outside, you’ll find in equal number, people joyously soaking in the rain, having fun, and solitary figures moving around pretty dejectedly.

And constant rain gets on your nerves too. Mine at least. For starters, it restricts and hampers movement. Today, I was about to go out, and just at the gate, I left the group I was going with to get my umbrella. Well, my umbrella wasn’t in my room, someone had already taken it. And just then it came pouring down. Kind of sad and ironic that you go to get your umbrella and come back soaking wet. You don’t see that happening too often. Never, in fact. Incessant torrential rain also tends to come creeping into every aspect of your life, through windows, seeping into bags, ruining notebooks and making little puddles on the windowsills and creating little pockets of irritation on your mind.

Tell you what, the best weather is probably the light drizzling and/or sunny sky when it clears up after a spell of heavy rain. Especially if you stay in a place with a lot of greenery. All of nature looks scrubbed clean, there is this beautiful clarity to everything. Then, as the sky starts to clear you get glimpses of the most beautiful clear lapis peeking through (Usage of lapis was intentional there, so that you’d look it up and know exactly I’m talking about. goo.gl/images/j4jnVY, for your convenience). You end up feeling like you are striding a brand new earth. It feels glorious. A fresh start, new life, and then you step straight into a puddle and that’s about it for that.

Posted in Book Reviews, Random

Intermittent Moonshine of a Spotty Mind

It has come down to this. I have a set of examinations in four days. Three, if you’re picky about it being the next day once it’s past midnight. Personally, tomorrow comes when I wake up, or the sun rises, whichever happens later. Also, there is an assignment I need to start on, about World War II from the Russian perspective. And there is more to do. Miles to go before I sleep. And promises to keep. You get the gist.

This post is more or less what the title says. Also, I recently watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and this had been stuck in my mind for sometime. Random background music YouTube is playing from my recommendations. Seven Nation Army by White Stripes when I decided I should start (https://youtu.be/0J2QdDbelmY). Good song, it is. The Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wanna Know is on now (https://youtu.be/bpOSxM0rNPM). A friend actually recommended it way back. About two years ago or so. Intriguing song. Sparse but oddly impactful.

I’m basically writing whatever is flitting through my head. Which, suddenly subjected to close inspection decides to think smart stuff, gives up, and settles back down on my to-do list. Like I am trying to prepare a sort of analysis of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That’s one book that fits the title rather perfectly. I wish I could say I thought of that beforehand and all this chit-chat was just an artful lead up to the book review, but no. It just struck me. And before anyone who knows tells me Douglas Adams was far from spotty (for the uninitiated, he wrote the book. Books, to be exact, the full trilogy of five [I do not count the sixth][Also, yes, trilogy of five, I made no mistake there]). That was a very messy parenthesis. Do bear with me. Anyway, Douglas Adams was far from spotty, but anyone who knows that will know he thought of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time while he was drunk out of his mind in a field in Germany, and then forgot about it for quite a few years until he started writing for BBC. Which classifies as somewhat spotty.

Plini’s Cascade on now (https://youtu.be/7m5XvO0Y2-Y). I don’t like it now. Not at the moment. Not in the mood for music this involved and energetic at 3:52 AM. I’ll change to Clapton performing While My Guitar Gently Weeps at George Harrison’s memorial concert. (https://youtu.be/rj4J6i_vw0w?list=WL)

Beautiful music. This is probably Harrison’s most famous song from his time with the Beatles. Impassioned lyrics about apathy, and probably some of the most heartfelt guitar work ever. But, one thing that remains unknown is that Clapton played the lead guitar for the album version too (https://youtu.be/mgIbPzGNhIM). Not that it matters all that much.

Anyway, going back along the rails of the train of thought, I encounter Hitchhiker’s. Brilliant book. No plot, some half-boiled characters and yet, what a read. Anyhow. Mind goes back to Clapton and Harrison. It is a very interesting relationship they had. Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, the subject of several of his songs, was one of the most admired women of her era. Later, when Clapton and Harrison grew closer, Clapton fell in love with her, and eventually won her over. However, Harrison and Clapton remained close friends, appearing with each other on stage and working on each others’ albums, which is pretty cool.

Current song is Hey Jude, by Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, among a lot of other people. This is a very, very beautiful version of the song. Please do listen, even if you’re skipping the others (https://youtu.be/PgJQ6LQ8x1E?list=WL).

Following was a period where I stared off into the distance because you cannot write “Nothing”, or “Mind is blank”, and so one whiles the time away, revelling in the music. And then https://youtu.be/r8C2Tm-r0V8 comes up. No spoilers, but it forced me to change tabs and watch the whole thing. Very fun, it is. And brilliant actor, that guy.

Well, I will start reading up on my Russia and WWII assignment. Very thought provoking, since they suffered the greatest and harshest losses in the war. www.fallen.io. This pushed me to pick the topic. Please do watch, it is a very well made, informative and educating site. I will not end by saying that “War is a horror”, that we must not repeat those past mistakes. We all know that. It is not something that needs explaining. I will end with nothing. Just a silence, to let your thoughts fill the void.

PS: I know the change in tone is very abrupt. I said I’d follow my mind where it goes, as it goes. I did. I take your leave now.

Posted in Collaborative story

Chapter One

So, here we are. And this time, we’re writing a story, in collaboration. We’ll take turns to write, one chapter each. So here goes.

The world was simple in the eyes of Rohit Agrawal. It all came down to a few straight lines. One from his penthouse in Park Street to the ground floor. A fifteen minute drive along Park Street to the offices of Agrawal Enterprises, and back. A bi-weekly flight to by Mumbai, and back. Occasional business meetings in the Astoria, and back. His world had the simplicity of luxury and the detachment of money and power. For him, it was a good world. It minded it’s business, he minded his.

Word had spread among his associates and fellow businessmen that he was hard and unfeeling. That he had no capacity for emotion and his only care in the world was his business. He never denied it. On the contrary, he encouraged such talk. He had never donated to charity, and seemed to let his brain run his life, his heart taking a back seat. All in all, the kind of man who would be accused of being a heartless businessman.

It was said he saw the world in black and white, in terms of his gains and losses. Those who said it, they had no clue how near they were to the truth. For Rohit Agrawal was colour blind. Partially. His condition was complicated. In fact, nobody else knew of it. Normally, he saw the  world in black and white, but with one person, one Jyoti Roy, manager of the Mumbai branch, he saw colour.

In his chauffeured BMW, he was trying to think of the world of colours, the last time he visited it. He couldn’t. Grey asphalt outside the window, his black leather seat, mottled-grey overcast skies above all kept dragging him into the real world, with the pale gray chauffeur and his black uniform, the dappled grey of the trees and the majestic white buildings speeding past. He looked at his own colourless palms and then picked up a colourful grey advertising brochure he was supposed to be reading. Today was one of the grey days.

At work, he attended a sales presentation, where he took two minutes to figure out which curve on the graph was green. Then with a masterful speech on why he believed the new tactics would at the least double sales, he went on to his own office. He decided he’d expand into the property business, and told his secretary tell his Delhi agent to scout for land he could invest in. This was followed by reports from various branches of Agrawal Enterprises, until the secretary reminded him of his 12:30 lunch with the Income Tax department representative, and the 5 pm flight to Mumbai. He stared at the black mahogany of his desk, and then of a face, candles fluttering in the wind, yellow irises in a white porcelain vase… suddenly, the vision vanished, and his hand reached into a drawer and drew out a sheaf of papers, and began poring over them intently, making notes in the margins, letting his work flood over him.

That evening, on the plane, he smiled at the white clad airhostess and idly toyed with a grey silk handkerchief, anticipating its miraculous bloom into a yellow sliver of fire when he entered an apartment that night. Then, shaking his head, he devoted himself to the mails his Delhi agent had sent him, occasionally making notes on a pad using a ball-point pen writing jet black ink. His attachment to colours surprised him.