Saturday, June 13, 2015


These are the Heisenberg days of my life,
I am often in two places at once. Things
have begun to coalesce, days into weeks,
months into years. Things slip
into the hence, like shadows of people on
Rashbehari avenue.

Last evening I spied on the dahlias
from the verandah whilst you read
from The Statesman, an obituary of
Bidhan Roy. I am never quite sure
Of your political proclivity,
whether to agree or disagree, it all
depends on what’s for tea.

The lady,
in 40C calls her son, Babu,
back from the gloom,
barely audible over the bald Marwari
shouting into his cell phone. 
Is it a coincidence then,
that the dahlias are in bloom?

Saturday, March 24, 2012


It is almost 5 years since that cold morning when I took you to the airport. It is not easy to navigate in a foreign city such as Paris especially for someone who doesn't speak French, but you were always self-assured. One hasn't ever seen you flustered. You could find your way out of any maze. But you insisted that I buy a return ticket and drop you directly at the terminal. Mom waited at Gare du Nord, she had to catch a train to London that morning.

I remember the delirious laughter from the previous evening, probably drug induced, for you had trouble sleeping, and the sleeping pill made you funny! The morning of your departure however is a bit of a blur in my memory. When Mom wasn't around, we mostly talked about economics, politics or cricket. Or you sermonized at length about something and I listened absentminded. So you would expect that is what happened on our way to the airport. But that morning you might have been quieter - for you had had a premonition. Perhaps you feigned your lack of assuredness so I would go all the way with you to airport to see you for the last time. At Charles de Gaule you appeared small and defenceless - how strange it seemed, the small boy whom you led around by his finger, who listened to everything you said for you were always right, was now showing you the way, carrying your bags, asking you to stand so he could check if the flight was on time. I told my mom when I was child, "One day I would be bigger than my father". That was not thought through, Baba. I am still your little boy, and that day you were only testing me to see if I could find my way in this world alone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bonbibi - Part 4

Accurate chronicling of history, I think, is a predominantly western concept. India has often relied on myth, epics and a rich body of literature as a substitute for historical accuracy. Fact and fiction are unashamedly in bed with one another and it's hard to tell one from the other. This couldn't be more true for the Sunderbans. To trace it's history is a futile task. What will it lead to - an account of how the British set up Canning as a commercial establishment, and possibly the words of an intrepid British explorer witnessing a native of Gosaba in his quaint habitation through his 'civilized' colonial glasses.

No I'd rather revel in the myth, to learn about that alternate history which recounts both the real and the fantasy (of the native), in his distinct voice / language soaked in cultural context and symbolism. Bonbibi's emergence as a forest deity has a literal narrative, as we have seen so far and a sibilant undertone that can be easily overlooked. Her family, the circumstances of her birth and her accomplishments serve two purposes to the native. Firstly to establish Bonbibi as figure of great power to be respected and revered. Secondly to reassure the local, that she is one of their own, with the same culture and values. It is this second aspect, that affords the outsider a glimpse into the culture of Sunderbans.

Consider the rise to power of Bonbibi and her initial confrontation with Dakkhin Rai. The battle supposedly takes place between Dakkhin Rai's mother, Narayani, and Bonbibi. Similarly, other stories of Bonbibi, describe her brother Shah Jangali taking on Dakkhin Rai. One might interpret this, as a clear segregation of sexes as far as power struggle is concerned. For though she is a feminine deity and her dominion is unquestioned, the native chooses to ignore what could happen in a battle between the sexes, perhaps out of fear for the consequence it might have on the social order and accepted roles that both sexes play.

Bonbibi - Part 3

That loving helplessness of the mudbanks brushing, scathed
by the rippling waves. The sound of your footsteps,
twisting your way, every inch of space, every drop of rain,
every bit of day is yours to take.
That drowning breath, my conversations encircled
by bubbles of air clamouring their way
to be lost on your face while you gaze. And as you walk away, I stay
watching the purple night and extend my arms to grasp as
much of this world as I can save.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bonbibi - Part 2

Dakkhin Rai ruled the land of the eighteen tides before Bonbibi and her brother arrived on the scene. It is interesting to note that Dakkhin Rai (and his mother Narayani) are ostensibly Hindu, while Bonbibi and her brother Shah Jangali are Muslims. The myth talks of a fierce battle between the forces of Dakkhin Rai (led by his mother) and Bonbibi in which he is displaced as the ruler. A truce is worked out and thereafter Bonbibi rules the inhabited part of the Sunderbans and Dakkhin Rai retreats to the inhospitable nether reaches of the forest.

The truce is however a tense one, fraught with constant skirmishes. Different stories show how Dakkhin Rai tries to gain the upper hand, only to be shot down by Bonbibi. It echoes the realities of the land. The constant tussle between the mangrove swamps (with its wilderness and tigers) and human habitation. The struggle between the tides and frequent storms and the ever-changing landmass. The daily fight for existence that the native has to endure, against the elements of nature to bring back his catch of fish or just cultivate his land without falling prey to the tiger. The lure of the wild as opposed to the steadfastness of domesticity. Faith in her benevolence versus fear of his guile and ferocity.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Bonbibi - Part 1

As myths go, Bonbibi is a recent myth, born out of the culture, beliefs, topography, flora and fauna of the Sunderbans. Bonbibi is literally the wife of the forest, and she rules that part of the forest which is inhabited or accessible to humans. The rest of the forest, deep and inaccessible, remains the preserve of her arch-enemy Dakkhin Rai. What they represent is easy to guess - the familiar narrative of good versus evil, recounted through  the ages in Greek mythology, Norse mythology or even in popular Hollywood movies such as George Lucas' Star Wars or the Harry Potter series.

But while some of these accounts of fairy tales seem intangible and inaccessible, the narrative of Bonbibi feels as palpable as a girl born only yesterday in the forests of Sunderbans. Bonbibi is the daughter of Berahim (vernacular for Ibrahim) a faqir from Mecca and his second wife Golalbibi. But for her to become a deity, this is not nearly enough. The myth therefore asserts that Allah sent Bonbibi and her brother Shah Jangali (literally king of the jungle) to earth to fulfill a divine purpose - and thus they were born to Golalbibi. They were born deep in the forests of Sunderbans, where Golalbibi lay forsaken by her husband. There is a certain drama to this story of her birth, a familiarity with the story of Jesus Christ, except that Berahim had left his second wife to be with his first wife Phoolbibi unlike Joseph who remained by Mary's side. The plight and helplessness of Golalbibi must make her seem so real to local forest dwellers. And so to reinforce her divinity the myth reassures the native listener that Allah sent forth four maids to help Golalbibi deliver her twin babies.

The names, customs are common to any Muslim household of that area. But the apotheosis of the female child is perhaps inspired by Hindu goddesses such as Durga or Kali. Some sources also indicate that Gibril (Archangel Gabriel) helped bring Bonbibi and Shah Jangali to the land of the eighteen tides, but then again Gibril is as much a part of Islam as he is of Christianity.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

That I might open an umbrella

That I might open an umbrella to a sky dripping like a leaky tap
And be blown away by the wind
whirling me by degrees and whispering into my ears
alarmist stories from the daily news about
political unrest or an outbreak of a deadly pandemic,
anything really, to keep me engrossed
while I am transported - no planned engineering works
or unscheduled stops - to an unknown destination,
with a book in my hand, the notion of time melting
into the warm bread of lassitude.

That I might look out of my window,
to the dome, glowing in half light,
reflecting the vicissitudes of regular clerks,
and programme managers irritated by
the constant flashing of cameras of
easily surprised tourists and find a path
of gravel or shingle,
gradually disappearing into a thicket,
emerging into the open overlooking
the sea of the insolent smile of a wastrel,
waves frothy with disrespect,
disorderly, disengaged and self-willed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Clown

The clown as a motif can be found in abundance in books, plays, movies and other forms of art. The chief difference between a clown and a stand up comedian is that the stand up comedian will often ridicule events, famous personalities or even the audience, while the clown will usually draw laughter by subjecting himself to ridicule. Often during performances, such as during double acts, clowns will assume different personality types. One of them may become the authority figure and the other might be submissive. Sometimes a clown may even act out a specific role as any serious actor would. 

By wearing make-up, a clown can make you look at everyday life and situations differently. The audience can become dispassionate and objective about a topic that can otherwise be quite sensitive. This is an interesting way to engage with the audience, and can be quite powerful in terms of the impact it can have.

Clowns in literature, plays or movies often deal with not just the on stage performance, but also the person who wears the mask. In such cases, the clown can be the central character or sidekick. As the main protagonist, the on-stage clown is usually relegated to the sidelines, and replaced by a gloomy person, often as morose as his stage personality is funny. The on stage persona will appear only at intervals, either as a reminder that the person can actually draw laughter from crowds as a performer or sometimes just to demonstrate the person is no longer capable of drawing laughter like he used to in the past. As a side kick, the clown (or the fool), connects to audience, engages them and helps them interpret the story and identify with it. Any attempt at fleshing out the character of a clown, presents interesting opportunities to the writer or director. For example a clown may enact a serious situation on stage with reckless frivolity, and then unmask himself to reveal a character as real as the viewer - a character often emotionally scarred by the impressions that he does on stage. Such a performance can draw from the audience a complex range of reactions, taking him on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We congregate

There are times we congregate,
like clouds,
to make thunder and rain.
A few hours or days
is all it takes.
After that things are parched again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

To make the city disappear

Kandinsky - Ludwigskirche in Munich 1908

There are things we like to lean upon - like the city for example. Surrounded by the gray curtains, the city is recognizable and palpable. Occasionally the curtains are drawn and we are bathed in golden sunlight. But even in the gray, we can find our way. Along the snaking river, we have laid sign posts, so we know what we are looking at. Take away the sign posts, or smudge them with your thumb, and the city will begin to blur. Wear your reading glasses, and the details will reveal themselves, through maps, books, photographs and Internet. Without them will the city lose its identity? No, the city may still remain - in my mind and in yours.

Often when you have left your glasses, somewhere in your house, by the sofa or beside the bed, they are hard to find. Especially if you cannot see well without them. My grandmother does it all the time - and it can be quite unsettling, a bit like losing your mind. For if you became insane, how would you comprehend the world around you? How would you recognize the city, despite its signposts and myriad references in literature and documented history? You would read the signposts and yet not know what it meant. Or you wouldn't care to read them at all - the mind, like the ageing autocrat, will do what it pleases. The city will therefore cease to exist for you, if you lost your mind.

If you were to go mad, how would you know that you had? The people who share your apartment might seem unfamiliar, and you would scarce believe the one who shook you and told you he was your son. To you it would be normal, to eat when you are hungry and walk out in public view in your state of undress. Indeed, you might even wonder what was wrong with the world, for in your frame of reference you would be completely sane. But if the city didn't exist in your mind, would the city still exist at all? For there are others in the city, who might recognize it. Yes the city would exist, for their minds would make it real.

But cities do disappear. The lost city of the Incas, would have been resplendent during the reign of an obscure Inca emperor. What happened to the city then, that it remained on a hilltop, unrecognized for centuries? Through disease, famine or human depravity, the city would have shed its people. They may have left in a hurry, or in a slow trickle, like water leaking from a broken tumbler. More significantly, the memory of the city would have faded from their collective minds.

Although it helps, it isn't necessary for the inhabitants to leave the city in order to erase it. Cities may disappear from right under our noses, especially if the citizens were to lose their minds in unison. The sign posts could become unintelligible in degrees - lose their meaning gradually, one letter at a time. As though before a senile father, the city would shake its people to rouse their dodgy memory. They would fail to recognize it. The city would then lose its identity. It wouldn't matter then, if you or me, were able to identify it. The city would have simply disappeared without a trace.

Friday, February 04, 2011

A revolving vortex

Matisse - Dance (1910)

It is a revolving vortex of messages. Or a baggage conveyor belt, with desolate bags moving round and round in circles, as hapless passengers look forward to something else.

Two people of different colors meeting each other at Cafe Valerie. One of them completely green covered in brown spots, the other one blue with long pink stripes. They speak the same language, and nod their heads in unison, like the sheep doll on my refrigerator, which shakes it head when the wind blows. Often they break into fits of laughter, as if they inhabit a Matisse painting. They hold hands and out of nowhere, there are white people of strange shapes who hold hands too, and form a ring. They go round and round.

Word bubbles float in the air, so that babies can point at it and go gaga. So much is said, that it begins to rain. But then it stops raining, and we have a deluge of white canopies. It is so hard for them to walk amidst the crowd of talking people. In the sky there is a geometrical shape from an engineering drawing - these are sparrows or are they pigeons, I don't know. They twist and turn and the shapes change.

Not much is said between the two people after that. The messages are probably lost in a vortex.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Gauguin - Tahitian Landscape

That day, long-winded hands
appeared to reach in by the window
and molest the lanterns.
Even the shadows on the wall
were visibly perturbed
(oh how they shook
from side to side).
I wandered to my window
and noticed in the distance -
rows of houses swaying in silence.

Another day
the trees were struck by tropical fever
and the leaves sedulously dropped.
Hand in hand
(like quintessential commies)
they circled and drifted into the sky.
A storm had gathered among us -
a swelling congregation of whispers
carried me as I lay prostrate
ever anchored to centre.

Then one day the storm quelled.
A searchlight scanned the riverside,
Debris had rolled into a doddering sand.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


There comes a time when elaborate sentences swirl around anti-clockwise and disappear into the drain. When that is gone don't expect to find a figure, a shape, solid, palpable. Just vapour.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Something sinister about domestic placidity.
The lady scuttling from the crackling garlic
in the frying pan to the waves of bedsheets engaged in
brutal skirmish with the pillows on the queen sized bed.
The man wrestling with the browned pages
of a tenacious constrictor, from whose tattooed body,
words and numbers burst out at the seams.
In the afternoon, there will be yarns to knit
loose ends together into an intricate mesh of memories;
an activity that requires pervasive, compound eyes
to trace and erase any semblance of unusual avidity.
In the evening there will be attempts to transgress
the bounds of moral rotundity, usually through
crinkling mugs of toothless sardonicism or a puerile
fascination for all things forbidden. At night,
bitter compunction will find comfort in clean bedsheets.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Joan Miró - Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird (1926)

Then there are people who know it all, and have lots to say. They build bridges of eloquence, for us to connect an island of isolation with another. They are people with benign smiles and large bulging foreheads, with tufts of hair wiping against their pendulous ears. Utterances from their mouths are not to be heard, but seen and admired, for they are as beautiful as ancient cave paintings or Miro's mysterious drawings.

Usually their sentences are interminable chains, intricate, cohesive - converging to a point in the horizon, known universally as 'the opinion'. But sometimes they pause midsentence and wonder ...

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Oh what did I say that slipped away,
Slithering down the staircase,
Silhouetted among the shadows,
Nodding to the gathered guests,
And winking on its way out.
Was it something that caught my eye
Moments before, or a voice lumbering
Through the corridors,
Of a smudged ancestor from faded times.

Was it merely accidental, a slight
Miscalculation of the weather that leaves
You drenched in the soaking sun,
Or was it the soft fumbling,
In the closet, of a persistent spirit
Waiting for its turn.
Was it a contradiction of a
Planted opinion,
Widely watered and gardened,
Or a corner table,
Cornered by the center,
Yet left vaguely looming around.
Was it a falsification of something
Immutable, so elegantly honorable,
Columned and arched,
Or an echo of the reality,
An abject reminder,
That words are loopy and return
To the fraternity,
Over and over again.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Jheeri Jheeri Chaitali Baatashe - 1957

Jheeri Jheeri Chaitali Baatashe
- 1957
Singer - Geeta Dutt, Composer/Lyricist - Sudhin Dasgupta
(and my silly translation)

jheeri jheeri chaitali baatashe,
neel neel aakashe, jhil-mil taara je,
chupi chupi kotha koy,
chaand haashe

In this bustling breeze of melancholia

twinkling stars in the blue blue sky,
whisper words in hushed tones
while the
moon smiles

jani na keno haay,
mon je taare chaay,
taare bhalo beshe,
hridoyo bhorejaay

Sheki amare go bhalo bashe?

Oh I never know why,
my mind seeks him,

and in loving him,

the heart fills to the brim

Wonder if he even loves me?

e modhu raat aaj boye jaay
tumi kothay aar aami kothay?

The sweet night, it flows by,
Oh where are you and where am i?

tumi je kache nai,
gaanero shure tai
ami je tomar,
she kotha bole jai

jodi tumi aasho mor paashe

But you are not nigh,
So through the tune of my song,

I keep saying to you,
that I belong to you

That you may come hither to my side

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lady with the accordion

Smiling lady with the accordion,
Broad lines extend from
The corners of your eyes,
Surround your cheeks,
And then subside.
Your lips so wide,
Like a chasm divide,
The curious song,
From the chatty wives.

The cavalcade of people dressed
In their Sunday best,
Search their pockets,
For faith and find no reason
To skip the charade.
Their faces are stretched
In elation, their hooves
Depressed in unison,
Da dum di dum,
They march ahead.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Gods need to be understood. It's easy to dismiss them for what they appear to be - cold, capricious, vain, insensitive. Consider Abraham and how he is led west and then east, blessed and cursed, in a rather whimsical manner. Consider Poseidon chasing Odysseus around the seas. Or Lord Shiva's inordinate wrath and vengeance. One might contend that this is a clear case of misuse of authority; a wanton and almost sadistic subjugation of the weak by the strong.

Have you considered how much time they have on their hands? It is an eternity that they have to pass. They have tried sleeping through it, and I am sure there might be some wise Gods who lie asleep, having realized inaction is just as useful or useless as action. May be we haven't heard of them as they have been sleeping all along. Or they stay awake and conscious. Now that's a struggle - to stay occupied for an eternity. A God may spend his time chatting with other Gods, or in some form of entertainment, but even that can get repetitious, considering eternity is a long time. That is probably why they created the universe in the first place. As the bible suggests God created the universe in 6 days, and on the 7th day he rested. But surely on the 8th day, he was left with a choice. Should he rest some more or do something else?

Consider the consequences of either. Sitting by and watching could mean people doing what they pleased and we all know that means people killing themselves. Lifting a finger and interfering, could also leave people in a rather helpless state. They would realize that God would act, they would grow to fear God. And then of course they would try to appease God, by offering prayer or sacrifice. That would result in notions of duty, religion and right or wrong. Which would result in law and order, and of course depending on the interpretation of God's judgment, it could mean man acting on his behalf and dealing with the non-conformists.

Having observed the consequences of action and inaction, any God could easily work out that there is no difference in either approach. Besides even if a man suffered for a while or for years or if he lived his days happily, whatever be his circumstance, he would eventually die. In the course of an eternity, what difference does it make to anything. As a God, his primary concern would be to stay occupied and interested during his waking hours. Why would you blame Him for being insensitive or uncaring? It is not His fault - it is the curse of immortality.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The sky drenched with ochre,
Careless drops of cyan,
Blot the body with
Unfamiliarity - a sensation foreign,
As yet unknown,
Of cold fingertips on my bare back.

Each drop feeding of its centre,
Breaching the definition,
The opacity of rationale,
As worms leafing through
A parchment,
Of unspoken authority.

A mythic mouth,
With bulbous lips,
Sucking the air,
And whispering,
As a wind through
A lake of reeds.

The firmament,
Is what you see,
In human waste,
Shells, debris
Of ambiguous shape,
Imprinted on the sand.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


There is a portrait of my father that I drew when I was 17. It was night time, and he was sitting in the drawing room of our old home. His feet would have been on a stool. His head inclined, looking down upon a business magazine. The TV was playing a news channel. He was absorbed in what he was reading. I had drawn him lost in his book. I had drawn him in charcoal. I was probably sitting on the floor and so the portrait is from a strange angle. He looked like he didn't want to be disturbed. Though I am sure after the drawing I would have shown it to him and he would have had an encouraging smile. When my father wasn't absorbed in work, he was a collector of beautiful things. Of sculptures, paintings, strange looking furniture, wall hangings and all sorts of things you would use to fill open spaces in a showcase, cupboard, or on the floor and the walls in our room. I had once painted some deer on his bedroom wall in Mumbai. Sometimes in the darkness, the headlights of a distant car would flash upon the deer, and they would run frightened. We left that place and he was sad we couldn't take the deer with us. He was very volatile, a strange chemical that would react differently and often unpredictably under different circumstance. Sometimes he'd be full of good humor and say something so witty that we'd be laughing uncontrollably. At other times he'd be exploding in a fit of anger and turning everything around him into vapor. He had inherited that temper from my grandfather and has duly left it behind for me.

My grandfather with his frizzled white hair might have been sitting shirtless, with his thick, foggy glasses scribbling his finances religiously on a piece of paper while listening to my grandmother who would have been pacing up and down the drawing room. My mom would have been at the kitchen. Victor would have been under the bed where he liked to rest, so that I won't bother him constantly. My grandfather was a meticulous man, who started a pauper but left my grandmother a house with betelnut trees that swayed agitatedly in monsoon, and my father his values and a strange sort of pugnacity to fight off the bureaucracy that seemed to follow him like a shadow. He left me an aspiration.

In my grandfather's bedroom is the portrait of a man I have never met, neither have my father and my grandfather. He is my great grandfather - my grandfather was a posthumous child. They say he died of cholera and that he loved music.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The tumbler

Mr Salgado replied, 'The right philosophy. Either you choose to observe and classify, or you choose to imagine and classify. It is a real dilemma.'
- Reef, Romesh Gunesekera

A tumbler with a deep belly,
And a slender, refined neck,
Tapering to a pout.
A deep belly, so empty,
That makes a hollow sound,
That needs a recreation,
An occupation, a song.
That seeks an idea, a thought,
A theory, a possibility,
Of infinite complexity,
An issue of importance,
With certain ramifications,
To ruminate on.

A deep belly, for controversy,
An allegation of complicity,
Apathy or even hostility,
What ever the supposition,
It can't be ruled out.
Until of course another thought,
Or fasciniation, with greater animation,
Or just indigestion,
Depending on the angle of the pout,
Depth of the belly,
Deep rumbling of the earth,
Or even something in the air,
Who knows?

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Characteristically, we decided on Scotland shortly after I had downed two margaritas and Krishnan two cuba libres at Cafe Pacifico. We had argued about places and settled it when we realised that Scotland had the f***ing high f***ing lands. So next morning while I was yawning in office, Krishnan booked the flights to Edinburgh and I booked a castle in Tain. Much later, after we had heard Robert Plant wail his oooos and ahhhs, around 2 in morning I realised we had a flight at 6 AM. So we booked a cab to pick us up at 4 AM.

At 5AM we sleep-walked our way into security, snoozed through an easy jet flight, flopped into Edinburgh airport and found ourselves at Costa Coffee wondering what to do next. A few altercations at Avis later, we were in a pub in Edinburgh and a beautiful waitress walked up to us and asked - "Isn't it cold outside?" That's when I realised that we were in Scotland.
I stared at the girl for a while and walked out to check if it was really cold, while Krishnan did the "He he he ..yes it's cold" to the girl. Of course when Krishnan came out I scowled at him and told him what James Bond would have said instead - "Very cold, we could use some warmth, don't you think?" Krishnan speculated "She must be from a warm place." I marvelled at his deductive logic. We found our Ford and drove off to Stirling.

That's where we found our ice-cream man. A man in a colorful box with wheels, with a round head popping out of a window. I had some vanilla ice cream, and I told him it was nice. Then I asked him the slowest way to get to Inverness. He scratched his round head and said Keylennderr end Fooorth Willyemmmm. So I passed him a tissue paper and a pen. He wrote Callandar, Fort William and implied Lochearnhead, Portnellan, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Black Mount, Upper Carnoch, Ballachulish, Keppanach and Drimarben.

Green, green whooshing green of outstretched branches swayed in our wake, as we speed and suddenly what is that shiny, glimmery, bright, shimmering, oh my god it is a lake isn't it? So we had to nudge the car into an empty space and jump into this pebbly path to a lake surrounded by Scottish mountains. Our first taste of Scottish wilderness. We thought the lake would taste of whiskey, or some monster would wiggle, wiggle its knobbly head and squint at us from the waters surface. Quick glance at the watch and more trees, trees and surely we must be climbing, the trees have all had haircuts - look they are conical and pointy headed. Green grasses, carpets cover this patch of earth, we are rising, rising higher, higher. Glimmering lake in the distance, but in the distance look the mountains are all gray, even black, clad in suits. Misty mountain hop playing in the car stereo, clouds all around us and we keep climbing, climbing. Gray, rocky bare is this place of the mountains. How austere and grim are the black mountains. A patch of moss and grass, to cover up some spots, but he is too absorbed to care, the mountain is surely no friend of man, just a cloud gazer, stoned baby boomer too high to bother about the mundane. Knoll after knoll bob up from the gray earth, and we snake through them. And then a bridge to the land of the lakes. A long lake, languid, limpid lake appears to our left and the dull hum of the engine is enough to leave you drowsy. The trees return and so do the shaky, bushy leaves, that caress the windscreen distractedly.

A few hours later, in the evening, after 6. The sun begins to recede and in our hurry we almost miss a sign that says 'Turn here for Urquhart'. The Urquhart Castle is closed, and there is a couple standing outside their parked car, sighing as they see the castle in the distance. I find the that the gate has no lock, but has a large sign on it that says 'Tresspassers will be Prosecuted'. "Surely they won't shoot us Krishnan." "You never know in Scotland, Wriju." "I'll take my chances", and I open the gate and walk in. The couple follows me and then Krishnan follows us, gingerly, like a nervous squirrel. There is a second gate and this one is properly locked. I jump over it, the couple do the same, but Krishnan won't budge. I run inside hoping to take a few snaps before the guards chase me away. But there is no guard. The castle is ours in all its majesty. Urquhart castle is like a jigsaw puzzle that someone forgot to complete. With parts sticking out and a beautiful waterscape showing through the gaps. The walls, punctured possibly by canon shots fired by the Williamite forces in 1692. It is a multilayered structure, that is carefully laid out along the incline of a hill. It perches like a bird on the edge of a precipice, a bird with a 270 degrees field of vision. The lake tapers to the left and to the right, guided by the mountains. It is a spectacular sight. Krishnan can't stay away to long, and he casts away his scruples and scrambles into the castle. Half an hour later we are sitting on the highest wall, looking at the sunset in the distance. The picture is tranquil and it makes you silent and introspective.

By the time we reach our hotel (called Mansfield castle) in Tain, its half past nine. Dinner is served and gobbled up in minutes. Then we chat up the friendly receptionist lady, who prints us a map of the area and tells us what to do in the morning. Our room is through a maze of passages. It is evident the place is old, the receptionist tells us there are ghosts. But we are brave souls, we fall asleep soon after.

Next morning, it's bright and Mansfield Castle is bathed in sunlight. As soon as we are in the dining hall, we realise what a wonderful castle it is and what a large lawn there is outside. The decor is victorian, and the sunlight falling on the carpet and the wooden furniture is a sight to behold. From outside our hotel looks quite majestic, and we sit on a bench in the lawn and ponder about the castle, about the day before and how amazing this trip was turning out to be. Once we got into the car and I realized the GPS wasn't working. We were headed for Portmahomack, so while I was fiddling the GPS, Krishnan was figuring out the road signs. I tried a few random addresses and the GPS came back to life and spurted, "Please turn left". Krishnan took a sharp left. I said, 'Why did you take the left, I haven't put the address in yet?" But we kept going anyways into the narrow village road.

We couldn't help it really. There were golden fields, and beyond them the houses, then a line of blue (an estuary, perhaps) and then the mountains on the other side. It was lovely. So much so that we had to get down from the car and marvel. We climbed a fence and broke into it a field of hay, with the field patterned by treadmarks of a tractor. The field seemed endless stretching all the way to the sky lined by the estuary and houses to the left, and the desolate village road to the right. To the right of the village road was what could have been a Salvador Dali painting. Endless cylindrical reams of hay, each 10 feet tall, spaced evenly all the way up to infinity. Not too far away lay some scattered sheep, bleating avidly at each other. I lay down on the field and stared vacantly at the blue sky. So did Krishnan after a while, who looked robbed of speech and moist-eyed.

Sometime later, back on the village road, we found it curled leftward towards the line of blue. A row of houses appeared to the right and suddenly as I turned to my left, I spotted the sea. The north sea. The gray beach was shaped like a parabola, terminating at Portmahomack. A large family was on the gray beach - a baby on a pram wheeled neatly upon the beach, a little boy and a girl, and four others of varying ages. There were boats laid out along the pier a short distance away, lolloping on the sea. The sea seemed to abut upon the gray mountains in the distance. But that was the nature of the place - the sea was punctuated by mountains, and the mountains encumbered by the sea.

As we drove on, green fields alternated with golden fields of hay to our right, and the sea would often disappear behind a row of houses or a patchy little knoll, only to emerge minutes later, radiant in the sunlight. This went on for miles, while Krishnan and me mostly communicated in exclamation marks. We couldn't string two words together. The car audio, wailed in the voice of Robert Plant -

I hear the horses' thunder down in the valley below,
I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow.

We drifted southward to Nigg and reached the tip of this landmass. Then we drove our car into a ferry. I remember doing that once in Butterworth in Malaysia, but for Krishnan it was a first. The ferry plies every half hour from Nigg to Cromerty and then the same ferry heads back to Nigg with passengers and cars. It looks like a floating steamroller and can carry two cars and lots of passengers. On the upper deck of the ferry, the wind is cold and to see Nigg fade away into the distance is a bit sad. It was in the afternoon and we had to reach Edinburgh by five to catch our flight back. Krishnan, of course, like a veritable James Bond, showed no sign of worry. Minutes later at a restaurant in Cromerty, he supped his cream of tomato soup with gusto. I munched on my sandwich and drank my coffee thinking my next time in Scotland I'll surely stay back at Portmahomack for a couple of days and just gaze at the sea all day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I must have banged the door shut on my entourage, like a raving, debauched guitar god from the 70s, and swivelled back to my bathtub full of vomitty fluid and fallen face down into it. You don't need to like your entourage do you, especially when you don't like them. How can you like them when they are weaselly and wallowy and a bit flaccid? So that felt nice, and I liked the isolation and the distinction of my pungent bathtub. I felt like a capital letter amid the lower cases. I felt like people in Moldova or Tajikistan, with their Moldovan farm lands and Tajik goats, and their thin lips smirking at the Russians in the distance. Banging doors on people or things or the past always distinguishes oneself and puts one on the plinth.

Ask Lord Nelson, if he finds standing on the plinth easy, with his back shot through in a battle some 200 years ago. It gives him distinction and plenty of altitude. Years of practice have made him a good background, a familiar canvas in front of which you stand and pose. That is what happens. As you stand on the plinth, an invisible face might suck you in from the foreground and spit you onto the background.

Seeing you after a year is a strange experience. I am down here, you are there on the plinth and the entourage is there too, giggling inanities to one another. I can't look at them anymore, that's why I stare at you. But you smile at me, knowing that I want to be with them and find comfort in inanities.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She who doesn't wish

She, who doesn't wish,
For could bees and may bees,
And other mythical animals,
From my lovely picture book,
Hasn't sighed since a foggy morning,
Many cold years ago.
She carries her own dictionary in her bag,
To help her understand the meaning of
Tea bags, itinerant clouds and life.

She, who is happy,
And content with the what is,
Of the Times New Roman Bold font,
Sneaks into her paper bed,
To ignore the sibilant undertones,
Of turning pages and hasty scribbles.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I am not whimsical, for there is a subtle difference. To pine for the sun when it rains, and long for rain when it doesn't, is not being whimsical. I won't even be amused if it rained when it was sunny. I'd probably pray for snow.
Instead call me grumpy, I think that would be fair.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Passing through

Far away a light wades its arms amid,
Dark umbrella leaves, hanging from the trees,
A committee of heads consequently
Spread, walking ahead of his majesty,
Followed by a selfless shadow, an unchaste
Lady, a devoted monkey, a bunch
Of ashen loud mouthed banalities.

Keeping apace, aloof yet amingling,
Performing a part, is a part of me,
Departing me, apart from me, anxiously.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The weather

Affects me. I'll be frank. This big window in my drawing room, it doesn't hide away the weather. So when its cloudy, the clouds come into my room and its no good when the clouds are in your room. They just mess everything up. They are very meddlesome, and they don't take a hint. So if my face is twisted in a grimace they pretend not to notice. When I don't answer questions, they pretend they never asked. They help themselves to tea or coffee and then they eat the ginger nut biscuits in my kitchen. The carpet becomes soggy and the walls feel damp and everything is oozing with melancholy.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Squirrels and Pigeons

This afternoon I basked in the park at Russell Square and watched as squirrels and pigeons made merry in their own idiosyncratic ways. There is a low hum that surrounds the park, that of automobiles grunting at idlers like me while encircling the park, but usually its quiet enough to hear the fountain, the dogs and the lady on the phone. I was lying on the grass, slightly wet, when I noticed the grey squirrel. It moves in such a staccato manner. You couldn't say if the squirrel was in such a hurry, as the white rabbit who was running late. The squirrel would always stop and ponder for a few seconds, before absolutely dashing off in the next few seconds. Like this nervous, frenetic worrywart who would dash off with the intention of doing something, and then stop and wonder why he was doing it. Like this capricious shopper, who just can't decide which top she wants, and who seems to like another as soon as she picks one. Like an obsessive professor who can't seem to get his mind off a math problem or puzzle, stops in the middle of whatever he is doing to quickly scribble something into his shabby pocket notebook.

Then I spotted the rather lackadaisical pigeon with its languid motion of the neck cocking to and fro to counter balance the movement of the body. It would careful tread on the grass like an arthritic lady, carrying a bag full of groceries to her monochromic and indistinguishable house abutting the park. Like the laconic man with bushy moustache, who hands you a gasping pen with his fat fingers at the entrance of a grey building, for you to sign his register, before slowly reaching out to hand you the visitor's pass. Time, this time, is an onlooker standing still. The pigeon has a poise and stateliness that is especially reassuring when it stands next to the squirrel. They are about the same height, two strangers waiting for bus numbers 68 and 188 respectively, ready to carry on with their respective lives in their own peculiar ways.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My body and me

As you grow older, your body turns into a strident lady, ever grumbling and fault-finding. One of those ladies with long aquiline noses (like the beak of a bird) who's voices rebound in empty corridors and staircases. They like the china on the table, placed exactly like it ought to be, even if the food is as bland, vitaminated, spinached and carrotted.

My stomach spoke up today, growled and grunted. Of course my stomach has been speaking for days now, but I never quite understood what it said. The language is familiar but the dialect is so unfathomable and the words are like that of two Cockneys discussing football. Every now and then you hear words like Liverpool or Arsenal and goal but the rest of it makes you feel inane. My stomach speaks Cockney, so I choose to ignore it.

Its the stomach today, but I have a feeling some day my body will feel like a committee. Or a union, that will strike work on me and ask for a pay increase, perhaps blame me for the recession or inflation. My liver, my intestine, may be even my knees, they have this sinister look about them, like the sooty proletariat are wont to have. They trust nothing, not even my empty promises and supplicatory remarks. The way its going, I'll have to call it a sick unit, and seek a bailout.

How my body detaches itself from me as I grow older. It just becomes a different human being. A very difficult old lady (I repeat myself), so different from me. Sometimes when I scold it I feel sad and guilty. I might have hurt its feelings. At other times, I just lose it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

About a painting

Pierre Bonnard. I was just tired and I sat down next to the Japanese couple at Tate Modern. And you were in front of me. I was behind you. Pen, paper, Marie, window, and the profile of Maria looking contemplatively at something we will never know what. Standing on your balcony towering above a mushrooming town, nestling between bushy trees and patchy skies. You were sitting on that desk with your books to the left, sipping coffee, feeling too lazy to get up and open the windows. You didn't even start that letter you were going to write to Madame Leblanc about the incident on Wednesday morning in the wine shop. You didn't do anything today, I mean anything useful. Woke up in the morning, made love to Maria (even called her Julia while you were at it) and now she is trying to look like she is really hurt. What is she looking at - the neighbor's violet curtain? It would be nice to paint her nude, drying her self after her bath, standing before the neighbor's violet curtain. Hang on, that might look like Degas but you can always put a window and bring in the french scenery. That's your thing. Ok I digress. Then you had your breakfast of croissant, and now your coffee is getting cold while you are doodling into your notebook with a blunt pencil and scratching your silvery stubble with it. The dog is barking incessantly, but Maria can't hear him. I think she is looking at the neighbor's violet curtain. She looks beautiful in profile, or with her back to you - svelte with skin the color of cafe au lait. You have to go feed the dog now and I have to go home as the gallery has become so empty.

Thats a beginning

But there are a whole of lot of places I have to write about, and each time I think of writing I shudder to think it. Of all the places, that I would love to write about, but can't begin to write about. So I will not write about them. Have I become this obsessive, compulsive person, that I believe my blog should look like a beautiful calendar with travelogues and poems. Its boring and I am bored of it. My blog will now be a mumbling, inarticulate, mess of thoughts. No more quality control. I shall write bullshit. Yes, bullshit.

There. I have exorcised the ghosts.


I am holding up the needle, but the thread I hold between my fingers is shaking from lack of practice. I wonder if I can string words together anymore.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rome Part 1

Just outside Milano, we encountered this elevated super highway to Rome. It was literally up in the clouds. Visibility was only up to a few feet in front of us. It might have been a grand view to the left of us or the right of us, but we could never tell thanks to the heavy cloud cover that had descended all the way to the highway. And the Italian car drivers were racing past despite the poor visibility in their Ferraris and Maseratis. It was a surreal experience and Krishnan, who was driving, managed to stay out of trouble by trailing the car in front of us. We reached Rome really late, ate out and check in to our hotel.

Early next morning (and if you have been paying attention, early = 10 AM) we caught the train directly to the heart of the city, and took a bus from near Vatican all the way up to the Colosseum. En route the walls of the Vatican came on our left and we went across the Tiber river. On the other side of the Tiber river the streets were cobbled and the buildings appeared antiquated and beautiful. When we arrived at the Colosseum, it was hard to believe we were actually standing before it. It's one of those things you have seen so many times on TV, in magazines and papers, that standing in front of that imposing structure felt like reliving old memories. We stood in a long queue and did the regular touristy trip of the Colosseum. Then we promenaded through the majestic Roman Forum (Forum Magnum), that looms behind the Colosseum with ruins from two thousand years ago. The arch of Constantine greets us at the entrance to the Roman Forum. We were perfectly silent throughout - I wanted to absorb it all so I would be able to talk about it to my grandchildren in full graphic detail.

The Walls

Scratch their backs with fingernails,
And the walls will shake gently from
Side to side. Breathe unevenly,
Giggle, curve their back to your touch,
Wiggle and even turn around
To face you with a lopsided smile.

They have long midriffs,
And protracted wing spans,
Like flamingo birds gliding,
In the sky. They flock together
And hold hands, till their palms
Become sticky and fingers grow
Numb. They like the warmth
Of proximity.

They have long flexible ears,
That twitch at your words,
And twist around your fingers,
At night their faces turn towards you,
And they curl in bed,
To notice everything you do or say.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Last december, close to new years, we drove down to Milan from Paris. Reached at 2 AM and spent the next two hours GPS-less, mapless and quite hapless, searching for a nondescript hotel in a place that speaks only Italian. We woke up groggy eyed early in the morning (10AM), and decided to test out the public transport of Milano and navigate our way to whatever it is that one has to see in Milan. (Obviously we had planned out trip immaculately.)
The bus hurled us towards this old fortified fort of a place called Castello Sforzesco. It looks so grand and humongous and they claim Da Vinci had something do with its design and architecture. Later we walked down Via Dante (oooh Dante!), admired some wonderful photographs that were being exhibited and walked up to Duomo di Milano (the cathedral of Milan). There we posed like roman statues to each other's cameras.
Then we ran out of time, had a quick bite of delectable pizza and scrambled into our car and drove to Rome.
(Pictures - Krishnan beeming in front of Via Dante as Debanu readies his camera, Duomo di Milano, Inside the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco)
Old Furniture

There is old furniture in my room,
Sitting around like memories,
But you are welcome to
Bend your body in acute angles.
That way you can stand straight
In my room. I once threw my
Old Piano out the window,
It hit a high note in the main street,
And its keys flew like birds
Released in the sky. That created
Some space in my room.

The window would suck up
The air in my living room,
And blow it outside. The clouds
Would scatter like flaky paint,
Scatter and sometimes fall with
A thud, with the force of gravity.
There would be space in the sky,
But what good is such space?
Errant clouds come back
All the time. Clouds must be like
Traveling gypsies.

The space in the living room heaves
And pants, gapes in the shape of
A yearning for missing pianos.
It needs to be suppressed like
One would a yawn, with a palm
Or fingers. Suppressed by a new piano,
Brand new furniture. It would look
Out the window like a lady waiting
And worrying, cluttering my living
Room like memories are won’t to do.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

La Froid en Bruxelles

A trip I did in early November 2007. It was sub zero and we kept missing the exits and getting lost in Brussels. We didn't have a GPS and the roads are bloody confusing in Brussels. Plus we had 3 navigators for the designated driver. And when we finally came back to Paris at 2AM we lost our way again! I think we reached home at 4 AM.

So what did we do in Brussels? We had hot chocolate and tried some of those famous Belgian beers - Leffe, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois. We saw Mannequin Pis and its unbelievably small. But really there wasn't much else to do but walk around the old city. That wasn't bad. There were so many places to stop and eat, all lined up along the narrow streets, and the restaurateurs inviting us persuasively, warmly (sometimes quite annoyingly!) into their shops. Dinner was nice.

April 18th

If there was the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
- The Waste Land

I am the blooming desert,
The rich aridity of the Kalahari
Approaching, encroaching your fecundity,
I am here to soil you, to take
Of you, and leave you replete with a vacancy
And a “Too Late” sign on your balcony.
My deserting you, is like an acceptance of
A smelly embrace. My binding is not a rape,
It’s a birthday party, a naked race,
An emancipation perhaps even an
Atonement. A justification of something
You feared would happen and wished
For all the same.
18th April, on this porch, Twenty
Timid years ago, years aplenty,
I pushed my foot into your gate,
And surveyed the scene and waved,
My hands like a tree with gnarled
Branches, waving at a forest of gnarled
Trees, I wore your husband’s suit,
And the light reflected from
My gold rimmed, glasses,
Square framed. You wore a flowery
Summer dress that flapped like a nervous,
Infant before a tetanus shot. Your eyes,
Were large holes of punctured mountains,
Your face cloudless, the beaten sky
Finite, into a painting framed.
And your arms extended up,
To the wall, that I built around you,
I am the land that surrounds the sky.
I was beneath you, I am above you,
And I shall weave around you now,
Like your flowery summer dress.

I am the father of a thousand, biting
Posters and paper cutouts of me.
They are my voice,
I am their beating, pumping
Organ that suffuses them with
Streams of convincing clarifications.
These twenty years are
Wide hipped women. They have borne
My waiting children and fed them
On evening porridge, that grew
Upon this land. It’s true,
This land has grown in them.
Now I have come again,
To your garden gate. Your husband
Wears my suit and you wear,
That summer dress, flapping like
The blighted page of a sordid book.
That longing look,
Of an empty well.
Your pieces are scattered upon my soil,
And the land grabs with eager hands,
All that lies upon it.
My paper cutouts now line your walls,
They agree, it’s time,
The earth shook in a mad fit,
Did a war dance on its fetid feet,
And drove the sky away.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ma Mère

The Wheelbarrow Man

Ears flapping from side to side,
Long ears from long years,
Flapping to the veering head wind,
Dust cocooned,
Wheel barrow man,
Grunts and gushes like sewerage,
Chases the road end,
The end road from the
Bylane by the blind lane,
At the cross road to main street,
Tried tires and tired feet,
Dogged dog barking,
Popping poles and free parking,
With a baby in his,
Metal-bound, velvet-lined,
Hardcased, nursery-rhymed,

Old Madame Sosostris,
Eyes beset in layers,
And layers of wrinkled cheese,
Drugged dugs,
Drags her dripping arms,
Unwinds her window,
To sniff the breeze,
And voila, a dust storm,
She gives a sneeze,
Touches up her antique,
Silver hair passed on to
Her by the giggling ape,
Adjusts her nape,
And sees the wagging tail,
Of the wheelbarrow man,
And in his wake the,
Waving hands, lotioned legs,
Gargling voice of a gaggled face,
Wrapped in paper and duct tape.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


It's so silly putting framed paintings on a blog. You can download them from any of the thousand copies on the Internet. But I feel a bit of pride - I saw these Monet Paintings (and many more) with my own eyes at Musee D'Orsay. Yes, the originals. Almost a year back, 'How do we know' sent me a book. It was big and heavy and had a green cover. It had the complete collection of Monet Paintings. When I asked her about the heavy book, she lightly replied that it was her duty to hand the book to its rightful owner. I will never forget that favor.
Back in my childhood days, my father had a collection of art books. There were one's on Renaissance, on Toulouse Lautrec and many others. I remember fondly flipping through the pages. Mom had decided to go back to University and on Saturdays I would visit the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai and sit with the artists on the roadside, until Mom would be done with her lectures. I had painted deer on my bedroom walls and when headlights from cars would flash from outside (I don't know how they reached so high, all the way up to the 20th floor!), the deer would come alive. In the day time after school I would run to my friends apartment and talk about kung fu, girls and sometimes about paintings.
I don't know when I first saw his paintings, but I had learnt to recognize them almost instinctively. Once in San Francisco, at the Museum of Modern Art, I saw a photograph. It had a girl in a garden and they were having breakfast. And I saw in it a Monet. It was not his painting of course, but the photograph was inspired by a Monet painting. I asked the guide, "Monet?" She nodded. That was the first time I saw Monet.
Granny would say, an artist holds a mirror to the world. Does Monet hold a mirror to the world? That lady in the field with red flowers, her face isn't even complete. The boats sailing in the lake, isn't the lake up in the sky and sky down in place of the lake? Then there is the cart that trundles on the snow, the sky is brown and the trees appear blue with snow. The plates on the table take centre stage and the people are the background. The house of parliament a hazy shadow, the sun and its reflection hazier still. The little boy in utter darkness beyond the illuminated curtains and flower pots.
In Monet I see the world.
Elephant Girl

After a long day,
Of paper cups, keyboards and saucepans,
She notices some lines,
Pencil marks under her eyes.
She rubs the mirror.
"Sheets of paper cannot hide,
From an elephant memory."
She decides to think of the bus schedule,
The laundry list,
And other important matters,
While the elephant quickly hides,
Under the writing desk.

Monday, January 21, 2008


These are pictures from late October when Mom and Dad had come down to visit me. They found it very cold so we visited places near and around Paris. Versailles is a colossus. Its gardens are the biggest I have seen and the palace is incredibly lavish. Louis IV came here in 1682 and the french kings stayed here all they way until the revolution forced Louis VI out of the palace in 1789. But the place is much older and the first chateau was built here sometime in the 11th century.
The best part about this place is the expansive set of interconnected gardens that are spread across an area of 8000 hectares. In between is a waterbody that is a cross between a lake and a canal. Part of it flows right to the foot of the main Palace. Ships would sail into it at some point in history. There is more than one chateau here. Including a mini chateau gifted to Marie Antoinette with its own chapel and garden. It is all so spread out that it would tire one to walk around the whole place. So mom and dad bought tickets for a tram that shuttles around the palace.

A tree

Old walls connect a distant past,
To a courtyard and a house,
Large spaces inside,
And a restless tree.
Bare branches crawl up,
A side of the wall,
Stick a hand out,
And wave at the passerby.
Hey did you see the winter,
Coming this way?

The passerby stops,
Pops his head out of the hood,
And gives his neck a good shake.
His features blur,
A blank page behind a long nose,
Protected by the shaggy beard.
He says, Pardon,
Je suis sur mon chemin,
And walks away.

The tree squints at the horizon,
Spots a dab of red,
And imagines a sunset,
Behind the gray evening.