Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Update

I havent been blogging here as I have made a commitment to write as many stories as I can
I have created a new blog here:
http://1000wordstory.blogspot.in/
Even if there is just one person in the whole world who regularly checks this blog (as opposed to coming here through a link i share on facebook), he/she should have been informed of this shift. And I apologize to this person, as I do to so many people so often in real life, for disappearing without notice.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

D


There is a question

The question is, are you a traveler?

The question is not whether you ‘like’ travelling

It’s not even related to how often you travel

It barely has anything to do with how or why you travel

The question is, quite simply, are you a traveler?

Because if you are, then the world will have a serious problem with you

Because travelling really has very little to do with destinations

It is the willingness of the mind to journey beyond its known refuges & homes

And then if that’s the case, who’s to say when & where to draw the line?

A traveler travels from one state of being to another – ceaselessly and restlessly – forever

He travels in emotion, in personality, in friends, in aspirations, and so on

So he fleets from arrogance to self-loathing, from depression to joyful elation

From righteousness to debauchery, from extrovert to introvert

From ‘money & fame’ to ‘joy & satisfaction’, from MBA to Neruda 
   
He always finds joy in the new and not in the good

Every new feeling is a celebration, a new railway station

& then what’s sacrosanct, constant, reliable?

Real twisted ones don’t take up politics or crime

They identify themselves as travelers

Deranged bastards

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Action!


It’s been 8 months since I last wore a tie and walked in a corporate office.
The first six months after that were spent being still and silent in a number of different parts of this country. They were spent lying on the back on the top berth of a train, the shut eyes trying hard to combat the devilishly intrusive white of the tubelight just above me. They were spent trying to sleep on a rickety bus, with a restless driver bullying his way through tricky winding roads, as i swung on my window seat – my head coming to rest on the shoulder of an unknown woman at a bend and then on the cold steel railing of the window at the next.  They were spent being mute and observant at cafes and hotel lobbies, temples and monasteries. I wanted to look through to the soul of a city, a town and then tell her something about herself that no one had cared to notice till then.
I was still for more than 14000 kms over 180 days. The only motion was of the fingers typing away and the toughest physical task was to reach out to a plug point a few feet away from my hotel bed. I had no one to talk to unless I found someone who would hand out to a wary traveller, measly alms of conversation. At some point, this charity would become too much for my pride and I would go back to talking to myself in the bathroom mirror.  
And then I came back home. There was 24hour electricity, unlimited 4mbps wifi, an entourage of friends and a book-full of stories with gaping plot-holes. I somehow thought it would mean the static and the silence will be over. But it only got worse. The electricity meant hours of TV at whose altar activity was sacrificed – not just of the body but also of the mind. The internet demonstrated how I had nothing to show off about anymore because my 6 months of online fame were over. I was living the same miserable urban life all my friends were living – and I really had nothing original to say about the IPL or the Game of Thrones or Local Body Tax. I had abandoned two sites which before my adventure had been the dominant ones in my web history – Shaadi.com and Iimjobs.com. But the worst thing that happened was that I felt I was suddenly unable to hold my end of the conversation with friends. After the tap of travel stories had run dry, I felt I had nothing new to add to any conversation anymore. I simply had an overused stock of tired old jokes by way of humour.
I had my stories though. I worked hard on them these last two months - making them as good if not better than how they had first sounded to me in my mind. I spent hours in my room, with the noisy fan and the archaic laptop’s keyboard becoming my day’s rhythm, week after week. The stories would make me jump around the room when it would all come together sometimes. Some stories were more stubborn than others – unwieldy and clunky and badly written – they had to be rescued and at times it took days to do so, with no end in sight.
And so the stillness and the silence didn’t end even once I was home. The allure of friends and technology only flattered to deceive.
But the stories are ready now. And for the first time in the last 8 months, I am not friends with this stillness. I am struggling against it like Sunny Deol would when 50 policemen hold him back with Amrish Puri jeering at him.
And so, it’s time for action now. The book needs to be sold to agents and publishers and readers. I need to start work on something new as well. Serious ground work needs to begin on another book I have been thinking of for a few months now. There is also the possibility of taking up a job. The writer needs to take a breather for a bit. The action hero needs to take over. It is now time to fill up the day’s hours with so much work, that stillness is granted an entry only late in the night when, after hours of tossing and turning restlessly for ideas, sleep overpowers you against your will. There needs to be a plan. And then there needs to be such a mad rush that the plan is torn to shreds.
There needs to be action!
Photo courtesy - www.bollywood-updates.net

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Alone

They touch you
Innocuous things

Miles and miles of jungle air
Hours on the mp3 player
Biting cold of starlit nights
Gay abandon of grazing deers
Endless humidity of the coast
Adivasi girl’s shy smile

And you promise yourself
That you will write about them
Never about other things like
Staring at a mosquito for hours
Uncut nails and unshaved beard
Dirty clothes and runny nose

They say they are jealous of you
So you keep up the appearance
And you romanticize and smile
And pretend you don’t feel
The fear that fever is worsening
The shiver you aren’t eating well

And you push the thought away
That the stories mightn’t be worth shit
That nobody might ever read
The words you labor away at;
That all the lies told to family
Will only be for a fool’s errand

Some mornings you just want to hide
In the overnight warm blanket
Not face a new city, a new story
Some nights on the side of the bed
You sit in the smoke, numb and tired
Counting down to your next trip home

And then they are just that
Innocuous things

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Preparations


I haven’t felt this alive for many months now. These days, I oscillate between boredom and excitement, restlessness and peace, crowd and loneliness, anger and joy, every hour. I haven’t had a dreamless night in the last 10 days and I am unlikely to have one before 28th Sept night when the train to Jammu lulls me to sleep. I have been trying to keep myself busy with various preparations and meeting friends.
All the clich├ęs on friendship any person has ever coined can do meagre justice to just how much love and gratefulness I feel for my friends these last few weeks. Some have questioned every assumption of mine, some have shown confidence in me, some have held up a mirror in front of me, some have planned my trip in more detail than I have, some have simply looked at me with pride and some, with wide-eyed wonder. A key part of my preparations has been to meet them so much that maybe I get tired of them and miss them a little less when I sit by the Beas alone on a chilly evening. Yeah, right! Like that's ever going to happen.
 I have been thinking of stories at every waking hour. Their structures, genres, languages, symbols, motivations, lengths, depths, characters, tempo, etc. I spend a lot of time just staring at people and thinking of possible stories. I have completely stopped reading as I have noticed in the past I get hugely influenced by whatever it is I may have read last. I have stopped writing because, well, I have a lot of that to do in the next 6 months and I might as well time my writer’s bloc perfectly – i.e. April 2013.
And then there are piles and piles of stuff to be bought. Kinetic chargers, foldable bottles, ipad keyboards, number locks, swiss knives, thermal-wear and the list can go on forever. Even in this, friends with much more experience have come forward and made it a walk in the park. I am pretty confident right now that in a remote village in Baramulla, if there is no electricity and no vegetarian food, I will still have a decent story written and a tummy well-fed.  
Just so you know how awesome my friends are, there is a promotion plan in place for the book which has not even been written yet. There is a build-up route-map which will run in conjunction with my travel and I am pretty confident it will impress the hell out of any marketing guru. I have talked to my college profs, ex-bosses and guides, mainly to hear them approve of my decision and hence draw confidence from their words. I leave on the 27th with both – a lot of confidence and a lot of pressure and I guess I can only grow from this experience.
And then, just as i thought I was so ready I could have left immediately, Anurag Basu gave me a song on Friday that I will carry with me through the next 6 months. Very few travel songs can give you goose-bumps and move you to tears. After all, they are supposed to be just about travel, right? But Papon’s “Kyon” is a thing of sheer beauty. So visually stunning, so lyrically rich, so hauntingly melodious is the song that I just know that when I am staring at the Himalayas in Arunachal, this song is more likely to make me shiver than the sub-zero temperatures. I have proof. It managed to moisten my eyes before Bombay’s torrential rains could, last night!
And so I leave on Thursday the 26th of Sept, with a bagful of confidence, anticipation and hope in the search of beauty and passion and magic and love.
P.S. – I haven’t had a bigger screen crush than Ileana D’Cruz in Barfi since Aishawarya Rai in Kajra Re. Its the eyes. It always is! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Baazigar


I have put down my papers. Come September 27th, I won’t be wearing formals for a long, long time.
I thought of writing this sentimental post on how it feels to be at the edge of a cliff, ready to jump into the unknown.. and blah blah! Then I thought I’ll just put my itinerary here and let you do the imagining.

Phase 1
27th Sept 7:55 am – Depart by train for Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
7th Oct – Reach Amritsar from Srinagar
14th Oct – Reach Kangra from Amritsar
21st Oct – Reach Mussoorie from Kangra
28th Oct – Reach Delhi from Kangra
4th Nov – Reach Mughal Sarai from Delhi
12th Nov – Return home for Diwali

Phase 2
19th Nov – Depart by train for Bangalore, Karnataka
26th Nov – Reach Pondicherry from Bangalore
3rd Dec – Reach Vizag from Pondicherry
10th Dec – Reach Puri from Vizag
17th Dec – Reach Dantewada from Puri
25th Dec – Return home for Christmas/New Year

Phase 3
1st Jan – Reach Vasco, Goa – Ideally from Anjuna where I would like to bring in the New Year if friends permit
8th Jan – Reach Surat from Vasco
15th Jan – Reach Ujjain from Surat
22nd Jan – Reach Jaipur from Ujjain – Attend the Jaipur Litfest (24th to 28th Jan) among other things
30th Jan – Return home for Mom’s birthday

Phase 4
5th Feb – Depart by train/air for Bodh Gaya, Bihar
13th Feb – Reach Ranchi from Bodh Gaya
20th Feb – Reach Kolkatta from Ranchi
27th Feb – Reach Gangtok from Kolkatta
5th Mar – Reach Dispur from Gangtok
12th Mar – Reach Itanagar from Dispur
20th Mar – Return home for the “Closing of books” (Warning – stupid CA joke) on 31st March

And do what, you ask?
Well, write short stories set in each of these places. The best I can.
Whatever story comes out in those 6 days in that place. Whatever that place inspires in me.
At best, I would have found peace and tranquillity and joy in my fancy new Carter Road bachelor pad!
At worst, when I go back to staring at excel sheets, I’ll know I tried my damned best.

P.S. – Watch this space for more.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What kind of a Bombayite are you?


Photo Credit - www.commonfloor.com


So, what kind of a Bombayite are you?
Are you the kind that wakes up to the sound of the trains or of the buses?
Or are you the kind that wakes up to an alarm in an AC room?
Are you the kind that gets out in the dead of night to explore this city or are you the kind that is scared stiff of this city’s nights?
And when you do get out in the dead of night, do you explore this city on foot?
Or on a bicycle or in a car zooming across the sea-link or in a train going along in its own rhythm or maybe atop a double-decker bus, leaning out of the front window?
Are you the kind that thinks this city is set on a soundtrack or are you the kind who sees no rhythm in this chaos?
And if you do feel the beat, then is it Sufi Qawwali or is it a folksy, earthy lavni beat or maybe a thumping party song?
Are you the kind that colour-codes this city as per property rates, or religious ghettos, or taxi-areas vs auto-areas, or maybe western line vs central line?
Or maybe you are the kind whose idea of exotic is someday making a trip to Mohammed Ali Road and trying its firni. Whose idea of adventure is driving through Dharavi. Whose idea of compassion is making a fancy contribution to the local temple with much fanfare. Whose idea of journalism is words like “fabulous, pioneering, unprecedented” for things that are “mediocre, copied, regressive”
Are you the kind we saw in Satya or Wake Up Sid or we read about in Shantaram or Sacred Games? Or maybe you are the kind all of them forgot to show in their work
Were you the one wrecking havoc in the streets or the one cowering at home in ’92?
Are you the one who cried himself to sleep in a distant city on 26/11 or are you the one who stared all night all bleary-eyed into the Times Now TV screen?
Are you the kind who makes this city’s essential “spirit”? That same spirit which we are told is its endurance test but actually is a recurring collective nightmare?
During monsoons, are you the kind who sees this city as a perpetually leaking gutter or are you the kind who sits by his little window with a cup of tea and romanticizes over a patch of greenery in the corner?
Are you the kind who cant bear its constant fish smell and maddening humidity or are you the kind who notices its constant breeze and the fact that one can sweat away the heat?
Are you the kind who celebrates an unexpected holiday when this city floods/blasts/goes on a strike/calls a bandh? Or are you the kind who steps out just to prove a point, even though no one cares?
Are you the kind who sits in his auto in a traffic jam, abusing his life, his very existence? Or are you the kind who steps out and walks and walks and reaches home and then abuses his life, his very existence?
Or maybe you are the kind who still watches the screen in a TV shop when India plays cricket. Then again, you could have moved to a sports bar cheering for more skilful, albeit foreign, sports and sportsmen
You could also be the kind who earns 10 lacs a month and yet cant afford anything but a train ticket because in this city, a car doesnt run on rail tracks and comes with a fuel tank
Are you the kind that gets inspired by this city’s daily story of decay or are you the kind that shuts it out behind a curtain to really hear the voice within?
Are you the kind who had no choice but to come here and have grown to love it? Or are you the kind who is still pining for home and not been converted yet? Or maybe you are the kind who lived here forever but it never felt like home
Are you the kind who feeds on this city’s energy, passion and single-mindedness? Or are you the kind who feeds on this city’s paranoia, stress and narrow-mindedness?
Are you the kind whose story is defined by this city or are you the kind who defines this city’s story?

Is this city your nemesis or are you its miracle?
Is this city your Gotham or are you its Dark Knight?