Friday, February 23, 2007

My First Blog

'Thought I'd begin by saying why I call my blog Digressions. I believe that language offers the human mind the tools and the space to create, or rather, to re-create himself. In the mill of the world, we do what we get to do. However, one is elsewhere. The heart longs for that space of ideas and glow that is uniquely its own. And thus, in a world dominated by practical whys and wherefores, one needs at times to veer off the line carved in stone, as it were, to claim that MomentSpot in TimeSpace as ones own.

This is just a moment, and, unless a miracle happens, shall not balloon into a new world; and yet, it exists. A digression for all its mite, yet more the digresser than the usual work of a lifetime!

This, then, is the drive behind this blog: to virtually register as a digresser and to say, "What I do is what I do, but this is what I am!"

I think of Robert Frost speaking of getting away from the matter-of-factness of existence, using a birch tree as a combined vehicle for "both going and coming back."

"May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again."

In my land, there are no birches; virtual digressions of verbal diarrhoea need to suffice for the moment. Fortunately, it appears to work for me.

So this is the promise: There shall be digressions posted as regularly as they occur. Read them not as bits of gyaan spilled over by some over-aggressive bossy wiseguy, but as rambling bits of stuff that quintessentialize the need of the human mind to go swinging off to someplace he has no practical reason going... and yet must!

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches!

Why Does Man Need Literature?

Left to itself, our species is one that believes in survival at the cost of everything else. And this characteristic is not unique to us. Survival of the fittest is the rule of nature. Only the strongest, the fleetest, the smartest have survived. The rest have dwindled into oblivion, “by chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d.” The ecological circle demands it be so, and we comply.

The same drive for self-preservation, however, has led to the decimation of the jungle within which the entire exercise of violent defense was perpetrated, for lack of a better method of survival. Concrete jungles of soaring sky-scrapers have evolved, and in these impregnable dens, man sits and lives in redolent luxury. All the animals that ever posed a threat to the species have either been decimated or imprisoned in zoos and “wildlife parks”. But man still needs to reckon with other powerful animals around him: Others of his species.

Prizes have changed; the fight continues unabated. Better lives, prettier wives, more money, more property, higher designations…. man fights man more fiercely, more violently than ever before. The world has already witnessed two world wars… more are on the anvil. Stay with us… the worst is yet to come. Hell shall freeze over.

On the road, cars cut into cars; drivers curse loudly, buses refuse to give way and hog the entire road. Disease? No. Symptoms. There is violence in the air, and man is trapped in a gyre of increasing hatred, violence and sadistic pleasure. A simple accident leads to abnormally flared tempers and fist cuffs blossom into full-fledged blood baths. The heart itches for a fight; pines for it, and the soul craves the freedom it’s lost.And yet we survive. Man has not decimated his own species yet. Something holds him back; saves him from shooting like a comet into the sun of extinction that lures him constantly using the same drive that got him going. In thy beginning is thy end, Adam!

What preserves us? What mollifies our desire, our almost undeniable need – so strong it pains in the lungs – for self-annihilation that threatens to send us whirling into an abyss of contented death? It is a corpus of dicta, axioms that tell us what is on and what isn’t. “thou shalt not!” said the ‘Lord’. Palliatives of a wider variety than confronts a wide-eyed child at the candy store lie displayed around us, and we pick and choose. Syrupy messages in dulcet media to lull the senses, sweet savories and spice to make us want to persist in our folly of breathing… the world is charged with the wool that is pulled over our eyes. The biggest industry in the world? Enter-tainment! Sports, cinema, television, theatre, radio, computers with multimedia drivers, thousands of mp3s and online games, and the biggest abomination of them all: cell phones that offer all sorts of absurdities: cameras and games and variety of alerts and what not! We wrap ourselves in luxury to dull the grinding gnashing violence boiling over all around us.

Of all the palaver that traps us in our bodies, the root lies in what passes for literature. The day the first man thought “Now that my food is cooked, let me stretch my hand to the fire and garner some heat I don’t really need,” literature was born. Literature is the voice of leisure, the voice of the celebration of man’s victories over his opponents. Literature is the repository of what has happened. Literature is gyaan palatably packaged. “The right word in the right place,” quoth Robert Frost, one of its more celebrated perpetrators. To smite hardest when it is most necessary, methinks. Literature packages the wisdom of the ages, the insight of our forefathers and that of other’s forefathers, who still make us all want to live on despite hating each other by turning our minds towards abstractions and ideals and that killer concept: beauty!

Why write at all? Why create these masterpieces of deception? Milton, one of the most fluent liars of this class responds: To justify the ways of God to man. God needs justification? To Man? God wants him out of the way, so he can get on with the task of sending the planet another deluge. Long time no sea! God does not need justification. We do. Why have we not killed each other yet? Because my love needs to live, say the romantics. Because life is hell, howl the existentialists. Because that is all we’ve got, moan the realists. Because momma’s in purgatory, and until she’s able to find her way into the inferno that ought to be her inevitable telos, I cannot digest my soup. Bosh! I need to live because if I die, a better shall come to roost over the Earth. A better? On my Earth?! On your life, may be… not on mine! So fine… I shan’t kill you if you don’t kill me… come… we’ll both sit and read Shakespeare!

“The opium of the masses,” said Nietszche, referring to the pathetic concatenation of sauce and soup; shady: Hot like summer; cold like winter! What we need is not literature. We need Superman; we need Alladin’s gjinn; we need “a two fisted humdinger… a bona fide supraman!” Who needs that shady Swinburne crap anyways!!! Damn Swinburne; damn literature… and damn… errr… ummmm… Shall we read some Shakespeare? :D

Achilles and the Scooterist: A Tableau

Consider, gentle reader, the little weevil of a distracted scooterist you see at the forefront of the line of slaves, waiting for the light to turn green. Notice the spotlessly clean, creased and cuffed gear resplendent on his person. Take in, too, the well-groomed right hand revving restlessly at the accelerator, eagerly awaiting the signal like a horse at the races. He’ll slam through the traffic in a moment now, young, powerful, impetuous and throbbing, like his 150-cc minion. Two like-minded bodies, brothers-at-war against the rest of the pretenders on the road; rulers, both: warriors of the road, princes of their clans, unbeatable, indefatigable, completely, well and truly intrepid… or are we missing something? Where’s that not too well shod heel in this Achilles of a warrior that knows no fear, this intrepid Zeus of the gleaming tarmac, this slick, quick, fearless seeker of the bubble reputation even in the mouth of the redoubtable crossroads?

Glance at your watch, indulgent peruser, and you shall see that heel glaring and gleaming in all its but-of-course-ness. The sun’s begun peeping already from behind the tall building looming cheerfully in the background, full of glass windows and displays and offices crammed to the full with gentlefolk switching on their systems for the day. Isn’t it time Achilles got to his workstation too? We all think so, and so does Achilles. Shoot straight, shoot hard and shoot low, Paris, and suddenly, the Zeus of the road shows up from behind the glare of the godly for what he is: a mortal, alas, revving to meet the electronic doors before they slide shut with the boss man tapping his foot behind it.

Gently engirdling his impeccably ironed collar, pray find a gleaming chain, golden in the sun, golden, actually under every species of light, and not gold still. The chain disappears inside his pocket, where a laminated card proclaims his identity to the electronically-secured security locks that jam with surprising uniformity the fragile glass doors in software firms all over the solar system. But you already know this, of course! Mortal chafes at the chain, utilizing its eminently handy location to scratch at that precise point where the shirt collar, in connivance with the pinstripe tie, grazes the neck real bad and causes an itch that no Achilles could ignore.

What polished heels are these that reduce Achilles to mortality! What gleaming leashes that make willing – and yet chafing -- pets of men “who once strode with gods”! The “prince of pets” hoots, mindless of these ponderous questions, shifts gear, and tears down the taunting tarmac, with the entire pack hurtling right behind him in panting pursuit.

Let us leave the race to its fate for the moment. He shall make it anyway. Signals or none, that slab of glass shall not close without Achilles sipping coffee behind it while his system boots up. Courtesy the company, of course.


When days drag their long hours through,
And nights are short, and sultry too,
When brains are set on fire by heat
Can think no more; the heart looks beat,
When 'Sagars dry and trees turn sere,
You can bet that summer's 'ere.

No lilies bloom among these parts,
No love strikes root in torrid hearts
And sweat and dust all ply their trade
And flowers bloom and quickly fade,
Give not then roses in the warm:
Show love with fruit juice, fleet is form.

Melons mast and mangoes ripe
Devour in dozens for your life!
And when you see the juice-cart pass,
Give of your change for a sherbet glass.
Fulfilling true and life preserving,
Of change and more so well deserving!

Forget the tale that pesticide
They say is used to make 'em ripe.
Ripe and sweet whene'er you find'em,
Bite or squeeze or suck or grind'em.
Taste, and their exquisite flavor
And their cooling power, savor.

Rains shall come when it is time,
Have your patience, sing your rhyme
In praise of summer and the juice
That beats the dryness with its ooze.
Come come, and crib not that the day
Is ruining your make-up for today.

Keep hairy brushes off your face,
And leave of fatty creams no trace;
And here's a tip for the fashion conscious
Go for smooth and shiny tonsures!
Give the sun as good as you get
And keep on giving till it set.
With growing numbers and reflection,
We'll get the Sun to change direction
Guide the starlet on its way
To Europe, or the USA!

So then we have the juice we need
While we have got rid of the heat
And then, let flowers bloom and grow,
And ladies let their makeup show
We'll import mangoes from the west
Where folks'll wear lungi and vest...
Now that was truly truly creepy
The heat has got my head -- I'm sleepy.
I'm done with what I had to say
(And that was "Nothing," by the way)
So you can now get back to work
And stop reading my rhymeless rhyme.
Senseless too, as an afterthought

Get off me, silly!


I still remember how, as a student at college, and later at the university, and even later, as a teacher at a school and again, later as a trainer, when I'd come back from work / class, I'd have only two or three things to divest myself of before i could say i was home. There was the hanky, the change in my pocket, my bus pass, and I was done. And now, when I get back home, there are at least ten things I deposit from my person on to the concerned shelf. Suddenly I realize that my life has got much more complicated than it had ever been earlier. I do not know if I am to rue the "development" or to celebrate the additional burden that my pockets get to carry. One thing, however, is for sure: I carry much more weight today, and I am not sure it is a good thing.

Tons of things I carry that I ought not to, or have no need for. I know, and yet I never leave home without 'em. Stuff them in their designated pockets and deposit them in their designated place once home. And then there are things that serve just about the same purpose. My right lower front pocket holds a cell phone that also tells me the time (whatever that means!), and yet, I have a watch. Convenience, I guess, but one organ's convenience is another organ's pain. And so it has ridden.

Ironically, the "guest equipment" in my list is one that once symbolized what I do: write. My pen finds a place either in my right back pocket or in my left shirt pocket if I see it on my shelf when I leave before it is too late to turn away. I almost never use it. Weird.

I am still the same, yet everything around me has changed so drastically that I am very much convinced that I have changed too. My friends no longer discuss music, films, and hair styles; they now discuss cars and home loans and such. Surely, if my peers have changed, and I do not find them staring at me as one would at a complete anachronism, I am positive I have changed too.

And then again, in some respects, I still am the same. I still find the topics for prevalent discussion either boring or completely irrelevant; I still do not like myself, and most of the folk I know, and still, as in the past, I tolerate them, and they are kind to me. Where's this going?

Acquired impediments mar my path in my own house, and slowly, my house has begun to look like a techno-museum, like a nightmare. And I don't use them all that too often either! And yet, there they are, clean, waiting for the power to be switched on so they can ply their trade.

People spot errors in my work, and I spot errors in their work, and together we generate a more advanced set of new errors. I sit on my workstation and correct the typos and solipsisms that mar my own work, fully realizing that notwithstanding all this labor, there'll still be at least a few thousand other errors and solipsisms staring open-mouthedly at me when I glance at the work next.

My bike farts at the world on the way home, and mingles with the thousands of other vehicles that fart their fume at the air. And in the circumambulant gaseous envelope we inhabit, their multifarious farts mingle and rise and cover the stars at night. Over and over and over. Yay baby!!

I wonder what should happen if trees ran. You know, stoop low, collect and clutch all its fruits from the ground into its branches and flee at the sight of a human being.

I ought to I ought to I ought to I ought to I ought.

The human back does not bend of itself; we bend it with the load of memories of thinking what could have been.


So Now What?

I wish I were a photographer,
So I could cup that fleetsecond away
Leaves falling in a silent wood wintry
Breathy nose pressing to clear glass a-dad-awaiting
Droplet leaping from drop dripped into crystal water
And I could cup that fleetsecond away.

But I have no machine for nowcapture
I have the past: photocopies of what hasn’t been
And vibrant cumhithers of what could have
I pervade my shoot,
And I hate capture
Of all things I hate.

Leaves fall, in the meantime
In a wood which has no me,
And the spidersweb glistens with accumulated dew
Elsewhere in the saffron glow of a distant morn.