Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run?


Turn the page

Re-reading all my stuff on a Sunday afternoon, I’m sensing a rather marked drop in quality which may or may not have something to do with efforts to stay positive and, more importantly, act normal. Trying to be happy and normal, with all the attendant benefits, is no doubt nice. However, in simple egotistic terms, it hurts to see the apparent dulling of faculties.

And so, if you’ve just stumbled here, and are on a budget in terms of time, may I ask that you hit page 2, and travel back to troubled times and better writing?


The sense of an ending

Read this book by Julian Barnes a while ago, liked it, liked the title better, and decided to do a rip-off. Took a while getting there, but here it is.


Looking back, the sense of an ending is probably where the end really begins.

Up until then, there’s just two tracks that seem to run alongside, with neither wondering where the other’s headed. And then, out of nowhere, the penny drops. This is it. And then when you look up and look a little further ahead, you see the unmistakable bending away of the two tracks. And you’re powerless to do anything but to follow the rails.

Possibly its just a flagging of the belief that what one wishes must indeed be. Possibly its an inability to stop thinking about signal lights and switchmen, who wittingly or unwittingly control the destiny of everything bound by the rails. Like being unable to think of anything but elephants when told not to think of elephants. Or maybe its the realization that one does indeed believe that one is bound by rails.


Life’s strange. Not getting what you want is sad in such an ordinary way. I mean, all of life boils down to wanting something, trying to get it, and getting or not getting it. Either way, there’s a lifetime spent and a story waiting to be told; a story, a parable, with a moral at the end; a dull story, with an end of significantly greater value than the journey itself.

Not getting what you don’t want, even when you have a reasonable shot, and you take the shot anyway for the simple reason that it’s there; now that’s so sad in an anti-literary way. There’s something optimal and unwasteful and, in general, un-pointless about it. Which is about as literary as those famous magic-wala books…


Sometimes I wonder if I live my life so that I may be able to write about it. That all my decisions are pre-ordained, based on this one clause. But then that’s not all bad. If there must be a muse or a calling or a raison d’etre, this one’s as good as any other, no? Far better than being passionate about rotating CAD models on a workstation like in the Bingo ad, at any rate. It would be unfortunate in a bigger-picture sense when all the fun in the world might actually be had with just a few i-ate-i-slept-i-laughed-i-crapped stories to share.

Selfish, if I may say so.

On Catch 22 and food and life

Remember Catch 22 and Yossarian being assigned to the army censor board?

Turns out that that’s the way I eat – some days I pick out all the beans in my lunch and toss ’em out, some days it’s blackened onion slices, some days it’s anything with fibres on it’s surface, and some days it’s just about anything that’s brown or black or green or, in general, anything that doesn’t look like the stuff that it’s floating in.

Not very different from life, is it? Some days something works, some days something else does, and some days you just need a diversion…


I find food-bases metaphors easy to understand.

A lot of the time I think about relationships and heartache and heartbreak and I ultimately get round to the thought that someone somewhere must like plain vanilla. But then, what if you’re not even vanilla? I mean vanilla’s pretty fancy; at approx. INR75(?) for a litre of the cheapest edible version of vanilla ice-cream, in a country where the poverty line hovers at the INR66/ day mark; now that’s one horribly misguided metaphor. And don’t even get me started on how many tonnes of orchids planted on how many acres of land at how many thousand feet go into producing a litre of vanilla essence.

Scratch that, then. So someone somewhere must like daal chawal, no? But see that’s how this little piece of glitzy gossamer is going to unravel. What if you’re stuck in rural Tamil Nadu and the closest thing to daal is drumstick sambar? Who in their right minds (in presentable exteriors, of course) likes drumstick sambar, no matter how good it is for your health?


And 100 posts!!! Though I hate the sound of the word. ‘Essay’ is so much nicer, if a little high-falutin’. ‘Piece’ sounds nice. Yes, I like the sound of ‘piece.’ I think I’ll stick with piece.

Or maybe collection? Or collage? Or compilation? Maybe even a montage or a mosaic, though that’s a tad graphic for my taste.

Word-play aside, the times they are a-changing seems like a nice theme, so here goes :


The latest Student Council, in its first week in power, has managed to get the paan-suTTa-Thela adjoining the campus wall shut. After a grand run of 31 years, apparently. Very surprisingly (I’m surprised), I’m on their side. My problem with smokers is not so much about individual expression or human rights or even healthcare and the eventual burden on the taxpayer.

Its more to do with the dropping of inhibitions that comes with intoxication. And mistaking complete freedom of thought for intellect and rectitude in equal measure. It makes me cringe to have to listen to some very distasteful talk among six or seven people in a group and then have it justified to me with references to Darwin and Evolutionary Biology, as some girl walks by trying to stay as far away from the bunch as possible, and six pairs of eyes follow hungrily. And this, when all I want to do is take in a little second-hand smoke, and well, indulge in a little moderately distasteful talk IN PRIVATE.

But I forget. “Girls like the attention,” I’m told. “They just act like they don’t.”

Seriously, what is it with the average Indian yokel’s equation of unintentional sexual harassment with manliness?


Ever tried driving with AIR’s Vividh Bharati playing on the radio? I come from a staunch radio-listening family raised on years and years of Vividh Bharati and even so, I find the task impossible. I have to strain to hear the male announcer’s slow baritone or the female announcer’s measured pauses. I have to listen to them enunciate “gAon JhoomritalaiyyA se Chunnu, Munnu, unke mummy-papa aur unke parivAr ke bAki sadasyon ki farmAish” before they get to the actual song. It just seems out of sync though the same songs on a CD would be great. It simply doesn’t work.

Somehow the vacuous mile-a-minute chatter of modern-day FM radio programming works. A song, some chit-chat, some flirting, some giggling, another song, ad infinitum. It just works, though I’m damned if I could handle an hour of that indoors.


Speaking of driving and traffic, ever noticed how the weekend traffic is different from weekday traffic? It’s as if everyone who would normally take the company bus to work seems to pull his/ her car out on the weekend and ambles through the streets, not a care in the world beyond finding parking. And trying to parallel park. The traffic density is so much lower but it’s so unstructured; it almost takes longer to get anywhere on a weekend.

Start commuting people, learn to drive!


Oh, and one little Lifetime-achievement-Oscar-acceptance-speech.

A lot of people have been kind enough to be nice and ask me why comments are switched off and why I went underground, etc.

I pondered over the question for a while, trying to turn a vague feeling into words, till I found the following lines in V.S. Naipaul’s ‘The enigma of arrival.’

Man and writer were the same person. But that is a writer’s greatest discovery. It took time – and how much writing! – to arrive at that synthesis.

But what of the man and what the man thinks of the man (the same man) and what the man thinks others think of the man (again, the same one)? To believe in, let alone accept the universality of all human thought and effort is probably the hardest thing in the world. The pathological is always more convincing. Repressed biases and complexes, a fear of judgment and ridicule, the need for approval get in the way.

All you can do then is to be the ostrich.

Like someone said, “Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”

And maybe write like nobody’s reading, while you’re at it?

Oh wait, that would have made a nice title.

Photography clubs. Gah!

Yeah yeah, I know you read the title and expected some surrogate advertising for my photography. Yeah, now STFU and listen. Oh, but be nice and do look at the pictures. Then GTFO.

Anyway, so. Curiously, if I wanted to say that in Marathi, I’d just say aso. Get it? Aso, a-so; anyway, so. Never mind. Of course, that’s no way to start a sentence but then grammar is probably the last thing you’d be looking for, in a post titled ” … Gah,” no?

So, everyone and their grandma’s second cousin seems to own a d-slr and is going about taking pictures. And posting them all over the place. Normally I wouldn’t be giving one number Rattus Posterius, or even a fraction, but it’s all in my f***ing face which bothers me no end.

So here’s a mini-rant. With some a lot of foul language. There’s been a lot that’s been said on the topic and this here is one of the bestest rants ever but then, Imma be such a wuss if I’d stop and make way for others. Of course, it helps that all the older rants are by non-photographers criticizing the overall behaviour of photographers in general; I’m merely dissing their entire artistic output from my ivory tower.

  1. Black and white – Stop f***ing doing that. It’s pissing off. If your picture’s contrast settings are off (as in, the not-quite-perfect-wala off, not electrical-digital-binary off), it DOES NOT work. Stop. Black and white does not make your picture artistic, it just removes a lot of data and makes a bad picture look bad and confusing. Redneck photographers such as moi don’t like being told they’re stupid. Lay off it.
  2. Selective colouring – @^%#&#!!!! Selectively turning parts of your picture black and white is just f***ing retarded. Do you see things in partial colour? Does anyone? Do you? Answer me, DO you? Hmph. Its just a flag or its a leaf or its a bleddy commode for crying out loud. Selective colouring is like stringing flashing neon lights around the important parts of your picture, saying “Get yours here!!” I mean, if you really need to do that, or if your picture looks better for it, then that’s just a case of bad composition.
  3. Titles – Just call it by its real name, will you? This one’s beaten to death but I’ll say it anyway. If you see a girl walking/ sitting/ eating alone, do not call it ‘loneliness.’ She probably has weird friends like you, trying to sneak a picture every now and then, thinking of calling it “radiant smile” later. Come to think of it, that is a lonely-ish situation. My bad. If she’s staring into space, do NOT call it “introspection” or “inner beauty,” she’s probably just stupid. Besides, you look stupid when someone doesn’t play ball and comments on your pictures, “frendzz, myself thinking that she is not doing the introspection… maybe she thinking yebout baayfrend… LOL!!!” I could write a ton on stupid “LOL” comments but let’s leave that for another day.
  4. Children – Stop taking pictures of children. If they aren’t yours, it’s just bloody creepy. Someone once put a picture up on FB of a wee kiddie’s eye, with the reflection of the photographer visible in the aforementioned eye. Brrrr… COPS! COPS! COPS! No, seriously. If they’re your kids, say hi to them from me, buy them a chocolate maybe, but DON’T take their picture and put it up on a public forum. Read my lips, DO NOT. If they’re not your kids, frankly, you deserve to be burned at the stake. If it’s just your reflection that you’re so in love with (narcissistic much?), grab a mirror and a box of tissues. Keep it simple. And private.
  5. Remember this well – and here I drop all attempts at humour and frivolity – street photography is always invasive. This is an accepted fact. The fact that you used a telelens to take a picture unnoticed, from a distance, just does not cut it. Get consent. Get consent from people who understand what that means. This eliminates children by definition. Seriously, most sane people don’t want pictures of themselves scratching their junk out in the public domain, no matter how profound you think it is.
  6. Guesswork – Do not ask others to guess what you’ve done or what your picture is saying. What are you, four?
  7. Main building/ faculty hall – If you’ve been at IISc for any length of time, you’ve probably taken a picture (I have too) of the main building or the faculty hall at some point – day or night or twilight. Good for you. Now go look for a new subject. Sure, its a nice building; sure, its very photogenic; but really, there are only about 4 ways of taking a picture of that building. All done? Now move on. More photoshopping won’t help. I don’t like yellow buildings surrounded by black trees against violet skies; I’m not high.
  8. Selective blurring/ bokeh – Yeah sure, blurring the background puts your subject in the highlight; have you thought of a subject though, before whipping out that camera?
  9. Exif data – Stop asking people for their exif data. Its just plain stoopid. Its a damn art, man; you don’t improve your pictures by looking at someone else’s pictures and asking them how long the exposure lasted or how open the aperture was. That’s like going to the school topper and asking him/ her if he/ she preferred studying while lying down or sitting in a chair. Look at what the picture says, think it, feel it, and then reproduce the emotion. Don’t expect a lab manual for photography; they have insta-something for that.
  10. Finally, stop spamming. Take a good hard look at your picture before uploading it on a photography group. Get a couple of others to do it; leave the mutual back-scratching for the spa-weekend. The fact that some of us have all the time in the world to spend on Facebook does not mean that we do not value that time. There’s a lot of good stuff on the net that I’d really like to look at. Stop wasting my time – SHOW ME QUALITY.

With a little help from my friends

I love the intro to each ‘how I met your mother’ episode, with the quick montage of images – some blurry, some distorted – and all devoid of any extraneous detail so that all I’m left with finally is a memory of a sequence of smiles and eyes. And a memory of all the fun times I’ve had too, that I’ve wanted to freeze, right there.

Every now and then you’re in a group of fairly non-random people discussing fairly random things which, by right, should be nowhere close to funny and there, right there, you kinda stumble out of yourself, vault into a time many many years later, look back, and know that this, this moment, is one which you’re not going to forget for a while. You’re going to remember the exact table in the exact watering-hole, who’s sitting where, who’s jostling whom and who the joke is on. You’re going to be sure that the joke hinged on someone on the next table but you likely won’t remember the face of this purveyor of mirth. You might or might not remember what’s on the table but you’re going to remember who snorted his or her drink out of his or her nose. And how that led to more hysteria.

And in that moment you will feel an infinite sorrow since you’re already somewhere in a decidedly darker future, thinking back on a better time. And just like that, the cloud shall pass as you realize that you’re that much better equipped for this dark future you foresee, thanks to this evening.

Live it up.


And as always, the original song, but in a very strange version.

It’s only words

Sometimes you can say all you want to, pause for breath, speak some more; nineteen to the dozen, maybe even twenty-one; and then come away feeling like you’ve been talking to a wall.

Or you could just sit back, keep quiet, listen, smile and fool yourself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, you don’t always need words to communicate.

Then sit back and let the song wash over you,

“Its amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may, I could never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing”

If ifs and buts were pots and pans

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been staying alone at home and cooking for myself; two long weeks of a string of culinary experiments which, I’m surprised, haven’t killed me!

So what follows is a list of dos and don’ts and beforehand I told you sos.

At the outset one point must be made clear – that I grew out of the Maggi/ Top Ramen/ any-other-Ramen school of thought a couple of years ago. So, yes, adding veggies to Maggi does NOT count as cooking. Neither does egg-Maggi make the cut. Begone all ye Maggi fiends!

Oh, I’m ok with atta-Maggi though. No added MSG, high fibre, and so on and so forth…

So here’s my list. Its fairly generic but hey, if there’s any point in all of this that hasn’t been covered elsewhere earlier, remember, I called dibs on it!

The golden rule to avoiding frustration in the kitchen is this : Cookery shows lie; don’t believe them. You cannot put out all the stuff you’re going to need in cute little glass bowls before you start. Heck, nobody has those many little glass bowls. You cannot keep a kitchen counter spotlessly clean either.

But I digress. The list :

  1. There’s more to cooking than desserts.
  2. There are ways to cook beyond microwave ovens.
  3. The small and large burners on the gas-stove are not the same things. They are NOT interchangeable in terms of their roles. What happens on a small burner only happens on a small burner and vice versa. Things that happen on a small burner do NOT happen faster on a large burner. They get carbonified. I really cannot stress this enough.
  4. Things get wasted. The first and last Dosas will always be inedible. It’s true. The mummyji confirms this via phone.
  5. If it’s black, throw it out and start over. At any stage. [Ref. point 3.]
  6. Speaking of wastage, the friendly neighbourhood hopcoms-guy/ Sabzi-wala is evil. He will con you. He will slip bad stuff onto the weighing scale when you aren’t looking. There’s no better way to say this – he is evil. Really.
  7. Evil is different from wicked or mean. You can’t fight evil. Budget for it. Buy more veggies than you need; statistically, then, you’re safe.
  8. The internet is your best friend. Listen to it. There is a wide range in the IQs of internet users across the world and there’s something for everyone. Youtube recipes, however, is stretching it a little too far.
  9. Where the internet will not help you is in locating stuff in your kitchen. Clear polythene bags filled with unnamed white powders will lurk in unmarked boxes. Give up; go to the grocer, buy a new bag of whatever you need, and listen closely – put a sticker on it.
  10. Non-stick is your friend too. Be nice to it. No metal spoons on non-stick tawas.
  11. Oil is also a friend. Whatever you try, it will taste better with more oil in it, no matter what elders and/ or betters say.
  12. Oil has this bad habit though – when left unwatched, it gets hot really quick and begins to smoke. No, that’s not steam, that’s a precursor to fire.  Come to think of it, that’s actually how most things in the kitchen respond to heat. Hmmm…
  13. Speaking of heat, your left index finger is not the best measure of temperature. Not unless you value said finger, anyway.
  14. And while on the topic of measures, any assumption that you might make on the densities of most of the stuff you see in the kitchen is going to be highly suspect. The density of stuff is rarely 1g/cc even though everything organic has a lot of water in it.
  15. In an asymptotic sense, the density might only be (1+ε) g/cc with ε << 1 but the ε wields great power. You have been warned.
  16. Do NOT do this. Use a weighing scale and/ or a measuring cup. Really. This saves lives.
  17. There are few things better-natured in the kitchen than eggs. They survive well in the fridge with passable deterioration, you can always tell when they’re done cooking from the smell, they rarely stick to frying-pans, they work well enough alone or as a team and there is no known substitute for eggs in a cake. The works, basically.
  18. There are few actions more tragic than condemning a loaf of bread to the fridge, though. Be sure, what starts off as a fluffy, carefree loaf (see, they even call it that), is going to be a reluctant, ill-spirited, crumbly, compact mass tomorrow morning.
  19. Speaking of fridges, the fridge is not a black box. Stuff put into the fridge may not be forgotten and must be checked regularly. Rubbery carrots and wrinkly capsicums are gross.
  20. Oh, and finally, when in doubt – Upma. Always.

*Sigh*, Mommy, I miss you…


Why do so many people in the forinn seem to be carrying cameras everywhere they go?

Why is everyone always putting up photos, saying “Here I am, eating this, drinking that, looking cool and froody, with so-and-so and so-and-so’s untagged-but-much-prettier-and-much-more-interesting-looking-friend-who-might-be-the-one-but-who-you-will-never-meet?” Are we as a generation still so hung up on the fact that <fanfare> we’re going bravely where no man (among the people I know) has gone before </fanfare>? Look Ma, I’m being so cool right now.

Who are they trying so hard to convince that life’s awesome, they’re awesome, everyone they hang with is awesome, etc.?

Or are these pictures the magic glasses through which someone else is going to live the Amrikkan/ Kaneddiyan dream vicariously, and then turn in peacefully for the night, convinced that the kid is well and, well, awesome?

Or are we trying this hard to generate and accumulate memories, secure in the knowledge that everything ends; ash to ash, dust to dust, and all that jazz? That someday the music will stop?

I was once an obsessive photographer, and all I remember from each one of those occasions is sitting with my head up my rear end, wondering which way the light was coming in, which were the things that looked good in the frame and which weren’t – people included; playing the photographer of the group as much as being the photographer. Doesn’t anyone else feel that disconnect?

Why don’t people just be and just live?


Ironically, I’m writing this almost immediately after sending out an email to a bunch of people with a bunch of photos taken in college 6 years ago – photos I’m glad someone took then!

Is it different though, that said photos remained essentially buried for 6 years, till I dug them out now? And that there were only 7 people marked on that mail, rather than 517?


Happened to go to UB City, Bangalore’s swankiest and upmarketest mall, for lunch today. And whaddya know – there are people on the outside, taking pictures in front of the buildings there!

I’d like to say I was amused or saddened or reminded of the essential futility of all human endeavour or something like that; truth is, I was just relieved someone else was paying for lunch.

Us and them

RTE – So the Govt. decides every recognized school must have underprevileged kids in it at the State’s(?) expense.

Makes me wonder. INR 2.3 Lakh crore (that’s what, INR 2.3e12?) is the added expenditure that someone’s going to have to bear, most likely the taxpayer. For the average taxpayer who can’t really afford to send his/ her kid to one of them fancy international schools with their iPad-friendly curricula and annual-window-frame-maintenance-charges and fifteen-yearly-new-super-awesome-multimedia-auditorium-construction-funds, but must sponsor a fraction of another kid’s education there, that’s going to be one terribly bitter pill to swallow.

P.S. : A line in one of the foregoing paragraphs brings a joke to mind, one I crack often, rarely with any success : if you’re going to have to express money in scientific notation to make sense of it, you’re obviously in the wrong ballpark.


EDIT (18th April, 2012) : I’m just trying to figure the economics out. I’m not a snob; I’m only wondering who’s taking the hit here.

Considering the fact that 25% of seats go toward the RTE, in the absence of any immediate aid from the Govt., the effective annual fees for the rest of the seats just went up by 33%. Not a small amount.

Assuming that the INR 2.3 lakh crore figure was obtained on the basis of some average/ median value drawn up by a couple of bean counters somewhere, based on the balance sheets of a couple of aided schools, the average reimbursement forwarded to the fancier unaided schools will probably be far far away from the amounts the schools actually charge.

So who gets the raw end of the deal?


Everyone’s trying to bridge a socioeconomic gap upwards. Some of these bridges are state-sanctioned, some are not.


As an aside, everyone’s saying kids can be mean, to justify obstructing the RTE. Right premise, wrong take-away.

An example from Class 3 stands out, though. Boy in class began bringing a towel to school that he’d use to wipe his arm/ leg on being touched by anyone else in the class. Because he was a Brahmin boy, he told us.

Not the end of the story. I was the prick who stood up in Maths class and complained. Why prick, you ask? Because I pointed out to the teacher that his using the towel against me was unfair because I was a Brahm too…

Not that I was going to start bringing a towel myself, but at that age some similarities are easier to understand and some, more human ones, are not.


Does any of this mean I’m against RTE? Hell, no. I learnt some of the most important lessons of my life in engineering college where the social filters from school didn’t exist. Not the easiest time, but a profound one.

I’m just counting beans.


I love Pune. There’s something about it that says home. Crappy roads, crappy traffic, mean people who think they’re witty – I love it all. Must be something to do with knowing the language. Aapulki, they call it in Marathi, and I’m hard-pressed to find an English equivalent beyond “us-ness,” if that means anything.

It’s more fun observing people when you understand the things they’re saying. But then, I’m out of the happy little bubble that a lack of fluency in the local language builds around one, here in Bangalore.

These are people who speak the same language as I do, with minor differences in pronunciation and inflection. Except that they aren’t minor. They mark the line between two worlds. As I look on, there’s a subtle thought in my head, one that I can’t get rid of once I’ve thunk it, so to speak, that these people don’t really look like me or anyone I know.

And I wonder – if we’ve managed to make our divisions this water-tight, that you can look at a person and tell if he’s one of you or isn’t, hasn’t all this turned into some misguided attempt at eugenics?