Oct 092015

Last year I had visited Benaras, on work. I managed to get away for both the Ganga Aarti in the evening, and a boat ride on the Ganga, in the morning.

It was also the first time i got to properly play with the new camera – the Nikon D7000, a replacement for the older Olympus 510 that i had used for ever. I was (and still am) very fond of the Olympus – but the manufacturer had stopped supporting that entire range. And, i am not yet sure of the mirrorless system.


The banks of the Ganga 3 - Benaras (1 of 1)

this is possibly one of my favorite pictures from Benaras. And, it is, technically, a flawed shot. The lens had got  condensation drops on it (as had my glasses) – the difference between the temperature in the car and the outside, and i had not cleaned it properly. The spot on the right hand side, is the effect of fog on the lens, yet it gives an ethereal, timeless feeling to the sense of faith and devotion of those who come to Kashi and mother Ganga to pray for their ancestors.


This too, is one of my all time favorites – the boy walking. It is the mix of light and shadows, and the narrow darkened corridor leading to bright light that struck me, even with the naked eye. The colours are a living advertisement to the power of poster colours, they just come out there and grab you. The whole city is a treat for the senses. The aroma of cooking food, to the peal of temple bells, to the sarees on mannequins, to the monkeys that try and jump on electric poles. In a way, carrying a camera prevents you from observing and soaking in the senses


This one was the previous evening, at the Ganga Aartiva

The Offerigs at the Aarti 2 - Benaras (1 of 1)

And, this was the boatman, the one who took us on a leisurely boat ride around the ghats

baotman 2

more of my Benaras pictures are here, here and here.

I plan to go back in the near future.

Oct 082015

When i was reading Orwell’s Collection of Essays – i made extensive notes. (and one of the good things about making notes when you are reading an ebook, is that you can mark a book without  feeling guilty). Everytime i used a purple virtual marker, to mark out a phrase or a paragrah, i smiled at the guilty pleasure of marking a book, in a way that can be undone, leaving the book as new. Small joys of life.

Orwell - Collection of Essays

In his very first essay, he talks about his formative years in a boarding school. In today’s day and age, that school would be shut down, and it’s Head Master and wife (aka Mum) would be in prison. Children were put through routine torture. Orwell describes it with a certain incisive wryness. It is also a tale of the times, the swinging years before the first world war. Before 1918, when it all changed.

This was in the context of boys figuring out they had an organ that had a mind of its own, and the first manifestations of sexuality that could only be shared with other boys. In that era, sex was not spoken about. Homosexuality, definitely not.

I HAD learned early in my career that one can do wrong against one’s will, and before long I also learned that one can do wrong without ever discovering what one has done or why it was wrong. There were sins that were too subtle to be explained, and there were others that were too terrible to be clearly mentioned.

Orwell came from a not so well to do family. And, he was always reminded of the fact that but for the benevolence of the Head Master and his wife, he would be nowhere. He was also told not to try and reach beyond his station in life. Most of the children in the school came from either titled families, or families that were rolling in moolah. Orwell describes the rich, and i couldn’t but help thinking that the way the rich consume and behave in India – and by rich I don’t mean those who own or run businesses, but those who earn well and spend well – is very akin to this description.

There never was, I suppose, in the history of the world a time when the sheer vulgar fatness of wealth, without any kind of aristocratic elegance to redeem it, was so obtrusive as in those years before 1914. …… From the whole decade before 1914, there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kinds of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and crème de menthe and soft-centred chocolates—an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song. The extraordinary thing was the way in which everyone took it for granted that this oozing, bulging wealth of the English upper and upper-middle classes would last for ever, and was part of the order of things. After 1918 it was never quite the same again. Snobbishness and expensive habits came back, certainly, but they were self-conscious and on the defensive. Before the war the worship of money was entirely unreflecting and untroubled by any pang of conscience. The goodness of money was as unmistakable as the goodness of health or beauty, and a glittering car, a title or a horde of servants was mixed up in people’s minds with the idea of actual moral virtue.

For me the sentience reeks of the entitlement that i see around me – the fact that more and more of us are willing to gate ourselves off from all the dust and grime of India, that sharing is limited, and the world is a cocoon. I wonder how long before it bursts .

On football, that he loathed, and the lesson he learned from it (he much preferred cricket)

What counted was football, at which I was a funk. I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting. The lovers of football are large, boisterous, nobbly boys who are good at knocking down and trampling on slightly smaller boys. That was the pattern of school life—a continuous triumph of the strong over the weak. Virtue consisted in winning: it consisted in being bigger, stronger, handsomer, richer, more popular, more elegant, more unscrupulous than other people—in dominating them, bullying them, making them suffer pain, making them look foolish, getting the better of them in every way. Life was hierarchical and whatever happened was right. There were the strong, who deserved to win and always did win, and there were the weak, who deserved to lose and always did lose, everlastingly.

And, finally on religion- and, this resonates deeply. And, he writes with such incisive precision, that it just cuts through and makes you go … wow …

Take religion, for instance. You were supposed to love God, and I did not question this. Till the age of about fourteen I believed in God, and believed that the accounts given of him were true. But I was well aware that I did not love him. On the contrary, I hated him, just as I hated Jesus and the Hebrew patriarchs. If I had sympathetic feelings towards any character in the Old Testament, it was towards such people as Cain, Jezebel, Haman, Agag, Sisera: in the New Testament my friends, if any, were Ananias, Caiaphas, Judas and Pontius Pilate. But the whole business of religion seemed to be strewn with psychological impossibilities. The Prayer Book told you, for example, to love God and fear him: but how could you love someone whom you feared

Oct 072015

Revisiting Orwell. Picked up his collected works from amazon, at a princely sum of Rs.49.


In fact, just last week i discovered his collection of essays, that I had got before (for the kindle) and forgotten about. Unlike a traditional book shelf, the kindle bookshelf does not make you feel guilty about unread books. And, sometimes, you (I) forget that you had got them. So, on a over delayed flight, as i was browsing my bookshelf for something easy to read, in non-fiction, i stumbled upon the unopened collection of essays and dived in. It is quite fabulous. The bit i highlighted, about his early days in boarding school in England, was told with such lack of self pity (he had a monster of a school master), and so much wry humour, that i didn’t really miss the plane being late. Here he talks about the exam system

“This business of making a gifted boy’s career depend on a competitive examination, taken when he is only twelve or thirteen, is an evil thing at best, but there do appear to be preparatory schools which send scholars to Eton, Winchester, etc., without teaching them to see everything in terms of marks.”

Obviously, once i polished off the essays, i moved to the rest of his works. And,  1984 is right there at the top of the list. The dystopian world that he creates is quite fascinating. I wonder if that was the inspiration for Watchmen. I found the worlds quite similar.

So here is something from the book – not part of the storyline but the appendix. the principles of newspeak

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought— that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc— should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as “This dog is free from lice” or “This field is free from weeds.” It could not be used in its old sense of “politically free” or “intellectually free,” since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.

ORWELL, GEORGE (2014-06-25). GEORGE ORWELL PREMIUM COLLECTION: 48 works including all his novels (1984, Animal Farm, etc.); non fiction and dozens of essays (Timeless Wisdom Collection Book 1027) (Kindle Locations 4835-4840). Business and Leadership Publishing. Kindle Edition.

coming up next : Animal Farm.

Oct 062015

I have been at a loss for words.  They simply don’t flow anymore. I have anaysed it – why don’t you write, i ask myself, as an external analyst trying to solve a problem?

Do you not care about anything anymore to write about it; at , maybe you have written so much – that you  have nothing left to say;… Or maybe, you have, so far, kept a part of yourself in reserve. Locked away. Private. And, now to write – you have to bring out that you. Do you really want to reveal so much of you. And, if you do – will all defenses be stripped away leaving you vulnerable to hurt. Or maybe it is nothing that deep – maybe the fact that you have such mundane work occupying the bulk of your time – that your brain is ossified. Or maybe, you spend so much of your time with news content, that there is nothing left to say that is original or incisive. Or, maybe you don’t have time for any of those things that gave you insight – going away to the villages, filming, reading, photography, being with friends, meeting people other than media – maybe that is the problem. That you have become the frog in the well – and you are terrified that your view would be as superficial as other frogs in the well.

these are the kind of conversations i have with myself about writing. Yes, and when you start referring to yourself in the 2nd person – you know that you are in trouble.

It has been a dreadful year so far – personally. And, i have done pretty much what i have done all my life – thrown my self so much into work that the exhaustion does not leave me any time for anything else. Especially my own thoughts.

Now, i have begun to heal. And, part of that healing is expressing. Some of what i write may be maudlin and pointless, like this one. But it is cheaper than therapy 😀

I have begun gathering my life back again. it is a different life from what it was before, and i am discovering the difference

mumbai skyline 2

Oct 052015

9-10 months before dad passed on, crows began visiting our home, in Wadala. My mother would feed them dal rice with ghee. and bread and cheese. They would sit on the window sill and kaw-kaw away till they were fed (and satisfied). Both appa and amma would laugh and say, the pitrus have come for food …

During the funeral ceremonies they turned up in full force.

And, when we moved from Wadala to Bandra, they turned up. I am not sure if they are the same crows. But, they way they have demanded and consumed food is quite like the earlier lot. One in particular, comes in first – i think it is a male – and sits patiently till mom finishes her prayers and feeds him.

Maybe the ancients got it right. Maybe they are our ancestors. Maybe not. I neither have that much faith in myths, nor that much science to argue that. I will take each argument as being from a different frame of reference. But, there is some degree of comfort in little rituals like this. Something soothing for the soul.

Yesterday, mom and I went to the little Ganesha temple in Kantinagar, Andheri (E). Where we had gone for the longest time. It is a small temple with a compassionate priest. I did the shrardh,  with tulsi and gangajal. Non ritualistic, yet full of meaning. For, the first time since he died, i could cry, freely,  for him.

It is four months. It still feels surreal. Loss and death are so much a part of life, yet we speak about it so little. He meant so much to me. He made me strong, by believing in me, having faith, and never ever restricting me because of gender. He had a fantastic sense of humour, and a strength that comes from within. After a terrible day at work, all i had to do was say “appa, hug me” – he would – and the stress would just flow away.

I miss him.