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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Toolsmen


The spider crawls onward on its mission,
Building a stable future, guarding existence
With insurance policies, investing in funds,
Weaving its web, yarn by spat out yarn,
Designing life with hard-earned cash,
Using the chemistry and physics available
To its lithe and agile physique and mind,
Tanking up on fibre and gluten-free flies
Whipping up protein shakes for strength,
Beat after beat, fueling its existence,
Pumping out gas to keep life rolling, yet
Yearning not for the finite, but for an infinite 
Merely visible from this blot called a lifetime.

We're born now - we're living!
On our journey from crest to trough
To crest again, spiraling onward
Towards a nothingness so absolute,
It has neither inside not out;
A forest you can keep going into -
Way beyond halfway, all the way.
Encompassing everything including us, 
Present to witness this glorious hour and beyond;
In darkness yesterday and perhaps tomorrow;
Yet in light again today, at this moment;
With our roles within these square inches -
Boxes in this infinitessimosecond of spacetime!

Climbing mountains for a while,
Pushed up by the time behind us,
Curving up with chutzpah, until,
Dizzying up at the crest,  breathing in
The vast expanse to the best that we can see;
We roll downwards for the rest of the ride,
Applying the brakes on time to come; does it resist us?
That time that takes us forward, to those waking up;
Ahead of us; true happiness moving in a circle;
For hills and valleys complement the plains; 
Alive, flowing, pushing the ups and downs.
"Do not despair, for one of them was saved"!
We can choose to choose that other guy too
And these things may not always make sense
But when the goal is kind and the will untiring
The wheel does find a way.

There are unavoidable expenses of course,
Overheads sometimes tragic & heart-breaking
Unfortunate collateral in the bang that sprang
From the groins of this universe that joins
The thighs of the infinite to the infinitessimal
A one-time investment for many lifetimes,
A squirt racing up a dizzying cove
Trying to outrun everyone around you
So you can find a way to the other side,
So the wheel of time can meet its fate and
The thoughts and dreams that were once you
Can find a way ahead through brains or bytes,
Or be placed in dusty medieval libraries,
where old, tattered books lie, much like us -
Retired; watching the forces romancing
With tasks more beautiful than ours.

Yet sometimes we wait and sometimes we act
In haste, in our scramble towards transcendence, 
Mindless of the march of evolution - at the top
Of the foodchain, at the top of the garbage pile,
High as a mound -  vultures and eagles hovering
Around in search of rodents or rotten pieces
Of carcass, or beef or mutton or dog meat;
This progress made possible by the infinite, 
Seemingly inconsequential fluctuations in Time
That we call time - the time that we try to can
In bottles measured in hours, days or minutes -
Hardly a flicker in the furnace of the eternal love
That bakes a billion claymen, and the soft caress
Of another love - that maker of that first heartbeat,
And that faint whisper of breath - that keeps us
Going towards the eternal, yardstick in hand
Capturing in frames mere fractions of time; 
Envisioning ourselves as the whole itself.

We are time moving forward, we're progress -
How do we want to define it? Measure it? 
Do we have a say at all? 
We can now be a day in a year full of nights; 
Of silence In a year full of screams. 
If we're the toolsmen of this universe, then 
What will be our choice? 
Would we spin our yarns towards the eternal, 
Or would we be happy making memes?

You were leaving


There was a mess in the hall,
While the world turned spring into fall,
Then came the winter decay,
As I was driving away, dreaming
Of bright lights and planes,
While you lay drenched in the rain,
Holding me sane and together,
No matter the season or weather.
Yes, I would've run up to you
And never hung up on you;
Driven wherever you'd want;
Heard all the stories you'd chant,
If had but known for a second or two
You were leaving...

Too busy packing my things,
Dumping my treasures in bins,
Could never send you my words
As I kept chasing the herd.
Too busy proving myself,
I left your cards on the shelf
I spent my days in a daze,
And the nights were lost in the haze,
Typing and swiping the screens
Even when you would peep in.
I would have stayed on your page
For the rest of our days,
If had only known for a second or two
You were leaving...

I missed and  misread the signs,
Too busy learning those lines
That I now stumble to read,
As the tears blur out my feed
And time keeps testing the ink
Etched in my soul and my skin.
Sometimes they tell me I'm strong,
But that isn't where I belong.
They never know what's inside,
Beneath the toughness and pride,
I'm longing to see you again,
Hollow and empty within,
For I never thought for a second or two
You were leaving...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Vivienne

Living Sin, letting go
Wished a while upon the closet
Washing pain like a wicked dream
Getting high on a whirlwind
Sipping truth, sipping truth, sipping truth
Very sane, insecure
Lying stoned by the washbowl
Telling time, "you're the best thing!"
A weary smile on the go
Running slow, running slow, running slow

What do they want to say?
They're lost in syncopation
In a chorus gone astray
Why do they bomb and slay?
They're following the syntax
For the power and the pay
Why do they seize and prey? 
They're building a crescendo
For these bars will end some day
Why do they bow and pray?
They're preparing for the cadence
As the flesh turns weak & pale,
Vivienne turns grey...

Smell of stew, caring arms
Misty Churchyard in the past
Blaming fate, naming relations
Deep inside lies love asleep
Passing by, passing by, passing by
Soothing sighs like a carol
Warming touch and those tears
Trying hard, so unsure
Oh will I stay, oh will she go oh
Am I alone, am I alone, am I alone

Why does it fade away?
We're seeking it in patches
Made of plastic, paint and clay
What do these words convey?
We're not tuned in to the music
We don't listen; we just play
How do we find our way?
Pace your footsteps to the rhythm
There are signs along the way
How do we seize the day?
By seizing every quaver
Space is reverb out of scale
Time's just delay

Da da dum dum dum da dum da da dum dum
Da da dum dum dum da dum da da dum dum
Da da dum dum dum da dum da da dum dum
Da da dum dum dum da dum da da dum dum

Two thieves hanged, despair, we can't go on;
Two thieves hanged, presume, resume, we will go on;
Two thieves hanged, we're damned, we can't go on;
Two thieves hanged, she waved, we're saved, we will go on!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!!!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!!!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!!!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mind, Matter and Morality

A few considerations for the human race...

1. The morality of a species is linked to the survival of its species and not necessarily to the larger good beyond the boundaries withing which the species exists. Imagine a colony of viruses that could think, converse and formulate laws of morality. Their morality would be very different from the morality that humans have come up with, for example. So the question is - what fraction of morality is truly constant? How do we know what is right and what is wrong, without any doubt whatsoever?

2. If the history books and pre-historic stories or theories that refer to pre-historic times are to be believed, then, that have been passed on to us as the truths within which we construct the meaning of our existence, it seems to bring us to the realization that we have come a long way from where we started, and the travails of the stone age and the physical insecurities of previous eras have been overcome and mankind has managed to carve out a space for itself on this planet, where its people are very safe, and life on earth can potentially be comfortable for everyone. At this stage, then, when all the comforts we can think of are present on earth, and we can easily reverse our economy by having fewer children, reducing energy consumption and focusing on having fewer people with a greater quality of life on this planet, then what is the need to keep seeking an economy that swells outward. It seems like we had set out in the right direction, but we accidentally traveled a couple of stops too far. That time the history books said was being struggled for, according to me, has arrived, where the existence of humans on this planet has been optimized to a large extent. The focus can now be on eliminating the few dangers that still threaten our existence, like natural calamities and diseases. These are the two primary things that need to be focused upon by all governments. 

3. While the leaders, scientists and philosophers focus on these few problems that are left to solve and maybe further contemplate the meaning of existence so that we know which way to go, most others should now start reducing the population by having fewer children, going away from cities and developing self sustaining communities that are self-sufficient to a great extent, so that we can have greater regulations that are much easier to monitor. 

4. We can focus on investing in a more robust inter-continental security system, where attempts to hurt each other are thwarted harmlessly, neither individuals nor governments are allowed to have weapons, existing varieties of which need to by systematically and uniformly destroyed. Property distribution laws need to be made more fluid and inclusive, keeping with the transient nature of the existence of this material world itself. People should be allowed to travel from anywhere in the world to anywhere else they want, as the robust security system would ensure that crimes are minimized, if not eliminated. 

5. A movement away from a globalized economy is the desperate need of this hour, at least until we find a way to regulate production and processes uniformly across the world. The globalization of production has led us to an unprecedented state of apathy and the industrialization of food production has led to the commodification of other sentient beings that are living entire lives as slaves to suit the desires of our palates. Our focus should be to reduce the levels of voluntary suffering we launch upon fellow sentient beings and special focus should be accorded to being able to produce meat without the need to either breed or end life for the purpose of food production. Human beings should themselves strive to achieve a state of maintaining consciousness through means more energy-efficient than life. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My God

My God has a name
My tongue can't spell,
A shape invisible to the eye;
A voice of love we cannot hear,
Tasteless, formless, free
From life & death & causalities,
A touch we cannot feel
In the signs we hear & see
In this myopic, blindfolded time;
The proof that he exists is me
If I am, then therefore, must he/she/it/they.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

FLTA Diaries: The Landing

The flight across the Atlantic was long. I was on a German flight, drinking German beer, eating German cuisine, and turning all that into Indian poo and pee. There were only so many movies I could watch on the trot, and after a while, I found myself parked next to the loo with a beer can in hand and striking conversations with a few others who had given up on the comfort of their seats. I still hadn't forgotten the near fiasco that had nearly kept me from flying to the US, but instead of focusing on what I would have done and how I would have been on my way back to India, I was looking forward - to the times that lay ahead, wondering what they would bring along. I wasn't exactly full of enthusiasm, but more full of hope - that everything would progress according to plan, both in the US and back at home, and I knew I had done nearly all that I could have - The dogs had been vaccinated and bathed, there were two lads helping out at home, walking them, feeding them; so that my parents didn't have to trouble themselves a lot. My dad was on his way home from Chennai, where I had personally taken him to meet his aunts before I had to fly to Delhi to catch my flight. I had also managed to squeeze in a little farewell party where I met a few close friends before I left, had sent a request to the universe to send only good karma. Life of course had other plans, but that is for another discussion in another chapter.

So there I was on the flight, at the back where there was some space for passengers to walk around and stretch their legs. I struck a few random conversations, all while sipping on the free cans of beer and running in and out of the toilet every now and then. I spoke to a lady who was going back to her children after three months, and who was convinced that Jesus was on the same plane as we were in, a couple of young lads on their way to New Zealand for a year, and even a fellow Fulbrighter on a different teaching fellowship, traveling with his wife and kids. Thus were spent the 12-odd hours from Frankfurt to Chicago. There were no chills down the spine as I landed in the USA. I was a little excited about the uncertainty of what lay ahead, but I was more or less focused on getting past customs and on with my travel plans to start with. I had written to my supervisor at the University of Hawaii asking if it would be okay to miss the orientation week on campus so I could travel around a bit on the mainland before I get 'stuck on the island'. I don't think she was very pleased with my choice of words, but she very kindly acquiesced. However, for now, I was just keen on transferring to the next flight to East Lansing, where my orientation was to take place. I had to wait a few hours, and I didn't really have any dollars on me as I'd found out that encashing the traveler's cheques was cheaper if done at a bank after I opened my university bank account. I did manage to exchange some rupees I had to have a burger or a sandwich, I can't remember now, but since I had eaten and drunk well on the flight, I wasn't really very hungry.


It had been two years since I had quit my full-time job, and I was well into my journey of trying to lead a minimalistic lifestyle. In the last two years, I had manage to shrink my 3 BHK lifestyle to an 80 litre backpack, two tennis racquets and a guitar. I had a small list of things I wished to buy - like portable speakers and an electronic shaver I could trim my hair with, since going to a barber, I had heard, quite expensive anywhere in the US. These and an additional pair of jeans to go with the pair I was wearing - the only pair I had got with me; so while I did spend some time looking around the duty-free shops, I was mainly just killing time, and waiting to get out of Chicago and into East Lansing so that I could take in my first breath of non-airport American air. It was about an hour and a half before the flight when they made an announcement that they had overbooked the flight and that if anyone was wiling to take a later flight that day, they would be given a voucher of $150 that could be claimed against any Delta flight in the next 6 months. In India, people would have dropped their bags and run; there would have been chaos, and a few people would have been socked in the face, trampled over and maybe even seriously injured in the ensuing rush. I definitely wasn't expecting that kind of panic here, but surely someone was interested? None of the passengers waiting there seemed to care. I remembered the slide in the module on American Culture we used to train on in the BPO industry years ago at IBM, that spoke about Americans planning their vacations way in advance, and how time was something of a commodity for them, and for a lot of them, waiting for that next flight just wasn't worth the money the airline was willing to pay. Was this America's welcome gift for me? Was this to be an omen of the times to come in the USA, where things would just fall into place miraculously all the time? Was this going to be a dream journey where things magically fell into place every time? Or was this like a little carrot to draw me deeper, like the free parking some casinos offer in some big cities, as long as you spend some time in there, until you realize that paid parking on the street would have been a better idea.


While I contemplated this, however, I realized that I had forgotten one thing on that PPT - a certain disclaimer that lay in one of the last few slides, "There is no such thing as one 'American Culture'". There are individuals in the US from every frikkin' country and ethnicity, as well as tourists and scholars like me who bring their own set of values to the counter, and this is exactly what I found in front of me as I went to tell the lady from the airline that I would be willing to take the next flight - a Mexican lady beat me to it. Ah, the Mexicans! It brought images of Donald Trump in front of my yes, for some reason, and I wished at that point that I had been a bit more Indian, a bit sooner. It wasn't long before I was on that flight as scheduled - a much smaller flight than the trans-Atlantic flight that had got me into Chicago. I landed in East Lansing not too late in the night, and the welcoming staff from MSU was there with sign-boards that tread 'FLTAs' waiting for us. There was Prof. Matt from MSU, and a curly haired Moroccan lad named Mustafa. I also met a bunch of other FLTAs from some other countries who had been on the same flightas me, and we introduced ourselves to each other - a couple of Japanese FLTAs, some from the middle-east, one from Vietnam, some from Europe. I saw that not a lot of them spoke very much right then, and I realized they hadn't really come across my brand of humour before, which I then decided to give a bit of a 'rest'. We reached the Marriott at night, where they checked us in and gave us our registration forms, our pre-paid cards and our welcome kits. The other three Indian FLTAs who had the same venue for the orientation had taken a different flight and had already reached earlier that evening - three ladies who had their own storm brewing between them. We met briefly, where we exchanged stories of our journey from New Delhi, where I told them how I was nearly deported back to India, and a couple of others told I me I was very lucky indeed, for there was a Japanese FLTA who had misplaced the same form as I had, who had to be sent back from an airport in China.


As I went upstairs to take my luggage to the room before I stepped out for dinner, They had informed me at the reception that my room-mate had already checked in. I remembered the excel sheets they had sent us a few months ago so that we knew who our roommates at the orientation were going to be. I remembered that I hadn't been too excited to have read that I was to get an Iraqi room-mate, and I deliberately pictured a fat Sheikh with a flowing white robe and headgear and a thick beard smiling at me when I entered, and I tried to summon the little Arabic that I had learnt in my earlier visits to Egypt. When I did walk in, however, I met Abbas. Abbas was a clean-shaven guy wearing a shirt and jeans who was bent over double trying to do something with two huge-ass suit cases filled with things, and he was busy trying to either find something or put something back into them when I walked in. The FLTAs I had met at the airport had not quite appreciated my sense of humour, so I decided to take it easy on the Iraqi guy, for God knows what might end up offending him, right?. I did show of a little Arabic to him though, upon which we started speaking about my time in Egypt. I asked him what Iraq was like, hoping to hear something about how the US had destroyed their economy and their society, but what I heard made me laugh out loud, for he said with the sweetest smile yet with a lot of passion in his voice, "Maybe we are doing well despite all the shits around our daily life!". He continued, with a smile, "We are suffering from the accumulation of years of dictatorship, wars and religion that has made people crazy, sectarian, biased and hateful, but we still have good and aware people who we rely on to get our country back.. we are fighting to survive despite all of these shitty things." We knew right then that we would get along very well. Abbas would end up saying the funniest of things at the weirdest of moments. For example, when I met Abbas later at the mid-year conference, we were in the same group for one activity, where they had asked us how we dealt with students who whispered in class. Abbas stood up and said, "First, I will say "Please!""... there was a long pause, and everyone turned to look at him. "If they don't stop, I will go and slap them". The whole room erupted in laughter. I had suggested during our discussion that he say "I will throw my shoe at them", but considering that 'throwing a shoe' has the worst possible connotations in the Arab world, and remembering what had happened to George Bush at that press conference in Iraq in 2008, he probably thought it wise to restrict his humour to slapping. I also heard about him in the semester that followed, while speaking to a Russian FLTA who was very emoitional over the phone, because he had told her that Hitler was great. When I discussed this incident with him later though, we discovered that this was a result of a communication gap. To Milya, the word 'great' brought images of Hitler being 'great man', meaning someone who had done a lot of good to humankind, and someone who had brought about prosperity and inspiration. What Abbas meant, however, was that when he saw documentaries of World War II, he saw the number of places on the map that Hitler had managed to occupy. To him, what Hitler had managed to accomplish was exceptional, which is why he had called Hitler's achievements 'great' in the sense of 'prolific', although he agreed that Hitler was a complete lunatic and a man condemnable beyond excuse.


I don't remember if I had left my pre-paid card in my room or if I couldn't activate it that night, but I was out of cash and that night's dinner was not included in the orientation programme. So we had to either order at the hotel and pay for it while checking out, or go out and eat at a few places they had recommended. I had reached the USA with the single-minded intention of spending as little as possible on food and accommodation and as much as I could on good beer and more travel. So when the various groups of FLTAs went their way in groups based on their preferences, a few of us went to the nearest 7/11, where I got myself a cheap sandwich, for the following day's breakfast was a part of the orientation programme. However, my Indian Debit Card wasn't working, which I later found out was because international transactions were blocked as a 'safety feature' offered by the bank, and I had no cash. Luckily, Berkay, the Turkish FLTA, offered to pay for my sandwich, and we agreed that I would buy him two beers in return on the following day. Thus was spent my first day in the United States of America. The next three days of orientation had a lot of activities and interactions in store for us, and I was excited about meeting people from all these countries I had never been to, and to hear from the experts on language teaching from MSU and other leading universities who had been especially invited for this programme, and I was eagerly looking forward to a warm shower, the cozy Marriott bed, the breakfast in the morning and everything else that was to follow. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Perspective on Life



We breathe in, allowing armies of air
To incessantly penetrate our being, to
Invigilate, inspect our decaying state;
To remove the rust, the residue & the rest;
To restore chaos to order by each retreat.
Sip by sip, our lips invite tanks of water
To invade these boats drifting dangerously,
To follow protocol, confiscate waste,
To maintain the measure of minerals, with
Every morsel, Earth's camouflaged corps
March their way in; mementos of murder,
Turning consciousnesses to corpses caught
In the crossfire 'tween indifference & greed;
Each morsel bearing a thousand testimonies
To the pain and crime of existence...

We need these factories for sure, but have we
Ever wondered where this itinerary takes us?

We open our eyes and a piece of sky
Transcends Instagram likes; a messenger,
A sole reflection, bearing witness to
Ages along the universe's Autobahn.
We listen but all we hear is the noisy roar
Of drills and trucks and video-games drowning
Ancient vibrations of an anaesthetized cosmos
On their journey from Om? home? Do we
Dare to care about alarming signs, silence
These background tracks, smells and tastes?
Misleading signposts leading us astray, adrift,
Across nameless floodplains and deltas;
With shallow representations of the waves
That clothe a lonely, immortal soul
With this fabulous fabric of Spacetime,..

There  surely must be a way to where
All these channels and broadbands won't take us...