In, out, in, out

May 27, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Life | 7 Comments

(This is in response to a writing exercise which required me to describe myself from an observer’s point of view)
This is going to be interesting – a girl in a green sweater is about to enter the cafe I am sitting in. I have seen her a few times around this area. How did I notice her the first time – well, it was hard not to notice..
I don’t pass my time observing people on the street – but when I sit by a window in a cafe, I do breathe in the town outside. I get absorbed in its pace, its breathing, its colours. If you observed these things, you’d agree with me that most places have a characteristic pace. The human collective moves about with that pace. The people I end up observing are the ones who fail to adapt. Indeed this is a failure, because at a deeper level they don’t settle down in the place. This girl in the green sweater, for example, felt like an insect struggling in swirling milk. Something was wrong with her – maybe a tad restless, not smug enough, maybe some conflict within. The first time I noticed her – she was walking down the street stopping by some shop windows. Her walking was too brisk for comfort – it was intensely purposeful. Then she would make herself stop at some shop – she’d almost pass the shop and then pull herself back. Pause, (did she consciously take a deep breath in?) and then enter. Was she giving herself an exercise in ‘casual browsing’?
Today, she walked past the cafe window in the same purposeful way – I could tell already that she was about to enter the cafe – she was preparing to turn towards the approaching door. I was expecting her to rush to the counter, check herself while placing her order (hanging over an abyss, trying to get her feet somewhere). Or maybe the moment of transition would come earlier. I waited for the show to begin. I found myself counting to ten (me, the master of calm, am I getting caught up in her world?). No sign of her. I was contemplating going out and checking. No that would be too stupid. I was getting an itch to go out and have a cigarette. No, that was a pretense – I won’t go out to check on her. I pride myself on becoming one with my surroundings, observing it at the pace at which it reveals itself. I won’t try to see what is not being shown. What?!? there she was! At the window, again, walking in the opposite direction now. In my mind’s eye, I fill in the gaps – her getting to the door, maybe she had her hands on the door-jamb, then she would have tried to put on a look of remembering something (ending up looking confused), and then withdrawn. Walked ahead then walked back, gathered pace and finally passed by the window again.


A cup of coffee

April 2, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Life | Leave a comment

Caffeine-induced restlessness. A mind filled with unchanneled energy, trapped in a body, which has been forced into inaction, trapped in a classroom. I decide to collect my thoughts. Watch myself tensely as my mind buzzes around. The watching forces coherence. I close in on my mind constraining it into smaller spaces. Till finally, its random paths begin to define vague thoughts. Like a drop of water forming at the mouth of a slightly leaky tap. As I watch the drop, my mind runs off. A tap. A drop. An image from this film. A stone-drop falling on a tin bucket. Round stones coming in quick succession. Thumping on the weakening pail. The thought is forgotten. It has solidified into stone, all its content hidden away in the core. It lands with a thump.

Meanwhile the lecture in the classroom has gone on. Blackboards-full of mathematics has been written, erased and re-written. Like an unwinding saree. Ah! Now only ten minutes remain. I love coffee!

Words, cries, shouts, shrieks

March 30, 2008 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Life | 3 Comments

There’s this little computer sitting on my desk. It appears small. There’s a big desk. A big bed. Then there are lots of smaller unimportant stuff – scissors, safety pins, a medical prescription – they lie scattered around and become one big mass. A big clutter. It is impossible to locate a center when the sizes of things are so disproportionate. Smoking weed is a normal common activity pursued by college students. Little. Then people effortlessly decide to devote their life to the pursuit of a career. They have kids, taking up all their space and time, completely destroying any notion of a center. Any possible center is thrown away, as the kids take centerstage. What is every one doing? What is to be done with life? This big life.

I’m in love. With a person. It produces a lot of happiness. It’s like floating in clouds. You push your hand through the clouds and it turns out there is no effort required to pass the hand through opaqueness. That’s uncomfortable. It’s more comfortable when love is some perfection you are seeking, then it’s like pushing against a very big hard wall. The force comes back to you, and seeps through the body as despair and various other things. But your force is preserved and converted to other things that stay within you. The main problem is, being in love, takes the wall away from you.

There’s a big tree outside my window. Without leaves, it is a network of lace against the sky. I have seen it through all seasons now – spring, summer, fall, winter. It will cycle on. A cycle against the sky. It hangs on in space without past or future. Just itself, going through its cycle with a great tenacity.

Have you seen an interstate expressway in the US? There are 5-6 lanes. There is a constant and unending flow of cars. The spacing between them is almost constant, so that every lane has a stream with a constant speed. I recently saw an expressway from a plane, when it was just about to land. It was like a giant river – and the cars looked like little marbles rolling down, one behind the other. Where are all these people going? With the constancy of waves in the sea.

I am on a path on the surface of a ball, taken on and on, the path always curving away holding the illusion of surprise. What I want to do is, to take a strong pin, and burst this ball. Rip it apart! Let everything flow out, whatever there is inside. Maybe I’ll see the center of the ball.

Finally, let me give you what you deserve, after reading so much unconnected drivel. I’ll write a little bit more that will make sense of it all – there is a secret order in this world, which everybody seems to be aware of. I alone am in great unawareness. Confused by inappropriate shapes and sizes and textures. Thank you for reading.

Trah La La, Swirl..

November 6, 2007 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Life | 3 Comments

Today morning I was greeted by a bloody red – the red of fall. Overnight, Red had conquered, delirium had descended. I was wrapped up in expectant restlessness when I stepped out of the house in the morning. Fall was in the air. This maddening brilliance can only precede a fall. Meanwhile I had a story in mind.

Victory had just stepped onto the dance floor, she had come there with a beautiful youth. You wouldn’t know where she is from. Or where she was born or who her parents are.Because she had changed her name to hide it all. She now called herself Victory.

I had a class on partial differential equations. The teacher had seemed to have a spontaneous spark in the beginning of the course. But that was turning out to be an illusion as he copied equations from the book to the board everyday. He looked like a Chinese cook dully stirring his noodle soup day after day after day.

Victory is a grand woman, of extreme beauty borne out of an acute intelligence. The youth with her was accidentally beautiful, she didn’t understand the source of his beauty and now he was dancing, in a way that emphasized his physical beauty in every move. And what a smile he had on his face when he did that. It radiated to every part of his body. He was lost already. Victory was struggling with her body. She felt constrained, enveloped in clumsiness. Worse, her thoughts were tying her up. She had to get a drink, quickly.

The Chinese professor announced that he wouldn’t follow the book today, he started out, waving his hands, moving them in circles, concentric with his round face. He was pulling out techniques from all over the place. He used this corner of the board and then that, he was drawing me into a spell. He was drawing us into an irresistible spiral motion. He was fumbling with theoretical points, but who would notice that at such a speed? At some point, I lost him, I diverged into a spiral of my own, the center was slightly shifted.

Alcohol was seeping through her body, defocussing her thoughts. The thoughts slided along, mingled in unconventional ways, they were lifting Victory, they were enthralling her. They were telling her how to dance. She had known the dance, she had been clumsy because she had been trying to do something like every one else. Now, she took over. She was swirling the youth around. She was using him to adorn herself. Her hair fell open. She was conquering the dance floor. She danced with this guy and that. They were all side cast.

I vaguely heard the professor say that he was done with the problem, now he would proceed to the book. But I was still hurtling down the spiral, I rushed out of the class. I silenced my phone and buried it in my bag (I am not to be disturbed) and took a bus to the library. Through tunnels of red trees. This ecstasy is so important to me. What is thought? What is self-awareness? Isn’t it all to create and preserve these moments? The light red library building rose against a very clear sky coloured piercing blue. I went in to find a computer and write my story.

Victory woke up under a tree. A thin moon had risen and it had a magical light. Her brain was churning around like a heavy liquid. The heavy sediments of her ideas were beginning to rise up through the light-headedness of the night. The youth was still with her. The smile was not there on his lips but it was unmistakably present in his being. He was gently suspended in the air. His lightness was making him float. His ideas were nimble fins, adjusting to the currents. Did he know the dance of Life?

The effort of Living

August 28, 2007 at 2:43 pm | Posted in Life | 3 Comments

Today, I reached an extremely sad moment. I knew that I was alone in this world. I’m alone dealing with my questions. There is really nobody to help. I will have to plow through alone. I can’t trust anybody. People’s ideas are just superficial. A complicated product of their own lives’ miseries and biases held to protect themselves. They are like paintings in a museum. Some excite, some frighten. But from each, I can take out nothing more than a sensation.

At this moment I was sitting in front of this screen and suddenly decided to read my blog. Post after post. I hadn’t read them in a long time. They were little bottles of positive energy. Each stored away at a time when I was feeling good enough to write and be satisfied with my writing. They seeped into me and cheered me up like a warm liquid. So little for a surge! (So little for a fall?)

We stand on edges of razors. Guarding ourselves against falls. Guarding our precious egos. Against the tiniest of pokes that might shatter the bubble of meaningfulness of our lives. In the subtlest of ways, we are better than our neighbours. The certificate coming from the fact that we are engaged in a nameless pursuit that is our own.

And then alongside, we also go seeking those sensations. Paintings in museums. We ourselves pose in those museums. Observing our observers with the sensitivest sensitivity. Wouldn’t the muscles tire from this effort? From the stiff control and the extreme tension? What if they burst and we powder to dust?


June 16, 2007 at 6:51 pm | Posted in Life | 5 Comments

If I take out that little piece of cardboard on that creek, words would flow out, forming nice patterns, swirling luxuriantly. Except I don’t see the cardboard.

There’s some blockage somewhere. Isn’t there some tap I can let open? Isn’t there something I can write on this window staring open at me? Isn’t there something I can create? Can’t my mind form something that my fingers can execute?

Can’t liquid gush out of these parched watergates? Something that would resolve this strain between this inertial inner self and restless outer one. Can’t something happen to me? The harder I try, the more difficult it feels. I have lost all keys. My mind sits there like a rock as the world rages past, caressing, touching, poking, hitting, punching (and sometimes knocking out).

Can’t I just soar, swell and flow. Through roads and alleyways, like the blood of this world and get into its heart? Can’t I sweep through this world with the grace of blood? What is the friction holding me back? What is it that blocks me? What is it that restricts me to being this insignificant self in this isolated room?

My spirits rise, wanting to dance, but my limbs know no steps. They are rigid and ugly. Can’t I cut off the chains that tie them down?

I rise, but fall back in failure. I try repeatedly, my effort weaker every time, the failure accumulating as bitterness in every tissue of my body. Till I fall into sleep. A lump of bitterness rocking in the sweetness of sleep. My body rocking and relaxing. Music floats into my dream from the distance. It comes and embraces. I just notice it as extreme pleasantness because its rhythm is same as my rocking, the rhythm of my heartbeat.

Find your GTM textbook…

February 1, 2007 at 8:21 am | Posted in Life | 2 Comments
If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be J.L. Doob’s Measure Theory.

I am different from other books on measure theory in that I accept probability theory as an essential part of measure theory. This means that many examples are taken from probability; that probabilistic concepts such as independence, Markov processes, and conditional expectations are integrated into me rather than being relegated to an appendix; that more attention is paid to the role of algebras than is customary; and that the metric defining the distance between sets as the measure of their symmetric difference is exploited more than is customary.

Which Springer GTM would you be? The Springer GTM Test

January 22, 2007 at 7:47 am | Posted in Life | 1 Comment

Moments of sadness,
moments of ecstasy,
moments when you wish you were dead,
moments you are hopelessly lost in love.

In everyone of those we lose ourselves
and think that’s all there is to life.

The very special ones, though, are
the moments when our mind burns with the clarity of perception,
of experiencing an idea,
not known before.
And we feel that in all the other moments
we had been crawling like ants
in the giant scheme of an anthill.

Where have you flown away?

December 3, 2006 at 1:05 am | Posted in Life | 3 Comments

O Hansini! Meri hansini, kahan udh chali mere armaanon ki
pankh laga ke

(Oh Swan! The swan of my love! where have you flown away, putting on wings..)
An instrumental rendition of this song played on in the Delhi airport as I waited for my flight to be called. My awareness was at its acutest, so that this song would forever remain blazed in the memory of the moment.

A few hours later as I was flying over Greenland*, looking at the icy tundra from my plane window, the song came back again to provide words and music for what I felt. Oh, why have you left me in this cold, my hansini – and I saw India, with its east and west metamorphosed into wings, flying away from me into tropical happiness.

That was part of a long pregnant night. In the darkness, unknown to me, there were people in different parts of the US – Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and also Puebla and some parts of China who were making moves to converge. We all met like strangers in a misty dawn.

That long day is almost drawing to an end. The sun is set. The leaves have left. We remain together, but that’d be just for a few moments longer. Meanwhile the hansini hovers. Beautiful and white and enticing.

I’m curious what kind of a night I’ll have. After yet another parting, I’ll reach her. Parting is sharp and sad. Arriving is blurred – it acquires meaning only when it’s time to part again. And I’m always bidding farewells. The hansini would evaporate when I get to her. Into heady vapours of imperfection. She’d be there only when seen from afar.

(Note : pardon the imperfections in translating the song. I translated it in a way that would give me the words I needed)

* : The continental airlines flight from New Delhi to Newark flies over Norway, Greenland and then enters Canada.


November 21, 2006 at 6:09 am | Posted in Life | 1 Comment

It’s me atop that engine that streaks past the country.
The cliffs and trees let me through them.
The world unfolds like a kaleidoscope across space.
And I’m rushed forward, the wind on my face.

I have risen like a cloud to embrace this world.
To touch and feel and get lost in sensation.
To the point of delirium.

Till I lie there drunk.
Drunk with life.

Now, reality is flimsy,
I just see mirrors,
My friend across the table.
I don’t see him – I just see what of me he reflects.
A hundred mirrors, placed at random angles.
It’s just me me me.
In dazzling colours.
All over the kaleidoscope.

The self floats in wonderland,
Floundering, but unaware.
Rejoicing in a torrent of sensations,
that are not unified by a sense.

But I know it’ll end.
I feel the end coming.
When I’ll be told it was all a dream.
‘Don’t you see?
You had mistaken night to be day
and day to be night..’

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