May 31, 2009


You walk with me, showing me what life can be like, you walk with your head held high showing me that the stars are the only things worth aiming at. You tell me of the life that can be. You hold promises that go beyond the ordinary and the obvious. You make me come alive in the more basic sense. Your questions make me feel important, I feel like razing to the ground all your roadblocks. I feel proud when I see you blossom into a lilac. I hold your dreams dearly as they tell me of the immense possibilities that can be mine for the taking.

You walk without me, casually glancing at my way knowing fully well that I will be waiting for the evasive nod. You remind me of what it had meant to feel alive many moons ago. You have your weapon ready; always eager to draw my blood to satisfy your insatiable hunger and I repay you in kind, blow by blow. You hated me for who I was and yet you hate it when I change. You are what the world would have been if Pandora would not have opened the box of Zeus.

You walked out of the door as no one ever asked you to stay. Yet you are the only one who has never deserted anyone. You walk alone bereft of all hope, yet you walk as you have promises to keep. You have shown me distances do not matter. You have made sure life remains exactly the same even after the fires destroyed Pompeii. You are the rock, the foundation of my trust and belief and yet like all rocks you have forgotten to cry.

You are many, yet in so many ways you are one.

May 22, 2009

Why I Write How I Write

“Banjo you write well. But almost always you are politically correct. I would like to read slanderous posts in which you tear the traditions apart!”

Dear Reader,

There are many stages in an individual’s life. All of us are on a sojourn trying to figure out this mystery called life and as much as I would like to believe what my conventional education teaches me, I am extremely confident about my hypotheses that all of us are extremely different individuals at various stages of our lives. As we move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we change our views and sometimes even our values.

I do not think you would be interested what stages of life I have been through. But I can take the liberty of telling you what I think are the various ways one can comment about Life, Universe and everything in between. Here is a list, obviously non exhaustive, of the types of commentators you would come across in your life. Of course, cricket commentators are in a different league all together.

The First and Foremost would be the Demolishers. A demolisher’s main task is to find flaws in whatever they see around them and rant about it ceaselessly. It’s not necessary that they feel passionately about it. Once they are bored, they move on without a second thought to the next issue that catches their fancy.

The Diplomat comes next. They are the ones who would tell you that while they think that you are wrong, they also have the feeling that some aspects of your argument are correct. A person can be a diplomat for many reasons. Sometimes, they are afraid to take a stance because of the repercussions, sometimes they just want to satisfy the egos of everyone concerned. Sometimes, it’s just that they do not have a point of view of their own and having a point of view on everything is a point of view they have on life!

The Non conformist believes that anything that is present today is outdated and there’s need for a change. They fight for change and yet when it comes, for better or for worse, they are never there to own up.

The Doomsayers hate everything around them. They would have a bite of a Cornetto and then crib about how it should have been kept at a lower temperature.

The Hollows are the ones who have a point of view on everything starting from Mumbai attacks to Indian elections. They are full of sound and fury, baying for politician blood at a night out in Jeffrey’s and then taking the 8:29 Bandra Slow to Office the next day. They signify nothing as they would tell you how important it is to vote but would book a guest house in Lonavla on the day of casting the ballot.

The Recluse however has been through various stages of life and has consciously decided to comment only on things that he can impact or is ready to invest time in. He knows that change brought about by heated rhetoric is temporary. It makes for good Page 1 news of Midday, but it brings about little or no change. He would rather plant a seed of change and be the Harbinger on a White Steed.

The Gardener tends the village garden, knowing fully well that his opinion counts for little. But he waits for the tired wayfarers and tells them stories he had heard the village elders recite in the evening under the Banyan tree. However, he has heard only glimpses of their conversation, so his imaginative mind makes them up as they go along with their story. His stories do not speak about issues in the farms or the draught. Rather, he would like the traveller to believe that there’s still hope in the world because the rose is still blossoming in his garden. That’s all that matters. After all, the travellers have been at so many places, have known so many wise men, he’s just an old gardener, happy with the jasmine that grows in his garden. They definitely know more than him. He knows his task in this world is to provide shade and a place to rest irrespective of whether anyone needs it or not. He likes the way things are, yet ready to change the soil if his trees need it and ruthless when the insects begin to creep up the stems of his plants. He wants nothing, except that when the traveller walks out of the garden, he or she carries a whiff of his roses.

Frankly I do not who I am, though I aspire to be The Gardener at this stage of my life. Maybe, we all are never just one avatar but an amalgamation of many. However, dear reader, what I am or I turn out to be, I have never been slanderous about anything or anyone by intention and as long as there’s wind in my lungs, I do not see the need to change myself. So one day The Gardener might break down a few walls but would never (hopefully) resort to slander.

May 20, 2009

As My Mirror Left Me

My mirror deserted me a few days back. It decided to bite back its sharp tongue, it went into self denial. The tragedy of our life is perhaps acceptance. We accept destiny, we become fatalists since we believe we do not have it within us to challenge fate. For a long time, I had not contacted the mirror because I thought it will tell me what I feared to hear. Then one day, I just removed the curtains and there it was dusty and faded. And when I asked it to tell me the truth, it just said, “Fall into the line. Conform” It had realized that the gangrene had spread and it did not want to suggest amputation.

When they have broken you, you need a severance but any severance is painful and human beings are weak by nature. So we run away from the pain that this detachment can cause us. The Mirror is therefore important to show how disfigured you look as you slowly become oblivious to the stench. Imagine a layer of blotched skin on the Statue of David. Only a mirror can show it to you.

When you have a spine, it’s easier to break you. Sometimes, the flexibility is lost to bend and a lot of people find breaking backbones a lot more fun. Worms are lucky in this way. You can crawl and cringe and stay alive.

First you rebel, then you drink your frustration, then you accept and then you cross over, finally ready and adept at pulling others down to your baseness.

As usual I end with a question. The question dear reader is whether breathing means staying alive. And before you get into the rhetoric of ideas gleaned from self help books, let me walk out for some fresh air.

May 18, 2009

The Dance of Democracy

So finally the biggest political show on earth comes to an end. It might not have captured the attention of viewers the world wide as Barack Obama and his election had done, but it had all the ingredients of a mega movie. And once again we, India, had tried our level best let down Bharat.

This post had seen the light of the day when Mumbai had refused to vote. I restarted it when Calcutta came out to exercise their rights in full strength and then stopped again in shame of being part of an India that did not care about Bharat.

Today as the country is dancing to the tunes of Singh is King, I stand convinced that Bharat has stopped waiting for India to dole out the alms. Bharat is taking her own decisions. This is a historic moment because this time around, religion and caste did not take a centre stage, this time around people voted out the goons, this time around money power failed to cause a dent in the silent determination of Bharat.

I had spent much of my initial time in Corporate India in the Hindi Heartland and had realized that slowly yet steadily Bharat was learning the power of the Ballot. She knew that bullets could silence one but could never silence the voice of millions. The unfortunate part however was that often seeing the fate of one, millions decided never to challenge the atrocities. As I talk to people today across India, I just know that Bharat is becoming stronger. The newly wed lady from the outskirts of Nasik wants the same things as that of the newly wed lady in Greater Kailash. Bharat now wants to get into a consumerist mindset, ready to leap into the next stage of aspiration. It wants stability and it knows an honest politician when it sees one.

This election was not against one leader against the other. It was a referendum on the work one of them had done. Bharat was seeing the effect of the NREGS, Bharat was getting the benefit of the Sarba Shiksha Yojna, however flawed it might be. Inflation was at an all time low, but not the prices of Food grains. The farmers were assured that they were in safe hands, at least for now. The farmer in Chevela does not care what is being said in the studios of TV News Channels in Delhi. Yes, his family might go and vote for Chiru once but no longer again and again. Anti incumbency is a factor to come into play when bad governance is the norm. Not when there is work being done. It’s obviously still about ideologies, but a lot more on governance.

And that was the reason despite what Mr. Adiga might believe, I always was of the opinion that the Awakening was near. Maybe not in my life time but definitely in the next generation. The winds of change were sweeping away ages of stagnation across India. There needn’t be a White Tiger, as the elephant was slowly shaking off its lethargy, first to fight itself and then walk proudly with the Dragon.

Post 26/11, I thought India shining would become India Awakening and come out to change the world. But unfortunately they were busy doing other things.

Let’s start with me. Around December I started finding out how to get myself registered in Mumbai so that I could vote in Mumbai. I need a residential proof. I was told that my lease agreement would suffice. The last date of registration was in April and I thought I was well on time. Now there is this interesting thing about Landlords in Mumbai. They are visible when you sign the contract; they come to the surface when a cheque bounces and finally the third time when they want to evict you. Now my landlord vanished as usual completely forgetting the simple fact that he has to give us the contract. A couple of phone calls and still I was waiting for the lease. And slowly, April moved on to May. I was still a registered voter in Calcutta. On Election Day, I was out with my camera, cycling all around Bandra West to catch glimpses of the Poll fever. And there was nothing to see. It must have seen one of the lowest polling rates across the country. I earn enough to take a flight back to Calcutta and vote. And I didn’t do that either. I am not proud of myself. But somewhere deep down, I knew what the outcome of both my birth and currently living constituencies would be. That’s not an excuse. And amongst the few times in my life when I haven’t liked who I was, this was one of them.

I also normally do not get irritated with people. But during those days, every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane were saying how important it was to vote and yet they were not voting. Worse, they were commenting how indifferent Mumbai was. I felt like catching everyone by their collar and shaking them shouting, “You are Mumbai.” I was surprised at myself. I never am so disturbed. Maybe I was upset at myself, at the pretension around me, I do not really know. Guess, reading Scott Adams at that point of time was not the best thing to do, especially when he talks about how “in-duh-viduals” will ensure that all elections are at the end of the day a farce. Few friends who went out and voted in Calcutta and Bangalore assured my troubled mind that all was not lost.

One day as I had come back dejected from office, I was telling a friend, sometimes I know what I am doing is right, but I also know that it is stupid. Dr. Singh, perhaps had thought so too when he pushed for the Nuclear Deal. It was his suicide note, commented many. The young Gandhi faced the ridicule of many when he went ahead alone and risked it all. And Indian voters rewarded his bravery. If he had lost his bet, he would have been termed a foolish gambler, but as one who had sensed the pulse of the Hindi heartland, he knew what he was doing.

To win and be humble is something few are capable of. Let us see how things turn out. But as of now, Singh is King and the Opposition must take the time to introspect. Good guys; do not always finish last. Of course, twenty years from now unknown skeletons might come out of the closet but as of today I want to believe.

But I am worried. I am worried about 2011. The Assembly Elections in Bengal promise to be a fight to the last bullet, the last ballot and probably also the last drop of blood. But maybe, sense will prevail and democracy will win.

“This, my dream, shall come true -- if not in this generation at least in the next. If it remains an empty dream, I shall prove a fool. If it comes true, I shall prove a prophet. This, my legacy, I bequeath to you.”

You would be surprised to find out who said these lines.

May 17, 2009

Antaheen – The Endless Wait

First of all, I went and watched Antaheen since one of the anonymous readers of this blog had asked me to do so. And I am glad that I did. Antaheen was as beautiful as a sonata on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the daily rush of life in Mumbai, I had forgotten what it was to pause and look at the clouds in the horizon, lie on the bed on a Sunday Afternoon with nothing but Eleven Minutes to read. Antaheen on a Friday Night reminded me of how life was in Calcutta. What it meant to take life as it comes. It reminded me not to get upset with relatives who do not understand why so much of my time is spent in office. It’s difficult for Calcutta or Chennai to figure out why Mumbai never sleeps.

After a long time, a director took enough time to develop the characters, bit by bit, painting the various shades of their existence making the observant watcher appreciate how each one of the characters differed from others, how they had come to be what they are. And there lay its flaw. To the regular crowd who expects a Fast and the Furious on a Friday evening, you can not dish out a story about an endless wait. Even the music, which seemed to wrench out the carefully closeted pain from within your heart, will never be played out in any night club across the country, perhaps not even in any radio station.

Beautifully written, Antaheen was about two individuals who in real life do not see eye to eye and yet in their virtual selves they find comfort in each other. It’s a story about two people who drifted away and yet could not severe the last line that attached them and held them together, yet far apart. It’s about an individual trying to come in terms with his guilt and slowly letting himself go into ruthlessness. It’s about an individual who waited all her life for a promise that never was.

The reason I loved the movie was because it showed the importance of space if you want two people to develop to grow. It was satisfying to get a refreshingly different view on the distinction between being a loner and loneliness. Not everyone can handle loneliness as not everyone can love the company of oneself.

Antaheen brought back that feeling you can get only on a laid back winter afternoon in Calcutta, beautiful music floating in through the windows from the house of the old gentleman who never speaks to anyone.

But Antaheen was irritating in terms of Product Placements. It destroyed the flow of the movie at several points where corporate India shamelessly proclaimed its products.

So in the end whoever you were who suggested the movie to me, Thank you.

May 13, 2009

Becoming Page 3 or The Lure of Capitalism

On Saturday when I woke up, a pain seared through my body. Perhaps the weeks of stress was finally telling its story. It was tough to just pull myself out of the bed even as the sun shone through the blinds.

It has been few tough weeks. But then that’s where the fun lies too. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is that all along I had thought that it’s the prerogative of the individual to choose what is best for him or her. The societal pressures often cloud this power to choose and sometimes you get caught up in the shroud of the image you have created for yourself, not managing to break out of it.

To simplify my personal tastes, I have segmented my choices into simply two - class and mass. For example, in choice of food, I am classy. In choice of clothes, I’m not even mass-y, rather I should admit I am rather messy.

So when I woke up and looked longingly at the book I was reading on Friday night, unable to reach for it, I thought. And I felt like Stephen Hawking. The difference being he thinks about Strings, I think about Jelly Beans. Well you get the drift. So after thinking for a while, I remembered what was there in the refrigerator and thus was able to pull myself out.

As I walked along with my cycle, (of course I couldn’t make myself ride it) I thought of what my body needs. And I realized that it hasn’t been pampered for a long time now. What I really needed was a Pehelwaan from Western UP, but since Mumbai does not take kindly to the type these days, I decided to look for alternative options.

Now my association with Page 3 is through the kind acquaintance of Miss TG and Ms. SM. 10 years from today, I am sure they will be on Page 3s of TOI. My misguided fashion sense often tries to get back on track with their kind advice. Anyway as I spoke to T about my condition she suggested that I go to a massage parlour and rattled off 20 names with suggestions. So under the afternoon sun my flatmate and I left with Didi cheekily commenting that she would not fly down to bail me out if I was caught in some shady place.

When I was a child, the right to massage my head was only with one gentleman. He had the rights over the heads of three generations of our family. I think his spirit conspires with my grandad’s spirit to ensure that whenever a massage is concerned I always get slotted to another man. Frankly, I don’t mind. But somehow, I clearly do not understand how people can go off to sleep while undergoing a massage. I could hear people snoring away to glory.

And as I closed my eyes and thought, I realized why Capitalism would win in short term over Marxism and Spirituality. Capitalism doesn’t deny you life’s pleasures; it doesn’t ask you to make sacrifices. It only makes you ask for more and work towards that more. Only when we realize that more is never enough then we look towards finding our inner spirituality.

On a complete different note, a very close friend called it quits from his day to day boring and high paying job. Nitin is going for his PhD and I feel so proud of him. It takes a lot of gut to move out of your comfort zone and he did it with so much ease.

May 08, 2009


She sat on her balcony, the soft notes of Vivaldi drifting towards her from her room. She pulled herself closer, eager not to cry. “We always draw ourselves together when we are afraid or sad; we get into our embryonic state,” her professor had said in the class. She knew what she wanted was not right but it pained her to imagine how life would be without it.

He had called today and as usual they had reached no conclusion. Sometimes she was extremely unreasonable. He knew her parents well and knew what they wanted. He couldn’t possibly let them down.

The moon was speaking to her again. It was smiling at her, telling her of the immense possibilities. The wind was conspiring with her, constantly telling her to not listen to what everyone would be saying, but do what her heart said. But he wouldn’t agree.

He knew the moon affected her. And that the moon always gave her ideas. He also knew he could not give her what she wanted. It just was not the right thing to do. But it always tore his heart apart to refuse her. But then, “You need to be strong”, he reminded himself.

After all, when you are just up from a bout of fever, you should not be clamouring for ice creams.

The Ice Cream time is here :)

May 04, 2009

Me Time

Few things are as important in this world as “Me time”. It’s a time you spend in yourself, not necessarily finding out answers to life’s questions, but just doing what you love best. Take a camera, shoot indiscriminately since anyway it’s digital, read “Love Story” once again, for the umpteenth time and slump on bed refusing to wake up as the sun shines down on your bed. Read “White Tiger” and go, “Huh!!! College magazine article!!!”

I think it’s time to change my identity as a nomad. Nomadism is not really happening in 2009. Summer of course is not the ideal time to venture out but more than that there is a certain lethargy that has crept in asking me, “What are you searching for?” The French Bearded Man and the Trader were both highly disappointed with me for not coming up with something to do or someplace to go to but then the traditional Mumbaikar always heads out in the summer months to more peaceful places like the hills or the beaches which then begin to look like a mini Mumbai.

Surprisingly, when you tell yourself that you are not the solution to the numerous problems in the world and there is only so much that you can do, it gives you a strange sense of peace and nonchalance.

The search for Inner Peace - Sometimes, the kababs at Barbeque nation come close to bliss.