Saturday, December 15, 2012

Leaving Roorkee

It's not a new thing at all. Eras end all the time and be it dinosaur, woolly mammoth or bronze age man, we all must dutifully trot out of the general scheme of things when our time comes.

Well,so leaving a place and a time is not the same as being asked to leave a planet. It's not like the best friends of today will not be your best friends when you're sixty and grey-haired and bad-tempered as a Bazooka ( more so if you have chosen the anti-social life of a pigeon-sniper). And Roorkee, the land that may have after all  been one of those lands like those in Enid Blyton's Far-away Tree, will always seem as ageless and timeless and pointless. Its ghosts will keep their vigil for evermore, one reason for this being that they have nothing else to do.

But you do know these pearls of wisdom better than than ever before. So many minor heartbreaks have come and gone that the stitches in your cardiac muscles do not relent so easily anymore. But still, it is there, palpable, pulsing the one long moment of heartbreak of realizing that this time will never ever return. You can see it happening before you in high definition - the things you took for granted dissolving into memory, friends and foes and faces dimming into shadows. But perhaps it will not be so easy for time or distance to undo that magic of having grown up with each other. Of having laughed and bickered and left the worst times at the mercy of coffee. Now that is a spell particularly hard to break.

There is no greater luxury than the company of those fellow dorks and dorkesses ( note: this is a re-edited post). The people who slid into your lives and changed just about everything for you.  And it is them who I miss the most as I sit up this sleepy afternoon, tapping words back into this old post. ( for sometimes, we must dive into the Pensieve and see what our memories are made up of).

Roorkee, where so many wonderful ideas took shape, has a place of honour down the Pensieve. You, dear blog, are in it too. The pine trees yonder the Thomsonian Marg, the fallen blossoms and the crickets in the canopy, that last final walk under the starry spectacle of a sky; all quite safe; tucked into memory-bottles-the kind you get at The Apothecary in Diagon Alley for a Knut.

Winter will soon fall in Roorkee. And the mists will descend down in their pearly, surreal beauty and mystery. This is not necessarily appreciated during those 8 am classes of the spring semester but trust me, it is a small price to pay for those wonderful feelings of nostalgia later . Do think about the pearly mists if life sends you to tropical Madagascar and just see what restorative magic it works on the the inside of your head. And do also recollect those icy, biting winds that would come swooping down on your ankles and toes and fingers and make question you the ethical grounds of having abandoned your warm and cosy bed in craven pursuit of some attendance.

Roorkee will grow onto you, long after you have left it. Even if you bullshit it for all public purposes, deep down within there is no way you can escape the charm of its myths and lore.

And so, now that it is time to leave the realm of the past and this blog-post, I can only wish that the spirits of Roorkee hover around for a little longer. And that the luck, wisdom and wonderful friendships it brought me stay with me for ever.

Spirits of Roorkee, Aloha!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mais j'adore l'Anglais..

There comes a time when a curious condition haunting you becomes evident and it becomes clear just how often and just why exactly you let the backspace key traipse across entire word documents, gobbling up stray words and intricately woven sentences and leave you with blank page after blank page.

What is this, one demands, and when realization hits home, it best to have a sound dosage of café au lait or some other stronger brew at hand .

And the realization is this: The English language, all by itself, is not beauteous to the eye nor to the ear. Rather a blank page than an all-English invasion. 

The thing is that this language is best spoken where one is not supposed to speak. Or in prisons, where the hollowness that consumes the human soul makes it prefer something wrung of all emotion.Or Hollywood where they speak in bee-friendly frequencies.

Back in the days of the colonization season, natives working on jack fruit plantations and iron miners and indigo farms all would huddle up around a common point of dissent. No, it wasn't the whip-toting at all. It was the strange, new tongue the colonizers kept waggling at each other other that befuddled the clueless workers no end. Every time the natives tried this new sound, their song-like accents would roll off its clipped, strange intonations and wander off like wild pigs into the woods.

Non-natives grew fed-up with a language so utterly wooden and feckless.

So then the tropical world set out to soften the language, lend it a musicality, sculpt it with great patience and serendipity to befit the fireside tales of the village raconteur and to carry the fear of the occult and the timeless mysteries of forests. It was a silent little revolt, as peaceful as can be, but a language was bubbling and boiling under the calm. Spices off their lands peppered it. The music of their mother tongues and the lilt of regional flavour seasoned it. Salt from the coastal winds. Blood and bone from the dead.

One day the chains of grammar snapped,  and the language flew around everywhere. Transformed. Spoken free and unabashed, spoken even when one's mouth was full, living on a life borrowed from other friendly languages. And like all the mid-chapters of good and evil tales, evil prospered and the English Languages gobbled up the very languages that once dressed and bandaged and restored it.

The magic is not all gone yet. Faraway foreign melodies and symphonies of words pull your heart to the world that was . Schädenfreud or laissez-faire or Vidigishuvrutti. Watch how the words seem to veritably do a jig, when written in the midst of stony-cold English.They have character, blood and almost a voice. ( De Saussure would disagree). Which is why even today most people can never down the famous language neat; they need a little native something by the side.

The question is, why didn't the natives completely kill it. Voodoo it away with a pot, a sacrificial altar and a big feast at the end?

And now reader, take a long swig of the old brew ( a small advertisement here: free samples of said café au lait at the  Bean There Drunk That Headquarters-House of Free coffee ( but only for now)- those excellent brewers of the finest- but wait-there's a blog in progress and Mr. Backspace must not get any fresh excuses) for to discover the insidious happenings that changed the way the ear would rattle forever, we must take a few steps backward, back to-

                                                            THE 1600s

The Indian docks, where huge ships from afar have dropped anchor, the sun glistening equally over the rippling masts, the bobbing decks and the swarming crowds. Different hues swim around in the Bay of Bengal, where merchants from all over the world vie for trade. 

A new crest appears atop a mast. It is only a small ship and no one pays it much attention.

The East India Company has arrived. 

There comes Captain John , in boots and breeches- the picture of the innocent foreign trader. The land he has sailed from is a land fraught with greed and it shows a little in his pinched face. And so do the three years of being out on the sea. He is not well known here and he is not accustomed to scant attention. 

An Indian sits on an upturned crate, drumming on the crate and singing to himself. He sings in French, and Dutch and finally in English, all dipped richly in his strong accents. 

Captain John walks to him. " You must be the translator. I am Captain John, here on account of carrying trade with your country on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth May She Live Forever."

 The Indian shrugs and switches to a Japanese song.

" Did you understand what I just said?" Captain John asks, clippedly. 

( I knows nothing about thou, thine, youst et cetra, so live with that)

" Perfectly well, o curly haired water-rat. By the way, are the whiskers fake?" the Indian replied.

" You're the translator."

" I was. Till they fired me." 

Captain John strokes his whiskers. " Because of your impudence?" 

" Excuse me, but I don't understand that particular word. The main thing is I was fired and hence can't tender legal services. But switching to my other business- may I interest you in cheap cardamom, quite good, only spoiled a little by a few errant rats? 

Captain John finds himself feeling glad that the boy had no connections whatsoever with the Emperor because he has a wonderful secret that he is dying to tell. 

So he speaks airily. " I have a lovely secret. I will tell it to you in return for your lifetime services. Here it is. I represent the East India Company and it is of course, on account of trade in silk, cotton and cardamom that I have sailed so far- 

" Stop." said the fired translator. " You are like the ancient mariner. Uncannily so. Continue."

Captain John resumes. " We are very soon going to buy up your government. That's the only way we can make our venture profitable and sustainable. Isn't it wonderful?" 

" What's so wonderful about that?" asks the fired translator. He says this while pulling at Captain John's whiskers, whether to make sure that he isn't an impostor or for other less obvious reasons- we cannot be sure. 

" You'll be all speaking our wonderful language! Once we buy up your government, there'll be a lot of my people coming here. And there will be a civil services too. And we will all speak this glorious language of my land.Witness its nobility, its character, its wonderfully chiseled intonation!" 

The translator gives a bored look. " Yeah, yeah. Buy up our governments. Scavenge our lands. You're not the only ones. The Dutch are planning the same. So are the French. Personally if I had to choose between the lot, it would have to be the French. Their whiskers are something."

A dark cloud passes over the Captain's face. " The French?", he repeats, in a low,stung voice. 

The translator shrugs. " I'd go for the French. Je m'appelle any day than corny My name is, and so on. French Fries rather than boiled potatoes, I hope you understand why. Sorry old chap, but I can't work for you, even to get back at the beastly Emperor."

Now the Captain is as sea-bred as can be and it is this seafaring side that scars his first attempt at foreign diplomacy. 

He swears, like they swear when their ships get stuck in the doldrums. He puts on show the entire realm of underground English, the entire capacity of English that will in future traverse from under the stairs of Dukes and Barons to the smoke-spitting boiler houses, hurl through the carousels and street fights of dark alleyways, soak the bloodiness of battle after battle, pierce through the silent movie and emerge finally shining, victorious and bereft of the need of punctuation, in the new millenium. 

But the fired translator is tired of being shouted upon, the last time being only yesterday when terms of his employment had been discussed in soaring voices on these very docks. He makes to leave, but Captain John gets a hold of him by his dhoti and impales him with his livid, burning eyes. 

" The Mariner!" murmurs the translator to himself, fascinated. 

Captain John gives up-almost, when a wonderful idea dawns upon him. Oh and such a wonderfully gruesome idea it is! The hide of his skin, baked for many skins in many seas of the world, seems to dismember as many cracks show up- but he is only smiling, and a very crafty smile it is too 

" So- err-you aren't a Moslem, are you?" the Captain asks, watching out of the corner of his eye.

Now it is the translator who turns furious.

" Watch it! We're a secular country here. Any more of your insidious Divide and Rule strategies and I'm throwing you right into the sea! We are all brothers in this land and we understand how cultures are meant to merge and evolve. So do not try to sell us your crazy language or your twisted policies, conniving landlubber, et oui! Vous êtes une chienne!"

" Of course. Serve the French all you can. You must be able to pronounce the French 'R' very beautifully?", says the captain, his eyes glinting with malice in the Indian sun.  

The translator looks at him in horror. 

" Pronounced right just between the tonsil and the epiglottis- exhale the air when you try to speak it- and there- you have a perfect French R. And maybe a cardiac arrest along with it." the captain says quietly, circling the subjugated translator.

And thus, a nation fell into the shackles of a language that sounded like the throbbing of a warship, the clanking of first generation machinery and after many, many years, like the uninspired pounding of the keyboard and looming silence of the Backspace Key.

( The Bean There Drunk That- House of Free Coffee( but just for the while) hope that the effects of their wonderful coffee lasted longer than the (memory) of the above ramblings. Merci.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My first Haiku

Live music is so cool

So European, so streetsy.

That is, if it's any good.

Hi, shut the noise, neighbours!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I simply have no clue what to write.

You see I have undertaken to write this post, so helpfully titled 'Err', in the same spirit as one might sit down to do an English Composition Exercise.

There's a chap called Edward Lear. He has written a book called The Complete Book of Nonsense, and one suspects he did so under the same circumstances as mine. I own, I am quite sure, the only copy he ever sold.

Well, I got that out finally.

What next?

One can hear some birds right now. And whooshing cars.

If I turn my head by approx. 85 degrees, I can see a pale blue sky and a row of pretty houses. If I could have extended my neck out of the window, I would have seen a road disappearing into the sky.

The birds are sounding so happy.

Hmm, Yawn, Yabbidy-yoo.

Maybe some other time, then.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Crime and Punishment

The whole point of writing this post is to

get the last one out of sight.

That last post-check it out- it has this one unwholesome pic of one shoe perched on one dead leaf and the gravel around it is turning grey in protest.
Or you could be wiser, and help your cursor migrate to the top-left where it's screaming for.

I know.

Way too much free time and all that porky stuff. But fine reader, your having made it till here speaks a lot about your intrepid attitude and mettle and also shines some light on your having nothing else to do. Same boat, lovely reader, same boat.

Happy Hols.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dawn Treader

One fine day, the idea of hunting up one's camera may crop into a head. Heads, especially temporarily insomniac ones, often have such fudgy ideas that turn out to be surprisingly good.

After steadily prising one's eyes open and appealing to shaky knees for co-operation, it is time to set off. There is something about the possession of a camera and having breathtaking nature around that makes one feel one is living the National Geographic life. It is still dawn, that mostly unseen hour of the day,by the time the morning ceremonies are resolved and one has stepped out.

Pale light peeps groggily through the treetops. Not many people are about and the buildings around quiver helplessly as you break into a merciless rendition of Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you.

At this point, several milkmen, newspapermen and restless hens are bound to exchange glances with each other. This is because this peaceful time of the day belongs, by an ancient, never-questioned dogma, solely to them and to keep them in humor, one must never overdo civilian acts of the noontime, like shout too much or throw plastic on the road.

" Hello there!" cry out bright poppies to passing early-birds.

No wonder the legions of milkmen, newspapermen and hens unite to keep out trespassers. They just cannot bear the thought of wasting Hello's on others.

Meanwhile the changing light dances all across the sky in a seance of its own, transforming everything on which it falls into a thing of magic and wonder.

The Library looks good in the morning, the Senate looks quite captivating too ( I have an opinion on how the Notre Dam might look in the morning too, but let's stick to the R-land campus). But the prettiest place here has to be the path leading up to the Baddy Court.

No wonder they blame poets ( who are most active at this time of the day)for sounding so completely loopy. It is tough not to be loopy when flowers beam back at you, and if there's a breeze about, wave as well.

"So what?", an interlocutor on the behalf of the 8 am waking party may interject.
"All that is very well, but sacrifice those final, sweetest moments of sleep that come to one from 6 am to 8 am- you must be mad! "

It is impossible to bristle at that dim-witted objection if one has partaken anything from the peace of the early morn. Other problems might prevent you from speaking up eloquently about the beauty of the glorious hour like an alarmingly high rate of yawns.

The day from then on transpires mostly like this: smile a smile of peace at your suspicious newspaperman, stifle another yawn, sets off for class, change mind mid-way, return and proceed to hit the sack.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Snowflakes are such bloody show offs. Like, okay, winter IS their personal theatre and they have every right to dance and pirouette and grand jete all they want to before, literally, coming to earth. But bloody hell, is it too much to expect 'em to have a little consideration for other things that would like share some air space with them. Like ruddy AIRPLANES.

"Ahem ahem", coughed my conscience, an absolutely hateful creature with the disposition of that crackpot Zimbabwean despot. " You have never really SEEN shouldn't judge like that......

....... ABWZEBMI!!" it yelled, staggering back, as I drew an( imaginary) icicle through its heart.

Back to the sniffling old snow. Yes, now, you. I don't care a frigging frigg if you plan to take Moscow, Paris , or Toronto by storm. But I warned you before: NOT the land of Rockefeller & Co, NOT...errr...Nouveau Pierre. We didn't need no cancelled airplanes. Honestly, don't the hearts of snowflakes ever MELT.

Sigh. I returned after that barking session with the Hounds of Hell, to deal with the NOW. What a shame! And I had actually started appreciating winter for once, you know, noting the prettiness of the fog, the spells of winter sun, the drama the least bit of red or yellow or purple bring in when it peeks out of all the dead colors. Even enemies appear appealing. Like even the sadak ke mad canines transform themselves into things of wolverine elegance in their dog-jacket haute couture.

So I had warmed up to winters considerably before news arrived. That it was snowstorm season in NY=> CANCELLED FLIGHTS.
I kicked my toe, bruised it and switched off Hey Soul Sister- it was making me irritable.

One can't kick one's toes more than ten times so one really has to think of new avenues. Averse to suggestions like clean your room! do something! turn off the TV!, I got experimental. I snooped into unheard bookshops, waded through their most doubtful literature and came back triumphantly clutching The Joy Of Lazing.
" This is my code of life! Every word of it! Look- The authors are even PhD s! This is genuine stuff! " I pointed at the book defensively as eyebrows around shot up. The eyebrows fell. The couch would be legally mine! I thought noting these signs of affirmation. The TV, mine, mine! I had very well located the Lost Scrolls! Screw going back! " Liberation" I cried, flipping through the book in glee.

Mid-flip, page 85: Eat Less.

In the background, my conscience conducted the chorus . Ice, Ice, baby. You know what the literal translation of it is in Hindi. Barf, Barf...sure, give me a basin.