Saturday, December 10, 2011

Colors - as we see them

It was fall; we were driving
Through streets laced with trees
Bursting with colors.
And I was quietly smiling away
At their immense loveliness.

"What lovely colors!", he quipped
Startling me -
Not because he broke the silence.
He was partially color-blind,
Seeing colors differently.

I looked again at the trees.
Huh, maybe it would look even better
With the reds replaced by purples
And the greens with golden yellow.
(Damn, what am I missing out on!)

If beauty is in the eyes
Of the beholder,
Then I wish for more eyes -
Of different kinds:
A color-blind pair, of course.
And one blind eye, please -
How cool would it be
If the air were multi-colored
And all else was colorless.


[Inspired by Ilayaraja's:


A core of more than just 0 and 1s

If I have a heap of a thousand grains
And I take one by one and throw it down the drains
At what exact point a "heap" no longer remains?

If I drive unsober, hit and hurt Mr. Chuck
Another drives unsober, not encountering a single schmuck
Should I be punished more than he, for my ill-luck?

If I write a song, make a dress out of meat,
Trace a painting by Dali and cook pancakes from buckwheat
What rules define which ones are art which are no feat?

If we want our lives equipped with better aides of actions
Is it time to tear down our digital curtains
And re-build it with a core of more than just 0 and 1s?

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have it as one of my 2010 new year resolutions to write a blog post about my trip to China. It behooves me to write this post for so many reasons - One: because it gives me something to revive my writing. Two: because after posting pictures from my trip on flickr and looking at them repeatedly to re-live my experiences, I realized those pictures did not manage to capture or convey the essence of the experience. There is something about words that can convey things that pictures can't. Or at least, that is what I want to try doing through this post. Three: China was my first international pleasure-travel. And what a dramatic first it was! So much so that sometimes I fear if it has set the "WOWie"-bar so high that it will be really hard for my future travel exploits to match up. Maybe they can't because what I believe to be the most important travel lesson was learnt here - that the best of it is never in the guide book. Four: This post will also be my memento - a keepsake of my best memories associated with the trip - in case my brain's own blog post starts fading out.

I realize as I write this, how difficult writing a travelogue is. There are so many things to write about - the places I saw, the food I ate, the people I met, the culture I experienced, advise on what to do and what not to do... . It is hard not to write about all these - but I will try to keep out of this post anything that my flickr photos or a good guidebook can tell you.


The first thing most people ask me about my trip is how we managed to get around and get things done without knowing the language. I tell them how we got names of places and their addresses written down in Chinese by hotel receptionists which we then showed to cab drivers, and about how we learnt a few chinese words that we used now and then etc. And that would be the proper technical answer. But beneath and beyond the technical details, the real elemental answer is that humanness (which means such a multitude of complex things that the simple word 'humanness' would explain it better than a ten page article) transcends these language barriers. Here is the perfect anecdote to that - Sree and I decided to go to this particular restaurant for a dinner one day. We had the name of the restaurant and the address all written down in Chinese on a piece of paper. Got into a cab, showed the driver the paper and we were on our way. After about 10 minutes, the driver started speaking to us in Chinese pointing to the address on the paper. It was apparant that the driver did not exactly know where the place was and was trying to get more directions from us. But all we could say was "No Chinese" and grin sheepishly. Based on the tone of the "ohhh" that he let out on hearing that, I am pretty sure he understood what it meant. But he still kept talking. I was pretty pissed off - he should not have even started driving if he did not exactly know where the place was, especially when he should have expected that we wouldnt be able to clarify anything to him in Chinese - given how absolute-tourists and how non-Chinese we looked. Anyway, he finally decided to stop the cab somewhere and ask around for directions. He needed to do that twice before he ultimately got us to where we wanted to go. What should have taken 20 minutes to get to, took 45. But what happened after we reached the place was what was most unforseen - he checked the price indicated on his meter, started speaking in Chinese and kept pointing to the address we gave him and kept touching the temple of his forehead with his index finger as if to say something about brain or memory or intelligence. He then took out his wallet and gave us the money that his meter indicated! We were caught off-guard and stared at him for a minute or two, as he kept repeating his words and his finger-touching-temple action. And then we got it! - he was trying to say he wanted to pay us for the delay instead because giving up his money to a passenger would help him remember the location and address next time. We refused to accept the money, paid him instead and ran from the place.
But what a way to own up! And what genuineness it takes to want to do it inspite of it involving communicating this to people who absolutely dont get his language. I still feel guilty about being pissed off at him at one point.

Another heart-warming experience was when we went to a local restaurant in Beijing. We were welcomed by every single waiter in the restaurant when we entered, who seemed quite enthusiastic about our arrival - maybe because we were one of the very few non-Chinese folks who have ever visited the restaurant. When we had looked at the menu and were ready to order, we called the waiter, showed him our Chinese cheat sheet and indicated that we wanted his help in figuring out if the dishes we picked were indeed vegetarian. He called another waiter who was passing by for help. And guess what - next minute, almost every waiter in the restaurant was at our table! It was slightly embarassing to have 10 strangers standing around our table and discussing our food choices - but it was also so cute that they cared enough to do that! When we were done with our meal, we told our waiter (in sign language) that we really enjoyed the food and he literally jumped around on hearing that! It felt so good!

When you visit China, initially it could be frustrating that no one bothers enough about tourists or people from around the world to learn any small bit of the universal language - English. But then, they ultimately somehow make you feel welcome. Afterall, they did a stupendous job welcoming countries around the world for the 2009 Olympics, and they are doing it again with their 2010 Shanghai Expo. Hats off to the Chinese people.


A friend told me this anecdote about herself: She once went out on a dinner date with a guy at a restaurant where the food was absolutely delicious. She thought the date went pretty well and decided to continue seeing him. It wasn't until after a few more dates with the guy that she realized that the reason she thought the first date went so well was because of the amazing food and not because of the guy!
That is how many of our pleasurable or painful experiences are - many times we go through them without trying (or wanting) to understand what it is that is causing the pleasure or the pain. Not that it is always necessary to understand either. Just like how you can enjoy driving a luxury car without trying or needing to understand what it is about the car's engine that makes the drive pleasurable. But when you do try to understand it, it gives you new insights.
A travel experience is like that too. Soon after I was back from China, when a relative asked me what it was about the trip that made it so enjoyable for me, I fumbled. I hadn't explicitly thought about it. I started making a conscious list of reasons and it included the nice food I ate, the great places I visited, the shopping et al. But all that didn't seem to add up to the sum total of the fun I had. Then I realized I had missed out the biggest reason of them all - an absolutely great travel companion. This is one of those "of course! it is too obvious a reason to even bother to state" reasons. But then it is not! Eating amazing food all by myself is not half as much fun as eating it with the person who is as foodie as I am to just talk about the food on our plates the entire hour that we are at the restaurant! Coming back home from shopping and realizing that the half-hour long bargaining session you just had is ultimately of no use because the dress you bought doesn't fit you, is painful, if not for the person who makes so much fun of the whole shopping experience that you end up feeling like the lost money was well worth the funny experience. Hats off.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Life is...

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to be going right. After a tough day, I was lying in bed thinking there is hell of a lot more crap in life than goodness. There is so much in life I can do better without.

I started making a mental list of things in my life I could do better without, but somehow thoughts drifted off to doing just the opposite - making a counter-list of things that I just cannot give up. The list made me realize that the little goodness and beauty in life is worth it all. How on earth can I miss seeing my dog do something totally ridiculously funny ; or watching a movie at night at home with good friends and oily chinese food ; or that tiresome day-long journey to India, every minute of which is spent envisioning the moments when I would see mom and dad waiting at the airport ; or seeing that hug emoticon from my man over a chat window exactly when I need it - the kind that makes me burst out crying in relief....

... and I went to sleep, thinking life is good.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My hued white

Thrown in, with throngs of others,
Of every hue and color,
She is a silken white,
And a starry-eyed newcomer.

She picks herself up,
Looks around in wonder.
All is swank and grand, until
Things start to get damper.

Sitting cold and crinkled,
She hopes for things to temper.
But a rumble erupts and she's taken for
A toss, a tumble and a twister.

The ride seems never ending
With only tiny pauses for a breather.
She uses those to soak up
Hues from those that charm her.

The ride and the rumble come to a still.
She rests in the flavor
Of her newfound self
Feeling like a proud fighter.

To the tumble she is thankful
Although it brought with it some languor.
It is what made her fresh and clean,
And gave her a rare color.

It amuses me to see
How much the laundering adventure
Of my little white piece
Is like my saga's sampler.

A profound laundering experience
If you think this piece garners,
I must confess - I just needed to justify
The outcome of mixing my whites and my colors :-)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Little Box - Part IV

[Story starts here]

Dan noticed Sarah was being very secretive about her little box. She would check on it every now and then and never let him touch it. She also managed to find a nice small lock for the box. He did not bother to give it much thought, brushing it away as a little girl's prerogative to little eccentricities. But it wasn't long after that he realized it was not just playful fancy that his daughter harbored for the box. He found out something about the box that Sarah seemed to have kept from telling him - The box moved. By itself!

One day when Sarah was away at school, Dan was in her room, tidying it up while talking to himself, like he usually did (and like many of us do when there is no one around to judge us for being a madcap). He lifted the box off the desk it was on to wipe away some dust, when he thought he felt it move ever so slightly. He assumed he was just being delusional, but decided to humor himself by ensuring that boxes don't move by themselves. He straightened up and held out the box on his huge rugged palm, waiting for it to happen again. And it did! It was a pipsqueak of a move, but one that couldn't go unnoticed if it happened right on top of your palm. He wanted to open the box and see what was in it, but it was locked. He searched all nook and cranny for the key, but in no avail. He decided to wait until Sarah was back. Although his wait involved holding up the box on his palm every 10 minutes to check if it moved. It moved only once after that, of the two hundred and fifty times he tried.

Once Sarah was back from school, Dan prodded her about the box, sounding phony-calm, fighting against his adrenaline's efforts to burst into an interrogative tirade. His hormones started pumping with even more ferocity when he learnt that the box belonged to a clairvoyant.

"So, what is in the box?", Dan nudged.

Sarah looked up from her sketching work and gave her dad an inspective-eyed, thin-lipped look. In under a wink, it turned into an angelic, unsuspecting semblance and she calmly replied, "Nothing".

There are some ironical times in a parent's life when they feel their child has learnt too much of a thing they were once encouraged to learn. This was one such time for Dan. It was clear to him that Sarah was lying, but thanks to her pick pocketing adventures, she had learnt to do it with a slickness that averted any further drilling. "What do you plan to keep in it?"

"Nothing. I lost the key", she said with the same serene poise, without looking up from her sketching.

Dan sighed. Sarah wasn't going to tell him a thing. But he resolved to find out what the box was all about. Having belonged to a soothsayer, the box could infact be magical, he mused. And if the box were really magical, it might even help him get rich quick.

And it did.

[To be continued.]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Red Riding Hood Talks

[Spurred off by a writing prompt to re-write a fairy tale or re-tell it from the view point of one of the characters :). I picked 'Little Red Riding Hood'. Original tale here.]

This is the one advice I give to celebrities all around the world: If you want people to know the truth, write your gossip columns yourself.

In my early years, there were no 'gossip columnists'; there were just 'columnists' - the ones who did not indiscriminately conclude every red apple a celebrity carried to be poisonous; the ones who did not blow up a simple kiss to a pet frog into a torrid affair; the ones who do not exist anymore. And then the Grimm Brothers came along and brought an end to every strain of truth in journalism. Stories about me of the most preposterous nature were published and widely read. At that point, this did not bother me for two reasons - One, I was way too busy with my celebrity life and two, I hadn't been singled out as the victim in this horrendous connivance of words - Ms. Gretel, Mrs. Charming I, Mrs. Charming II, Ms. Locks were all subjected to the inequity as well. But now it bothers me to see that over the past many centuries, no one has ever succeeded in bringing back the element of truth to the written word. And what is worse - we have been forcing our children to read these fabricated versions and letting them draw morals from these that don't apply in real life because the stories are not real in the first place!

In an attempt to lay things straight for all generations to come, I have decided to bring out the truth in the stories they read about me and urge every other celebrity to do the same. Here is my true story :-

So yes, I did set off to granny Ann's place for my routine visit. Granny Ann was my dad's mother. My mom and she never really got along. My mom thought she was a bossy old lady and granny Ann thought my dad could have done better marrying someone who was a better cook than mom. The only reason mom even sent me to visit granny regularly was because everytime I visited, granny made these amazing pastries that she packed for me to take back home and mom secretly loved these pastries. (Now you know why I was made to carry that basket along during my visits).

Anyway, getting back to the story, on that eventful day I met Mr. Jamie Wolfe on my way to granny Ann's place. Contrary to popular belief, he was no wolf. I have no clue how the Grimm brothers made you believe he was - wolves dont talk to humans! But... Mr. Wolfe was a werewolf. Now, here is something that we should all know, but don't: Anyone whose name has the word 'wolf' embedded in it, is a werewolf, like the composer 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse-Art' or the novelist 'Virgin-i-am Wolf'. The reason this fact does not feature in the "original" fake story and the reason you would not have acquired this piece of information from any other media source is because werewolves do not like us normal people to be aware of their whereabouts AND they happen to own the largest market share in the media industry. This of course is apart from the reason that the media industry has got nothing to do with facts anyway.

I knew Jamie. He was once granny Ann's friend. I had seen him at a party in granny's place many months ago. That was the same day he became a werewolf. He cracked a joke that offended granny and she cursed him to be a werewolf for a whole year. He morphed into a werewolf that very night and so also had to change his name from Jamie Fox to Jamie Wolfe. It was well before dusk and Jamie was in his human form when he approached me that day on my way to granny's home. He said he had served his term of one year as werewolf and wanted to meet my granny to get the curse removed. I gave him her address. When I reached granny's place, he was already there. I could understand the urgency and totally empathized with him - being a werewolf is like having multiple personality disorder, split between being a human and a wolf, and it can be very irritating... to others.

Granny was describing the curse removal process to Jamie. We had to wait until it was dusk when he transformed into a wolf. That moment, granny would cut open the wolf's stomach (while muttering some spells) and Jamie would emerge, cured from his curse.

Dusk came, the wolf was cut open and Jamie was redeemed. As we stepped outside home to perform the final acts of the ritual - burning the wolf skin and getting Jamie a new last name - the paparazzi caught us in their flash lights. No points for guessing what story Mr. Grimm cooked up on seeing the photo featuring an irritated me, a tired granny Ann and Jamie with the wolf skin slung over his shoulders.

That, readers, is The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth.

Unlike the unrealistic morals of the 'original' fake story such as
- do not give out phone numbers and house addresses to wolves
- beware: wolves are capable of swallowing grandmothers whole
- if you cut open a wolf's stomach, you will get back all grandmothers it has ever eaten,

the true story offers morals you can actually use in your life, like
- your mother and her mother-in-law (your grandmother) will likely not get along but all is fine as long as there are tasty pastries
- please do not let a person whose name has the word 'wolf' in it bite you.
- if you want people to know your version, don't let someone else tell your story.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Little Box - Part III

[Story starts here]

As she entered her home with a prance of triumph, Sarah found Dan setting the table for dinner. "Daddyyyyy", she shreiked running into his open arms that lifted her high into the air and swirled her around once before bringing her back to the mud floor of their small, neat home.

He seated himself on a chair and lifted her onto his lap. "So, princess.. tell me", he began, "how was your day?".

"Th-e-e-s is for youuuu", she drawled as she put her hands into her pocket, drawing out the dark, thin man's wallet and handing it over to him;
"th-e-e-s is for youuuu", she repeated with the exact measure of drawl she used the previous time, placing the other wallet also in his hands;
"th-e-e-s is for youuuu" - now placing the watch on the wallet.
"Aa-aa-aa-aa-nd", testing the elasticity of the word, "this's for me", she finished quickly bringing out the little box but this time not placing it in his hands.

"Thank you, honey", he responded while quickly checking the contents of the two wallets. And then shifted his gaze to the box. "What is this box thing?"

"I flicked it from some forture teller woman. I want to have it. I will use it to keep something."

"What will you keep in it?"

"Still thinking. Maybe I will use it as my pencil box and take it to school. Or I will keep my pocket money in it." "I want it, I will keep something.", she repeated, looking up at her dad, crinkling her forehead slightly and putting on her resolve face.

"Of course you can keep it". He smiled and kissed her, amused at her young decisive look. His thoughts then drifted back to the wallets. "Good money, this" - he brought out the large wad of money from the blonde girl's wallet.

"Do we have enough to keep a dog, a pet now?"

"No, honey, we still can't afford that. Later. Come on, lets get started with dinner now."

After dinner, Sarah went and sat on her bed with the box in her hand. She took off the lid and examined its insides in an effort to figure out what she would keep in it. It was too small and too square for her pencils to fit. She did'nt really need a box for her pocket money - she always kept it in the pocket of her school uniform and that was where it was convenient to have. She could'nt think of any other possession of hers that would fit neatly into the box.

A little later that night, when she was doing her routine chores, it suddenly struck her - she knew what she would keep in the box. She ran to her room, and pulled out a bamboo basket from under her bed. She took out from it, the soft linen cloth that her grandma had given her that had Sarah's name embroidered on one corner. Her grandma's linen found its new home in Sarah's fancy lidded little box.

The oval mirror that was in the little box found itself thrown into a rarely opened drawer in Sarah's room, that housed rarely used things.

[Continued here.]