Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dispirited, Dishevelled, Direful

Its been a month since India began its new cricket season. It has taken all of my self-restraint to abstain from posting anything related to cricket for the past month and a half or so. Cricket makes me primitive; it makes me animalistic; it's effect on me is almost hypnotic. So I should pat myself on the back for showing so much control. This was broken last night. The same Indian team which fueled my heart with passion and and sorrow...hope and resignedness, made me break my restraint with the show it put up yesterday.

From the moment MS Dhoni and his men stepped onto the field, there was something amiss. There were no springs in the steps, no familiar gleams in the eyes that you usually expect when facing Pakistan and no commitment to the core. The manner in which RP singh bowled his first spell personified the mood of the team...anything but cricket. His listless attitude enraged me; I would have become a murderer if the guy was within reaching radius. Nehra was patchy and effective in parts, but nowhere near international standards. Harbhajan seemed to have something else on his mind (maybe the leaked dossier...or issues related to its content) and looked clueless with the ball in his hand. Ishant sharma ran in like a pensioner, offering all of his allowances to the out of form Pakistani middle order. they should be grateful for his helping hand. The rest of the part timers were abysmal to say the least. Of course, the less said about the Indian ground fielding, the better it is. Have you ever imagined a scene where even the great Tendulkar fakes a dive, fearing flak? It happened yesterday. That one display on the field marked the atrocity which is often called poor fielding by our experts.

There is no point in having a go at the dispirited batting performance by India when its bowling and fielding didn't put up even a semblance of a fight. Dhoni's remark that he was 3 bowlers short showed his hollow mentality rather than derision or ironic comedy. It is typical of him to make a witty joke about the team during the presentation and save himself the blushes by showing his humorous side. With such lacklustre and clueless captaincy it wont be long before he jokes about himself...right now the joke is on him and his team. The biggest irony of all is the fact that the weakest bowling and fielding unit in the world was holding the top position in the rankings for the past 3 days. With any luck, Team India will return with at least one win under their belt, because there is no way in the conscious world that India could beat Australia. For all those die hard and still hopeful cricket fans...I can only pray...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Clear, blue skies with a searing sun had become a regularity in Kumarappan’s life. As he squatted on his paddy field thinking about the recent jolts he had experienced, the pain of failure was slowly setting in.

Kumarappan was a farmer, he was never meant to be anything else. With dutiful diligence, he had followed his ancestors’ footsteps in taking up the family profession. The love that he cultivated in his heart for his land, the soil it contained and the crop it heralded was unsurpassed. He had a vision when he was young…it became his mission as he grew. The vision was to own a piece of land. And own he did. He became the first person in his family to harvest rice on his own land. But all that seemed decades ago. ‘What is the use of being a good farmer if you are a failure at becoming a good father?’ he thought. Frustration was the only feeling he had, when he thought about Kannappan, his only son.

At the age of 6, the age when he had started to farm, his son had shown not even the slightest inclination towards it. Tinkering with the tools, tweaking the plough and repairing the cycle seemed to interest him more. Not taking this aspect seriously was a big mistake on the part of Kumarappan. When, at the age of 16, Kannappan announced that he was going to pursue diploma in mechanical engineering, it was the first dent to his fatherhood. Self pride withheld him from stopping his son’s career plans, which flummoxed him in whichever respect he tried to see it. How could he have not fallen in love with Mother Nature after having lived with it for so long? What more values were there which these beautiful greeneries couldn’t teach? The earth beneath you taught you patience; the soil it held taught you the virtues of filtering, the good from the bad, be it impurities or even people. The harvest on the whole taught you the value of hard work. Even with all these lessons staring right at his face, Kannappan had failed to grasp them. Kumarappan was abashed at the idea of his son venturing off to some city leaving their family tradition hanging in the balance. But he remained stoic and continued his passion-farming- with silent vigour.

It was about a decade later that he received a bigger jolt, in the form of his son’s Marriage. Marriage was something which Kumarappan once again related to the maturity of a crop. When the seedlings are first planted in the nursery, they grow into small shrubs which have no value as such. It is when these shrubs are plucked and replanted in the harvest field that they mature into a crop giving sizeable yield of paddy. Similarly, when a girl grows up in her own house, the significant title of womanhood is not attached to her. It is only when she marries and enters her husband’s home that she blossoms into a woman, bearing the burden of the family synonymous with the way mother earth bears the burden of its children. But when his son made a lettered account of his supposed ‘love’ in the city and his plans of marrying the girl and settling there itself, Kumarappan knew that he had made some serious mistakes as a father. He also knew that it was too late to correct them. Not only was his son breaking the family tradition of marrying inside the clan, but he was also putting a barricade to his father’s wishes of being a family again. Ever since his wife’s death, Kumarappan had longed for the day when his son would marry a girl inside the clan and get settled in their village itself, aiding him in the fields and raising a healthy family. That day would remain a dream, he thought sadly.

Compared to all these jolts, this season’s monsoon or, to be specific, the lack of it landed him the biggest jolt. Rain had never been his friend all these years, but it had never been a fiend either. He had managed to reap a decent harvest every year so far, at least a yield that would cover his loan interests and mortgages. But, this year was different from any of the previous ones. The scorching intensity of the sun combined with the staunch indifference of the rain was proving to be a disaster. It was October and there were no signs of rain. The water table was just a table, with no water to spare. Hence the bore pump he had installed in his field failed to produce any water for irrigation. The pride he placed on his land and his abilities as a farmer abstained him from offering himself to work on other peoples’ fields for money.

’30 days…’ thought Kumarappan pensively. Only 30 days were left for harvest. His crop was already bearing a yellowish tinge. The miniscule supply of water he got from the government was of no use. The field, which should have been flooded with water at this point of time, was almost dry. He would have no other option but to sell his land if his harvest failed this season. He would rather die, for his life was in the land. He would be a soul-less wanderer without it. His eyes swept over his beloved field. He longed to see the silent gushing of water through nooks and crevices in the field, energizing the soil, filling the crop with life and fuelling his heart with hope. But all he could see was an arid piece of terrain with almost lifeless crop.

The pain of failure seemed to expand in his chest. His son’s negligence towards farming coupled with his negligence towards his father…the fact that he would never be able to play with his grand children on his own field…the incessant absence of rain…the eventuality of selling his land. All these demons filled his heart with excruciating pain.

It happened like an explosion…all the built up infliction seemed to tear his chest spraying its fragments to the surroundings. As he lay on the field clutching his chest, his eyes looked up into the vast expanse of sky. It had become a murky grey. The last vision his eyes saw was that of a pearl like drop making its way towards him.

As the final vapour of breath left his body, the first drops of rain hit the scorched field sending up vapours of repressed heat…repressed sorrow…repressed dreams…

Friday, September 18, 2009


Mr. Verma stretched towards the mahogany paneled coffee table in order to reach for the newspaper, the only bit of exercise he performed everyday. It was 7:20 in the morning and he was scheduled to head a meeting in his office in about forty minutes. But a morning wouldn’t feel like one without having a look at the paper.

Many people would refer to their habit of taking a cursory glance at the newspaper as reading. But Verma was someone who literally read it- he read each and every word in the paper including the places of publication. He was not much of a sports buff and could never make head or tail of what a Putt or a Dunk meant, but he wouldn’t consider discarding the last few pages as irrelevant for even a single day. It was a subconscious habit he had cultivated during his IIM days. Verma was not part of that elite bunch of people who were destined to whet their academic appetite in the most premier Management Institution of the country. He had to struggle for years, have a shot at CAT three times in a row before managing a seat in the institute. It was that period of his life, when he had had a single minded approach, which was responsible for some of his continuing workaday activities. It was the same single mindedness which made him realize his dream of entrepreneurship. Now he was the head of a company with a turn over of more than 50 crores. Verma attributed his success to the diligent routine he followed, the amount of hard work he put in during his early years and the impersonal ruthlessness he had cultivated over a period of time. He didn’t want any of them to change, and thus, the ritual of pouring over the newspaper never changed its schedule (he usually timed this ritual to fall in phase with his bowel movements, but was hurried into the latter on that particular morning).

Verma turned another page of the paper hoping to read an article which could be savoured. The news that particular day was bland, to say the least. He was astonished by the amount of publicity hype that filmdom managed to amass in the edition. The heydays of authoritative, bold journalism were as good as over. It was page 3 which ruled the roost in the paper these days. He was appalled by this trend. He kept up his ritual with great restraint and was about to give up the hope of any reprieve when his eyes spotted a curious looking column. It looked as though it was tightly squeezed into the usually empty space in the Classifieds section. Moreover it was not an Advertisement by any means. It looked like a letter. Verma’s heart gave a lurch as he started to read it:

Dear Mr. Vermin,

Yes…I am referring to you, Vermin. It’s high time that pallid face of yours registered a show of shock or surprise. I am very much aware of the daily ritual of your robotic mind to read every single page of the newspaper. That was the reason I chose to write this letter and squeeze it into this nondescript little column. I am also confident that after reading till here, though your heart will plead you to put the paper down and go about your business, that unemotional head of yours will pay no heed and you will continue to read.

Ok, let me come to my business. I know about the struggles you went through and the sacrifices you had to do in order to reach this elevation. But, tell me Vermin, do you realize the great many subtleties of importance you have missed in the process? Of course you studied in the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, but do you even understand the meaning of the Institution called Marriage? You are married and you do have children…Yes yes, Vermin, I know this counterargument is sure to spring up in your mind instantly. But do recount the last time you were out with your folk for an enjoyable evening! When was the last time you said to your wife that you loved her? I doubt if you have said it even once since your wedding. Do your children ever come up to you and share their experiences? Their anxieties, their problems with friends or teachers and their achievements?? All you want to know from them is their academic performances, simply to satisfy your egomaniacal reputation. When are you going to spend quality time with your children? When are you going to become their ‘Real’ father instead of the mere biological one that you are now?

Is that all? You might ask; believe me Vermin, there is more. I am yet to even broach the subject of your callousness as a son. Do you remember the last time you talked with your mother, Vermin? Do you even know her health condition or her needs? Do you think the monthly cheque you send her will suffice her needs? Oh, it will buy her food, provisions, medicine and other material things. But, what about love and care? What about peace of mind? Wasn’t she responsible for all that when you were younger and vulnerable? Now that she is old and careworn isn’t it your turn to reciprocate?

I am not going to go on after this. Please think about what I have said so far. Your family needs you not your fame, recognition or money…the real ‘You’…the ‘You’ who can love…the ‘You’ who can care… It is never too late.

A Concerned friend

Verma sat clutching the paper; the hammering of his heart was so loud that he felt it could be heard outside. His wife came out of the kitchen. She was surprised to see her husband still with the paper. It was almost time for him to leave. As she came nearer, she saw a dazed look on his face, a look she had never witnessed before. She wanted to ask him what was wrong, but felt apprehensive.

As she turned to leave the hall, she heard him calling her. She looked at him with meek submissiveness. His face broke into a slow smile as his eyes filled with unrestricted tears. It was the first time he had smiled in twenty five years of marriage…it was the first time he had cried in forty two years of adulthood…

Friday, September 11, 2009


Finally, its here…the Indian Oscar-hero’s first offering after the crowning- BLUE. Having set his foot firmly on the western soil after the stupendous success of Slumdog Millionaire, it is quite natural that Rahman has decided to give a full throttle to the smaller western influences we used to hear in his previous albums. BLUE has an extravagant techno feel to it; to this add a track with famous Australian Pop star Kylie minogue lending her voice and what you get is an Indian Album with a westernized USP.

BLUE Theme (Blaaze, Raqeeb Alam, Sonu kakkar, Jaspreet singh, Neha kakkar, Dilshad): A western-Punjabi fusion blast from Rahman. The most notable aspect of this theme is that Blaaze’s voice is almost unrecognizable in the midst of the pool of new voices. If it wasn’t for the energetic chant of “BLLUEE” we wouldn’t even know he is singing. The chant of “BLLUEE”, by the way reminds one of the chant “NEWW” in one of Rahman’s previous Tamil albums. But the similarity ends there. Of course, Neha kakkar seems to be the new Tanvi…she brings the singsong feel to her voice with ease. The song grows on you when you hear it more than once…and it ought to do full justice to the visuals.

FIQRAANA (Vijay Prakash, Shreya Ghoshal): you would be tempted to dust this song aside as a run of the mill type when you hear its start, but wait for the chorus blast of “fiqr hai, mitr hai”…its an instant attention catcher. And Vijay prakash simply walks away with all the accolades for this one, reaching high notes with ease and providing boundless energy to the number. Shreya’s voice is the perfect low note foil for Prakash. All in all a sure shot winner this one.

REHNUMA (Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal) : The start reminds you of “hey Goodbye nanba”, from “Aayitha Ezhuthu” but the track takes a different path after that. Guitar notes in between add to the western feel of the number and interestingly Shreya has sung in a totally unheard before dimension of her voice- a la Sunitha Sarathy…western feel in her voice is palpable. She carries it off beautifully with good support from Sonu Nigam. Another high point of the song is the way the Violin blends with the guitar after the Rehnuma chant.

AAJ DIL GUSTAKH (Sukhwinder, Shreya Ghoshal): Shreya rocks once again. Brilliant voice modulation and easy flow of rendition. Sukhwinder is not far behind, though the song must have been a cakewalk for him. The background guitar is easy on the ears and maintains the tempo of the song. The chorus “Ohyasa…Mayaasa…” perfectly blends with the number and gives it the ‘encore’ touch. How is it that when Rahman decides on some inscrutable words for chorus it sounds really catchy while the same when done by others (If you listen to Aadhavan you will see what I mean) fall flat like a PJ?

BHOOLA TUJHE (Rashid Ali): A mellow melody with the dreamy voice of Rashid Ali has become somewhat a constant in Rahman’s albums these days. This number is no different. The only melody in the album and Rashid does justice to it. Soothing to the ears and the mind.

YAAR MILA THAA SAYYA (Udit Narayan, Madhushree): Now this is something we haven’t heard from Rahman since the “Ah Aah” days. The number is full of mischievous masala music with the lead singers bringing a nice flirtatious feel to their voice. Watch out for Udit in the first stanza, he is simply awesome. Madhushree is at ease as she doesn’t have to bother with pronunciation unlike her Tamil renditions. And Rahman once again scores with the chorus chant…”dha ah teena teen teen teena…” which is sure to make you nod your head for it like a duck.

CHIGGY WIGGY (Kylie Minogue, Sonu Nigam): We have heard many Westernized Indian songs, but what about an Indianized Western song?? As the sensuous voice of Kylie Minogue goes “I wanna Chiggy Wiggy with you…Boy!!” you obviously sit back expecting a course of proper English meal. But believe me, all you get is the appetizer. When Sonu Nigam’s Full-throated voice takes over with “Kar Chiggy wiggy mere sang soniyae”, you know that you are in for a treat of Asli Punjabi Khaana!! Even Minogue is made to “Chiggy Wiggy” with some Earthy Bhangra Beats in the background…Jai Ho Rahman!!! The song personifies the freedom and spirit with which Rahman has composed this album.

Verdict: Rahman’s long standing belief that Music has no geographical boundaries is exemplified in this album. The album is Pure, Unrestricted Fun to listen to. Rahman has let himself loose transcending boundaries. The Album may not impress critics; it may even come in for their wrath. But one thing is sure from it, Rahman no longer cares about Critics. He now has only one Critic- Himself.

Friday, September 4, 2009


We've got everything here that point to us being a death spot. Perhaps we should just promote ourselves as 'Suicide City' and encourage people to come here.

- Mayor, Aokigahara

Must have been young age…must have been a rush of blood. He couldn’t attribute any other reason for espousing her. Now he had started despising her. She irritated him with her dumbness. There were no common planes where their interests coincided. Besides all that, he was head over heels in love with another woman. Priyanka...thoughts simply froze when her name sprung up in his mind. She had come five years late in his life. But he had no doubt that she will be sharing the rest of it with him. Before that, one important question remained; what about his marriage? He had built up a charade of perfect nuptial life for five years now. How should he break it? He didn’t even entertain thoughts about divorce…family…friends…raised eyebrows…smirked faces…NO!!! It was out of question. He had to think of something else. How much ever he racked his brains he could come up with only one solution. He had to become a widower.

The destination was a stroke of luck. He heard about it on his business visit to Japan, the country with highest suicide rates. It was called Aokigahara Forests. The place was notorious for mysterious deaths which happened to its visitors, most of it being categorized as suicides. He remembered watching a special series about the place on CNN a few months back. It was believed by the locals that the forests were teeming with Yurei, known to be spirits in the Japanese folklore. As the myth goes, if a person commits suicide, then his reikon or soul does not rest in peace and transforms into a Yurei which truncates the physical gap between earth and nether world. Though the locals ascribed the deaths in Aokigahara to Yurei, Scientists still believed that the thick, dense and vast expanse of forestry made people lose their way and eventually die of fear or hunger. Whatever the cause was, he was itching to have a look at the place. The moment he set foot into the woods he could sense the appropriateness of the place with regard to his mission. Even a peaking sun could only make gentle peeks into the almost impenetrable cover of trees. He visualized forests to be reverberant with chirps, peeps, tweets and other animalistic noises. But the eerie silence of Aokigahara gave him Goosebumps. The occasional rustle of leaves in the wind echoed across the woods like a ripple traveling on the surface of a still lake. Exploring the forest for a perfect spot to carry out his act led him to a moderately steep trekking path. He made his way up. He could hear the whooshing sound of water flowing, or rather, falling. The final stretch gave way to a mild clearing, a few yards in front of which, he could see a waterfall. He made his way across the slippery terrain to the unprotected falls…there were no railings, no security and literally no holds barred. The view below was breathtaking, so would be an accidental fall onto the rocky bed about 200 feet below. He had found his spot…perfect!!!

He couldn’t wait to talk to Priyanka. Entering his house with unusual cheerfulness, he found his wife also in a good mood. Apparently her sister had conceived. As she bored him with details of it, his irritation returned…another trip to the land of the rising sun beckoned him…and her. He excused himself from the nonsense and made his way to his room. Immediately he phoned Priyanka…how he missed her!! She was like a magnet, attracting his senses and repelling his irritation. Without going over any details, he told her that their dreams were soon going to materialize and that he loved her with all his heart. As he replaced the receiver he heard a parallel click. It could mean only one thing. He peeked into the living room and could see his wife crying silently into her hands. Good, he thought, now even the feeling of guilt will reduce. The next few days were pleasant for him as she had cocooned into a resigned state which he thought was due to her anticipation of the divorce. He decided to break the news to her. “You seem to have gathered that there is another girl I my life. I assure you that it is only because of my blind love for her that we are going to separate, not because of my lack of it for you. I could never love anyone like the way I loved you. I would like you to make one last trip with me to Japan, where I will be going for another meeting this week, before we separate, as a token of our love.” He could see more tears welling up in her eyes, as she nodded silently…at least old fashioned dumbness had its few advantages.

Very few tourists, be it even Japanese, made a return trip to Aokigahara. Even fewer people seemed to know the whereabouts inside the woods like the back of their hands. He was one of the few. He sensed an instant familiarity with the place as he plodded into it for the second time inside two weeks. Only, this time he had company. She was clearly awed, and to a certain extent frightened by the vastness and eeriness around her. He could comprehend this by the way she tightly held on to his hands. “Allow me to show you one amazing view I came across on my last visit here. It is simply out of this world”, he said, smiling inwardly at the unintended pun. With clasped hands they made their way along the trekking path…he with a rush of adrenaline…she with pangs of happy sadness.

“This is indeed a mind blowing view”, she exclaimed, clearly awestruck. She was standing just near the edge of the falls and he was a few paces behind her. A gentle push should do it, he thought.

It happened in the same fraction of a second. His gentle push coincided with her grasp of his arm. The slippery ground beneath them did the rest. The last thing he could hear as they fell was the blend of their shrill voices…It caused a temporary undulation to the spirited wander of the Yurei in the eerie tranquility of AOKIGAHARA.

Footnote: Aokigahara forests, located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, is the second most infamous suicide hotspot in the world after The Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Bizarre rumours about GPS systems and compasses going irrepressible due to the Yurei influence have made rounds though scientists ridicule such beliefs, attributing the non- functioning of the systems due to magnetic and volcanic deposits in the forests. With more than 75 dead bodies found in 2002 alone and the year 2008-09 being predicted to go some numbers better due to the economic crisis related depressions in people, this is one spot to watch out for.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

- D.H. Lawrence

What is self-pity? Dictionary defines it as a feeling of sorrow over one’s own suffering. Each and everyone at some point of their life are bound to get such a feeling. Why is it that human beings, who are among the most evolved life forms, are the only species that practice self-pity? As the thought provoking poem mentioned above suggests, the concept of self-pity is not within the range of thoughts of smaller and lesser evolved creatures. Human beings live life partly in their minds itself. They form problems, reasonings, faults and remedies in their thoughts which occupy them while other lesser evolved forms live their life via each passing moment. Thus, there exists self pity when the mind is unable to find a remedy for a continuing personal sorrow. There also exists self pity when a person dwells on his past life…his mistakes and missed chances…’If only I had grabbed that opportunity, I would have been far away from this mess’. It is also a practice to blame fate or luck for a person’s sorrow, thus deepening his feeling of self-pity. ‘luck was never the dame I shared court with’. Another line of thought deals with mortality. It is believed that human mind is the only one among its contemporaries to know about its mortality. Another feeling peculiar to the human mind is regret. Regret about past actions or inactions form a deep rooted seed for self-pity.

Having formed a general idea about self-pity, I want to delve into the aftermath of a long bout of self-pity. Though self-pity is something on every person’s thoughts at some point of their life, it affects idle minds the most. Within boredom lurks self-pity and this self-pity will be the longest in terms of duration. The simple reason being that there is no other source of distraction. It will also be the most dangerous feeling. For, self-pity during prolonged boredom will eventually lead to self-hatred, which is the cornerstone for suicide attempts. The 2 most important factors contributing to self-hatred might be Blame and Shame. Blame being an external factor…making its presence more so due to other peoples inputs, while Shame is the internal feeling of abdication. There is self-hatred in every person…mostly dormant and in many cases absolutely inactive. When a person is involved in some activity which gives work for his mind, this dormant or inactive feeling is well and truly buried. It is when the mind is filled with boredom that the sprouts of self-pity raise the abeyant plant of self-hatred.

So, it is better to train our thoughts to look forward in life, rather than revisiting the parts of it already done and dusted. By doing so, the feelings of Self-pity and eventually Self-hatred can be kept under control if not completely blanked out.