13 May, 2018

old songs from my childhood

Listening to Belafonte on a whim.

It reminds me of my childhood in sudden glimpses. Weekends when parent would be home, something savoury would be in preparation for lunch and Belafonte would be played on an old dusty cassette-player.

29 May, 2017

words over sushi and blues


A friend took pity on my car-less condition and took me for dinner in Cambridge.

We spoke a curiously adult mix of workplace talk, weekend wanderings and reminisces of graduate school derring-do. Perhaps this is what growing up does to people?

Her blunt honesty about ignoring some social constructs reminded me again why we remain in touch (that, among other things). "You see lots of people going oh yeah, I partied, had a barbeque, blah blah. I just say what I did: sat on my bed, streamed some movies and felt perfectly happy doing it. I would rather to go one party, act like there is no tomorrow, and then not have another party for months."

Music to my ears. I gamely rejoin: "Well I hiked. Alone. But I usually make up some reason for having a completely idle weekend."

"You've started watching movies alone, right? You can stop with the idle-weekend excuses too, if you think about it the right way."

The sushi was good and the sake. The lady who sang the blues reminded us we could take her home for $10 as a DVD. I get by with a little help from my friends.

Naturally, the very next day after such sweet symphonies of introvertedness, I roam around the Boston harbourside and Revere Beach, drinking in the metallic grey skies mirrored in the sombre swells of the deep with every pore of my being.
The seagulls remind me always of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Perhaps one of the most influential books I had read.

23 May, 2017

Broken skies

As I exited the buildings of the M__ Inc., the sky was the sullen colour that reminds me of a phrase from Neuromancer: "the colour of a TV screen turned off". When I read it as boy, that phrase seemed modern and eternal all at once. Now I wonder how many would remember CRT televisions in the age of flatscreens.

There was a cold drizzle, more like a damp mist.

I used to hatelove these things. The weather was perfect iff you were just about to duck into the broad awning of some well-lit cafe, and the door would welcome you into a merry medley of laughter, the clink of expensive chinaware and the general warmth of human company. And the damp humours of the exterior would evaporate in the expansive jollity like the plot line in some Victorian mystery novel. If and only if. Not otherwise.

Not when you squelch your way through mud and mulch.

Wait. I am winding my way through the concrete jungle of the second largest shopping mall in these United States. Albeit a bit overgrown with weeds between the cracks.

In my mind's eye, I would still be squelching in black shoes and white trousers through the aftermath of a Calcutta rain. Cursing silently and ritualistically at the roar of traffic, the swell of pedestrians, the 20 rupees left in my pocket, the necessity of a bus ride eschewing a cab, at peering in at well-lit cafes, the look of imagined scorn in the eyes of patrons, at having to walk alone to the library ad infinitum ad nauseum. My brief whispers of indignation lost in the teeming indignity that is the city life. Even in teenage I had taught myself the distinction between taking a bus ride because I want to, and taking it because I have to.

The tag on my rusty (and therefore trusty -- I have to say "trusty", like in "he went forth on his trusty steed") umbrella, almost faded to incomprehensibility, reads: "Mohendra Lal Dutt". I could have been walking under ashen skies on concrete pavements my whole life. It fills me up with a sense of something -- hope, resilience, despair, listlessness, belonging all rolled into a roiling mass. And an unceasing ever-seething anger like the embers of a fire ancient men would warm their hands against as they sharpened their flints.

I have missed my bus, so I call an Uber. The road, while often threatening to come full circle, has changed enough for me. It's the little changes that matter. Those are the ones that need a whole world to change to come true.

04 May, 2017

a favourite passage

"And so Smiley, without school, parents, regiment or trade, without wealth or poverty, travelled without labels in the guard's van of the social express, and soon became lost luggage, destined to remain unclaimed on the dusty shelf of yesterday's news."

-- Call for the Dead, John le Carre


29 April, 2017

old friends in shelves

As the years roll by, I have slipped into a strange habit so smoothly that it feels like it was always there, like an ancient bedroom slipper or an unrolled recursion.

I have stopped reading new books.

A pause for clarification: the only books I read these days are the ones I have already read. I like the feel of familiarity -- chuckling at the same points, looking up pensively when turning page 256, the sense of unbelievable something at the end of chapter 8. Running my finger down the spines, the yellowed pages. These books and the times when I read first are a window into a childhood that I often neglect to remember (sometimes for weeks) -- of sun-baked tiles and bougainvillea on our balcony, a perfect geek poring over pages propped up on pillows on the bed, in the gap between returning from school and rushing off to swimming lessons or maths tuition.

Now, some of these books are at home, some adorn the bookshelves in my lab. Just for company -- a few stanzas here and a few paragraphs there -- the dashes of colour to cut through the monochrome monotony of a binarised workspace.

It is perhaps a mark of almost everything I am -- the fact that I am thinking about the books in my lab, when writing this sitting at home. I have always been one for gazing at the grass on the other side of the fence -- the rolling steppes of emerald merging into the azure horizon of a calendaresque skyscape. I rather like the idea of being dissatisfied at some level with the present, to have the germ of an itch for the next thing. Not that much of a bad tendency, all things considered.

"to seek, to strive and not to yield" 
-- Ulysses, Tennyson


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