Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life in the Days Of...

I think there's certain irony to my blog title. At some point of time, I had changed it from "Travel Travails" to the current title. Not once, however, have I found myself rambling about days in my life. I'm all for rambling, but in the normal course of events, none of it manages to make it to the blog in it's purest form. I usually manage to camouflage it under some garb. In the light of some recent events, each worth reporting, but not deserving of a post by itself, I thought I'd go and talk about some days in my life.


I woke up from my afternoon nap (a habit from childhood which refuses to desert me) feeling rather disoriented. The primary reason being that it had turned dark by the time I got up. That tells me winter is near. Which means that the weather is going to get better, the food is going to taste better, women will look prettier. Good times ahead! That's once the gods stop having that bachelor party in their basement (an old reference) and the haze subsides.


I watched Ravana burn from my sixth floor balcony. The fireworks display went on for over an hour. No fire tenders or even extinguishers on standby, but then Ram in all his benevolence shall protect us from any burning embers that reach where they're assumed not to. Everyone around seemed to have fun, so did I. As I watched from the distance, I saw that the applause was relentless even as some of the fireworks detonated well before their designated altitude. It was after a long time that I'd seen the whole evil-burning process. I remember that as a kid, I would accompany my mother to the local park to watch the event and feel depressed. Depressed, not because I was a Satan worshipping kid of some sort, but because at the end of four days of visiting various Durga Puja congregations and filling up my stomach with whatever muck I could lay my hands on, Dussehra had a finality to it. It was like the morning after Diwali, or the day after your birthday. Then again, I think there are so many "it's all over" days in a given year that it's better we don't mope on them for longer than a few hours. This Durga Puja however was one from the years gone by. A little to early in the calendar I feel, but the pandals were where they should be and so was the muck. Good times.

Later in the evening, the newsflash about the Air India pilots' strike appeared on TV. Allow me to put a human face to this side of the story. My mother works for Air India. And it's quite a struggle working there these days. It's almost like being a daily wage employee. For one, an expression of honest opinion at this point of time could be trouble for any employee. But in all the mismanagement of years gone by and measures to control the damage that has been caused and is probably still being caused behind the scenes, there are employees with families who are hanging in the balance. Here's hoping that the crisis gets resolved soon.

Day Before Yesterday:

Some days usually overflow into the next, as far as storytelling goes. Typically, these are days that involve alcohol (hopefully the latter part of the day). Night before last, two friends and I had a little Tequila party. We then made the mistake of going out to dinner to a place right opposite our school. Not just that, we had four others joining us. Simple math would show that the table had an approximate drunk-sober ratio of about 44%. That grey area in between is dangerous. That just means that the remaining 56% will remember what you won't, and your perception of reality (as a headache rips your cranium into pieces the next morning) is what the aforementioned 56% tells you. My advice to all my readers is to ensure that you're as close to 0 or 100 % when you dine with company. All or nothing, black or white. Always a good policy in life. Anyway, should you ask me, I'd tell you that the night went off without incident. Next afternoon, I called up J to ask him if some damage control needed to be done. J belonged the 56% lot last night, and managed to convince me that there was an eve-teasing incident involving me the previous night where I apparently whistled at some girl and M had to do some damage control (which is why I wasn't languishing in the local lock-up). That's funny, because M (who has a penchant for drawing entertainment from my misery) was very slightly less drunk than I was and would need a miracle to prevent me from getting indicted. I killed myself over the incident for about half an hour (for eve-teasing is really not my thing, not even sub-consciously) whilst trying to call M, who was nursing his own little hangover. M confirmed that while this was a rather interesting proposition, he had no memory of it. On my next call to J, frantic swearing ensued and he finally admitted that he should have spoken to M to make the prank work. This is the first time I've been pranked in years, and alcohol is the reason.
Am I going to propound prohibition on my blog? No. But next time, do ensure that everyone else is drunk before you are. It earns you some bad karma, but you can take care of it in your next life.

Some days in my life are manufactured to add joy to some days in yours.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Conformity

Inspiration to write has been hard to come by lately. When lethargy wins the battle, perfectly sound writing ideas find themselves in the mental bin, rather than on the blog. This partially has to do with my reading habit which has shown a steady decline in the recent past. Last night, however, I attempted a sudden resuscitation, which I hope gets me back on track. Then again, let's be honest. One likes a creative release every now and then. Creative ramblings that comprise of more than just aimless rambling about food, phone calls, birth, aging, sickness and death: "life", to give it a concrete form (interesting statistic to track, the number of blogs with the word "life" in the title). On to my recently CPR-ed reading habit then.

I have, for the third time, started reading Grimus (Salman Rushdie's first novel). Rushdie, without the slightest doubt, is my favourite author. I can already see that last statement generating strong remarks, pro and con. That precisely I think, is the hallmark of a brilliant author. The absolute inability of a reader or a critic to abstain from a strong reaction is probably the best reward an author can get. That, of course, having made the assumption that there is some sort of a fine balance between the bouquets and brickbats; for the want of a blue eye. Grimus seems like a good book. The only reason I have had to abandon the book twice is because of a general loss of interest in reading at that point of time. Last night, as I slowly made my way through the book, I struck upon a few lines that got me thinking of a few conversations I have shared in the past with friends, colleagues and scholars alike on issues of conformity, absurdity and profundity. There is a certain joy in exchanging ideas with such a motley bunch of men and women. For one, I realize that practically every subject that leaves space for free thought suffers from the above issues. I decided to let the idea out before it fell prey to a sense of all-pervasive lethargy. Allow me then, to introduce the lines, as spoken by a self-proclaimed pedant called Virgil Jones:

"What I'm driving at", said Virgil Jones, "in my rather indirect fashion, is that the limitations we place upon the world are imposed by ourselves rather than the world. And should we meet things which do not conform to our structure of reality, we place them outside it. Ghosts. Unidentified Flying Objects. Visions. We suspect the sanity of those who claim to see or sense them. An interesting point: a man is sane only to the extent that he subscribes to a previously-agreed construction of reality."

An interesting point, really. I remember being very disgruntled last year with branches of Physics dealt with things I couldn't see around me. I spoke of my disgruntlement with a leading scholar in the field soon after. He quite beautifully pointed out that our senses of perception, our concepts of time, space and dimension are at best, many orders less than those on which nature operates. Therefore, it'd be quite unfair to dismiss theories that are not immediately "perceptible" because perception itself is limited first by our restricted understanding of our surroundings, and also our attachment to "previously agreed constructions of reality" as Jones puts it. The same sentence was also my answer to a friend trying to decipher on a sociological scale, the implications of Chaos theory. Rather amused at the emergence of long range order out of short range chaos, and the subsequent breakdown of order (in a conversation that spanned harmonic oscillators and societal order alike), we wondered if the disorder fails to exist; or whether we fail to see it because of a restricted perception which primarily accounts for the majority.

Then again, Virgil Jones brings up another interesting point in his pedantic rambling. Consider two extremes. In the first, what if everyone conformed to the previously agreed constructions of reality. The death of innovation, it is safe to say, would have preceeded its birth. In the second extreme, consider a case where innovation was driven by a deep-seated antagonism to the prevailing order. A deep desire to be different, by any means possible. In this case too, the system would wind down to a moribund state, not very different from the first case. Somewhere in the lack of right-ness or wrong-ness, in the glaring ambiguities in the prevailing order, lie the engines of creation. A vague belief in one's "insanity", rather than a desire to be "insane" is probably what fuels change.

"Go, go, go said the bird", Jones quotes T.S. Eliot, "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Spoils of War

NJ: So, so (nudge)...what's your scene?
SK: I don't know yet. Waiting and watching.
NJ: Aha.
SK: To the patient, go the spoils of war.
NJ: Hopefully.
SK: What?
NJ: You know, hopefully, the spoils of war.
"To the patient, go the spoils of war"*

* only hopefully if your initials are SK or NJ.