[Book Review] The old devils

The old devils, Kingsley Amis

Cover page of The Old Devils

This is a book about old timers who’d have lived all their lives in the same town in wales. Their lives take a turn when Alun and Rhiannon decided to come back to the Wales and spend the remainder of their lives there. The arrival of the couple stirs up the neighbourhood and it does for a very good reason. Love.

Alun is an established author who follows the footsteps of Brydan, a welsh poet. Alun is a celebrity of sorts. Books, public appearance and interviews for the telly and the radio are his way of life. His wife Rhiannon, she’s something else. She coexists with her husband, doesn’t really come in his way. Together, they do make an enviable pair.

Alun’s friends , Peter & Muriel, Charlie & Sophie, Malcom & Gwen spend most of their time drinking the town dry. Everyday is an occasion to bid sobriety a farewell. Alun and Rhi quicky get inducted into the drinking games. The tale picks pace in establishing the lives of the old couples. Complications arise, because they bloody well would. Alun is promiscuous. Peter and Rhi were a couple at some point in the time before Peter got her knocked up and dumped her for someone else. Malcom and Rhi were a couple at sometime too. The men in the book go around rekindling the flame that had gripped their lives in the past. While secrets are kept close to the chest, the unspoken truth grows into a white elephant that is deaf, dumb and blind. Truth becomes an inconvenience which is not worth uncovering.

The tale is a wonderful example of how appearances can be deceiving. As we continue our journey through the tale, we take a closer look at the lives of the couple. Peter, for example, was a player in his youth. He was charming , seductive and had his way with women. In the present day where he is pushing 70, Peter’s life is lacklustre. He lives an isolated , alienated life with his wife who barely even acknowledges his presence in the house. Gone are his days of love and raging romanticism. His reality is void of any emotional connect at home. The two stay clear off each other. Peter longs for companionship and Muriel resents the very existence of Peter.

Charile on the other had is a man born for drinking, He drinks and drinks unconditionally. He battles his demons in the form of panic attacks. Charlie can’t endure being left all by himself. The dark and the loneliness gets to him. Sophie , and his brother Victor, ensure that they accompany him whenever they can. While it’s not explicitly implied, but one can fathom the dynamics of the relationship that Victor and Sophie share.

Malcom and Gwen’s lives take a turn because of Alun. Gwen an Alun were a thing. Alun and everybody else were a thing. Alun being Alun, complicates Gwen’s life. Gwen retaliates vocally under the influence of alcohol in a party. The friends reduce her hateful words as booze driven rage and set things aside.

The book is painfully slow. It does offer a subtle insight into a life of regret and resentment. In the book, nobody marries for love. The marriages are for convenience. Everybody harbours a longing that goes unrewarded for as long as it can. The stark difference between life in the prime of our youth and life of old age is wonderfully drawn. The strengths that we took for granted do vanish with time. While it’s easier to live a lie when we have the energy and zeal to compensate it, when it’s the time to slow down and sit back, the lies turn around to haunt.

My biggest take away from the book is about closure. I think it’s easier to wrap up a chapter in life and move on as long as we bag and tag the past and cast it aside, beyond our line of sight and hence beyond our realm of thought. Unless we reconcile with it, we’d never find peace with it, should the past catch up with us in the future. Considering life, the past always manages to catch up. The characters in the book are both victims of circumstances, are instigators of actions made of choices, and are aloof to owning their choices in a befitting manner. They all take to the bottle to keep their demons locked. They carry on for as long as they can maintain the façade.

This book ushers us to take a good look at the lies that we tell ourselves.

This is a slow book and it lacks sudden jump surprises. This book takes its time to establish the characters really well. If you endure it, it does reward you in parts. This is not a definite must read, but there is a happy ending of sorts, should that matter to you.



Trains and coffee

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck.

“I’ll figure something out. Please don’t cry. I’m here now. We’ll find a way and do what needs to get done” he assured. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a girl could manage to get a break from the cruel talons of life.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone. I didn’t know David for all my life. The first time I noticed him was the morning train to work. He stood by the door, facing me. I glanced at him without an afterthought. That was that. I got off my stop and made it to work. I didn’t have a reason to spare a thought about him.

My life is a little complicated. I’m a simple girl and I’ve had a rather humble beginning. I walked into this land with hopes of a better life. I did find a better life and it was good for a while. I met my future husband at work. We both felt a mutual spark and we married soon. The troubles started slowly. There were days when my darkened glasses would mask my bruised face. The loving tender and care had soon vanished and had left behind booze fuelled rage and resentment. There were days when I saw more of his roughened fist than his caring face. I had quietly accepted my fate and had opted to succumb to the cruelties of destiny. This was my life and I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was one of those days when I noticed David. He had been taking the same train, always standing at a safe distance away from me. I was always in his line of sight, as was he on mine. I had seen enough of him to find his face familiar. He had the same kind blue eyes. I secretly wondered if he also had demons locked away behind his innocence.

A good two weeks later, he managed to muster up the courage to approach me. We had been neighbours on a train all the way. The one off glances had changed to acknowledged smiles. It wasn’t long before he had braved to speak. It wasn’t much. A generous offer for a cup of coffee. I didn’t see a harm in that. Sharing a cup of coffee with a stranger wasn’t the same as cheating. It wasn’t the same thing. It was always going to be an innocent cup of coffee.

A few cups of coffee later we realized that we had become friends. The Friday was sunny and the clouds had made way for the sun. It was a beautiful pleasant day to be outdoors. I had carried my dark sunglasses with me that morning. Things had gotten rough the previous evening. I needed someone in the world to know what I was going through. I needed someone to see me for what I was. I wanted someone to hear my trapped misery. David was all that I had.

I told him the horrors that I had accepted into my life. He was deeply saddened by it.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. It was all that I could manage to do. I had given my life the best that I could.

I do believe that in a world where Karma catches up. It wasn’t long before David came up with the solution. In his mind, a murder felt justified. It justified my pain. It justified a revenge and the most important thing to it , he knew it couldn’t be traced back to us. The simplicity of his plan terrified me. I couldn’t have imagined a sinister mind hiding behind his innocent eyes. I had made up my mind and had accepted to let fate take its course. I had to endure my cursed life for a month. Liberation was waiting for me on the other side.

It wasn’t long before David popped a proposal . It was the same coffee shop. It was the same David. I felt newer and livelier. Of course I said yes. I was always going to say yes. For good and for worse, David was the one that set me free. He had both my heart and my gratitude.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. I had broken down in front of him.

Six months of a marriage later, I had met Michael. Same blue eyes. Same innocence. I knew there was a demon hiding away in plain sight.

“Please don’t cry. I’m here now. I mean it’s fate now aint it. We met on the train and now you have a problem and I think I know how to get that sorted” , Michael tried to console me.

As I said, I’m a simple girl with humble beginnings. Our coffee had arrived. A murder was in the horizon.


It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way 😉


The age of innocence

There will always be a part of Chennai in my blood, no matter where in the world I get to be in. I’ll always be the bloke who loves the sun and whines about it too. I’ll always be the pampered spirit who cant sleep without an air conditioner or, at the very least, a fan. I ‘ll probably always be the guy who is mesmerised by a snow fall.

London has been kind and gracious. We had a bit of snow the whole day on the Sunday. Saturdays are the worst, and in the right light, they also are the best day in the week. Saturdays are usually quiet. I get to lose myself in making music. The days have come and the months have passed. Something that has refused to change is the way Saturday treats me. The day loitered, the evenings wandered, I do always manage to make it back to the confines of my room with a million unspoken thoughts and a sounds that give my emotions a voice.

This Saturday was no different to the usual practiced rote. Late to bed, early enough to the window, the Sunday greeted me with a glimpse of falling snow. And just like that , I was a kid who was staring blank into the blanket of white. And just like that, I was someone else in a strange land of gleeful excitement and innocence.

It’s beautiful the way nature inspires the best in us. All it took was a shower of snow to transform my mind. I was no longer myself with arms weighed down by thoughts. I was no longer a bloke who was trapped in mind , soul and time. I was no longer a mirage of what I had become. It felt nice to shed some skin and stare at pristine innocence.

Flake by flake, as the ice fell through the open heart of the sky, with each falling drop I could see the many timelines blur and transcend. The snow resembled the flow of time itself. With each free falling flake, it felt like time had reset itself and that it had unconditionally altered itself free from the bonds of experiences that it had subjected me to. With each falling flake, I found myself closer to the liberation of the imprisoned mind.

I was staring right into the age of innocence. An age where time was immaterial. An age where experiences amounted to nothing. An age where everything was new. An age free of definitions , meanings and insinuations. I was finally free to feel trapped in a moment. The sweet comforts of swapping one prison for another. Only this one offered a comfort that I had never known before. A prison without an yesterday, without a tomorrow. A prison where today wasn’t relevant either. All that mattered was the unconditional existence in the moment. A moment that constituted of just snow and a pair of eyes admiring them.

As the day raged on, the snow manifested itself in different ways. It started as a soft magical shower. It picked speed and expressed a fury of purification. The sky had painted the land white. Then black and the world of grey did not matter. All was white and pristine was an one-dimensional direction. I joined its vigour. I felt the clouds lighten within. I was caught in that moment. Mad, zealous for that purification. The time of reckoning was finally here. Unlike the devil’s scripture, it wasn’t a time for judgement. The whitened land offered no prejudice. There was white and that’s all there was to it. A redemption offered without asking. An atonement gained without a longing.

As the phase slowly vanished, I decided to step outside my prison. In mind and the body, I found myself under the vast open sky. High up , all the way to the heavens, snow had painted the world white. Right below my feet, the price of that white was being paid. The bewitching beauty of the innocent snow had left behind a swamp of dirt and grime. The sky and the land were locked in a conflict. As the sky redeemed itself, the land felt burdened with conscious. White above, black below and I was right between the two.

I smiled at the age of innocence. I had been naïve. The moment had passed and realities were now spotted. The seduction of the white no longer mattered. I was a bloke of the land. This land’s my home. All the whites looked dark in comparison to the compassion of the soiled earth. The sky’s preoccupation felt bullish. It had exerted its will. The land took it all. It offered me my moment of bliss. It offered me it’s truest colour. I loved the land for what it was. It could take it all and still offer a nurturing embrace. I finally understood its soiled skin. Beauty was the blemish. The beauty without par.


Ink and life

ZZZZZZZZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR . That was the noise that quietened the noise in my head. Zzzzzzzzzzzr, then the noise was muffled a bit. And hello pain.

The story doesn’t really start with the numbing pain. In fact, it doesn’t even end on that painful note. The bags packed to Liverpool, I knew it was the right moment to get another tattoo. On an impulse, I had finalized on what I wanted to get. The same impulse got me an appointment. The dates were now set. The design was now set. To go or not to go with the plan, was the only question running in my head.

Getting a second tattoo did pose challenges of a different kind. Once one has experienced the needle, the nature of questions around tattoos does change. Does it hurt? , is a question no longer asked. Of course, it was going to hurt. It was always going to hurt. I knew that. The new batch of questions were around,

Do I really need this one?

Am I dumb enough to go through the process again?

Do I really really really want this one for all my life?

The first tattoo was a child of a lifetime of desire to get inked. I had invested a lot of time into thinking about symbols and formulating the wider deeper meaning of what it stood to represent. I knew that I’d do whatever it took to get that first tattoo. The second one was different. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. I didn’t need another tattoo to tell the world that I was demented enough for a tattoo. I hadn’t really invested a lot of time and thoughts into what I wanted. The fact that I wasn’t a 100% sure on what I wanted, also pushed me to have second thoughts about them.

Did I really need one? Yup. Was I dumb enough to go through the process again? Yup. Do I really really really want this for all my life? I guess so.

I guess so. That’s the whole point. There is so much life spent around those words. I GUESS SO. Choices that sit on the fence that separates decisions and doubts. I guess so is the easier road to take. We are almost there. Nearly confident that we are geared up for the unknowns that are ahead of us. There is a fear of that uncertainty. I guess so is a win win state to be in. It’s not the same as staying inert because of the paralysis of fear. It’s not the same as galloping bravely into the arms of the future. It’s a slow , cautious walk in a direction. Any direction.

I guessed that I could use another tattoo. The first thing that came to my mind was the full moon. I remember the many days I’ve spent admiring the ball of white. It wasn’t the white that I fancied. I liked the orange full moon. That was almost immediate. I had opted to ink a full moon that was a ball of Orange. With that in mind, there was a destination to look forward to.

The decision now made, I wanted to spend a little more time understanding the whys of my choice. Moon shares a deep association with spirituality. Spiritual aspirants draw on the moon’s grace in their journey. The colour also had a meaning. I wasn’t surprised by my choices in them. Red and Orange. They both deal with the first two chakras.

The skeptic , within me, calls this as Confirmation bias. I had made my choice and was looking for meanings to tag along. The believer in me laughs at the chain of coincidences. I had never imagined getting a moon, of all things, inked. Far away from dreams of getting skulls and bones, there I was shooting for the moon.

The inking began. I tried to zone out of the pain. The process lasted two hours and there is only so much that one can tune out off. I got chatty with my tattoo artist, Mr Auris. Then I got bored of sitting idle and still. I even braved looking at the needles playing poke -e -man with my skin. In time, I got used to the pain, I was starting to get excited about the final product.

The two hours of pain and dreams did give me the opportunity to think. Somewhere along the first 15 minute mark, I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to believe in the tattoo any more. I didn’t see a purpose. I didn’t see why I had opted to sit through pain. It was the lousiest moment of the entire bloody day. I channelled out the pain by thinking about the image of the moon that I was aiming for, It didn’t bring me peace. Take that Dramatic moments written in literature.

It did distract me away from the pain. The wave of pain subsided. It didn’t feel hurt that bad for a while. The pain kept coming in waves. I sat satisfied that I could sit through it without tears. I had started to enjoy the moment. I was getting a tattoo. I was getting one that had 9 colours in them. That’s two more than the average joe Rainbow!

I guess life is like that. It’s exactly how we choose to reflect and describe. We either make a choice , or sit around wishing that we could make one. We either enjoy the choice made, or lament it. We either write a wonderful tale of purpose and joy, or lament it and blame the many factors that were unlucky. Life is what we make of it. And an ink is what I make of it.

I have a moon on my shoulder. I guess that makes me a star 🙂 and I can live with that.

Oh, live a life doing stupid things, you are bound to learn a lot of lessons. Getting inked during winter, in Liverpool, not the smartest of ideas. It does make me stronger though! A big bar of hazelnut candy made the experience a lot sweeter. Everything feels better with a baby diaper rash ointment!!!!!

I now have my eyes on the next batch! Third time is the CHARM

My tattoo of a full moon


A shoe that bites

Perspectives and perspectives.

It is fun to contemplate on life. That statement also warrants that through the course of a busy day, I still do efficiently manage to sneak a little time to let my wild mind loose. A mind that thinks is a mind that wanders is also the one that can head directions. I’m quite happy and excited to talk about my shoes today. To be fair, a tale about my shoes is not the most obtuse thing that I’ve ever managed to pen down.

Where do I start? How about at the beginning? Living in a house that doesn’t have a kitchen does have its advantages. No council tax what so ever! Done. That was the shortest list , if there ever was one. A house without a kitchen has a long list of disadvantages. Can’t cook. Can’t clean vessels. Can’t make coffee, actually can, just can’t clean the mug after each use. I stopped making coffee at home. I realized that I don’t cook and since I don’t cook at home, I don’t have to run errands in pursuit of keep the refrigerator filled. Since I don’t shop, I felt it was pointless to walk all the way to the closest ASDA ( a big store) to pick a pint of milk. And long story short, I managed to eat out last night with my friends.

Eating out is fun. Eating late is fun. It offsets the sage-like routine that I have charted for my life here. The day yesterday was a challenge. Breakfast skipped, a bowl of salad, which I tossed away half way through , for lunch; and that led to the eventual realization that I was way out of steam to have a meaningful workout at the gym. Since no gym, I had a bit of a time to kill and since I had nearly run the entire day on empty, I lobbied my friends to have dinner outside. Dinner outside always, and I mean always ensures a bucket load of laughs, a graceful helping of calories and usually means the state of late to bed.

The time I spend is predictable and fortunately I happen to be a bloke who enjoys predictability. There are certain things that I do where a routine does not bore me. Making music is one such activity. A good workout at the gym transpires to a fresher mind and a fresher body. Through the day’s hassles, a workout resets my mind. The hour of focus helps me unlock my mind to its possible potential. It is in this state of the mind where I’m the closest to my musical inspiration. Emotions translate to notes. Notes fuel back to the emotions. It’s those 45 minutes of sublime bliss where I lose myself in myself.

A night of laughs does not inspire that karmic bliss. And hence the problem statement. Ever heard the phrase, an idle mind is a devil’s circus. I overdose on that sentiment. A long night of thoughts keep me distanced from the comforts of a amnesiac sleep. There are those days when thoughts manifest through dreams. The fact that I remember such dreams is also a testament to the quality of the sleep. But not everything is grim. Since dreams are a manifestation of thought, it does offer me a pristine view of even the most muddiest , distracted , distorted version of a thought.

The next morning does start with the Sun and a beautiful puzzle, that is the dream, waiting to get analysed and dissected through more applied thought! I like such mornings.

A shoe that bites does play a tiny , insignificant role in all of this. Let me explain why I’m quite happy and excited to talk about the shoe that bites.

The cycle of thoughts, dreams, and even more thoughts are here to stay. There are days when I do take a stock of things that irk me, that worry me, that inspire me and those that have a capacity to destroy me. Some times, such days are abundant. These are the days that pose a threat and a challenge to the outlook that I’ve engineered towards life. The things outlined above are not unique to me. The way I cope up with such days, is also not unique. Yet there is a subtle difference , that I call as the over all general outlook towards life.

A lot of us coast through the million challenges of life. We play our life despite the stacked odds. Some exhibit a profound pessimism that gets expressed as the way they view life. Some bank on an unshakeable faith that one day things are meant to get better. How we view ourselves, the world around us, has a direct bearing on how we see the challenges of our lives and how we deal with them.


I wear a pair of shoes and the left shoe bites. It is a near constant annoyance. Some days I manage to tolerate it. Some days, I promise myself to change them immediately. Almost every day, there is a sense of rejuvenated happiness each time I take the damn shoe off.

And yup. That’s why I’m excited to talk about that shoe. The day coming to a near close, an hour of commute later, I’d be home. I’d be free to cast the demon shoe off. I’d be liberated from the nagging pain. I’ll be free again to pursue that saint-like , disciplined, well almost disciplined, conformance to a routine to commute, sweat and that leap into the magic of sounds notes and emotions.

The short of it, happiness is only a shoe away.

So why am I happy about it? What brings excitement to the table? Why would anyone bother holding on to a pair of shoes that bite?

Through the day, I could have focused on thinking about the million things that inspire a frown on my face. I could have written about the million things that break my spirit. Somehow, I found it interesting to talk about the one thing that guarantees me happiness. I’m excited to talk about that distillation that helps me remove the noise of daily existence and that which brings me closer to smiles. That is something worth being excited about. I don’t think I’ll ever find happiness, if I refuse to acknowledge the things that make me feel happy. That’s worth being excited about.

Of all the wisdom of the world, all the literature on the adventures in pursuit of happiness. Some times, all it takes is the pointless insight of knowing which shoe to remove.


Inception and the shutter island that’s my life

I know my ringtone. Gone are the days when I’d painstakingly sample the many rock songs from my collection which was titled Rocking songs, strip parts of the epic guitar solo or the chorus, rename the file a bit, load it to itunes and then sync it so that my iPhone 3 would read it as a ringtone. ACDC, The scorpions, Metallica , GNR, the tones were many and the phone would come to life when people called.

It was a time when things used to rain incoming calls. Where are you?, What’s up? Felt like hearing your voice? The excuses for receiving calls were many. The ringtones kept them alive. As time wore on, I moved to android and over the years the number of incoming calls steadily declined. With that, I lost any inclination to put in an effort to customize the ringtones. As it stands today, I have the default tune that the iPhone came with. Sober, mundane, void of emotions, and worst of it all, Efficient. I know my ringtone.

The phone buzzed. I neither could see the number calling me nor bothered with it. So I don’t know. I answered the phone. The call opened and through the speaker, I could very distinctly hear the clutter in the background. Someone had called and carried on their conversation with their environment. A minor annoyance. I waited a moment for the caller to turn their attention to me. I knew I’d wait a few more seconds before turning intolerant and terminating the call.

Hey… ‘eppidi iruka da? (How are you?)

I know the voice. I flutters my heart. A call, ungodly hour, I answer it by jumping out of my deep dead floating slumber. Before I have the time to come to terms with it, I blurt out a reply.

I’m alright. Doing good. Ne eppidi iruka?’ (How are you doing?)

And with that I woke up this morning. Two minutes later, my phone came alive to announce the dawn of the day. 7 am. As always, I had risen before the alarm. Unlike the usual, something had jolted me up today. I stared at the table that rested my toothbrush and toothpaste. I looked outside the window for the sign of a sun. Gloomy on the outside, gloomy on the inside.

Pagal kanavu da, maira pochu (day dreams don’t come alive) I gently whispered to myself. I could have thought it in my head. I chose to softly whisper it instead. I felt that the words definitely had to be said and heard. To me, it was an assurance to wake up to the reality and cut my chords away from a fantasy.

I reached out to youtube and played the one song that I wanted to listen to this morning. Maruvarthai pesadhey, the singer started. The hot water rained from the showerhead above. Water washed away the tears that might have formed in the heart. My eyes were bored of the routine.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Cobb and Mal. Cobb and Mal belong to Nolan’s world of the movie Inception. It’s about a lot of things. I’ll stick to what I want to stick to about it. Cobb recreates Mal from all of his memories. The reality of Cobb, the fictional reanimation that Mal is, their worlds collide.

There is a specific dialog from the movie that haunts me from time to time. Cobb says that it’s getting harder and harder for him to remember all the details about Mal. Her perfections, her imperfections, her subtle and not so subtle nuances. The longer one holds on to a memory, the harder it becomes to keep it alive.

I’ve always seen my words as a blessing and a curse. I’m lucky with it. Yes. Since I can tie words together, stitch sentences, narrate a tale of characters and secretly breathe life into them, as the tales start churning out and as time keeps ticking forward, it feels like a cruel torment to struggle to bring nuances of a living breathing person into lifeless characters made of words, waiting to breathe life on a piece of paper.

I refuse to forget, I refuse to stop influencing my world of fiction from my realities. I struggle to keep the memories alive. I’m not god. I’m not even a perfect human. I’m limited by my flawed, biased perception of a perspective memory to keep people alive in my mind and through my words. I’ve struggled with that for years and failure has always been a near constant.

Much like how Mal appears and wrecks Cobb’s existence, I can see my memories manifest. The harder I struggle to forget and ignore my memoires, the stronger it manifests itself into my world of real. I see the same people in the world around. Initially I thought it was a pathetic conscious effort from me to cling on to a thread of a remembrance of a memory. As days grow on, I know the difference. I see the same people in people around. It’s not a conscious choice to view the world that way. It’s difficult to explain and express because I don’t understand this myself.

Things would have been easier if everybody I saw was a replica of the people I’ve already known. It doesn’t work that way. In an ocean of strangers, there are a few drops who bear that resemblance. The locations are different. There is no symmetry or a routine that I can adopt to recreate that delusion. It doesn’t happen at my will. It doesn’t happen at a time of my choosing. It happens and when it does, I get to witness and dwell in a silent misery.

I’ve been through a lot of iterations of life experiences. I’ve not experienced a backlash of this nature and magnitude. It feels odd that of all the things , it would be my scattered memories putting on a nasty fight.

Like all things, I tag these as walking delusions, remind myself that nothing is real and all I need is a little fresh air to reset to my pretend natural self. The battle wages on. The meanings are still lost to me. I don’t want to pursue meanings anymore. It’s a thing today and hope it won’t be tomorrow. For what it’s worth, there is a solace in knowing that I share a slice of life with Cobb, from one of the greatest movies ever made.

Book review : The other hand

The coverpage of The Other hand

The other hand, Chris Cleave.

When the book’s back cover page reads ‘ We don’t want to tell you what happens.. and once you’ve read it, you’d be tempted to discuss this with your friends. Please don’t do so until they’ve read the book’, I felt compelled to buy the book. Such confidence did motivate me to grab the book. It was a blind date of sorts and yeah, I think the date went well. It had it’s moments, it felt nice and while I wont enjoy such a date again, I don’t feel cheated by it either.

This is a serious book and the book doesn’t shy away from it’s premise. This is a story of two women. Little bee, and that’s not her real name. Bee escapes Nigeria and finds herself in the UK’s immigrant’s detention centre. After a short stay of two years in that institution, Bee walks into the land, almost as a free citizen. The office doesn’t issue her papers, just lets her go. That makes her an illegal alien in the land.

Bee, fortunately, knows only one family in the whole of UK. Andrew and Sarah. The English couple , a few years ago, had managed a vacation in Nigeria and it changes their lives forever. There is something that connects Little Bee, Andrew and Sarah. As fate would have it, their lives intersect all over again. What happens to Bee, what happens to Andy and Sarah? The tale unfolds the fates of these wonderfully penned characters.

To throw in a little context, Nigeria was gripped in a chaos over petroleum. The black gold resulted in the government shaking it’s dirty hands with corporates. This leaves the natives as unwanted burden in their old land. As with money everywhere, violence is a friend that walks hand in hand with it. As resources go plundered, lives are reduced as mere perishables. Bee is a young teenager and her view of her land does paint a horror story. Bee’s narration also walks us through the differences in the human lives when they are separated by boundaries of nations and wings of development. Bee is , by far, one of the strongest narrator that I’ve ever come across. Her narration brings two distinct worlds together. She makes us laugh, she’d make you queasy.

There is a Batman in the tale. Charlie, the tiny tot of Sarah, often dresses up as Batman to cope up with his small life. What is he coping up with?, you have to read to discover that by yourself. The innocence of Charlie, the fear driven defiance of Bee, the idealism of Sarah and pragmatism of Andrew, they are all but the many sides to a life. Through them, we do see the strength of the human spirit. Through the world of politics, rules and governments, we see the might that feels forced to crush that human spirit.

The book poses a wonderful question. Should a country be permitted to refuse asylum to seekers across the world? Are there strains to the native citizens? Is the world not a big enough place to host everybody under the sun? Why cant countries protect people who don’t belong to them? As a species, do we belong to the earth or as civilised, educated blokes, do we belong to nations and governments that rule them? There is no simple answer to any of those questions. Globalization does make the world a smaller place and does make governments indifferent to one another.

I liked the book. It’s not as engaging or soul shattering as some of the other books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past few months. That being said, I think this book deserves its place in your cupboard or your kindle.


Lights, sounds and nostalgia

And so I was standing in the rain, waiting for the bus and suddenly a sentence popped into my head. ‘Deepon ki avli hai deepavli’. That translates to Diwali is a festival that is array of lit lamps. More or less, give or take.

I think I had that lesson about the festival in the Hindi class when I was in the 6th grade. Deepon ki avli indeed. The festival of lights has always been a special one. To me, it had always symbolized things new, fun and exciting. For as long as I can remember, my mum has always slogged herself in the kitchen to dish out a feast of sorts. At one point, it was an extended family that enjoyed the meal. As years wore on, the participants were reduced to just the three of us. Mum, dad and yours truly.

That didn’t hamper or dampen my mum’s spirit. She goes all in every year. This year, its a meal for two and still all in. I had a good laugh teasing my mom about it. ‘So, are you going to shower today?’ , my mom asked her usual Diwali question. Some things never do change.

I am reminded of the time I was in my 5th grade. The usual practice was to wear them new clothes to school when they reopened after the holidays. That one year, the occasion was special enough. I had taken the liberties of extending the practice to another day , besides the designated fancy wear day. My reason was a simple enough. I had brought two! It was fun to be the only bloke in school who was not in his usual uniform. People were shook, some of the kids were jealous, most of my teachers were amused and I was a happy proud kid, dressed in a Red Tshirt that had a picture of a fancy skull on it. Red used to be my favourite color back then.

Then came the phase of ‘I’m too cool to burst crackers’. I believed , half heartedly , in the cause against child labour. The promotions promoted, the propaganda propagated, I did manage to coast through the day avoiding them crackers. Temptation sunk in by the evening. A box of rockets later, I did smile a satisfied guiltless smile. It was the last time I had bothered with the crackers. I had grown old.

Before I could realize that I was the responsible adult around the block, my folks appointed me the safety warden. My nephew was a kid back then, so was my niece. They wanted to have their fun with fire and explosives. The kid got creative and I started to worry. I remember lugging a bucket of water and bracing my heart over his adventure spells. The games had transcended time. Tying up crackers of different kind were still in fashion. Blowing coconut shells were still cool. Igniting crackers and throwing them for an Air time explosion was still awesome. As a responsible adult, yeah, it was way too much trouble to maintain the façade of being responsible. I rolled my sleeves and joined in on their fun. It felt great to be a kid again.

The kids grew up and they had their fifteen minutes of fame riding the ‘Crackers is child labour’ phase. My nephew refused to indulge in the practice. My niece was still enthusiastic. Fortunately, I made the nephew the safety warden and enjoyed ten more minutes of happy sleep. That happiness didn’t last long. Brothers and sisters are meant to fight and fight they did. My mom rushed in the damage control. I was the damage control. This time around, I was the ‘uncle’ to the kids in the apartment. Little ones surrounded me and looked up to me to inspire them into excitement and adventure.

There were the first timers, the scaredy cats who wanted to get in on the fun, but were apprehensive about how explosives worked. Their hands would tremble, the incense stick would fly all directions and manage to miss igniting the wick. They had to be directed. They had to be motivated. The first thrill of setting something on fire, the first thrill of escaping death, the first thrill of an action fuelled adventure, once they acquired the taste for it, there was no stopping them.

I remember that evening. My nephew and I decided to watch the night works from the terrace. We both decided to throw away our phones and enjoy the lights and sounds. It felt wonderful to enjoy the moment. It was the first time , in many years, where I had managed to place my mind and my thoughts on hold. I was free to enjoy the moment. The thinking would resume later. It was also the last time I enjoyed such an evening. Time and tide, you know the drill. They don’t bother waiting.

Then came the thrills of sneaking in a call to a loved one without the parents raising any alarms. The simpler joys of wishing at the stroke of mid night. The dumb satisfaction of exchanging pictures of celebrations across the households. The happiness of secrecy and jubilation of romance. Festivals were a fun time to enjoy life. It did give an excuse to stay a little more connected than usual. It did give an excuse to view the normal as something special. It did give an opportunity to view a larger than life version of the mundane.

Through the years, my folks haven’t changed. Dad still heads out early morning to burst the quintessential usi- vedi (needle cracker!!!) . He steps out before most people wake up. He gets back before most people wake up. He then helps mom with her production line of dolling out dishes. My mom would then nudge him to start the process of waking me up. 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, 8, am, 9 am.. and then my mom would adopt a different strategy. She’d remind me that there would come a day when I’d not be with them and the guilt trip was ample enough to get my day started. The irony is, I woke up at 6 today, without reminders, without much drama and too bad, I woke up to an empty room, to a land that has to wait till the 5th of November for the fireworks.

A festival becomes more than a festival. It’s not about throwing money and acquiring things. It’s not about flaunting with flashy clothes and distributing expensive and exotic sweets. It’s not about putting on a show. It’s the simpler things. It’s about spending a little time with the family. It’s about enjoying a meal together, to talk about useless things of daily life. It’s about sharing a few smiles.

Enjoy a little, much needed, family time. May the festival of lights brighten up your smiles. Be responsible, be a safety warden 😛


Of skepticism and superstitions

If I had a black and a white outlook towards life, scepticism and superstition would align themselves at the polar ends of the spectrum. Fortunately, I enjoy the simple pleasures of dwelling in the land of grey. The fine line that separates my identity as a skeptic and my unshakable faith in superstition can very well be termed as hypocrisy. I’m happy with that label. And so I think I’m a hypocrite. I selectively debunk superstitions and selectively protect that belief with all my heart.

What started all of this ?

‘Bite your tongue’ , is a phrase one uses to flag a certain disapproval of things said. Nobody tells me that. My mom does tell me other things. Things like when you bite your lips , accidentally a few times in quick succession, it means there is someone who is venting out their anger and disgust for you eloquently.

I’ve had my tryst with my mom’s wisdom quite a number of times. The recent of the lot, it was a Saturday when I nearly ripped off my lip. It started abruptly and a week later, it ended as abruptly as it started. It was a week where I think I was being screamed at. Arguably, by virtue of being just myself, I think I feel a certain comfort in staying entitled that at time of the day, there is someone who has me living in their head. There is a guilty sinful pleasure there. I enjoy the fact that I’m worthy enough to occupy someone’s mind and inspire a degree of pristine hate and disgust in them. It’s a living!

This time around, I had my suspects. The timelines made sense. Coincidence was at it’s dramatic best. The week done, my lips are now safe. I don’t bite into them now. The phase of violence is now over.

I’m also a skeptic. I remember the first time I was made aware of that scepticism. It was in Liverpool, Peter and I were by the Mersey and we were talking about humanity. He believed, still believes in the goodness of the species. I didn’t back then. It was a stark realization of how bitter and resentful my experiences had made me. I had found it easier to distrust the goodness in us. I had found it easy to succumb to the simplicity of the impending doom that awaited us all.

That was me, being a skeptic. I also do enjoy the curiosity that drives me. I’m a cat on the wall when it comes to most belief systems. I rarely pick a side. When I do, I usually vet things by subjecting them to a test of time, a test of people, a test of context and circumstances. Once the faith stands tall post that scrutiny, I’m rather quick in adopting it. I usually never look back. It’s the curiosity and my reluctance to pick sides that has left me challenging the status quo.

I’m a bit superstitious. I still don’t bother trimming nails after sunset. I’d not visit a temple without showering. I’d not visit anybody’s house empty handed. I think the world is made of vibes and there are vibes that are positive and there those which I infer as being negative. The extent of my indulgence of superstitions stop there.

The other side of the tale, I’m skeptic about the eclipse or how one shouldn’t dine during the eclipse. I don’t mind dangling the key chain after dark. I have no qualms about having a conversation with my god. I’m not into dogmatic procedures that most would ardently adhere to. I enjoy my non-compliance. I love to annoy my mom.

I reckon the state of staying a skeptic or superstitious is very much a personal choice. It’s a life choice. It’s a life style. Like most similar choices, trouble brews when we try to force these opinions/faiths/belief systems onto others. For example, I am a bit old fashioned and yet I’m intolerant towards folks who expect a conservative outlook towards life. After quite a few many clashes of ideology, I am a bit jaded from voicing out opinions. Live and let live seems to be a wonderful means to a peaceful existence. Of course, not the world’s peace. Just mine and mine alone.

It is funny, the way we are. We find it easy to believe a heaven that is filled with angels, we find it easy to believe a hell that’s crowded with demons. Yet we find it hard to place trust on people who walk amongst us. By virtue, we find it easier to believe comfortable and convenient unknowns and yet choose to fear the ones that we are unsure about. Irony walks with us.

I don’t think I’m alone here. Many of us do share that enthusiasm for debunking myths. Many of us have our peeves for superstition. A lot of us are chained to our obsessive repetitive routines. So what do you believe in? What do you voice against?