Friday, November 28, 2014

825, 824

What I wrote to some people about reading Herman Hesse' Siddhartha:


In one edition, Paulo Coelho has written the prologue of this book. He read this book when he was in an asylum, tackling his nervous disorder. When he finished, it was daybreak - literally and metaphorically. I read this book because a favourite boss recommended it. He said I'd 'get it'. What can I say? In my reading life, it's not my most impactful book (that’s Roots by Alex Haley),it's not the book my heart pulsates for(that’s Rushdie’s ‘Shame’),it doesn't leave me with the wild melancholy that doesn't leave (Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath). But Siddhartha...it broke my heart. In the way something simple like sunshine on dew will break your heart someday - with its true, delicate honesty. Did I 'get' Siddhartha? Not sure. But what happened was a strange, surreal kind of alchemy...the book read me. In an age of book proselytizing, I won’t go into a 'you gotta' read this book. But every heart needs the experience of being broken gently with the written word. You owe it that much.
 
Also, finished reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Now picked up Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. This was recommended by a friend. Looking forward to reading it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

826 - The Twelve Steps of AA

As I drove to an early morning yoga class, I saw a thin sliver of moon in the sky - a shy, golden-white smile. My heart was clenched and I thought of a remark and very angrily - with a temper I thought I had tamed - I spat out 'coward'. And wished I had come face to face with that wimp to bash his or her face in. Not good. 

Also, finished Dr. Sleep by Stephen King. Made me think of AA's 12 steps (it's a strong motif in the book.) Here it is. A reminder for when a shy, golden-white moon is in the sky and an old, rousing temper in the heart.


  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    827

    Went to Crossword last evening. There, I happened to read the introduction of a book called 'Bol Bam' by Scharada Dubey. It's a compilation of essays on various pilgrims and pilgrimmages associated with Lord Shiva. There seemed to be a few pictures and I dipped into some pages in the middle of the book. Seemed insipid to me. But I was very curious about the author's life after reading the Introduction.

    She had a quiet childhood, mingled with friends from other faiths, and was exposed to diverse ways of approaching religion through her parents' mindset. Her mother was fairly devout. Her father wasn't. Neither forced her to pray or follow any religious ceremonies. She picked up pieces of Hinduism as and when she could, mostly unknowingly. Then the scene in India changed - or actually, maybe it didn't change. It just got more vivid and there were the riots and the rise of Hindutva and the inexplicable shame of calling oneself a 'Hindu' - even though the rise of Hindutva itself came with a call, "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain." (Say it with pride that we are Hindus.)

    Then her first marriage fell apart and she married again. Her second husband is an atheist and he always asked her how she could believe in a religion that is so stratified and unjust. If you take into account the way widows were treated (a situation the author was familiar with because she saw her father's widow sister live out most her life in white saris and no real life outside her brother's home) or the caste system, you see this religion as just plain exploitative and unfair. She seemed to grapple with those questions herself. She had seen that side of it but she couldn't explain away that sense of deep connect and nourishment that her faith provided her. She had shopped around the spiritual market - done Vipassana and chanted the Buddhist chants. But she felt comfortable with the notion of a God you can see and touch and imagine when the eyes are shut. Somehow, none of that seemed to be the thing one admitted to in polite, secular company.

    This book is, I think, is her trying to find answers through pilgrims and their journeys.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    828

    It was a good day yesterday. I think any day that begins with yoga or some form of exercise usually turns out to be good. There was a fair bit of work but the project turned out pretty well in the end. Most of us left office beaming.

    I came home and was suddenly in no mood for paratha. No mood to warm it up and have it with  palak daal and soya cutlets. So I made rice.

    I have a large plastic canister of rice. It is one of the most joy-creating items in my home. Fine, white grains feel smooth and sharp when held in the palm of the hand. I like how each grain - each one of them will swell in hot water and will fill me up with taste and well-being. I can see why rice is used as a symbol of abundance in rituals.

    Even with a fistful you get a sense of there is so much of so much.

    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    830, 829

    Yesterday was a bit of a downer.

    There's a bunch of us that meets periodically to discuss our writing - whatever we do of it - and throw around ideas. Although I really like the group, the last few weeks I was hoping for extensive feedback on my work. A critique. Something more than a nod or a 'Nice'. I suppose it is hard to give feedback to someone sitting directly opposite you...but we had met a few times and I thought we were in a place where we could comment on each other's work substantially - especially mine. What surprised me was a defensiveness or an unwillingness from the group when I asked for it. It annoyed me. Until I figured out that no feedback is a kind of feedback itself. My material didn't connect. And that somehow seemed worse.

    There was someone in the group who thought that I was basically looking for people to say they liked my work. That I found a little irksome. I have been writing for a really long time. I do it for a living. I get feedback all the time - many times scathing. And I have not let it affect me. In fact, if there was any area of my life that I have been very sure about, it has been my writing. Not that it will always be good but that it will always be earnest. And most times, something good will come out of it. Yes, I like praise and don't like flak. When someone says something bad about my work, I breathe and mentally raise a middle finger. Because here's the thing. Most people give unsolicited advice. Most people who give unsolicited advice on my writing do not seem to write enough. They do not seem to read enough. They usually haven't demonstrated the discipline of actually writing something and sharing their own work. Most people who give unsolicited advice on my writing are weak and do not know what they are talking about. If the advice is favourable, there is some semblance of good taste. If the advice is unfavourable, there is no indication of it.

    I must also lay down, perhaps, that I am not often receptive to feedback about my writing. Unless I ask for it. I know that there is a tendency, even when one asks for feedback, to seek only praise. But I'm not like that when I actually put my work out there and say, "What do you think?" (In a blog I just put stuff out there. There is no follow up question, "What do you think?" Because frankly what you think I don't really care.) So when I do ask for feedback and I don't get it, it upsets me.

    But in the walk from the coffee shop to the main road, I thought long and hard about why getting solicited feedback is tough when unsolicited feedback is easy. Because of the nature of request. Because when I ask someone to read my work and give feedback, I am asking for that person's time and his or her application of thought. Those are tough things to ask for - even of people who are part of a group that is designed to help writers. Also, I realise that my work isn't very easy to get. It doesn't have the snap and crackle of personality and pop. It's more mood and vibe and season. It, I suppose, is not easy to connect with unless you give it time. Unless you read it in private. Unless you read it without expecting to give a snap opinion of it immediately. Like a friend of mine told me - that the fact you write well is probably a given. But what you write may not be what the group wants to read. If that's the case, I either leave the group or write what they will respond to. It is not the world's responsibility to like what I do. It is not even their responsibility to be interested in what I do. I just have to figure out how much I ought to let it affect me.

    And yesterday, it affected me a fair bit.

    But today's a new day. I walked up a hill in the evening with a friend. We had an encounter with a beautiful Siberian husky who stared at us with Arctic blue eyes. We saw car lights get lit on the narrow strip of road, looking like red bits of plump jelly. Today I decided that I will finish what I started. It's not a book. It's a script. I am not familiar with the format. But I will get it done. Whether it gets read or made or appreciated or denounced - I. Will. Do. It.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    831

    An awesome lunch was had at Curry Leaves. If you find yourself in the vicinity of the Baner-Pashan Link Road, definitely try out the Kerala spread at Curry Leaves . Flaky, soft parotta and a later of spicy roasted mushrooms that came dusted with cumin powder and garnished with crisp, fried curry leaves. A bowl of payasam one slurped hastily enough and a tall, cool glass of spicy lassi. That was what I had. Friends had a chicken thali that came with three pieces of fried chicken, avail, Kerala rice, sme stew, payasam and some bowl of veggies. Fish thali had all of the vegetarian things and also Surmai.

    The best part that the place is very reasonably priced.

    The best part was that we walked along the curve of the road in the afternoon. It was hot but there was a really sweet soporific calmness. Day has ended. I walked a little bit around Aundh too. Visited Crosswod and made mental notes to buy Pyaasa.

    Day has ended and am really looking forward to gorgeous sleep.

     

    Green Giant by Jack Prelutsky (I find this very cheery)

    There lived a green great giant whose name was Sam
    His hair was the color of strawberry jam
    He had one brown and one blue eye
    And a beard the color of pumpkin pie.
    His coat and pants were oh so bright
    Like a peppermint stick all red and white
    His socks were as brown as a chocolate drop
    His head was the color of gingerbread
    With a tall, tall feather of raspberry red.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    832

    Someday I hope to crack the correct way to deal with unsolicited advice. 

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    833

    What can I say about today? Went for yoga this morning. Trying out a new class and loved the suryanamaskars I did there. I felt so open and fresh. I should really do that every single day - at least a few rounds.

    I have a very good feeling about today. I think we are blessed.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    834

    Met some new people yesterday evening. It always surprises me how this happens. How people meet, smile and say hello. When you stay by yourself as much as I do or hangout with maybe just one or two people at a time, I really wonder at the miracle of these set-ups when so many people 'mingle', you know? Smile and shake hands and exchange numbers or email addresses or just suddenly, tell you about a bit about their childhood or their place of birth or a pond in their college...and I feel so overwhelmed. In a slightly good but unnerving way. I think all that enthusiasm just got to my stomach and it started getting knotted up and churning badly.

    Despite being one, I am fairly certain that human beings over the age of three make me nervous - especially if there is conversation involved.


    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    835

    A quiet day.

    Woke up late because I had a few bad dreams last night. It must be the effect of reading Stephen King's 'Dr. Sleep'. My neighbour mentioned that I've lost weight and asked me what I'm doing. I joked and mentioned that I am eating the food that I cook. I thought that was that but then later in the day, she asked me if I could make a little extra for her. Made me feel a little sad yet thoughts of a potential business opportunity bubbled.

    Went to Bounty's at Kalyani Nagar with a friend. He wanted to try sizzlers and that was where I'd had the tastiest sizzlers in Pune. Personally, I preferred it to 'The Place' on MG Road or E-Street. I just had an onion and cream soup that was nice. You could really get the taste of onions. I thought maybe they could add some more salt in there. My friend had a nice big chicken shashlik. The weather in Pune is rainy, cold, dreamy, and has you reaching out for a warm cup of coffee ever so often. We drove back with some really nice music playing on the stereo.

     

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    First Impressions – Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattnaik

    This book is one tasty meal. It begins with exploring what myth is, what purpose it serves and who needs it. According to Western philosophy, myth is understood to be ‘falsehood’. In Hindu philosophy, it is not so much a falsehood as one superficial layer that must be peeled back and transcended to really understand the ‘Truth’ – that is, what we, the worlds, and all of this dance of time and space stands for.

    The blurb succinctly outlines the main message of the Hindu mythology. Hindus have one God. They also have over three million gods. (By, the way, note the difference in capitalization.) They have gods and goddesses with their unique specialization very. They also have various kinds of demons and ogres. But Hindus have no ‘Devil’. In a nutshell, the equation between the gods or devas who reside in the heavens and the demons or asuras who reside below the ground is really a tussle between disciplined, cultured ways of living or wanton, hedonistic lives in the natural world. The dynamic between gods and goddesses is also depicted as the tussle between culture and nature. Gods stand for culture, goddesses stand for nature. Culture is required to establish a certain predictability in society. Nature is required to sensitize one to the impermanence of life. Both are necessary. Both are important. Both help. Both ruin.

    As with other books by Pattanaik, this one too dwells on the differences between Vishnu and Shiva. I think, personality-wise, I lean towards Shiva, Any entity that has figured out a way to keep society at bay and stay sequestered gets my vote. However, lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about Vishnu. This is after a friend’s observation that any avatar of Vishnu, especially Krishna, has a pretty tough life. To be born in a prison, to have your brothers killed, to be away from your mother, to have to confront and kill your uncle, to not be with the woman you truly loved, to give up your home and return only to see it destroyed – and yet when you see any picture of Krishna, he always has a smile. What must it take to engage with a world so fully, knowing that it will take you down and yet…smile/ I had never quite seen Krishna that way before. It was quite a revelation to see what really draws one to a deity anyway.


    I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants the warm comfort of some good storytelling. Also a reminder that maybe Hinduism with all its gods and goddesses and God is a big group hug. And not this tirade of being virgin and vegetarian that it’s devolving into.

    836

    Today, I pressure-cooked vermicelli with some peas and corn, added a little oil, meat masala powder, salt, a pinch of turmeric and red chilli powder. It has a greul-type consistency because I cooked everything together. To keep the vermicelli strands separate, they need to be boiled in another vessel- not in the same one where the veggies or meat is being cooked. Then they need to be removed from fire and washed in cold water. 

    Anyway, I made a bit of it and saved it for dinner. 

    It feels endless - this cooking, washing, chopping after every meal. 

    Anyway, I have a long day at work now. Will finish and then go home. I was planning to wash clothes tonight but maybe just the dishes. 


    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    837

    On unexpected days when there is a lot to finish, it helps to come home, brew some tea and get on to Facebook. I like Facebook. I like a space where the most intuitive thing to do is to like and to share.

    839, 838

    Quickly then.

    Got back to Pune. Felt strange at first but after making the first cup of coffee at midnight, felt at home. Things with maids was still tense so today, I let go of both of them. This anxious wait in the morning for when they will turn up just was getting to me. For a bit, they looked surprised and then, they looked relieved. I felt bad. No-one should have to do the job they don't feel like doing. That I let them go on the same day that I was joining back work after a longish leave is maybe an irony or metaphor or some other appropriate part of speech. Anyway, now until I find someone else, all of the housework is left to me. Housework and cooking. Last night, I'd made daal and it was appreciated by a friend. Said friend was also very hungry but I think the food part I can manage. It's the washing dishes and washing clothes that will be tough.

    But never mind. Something will work out. The first step is to stop putting up with things that don't work. 

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    840 - A wish,a purpose, and time to make plans

    I think I would like a gap year. One year where I have to do nothing more than go through 24 hours in some broad strokes that I feel will make me happy and feel fulfilled. These are - do yoga for nearly an hour, climb up a hill or go for a walk for an hour or so, eat very simple meals - hopefully just rice, daal and maybe palak or methi, read some, maybe meditate for forty minutes or so, and most importantly write. Write for 10 to 15 hours. Write that much every single day for 365 days. In this time, I don't want to worry about whether I am out of sugar or salt or cauliflower or the credit card bills are due or the rent cheque has to be paid off or things like that. I would like the people I love to be healthy, happy, and out of the way (it will help if my friends and family are enjoying themselves in the Alps or something and can't be bothered with updating me with whether the dhobi found the white pants that went missing the week earlier).

    Additionally, I would like a year off to plan for that gap year. Arrange for the right home, arrange for a caretaker who will fluff up my pillows and discreetly serve me ginger tea every hour or so. Ginger tea with that awesome lychee honey that you get in Fab India.

    Time off is a great thing to wish for. In fact, it's a great thing to aim for. People have different definitions for success. Right now, mine is to set up my life such that I give my self this time that I would really love.

    Monday, November 10, 2014

    First Impressions – The fault in our stars by John Green



    It’s not the most original premise – two teenage cancer patients fall in love. Their love is doomed because they will suffer for a long time and long suffering is a ‘side-effect’ of dying. (This phrase ‘side-effect of dying' is often used by the central character.) These two teenagers have smart mouths and do their part in breaking through the myth of suffering cancer-patients who march their way to heaven through martyrdom. One of them dies – the one you don’t expect to (the boy). The other one copes. (The girl.) There’s also a writer of a book ‘The Imperial Affliction’ who plays a part in the way any writer plays a part in our lives when he has written a story that resonates with us. 

    Overall, the book is good. I found a few portions a little forced and stilted but there are also passages that are beautifully written. Especially when the two lovers quote poetry or share stories with each other. This book was gifted and recommended by Ma, so it will always be special. But this does not take away from the merits of the book itself. It finishes on a note that a person will die, a love will end and so what. (But this nihilistic nature that blazes through us, however briefly, when we suffer before we start hitching our pain to some greater, grander plan is better captured in Lionel Shriver’s ‘So much for that’.)

    All said and done, glad I read it.

    841 - the day I ate overpriced cheese chilli toast at Leopold

    Woke up late with a strange feeling in my stomach. There was some thinking and sorting out to be done but since I am not in Pune but in the loving and abundant environment of Mummy and Papa's home in Bombay, I decided to be irresponsible. So I dawdled over coffee, ate a big lunch and yet again, planned an evening out in town. So, we cabbed it through the Worli Sea Link which is quite a treasure because of the mnty blue sea that lines the drive. We walked through Colaba causeway. I got a short khadi top and a longer, loose shirt for Mom. We also went to a tiny bookstore in Colaba Causeway and then had some potato wedges, chilli cheese toasts, cokes and a juice at Leopold. The bill ran up to 1500 bucks which was w-a-a-a-y more than what we'd expected.

    There was a stop at Good Earth. It has some gorgeous stuff but really expensive. I really liked a simple, white cotton sleeveless dress with a cowl neck. There was a flame-orange sharaara that was very pretty too. What also caught my fancy where their thin, wispy white cotton curtains. There was a lovely one with dragonfly cut-outs in white. The wings of the dragon-fly were sewn with a gauzy material. I imagined that in a room with teal and turquoise walls and maybe white shelves on which some white ceramic holders are lined.

    We walked towards Taj where the shine of the brass and copper trinkets were nicely offset against the dark streets. From one of a large and colourful perfumerie, my friend bought almost a litre of rose itr. We bought tiny bottles for her to transfer some perfume in and then cabbed it back to Bandra. I took a bus back home, got a window seat and dozed off watching a copper moon floating in the sky.

    Just like that, a day had dribbled by.

    Sunday, November 09, 2014

    843, 842 - First Impressions: Gone Girl, Interstellar

    Two good days. Two very good days.

    There were two rather nice movies - Interstellar and Gone Girl. Interstellar really had me towards the end when the full import of what was being conveyed hit me. Somewhere we look to Science for the same things that we look to God for - a sense of feeling small before something great which is different from daily life. In daily life, one generally feels insignificant before something big - and that is not the same thing at all. If this doesn't make sense, then watch the movie - especially the scenes of dust storms in the beginning, the first sighting of the worm hole, the colossal wave that threatens to knock the spaceship, and the final knock behind the shelves that sorts everything out. It is spine-tingly towards the end. Michael Caine and Anne Hathway grated on my nerves for a little bit but Mathew and Matt Damon are very good. Damon has a really short role but comes with a very important message - nature can be a bit ugly - especially the parts of nature that course through a species as little impulses that spall out 'Survival'.

    Gone Girl - I have read and loved the book and the movie had me glued to the end.  But I didn't think Amy Adams quite pulled off playing Amazing Amy. She seemed too 'nice', you know? Someone who will take things at face value and worry whether people like her. Amy in the book was stylishly subversively snarkily the perfect poor little rich girl. In the book, more than the murder, more than the suspense or the big reveal, what held me were her insights. Not just hers - even Nick's (played by Ben Affleck). How he is such a misfit as a writer in the twitter generation, her take on the 'cool girl' phenomenon, and both of theirs chronicle of a decaying marriage with its resentment and its soul-eroding blandness. That stuff was very, very good. (Do read the book.) Rosamund Pike looks a little too sweet to ever entertain those kinds of thoughts. She has tried, though. She is earnest. Affleck IS Nick. With Nck's part, he's hit the right pitch. Overall, it's a good movie.

    What else? There was a pit stop at Prithvi where we had iced tea. Then there was a ride back home in the BEST (non-AC bus) which was really comforting.

    I love going to the movies! That thrill when the lights go down and the massive screen gets lit with the first scene - that expectation and the thrill is awesome. Maybe I like it for the innocent way a movie hall asks for your complete surrender for a few hours. And how I, readily and simply, give it.

    These are things to cherish - moments when one kept it simple.