Friday, July 31, 2009

Growing Pains

I wasn't born a Diva. Being a Diva was something I acquired by trying to emulate the average Victorian heroine.I wasn't always a rambler.In fact my writing used to be a lot simpler. Allow me to illustrate with an example.

Here is something that I would have written as a six year old.It is titled 'My Pet'(based on a vague recollection of a similar 'composition' I had written when I was in school).

I have a pet dog. Her name is Jojo. She is twelve years old.She has brown fur and brown eyes.She likes to eat chicken,biscuits,ice cream and chocolates.She also likes to drink milk. She goes for walks everyday. She likes babies and barks at all the other dogs. I love my pet very much.

If that was then then this is now.'My Pet' as written by La Diva.

I often refer to my dog Jojo as my pet;perhaps out of conceit and sometimes due to the pressures of convention. Jojo and I are practically siblings.We've grown up together and lived under the same roof for a good twelve years.I've always maintained that a dog is like a sibling who never retaliates. I may have taken the canine trait of submissive 'human worship' for granted; but Jojo was,is and will always be the real 'Diva'.

Age has not marred the honey-like hue of her golden brown coat, nor has it diminished her fetish for chocolates,cookies,ice cream and chicken.Jojo can put the Atkins diet to shame by surviving on nothing but milk for days.Walking,as far as she is concerned,is a social event that involves hurling uncharitable curses at pariah dogs that throng the streets. She is nevertheless maternal towards puppies and little children.We share a bond that transcends the trials of adolescence and the perils of young adulthood.I sometimes wonder if she is secretly human.

I have always felt that children express profoundity by cloaking it in simplicity.Why must growing up be so painful?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Dance

I think this is what Zen is supposed to feel like.

I leap
Over endless peaks
Clothed in unbearably light infinity.
I dance
Till I am ground
To a halt.Reminiscent of sleep.
My feet aren't mine;
But my toes itch
Till I anoint them with balm.
I spin around the realm
Of my being,as I watch myself
Playing truant with eternity;
Teasing and tilting
The delicate balance
Of what I think I perceive.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I picked up a copy of 'The Diaries of Kafka' from a bookstore yesterday.A friend who detests reading commented saying, 'it is a diary,it is someone's private property'.Yes,Kafka's diaries were his own till he died and his friend Max Brod decided to edit them and have them published(much to the probable chagrin of Franz Kafka;a tormented man writhing in his grave).The diaries are now available in large numbers,open to public scrutiny decades after his death.I'm not quite sure if Anne Frank or any other diarists, victimized by posthumous fame and the perils of posterity,find this amusing.

I'm positive that I should find such a thing revolting if my diaries were to be published instead of being burnt(or buried,whichever is ecologically beneficial).All the entries, driven by the most abject privation and desperation, may serve as fodder for a psychology class,but little thought goes into the quiet humiliation of the diarist.I realize that I am being hypocritical but Kafka's work cannot be read,it can only be felt.I am looking for a portal that will grant me that small glimpse into Kafka's world, so that I may understand the depth of his work.

I can make peace with the public circulation of my diaries once the content is comparatively abstruse.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Happens only in India: The Stampede for Stamp Paper

Perhaps 'stampede' is a rather impolite exaggeration of 'really long queue'.From the wee hours of the morning till the scorching hours of lunch time,frequent visitors to M.G. Road in Bangalore are treated to the sight of a line of people desperately queued up outside the State Bank of Mysore.It is one of the few banks that deals in foreign exchange and it is the only bank in Bangalore that sells stamp paper (the other is another branch of the same bank).I came to know,quite recently,that the fuss had nothing to do with foreign exchange and everything to do with stamp paper.

A bank employee hands out 'challans'(application slips) to the people lined up.Everyone in line has to,in a short time,become adept at the art of safeguarding one's position in the queue and filling in the form at the same time.Most people lean at dangerous angles against the wall of the building to achieve this feat. The challan has fields like 'denomination','amount' and many others; the most intriguing field being the one titled 'commission'. The 'commission' is usually a percentage of the amount and it varies with the nature of the stamp paper.There are a few veterans who know these figures by heart, irrespective of whether they know the mathematical calculation behind it or not.

Passers by throw curious and sympathetic glances at the people in line.The well informed mutter things like, 'This stamp paper thing is a pain'; the less informed claim in wonder, 'Such a long queue for foreign exchange!'. The average person standing in line checks his watch from time to time;getting more agitated as the hour nears 2:00 pm.

It is thus not surprising that there was a stamp paper scam. Just as every other annoying Indian phenomenon comes bundled with an associated scam.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Gathering Dust on the Bookshelf

An eclectic bookshelf,nurtured by three very different individuals, is bound to be quaint. The bookshelf at home has books written in English,Bengali,German and other tongues understood only by mathematicians and machines. There are corners of immaculate cleanliness and other corners laden with dust and reeling from neglect. My eyes scan every book and linger for a moment longer on each book plunged and squeezed in with good intentions and left untouched for no particular reason. Here is the list of books that have been both intentionally(yes there are books that I've been curious about but somehow the barrier set by the average mental block is indomitable) and unintentionally left out.

'Understanding Physics' by Issac Assimov- In school I hated physics not because I had anything against the subject but because of unavoidable circumstances. It was a bizarre combination of the Indian education system's obsession with 'learning by rote' and the fact that my mother is a teacher of college level physics.I was intrigued to find a physics book written by Assimov and this is why I sometimes yearn to read it. The pictures of energy levels of electrons add to the mental block. I hope to clear this hurdle and I am seeking help from Stephen Hawkins and Gary Zukav('The Dancing Wu Li Masters' or physics coated with eastern philosophy for dummies).

A collection of short stories by O Henry - I love O Henry and his sense of pun and irony. I sometimes pull the volume out,read one story and slide it back. The book remains untouched till the next time I see it. The neglect is unintentional but regrettable.

Two volumes of short stories by Guy de Maupassant- Too melancholic! I needn't say anything more.

'Gitanjali' by Tagore - I read about fifteen poems translated to English by Tagore. The emphasis on God was a little too much but the soothing verse offered solace. I feel ashamed when I see Tagore's scrawling handwriting in the Bengali script next to the English translation. I need to learn how to read in my own mother tongue first.

'Shirley' by Charlotte Bronte- A book my mother picked up at a book fair. The line 'As unromantic as Monday mornings' made it quite clear that it had nothing in common with 'Jane Eyre'. I may read it, sometime in the distant future.

A collection of five novels by Dickens- The only one I've touched is 'A Tale of Two Cities'. Even the facebook group 'I am a maniac for classic literature' failed to stir my interest in 'Hard Times' and the rest. I really don't know how to deal with Dickens and it simply breaks my heart.

'Mother' by Maxim Gorky - A book my mother bought at a Soviet bookshop when she was a young girl. She admits that she bought it only out of curiosity at a time when Bengal was enraptured by the 'promise' and fervor of communism. She never read it and the book summary makes me a little frightened.

'The Diary of Anne Frank' - I feel an inconsolable lump in my throat whenever I think of Anne Frank and start to read the first few entries. I don't know how to deal with Anne Frank either and it also breaks my heart.

After all this I still unashamedly buy and sell books as though they were shares!