Thursday, March 31, 2005

Why I Want To Go Back To College

a. Taking the day off for "women's problems"

  • College: you can just ditch going to college for the day.
  • Work: you need to think of an excuse to tell male boss why you need the rest of the day off, or else you spend the day smiling brightly at dumb CXO who has neither class nor brain and who deserves to be put in the blender except for the fact that it'd be a waste of a good blender.
b. Watching movies during the day
  • College: you can just ditch going to college for the day(see 'a'). Or walk in / out when you please, scheduling your attendance around movie timings.
  • Work: You work to buy the DVD player you can watch movies on when you finally have the time to watch them, having missed them at the big halls (that are no longer showing them) by reason of having been too busy with work.
c. Reading during the day
  • College: You can sit at the back of the class, put your book on your table or against your knees (as you lean back against the wall with your feet on the desk) and read. As long as you look up once in a while and nod intelligently, most profs won't suspect a thing.
  • Work: Lock yourself into the toilet and read the book you're carrying in your purse. And if you have only one toilet for the entire female population of your office, you can't do this for too long either.

d. Timings

  • College: From any-time-you-want-to-walk-in to any-time-you-wish-to-leave. Usually, a couple of hours a day (averaged out, clearly, since there are so many days on which you don't attend because of "women's problems" or because there's a good movie on, or a good book to read in bed, or a great sale somewhere... or something).
  • Work: bloody concentration camp. In at 9, but never out at 5.

e. Duties / Responsibilities

  • College: Socialise with batchmates, beg them to give you their notes, even take your exams for you in exchange for 0.075% of the rest of your life's earnings (which you - and they - are convinced will never add up to much). Drink a couple of cups of cheap tea and bum a smoke off a slightly more affluent friend.
  • Work: Sign-in. Smile at assorted CXOs. Pretend to like it. Fiddle with computer. Send up prayers for the Internet. Visit,, and various friends' blogs. Pretend to visit work-related sites. Keep a few of these on your favourite's list for emergency cover-ups. Drink cups and cups of free tea.

f. Juniors

  • College: Rag them. Make them fetch and carry for you. Raise hell when they make mistakes. Make them treat you to cups of cheap tea to show them who's boss.
  • Work: Show them the ropes. Take responsibility for their mistakes. Take them out for expensive lunch to show them that boss can also bond.

g. Personal space

  • College: 400 kids on a 40 acre campus. Red brick brings out the effect of space.
  • Work: 4000 employees sitting on each other's laps in a 0.1 acre 1-storey building. Red brick closes in on one.

h. Food

  • College: Expensive - 20 bucks for gourmet specials like cutlets (made from chicken parts that would otherwise be thrown away); 15 bucks for chicken soup for the soul on days when the air is pregnant with philosophical discussion.
  • Work: They've never heard of cutlets. And you aren't supposed to have a soul.

i. Friends

  • College: 10. You do everything together. You go from canteen to canteen together (on those hours of those days that you're actually in college), settling in each one like a swarm of locusts until you exceed your credit limit and have to move. You could be a political movement in your own right, if only you were interested. Instead, you prefer idle discussion about Marx and Engels, Keynes and Smith.
  • Work: None. Instead, you have 2 colleagues with whom you have a hurried lunch and discuss work before returning to surf and pretending to hunt for critical functional information on the Internet (may it be the mother of a hundred sons).

j. Language

  • College: Intellectual jargon. Your speech abounds with words like fundamentalist structuralism and non-parametrism. And (this is important) you know exactly what they mean. So do the people you say them to.
  • Work: Management jargon. Your speech abounds with terms like paradigm, engagement, transformation and integrated hyper-metropic fiscal neutrality. And neither you nor the people you say them to have any idea what you mean. Or what they mean. But you have these conversations anyway, and then you all go back to googling.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Ghost Is Born

He first tried to run away when he was five. He can no longer remember how it came about, but occasionally, when he’s not careful about what he’s thinking, his brain flip-flops here-and-there, idling in the lesser off-limits areas, checking to see how aware he really is before shooting off like a comet into these forbidden memories – almost but never quite reaching the root of things before he seizes control again and forces his brain out of the blurred, hidden-away images into sharper, more recent colours, out of echoing sounds melting into each other towards clear memories of who said what and exactly when.

Not that he has a reason he can think of for why he’d rather not look back there – he’d just rather not. So when he catches his brain trying to escape back there in his unguarded moments, he has to concentrate hard on something else. Like his friend from the para, holding the bars and standing outside his window, trying to lure his attention away with lurid commando comic books while he studiously ignores him and does his History homework.

He’s eleven. He doesn’t quite know where he fits in the world. His sister – some years older –constantly closeted in her own room – talking to friends who almost live there, or on the telephone, lives in a world a million miles away from him. When she does speak to him, it’s generally to put him in his place or tell him to do his disappearing trick (though sometimes, just occasionally, she does seem to notice that he’s a real live boy, and run her hand through his hair, or give him a quick hug). His parents – well, they have their own problems. So he comprehends, yet doesn’t quite understand. He might say to the world, “no comprendo”, with everything the term evokes, if only he knew the words. But he doesn’t know them, and for the moment, continues to see the world through strange-coloured glasses.

The trial of his life is that he’s short for his age. However much he stretches – uuuup – however much he hangs from pelmets and windows, he suffers deeply the humiliation of leading the boys in his class, arranged by height from small to tall, to the daily assembly. Scrawny, with twigs for limbs, a shock of hair falling into his eyes no matter how it’s cut, he reminds one of a somewhat forlorn puppy that has learnt to be self-sufficient after years of neglect but still hopes that one day someone will play with it. It isn’t that he isn’t loved – it’s just that he’s squat and different and doesn’t quite belong. At night, curled up in his bed before he drifts off to sleep, he dreams of a day when he’ll be tall and strapping – the way boys are in books – when everyone will laugh at his jokes and hang on every word he says. But somewhere, deep down, he knows that he’ll never be “tall and strapping” like in the books - he just knows that he’ll be short and stocky and pimply (while some of his friends already need to shave), a dwarf among his tall and strapping friends. When the world weighs down on him like this, he wants to run away again.

The first time he tried to run away, he was five. Running to find a stray puppy, so that they could belong to each other. (He got as far as the main road before slinking back, distraught by the thought that perhaps nobody would even notice that he was gone – that they’d forget about him, and go on with their lives, and he would never be able to find his way back, his mind spinning with stories of child-snatchers and wee willy winkie.) As far as he knows, nobody knows about it – nobody noticed him march out through the front gate that afternoon when it was hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement and the heat was rising from the road in comic-book wisps. And he’ll never let them know – he just knows that they’ll laugh, and if they do, he’ll feel that helpless rage that makes him cry.

So he curls up into an inward facing ball and reads – furiously, as though expecting a summons to run away at any moment and never being able to read again – gobbling up people and places, customs and gods, until they become more real to him than himself. And many years later, when people find the family’s photographs, they can’t understand why he’s not in it; nor why, at the very edge of the sepia toned picture, is a translucent grey boy-shaped blur.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Home-Coming Bridge

Ever since I can remember, I've associated going home from a journey with leaning out of the train or peering desparately through the window to get a glimpse - just one magical darshan - of The Bridge. Straddling the river, the often-crowded and usually-filthy connection between west and east, journey and home.

These days, money's cheaper than time, and I don't take a train home often. Flying has none of the magical possibilities with which a journey should abound, but gets me there quicker and lets me spend more time there.

And even if I don't actually see it each time I go home, I know the bridge still rears up at the entrance to the city, greeting home-comers like a rather dignified cat - pleased to see them, yet maintaining the impression of being completely indifferent to their presence.

Friday, March 18, 2005


She tosses and turns, awake and uncomfortable. Her head is clear, her eyes tired and dry. She thinks back to the one that got away. Once she marvelled at the way their bodies used to fit together – how she noticed at their first embrace the way they melted into each other - no elbows and knees and chins getting in the way. She has always been able to close her eyes and go back into that embrace, relive it. Today, she can’t summon it up to fill the darkness around with memories. Her body has lost the imprint of that embrace, forgotten how he held her, how he stroked her hair and whispered in her ear. After 7 years, she is free.

But her new story of loss and yearning is only just beginning. How long will it take for her body to forget this one?

Auden Speaks

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Thought For The Day

I wish I were a little rock
A-sitting on a hill
A-doing nothing all day long
But just a-sitting still.
I wouldn't eat, I wouldn't brush
I wouldn't even wash
But sit and sit a thousand years
And rest myself b'gosh.

Friday, March 11, 2005


The newly discovered Makkiasaurus Knopfleri.

I'm sure there are lots of people in the world who deserve to be immortalised - saints, supermen and saviours. But personally, I'm glad about this tribute. :)

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Sultan Sings

So here's the thing about Mark Knopfler: he's old. See him now, and he reminds you of nobody so much as of Richard Dreyfuss as the aging music professor in Mr. Holland's Opus. And it's fitting too, because Mark has a distinctly professorial air about him... he looks like the kind of professor you'd really wam to in college - the kind with whom you might go out and have a couple of beers and talk about books and music.

Those of you who, like me, have brought up on a strict diet of Dire Straits music and the Alchemy video, might expect to see Mr. Knopfler with his headband and a shock of unruly hair, dressed in stark black-and-white-and-red, wearing his ironic, amused expression while he moves around the stage, casually playing the lead for Sultans while he checks out what his band-mates are up to, occasionally imitating them even... So it comes as a bit of a shock when Mr. Holland walks out on stage, wearing a white full-sleeve shirt, his almost-bald crown ringed with the kind of hair you associate with somebody's grandfather. He looks, for all the world, like an somewhat elderly professor, who should be walking across manicured university lawns somewhere - not standing on a stage with an electric guitar strapped on, neon lights playing over him. He shouldn't be there, and neither should the screaming, shouting sweaty crowd in which I'm being slowly crushed.

Until he starts to play.

That's when you close your eyes, and get beamed back, straight into Alchemy. The same numbers you played at maximum volume at home, on your 1500 watt speakers... to which you've rocked most of your life... all coming at you live. Mr. Knopfler is, admittedly, less active than before, but still a beast on the lead... and Telegraph Road never sounded so good before.
2 hours of listening to "the voice and guitar of Dire Straits" (which is how he's been billed in all the promos - they even gave out lyrics booklets with incorrect song names), and my night is made. All is worth it - the stench of others' sweat, having the breath slowly squeezed out of me by the crush of people, having to walk half-way to Bandra afterwards...

Even if he does look old, the sultan's still swinging.