Thursday, June 25, 2009

Other People


Do you remember how memory used to work when you were a kid?

There’s so much information that’s swimming through your head, and its all been accumulated over the past few hours.

Days seem like weeks and weeks seem like years, and years are incomprehensible. And a few years into the past, and the record just stops. There is nothing, except vague feelings, and smells, and freeze frames that you’ve tried to define so many times, you have no idea what they originally were.

These are thoughts that don’t sit well within the square and round pegs of the wonderful young world. Everyday is yet mesmerizing, everything is in technicolour... and so you look resolutely outward.

There comes a time, however, when you cant help but start to really look closely. Then, you see your neighbours.

It's like a mirror that isn't quite right. They seem so hauntingly similar to you, but so inescapably alien. A kind of grotesque mimicry.

"Is it just imitating me?"

"Am I just imitating it?"

How is it then, that for all their differences, there seem to be some universal cardinal rules, some common cogwheels, that seem to be guiding all of their beings?

Instinct suggests that we may empathize with them, because somehow, even though we can never truly know another's perspective, we trust that it is compatible with ours.

The young have no faith, but they may be prompted to the most obvious seeming solution by their caretakers or peers...that of an invisible designer, a universal parent.

The skeptics resist this, and search for some constant more palatable to their respective tastes.

Dot feels this too. He feels alien to them all, but at the same time a kind of longing compassion and fascination for them. It surprises him, just how he is simultaneously able to completely understand such a strange thing as another consciousness, and be baffled by it too.

They all do. They all ask the same question, when they think of Other People:

"Did we all Breathe the same?''


[At this point, Dot is a fairly small person. He is also male, although this is purely for the sake of argument. It also means that his name will be of considerable discomfiture to him throughout his life. But this is convenient, because we all must have One Flaw we carry close to our hearts. His is clear before him, in his name.]


The lady is old. Her face is very close, every wrinkle is etched like a ridge in a desert land, every feature a mighty crag that seems faraway and remote, telling of uncounted years of history, and weathered to indifference by immeasurable time.

And as she's looking down at him, her eyes, red and puffy, widen in recognition.

"Dot! Get out of here! This is the teacher's bathroom! GET OUT!!"

Naturally, a quick exit is made.

There will be trouble for this. It was an honest mistake, but this was clearly not a mistake that should have been made.

The adult world seemed to be full of them. On the one hand, he was given to understand that there were right things and wrong things, and some of these he understood instinctively. But there seemed to be some rules he didn't follow at all, yet without warning he'd occasionally break one, and breaking them had severe consequences.

And boy, would the consequences be severe in this case.

Mrs. Dalte was his least favourite teacher. While the others were warm and doted on the kids, she was curt, had little patience with everything that lay within the wide definition of something she called "nonsense", and seemed to blink altogether too little.

There was another quality about her that was unsettling to Dot. Most adults seemed to have two sides to them: the first was the bright, playful, mollycoddling and appealing attitude they seemed to possess when speaking to him and other kids his age. And the other, far-off and reserved and mysterious, which would reveal itself when he would overhear them in conversation with another adult, or when they thought he wasn't looking.

She, on the other hand, seemed to have only one side to her. It was quiet, and it knew what you were thinking, and it was already telling you it was a bad idea.

And the other teachers seemed to not like her a great deal either. She would speak little with them, and they would often look at her with what he could only guess was fear, or anger.

In a strange way, though, everyone seemed to trust her. It was another unsettling thing about her. When there was trouble, or an emergency, like when a kid got hurt, everyone would seem to turn to her. They trusted her. She wasn't going to stand for any nonsense, and she would undoubtedly scare the trouble away.

Which is why today made no sense.

It was decidedly odd. As it was, Dot had trouble understanding bodily shame. He couldn't understand what was so unappealing about his body to others, especially since his parents seemed to be quite comfortable with it. But he had been given to understand that one's physical self was an unwelcome sight to others...and so would others guard their own bodies with great ferocity. Which he didn't mind, because he had no idea what an adult body would even look seemed to be something entirely different from his own.

Anyway, so although he didn't quite get it, he could accept bodily shame. But in the incident that had just occurred...well, Mrs. Dalte seemed to have been caught in an entirely different kind of intimate act. It wasn't bodily at all.

As he got squeezed back into his chair in class, he tried to remember her face when he'd opened the door. Then he tried to reconcile it with the face he had seen for the past few months, and come to know and fear as Mrs. Dalte. It didn't work. Maybe this was her missing other side.

He could hardly believe it, but he was almost sure she had been crying.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plenty of Piranha in the Sea


If you like listening to rock music (and I don't mean just the kind which makes the loudest or fastest noise possible), and you're not a misanthrope or an adrenalin junkie, and you live in the country that I do, then you will agree with me when I say that the world seems pretty bleak.

What I mean is that, there are two major varieties of idiot rock fan that can be found commonly in India. Not everyone fits these cases, but the majority do:

Idiot type 1: Metalheads.

Adrenalin junkies. These are found everywhere, but in slightly more concentration among the affluent. When you encounter one, the conversation tends to go like this:

You: "Oh, you like rock? What kind?"

Metalhead: "Oh you know, man...metal! Yeah! Children of Bodom man! Lamb of God, Metallica, Ironmaiden! Fucking love that shit! yeah! Ohh yeah! Korn!! Korn just kicks ass man...fuck, yeah!! Oh...Oh...Oh...SLIPKNOT!!! Ooooooh yeaaah!!!


Uh...Shit man, I could use a cigarette right now."

Y: "Um, okay. I see. What about other kinds? Hard rock? Grunge? Psychedelic? Progressive? Classic? Blues? Jazz? Acoustic? There's a lot to choose from, you know."

M: "Seriously dude? I don't like all that stuff...too soft. Gimme metal!! Real music!!"

Y: "Right. Well, see ya. And...put your pants back on."

Idiot type 2: Hippies.

Common in engineering colleges, although not restricted to them. These chaps are like this because their fathers went to engineering colleges in the 70's, and then told them about it. They actually think they're living in that time. They sound like:

Hippie: "Yeah man, the Beatles are the shit. Lennon was a god, man. A god of love. And Floyd, dude. It just make me wish the 70's were back."

Y: "You weren't even born till late 80's."

M: "Yeah man, but it was the age of love. We should go back to the 70's."


Neither of these varieties of idiot are listening to bad music. Metal's great. So were the 70's. But they restrict themselves to tiny boxes for very silly reasons.

The upshot of all this has been the complete predictability of Indian rock. Everything is either metal or classic. And that's why the Indian rock scene has been stagnating in the past years...all our original bands have been trying to become either Lamb of God or The Beatles.

Up until now, that is.

There is a small but growing community of fans and desi bands that are trying to break out of the mould. The last Campus Rock Idols I saw had, surprisingly, among the regular scores of metal bands, a few very tasteful and original musicians. Bands like Cafe Dilemma and even the more mainstream Nerverek gave me hope.

Yesterday I saw, for the second time, a band that is an example of the growth of Indian rock.

Lounge Piranha came to Manipal last year as well, and played to a small but enthusiastic crowd. The performance was so successful that they returned again this year, at the conclusion of their Going Nowhere album tour. These guys are the embodiment of everything that is changing about the rock scene in the country. They call themselves a 'post-rock' band (which, in all fairness, sounds quite silly), but even without having to make such an obvious attempt at seeming unique, they do have a fresh sound.

Experimentalism is a key characteristic of their sound, hence the inclusion of the Australian didjeridoo in many of their songs, playing the guitars with violin bows, e-bows, and a variety of processor effects, and occasional exotic percussion instruments. The sound is ambient, ranging from easy-listening light tracks like Ebb, to intense, trance-like numbers like Teenage Curse. And when it all seems to be getting too familiar, they'll throw in a medley of covers that are so unusual that you have to laugh.

The lyrics are simple and the vocals usually mellow and hypnotic to add to the psychedelic air. The basswork tends to be modest and unassuming most of the time, but then occasionally reveals itself in bursts of flourish. Thrown in is chordic, rhythmic guitaring interspersed with doubled choruses and layered with effects-driven soundscapes. And the entire ensemble, usually seasoned with a dash of the didjeridoo or a sampler track, is held together and driven by some very subtle, very good drumming (the surprise is actually what makes it special...after all, it is just amateur musicianship).

The truth is, Piranha are mostly only moderately talented musicians., and the new album does resemble the staggering first steps of an infant. But LP represent more than their own sound...they represent a shift in the psyche of the Indian rock fan. One that, I hope, is not just a passing phase, and will grow into a more mature appreciation of music. One that will lead to a deeper and more holistic approach in our country to the great institute of rock music.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And I'm back!...And I'm gone again!

I don't have a very long lunch break, and need to finish the workshop assignment before i go to class, so this doesn't hold the faintest chance of being a real entry.

But since I haven't written anything in ages (because my laptop screen is broken), I thought I should just make a courtesy post, as a sort of reminder to myself that I'm commited to keep this an active page.

So I nicked this machine from my neighbour. Got a few minutes before he'll notice.

See you as soon as my machine gets plenty of new stuff to talk about!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

What on earth is this Breathe stuff anyway?

I felt some explanation was due for the entry before last.

It is the first in a series of short chapters following the fictional tale of somebody I made up and decided to call Dot, because he can't beat me up for it.

The story is a bit of an experiment in writing and occasional philosophy. I plan to put up Dot chapters from time to time. We'll see how it goes.

Comments, suggestions, tips, advice, and artfully crafted abuse are welcome.

Of Old Friends

Let's talk about old friends.

Why, you ask. It's a Monday today, which may be seen as not the best day to talk about old friends (I'm not sure exactly why, but Monday never seems to feel like a good day to do anything, which makes the fact that it starts off the week rather unfortunate), but that's the thing about talking about old never feels like the appropriate time to actually do it. But, as I've begun to understand of late, it is very important to. Vital, as it turns out. ('It turns out' is a phrase that I use with thanks to Douglas Adams, for pointing out its nature as a great way of inventing fact without providing evidence, while simultaneously hinting at the existence of extensive personal research and authority, thus eliminating the need for justification. Yeah, all right, that was completely irrelevant to the entry and breaks the flow of the subject. But the man is so right! I just had to use it.)

So, enough about Mondays, let's go back to talking about old friends.

First of all, I'm not just talking about people. Friends come in many shapes and sizes; taking an example at random, one of mine comes in those of a short length of wood with a bit of graphite inside it and some small quantity of rubber stuck at one end. We used to get along splendidly well, and for considerable lengths of time could ignore the outside world and the folks in it entirely, deriving unimaginable fun instead from playing our imaginations across blank paper. Quite remarkable, now I think about it, how long its been since we've spent a careless afternoon together. And I was good at drawing.

But, with passing time and changing demands of the day, we can and in fact must leave these friends behind. As a very wise man once blogged- friends love you the way you are. So, if you want to change, even if for the better, or do something new and fresh in your life, friends aren't the people best suited to support you.

This may sound heartless and antisocial, but in fact it keeps me from making unreasonable demands on a friendship that is otherwise beautifully enjoyable.

I'm on my summer break, so meeting old friends is the flavour of the season. It's a great feeling to go back to something familiar; maybe look at it in a fresh light, rejoice in the differences as much as in the things that never, amazingly, seem to change.

While change is all very well, and when it comes to embracing the new cheese, I say 'tuck in' as loudly as the next man (or at least, don't glare at him reproachfully for it), I do also love the feeling of nostalgia, and of effortless enjoyment...the kind that is only possible in the company of those that you have carried with you as experience that makes the strands of your personality.

Because old friends are more than just people or objects... they are what you secretly hold within yourself, as your identity, and as your compass, when you go out to make new friends.

I'm beginning to feel here a need to explain myself for all this wishy-washy stuff about friendship and identity and nostalgia and so on, which I imagine could be viewed as rather unhealthy thinking in a young person like myself. The whole thing about the nature of old friends came to my mind recently, when my grandmom called to get her regular status update on my sanity. She pointed out to me that mathematics wasn't so bad after all (I never thought it was, but my grade in a recent examination was beginning to raise some questions about the same) and that I had, once upon a time, actually considered it as a full time subject of study, hadn't I? And I really used to enjoy it. But it seemed that I had forgotten my old friends in my hurry to make new ones. That I had picked up a fresh mistress and forgotten to write regularly to the old girlfriend. And naturally, old friends, if forgotten, tend to turn sour. Maybe I just need to spend some time remembering my old friends.

As always, she makes me smile foolishly to myself. She has such a deceptively gentle way of seeing right through me.

But I digress.

The importance of thinking about, and spending time with old friends, is that they let you retrace the path that leads to you becoming you. They remind you of sides of your personality that you can forget in the course of your daily life, things about yourself that you would suddenly remember how much you cherish. They remind you, in anecdote and in humour, of mistakes you made and recovered from, so that you may remember the lessons and not repeat your mistakes. They remind you of your triumphs that they shared with you, which in those frustrating times when the self-esteem struggles in vicious eddies of failure are the vital log that keep you afloat. And they may even occasionally buy you dinner, which is of course a truly incomparable moment of happiness.

Sometimes, old friends even remind you of other old friends...which is like getting a complementary dessert. For instance, I was recently reminded by one of mine (friends, not complementary desserts) of my love of art. She actually pointed out to me a talent that, in retrospect, I am astounded I forgot about, given how much pleasure it used to give me. I'm buying pencils again. (Thank you, by the way, if you're reading. I promise to share on this space anything worthy I subsequently come up with. I am rather grateful to you.)

Of course, there is the possibility of old friends leaving you. This, if you are lucky, is rare. Because the short end of the deal is wrenchingly unpleasant. The effects I don't need to discuss...most of you probably know how the loss of an old friend feels, and I sympathise with you for having experienced the horror of that feeling. It is slower than the horror of other kinds of loss, and reveals itself in treacherous layers. I shall say no more on this subject, for fear of relating another very long tale in an already long discourse, except to observe this: it is, then, even more a blessing when in such an unenviable situation you find other friends to share some of the weight with.

All in all, revisiting old friends is a good thing. At the very least, you remember how to laugh mindlessly and without meaning, how to effortlessly be yourself. I sometimes regret not going back to some of the friends I have left behind, because it necessarily means losing a part of my identity and history.

So now, in closing, as I'm sprawled out typing at this unearthly hour, having read a few Wodehouse stories, listening to Pastime with Good Company (Jethro Tull) and Money for Nothing (Dire Straits), no longer very certain of how much sense I'm talking, and generally without cares for the moment, I shall make myself a promise to always remember the rest of my old friends, at least the ones who really meant a lot somewhere along the way.

I heartily suggest you do the same.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


This tells of the beginning.

First light. The first moment of awareness.

Also the most absolute moment of awareness.

Are your blues my yellows? Are my reds your greens? Everything, all axiomatic constants, all basic laws governing your own universe are created. It's the only universe you will ever know.

The first instant of consciousness makes you fall in love with the world. You cannot help it, for anything that induces so much unbelievable and overwhelming emotion in you is love. It is true love at first sight.

And, just as every love has its own flavour, in that moment, you taste your own flavour of your love for your universe...and it will stay with you forever.

Here we speak of birth, and of definition.

In that moment, we are us, our absolute selves, because we have not yet learned how to be anything else.

We may forget this moment of self-realisation, soon, sometimes to remember it much later, sometimes not, sometimes to repeatedly forget...but here, in this instant, it is made.

'I am henceforth defined as me.'

This is the one single string of consciousness that runs through us, if we are lucky enough to be born alive...this is the very same that ran through the boy we will soon become friends with, the boy who cries out, even as we look on at the moment, from the shock of his new and overwhelming love, his consciousness, now...the boy who will later be named by those responsible for his creation (in the way that spark-plugs are responsible for the moving of your car), for the sake of quick reference and convenience among an intelligent social Dot.