Saturday, October 27, 2007


I am Al-Kahira, the comparer of nonsense and flowers.

I am grateful for my stupidity, admitted easily, yet I am concerned with specific details of style as I sit here in rags.

By circumstance not by choice this shrub has blossomed: by choice and not by circumstance this life has been kept plain.

I made an effort and found stuff to ignore, leaving rusty strings unstruck.
I neglect the spectacular and overlook the apparently important with deliberation.

I've waited aeons for the reversal of my interests: Now life has become the joke and the sweetness and hilarity of my own thoughts have turned into a point of fascination for me.

No matter what anyone tells you: I don't belong to any creed or sect, culture or race, nor to any period in history.

My only qualification is the age of my soul: I own three hillside palaces of quiet pre-dawn moon sound.

Humiliation is my clothing that I wear to sit and bark with the dogs. I disconnect like dusk and most likely no one will bring flowers to my grave.

I am ardent without deed and I am information zero, unimportant iridescent: Grand Palace of Mercy.

Till now I stayed in one place not avoiding you: now that the traditions are beginning to dissolve, I put on my winter coat and walk away. Business done.

My contemporaries have declared society to be the central item and are discussing things of importance as I'm speaking to you now.
As my mother taught me to, I keep to myself a lot.

I am the lover of trees, found worthy of loneliness.
I could be the postman, the milkman, the sick person, the transvestite.
It takes one, to recognize one…….

I am the unknown dervish."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Place

"This empty kitchen's where
I'd while away the hours
Just next to my old chair
You'd usually have some flowers
The shelves of books
Even the picture hooks
Everything is gone
But my heart is hanging on

If this old neighbourhood
Survived us both alright
Don't know that it withstood
All the things that took our light
You on the stair
I can see you there
Everything is gone
But my heart is hanging on

Once there was a little girl
Used to wonder what she would be
Went out into the big wide world
Now she's just a memory
There used to be a little school here
Where I learned to write my name
But time has been a little cruel here
Time has no shame

It's just a place where
We used to live
It's just a place where
We used to live

Now in another town
You lead another life
And now upstairs and down
You're someone else's wife
Here in the dust
There's not a trace of us
Everything is gone
But my heart is hanging on

It's just a place where
We used to live
It's just a place where
We used to live"

Lyrics of 'A Place Where We Used To Live'
Mark Knopfler

Monday, October 8, 2007


The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke



You know how it is waking
from a dream certain you can fly
and that someone, long gone, returned

and you are filled with longing,
for a brief moment, to drive off
the road and feel nothing

or to see the loved one and feel
everything. Perhaps one morning,
taking brush to hair you'll wonder

how much of your life you've spent
at this task or signing your name
or rising in fog in near darkness

to ready for work. Day begins
with other people's needs first
and your thoughts disperse like

In the in-between hour, the solitary hour,
before day begins, all the world
gradually reappears, car by car.

Deborah Ager

Monday, October 1, 2007

To sit apart

....What I most want
is to spring out of this personality,
then to sit apart from that leaping.
I've lived too long where I can be reached.

Who says the eternal being does not exist?
Who says the sun has gone out?
Someone who climbs up on the roof,
and closes his eyes tight, and says,
--I don't see anything.

.....With one silent laugh
You tilted the night
and the garden ran with stars.

Jelaluddin Rumi

And nothing is given

Be not too hard

Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought,
For he must manage as best he can.

Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own.
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like stone.

Be not too hard for soon he'll die,
Often no wiser than he began.

Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
And nothing is given to man.

From a Joan Baez song

Saturday, September 29, 2007


The playful Child self,
More alive than Life itself,
It goes away
When the playground is empty
Of companions.

And when it does not return
Through the open door,
Death creeps in,
Dark vapor, swirling,

And floats up to the ceiling,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Give me your hand

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Salaam, Nemanja!

"...It is getting really hot now.Summer is coming and it will bring a lot of heavy experiences i'm sure. Like yesterday a new stomach infection for me...some new life growing in my body or maybe grooving inside me."

:) :)

The second time we bump into Nemanja Rebic, Serbian guitarist, he refuses to eat anything other than curd rice. We are all rolling with laughter listening to his terribly funny renditions of endless bad food episodes in India ("You refuse to eat our kababs? You are insulting my country, man!") and the dramatic results thereof.

Sensitive tummy apart, he was having a wonderful time in this country learning Carnatic Classical Music and meeting fabulous people. We had just heard him play at the all-night music event organized by Fireflies, under a huge banyan tree surrounded by a natural amphitheatre. No one who was there that night is likely to ever forget his soulful Macedonian and Serbian songs and his guitaring - and his immense easy warmth.

Listen to this fabulous piece - Guru Ji in here -

It made my day. It is one of the most energizing positive-feeling, happy-making pieces I have ever heard.

Groove on, Nemanja! Wishing you all the very best!

Friday, September 21, 2007

We stay

Morning drive to work. Man sitting alone on bus stop bench talking loudly to himself, gesturing wildly. Labourers with blank expressions standing silently in the back of trucks coming into the city, packed like sardines. The lostness of empty faces in plush cars at traffic signals.

O Siddhartha, we too see what you saw, daily, but we do not go away in search of the Answer; we stay and try to forget, and worry about the rising price of real estate and the impending loneliness of old age.........

I passed this way

The Ideal

This is where I came from.
I passed this way.
This should not be shameful
Or hard to say.

A self is a self.
It is not a screen.

A person should respect
What he has been.

This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.

James Fenton

Until only the mountain remains...

The birds have vanished down the sky.
The last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and I,
Until only the mountain remains...

Li Po, 'Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain'

Li Po (701 – 762):


In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Zen Moment

The squirrel thief who regularly comes in through the windows and the open balcony door, in spite of all our efforts at scaring him away. We have reached such a stage of familiarity that he now walks in when you are sitting on the chair a few feet away from him, drinking your early morning tea.

He climbs on to the dining table, picks up a groundnut from a badly closed packet, jumps onto a tin for a better vantage point, holds the nut in his hands and quietly gnaws away nonchalantly, watching you.

He seems to say - "Look - you got no children, and all the young ones you looked after and fed at this table so fondly have gone away. So why don't you just share your food with me? Aren't I like a little child anyways? And I won't ever go away, will I? I got no dreams to chase, nothing to prove to anyone, my life is plain and simple. I''ll keep you company all my short life."

He's got a point there.

You continue drinking your tea looking away out of the other window at the sky turning lighter; while the groundnut packet empties on the dining table, and the apple basket awaits it turn.

In the early morning half-lit house, a Zen moment of acceptance and peace.

Blessed Space

A friend gifts you this string of Tibetan prayer flags for your birthday. A most thoughtful gift, you are moved. It is now hanging on the window above the dining table, though it is supposed to be hung in a big open space, in the wind etc etc. But you don't have a space like that.

At that table, you have served and fed so many good friends, and people from so many countries, people you hardly knew - people of so many temperaments and talents and various kinds of niceness and strangenesses. Much great conversation and affection and laughter and sorrow has been shared across that space. Many children have spilt curry on it, many toasts have been raised, and many broken hearts mended with listening and hot food.

It is in all rightness that the prayer flags hang behind it like a blessing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time the Preserver

"...For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides.

Time the destroyer is time the preserver,
Like the river with its cargo of dead negroes, cows and chicken coops,
The bitter apple, and the bite in the apple.

And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, it is what it always was..."

The Dry Salvages
Part 3, The Four Quartets
T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Empty your boat

"O Bhikshu, empty your boat! It will go faster."

Yoga stresses a lot on the act of exhalation. On emptying. On letting go.
For we tend to exhale less efficiently than we inhale.We want to keep, to store, to hold.

We think possession, owning, keeping - spells safety, security, happiness.
And we learn, again and again; that it does not.

Dec 13, 2006


Every evening it does not rain, the sun shines in a way you had never appreciated so much. You resist the urge to go down on your knees in gratitude, by the big glass window through which you can see the liquid light reflecting on the skyscraper coming up next door.

But you do not remember the last time when you breathed to your lungs' content. Will the approaching winter help, or will it find you yet again in the doctor's room breathing through machines? What do you know.

But today, you are breathing enough to stand by this window alive, to watch the beautiful beautiful sunlight yet another day. You cannot ask for more.

Let's take this one day at a time.

To cut a broad swath...

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. . . .

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, September 3, 2007

Watching the rain

Sudden heavy afternoon rain. You cannot sit still. You open the only window you can open in the air-conditioned 6th floor office you work. The wind rushes in, like all that you have kept at bay, but has not really gone away. Cool. fresh. Down below in the flooded school playground, boys are playing football in the rain, wild, happy. You would give half your life to be there with them. You are so happy.

One of the boys in another team comes to stand by you. All that you know of him is that he is in the football team. You point out the boys playing in the rain. And he starts talking about memories of playing football in the rain with close friends back home. Back home, where you could be Just You, not someone you are required to be. Deep Nostalgia, freed from the bonds of office etiquette, the unwritten rule that you do not speak to people from other teams. You stand and listen, surprised, yet not surprised at the sudden openness. You are used to this, people telling you the deepest of things, without warning. He goes on, looking down, dreamy-eyed, and you visualize the whole football-in-the-rain happiness.

We stand and watch the rain, in all its wild gay abandon, through this little gap in our cloistered, regimented lives.

The rain makes friends of strangers, dissolves all the stupid boundaries we make between ourselves in our so-fragile lives. Which could be snuffed out, on the most ordinary of days. Just Like That.

This could be you


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go, so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too
was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye (1953-)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

While the world is going places

Walking home on a still-sunny evening. The light which gives you a kick each time you step out into it. You cross the road to walk along the park and there - a huge rainbow above the building where you work. You have of course been inside all this while, earning your living, and not noticed.

* * * * * * * * *

Walking by the park. Three huge brown prize-breed furry dogs being taken for walk by owner. Two stray park dogs running up to them and stopping, fazed by their total disdain and lack of reaction. What can you do in the face of such self-possession?

* * * * * * * * *

They have bent part of the fence to let a sloping sidewalk tree lean into the park. So nice.

* * * * * * * * *

A young couple on a bench, arguing, angry. They're perhaps not even married, and are just discovering that men and women are from different planets.

* * * * * * * * *

At the traffic signals where you usually wait ages, and watch people and try to imagine what kind of homes and happiness/loneliness they are returning to........... you slow down and still try to do the same.

* * * * * * * * *

"Pretending, walk beside me
for some time in the streaming crowd,
stranger: while the world is going places."

Taposh Chakroborty

* * * * * * * * *

At the planetarium, the garden has been freshly hoed, and has beautiful hoe lines in the rich dark mud, like a Zen garden. You stop to look at the fallen frangipani, fragrant even in death.

* * * * * * * * *

On the beautiful golf course, now that the games are over, fat mynahs waddle around, stopping to peck on something or other in the grass. The squirrel baby clambers over wire fence, falling off funnily all the time. Squirrels. Some part of your soul lies in them. Or why do you connect to them so much?

* * * * * * * * *

Three village people ahead. Two men in white dhotis and Gandhi caps, and a young girl with the big plastic bag which usually contains certificates. One of them is showing the father and the girl (who perhaps has come for an interview or a college admission) the former President's home. The father, hands ties behind his back, trying not to look too awed. They are possibly walking down to the bus stand, to save on exhorbitant auto charges.

You remember first coming to the Big City city one cold August evening, 20 years ago. The exact feel of the air. You who cannot remember that you just collected the change, a few seconds ago.
You wonder about the shy girl walking beside her father, slightly scared. What will be her life after he leaves, if she does stay here. Oh what will it be.

* * * * * * * * *

Political party workers, tying small party flags on strings from tree to tree. Casuarina trees they are, though no beach within 500 kms radius. One of the guys has just realized that the flag string is too short to reach the next tree. He stands with the string end in his hand and laughs, looking at his friend.

You remember prayer flags back somewhere in Ladakh, when you asked the driver to stop because you want to take a picture. Bare huge mountains all around. Utter stillness. One small gompa and a colored prayer flag string, faded by the harsh elements, in the middle of nowhere.
You look through the viewfinder, and you realize how very little you can capture with a camera.

* * * * * * * * *

Along the way you have driven down 15 years, you discover an art gallery and a new restaurant you have never noticed. Familiarity breeds blindness.

* * * * * * * * *

The last few kilometres are the toughest. The ones where you have to look down and will your asthmatic lungs to not give up, not yet, not on the road.

* * * * * * * * *

They are so beautiful, the houses you walk past in the residential areas, lit, awaiting the breadwinners. Old photos on the wall, the comforting smell of cooking, of anticipation.

* * * * * * * * *

The road in front of your house. The lane where the neighbour got your favorite orange flower tree cut down, one fine day, just like that. When you come home, and stop there, too shocked to cry. For a while. The huge empty space. The tree with the bird nests. With the babies.

But then you are just passing through this world.

Walking by.


"...The complaint which does not reach the lips leaves a mark on the heart;
The drop of water that fails to become a river is simply food for dust on earth.

If, at the time of telling, blood does not flow from each eyelash,
The story would not be of love merely (but simply as) the story of Hamza.

If it cannot see the entire Tigris in a drop and the whole in a part,
Such an eye would merely be a child’s game, not the eye of a wise man."

Mirza Ghalib

An Ordinary Sunday Morning

Sunday morning. While riding out from your lane, you almost bump into - A Camel. A huge big tall camel, it's head way above you.

A camel loping into your lane with long camel strides, along with camel boy. After you recover from the surprise, you turn the bike back and watch what happens.

Camel stops in front of our apartment block.

Child runs out from the ground floor apartment.

His mommy and aunt run down behind him.

The camel boy invites the child to climb on camel.

Mummy lifts the child on to camel back.

And camel moves down the dead-end street.

All this within a matter of a few seconds.
Like it was all planned.
Or like it was a regular Sunday 11.A.M neighbourhood ritual, which you were unaware of until then.

Wonders never cease. You like it that way.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


"Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment."

Jelaluddin Rumi

Of Cows and Muttons

Beautiful sunny evening. After your vegetable shopping, you go to Gangothri, the Gujarati snack shop at the bus stand nearby, and order quarter kilo fresh jalebis. While the jalebis are getting fried, you sit and watch people, your favorite pasttime.

And then this man comes with a cart piled with loads of soppu (leaves) - palak, methi, coriander, curry leaf, mint etc. And he rolls a stone under the front wheel and stops the cart on the slight slope. And comes in wth 3 bunches of coriander. The bhelpuri-making man gives him a coin, he touches it to his forehead and puts it in his pocket, delivers the coriander, and stands there chatting and joking - probably this is a daily ritual.

And then when you get up to leave, you see the coriander man running outside like his lungi caught fire or something, shouting. You look outside - a big fat black cow is standing on the other side of the cart and happily chewing away on the soppu feast laid out for him so generously :)

Some boys walking by help him chase away the big fat cow and pick up the fallen bundles. Everyone is laughing, including the soppu man. The fat cow walks ambles away slowly chewing a nice bundle of mint leaves in its mouth, totally unfazed at being caught stealing.

On the road back home, Disco Mutton stall. And notice the arrow mark drawn the wrong way, which has been corrected.

This funny country of Thieving Cows and Disco Dancing Muttons, you So Love It.

City Man

Sitting in a van early one Saturday morning, going to distribute notebooks to village schools with Dream School Foundation volunteers and some Infosys employees. Facing you, this old-ish gentleman who is a school master at a government school in Rajaji Nagar. He will take us to some of the schools, he is a native of that area.

He starts talking about his village. None of the others are paying much attention, they return to their own conversations. You smile at him so that he does not feel disappointed, and urge him to go on. He is enthused, talks at length. Obviously he loves to talk about his village, and has a sense of ownership about it.

It is so remote that no buses go there. There is no proper road for vehicles. So the last few kilometres you need to walk. At the nearest village, a bus comes twice a day. But he still loves the place, it is his own, his people live there. His descriptions paint a world so very alien to Bangalore just 30 kilometres away. We could be living on different planets, you think.

When the stories are over, you happen to look down at his feet. He is wearing cheap brown shoes. And written on them are the words - "City Man".

Saturday, June 16, 2007

While there is still time

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

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