Thursday, June 30, 2011

The End of Summer

Heady sweet jackfruits disappearing from the streets, cart by cart.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Someone was bound to notice sooner or later :)

Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!"

"The what?" said Richard.

"The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a ..."

"Yes," said Richard, "there was also the small matter of gravity."

"Gravity," said Dirk with a slightly dismissed shrug, "yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered." ...

"You see?" he said dropping his cigarette butt, "They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap ... ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention. It is a door within a door, you see."

Douglas Adams

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A huge, empty museum

"Sometimes I feel like a caretaker of a museum -- a huge, empty museum where no one ever comes, and I'm watching over it for no one but myself."

"I wrote a huge number of letters that spring: one a week to Naoko, several to Reiko, and several more to Midori. I wrote letters in the classroom, I wrote letters at my desk at home with Seagull in my lap, I wrote letters at empty tables during my breaks at the Italian restaurant. It was as if I were writing letters to hold together the pieces of my crumbling life."

"If something came out of the deal, it couldn’t make things any worse for us than they already were, I thought. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hell has no true bottom."
Haruki Murakami

Monday, June 27, 2011


"Here's what I think, Mr. Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara. "Everybody's born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else.

But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I'd really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can't seem to do it. They just don't get it.

Of course, the problem could be that I'm not explaining it very well, but I think it's because they're not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they're not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things."

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami


"Sometimes I feel so - I don’t know - lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m going.’ 

Like a little lost Sputnik?’ 

I guess so."

Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"It's our hands that give us our humanity"

And then a friend sends this, in reply to the previous post, Hands:

"I was once on a national US news special in my role as a military officer. In the broadcast clip, I was typing on my Mac laptop. All it showed was my hands, but friends all over the country recognized them. I found that interesting but baffling.

One of my friends, whose wife is a physician, went on to elaborate that when his wife's medical class dissected cadavers, the hardest task -- the most psychologically upsetting for the students -- wasn't dissecting faces. It was hands. He offered, "It's our hands that give us our humanity."

Learning to draw in art school as an adult, we had to draw a huge study of our own hands. I saw my father's hands in my finished product. It was very moving.

Then my stepfather was a friend of Carlotta O'Neil, Eugene's wife and widow. She remarked on Eugene's death moment that she looked down and would ever remember how beautiful his hands were..."


Watching the hands in the video below, hands that speak on their own, remembered these lines of Rabindranath Tagore, from 'Farewell, my Friend'. The old tattered yellowing notebook where I found this says that I came across these lines on 6th Dec 1987:

"Poets talk only of the face of the beloved, but what a wealth of suggestion is in the hand! All the endearments of love, its devotion, its tenderness, its unutterable longing, are in the hand.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Des'ree - Ain't no sunshine:

Ain't no sunshine

What a voice!  Great video too.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Des'ree:


"I"ll do my crying in the rain.." - there's another place where you can do it without anyone noticing or batting an eyelid - at the airport, or on the flight. People will just think you are crying because you are going away from a place you love so much, you are going to miss the people you love. 

You could be crying for a stupid mistake you made years ago in your life, or because your brother went and lost the entire set of Amar Chitra Katha which literally laid the foundation for your ethics, or because you never had that elephant ride which all the other kids had because you were too painfully shy to ask and no one bothered to ask you either. You could remember any of these and cry it all out without restraining yourself and no one will find it strange.

At an airport you are standing at the brink of parting and sorrow, you are in that intermediate space before you are shuttled into painful decisive this-is-it finality at breathtaking speed inside a narrow metal container. You are allowed to cry here.

Barefoot College

Established in 1972, the Barefoot College is a non-government organisation that has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These ‘Barefoot solutions’ can be broadly categorised into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development.

The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’.

Alice and Bob

"The names Alice and Bob are commonly used placeholder names for archetypal characters in fields such as cryptography and physics. The names are used for convenience; for example, "Alice sends a message to Bob encrypted with his public key" is easier to follow than "Party A sends a message to Party B encrypted by Party B's public key." Following the alphabet, the specific names have evolved into common parlance within these fields—helping technical topics to be explained in a more understandable fashion.

In cryptography and computer security, there are a number of widely used names for the participants in discussions and presentations about various protocols. The names are conventional, somewhat self-suggestive, sometimes humorous, and effectively act as metasyntactic variables.

In typical implementations of these protocols, it is understood that the actions attributed to characters such as Alice or Bob need not always be carried out by human parties directly, but also by a trusted automated agent (such as a computer program) on their behalf. Despite the advantage of Alice and Bob's distinct genders in reducing ambiguity, there has been little tendency to introduce inanimate parties so they could be referred by neuter pronouns."

Friday, June 24, 2011


Heaven must be where they press your aching shoulders, while telling you a long story...


That look on lonely people's faces, the suspicion that what matters to them, matters only to them..

Below what we think we are...

"Below what we think we are, we are something else,
we are almost anything".

This isn't me

by Edward Hirsch

It's that vague feeling of panic
That sweeps over you
Stepping out of the #7 train
At dusk, thinking, This isn't me
Crossing a platform with the other
Commuters in the worried half-light
Of evening, that must be

Someone else with a newspaper
Rolled tightly under his arm
Crossing the stiff, iron tracks
Behind the train, thinking, This
Can't be me stepping over the tracks
With the other commuters, slowly crossing
The parking lot at the deepest
Moment of the day, wishing

That I were someone else, wishing
I were anyone else but a man
Looking out at himself as if
From a great distance,
Turning the key in his car, starting
His car and swinging it out of the lot,

Watching himself grinding uphill
In a slow fog, climbing past the other
Cars parked on the side of the road,
The cars which seem ominously empty
And strange,
          and suddenly thinking
With a new wave of nausea
This isn't me sitting in this car
Feeling as if I were about to drown

In the blue air, that must be
Someone else driving home to his

Wife and children on an ordinary day
Which ends, like other days,
With a man buckled into a steel box,
Steering himself home and trying
Not to panic

In the last moments of nightfall
When the trees and the red-brick houses
Seem to float under green water
And the streets fill up with sea lights.

"Commuters" by Edward Hirsch, from Wild Gratitude. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

For we are also what we have lost...

"For we are also what we have lost."

from the film Amores Perros

Bill Tanner

  • Indecision is the key to flexibility.
  • Sometimes too much to drink is not enough.
  • I have seen the truth and it makes no sense.
  • No matter where you go, there you are.
  • My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.
  • Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.
  • Drawing on my fine command of language I said nothing.
  • Diplomacy is the art of saying nice doggy until you can find a rock.
  • Santa's elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses.
  • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
  • I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.
  • My mind not only wanders; sometimes it leaves completely.  
  • There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.
  • If you can smile when things go wrong you have someone in mind to blame.
  • There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
  • A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.
  • The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
  • On the other hand, you have different fingers.
  • I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
  • I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.
  • Quantum mechanics: The dreams stuff is made of.
  • The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.
  • A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
  • My inferiority complex is not as good as yours.
  • I am having an out of money experience.
  • I don't approve of political jokes. I've seen too many of them get elected.
  • No one ever says "It's only a game," when their team is winning.
  • Marriage changes passion... suddenly you're in bed with a relative.
  • Snowmen fall from the sky unassembled.
  • You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted then used against you.
  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If you drink, don't park. Accidents cause people.
  • A closed mouth gathers no foot.
  • Try not to let your mind wander. It is too small to be out by itself.
  • A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
  • Why don't you ever see the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery"?

The Shipfitter's Wife

I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat,
smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean. I'd go to where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles
and calves, the pads and bones of his feet.

Then I'd open his clothes and take
the whole day inside me – the ship's
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the foreman clanging
off the hull's silver ribs. Spark of lead
kissing metal. The clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle,
and the long drive home.

"The Shipfitter's Wife" by Dorianne Laux, from Smoke. © BOA Editions, 2000

Words, not actions

"...Human beings live in a world where words, and not actions, have more power, where the ultimate competence is the mastery of language. It is terrible, because, basically we are primates programmed to eat, sleep, reproduce, conquer and safeguard our territory, and those who are most capable of doing that, the most animal amongst us, are always done in by the the others, those who speak well while they would be incapable of defending their property, bringing back a rabbit for dinner, or of reproducing correctly.

Humans live in a world where it is the weak who dominate. It is a terrible insult to our animal nature, a kind of perversion, a profound contradiction."

 Translated from:

"Les hommes vivent dans un monde ou ce sont les mots et non les actes qui ont du pouvoir, ou la compétence ultime, c'est la maitrise du langage. C'est terrible, parce que, au fond, nous sommes des primates programmés pour manger, dormir, nous reproduire, conquérir et sécuriser notre territoire et que les plus doués pour ça, les plus animaux d'entre nous, se font toujours avoir par les autres, ceux qui parlent bien alors qu'ils seraient incapables de défendre leur jardin, de rameneer un lapin pour le diner ou de procréer correctement.

Les hommes vivent dans un monde ou ce sont les faibles qui dominent. C'est une injure terrible à notre nature animale, un genre de perversion, de contradiction profonde."

'L'Elégance du Hérisson', Page 56
Muriel Barbery
Editions Gallimard, 2006

This fabulous book is available in English too -

That commonplace miracle

"A New Hampshire high school student reading an ancient Chinese poem and being moved - a theory of literature that cannot account for that commonplace miracle is worthless."

"Being is not an idea in philosophy, but a wordless experience we have from time to time."

"I still think Camus was right. Heroic lucidity in the face of the absurd is about all we really have."

"One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other."

 'The Monster loves his Labyrinth: Notebooks', Charles Simic 

The Ugly Indian shows us the way!

Disgusted with the garbage dumps and the litter on our streets? Want to see how a group of people are changing people's behaviour to stop this ugliness?

Check this out -  - These guys have managed to clean up garbage dumps on Church Street (Bangalore) - involving BBMP garbage staff, the private housekeepers and kabaadiwalas, the shopkeepers, and random passersby.

"By transforming Church Street, The Ugly Indian has showed us that such a thing is possible in our country. They see hope. Do you? Would you like to make a change in your surroundings? Then write to them You can also connect with them at their Facebook page.

"This is a story of successful experiments by a few Ugly Indians in an Indian city.
To see whether THE UGLY INDIAN can change.

This is an attempt to understand why 'we are like that only' and to find smart ways of changing our behaviour."
The War on Litter:

Please spread the word, participate, share your ideas with them, be a part of a mass movement - thank you!

I mailed them - click here to see what happened next.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I was a boy when  I heard three red words
a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets
for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity-I asked
why men die for  words.

I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns,
lilacs, told me the high golden words are:
Mother, Home, and Heaven-other older men with
face decorations said: God, Duty, Immortality
-they sang these threes slow from deep lungs.

Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks
of doom and damnation, soup and nuts: meteors flashed
their say-so: and out of great Russia came three
dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die
for: Bread, Peace, Land.

And I met a marine of the U.S.A, a leatherneck with a girl on his
knee for a memory in ports circling the earth and he said: Tell me
how to say three things and I always get by-gimme a plate of ham
and eggs-how much?-and–do you love me, kid?

Carl Sandburg

Elephant Gun

If I was young, I'd flee this town
I'd bury my dreams underground
As did I, we drink to die
We drink tonight...


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tea and Oranges

"Saunders: Could you describe one of the typical evenings that you spent with Leonard Cohen at the time the song was written?

Suzanne: Oh yes. I would always light a candle and serve tea and it would be quiet for several minutes, then we would speak. And I would speak about life and poetry and we’d share ideas.

Saunders: So it really was the tea and oranges that are in the song?

Suzanne: Very definitely, very definitely, and the candle, who I named Anastasia, the flame of the candle was Anastasia to me. Don’t ask me why. It just was a spiritual moment that I had with the lightening of the candle. And I may or may not have spoken to Leonard about, you know I did pray to Christ, to Jesus Christ and to St. Joan at the time, and still do.

Saunders: And that was something you shared, both of you?

Suzanne: Yes, and I guess he retained that.

Interview with Suzanne:


by Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teach us the art of filaments...

The Letter

There is a way of saying things,
Connecting loneliness with loneliness.

We trap ourselves
In simple flats or trips overseas
Or a spider's web of domestic peace,
Nourishing the heart of being alone.

Spider, good creature, spinner of morals,
Teach us the art of filaments:
How brother calls brother, and each knot conducts
Astonishing beauty.

And you,dearest,
For your letter, thanks:
filament beautiful,
Healing my loneliness.



A morning surprise. Cheap happiness.

Guys Like That

Drive very nice cars, and from
where you sit in your dented
last-century version of the
most ordinary car in America, they

look dark-suited and neat and fast.
Guys like that look as if they are thinking
about wine and marble floors, but
really they are thinking about TiVo

and ESPN. Women think that guys
like that are different from the guys
driving the trucks that bring cattle
to slaughter, but guys like that are

planning worse things than the death
of a cow. Guys who look like that —
so clean and cool — are quietly moving
money across the border, cooking books,

making deals that leave some people
rich and some people poorer
than they were before guys like that
robbed them at the pump and on

their electricity bills, and even
now, guys like that are planning how
to divide up that little farm they just
passed, the one you used to call home.

Joyce Sutphen

Sunday, June 19, 2011


June. Of the constant wind, and therefore of the wind chimes. All day long, and sometimes all night. You wake up in the morning hearing the wooden chimes gurgle. In the beautiful afternoons, the music flows in and out, from one balcony to the other, all around the house, across the swaying curtains.

You can just be still and listen. You can just be.

The Eyebrows of Belonging

The Big Picture
News Stories in Photographs


"...All migrants leave their pasts behind, although some try to pack it into bundles and boxes-but on the journey something seeps out of the treasured mementoes and old photographs, until even their owners fail to recognize them, because it is the fate of migrants to be stripped of history, to stand naked amidist the scorn of strangers upon whom they see rich clothing, the brocades of continuity and the eyebrows of belonging..."

Salman Rushdie

Singing across the Steppes

(Click picture to enlarge)

"...Mongols have epics, 'long songs', 'short songs' and many in between; songs for every occasion, songs in praise of landscapes, battles, heroes and horses - especially horses. They have pipes, drums, jaw's harps and horse-head fiddles with as many sizes as western orchestral ones.  Women may sing in powerful strident voices crammed with trills and turns, similar to Bulgarian and Greek styles familiar to fans of 'world music'.

Men often adopt the same technique, but if they come from western Mongolia or the reindeer-herding areas to the north they also specialize in overtone singing, the astonishing two-or even three-tone technique that produces flute-like nasal notes floating like birdsong above a deep chesty drone. For epics, the men adopt a low-pitched guttural voice. And style and content alike vary from area to area.

Some claim that song reflects landscape, pointing to west Mongolian tunes as contoured as their mountains, and to steppe melodies that flow like undulating grassland. And no performance should be undertaken lightly. Performance is-and surely always was-attended with ritual and formality, because music and song have powerful effects. Some songs exorcise demons; others invoke the spirits of forest and mountain and weather (it is bad form to whistle in a tent, because whistling calls up a wind-spirit, and there are too many spirits in tents already)."

Page 32. 'Genghis Khan - Life, Death and Resurrection' , by John Man

If you want to hear throat singing, from the neighbouring country of Tuva -

Tuvan Throat Singing  -

Alash Ensemble, Throat Singers from Tuva (I bought this CD online) -

Photo, from Google Images, from the beautiful movie, Mongolian Pingpong

Refusing Heaven

Happily Planting the Beans too Early
Jack Gilbert

I waited until the sun was going down
to plant the bean seedlings. I was
beginning on the peas when the phone rang.

It was a long conversation about what
living this way in the woods might
be doing to me. It was dark by the time
I finished. Made tuna fish sandwiches
and read the second half of a novel.

Found myself out in the April moonlight
putting the rest of the pea shoots into
the soft earth. It was after midnight.
There was a bird calling intermittently
and I could hear the stream down below.

She was probably right about me getting
strange. After all, Basho and Tolstoy
at the end were at least going somewhere.

from Refusing Heaven. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

Haunting Photos of Polar Ice

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Silence, and space, and strangers

No Road

Since we agreed to let the road between us
Fall to disuse,
And bricked our gates up, planted trees to screen us,
And turned all time's eroding agents loose,
Silence, and space, and strangers -- our neglect
Has not had much effect.

Leaves drift unswept, perhaps; grass creeps unmown;
No other change.
So clear it stands, so little overgrown,
Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,
And still would be allowed. A little longer,
And time will be the stronger,

Drafting a world where no such road will run
From you to me;
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty.
Not to prevent it is my will's fulfilment.
Willing it, my ailment.

Philip Larkin

Old mysterious wood


"Sell me a violin, mister, of old mysterious wood.
Sell me a fiddle that has kissed dark nights on the forehead where men kiss sisters they love.
Sell me dried wood that has ached with passion clutching the knees and arms of a storm.
Sell me horsehair and rosin that has sucked at the breasts of the morning sun for milk.
Sell me something crushed in the heartsblood of pain readier than ever for one more song."

Cornhuskers. 1918.
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) 

"...Nonetheless, some maintain that the best Stradivariuses have unique superiorities. Various attempts at explaining these supposed qualities have been undertaken, most results being unsuccessful or inconclusive.

A more modern theory attributes tree growth during a time of unusually low solar activity during the Maunder Minimum "Little Ice Age" from ca. 1645 to 1750. During this period, temperatures throughout Europe were much cooler causing stunted and slowed tree growth, which resulted in unusually dense wood. 

Further evidence for this "Little Ice Age theory" comes from a simple examination of the dense growth rings in the wood used in Stradivari's instruments."

Keep the channel open

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased.There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

to Agnes DeMille

Gasoline rainbows...

From J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye":

"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobdody'd move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket.

Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you'd be so much older or anything. It wouldn't be that, exactly. You'd just be different, that's all.

You'd have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you'd have a new partner. Or you'd have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you'd heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you'd just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them.

I mean you'd be different in some way - I can't explain what I mean. And even if I could, I'm not sure I'd feel like it."

Page 121.


The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly without any warning her parents discovered that she was with child. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment, at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him,but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth  - that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child all he said was "Is that so?"

Page 19. 'Zen Flesh Zen Bones  - A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings'
Compiled by Paul Reps
Penguin Books 1957

Friday, June 17, 2011


Like a reminder of this life
of trams, sun, sparrows,
and the flighty uncontrolledness
of streams leaping like thermometers,

and because ducks are quacking somewhere
above the crackling of the last, paper-thin ice,
and because children are crying bitterly
(remember children's lives are so sweet!)

and because in the drunken, shimmering starlight
the new moon whoops it up,
and a stocking crackles a bit at the knee,
gold in itself and tinged by the sun,

like a reminder of life,
and because there is resin on tree trunks,
and because I was madly mistaken
in thinking that my life was over,

like a reminder of my life -
you entered into me on stockinged feet.

You entered - neither too late nor too early
-at exactly the right time, as my very own,
and with a smile, uprooted me
from memories, as from a grave.

And I, once again whirling among
the painted horses, gladly exchange,
for one reminder of life,
all its memories.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Arthur Boyars amd Simon Franklin

Buddhu Cat

Buddhu Cat was all brown stripes and big fat head and totally ordinary. Perhaps below ordinary even. Buddhu cat's mummy was all white and beautiful. His sister was black and very intelligent and playful. (Cats don't have Daddys so don't ask me the rest). But Buddhu cat was, well, just buddhu. Low on intelligence, ability, wit, smartness, looks. His mummy and sister treated him with scorn. He was scared of everything, he never learned manners, would even steal from the kitchen and dining table, and therefore made himself hated by my mother.

He always sat on trees or walls from where he would watch the world going about its ways that he perhaps could not comprehend. All other male cats chased him and bit him for fun. When he was given food, he ate in a hurry because he worried that even that would be snatched away from him. He never spoke much, he was a very silent cat.

But Buddhu cat knew that I loved him. Maybe he did not know that I loved him more than the others because he needed it more. Life was so unfair to him, and I believed that it was up to me set right the balance.

He knew that I lived in the upstairs bedroom, my solitary life among books. If he came into the house, mother would chase him out. But there was a gooseberry tree just outside my window. Which had a branch coming all the way to the windowsill. One day Buddhu cat came up to hide on the tree, and I called him and showed him the way to come in.

Following which he would come up through the gooseberry tree, peep in through the curtains, make sure that no one else was there, or that my brother was fast asleep in the next bed, and jump in. He would sleep next to me on my bed, purring away, the only time he ever purred, perhaps the only time he felt completely safe. And sometimes he would climb onto my tummy quietly and fall asleep curled up in a ball. I would wake up in the night feeling that I can't breathe anymore and wondering why. And Buddhu cat would be gently rising up and down on my tummy, a round little ball of fur no one wanted.

He went away one fine day just like all male cats do. Never understood why they did that, but I knew it would happen. I worried no end how he will manage in the big bad world with his buddhu-ness, and minus my protection. But he had to follow the "inscrutable exhortations of his soul", or his hormones or whatever. For a long time on moonlit nights, I would look outside the window hoping to find a small funny figure walking towards the gooseberry tree.

Now it was just me against the whole world.

Sometimes when I wake up in the night with a heaviness on my tummy and on my soul, I remember my poor little Buddhu cat. I hope he was given a special place in Cat Heaven. The place reserved for the innocents.

May 10, 2006



Cobbler's shops are so fascinating. All the repaired shoes and tools arranged so neatly, one next to the other, like school children at drill. The quaint neatness. The smell of the polish. The hope of the torn edges brought together again, the healed leather ready for yet another attempt at life. The sheer soothingness of that.

When God came to Tolstoy's cobbler, did he stop to breathe in the smell of re-born leather first?

Never Go Back

In the bar where the living dead drink all day
and a jukebox reminisces in a cracked voice
there is nothing to say.  You talk for hours
in agreed motifs, anecdotes shuffled and dealt
from a well-thumbed pack, snapshots.  The smoky mirrors
flatter;  your ghost buys a round for the parched,
old faces of the past.  Never return
to the space where you left time pining till it died.

Outside, the streets tear litter in their thin hands,
a tired wind whistles through the blackened stumps of houses
at a limping dog.  God, this is an awful place
says the friend, the alcoholic, whose head is a negative
of itself.  You listen and nod, bereaved.  Baby,
what you owe to this place is unpayable
in the only currency you have.  So drink up.  Shut up,
then get them in again.  Again.  And never go back.

Carol Ann Duffy

The risk of being loved

In today's excerpt - the risk inherent in positive emotions: observations from the psychiatrist George Vaillant, who has long been the chief curator of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running - and probably the most exhaustive - longitudinal studies of mental and physical well-being in history. Begun in 1937 as a study of healthy, well-adjusted Harvard sophomores (all male), it has followed its subjects for more than 70 years:

"...Last October, I watched him give a lecture to Seligman's graduate students on the power of positive emotions - awe, love, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy, hope, and trust (or faith). 'The happiness books say, 'Try happiness. You'll like it a lot more than misery' - which is perfectly true,' he told them. But why, he asked, do people tell psychologists they'd cross the street to avoid someone who had given them a compliment the previous day?

In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they're future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs - protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections - but in the short term actually put us at risk. That's because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak."

Joshua Wolf Shenk, "What Makes Us Happy?" The Atlantic, June 2009, pp. 47-48.

Don't lose your buttons :)

From an old Snoopy cartoon: 
Snoopy and the little bird are eating watermelons. Snoopy has a big slice, bird has a small slice. And the bird says - "There are seeds in there."

So Snoopy says -" Just spit them out. They are buttons. They keep the watermelon from falling apart."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mujo and the Appreciati​on of Beauty

From "Unrealistic Dreamer: Haruki Murakami’s acceptance speech on receiving the Cataluña International Prize":

Note: The excerpt below is not the central theme of the speech, far from it - more on that later.

"....Notwithstanding this (the tsunami), there are 13 million people living “ordinary” lives in the Tokyo area alone. They take crowded commuter trains to go to their offices, and they work in skyscrapers. Even after this earthquake, I’ve never heard that the population of Tokyo is in decline.

Why? You might ask me. How can so many people live their daily lives in such a terrible place? Don’t they go out of their mind with fear?

In Japanese, we have the word “mujo”. It means that nothing lasts forever. Everything born into this world changes and will ultimately disappear. There is nothing eternal or immutable on which we can rely. This view of the world was derived from Buddhism, but the idea of “mujo” was burned into the spirit of Japanese people, and took root in the common ethnic consciousness.

The idea “everything has just gone” expresses resignation. We believe that it serves no purpose to go against nature, but Japanese people have found positive expressions of beauty in this resignation.

We love the cherry blossom of spring, the fireflies of summer and the red leaves of autumn. We think it natural that we watch them avidly, collectively and as a tradition. It can be difficult to make a hotel reservation near the famous sites of cherry blossom, fireflies and red leaves in their respective seasons, as such places are invariably milling with visitors.


Cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves lose their beauty within a very short time. We travel very far to watch the glorious moment. And we are somewhat relieved to confirm that they are not merely beautiful, but already beginning to fall, to lose their small lights and their vivid beauty. We find peace of mind in the fact that the peak of beauty has passed and disappeared.

I don’t know if natural disasters have affected such a mentality, but I’m sure that in some sense we have collectively overcome successive natural disasters and accepted things that we couldn’t avoid, by virtue of this mentality. "

Monday, June 13, 2011



Nov 15, 2006. Yet another beautiful sunny day at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre. The grass has grown higher. Tension and Sonja, the dogs, come running to greet you.

Cleaning, and cleaning. You thought you were stubborn. Until you met dried bird shit.

You realize you are small enough to fit in the mongoose cage. The small snake has recovered, and has been set free in its habitat in the Sakleshpur ghats. A rat snake is trying to catch a rat above the monkey cage. Much drama.

Saleem has been ill, with a slipped disc - he is overworked. Today he is out and active, narrating stories, cracking jokes, eagerly showing me his stunning collection of bird, insect and snake photos. All his photos are taken within that half kilometre of wild grassy land, in which no one other than him can spot anything at all. Saleem is a lesson in seeing.

Today he is excited as he spotted a booted eagle amidst all those kites up there. You manage to cook lunch for all four of us, in the midst of seeing his photographs and learning a million amazing lessons about the natural world. This man is a walking Discovery channel.

We sit down and have our lunch, outside. Two more volunteers have come. None of us know each other. But now we are all of the "Saleem's friends" family. After lunch and much laughter and varied conversation, we work for some more time, repair the scary owl's cage, change the drinking water for the bats and the squirrels and the koels, and then sit down for coffee.

Outside on the cement place, leaning against the building wall. Tension and Sonja sit down with us, enjoying the warmth of the group. Tall grass in front of us, teeming with unseen life. The blue sky is brilliant blue. The white clouds are brilliant white. And for just that shot of black, a few kites glide in and out. The wind in the neem tree. Quiet and peace. Saleem brings out his guitar, and starts playing.

A simple happiness settles on you, and washes away all the grime of the week behind. You redefine the meaning of belonging, in this group of people who hardly know each other. You want to just sit here forever.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A God-less Universe

If this is all there is, that what you see is what you get, there is no God to save us, to mete out reward and punishment, no reason to ask Why do bad things happen to good people? (because the universe is random in its cruelty), there are no rewards or punishments, no deserving, it is all but cause and effect, cause and effect, coincidence, and we are just incipient compost - I'll still take it, without any complaints.

I get to see this every morning, this light on leaves, on fragile petals.  I could leave now, and yet have lived enough. I could leave without asking that most egoistic and ridiculous of questions,"Why me?"

In a God-less universe, every little thing is a miracle, even more so.


"It was so important that she should understand something of what life in this country had been, that she should grasp the nature of the loneliness that he wanted her to nullify. And it was so devilishly difficult to explain. It is devilish to suffer from a pain that is all but nameless.
Blessed are they who are stricken only with classifiable diseases. Blessed are the poor, the sick, the crossed in love, for at least other people know what is the matter with them and will listen to their belly achings with sympathy. But who that has not suffered it understands the pain of exile?

Page 170, 'Burmese Days', George Orwell


"All that is not given is lost."

Ancient Indian proverb, 'City of Joy', Dominique Lapierre

Chance, a lyric force

Excerpt from 'The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks', by Charles Simic

"I admire Claude Levi Strauss's observation that all art is essentially reduction and Gertrude Stein's saying that poetry is vocabulary.

Chance as a tool with which to break up one's habitual associations. Once they're broken, use one of the pieces to launch yourself into the unknown.

We name one thing and then another. That's how time enters poetry. Space, on the other hand, comes into being through the attention we pay to each word. The more intense our attention, the more space, and there's a lot of space inside words.

Connotations have their non-Euclidean geometries.

Gate C22

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she'd been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after — if she beat you or left you or
you're lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

Poem: "Gate C22" by Ellen Bass, from The Human Line


Pakistani singers Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad, Coke Studio, Season 4

(You might want to buffer it first)

Coke Studio embodies a musical fusion of exciting elements and diverse influences, ranging from traditional eastern, modern western and regionally inspired music. Bringing alive the magic of live recordings and performances, Coke Studio prides itself on providing a musical platform, which bridges barriers, celebrates diversity, encourages unity and instills a sense of Pakistani pride. Coke Studio is an inspired step by Coca-Cola for having created a platform where renowned as well as upcoming and less mainstream musicians from various genres can collaborate musically.

Now in its fourth season, Coke Studio spirals to encompass a wider arc of diversity as the voyage of discovery continues in an exploration of the next wave of musical styles and influences.

Sometimes it happens..

Sometimes it happens

And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved
And love is past
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak
Then the opportunity has passed
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish

And also it happens that there is
nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go
Then you have bypassed
And the years flare up and are gone
Quicker than a minute

So you have nothing
You wonder if these things matter and then
They cease to matter
And caring is past
And a fountain empties itself into the grass....

Brain Patten

The Malleable Brain

"...Central to answering these questions are two fairly recent insights of brain research. One concerns the parts of the brain that produce a sense of well-being: our brains have a special circuitry for joy, pleasure, and euphoria - we have a happiness system. Just as we come into the world with a capacity for speech, we are also programmed for positive feelings. This discovery will shape our understanding of mankind as powerfully as Freud's theories of the deep unconscious did in the last century.

The other, still more surprising discovery is that the adult brain continues to change. Until a few years ago scientists believed that the brain, like bones, was fully grown by no later than the end of puberty. But exactly the opposite is true: the circuits in our brain are altered whenever we learn something, and new connections are forged in our network of nerve cells. Using the right microscopes, we can even see these transformations within the skull. After you have read this book, your brain will look different than it did when you started."

Page xv, Introduction, 'The Science of Happiness, How Our Brains Make Us Happy - and What We Can Do to Get Happier', by Stefan Klein, PhD

Thought is the evasion of feeling

"And the third voice, which came from his marrow, would sing, "Lonesome! Lonesome! What good is it? Who benefits? Thought is the evasion of feeling. You're only walling up the leaking loneliness."

'Sweet Thursday', John Steinbeck

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cricket and the Primitive Mind

 From 'The Decisive Moment, How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind' (Page 31), Jonah Lehrer:

"...So how do professional cricketers manage to play a delivery from a fast bowler? The answer is that the brain begins collecting information about the delivery long before the ball leaves the hand. As soon as the bowler hits the crease, the batsman will automatically start to pick up on 'anticipatory clues' that help him winnow down the list of possibilities. He'll notice specific features of the hand and arm of the bowler that allow him to predict where, exactly, the ball will end up after it has been pitched.

The batsmen, of course, aren't consciously studying these signs: they can't tell you why or how they decided to play a particular ball. And yet, they are able to act based upon this information. (A similar process is at work with goalkeepers during a penalty shot. They have to predict where the ball will end up before it is even kicked, which forces them to rely on subtle, subliminal cues.)

A study of professional cricketers, for instance, demonstrated that the players could accurately predict the speed and location of the ball based solely on a one-second video of the bowler's wind-up. Each well-trained brain knew exactly what details to look for. And then, once it perceived these details, it seamlessly converted them into an accurate set of feelings, which allowed the expert batsmen to play the ball effectively.

We take these automatic talents for granted precisely because they work so well. There's no robot that can hit a baseball or throw a football or ride a bicycle. No computer program can figure out which actor should play a villain or instantly recognize a familiar face. That is why, when evolution was building our brain, it didn't bother to replace all of those emotional processes with new operations under our explicit control. If something isn't broken, then natural selection isn't going to fix it. Our mind is is made out of used parts, engineered by a blind watchmaker.

The end result is that the uniquely human parts of the mind depend on the primitive mind underneath. The process of thinking requires feeling, for our feelings are what let us understand all the information that we can't directly comprehend.

Reason without emotion is impotent."

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