Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kashmira Kakati and the wild cats of Assam

My friend Maniza sent me this article about Kashmira Kakati, a wildlife biologist who recently announced the discovery of seven species of wild cats in the little known Jeypore-Dehing forests in Assam…the highest concentration of photo-documented wild cat species anywhere in the world.

Some of the photos are in here - fabulous!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do not be afraid, little brother...

And so, unnatural death comes to your family too, finally, the kind you read in the newspapers everyday, the kind that happens to "other people". A 24-year-old cousin brother brought back home, unrecognizable, from the wreck of a car that a truck ran over.

While you sit on the cold floor next to the case where his body (or whatever remained of it) is kept, listening to his inconsolable parents' loud sorrow that is all that can be allowed to matter now, because it will never end, you remember the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which you had revisited just a few days ago, the film version, narrated in the haunting voice of Leonard Cohen. You find yourself repeating in your mind, 'Do not be afraid, little brother, do not be afraid".

You want to believe that we are but "incipient compost", that this is it, that with the destruction of the material body, everything is over. But for this abruptly terminated young life, this little child, you want to believe that this is not the end. How fickle we are, how weak.

Amongst all deaths, is your own the least painful to bear, you wonder.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *
In the Himalayan communities where Tibetan Buddhism is followed, when someone dies, the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is read every day, for 49 days. According to this text, the consciousness of the dead person lingers between one life and another for a period of 49 days. During that time he is capable of hearing. The text is read aloud to encourage and guide him.

The Book of the Dead describes how at death, the consciousness is suddenly separated from all the circumstances which made up daily life.

Both life and death, according to the Bardo Thodol, are a continuous flow of uncertain transitions called bardos. In the bardos of death, if mind does not recognize its own nature, it becomes ever more solid, until it enters a new form of life.

The Phowa, a method unique to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, assists the consciousness to release its attachment to the physical body, at the time of death.

The text is read aloud in the room where the dead body is placed.

"O Son of Noble Family, that which is called Death is now arrived. Now for the benefit of all beings, recognize Luminosity, which dances before you. This great blazing massive light is Enlightenment itself. It is the natural mind. It is the essence of your own mind.

Recognition and Liberation are simultaneous."

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

You want to scream, but what does a 24-year-old child know? Will he able to recognize all this, does he have the understanding? Or is his soul already old, and therefore capable of such knowledge?

The sound of the mother's heart-rending wailing is obliterating all belief, wiping out your hard-earned wisdom. Will the knowledge of her son's potential re-birth be of any consolation to her now? Can it possibly make up for the daily phone call, the beloved voice that she will never hear again? You want to be unreasonable, you want to just beat your head against the wall and cry, you want to be a stupid dumb animal that can only collapse completely in the face of such pain.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

"Polden Tsering, you have died. The light of this world is fading, completely. The light of the next world is not yet appeared. Your body has lost all feeling. This is what death is. Let yourself go.

Now you should think like this: Now I will abandon clinging to this body and to this world. I will go forward. I will abandon fear and terror. And I will recognize that whatever appears is a projection of my own mind."

According to the Bardo Thodol, if the deceased has still failed to recognize his basic nature, and if he has failed to recognize the peaceful deities as projections of his own mind, then they transform into terrifying wrathful ones.

"Polden Tsering, do not be afraid, do not be confused. Recognize them as the projections of your own mind. Do not be afraid for they are your innate wakefulness. If you recognize this, you will be liberated."

Recognition and Liberation are simultaneous."

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Do not be afraid, little brother, do not be afraid...

I am Right Here, I am With You, and I Love You

A post for Vaish, lover of dogs, sharer of dog books, who remembers to remember people. These "dog posts" were written long ago, in another life. Though I am a cat person, technically speaking, I smile at dogs, and they smile back. What more can one ask. Animals usually trust me at the first meeting, except for that one cow that chased me way back in my childhood, when I walked across its rope. Must've been some kind of bovine superstition at play, what do we know of their world.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *
Dogs are such nice people. When you talk to them, they listen to you with such complete rapt attention without missing a single word as if you were the Great Dog in the Sky, and then they smile and wag their tails to let you know that Yes, I sympathize with everything you have to say, if it's important to you, it is important to me, I will not look away bored or change the topic or do anything that might hurt you, so go ahead and say everything you have to say, I am Right Here, I am With You, and I Love You.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *
Going for a walk with a dog, unleashed. He runs ahead of you smelling, exploring, marking. Far ahead of you. You are alone, yet not.

Narrow country road, deserted hillsides once again being reclaimed by the night. There's just you, and somewhere ahead, a dog. You stop to hear a stream gurgle under a small bridge. And when you want to return, you shout out to him. He's gone ahead the bend in the road. And he pretends to not hear you.

So you turn back and start walking. Like a lightning shot, he's turned back and run far ahead of you. And he stops to pant and look back at you. And then again you lose him in his explorations among the tall grass and the trees. And when you finally turn in towards the house, you think you have lost him. But he comes in from among the grass, covered with seeds, happy, smiling.

He runs ahead to the house. He is there first. When you turn into the verandah, he's there, panting, with that smug look on his face - "Look, she's coming home so late."

And you still want to hug him.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *
One morning while driving down the busy road from Mekhri Circle, you see this man on a bike moving very slowly in the fast-moving traffic. Then you notice the tiny little stray puppy running between him and the road divider. The man was purposely riding slowly shielding the puppy and preventing him from moving left into the traffic where he would be crushed to death without a doubt. 

And the puppy unaware of danger so close at hand was happily running a marathon in the straight line he was forced to run in, once in a while turning to look at this funny guy keeping pace with him, smiling, with that bungling innocence of all small animals.

"There is more to admire in people than to despise". So says the character of Bernard Rieux in Camus' "Plague", after 9 months in a plague-ravaged city. (A novel you had the good fortune of teaching for 3 years, a life-changing experience.)

Goodness is all around us, though it rarely makes it to newspaper headlines.


"...In a Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking pointed his mental radio telescope at the remnants of the Big Bang, and what he saw was God. We don't want to point you in that direction.

A dynamic does not necessarily imply a purpose. Darwinian evolution has a dynamic, but organisms do not seek to evolve. The existence of attractors does not imply that dynamical systems are goal-seekers: on the contrary, they are goal-finders, which only recognize what the "goal"is when they have found it.

The fallacy of seeing God in the Big Bang is the leap of logic from "There is a dynamic in the universe that created us and makes us feel at home" to "The universe was set up in order to create us and make us feel at home". It may have been, but the discovery of a dynamic does not of itself imply any such thing.

However, as with the anthropic principle, it is tempting to derive a sense of purpose from a dynamic and see it as a spiritual frame that we must use. "We are here because we are meant to be here". Well, we may be and we may not. But because of the shared dynamic, we feel at home here-whether we are a goal or an accidental by-product- so the dynamic provides a spiritual frame that we find both comforting and awe-inspiring.

Romanticism alone is empty. Reductionism alone can provide a strong feeling of sympathy with the universe. We understand individual bits and pieces; we can kind of see how a tree works, how it gets its water into the topmost branches. But the shared dynamic goes much further: it creates a feeling of empathy with the universe. Put your cheek against a tree and feel the roughness of the bark against your skin."

'The Collapse of Chaos - Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World'
Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart

Water Lights

Brilliant innovation. This low-cost solution provides light to shanties in Philippines during the daytime, saving poor families money they would've spent on electricity.

Remembering Arvind

 Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Arvind. Little brother from university days, dragged down by the whirlpool in the blue ocean you so loved. Who died because the warden and VC refused to give a car to rush him to the hospital. Why do you come back to haunt me after all these years, you whom we grieved with all the bitterness of youth against unfairness? Where are you now, what have you become? Do you still watch the waves tempting other young students on that beautiful coast? Do you still wander those hostel corridors resonating with youthful laughter? Or have you closed yourself in anguish unable to see the face of your mother who never recovered from losing her only child?

O little brother, did you, like Phlebas, pass the stages of your brief life as you entered the whirlpool*? Is death by water a death without resurrection, without rebirth, without hope of another chance?

Give me your grief, let me carry it for you, may your boyish shoulders bear only the weight of the arms of friendly angels....

*"Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. "

Part IV: Death by Water
From 'The Wasteland' – T.S Eliot

Friday, July 29, 2011

And everything is new....

Kings of Convenience: Winning A Battle, Losing A War

Even though I'll never need her,
even though she's only giving me pain,
I'll be on my knees to feed her,
spend a day to make her smile again
Even though I'll never need her,
even though she's only giving me pain
As the world is soft around her,
leaving me with nothing to disdain.

Even though I'm not her minder,
even though she doesn't want me around,
I am on my feet to find her,
to make sure that she is safe and sound.
Even though I'm not her minder,
even though she doesn't want me around,
I am on my feet to find her,
to make sure that she is safe from harm.

The sun sets on the war,
the day breaks and everything is new...

Thursday, July 28, 2011


From 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' by Sherman Alexie, one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read. Inspired by his own experiences, Sherman Alexie narrates the story of a young Spokane Indian growing up on a reservation in the US, with much wit, humour, and understanding - "the adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live."  The funny sketches by Ellen Forney add much to the beauty of the novel.

"My grandmother's greatest gift was tolerance.

Now, in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were celebrated. Epileptics were often shamans because people just assumed that God gave seizure-visions to the lucky ones.

Gay people were seen as magical, too.

I mean, like in many cultures, men were viewed as warriors and women were viewed as caregivers. But gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers. Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss Army knives!

My grandmother had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians. "Jeez," she said. "Who cares if a man wants to marry another man? All I want to know is who's going to pick up all the dirty socks?"

Of course, ever since white people showed up and brought along their Christianity and their fears of eccentricity, Indians have gradually lost all their tolerance. Indians can be just as judgmental and hateful as any white person.

But not my grandmother. She still hung on to that old-time Indian spirit, you know?"

Page 155.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hear it from the kids :)

And watch the fun! Beautiful.

SpotFixing at Bishop Cotton Girls' School Part 15 - The Ugly Indian

SpotFixing at Bishop Cotton Girls' School Part 16 - The Ugly Indian

 Click on The Ugly Indian label below to know the whole story.

Sleeping through Change

I stumbled across something very intriguing a while ago. We all know the story of Rip Van Winkle who went to sleep under a tree and woke up 70 years later as an old man.

What's fascinating/strange is that apparently the same theme of "someone falling asleep for years together and waking up to a changed world" is there in so many cultures. I found 8 references to 8 different cultures with a similar story, in here - see under "Literary Forerunners" -

What is it about this theme that people across so many races/countries/centuries thought about it and created stories based on it?

Would it have just travelled from one country to the other? Or was it just a coincidence?

Or did it originate from some primitive memory of something written into our genes when we made our way out of East Africa?

Or was there some disease which spread across the world where people fell asleep for long periods?!

Or something so obvious I missed it?  Would love to hear your ideas on this.

Literary Forerunners (see link above)

  • "...The story is similar to the German folktale "Peter Klaus"[4] by J. C. C. Nachtigal, which is a shorter story set in a German village
  • ...The story is also similar to the ancient Jewish story about Honi M'agel.......
  • ...The story is also similar to a 3rd century AD Chinese tale of Ranka, as retold by Lionel Giles in A Gallery of Chinese Immortals, and an 8th-century Japanese tale, "Urashima Tarō".
  • ...In Orkney there is a similar and ancient folklore tale linked to the Burial mound of Salt Knowe adjacent to the Ring of Brodgar.
  • ...And in Ireland there is the story of Niamh and Oisin, which deals with a similar theme.
  • ...Another story was by Diogenes Laertius, an Epicurean philosopher circa early half third century, in his book On the Lives, Opinions, and Sayings of Famous Philosophers.
  • ...A similar story is told of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, Christian saints who fall asleep in a cave while avoiding Roman persecution and awake more than a century later to find that Christianity has become the official religion of the Empire."

Saturday, July 23, 2011


A friend once told me about this African tribe in the film ‘Amistaad’ that did not have a word for "should". How they only do what they want to do.

Came across this fascinating section in this book - 'A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters', by Julian Barnes. This particular story is a series of letters by this actor Charlie who has gone into the Amazonian jungles as part of a film crew - they're filming along with a group of Indians whom they've convinced to act in the movie, via an interpreter:

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
"Monday. Here's a funny thing. While the Indians appear to understand roughly what we're doing - they're happy to do retakes and don't seem at all put out by this great big eye being pointed at them - they don't seem to understand about the idea of acting. I mean sure they're acting their ancestors and they're quite willing to build us a raft and transport us upstream on it and be filmed doing this. But they won't do anything else.

If Vic says could you stand in a different way or use the pole like this and tries to demonstrate they simply won't. Absolutely refuse.

This is how we pole a raft and just because a white man is watching through his funny machine we aren't going to do it any differently.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
And the second one below - set me thinking - why and how we changed into a society that learned to pretend to be somebody else - and how pretense has become a part of our very lives, not just acting. It is in fact a survival skill now, being absolutely truthful would get us into much trouble.

Maybe pretense became necessary as we evolved into a bigger, more complex society? But what about the price we pay for it, being forced to behave in a false way so often? What is it doing to us?

But even if we did start off with absolute honesty, there's no going back now, is there?

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
"The other thing is even more incredible. They actually think that when Matt and I are dressed up as Jesuits, we actually are Jesuits! They think we've gone away and those two blokes in black dresses have turned up! Father Firmin is just as real a person for them as Charlie, though I'm glad to say they like Charlie more.

But you can't persuade them about what's going on. The crew think this is pretty stupid of them but I wonder if it's fantastically mature. The crew think they're such a primitive civilization they haven't even discovered acting yet.

I wonder if it's the opposite and they're a sort of post-acting civilization, maybe the first one on the earth. Like, they don't need it anymore, so they've forgotten about it and don't understand it any longer. Quite a thought!"

Page 243, Upstream
'A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters', Julian Barnes

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"...If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness. But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

Conversely the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant."

Milan Kundera
'The Unbearable Lightness of Being'

Early on Tuesday

Early on Tuesday
Jesse Cooke

Early on Tuesday
Back to the city
Back to the lives that we don't choose

Driving, nothing to say
This is ok
It is just one of those things we do

And it's ok
If you can't stay
As long as we have these moments here...........


Strange. In the realm of the non-material, giving does not make you poor, it keeps you always full. But not giving, and only trying to get, somehow leaves you hollow, empty, and perpetually dissatisfied. This must follow a different law.

Speaking of fullness, are you beginning to scratch the surface of these beautiful lines, you wonder:

"...From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains."

Isha Upanishad. Invocation

Cayman Islands

Kings of Convenience, of the amazing voices, the poetic lyrics, and the evocative videos.

Cayman Islands

Through the alleyways
To cool off in the shadows
Then into the street
Following the water
There's a bearded man
Paddling in his canoe
Looks as if he has
Come all the way from the Cayman Islands

These canals, it seems
They all go in circles
Places look the same,
And we're the only difference
The wind is in your hair
It's covering my view
I'm holding on to you
On a bike we've hired until tomorrow

If only they could see
If only they had been here
They would understand
How someone could have chosen
To go the length I've gone
To spend just one day riding
Holding on to you
I never thought it would be this clear

Other favorites:


I'd rather dance with you:

YouTube mix:

A flock of swallows

Driving Montana, Alone   
by Katie Phillips

I smile at the stack of Bob Dylan CDs
you are not holding in the passenger seat.
Storm clouds have gathered. My "Wow" rises
over the harmonica for your benefit,
but you cannot see that one sunlit peak

in the midst of threatening sky. The road turns
wet at the "Welcome to Anaconda" sign,
and I pat my raincoat, loosely folded
where your lap should be. "Anaconda was almost
the state capital," I say, but that's all I know,

and you don't ask for more. You wouldn't mind
my singing and swerving onto the shoulder
for more snapshots over the car door.
And it's only when I get just south of Philipsburg
that your not being here feels like absence.

I want you to see these dark rotting barns,
roadkill of Highway One. It seems only you
could know why my eyes fill the road
with tears again when a flock of swallows
swoops through an open barn door
and rushes out the gaping roof.

And may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day
by Michael Blumenthal

Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

"And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day" by Michael Blumenthal, from And. © BOA Editions, 2009

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

From Ugliness to Beauty

Can you believe this footpath was a stinking mucky place with rotting garbage, until a few weeks ago?(Click on photo to enlarge)

In case you were not following them on Facebook, the Ugly Indians (an anonymous group of people like you and me, with full-time jobs) cleaned up that nasty stinking garbage pile + public urinal (wall) in front of Bishop Cotton Girl's high school, on Residency Road. You will now find a garden where the dump was, and working urinals that people use - and little kids can go to their school vans without walking through stinking muck/walking right in the heavy traffic, to avoid the smell. I went to see it for myself yesterday.

These people contacted the BBMP, got the garbage collection to be moved to a better location, cleaned up the dirt themselves (yes!), got the urinals fixed again, painted and planted with the help of the public/schoolkids who were willing to help.

You have to see the videos to believe this!  (And they have good/funny music to go along with them too)
You can start from Part 6 if you don't have the time, it summarizes the Before Cleaning part too:

The whole series is here.

The work is still going on - but what they have achieved is just mind-blowing. A huge lesson in what we can do, if we get together - one thing we have in plenty is manpower, right? :)

What you can do (message from the Ugly Indians)
  1. Stop being cynical and believe it is possible. 
  2. If you want to make a difference to your surroundings by taking ownership of the problem and seeing it through, these videos may help you. Or write to and they will help you. (We consult with many people to help fix dumps near their house) 
  3. If you want to show your support Bangalore CBD Area, you can adopt a tereBin at a location of your choice. We will soon put up WonderLOOS for adoption too. 
To know the whole story, see the other posts here, or click on The Ugly Indian label below this post.

For any doubts, contact them directly:

    Music and Mysticism

    I have a very layman's understanding of Western classical music (I appreciate it without any understanding), but this passage is beautiful to me in more ways than the obvious one  (the brilliant parallel between music and mysticism) - what really moved me was the beauty and precision of the language, I could "see" it all, the sound, and abstract experience, flowing through circles and lines, radiating, and returning.


    "There is an interesting parallel to be found in J.W.N.Sullivan's book, Beethoven, first published in 1927. After discussing the significance and usefulness of conventional sonata form to express psychological processes, he goes on to write:

    "But in the quartets we are discussing, Beethoven's experience could not be presented in this form. The connection between the various movements is altogether more organic than that of the four-movement sonata form. In these quartets the movements radiate as it were, from a central experience.

    They do not represent stages in a journey, each stage being independent and existing in its own right. They represent separate experiences, but the meaning they take on in the quartet is derived from their relation to a dominating, central experience. This is characteristic of the mystic vision, to which everything in the world appears unified in the light of one fundamental experience."

    Wilfrid Mellers writes in similar terms about the Diabelli Variations, Beethoven's longest piano work, which was published in 1823. He calls them

    "a circular rather than linear work... Like Bach's Goldberg Variations, and despite the difference between the two composers' approach, they rather see a 'world in a grain of sand', making us aware that experience is a totality in which the trivial and the sublime coexist."

    Page 172,  The Third Period, from Anthony Storr's 'Solitude'

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Second to None - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Restore!

    A great movement by some young people in Bangalore, to promote recycling and reuse of household items - in very innovative ways!

    Second to None:

    Interesting stuff they have:

    Facebook page:

    Flea Market on 30 and 31 July:

    Inspirational leadership

    "People don't buy what you do, but why you do it."

    "Leaders hold a position of power or authority. But those who lead inspire us. Whether they're individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it's those who start with "why" that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them."

    "Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers."

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    In other words, hold my hand...

    "Jazz is about happiness. Old happiness made into new happiness." Charles Simic

    Nat King Cole, In Other Words:

    Poets often use many words
    To say a simple thing.
    It takes thought and time amd rhyme
    To make a poem sing.

    With music and words I've been playing
    For you I have written a song.
    To be sure that you'll know what I'm saying,
    I'll translate as I go along...

    Fly me to the moon,
    And let me play among the stars.
    Let me see what spring is like
    On jupiter and mars.

    In other words,
    Hold my hand.
    In other words,
    Darling, kiss me......

    * Photo from Google Images

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Momentary deities

    I keep going back to this, as if to a holy book. On any random page, I come across answers, revelations, and wonder.

    "Momentary deities" is, I believe, how the Greeks thought of words.

    Cold, windy autumn night. A homeless woman on the corner talking to God, and he, as usual, having nothing to say.

    The identification of what remains untouched by change has been the philosopher's task. Art and literature, on the contrary, have been delighted with the ephemeral - the smell of bread, for instance.

    I heard of a mind reader who could read what a lit match feared as it entered a dark house.

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

    Friday, July 15, 2011


    Kaavish (literal English translation: "struggle") is a contemporary semi classical band from Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, formed in 1999. The band is founded by vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter, Jaffer Zaidi and lead guitarist, Maaz Maudood.

    From their album 'Gunkali': (You can find these songs here too:
    Chaltey Rahein:

    Chand Taarein -


    And of course, the most beautiful piece, Nindiya Re, the Coke Studio version.

    On MySpace:

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Always, always, guard your fort

    Discussing the weather with the friendly lift-man, who only knows one weather, stuck inside that metal box all day in the cold white light - the impatience of others who are free to step out, anytime, any floor they want.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Getting out of the office at 6.45 PM. As you wait at the petrol pump, you think - so this is the time they set bombs to go off, you know, rush hour, when people are eager to get back to their lives that they left behind at home, the only real life.  So what do you do? I mean, apart from keeping your will ready? There will never be time to say all that you wanted to say, will there?

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Old lesson learned at the badminton court, from a friend who taught you to not run too far from the center – “Always, always, guard your fort.” Old lesson you needs must come back to, again and again. 

     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Looking for life on other planets? And then there is this looking for life on your planet, in this search for reciprocity, this "Yes, I know exactly what you mean". There is no one on this planet either, is there?


    "For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue.

    We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell."

    Michael Ondaatje, 'Divisidaro'


    "Relating happiness and fulfillment to a process of alchemical transmutation of the human mind, Ghazali gives a story of Bayazid, one of the early classical Sufi masters, in his Alchemy of Happiness, to stress how the amour propre (Commanding Self) must first be seen in its real light before any refining can actually be done:

    A man came to Bayazid and said that he had fasted and prayed for thirty years, and yet had not come near to an understanding of God. Bayazid told him that even a hundred years would not be enough. The man asked why.

    "Because your selfishness is working as a barrier between yourself and truth."
    "Give me the remedy".
    "There is a remedy, but it is impossible to you."

    The man insisted, and Bayazid agreed to describe it to him.

    "Go and shave your beard. Strip yourself naked, except for a loincloth. Fill a nose bag full of walnuts and go to the marketplace. There cry out, 'A walnut for every boy who slaps me!" Then make your way to the court where the doctors of law are in session."

    "But I really could not do that. Give me some other method."

    "This is the only method," said Bayazid, "but I have already told you, there is no answer for you."

    Idries Shah, 'The Sufis'

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    For the first forty days

    "For the first forty days a child
    is given dreams of previous lives. Journeys, winding paths,
    a hundred small lessons
    and then the past is erased."

    Michael Ondaatje (Handwriting: Poems)

    Writing for Divination

     "The earliest specimens of Chinese writing appeared on oracle bones, dating from China's first archaeologically proven dynasty, the Shang (circa 1766 to 1122 BCE). Written on ox scapulae or tortoise shells, the writing was used for divination purposes by shamans who asked questions on behalf of the king.

    Only about a thousand or so characters have been identified on oracle bones, but the findings show that the written language had already attained a solid foundation in China by the second millenium, BCE. "

    Chinese for Dummies, Revised Edition, Dr.Wendy Abraham

    The death of the environment ministry. An obituary

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011


    From the German movie 'The Lives of Others' (Das Leben der Anderen),
    Director and Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

    Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: "I have to show you something: "Prison Conditions for Subversive Artists: Based on Character Profile".

    Pretty scientific, eh? And look at this: "Dissertation Supervisor, A. Grubitz". That's great, isn't it?

    I only gave him a B. They shouldn't think getting a doctorate with me is easy. But his is first-class. Did you know that there are just five types of artists?

    Your guy, Dreyman, is a Type 4, a "hysterical anthropocentrist." Can't bear being alone, always talking, needing friends. That type should never be brought to trial. They thrive on that. Temporary detention is the best way to deal with them.

    Complete isolation and no set release date. No human contact the whole time, not even with the guards. Good treatment, no harassment, no abuse, no scandals, nothing they could write about later.

    After 10 months, we release. Suddenly, that guy won't cause us any more trouble. Know what the best part is?

    Most type 4s we've processed in this way never write anything again. Or paint anything, or whatever artists do. And that without any use of force. Just like that. Kind of like a present."

    Déjeuner du matin


    He poured the coffee
    Into the cup
    He poured the milk
    Into the cup of coffee
    He added the sugar
    To the coffee and milk
    He stirred it
    With a teaspoon
    He drank the coffee
    And put back the cup
    Without speaking to me

    He lit a cigarette
    He blew some rings
    With the smoke
    He flicked the ashes
    Into the ashtray
    Without speaking to me
    Without looking at me

    He got up
    He put on his hat
    He put on
    His raincoat
    Because it was raining
    And he went out
    Into the rain
    Without a word
    Without looking at me

    And I I took my head
    In my hands
    And I wept.

    Jacques Prévert, translated from the French, ‘Déjeuner du matin’

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Survival - the Movement for Tribal Peoples

    "Survival is the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide."

    "Our vision is for a world where tribal peoples are recognized and respected; an end to the unjust treatment tribal peoples are subjected to; and a world where tribal peoples are free to live on their own lands, safe from violence, oppression and exploitation."

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Turning Point

    “...His letters from Korea are radically different from his earlier writing, indicating this same turning point.

    They just explode with emotion. He writes page after page about tiny details of things he sees: marketplaces, shops with sliding glass doors, slate roofs, roads, thatched huts, everything.

    Sometimes full of wild enthusiasm, sometimes depressed, sometimes angry, sometimes even humorous, he is like someone or some creature, that has found an exit from a cage he did not even know was around him, and is wildly roaming over the countryside visually devouring everything in sight.”

    Robert Pirsig, 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'

    Oh, Phaedrus...


    When your face
    Appeared over my crumpled life
    At first I understood
    Only the poverty of what I have

    Then its particular light
    On woods, on rivers, on the sea
    Became my beginning in the coloured world,
    In which I had not yet had my beginning

    I am so frightened, I am so frightened
    Of the unexpected sunrise finishing
    Of revelations
    And tears and the excitement finishing

    I don’t fight it, my love is this fear,
    I nourish it who can nourish nothing,
    Love’s slipshod watchman
    Fear hems me in.

    I am conscious that these minutes are short
    And that the colours in my eyes will vanish
    When your face sets.

    Yevgeny Yevtushenko

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Monotony, an absence of male friends

    Extract from Bruce Chatwin's 'In Patagonia':

    "Finding in 'primitive' languages a dearth of words for moral ideas, many people assumed these ideas did not exist. But the concepts of 'good' or 'beautiful', so essential to Western thought, are meaningless unless they are rooted in things. The first speakers of language took the raw material of their surroundings and pressed it into metaphor to suggest abstract ideas.
    Monotony, an absence of male friends
    (Speaking of the Yaghan  language - the Yaghan, also called Yagán, Yámana or Yamana, are the indigenous inhabitants of the islands south of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego extending their presence into Cape Horn.)

    What shall we think of a people who defined 'monotony' as 'an absence of male friends'? Or, for 'depression', used the word that described the vulnerable phase in a crab's seasonal cycle, when it has sloughed off its old shell and waits for another to grow? Or who derived 'lazy' from the Jackass penguin? 

    Here are just a few of their synonyms:

    A tangle of trees that have fallen blocking the path forward - A hiccough
    Fuel - something burned - Cancer
    Mussels out of season - Shrivelled skin - Old age

    ...Verbs take first place in this language. The Yaghans had a dramatic verb to capture every twitch of the muscles, every possible action of nature or man. The verb iya means 'to moor your canoe to a streamer of kelp'; okon 'to sleep in a floating canoe'; ukomona 'to hurl your spear into a shoal of fish without aiming for a particular one'; wejna 'to be loose or easily moved as a broken bone or the blade of a knife', 'to wander about, or roam, as a homeless or lost child'.

    Compared to the verbs, other parts of speech droop in the wings. Nouns hang suspended from their verbal roots. The word for 'skeleton' comes from 'to gnaw thoroughly'. Aiapi is 'to bring a special kind of spear and put it in a canoe ready for hunting'; aiapux is the hunted animal and so 'the sea otter'.
    Birds of Passage
    The Yaghans were born wanderers though they rarely wandered far. The ethnographer Father Martin Gusinde wrote: "They resemble fidgety birds of passage, who feel happy and inwardly calm only when they are on the move"; and their language reveals a mariner's obsession with time and space. For, although they did not count to five, they defined the cardinal points with minute distinctions and read seasonal changes as an accurate chronometer.
    Four examples:
    Iuan: Season of the young crabs (when the parents carry their young)
    Cuiua: Season when the young let go (from a verb 'to stop biting')
    Hakureum: Bark loose and sap rising
    Cekana: Canoe building season and time of the snipe-calls (The 'cek-cek' sound imitates the snipe and the noise as the canoe-builder rips sheets of beech-bark from the trunk)

    Thomas Bridges coined the word 'Yaghan' after a place called Yagha: the Indians called themselves Yamana. Used as a verb yamana means 'to live, to breathe, be happy, recover from sickness or be sane'.
    The layers of metaphorical associations that made up their mental soil shackled the Indians to their homeland with ties that could not be broken."
    I wonder
    (Asha: Maybe this adds to their lost-ness and anguish when they are chased out of their natural habitats - because dislocation is also a loss of language, since they can no longer see the natural elements their metaphors are based on? And perhaps they cannot teach their language to their children who have never seen these things and therefore cannot relate?)

    Page 175-176, 'In Patagonia', by Bruce Chatwin


    Voices in my head,
    Chanting, "Kisses. Bread.
    Prove yourself. Fight. Shove.
    Learn. Earn. Look for love,"

    Drown a lesser voice.
    Silent now of choice:
    "Breathe in peace, and be
    Still, for once, like me".

    Vikram Seth


    Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
    You're twenty-six, and still have some of life ahead.
    No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
    Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

    The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
    This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
    To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
    Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

    Vikram Seth

    Progress Report

    My need has frayed with time; you said it would.
    It has; I can walk again across the flood
    Of gold sil popples on the straw-gold hills
    Under a deep Californian sky that expels
    All truant clouds; watch squads of cattle graze
    By the radio-telescope; blue-battered jays
    Flash raucous squaking by my swivelling head
    While squirrels sine-wave past over the dead
    Oak-leaves, and not miss you - although I may
    Admit that near the telescope yesterday
    By a small bushcovered gully I blundered on
    Five golden fox-cubs playing in the sun
    And wished you had been there to see them play;
    But that I only mention by the way.

    Vikram Seth

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Nindiya Re

    "Kaavish (Pakistani band) is known for their mellow sound and sweet melodies and this is what they bring to Coke Studio with “Nindiya Re”. Jaffer Zaidi’s voice as he sings this lowri, or lullaby, virtually induces tranquility"

    Listen to more of Jaffer Zaidi here:

    Listen to their album Gunkali: 

    The post on Kaavish.

    Photo from Google Images

    Songs from the Helmet Studio

    Stuck in yet another traffic jam, soaked in the rain, I suddenly remembered this old habit of mine, of playing antakshari with myself on the bike. (It helped that at my previous workplace, we used to sing a lot, we played antakshari often, and loudly - happiness was encouraged, even its loud off-key manifestations) I survived many traffic jams with my one-person orchestra within the helmet studio.

    I tried to remember my favorites, have forgotten most, sadly. But these came to mind:

    Kahi Door Jab Din (All-time easy song for those of us who cannot sing - or so we think)

    Tum aa gaye ho (And I love Sanjeev Kumar)

    Rim Jim Gire Sawan (The song that returns with every monsoon)

    Phoolon Ke Rang Se (And how could I forget Dev Anand?)

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    A day

    "...Have a day of wondering if it's
    going to help, or if it just doesn't matter;
    a day of dark winds
    and torrents flowing though the valley,
    of diving into cool water
    and gasping for breath,
    a day of sudden hunger for communion."

    by Lou Lipsitz, from 'If This World Falls Apart'

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    The Function of Dreams

    "It seems that some kind of scanning or re-programming takes place in dreams which has a beneficial effect upon ordinary mental functioning. Dreaming seems to be biologically adaptive. Stanley Palambo suggests that dreams are concerned with matching past and present experience. He thinks that:

    "the dream compares the representation of an emotionally significant event of the past with the representation of an emotionally significant aspect of the previous day's experience."

    This information-processing function of the dream is concerned with allotting the new experience to the right slot in the permanent memory. Whether this model accounts for all dreams is dubious; but it goes some way to explaining why it is that in dreams, time is so often out of joint. If past and present are being compared, it is not surprising that, in the dream, they so often appear to be confused."

    Page 25, 'The Capacity to be Alone', from Anthony Storr's 'Solitude'

    The aroma of curry leaves...

    Say thank for this fish, if you like it :) :)*

    Kerala Fish Curry, Oil-free:

    *'So long and thanks for the fish', Douglas Adams

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Riding to work

    On that Ramzan day, on one old scooter, grandpa, son, grandson. Three generations, all in sparkling white, with white caps.

    In the bus in front of me, a little boy puts his nose and hands against the back window and makes faces, smiles and waves as you wave at him happily.

    Couple on bike, the wife opens her umbrella as it starts raining. In the wind, the umbrella flies backwards and is now a water-collecting apparatus. The husband turns around and laughs.

    The big white cow chewing the cud by the road-side, wet in the rain, all its little fur stuck together all puchky-wuchky, looking so cute. You smile at it as you pass. It looks at you suspiciously with that one-side-eye [cows have eyes on the sides of their heads] wondering what's happening.
    At the small Siva temple, father prostrating on the ground in front of the gods. The little son looks at him, and he too does the same, and turns to peep at father to check whether he's got it right.

    In the old English cemetery, people placing startling yellow chrysanthemums on tombstones, the gray stones darkened by the sudden drizzle.

    Man walking in the rain with plastic bag on his head. A bus passes with people hanging at the door. One of them waves at him and shouts something. The young chap looks up, waves back, shouts something, laughing, happy, his wet brown face so full of life.
    In the traffic jam, in the car next to you, a very tiny baby on grandmother’s lap, all wrapped up. Definitely they are just returning from the hospital with the newborn, it has that pink puzzled look. You decide you are old enough to bless it, this young person who will walk the earth long after you are gone.You wish him wide open eyes. Wide open eyes to see that the world is so full of beauty and possibilities of happiness every single day, in spite of all its sorrow, darkness, its unutterable loneliness.

    Three schoolboys walking with arms around each other's shoulders, talking and laughing loudly, early in the morning going to school. They are blocking the narrow road to your office. But you don't sound the horn, you stop and wait for a chance to overtake them, so what if you are a few seconds late, you shall not be guilty of separating such closeness.

    P.S: Old post. I have to re-learn to be this person again.

    A space to write or cry

    For Cavafy

    The poems are sad and short: love half-remembered,
    history--beautiful, closed, and Greek.
    But what I like best
    is the blank three-quarters page,
    white as a statue's marble eyes--

    a space to write or cry.

    Bruce Williams

    Constantine P. Cavafy, also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, or Kavaphes (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) was a renowned Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant.

    For you, M ( who always remembers to show appreciation when she likes something I share. Silence is a more common reaction :)  Thank you so much.

    Suffering comes when you try to hold on to continuity

    Fierce Grace:

    Ram Dass, (born Richard Alpert on April 6, 1931), is an American contemporary spiritual teacher, and author of the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now. In this video, he is old, has had a stroke and is trying to come to terms with it in the context of his own spiritual journey.

    Renovation of Stupas at Sanniti

    The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to take up the much awaited restoration and reconstruction of the majestic stupas and other monuments found at the Buddhist site at Sannati in Chitapur taluk in Gulbarga district.

     Some photos here, these are volunteers who are helping to document the site -

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Cleaning up Bangalore, Bin by Bin

    So here's the bin I sponsored for the Ugly Indian, on St. Mark's Road. ( - see my earlier post),

    Can you also sponsor a bin to make Bangalore a cleaner place? Or pass this mail on to friends in Bangalore?

    Sponsorship cost:

    Option 1: Rs 1000 (Installation + 100 days maintenance).
    Option 2: Rs 1500 (Installation + 1 year maintenance)

    See this video on how BBMP empties these bins regularly as part of their daily rounds, and how people are actually using these bins: 

    What  I like most about this anonymous group is their professionalism, their willingness to answer all your doubts convincingly, within 24 hours, and their realistic optimism.  I absolutely love their sense of humour too!

    Send  a mail to if you want to sponsor a bin/want to clear doubts. They will ask you for the money only after they have installed the bin and observed it for a few days to make sure the cleaning process is taking place. Online transfer and checks are possible. You can also choose your bin from the locations available.

    So could you sponsor a bin? Actions do speak much louder than Facebook Likes :)

    Thank you.


    And then there are fresh green leaves growing in your garden. Things that are tangible and real and beyond doubt.

    Kitchen Garden:

    And Oats recipes:

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    And I love her

    Bike song, from another life.

    The Beatles, 'And I love her'


    "Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you.

    So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

    An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

    And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about."

    Haruki Murakami  'Kafka on the Shore'

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