Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A new wave of anti-Semitism alarms France, so magazines say. The Jews back in the dock. Reminded me of this novel about a little Jewish boy in America. Living with his family that has fled Europe to start life afresh. The boy has no idea what had happened back in Europe, his questions are not answered. One fine day, the Red Cross deposits Grandpa home in an ambulance. Old, senile, survivor of the Holocaust, not completely there. Always smiling, talking only to himself, living in a different world only he knew. The little boy is very curious about this mystery, but does not know what to do, he just cannot get beyond the veil.

One day at school he learns about number locks. That a combination of numbers can be used as an unlocking mechanism. He remembers the strange numbers branded on Grandpa's arm. (By the Gestapo, but he does not know that). So one evening, alone with Grandpa in his dimly lit stuffy basement room, he sits in front of the old man and repeats the numbers in a quiet slow voice, like a magician, trying out all possible permutations. Hoping one of them will unlock Grandpa, the secret world that he inhabits. But Grandpa continues to smile unseeing, talking in a strange mumble as always, lost beyond comprehension.

In the end the boy gives up in frustration. He realizes, with a feeling of suddenly having grown up, that Grandpa has closed himself in a world from where nothing, not even the magic of numbers, can free him.

Dec 2003


by Linda Pastan

it rained in my sleep
and in the morning the fields were wet

I dreamed of artillery
of the thunder of horses

in the morning the fields were strewn
with twigs and leaves

as if after a battle
or a sudden journey

I went to sleep in the summer
I dreamed of rain

in the morning the fields were wet
and it was autumn.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

He knows - or maybe even he does not!

"Ali said: None may arrive at the Truth until he is able to think that the Path itself may be wrong."

from 'Thinkers of the East, Studies in Experientialism'. Page 38. Idries Shah
And a friend sends these brilliant responses to my excerpt Doubt is not paralysis. Certainty is.:

"...I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing - I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here......

But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose." (This is the state I am currently in, so I can totally relate to this statement :))


From the Nasadiya Sukta - the Creation Hymn:

“After all, who really knows what happened and who can presume to tell it? What is the origin of creation? For even the Gods themselves are younger than it. 

He, whether he created it or did not, He who surveys it all from the highest heaven, He knows - or maybe even he does not!" 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fulfilment, Fun, Therapy: The Ugly Indian Way

"Today, I feel a sense of fulfillment that I haven’t experienced in a long time" - said one of our volunteers. Scenes from our Cleaning-up-Bangalore spot fixing effort with the Ugly Indians.

If someone tells you that cleaning up muck and dirt and painting walls with your friends is both fun and therapeutic, believe them. None of us have felt this great in a very long time. Amazing what team-work can do, and how good it feels.

My friend A and her 1.5 year-old son were the stars of the show - I hope she is an inspiration to mothers who keep their kids away from so much experience "because they are too young". That kid is one of the most peaceful, friendly, accommodating children I have ever seen - she takes him everywhere. He's got a solid grounding in social responsibility.

Photos here:


The Ugly Indians:

On Facebook:

Mail them at if you want to volunteer for a similar activity with your friends or family. Click on The Ugly Indian label below this post to know more  about them.

And please do spread the word - thank you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doubt is not paralysis. Certainty is.

From  Preface to "Doubt: A Parable", by John Patrick Shanley:

“What is Doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There’s the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. I know my answers to so many questions, as do you. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? Who’s your best friend? What do you want? Your answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so.

Because under that face of easy response, there is another You. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consciousness has no choice but to give way.

It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he’s on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first like a mistake; like you’ve gone the wrong way and you’re lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.

…….Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite—it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time.

Doubt is not paralysis. Certainty is. Doubt keeps the doors and windows open. Belief is one room with no way out. Do not let others impose a polarity of response on you. You need not live a reactive life. Don’t look to have life explained to you, presented to you. Live the life that emanates from your interior greatness. Be an overwhelming bounty of impressions, ideas, conflicting theories, and let the propellant behind all this be generosity. A giving.

Never look to the opposite side to change. It is always your turn to change. Society begins and ends with each of us. If you want to reverse some frustrating polarization of thought you encounter in others, I invite you to passionately doubt everything you believe."


And so the time of the squirrel-thief is also over....

How long does a squirrel live? I hope you left well-fed, and content...I miss you, old friend.


Returning to Toni Morrison, of the rich language that makes you gasp in surprise and awe. And whose prose somehow always reminds you of Tracey Chapman and her songs of freedom and escape:

"She thinks she longs for rest, a carefree afternoon to decide suddenly to go the pictures, or just to sit with the birdcages and listen to the children play in the snow.

This notion of rest, it's attractive to her, but I don't think she would like it. They are all like that, these women. Waiting for the ease, the space that need not be filled with anything other than the drift of their own thoughts. But they wouldn't like it. They are busy and thinking of ways to be busier because such a space of nothing pressing to do would knock them down. No fields of cowslips will rush into that opening, nor mornings free of flies and heat when the light is shy. No. Not at all.

They fill their mind and hands with soap and repair and dicey confrontations because what is waiting for them, in a suddenly idle moment, is the seep of rage. Molten. Thick and slow-moving. Mindful and particular about what in its path it chooses to bury. Or else, into a beat of time, and sideways under their breasts, slips a sorrow they don't know where from.

A neighbour returns a spool of thread she borrowed, and not just the thread, but the extra-long needle too, and both of them stand in the door frame a moment while the borrower repeats for the lender a funny conversation she had with the woman on the floor below; it is funny and they laugh - one loudly while holding her forehead, the other hard enough to hurt her stomach.

The lender closes the door, and later, still smiling, touches the lapel of her sweater to her eye to wipe traces of the laughter away then drops to the arm of the sofa the tears coming so fast she needs two hands to catch them...."

Page 17, 'Jazz' by Toni Morrison

To let it go...

to live in this world, you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal:
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

Joe Hisaishi

Buck Up

 Continued, from the post below:
"In June 1974 the Broadway producer Joshua Logan described his manic-depressive illness to a session of an American Psychiatric Association meeting in New York. Logan was one of the most talented producers, having a string of hits, including the musical South Pacific to his name. In the course of his frank and revealing address he had this to say about the 'come on and buck up' approach.
"It seemed to me that all friends of the average human being in depression only knew one cure-all, and that was a slap on the back and 'buck up'. It's just about the most futile thing that could happen to you when you're depressed. My friends never even hinted to me that I was really ill. They simply thought I was low and was being particularly stubborn and difficult about things. If anyone had taken charge and insisted that I go to a mental hospital I probably would have gone straight off. Instead they simply said 'Please don't act that way. Please don't look at your life so pessimistically; it's not as bad as you think. You'll always get back to it. Just buck up."
The point of this book is for fewer people to say 'buck up' and more people to know what to say and do when confronted by a depressed person or when depressed themselves. Given the prevalence of depression, all of us at some time in our lives will either be depressed ourselves or close to someone who is.
"Depression and How to Survive It"
Spike Milligan and Anthony Clare
Arrow Books 1994

Another one gives up

So friend calls to say that X committed suicide today, after a long struggle with depression. In spite of all the help we tried to get for her, she'd remained inaccessible, trapped behind a wall that no one could get through.

Remembered these lines from a book I read after I discovered that Spike Milligan, the man I always considered the funniest guy ever (And then a passing hippopotamus stopped by and said: "Hi, I'm a passing hippopotamus!", "Der British is terrible cooks, thought Looney, they even burnt Joan of Arc") "suffered from severe bipolar disorder for most of his life, having at least ten major mental breakdowns, several lasting over a year":

 "A reason why people are often hesitant about offering help is that someone who is depressed may appear changed in one or more ways. People who have interviewed Spike Milligan when he is depressed and who may never have known him any other way often describe him as misanthropic, angry, bitter, unforgiving, even humorless. When depressed,  many of us become more unattractive than usual. People who can only see disaster, who fear the worst, who believe the worst about themselves and their fellow-men, are rarely stimulating companions. This is one of the reasons why people who are depressed become socially isolated even if they were not that at the outset.

One way to cope is to remember that the side of the person you see is just that - one side. Every one of us, however, is multidimensional, multifaceted. However, the depressed person recognizes and shows but one side. Don't get taken in."

Page 196. The Role of Relatives and Friends
from "Depression and how to survive it" Spike Milligan and Anthony Clare

Little Things

Inbox, from a long time ago:

"I don't care
if you've got funny ears
or funny hair
or a lighthouse on your head
all that matters
is if you've noticed
little children, fallen leaves, and sunsets
and have wondered
if he'll have you back
when your time's done." 
"... like Sartre said, there is no love apart from the deeds of love, no genius apart from genius expressed."
" kind and smile a lot. people tend to remember you for little things like that." 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Et entendre ton rire comme on entend la mer....

Renaud, Mistral Gagnant:

Ah... m'asseoir sur un banc
cinq minutes avec toi
et regarder les gens
tant qu'y en a

Te parler du bon temps
qu'est mort ou qui r'viendra
en serrant dans ma main
tes p'tits doigts

Pi donner à bouffer
à des pigeons idiots
leur filer des coups d'pied
pour de faux

Et entendre ton rire
qui lézarde les murs
qui sait surtout guérir
mes blessures

Friday, August 19, 2011

The only good fight

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start.

This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation.

Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.

If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."

Charles Bukowski, 'Factotum'

Where have you been?

Chris Rea: Blue Cafe

Where have you been?
Where are you going to?
I want to know what's new
I want to go with you

What have you seen?
What do you know that is new?
Where are you going to?
Because I want to go with you
So meet me down at the Blue Cafe....

Because it rained...

P. Lal, poet discovered in old university libraries.....this suddenly came to mind, watching the white flowers that bloom in the rainy season, one morning-walk-time.

"Because it rained I stood at her place
But that was ages ago, when air
Had tongue, mind wings, passion space... "

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Come, let's bond over some paint!

Can you get a group of 10 people, who'd love to spend 3 hours on a weekday from 7-10 AM to clean and paint a Bangalore wall? If yes, mail and they will find you a wall, get the necessary permissions, work out the costs (which should be below Rs.5000), and assist you on the day of the painting.

That is exactly what the employees of Orange County did! They came in early one day and cleaned up that footpath and wall near St.Patrick's complex, Brigade Road -

So get together and have fun! I am trying to do this from our office - try at your offices too - or just among your friends' circles -  10 people should not be hard to get? You could post on Facebook, send to your mailing lists, your groups at church/apartment blocks/college/school.  

If you are planning to do anything in the city centre, let me know, will try and join in :)

For the complete story, click on The Ugly Indian tag below this post, and start from the first post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A story-telling

So three-year-old niece digs up a box full of kiddy books from the big tub full of playthings. Says something akin to "Let's go read these". You are so happy, there's nothing you love more than reading to someone, of any age. You are in your element here. So she waddles to the sofa where we settle down for the reading. When you reach out for the books, she grabs them from you. And opens a book from the last page, and starts telling you the story.

Yes, apparently the plan was for her to "read" to you, you got it all wrong. And so you get read to, in a gibberish language you cannot understand a word of, though there is much throwing around of arms and rolling of eyes and raising of eyebrows, while pages are turned at random, and we move from book to book really fast. And you thought you were a super-fast reader.

Her elder sister sees your bewilderment and translates for you. Apparently you have been listening to the story of the three little bears intertwined with stories from her everyday life. The fact that she cannot yet pronounce the sounds r, p, and ch and has to use other random sounds as substitutes, does not in any way slow down the machine-gun pace of the story-telling.

Kill them all with your tales, baby, kill them all. Your aunt strongly approves.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fred Martin

Fred Martin is a French friend of mine, a very creative person fascinated by the human face, impressions in mud, snow, salt pans, and shadows - to mention a few of his many interests. When I first met him in Bangalore, he was getting people to stick their faces in wet clay and making masks for them from the mold :)   (I got one made too, though mine broke because I laughed when he pushed my face into the clay:))

Here are some of his latest installations, where he has created these beautiful giant faces on a wooden structure, they seem to me like boat-faces :) 

In this one, he has made clay masks of the faces of the people in a village, and installed those faces in a pond there - they stand out like water lilies - brilliant! His art is inclusive, invites ordinary people to be part of it, I love that.

He also sketches and paints during his travels -

The photo is taken from Fred's blog, he has all rights to it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


"There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning, and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest."

Anais Nin

From here:

A First-Rate Madness

Description of 'A First-Rate Madness, Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness', Nassir Ghaemi. The Penguin Press, 2011. Got it from


An investigation into the surprisingly deep correlation between mental illness and successful leadership, as seen through some of history's greatest politicians, generals, and businesspeople.

In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, who runs the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, draws from the careers and personal plights of such notable leaders as Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, and others from the past two centuries to build an argument at once controversial and compelling: the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders- realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity -also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. By combining astute analysis of the historical evidence with the latest psychiatric research, Ghaemi demonstrates how these qualities have produced brilliant leadership under the toughest circumstances.

Take realism, for instance: study after study has shown that those suffering depression are better than "normal" people at assessing current threats and predicting future outcomes. Looking at Lincoln and Churchill among others, Ghaemi shows how depressive realism helped these men tackle challenges both personal and national. Or consider creativity, a quality psychiatrists have studied extensively in relation to bipolar disorder. A First-Rate Madness shows how mania inspired General Sherman and Ted Turner to design and execute their most creative-and successful-strategies.

Ghaemi's thesis is both robust and expansive; he even explains why eminently sane men like Neville Chamberlain and George W. Bush made such poor leaders. Though sane people are better shepherds in good times, sanity can be a severe liability in moments of crisis. A lifetime without the cyclical torment of mood disorders, Ghaemi explains, can leave one ill equipped to endure dire straits. He also clarifies which kinds of insanity-like psychosis-make for despotism and ineptitude, sometimes on a grand scale.

Ghaemi's bold, authoritative analysis offers powerful new tools for determining who should lead us. But perhaps most profoundly, he encourages us to rethink our view of mental illness as a purely negative phenomenon. As A First-Rate Madness makes clear, the most common types of insanity can confer vital benefits on individuals and society at large-however high the price for those who endure these illnesses.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Old Sent Items

hmmm.... the whole of today have been having one of those funny disconnected feelings you get when your soul has gone out for lunch and is taking a long time to return...

* * * * * * * * * * *

Very Good to hear from thee again! Our lives are so fragile, our time so uncertain, our meetings so rare.

* * * * * * * * * * *

today was a bumper clumsy day. knocked down so many cds at music world I just had to stop and leave before I broke something. uniquely co-ordinated.

I drove everyone nuts during lunch because one of them asked how bloody marys are made and another was trying to explain to her and I kept on saying you need woshsheshtershire shosh, don't forget the woshsheshtershire shosh.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ah, there you are again. I thought the neighbours had discovered that the dead bodies dumped in the garbage bin were from your house!

* * * * * * * * * * *

In these times of war and heart-heaviness and pictures of wounded children on front pages, hope all is well at your end - take care and may your guardian angel never go on vacation without a replacement.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Just when I thought that it is time to put you in a nice little box with a tooth paste lid for company and leave you in a dark corner of the back shelf, there you are again. 

Welcome back, the sunshine is lovely these days.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Us (there's many of me, actually)

I only borrowed this dust

Passing Through
by Stanley Kunitz

on my seventy-ninth birthday

Nobody in the widow's household
ever celebrated anniversaries.
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
that my friends were given parties.
Before I left town for school
my birthday went up in smoke
in a fire at City Hall that gutted
the Department of Vital Statistics.
If it weren't for a census report
of a five-year-old White Male
sharing my mother's address
at the Green Street tenement in Worcester
I'd have no documentary proof
that I exist. You are the first,
my dear, to bully me
into these festive occasions.

Sometimes, you say, I wear
an abstracted look that drives you
up the wall, as though it signified
distress or disaffection.
Don't take it so to heart.
Maybe I enjoy not-being as much
as being who I am. Maybe
it's time for me to practice
growing old. The way I look
at it, I'm passing through a phase:
gradually I'm changing to a word.
Whatever you choose to claim
of me is always yours;
nothing is truly mine
except my name. I only
borrowed this dust.

"Passing Through" by Stanley Kunitz, from The Collected Poems. ©W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.


She lives by herself amidst the forest and wild mountain splendour of Masinagudi, managing a resort. Went away from the big city at 49, because she felt that this matchbox existence was no life. Many stories to tell, in love with the place, relaxed. On the return journey, watching the mountains quickly give way to plains, wondered whether why such a life is not necessarily more lonely. And so there I was back on the bike with Phaedrus, descending towards the coast....yes, Pirsig did try to reason this out in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

"...We see much more of this loneliness now (as they reach the West coast). It's paradoxical that where people are the most closely crowded, in the big coastal cities in the East and West, the loneliness is the greatest. Back where people were so spread out in western Oregon and Idaho and Montana and the Dakotas you'd think the loneliness would have been greater, but we didn't see it so much.

The explanation, I suppose, is that physical distance between people has nothing to do with loneliness. It's psychic distance, and in Montana and Idaho the physical distances are big but the psychic distances between people are small, and here it's reversed.

It's the primary America we’re in. There's this primary America of freeways and jet flights and TV and movie spectaculars. And people caught up in this primary America seem to go through huge portions of their lives without much consciousness of what's immediately around them. The media have convinced them that what's right around them is unimportant. And that's why they're lonely. You see it in their faces. First the little flicker of searching, and then when they look at you, you're just a kind of an object. You don't count. You're not what they're looking for. You're not on TV.

But the secondary America we've been through, of back roads, and Chinaman's ditches, and Appaloosa horses, and sweeping mountain ranges, and meditative thoughts, and kids with pinecones and bumblebees and open sky above us mile after mile after mile, all through that, what was real, what was around us dominated. And so there wasn't much feeling of loneliness. That's the way it must have been a hundred or two hundred years ago. Hardly any people and hardly any loneliness. I'm undoubtedly overgeneralizing, but if the proper qualifications were introduced it would be true."

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Enquiry into Values'
Robert M Pirsig

Monday, June 27, 2005

Americans paint Lavelle Road wall

Inspired by the Ugly Indians, a group of American students from Seattle clean up and paint a wall on Lavelle Road. Something we could do ourselves?

If you can get a group of 10 people willing to do something similar, write to - they will find a location, get the required permissions, and let you know. This will be around 3 hours work on a Saturday morning.

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