Thursday, September 08, 2011


Thursday, September 08, 2011 9
With a piece of white chalk the boy wrote the letters N.O.Z.Z.L.E across the blackboard and then turned around to face the class. The teacher walked beside him and updated the scores. "It is a tie", she announced. By then, the group of students to his left had already started drumming a victory tattoo on the desks.
                                                                        * * * *
These days if you ask me what my favourite word is, I would most likely say 'Vespertine'. Sometime ago it was 'Serene' and before that it was 'Demarche'. But these are just passing fads - pop protests compared to epic class struggles (excuse the rather topical analogy). The fact is that I have a perennial affinity towards words starting with the last letter of the alphabet. From little, informal ones like 'Zizz' to the more elegant 'Zephyr'. Sometimes this fixation extends to names of people and places leading me to wonder whether I tolerate Zack Snyder and Zach Galifianakis  purely because of their names.
This mild obsession was definitely not something I was born with. My interest was piqued after a rather interesting half an hour on an otherwise dreary day at school a long time ago. We were enjoying a rare free period while the teacher was trying to keep the class engaged. She thought of introducing the class to a simplified version of SCRABBLE®. Discerning readers may notice the registered trademark symbol, to indicate that SCRABBLE® is a Hasbro trademark. With all the brouhaha about IP rights these days, you can never be too sure. Coming back to the story, in the modified form of the game each letter was assigned a fixed value No double or triple-letter scores, no double or triple-word scores. In short, no frills. The class was divided into two teams - one on either side of the aisle. The blackboard doubled up as the playing surface as well as a scoreboard. Right from the beginning of the game we were trailing behind the other team, which I suspect had a few experienced players in it. With each move steadily  increasing the gap between the two teams, there came to a stage where we were 20-odd points adrift. To make matters worse, the class was almost about to get over by then and we had time for one final move before the bell rang. Our team looked nervously at the blackboard. Tension writ large on our faces, each one of us was trying to somehow concoct a word which could make us win. It is amazing how even in small, inconsequential contests like this where victory or defeat hardly matters, no one wants to lose. Among the maze of letters on the blackboard, there was a 'N' we could start with and an 'E' to finish with four words in between. We were looking at each other, racking our brains trying to find the word we needed. With the other team staring at us and the bell about to ring, our minds were threatening to go completely blank. We had almost given up trying when like a rabbit conjured out of a magician's hat, the word popped out of nowhere into my head. I scribbled it on my notebook and a quick calculation later, I strode towards the blackboard.
Of course we did not win, but a last-minute tie is almost as honourable and called for hoots of joy and energetic desk thumping. Later that night, I scoured through my copy of the Longman for a word which might have won us the game. I could not find any (which made me feel a little relieved) but it did not take long for a strange fondness to develop.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Thursday, February 03, 2011
Back, with a vengeance, to elixir.
Fistcuffs, after a long time.
Anand Patwardhan replies to my mail.
Helping a frail, old man carry his bag during the walk home.

And still a million deaths each moment. And still surprisingly alive.
Sloshed, sirs and ladies, I am sloshed.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Wednesday, February 02, 2011
At the domestic terminal of the airport, there are two entrances - one marked 'Passengers' and the other, 'Visitors, Passengers and Staff'. I ponder for sometime over which one should I use, since technically I do not fall under any of these categories. I decide on the second entrance assuming that visitors is a general term which should include intruders, voyeurs and trespassers also.
The elderly man stands beside the shiny aluminum barricades waiting for his family. He looks at me.
"Kisi ka intezaar kar rahe ho,beta?"
They arrive presently - daughter, son-in-law and grandson. She hugs him over the barricade, sobbing softly. "Arre! Arre! Ro kyon rahi hain?" he asks trying to hold back his own tears. The kid, his grandson, looks on bewildered, perhaps a little embarrassed too.
The arrivals board has stopped working once again. It doesn't seem to bother most of the people. They do not need the whirring of plastic cards on a mechanical board to announce the arrival of someone they know. Afterall, what are those dainty cellphones for?
Why am I here? I do not have an answer. It is not necessary for every question to have an answer.
(Sample : What makes YOU wait for tomorrow? The optimistic belief that it will be better than your today?)
Apparitions. Visions. Living ghosts. Dull, throbbing pain. Reality.
I feel like a heel. Knots in the stomach.
Stuffy. Must get out.
Luckily, the bus outside is just about to start.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Sunday, January 30, 2011 4
Watched these during the past week as a diversion from.... Anyways, here are my short takes.
  • 127 Hours - Energetic to the point where it ceases to be a survival saga and becomes a Gatorade-fueled sprint.
  • Monty Python And The Holy Grail - Uproariously funny. Even the opening credits make you laugh.
  • The Pink Panther - Two P's. Peter Sellers and promiscuity. The laughs come from the former.
  • Ardh Satya - Circumstances are bigger than the man. The poem below which Om Puri recites in the film, encompasses its central idea.
Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle,
kaun tha mein aur kaisa tha,
yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega.
Chakravyuh mein ghusne ke baad,
mere aur chakravyuh ke beech,
sirf ek jaanleva nikat’ta thi,
iska mujhe pata hi na chalega.
Chakravyuh se nikalne ke baad,
main mukt ho jaoon bhale hi,
phir bhi chakravyuh ki rachna mein
farq hi na padega.
Marun ya maarun,
maara jaoon ya jaan se maardun.
iska faisla kabhi na ho paayega.
Soya hua aadmi jab
neend se uthkar chalna shuru karta hai,
tab sapnon ka sansar use,
dobara dikh hi na paayega.
Us roshni mein jo nirnay ki roshni hai
sab kuchh s’maan hoga kya?
Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
ardh satya.
  • True Grit - Coen brothers and Jeff Bridges. One combination which can never fail. Listen to Iris DeMent's haunting rendition of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" here.
  • The Ice Storm - A perfect film about imperfect people. Perhaps the best Ang Lee film that I have seen. Splendid performances. I have to read the book.
  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley - An achingly somber look at the Irish War of Independence and its effects of the lives of those involved.
  • Inception - Lost in the intricacies of the plot...a bit of a let-down.
  • The Host - My (new) favourite monster movie. The monster is merely incidental.
  • Buried - 94 minutes. One character, one setting, one heck of a Hitchcockian thriller.
  • Black Swan - A dark story about the artist's quest for perfection. A soaring background score. Natalie Portman was the perfect casting choice.
  • Bhopal Express - Nothing that we did not know, but a compelling watch nonetheless. How did Nethra Raghuraman land up in the film. Hijacking Raghu Rai's "Burial of an unknown child" is a major peeve point though.
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