Musings. Journal

Eye & the door !

That every city has a character is like stating every walking being on Earth has a life.  Sometimes the character is hidden. Many other times, there are several aspects of the city that stands out that nuances and shades of what a city possesses go unnoticed. 

Say ‘Mumbai’ to a non-Mumbai chap and check out what comes to their mind, for instance. It usually is ‘trains’, ‘commercial capital’, ‘busy city’ and the like with a tinge of ‘how-do-you-manage-top-live-there’ expression. A small tinge. Occasionally that tinge is also laced with envy! 

Of course, asking a Mumbaikar would get very different answers. But somehow such views and opinions grow on to create an impression of a reality. 

In a place where ‘utility’ outruns ‘aesthetics’ by many pot hole ridden kilometers, well represented by ugly high rises that zoom into polluted air with nonchalance and flyovers that seem to come up with such and distasteful ease, causing every sane person walking to wonder what on Earth were Mumbai’s urban planners chewing on.  They could well chewing on ‘data’ on the burgeoning population and the exacting firmness of land available. They could well have a point there. 

But all of that is besides the point for today’s post. The story is this.  The other day, we were having a filter coffee in Matunga when a friend nudged my attention to the closed door of a mattress store. It was a Sunday. And the store was yet to open.   

The colour pattern on the door was arresting.  The colour contrasted rectangles within rectangles and the paddled locks on the door redeemed the apology of a filter coffee that was served by the chap next door. 

We clicked a few pictures and moved on. 

Many days later as I scanned all the images clicked that morning, this snap remained a personal favourite of sorts. 

The fact that the existence of the doorway had to be pointed out to me while I was sitting right there,  was not lost on me.  The fact that this was a simple mattress store and that this the store would soon open concealing the yellow & blue rectangles came alive as well was not either. 

To not have a keen eye is a different story. But to have had it and suddenly discover that its been missing for a while now, brings to bear the question: “where the hell did it go?”


Those medals. They hang from his chest. A chest that seems swollen from a distance. Medals that were won in the military. Many years of serving the nation. If these medals had a mouth of a TV newscaster, they would narrate battle tales. Perhaps.

Perhaps. Of war cries and hospital walks. Of wins of territory, and loss of limb. Maybe life. Of bravery amidst blood.

Retirement. An able body. A need for family sustenance. And a clutch of medals. These form a neat concoction that provides him employment as a security supervisor at the apartment complex. On special occasions, he wears those medals. And walks with a swollen chest.

Proud as he is. Of his past. For, every time he wears those medals, the second-grade son of the Vice-President who lives in Flat No : 202, insults him lesser.

These medals, awe.

In a distant small town, an array of medals, trophies, certificates, and plaques adorn an entire cupboard. They keep a lonely mother and father company. They were brought home with great joy by sons, long gone.

When these trophies were first brought home, they were brought with tremendous happiness.

Awarded for many reasons. Ranging from elocution to essay writing. From quizzing to tennis. From topping school to writing complex code. And other prolific stuff including ‘attending school without a days leave’ to ‘blood donation’ !

Each trophy was treasured. Polished. Shined. And till date, enjoys the attention of visitors. ‘These were brought by our sons’. They say, to people who care to ask, amongst the few that care to drop in.

Trophies, tell tales.

On another note. Big city living has trophies that are in vogue. From the air conditioner to the amplifier. From branded shirts to premium underwear. From the luxury car to Luxembourg holidays. From the digital thermostat to hand wound watches. From cat salons to the digital mouse !

The excitement of the acquisition always compensating the emptiness on usage. For, material trophies atrophy.

Simple living. Good health. Shared love. And building a collective future.

These perhaps are the trophies that count. These perhaps are the trophies that secretly awe lead runners and podium finishers of the rat race. These are the trophies that will spawn a million memories. Worth more than all the gold with the RBI.

And these perhaps are the only trophies that come, atrophy proof !

What is this ?

The nephew was here. And the past week was perhaps the fastest to slip away in a very long while !

Between playing, running around, providing for, and keeping a watch, there was very little time to do much else. He flew back yesterday. The marks that he left behind stay. Like the fingerprints on the TV, as he tried to knock it down !

With children, there is constant wonder. About the simple things in life. Things that adults have either taken for granted, or have an ‘established view’ in their minds. Established and firmly set.

One of the constant questions that seeped through this babble, was ‘What is this ?’ ! Pointing at several things. Including : Moon. Sun. Horses. Sea. Car. Bike. TV. Mountain. The missus.

In any case those are the elements that resonate very well with him. The last one included.

( A little short of two years, he hasn’t yet gone to Facebook to engage in very intelligent games like..”take this quiz to find out what kind of animal are you”. Or something like that. Thankfully.)

For now, it was easy to answer those questions. Giving him the labels. As he points to the moon, and asks ‘What is this ?’, you say : ‘Moon’ ! And he goes ‘moooooon’.

He is satisfied. But it sets me thinking. As to what really the moon is all about ! Or the disappearing hills around Mumbai, which he exclaims with a ‘WoW…Mooounnntaaain’ !

He still hasn’t got the complete hang of pronouncing all words and sounds. While in most parts the mispronouncing is hilarious, in other parts it is very, well, philosophical. What would you say, if he pronounced ‘purse’ as ‘curse’ !

And so it has been easy. To answer the ‘What is this?’ with just labels. And have him being reasonably satisfied with that. In some time, he isn’t going to be satisfied with just those labels.

He will dig for more. I hope to ready with answers, by then.

For instance, I am reasonably sure that someday he is going to ask me with a slant of disdain ‘what is this’ at how the world has been treating the environment.

Oh yes, as he pointed to me, and asked : ‘what is this’, i gulped.

“Kaaaviiii” is what he went with. The next time, he points to me and asks that question, i hope to have figured out a few things.

Seems like quite an ask though.

Giving !

It is morning. Its still raining. The flowers on offer are too tempting to resist. Bright white ones. With those dots of yellow. All kept in a red bucket. Fresh from a pond close by. Theres not much aroma. But they are a treat for the eyes.


Theres a knock on the door. And a young innocent school going kid stands on the other side. She smiles. And proceeds to state that she is from the 10th floor of the same apartment.

“Its the Joy of Giving Week uncle”. So she speaks. In a well rehearsed presentation. The request is simple. She is collecting old newspapers from each house in the apartment. She wants to sell it and ‘GIVE’ the proceeds to slum children living close by.

She sure should have given slum children something. For all the newspapers in the apartment would have added to decent sum.

More importantly, she sure gives hope. That all is not lost. That people still do think about the man living down the street. And are willing to go knock and open many doors. The mind is young ! Nothing can be more encouraging.

The Joy of Giving week is here ! Actually, its slipped into its third day ! It sure does merit an extra thought ! And some action too.

In the modern day, fast paced world, to stop and look is at a premium. Giving is still further away! Perhaps its time, to make a start. To stop, look and give ! Perhaps its time to commence by giving !

Whatever. Clothes. Eyes. Appliances. Books. Sweets. Whatever ! Perhaps its important to add there : Time, hope and such else too. And maybe they are the ones on real short supply !

So people, here is the message. To all those that give, give more ! And for all those that have been thinking about it : try giving !

The Joy of Giving week is here. And we are three days into it ! Make a start this week. And carry it all along ! Perhaps you can let the world know by sharing it too. You never who it will propel to action !


Ah those flowers. They were beautiful weren’t they.

The smile and joy that emerge after sometime, evident from their wide grins and shy nods is but a logical visible consequence.

A consequence of something as simple as a small conversation over a pack of cookies that were in the car..! It has always caused unceasing wonder, that such smiles indeed reside in otherwise sad faces.

The beauty in those smiles.. well.. they beat the beauty of the flowers. All the time !

Rain Day Lessons

And so its been pouring its heart out. There are puddles on the road, wherever puddles are possible. And wherever not possible, puddles are created. For the road stands ‘washed away’ in bits and pieces.

The rain batters your windshield and your car’s wipers are working overtime. As you constantly hear your tyre finding a fresh pothole. You realise, that its been a wet night.

And then, out of nowhere, you see a thin slender post standing. In the middle of the road. You take this road daily. And you know this post is new. And as you near it, you realise that its a prop. A prop of a old rags and clothes, on an iron rod. Stuck into the road.

Jutting out of the road, almost like a natural formation. Something like a erupting jet stream from a broken underground pipe. ( ‘natural’ for a city dweller ) !!

For a brief moment you wonder who must have put this up. And why should they have done it. The rain continues to fall.

The car behind honks.

You move on. And in some distance a group of men, standing by the side of the road gesticulate. The rains pour on them as well. You realise that there is quite some water on the road. Not only that, there is a steady current, in the water that’s running under your wheels. Although, this is still the same road.

You realise that the men by the side of the road are attempting to guide you. They stand there. Showing you exactly where the potholes are. And you navigate. Looking at where they are pointing their hands. And in a few quick minutes you cross the stretch.

The rain continues to beat your windshield. With the same force with which it beats their back. You watch them through the rivulets of water that are sputtering off your side mirror.

The men have moved on to guide the car behind. Far beyond, the slender post with rags, is still standing.

And you wonder, how often you gladly suffer, so that someone else has it slightly easier. You hear the rain drops fall on the roof. Silence envelopes your mind.

And your soul as well.

Transformation !

To the uninitiated, this photograph may pass to be a boy next door. Or perhaps a snap from some nondescript place. To me this seems like a boy pulled out from the the middle of mid summer day cricket match. Or out of a juvenile home. Or out of typical scenes from a movie. And so on. ! I mean, the ‘next-door’ ‘ next-door’ type.

Wouldn’t you agree ?


And so, it must have taken a awesome effort, mindless grind, endless passion, untold determination and some sprinkling of luck to emerge as this man.

Personally, the music this man composes just blows a whole lot of people away. And if there are any left standing, the humility he exudes, takes care. Some people inspire by the way they are. He is one.

It must have taken all that awesome effort, mindless grind and endurance to get there ! And of that this man is testimony to. And sure he has found riches awaiting !

Whilst there are others who rake in the riches by making a story of the transformation ! Just putting photo one and two together, writing well, and putting it out as a magazine !!

And to see this wall poster advertisement for a Tamil magazine, right here in Mumbai made the missus nudge and my camera capture !

And her comment that about those that still believe that ‘hope is a method’ was of course not directed at me. Really.

She told me. Ok ?

Egg Yoke ! a.k.a Pedal Power – Part -II

Its peak traffic. Buses hoot. And supply some free soot. Cars compete with each other, with a buzz about them, that it seems that they are girding their loins for the Nano. The policeman swears. This time, cursing the sun. The signal stays red. 

From the confines of his car, he sees a tower go by, on a bicycle. 

A tower of eggs ! Balanced neatly by a middle aged man, with rolled up trousers and a run down bicycle. He too awaits the signal to turn green. The signal stays red. The sun beats down. 

From his car, he looks intently at the big tower of eggs on the pillion. Each egg seems well ensconced. Smug. And unaware of whats coming its way. Perhaps the eggs were enjoying the sights. And of course, all sights are different, when there is elevation ! 

“Mass produced eggs”, he says aloud, to himself. The still air in the company devoid car soaks up what he speaks. “Eggs that are shorn of love but rich in protein and cholesterol and such else ! Eggs that are produced for the sole purpose of consumption ! Eggs that would disintegrate into an unrecognisable form upon being dropped or broken open !” 

Today, those fragile eggs seemed to sit pretty in the security of the pillion, the balance and the sun !  The sun continued to beat down. The signal stays red. 

In the blurr of the heat, he continues to stare into the Egg Tower. And suddenly, he sees his apartment complex in that egg tower !  And he smiles. Yes, he says. 

All eggs. All proper eggs ! 

The B-School type, the diamond trader type, the ex-army types, the corporate type. And all their families.  He sighs. He recalls watching children swear at the security gaurd, in front of their parents.  And ofcourse, he turns away, when a corporate type throws garbage in the alleyway. He stood perplexed when he caught his neighbour steeling his morning newspaper. 

Proper eggs.  He thinks.  He rewinds. And replays.  

Mass produced eggs. Eggs that are shorn of love but rich in protein and cholesterol and such else ! Eggs that are produced for the sole purpose of consumption ! Eggs that would disintegrate into an unrecognisable form upon being dropped or broken open ! The sun continues to beat down. 

And then, the signal turns green. That tower of eggs makes progress and moves away. 

‘Proper Eggs’, he says again.  This time, he includes himself.  

He looks in the rear view mirror and purses his lips as his alter ego tells him, that his yoke is his silence. It makes him culpable. He thinks so.   

In some time he hits a clear stretch and accelerates. That egg tower on the pillion is gone. But his yoke tower seems to stay with him. With a felt presence. Clear stretch or otherwise. 

Four Steps. For All Seasons !

A week back, a Sunday morning saw a strange romance on the balcony above. Now that the moral police is hyperactive and beat up any kissing and cuddling in public places, this was a rare moment indeed. Almost on reflex the camera was out. These are resultant pictures.
The pictures are a poor indicator of the sheer magic that happened. Like an art movie in the hands of a rookie camera man, who has no interest in movie making. Those minutes were not only magical, they were mystical too.

There were two pigeons who arrived from nowhere. Wings flapping and making a strange noise. Looking up from the Economic Times that was there in my hands, this was quite a sight. A sight in simplicity ! One of love that was simple, profound and with no fancy schmancy ! I watched, almost in a trance. This was precisely the balm to the Economic Times and all it contained !

They took straight positions. Their investments were in each other and in that magical moment. And this was the sequence !

Step : 1

Step 2

Step : 3

Step :4
And this four step process was almost a process in a 6 sigma set up, with an audit team in tow ! Oblivious to the drones of big air crafts or the faint clicks from my camera, these steps went clockwork !

For almost a good five minutes ! Allowing me time to drop the newspaper, pick my camera, unpack and shoot those four snaps in quick succession.

Almost to announce the completion of the snapping on the Japanese lens, a swift breeze flapped the newspaper a trifle too hard. Perhaps it was the shaken Nikkei blowing hot and cold! These folks looked up from their intense moment. And looked in my direction. I froze. Almost like an implicated sleaze peddling paparazzi, catching a private moment of a public princess on lens.

They lingered there for slightly longer. I stood still. Camera in hand.

The Economic Times caught the breeze once more. And fluttered harder. The stock market had wiped out whatever weight in the economy. So !

A propitious sidle later, they flew. What a voyeur like me couldn’t do, the economic times did! But what the economy & our times couldn’t do, was to stop unbridled beauty of mother nature staying on offer. To anyone who cared.

Suddenly ‘stock market’, ‘bail outs’, ‘Paulson’, ‘sub-prime’ and such other ‘words of the season’ sounded like petulant jargon dropping from a broken time machine.

The soul is fresh !

Clicked at the Golden Lotus Pond
Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai. Aug ’08

Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd, the constituents of which will get on and off. But the aggregate numbers will always remain steady or perhaps get higher.

And then, in about 6-7 hours, return. Traveling the same 3 hours. Jostle with new shoulders and rush home to take care of recalcitrant sons & spread happiness in the family. And then get out of bed, the next day. To repeat the routine. The next day. And the next day. And so on.

And oh, by the way, in between those 6 hours of travel, stand in front of young minds and teach for many hours. About plants. Science. Environment. And so on. For a few years. And then, the government transfer comes finally, as rain to parched lands. And those tired legs get some respite. The soul is still fresh.

Years keep flowing by. Her husband, an able vivacious, intelligent and loving man, with loads of friends has a new companion, who he has been seeing for some years now. The doctor introduces him to her and her sons as a certain Parkinson. This Parkinson is no ordinary push over.

Like a string of native kings falling by the wayside to make way for an invading imperial force, each part of the body is ceded to Parkinson. Except perhaps the mind. That freedom struggle still is on. As before. Very much on. Twenty years is a long time. The soul is a trifle weary. But still is fresh. The lady manages to keep it so. Both hers and her husband’s.

In the in between years, relatives come and go. Come when in need and go on satiation! Friends come and go. Actually many go. And only a few come. Many laugh aloud at the woman & her plight. She endures those sardonic grins with a surfeit of will, happiness and just a plain need to keep going, No matter what.

The years roll on. And then, she retires. From work. The husband strains every sinew to ensure he retires only after completing his full term. And retires too. She ensures his soul is fresh to do so.

Other health problems surface. For her too. The finances look shaky. The house that stands in their name, stands like a majestic evidence of all that it took to put it together. There are options available. ‘Compromise on values’ does not figure on the list.

Problems persist. And then, roll away. Like water on a lotus leaf. New ones, continue to emerge. The soul is still fresh.

Somewhere in-between she gets her sons married. Small savings over years make way for grand weddings. ‘Talk of the town’ types. The daughter-in-laws are inducted well into the family,with a perspicuity that many a corporate would pay a kings ransom for.

She encourages her sons to move on and see the world. The sons move to different cities. Tending to their own lives & holding on to the telephone lines and the odd train journey to stay alive to ‘home’. A grandson arrives. Happiness abounds. The soul is still afresh.

So, she tends to her husband & his now permanent companion, Parkinson, in a distant city. Oh, by the way, upon retirement, she learns how to operate the computer & gets herself familiar with the Internet.

One able son opens a Gmail account for her & gives her lessons over the phone. She picks up the pieces. Autodidacts every piece. Bit by bit. She understands Browses. E-mails. Reads twitter posts. And stays connected with her sons, their families and to the rest of the world. The soul. Oh that’s fresh.

Her life & her husband’s life are an epitome of survival. And a will to carry on, no matter what. A desire to make a difference and to raise sons who perhaps will do the same. A story of beauty & lessons in an endless struggle. A soul that refuses to cave in. A soul that is still fresh.

One of her sons is a torch bearer of sorts, starting with being an entrepreneur while still being wet behind the ears at college ! And shines through, to date, and holds tremendous promise.

The other son, hems and haws. Meanders through the labyrinths of the corporate world. Someday, he believes, he will be worthy of being their son and all what they put into him.

Today, he catches people celebrating Amitabh Bachan‘s birthday, and thinks about his heroes. A few empty stares into a Saturday sky and lurking pigeons later, he proceeds to write. About his heroes.

With moist eyes and a tear that’s just dried, on his left cheek, he begins,

“Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd….

‘Un’common Wisdom !

At 7.50 in the morning i wait at the lift. Press once. And for a full 3 minutes and change, the lift remains stuck at the previous floor. There is substantial anger that is seeping in me.

I think of ‘sensitive’ people-experiences that i have had in the past. ‘Husband-gets-in-keeps-the-lift-open-for-wife’ types ! Those kinds are numerous in the complex where i stay ! My chest swells with anger. Today, i resolve, i am going to have a few things to say to such ‘sensitive’ husbands and wives, i decide.

The lift opens. There is a lady, with her two children there. The children, all decked for school. Except for the hair. The little girl’s hair is still getting combed. The lady looks up at me, and says, ‘we are sorry’. ‘They have the bus to catch’. My anger dissipates.

I smile. And say, ‘thats not a problem’ !

The lift arrives at the ground level. I point to the door, and say, ‘ after you ‘. She herds the kids out, looks at me and says, ‘thank you’ !

It feels nice. I wonder where my anger went. A few minutes later, as i drive i reflect. Common courtesies are so rare these days, that the most simplest of them : Sorry and Thank You, are so rarer than honest politicians !

In the high rise that we stay in, there are educated & well endowed folks ( with money et al, just in case you thought of something else), who reek perfume and drive mega wheels. And there are the others who would like to belong to this set !

While ‘everything else’ is present in abundance, Common courtesies seem to be in short supply !

To be able to say ‘hello’, to smile, to give way to the elderly, to say thank you & sorry !are simple things to do !

I wonder why the arrival of money dispels courtesy ! I wonder. Thats some thought for the day.

I think i value and practice a fair degree of courtesy. By corollary : I cannot have money and mega wheels right ?!?

Ah ! Now, i know why i cant make that money ! Atleast now, there is a reason !

This morning, wisdom arrived through the lift !