Virtual Reality : On Air !

So, it happened. ‘Kavis Musings’ gets some international recognition !

For some reason, this incident from my school days streams back to me as i type ‘international recognition’. When i was in school, every student worth the satchel and book wrapper wanted to be a doctor. Or an engineer. And of course, there were a clutchful of intemperate good-for-nothings ( GFN), who..obviously weren’t worth the satchel. Or the book wrapper. Of course, me included.

Studious Classmate : You know..his father is not only a doctor. He is a FRCS

Wannabe Studious Classmate : Wow !! Tell, me… What is FRCS ?

before Studious Classmate can answer….

A GFN that you know: ‘Foreign Returned Civil Surgeon’. It means he is a surgeon and he has visited Sri Lanka’

Coming back to the point Kavi’s Musings has some international recognition to it now ! I was on air speaking to residents of Canberra on this radio network. Now, now..really. I know what you are thinking. No. This is not a post with an ‘attempt at humour’ tag ! And i have proof. Ok ?

Recorded proof. Ok ?

For readers that are still reading..

Well, i was on Canberra’s air waves, talking about the Mumbai blasts. And there was Mark Parton, who found what i wrote as ‘intelligent & Optimistic’ quizzing me on how the Mumbai terror attack affected me and all of us here, how things were at the present moment, and some of our plans ! For an uninterrupted 6 – 8 minutes ! And all of this, just based on this blog and what i write here !

For me, it was an opportunity to convey to a different part of the world, a common man’s perspective of what we went through and what we are doing with it too ! At a personal level, it is indeed nice to know that what i write here in Kavis Musings resonates with people, many thousand miles away.

Geography has truly become history !

And it gives additional fuel to my belief that there are people across the world, who want things to be better for the world !! And the fight against terrorism and such other common travails are just not going to be battles that will rage on lonely fronts.

Whew. Did i make it sound like a Oscar winner’s poorly delivered acceptance speech !?!

Anyway, special thanks to Mark Parton for stumbling into me ! And connecting up and help reach out..! He said ( among the many other kind things ) … ‘i managed to chase up the guy that writes Kavis musings and he is on the phone with me..’ !

(Ooh. My shirt suddenly seems to fight a chest swell ! 🙂

And ah, just in case, you want more proof, or just want to hear a recording of the discussion, write to me !

My own audacity of hope !

We too, in the apartment complex where we live in, lit a candle in the memory of all those who lost their lives in 26/11. Every neighbourhood worth its square feet rate has done some kind of protest. A peace march. Or some candles lit.

And a minute of silence. In our case it was two. Etc.

When the notice board bore this message, a mixed emotion prevailed in me ! Of both relief that we live in some kind of a ‘Housing Society’ and a groan that it would be the some candles being lit and chatter about the plumbing system needing overhauling.

In the mood for some action, [Concrete Action ], as against Symbolic rituals, as i have been telling friends and whoever who has cared to listen / read. i reluctantly did go. Lit a candle. Said a prayer. And clicked some snaps and here they are.

Honestly, it wasn’t all that bad.

Well, uncles and aunties chatted up. About the plumber, the electrician and the builder. About the economy, jobs and the share market. About bad gym equipment , paint schemes and the like. The children played. Ran around. And some stuck to their parents.

All this, until it was time to light the candles. That was when everybody went ultra quiet. There was some kind of an indescribable collective energy at that point.

Post the program as people were moving away, i was privy to some conversations. Just as they were happening aside, and my alert ears caught parts of them. Three are here.

A young boy asked his mom, in all his innocence and babble, ‘ will they be afraid of all of these candles and stop coming here’, well, the mother had to answer him.

And an old man walked past me, he said with a quiver in his voice, ‘we must not stop with this’. And the young man walking alongside asked, ‘So what do you think we should do?’ I couldn’t hear the answer. But i guess he had to answer him.

And there was this kid, with ‘GI Joe’ written on his T-shirt walk up to his dad, and ask, ‘can i join the Indian army’. I guess the dad had some answers to give.

So, in that silence, punctuated by children playing in a far background, it seemed to me like the thoughts were with what happened to us a week back.

In some time, people started leaving, the candles were flickering away to their ends. I lingered around , wandering about & hoping that our seeking answers and change didn’t stop with lighting a candle and saying a prayer. We need collective strong, steady, pragmatic action. Far beyond lighting a candle and saying a prayer.

And in that collective energy tonight, i think, i saw hope. That somewhere our future will be better than the flicker of the lonely candles.

‘What audacity’ you think ?!? Hmm !

So did i.

Enough is Enough ?

These are new days. Of customary security checks, animated conversation and bristling anger at almost every thing / person in sight. The flavour of the season, that India has for breakfast, lunch and dinner goes by the name of ‘Politician’.

Unexposed to such groundswell animosity before, two kinds of responses from this clan, reach the eye. Complete silence ( I haven’t seen a Raj Thackeray sound byte). Or lunatic expressions. Like this. And this. And this. And this.

And the Naval Chief demurred about height.

And ah. The media. Much has been seen, said and written. Especially so about the brazenness of coverage and repeated visuals of blood and people dying replete with ‘ you saw it first in this channel’ sound bytes ! And i cringe.

Today there is a bloke who gets interviewed on TV. And he proclaims, ‘I want war with Pakistan’. The camera hovers around that large rimmed face. And continues to hover. And continues to hover. The gent continues his tirade. I have to take action and i switch channels.

Another channel shows how the Pakistani media is reporting all of this as a Zionist game plan. I am not sure of any other point in time where Pakistani newspapers like this one have been read with such fervour.

Yet another TV channel has four gents in four squares of the screen. ‘New Delhi ‘says one box. ‘Islamabad’. ‘Mumbai’. ‘London’. Say the other three. And three gentlemen who make noise with the same frequency for as long as you care to watch, adorn each of the boxes.

It is apparent that in sheer anger and disbelief, a whole lot got said. But, its time to take stock. Control speed. And chart course. Enough is Enough has been repeated enough number of times, that you really think its all enough !

Its time to build bridges. Its time to put sense into peoples heads. Its time to spread reason. Campaign for change in policy. Spread awareness. Keep the restive anger and disappointment alive through thought provoking programing and engaging discussion. And , of course, realise that the best TRPs are not a function of non stop, high octane chatter !

At a personal level, messages urging you to light candles, keep a vigil, donate blood, pay homage to Maharashtrians / Keralites et al suddenly appear in your inbox. Urging you to prove your patriotism by forwarding it to as many people as your contact book would allow. Others quietly replace Maa Da Laadla Bigad Gaya with Vande Mataram as ring tones.

And the astrologers at work too. ‘Ratan Tata’s fortunes would turn next year.’ ‘Mumbai is going through a bad patch because numerologically…’Bombay’ is better than ‘Mumbai.” They say. And we read.

Elsewhere, at every hotel and office complex every cars under carriage, boot and the bonnet get inspected. Today, as i drive into a hotel, the security guard asks me to open the bonnet. I obey !

But curiosity gets the better of me. And i step outside the car and walk up to the guard and ask him what he is looking for. He smiles at me. And says ‘any suspicious looking object’. ‘And you expect it to find under the hood, amidst all those wires, oil spills and engine heat ?’, i ask. He has already moved on to the next car.

I wonder how many bonnets he would open and close today. And think if he manages to attach weights to the bonnet, he would have biceps to match Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Just then, someone else thrusts a mirror under the car, with the ostensible reasoning of examining the under carriage. And so, i ask him what he is looking for. A strange shrug escapes his shoulder. I think so. But, he doesn’t answer. With a mechanical sweep that would put an assembly line assembler to shame, he moves on.

I get back into the car and drive on. These are strange times.

….When mirrors get under the car more frequently than i would get myself in front of one.

….When you look at give a college kid with a Versace T Shirt a second glance. A suspicious second glance.

….And of course, when i and many others take the effort to clean the insides of the boot and the bonnet too.

And every time i do so, i seem to be saying to myself with the emphatic emphasis of the average TV news anchor : Enough is Enough !

I would more than gladly comply with the law and security checks. I just have a problem with doing something for the sake of doing it. We need security cover. Real cover. Not the symbolic variety. We need real journalists. Not the mike thrusting symbolic types.

And oh yes. Amidst all the blogs, interviews and other stuff crying for action, its time to go beyond this symbolic, loud murmur, and get real.

Enough is enough. Of armchair activism and keyboard rattle. Of random TV interviews and jingoistic jumble. Of hate blogs and rumor tweets.

Some where between all of these, lurks reason, pragmatism and constructive action.
And of that, enough can never be enough.

Residual Embers

Published in NYT here
This to me, is a defining photograph.

Of children.
Of technology.
Of adoption.
And of course, of death and sorrow.

What i would rather see as an an empty ad for a children’s drink with vague pictures on film heroes in the background, entertaining children, is not to be.

Yes, these indeed are heroes. Policemen : who lost their lives to terrorist bullet.

And ah, those kids. The taller kid is clicking a snap of the lifeless image of the shorter kid’s deceased father. Shot by a terrorist earlier. Now shot on camera, as he stares from a still wall. On a mobile phone. Perhaps to make that image as a permanent wall paper on the phone.

At that age, neither did i get to use a phone, nor did i get anywhere close to wielding a camera. But, my father sowed in me a overarching vision and a intimate voice. I wonder how the future will pan out for these savvy children with a voice stored in memory, photo stored on the phone and love stored in a vacuum.


We must move on. Each passing day strengthens that resolve. Images like these give a strange new purpose. That a worthwhile living, is one that is lived with a purpose. One that leaves behind a difference.

Today, a group of friends have had our first round of conversations on what perhaps can be done. Interesting ideas have emerged. Will keep sharing as we go on.

My regular posts will resume shortly. The mind and the mood bend the thought and the spirit. And i am staying there for a short while. With the bent thought and the strained spirit.

Its time.

I am publishing some incoherent thoughts here. Just vague brush strokes on a dark canvas. I stood back and saw possibilities of a wonderful picture emerge. But given the mood that i am in, neither completion nor perfection seems important here ! We need to run our relay race. My part is here. And i haven’t started yet.

Today, the first morning, where i didn’t have to go to the TV set to check if those blokes who came by sea were still firing away to glory. I stare into the Mumbai sky and realise that it still is the same. Its just that my stare has changed. Forever changed.

The resolve to do something is all pervasive.

If a 20 odd year old chap has the resolve to come by sea & hold a nation at ransom, well, each one of us can build the resolve fight those blokes. Let me speak for myself, i need to build the resolve to fight on. I cant tell the difference between a shotgun and a pistol. And the magazines that my hands turn are more for the eye and not for anothers life.

But its time now to stand up. I am sick and tired of waiting for change that the ‘next government’ would usher in. If bunch of college kids derived the strength to blow us up, i am motivated to protect what we won in 1947 from Ak-47 ! And i sure can promise the collective motivation of a billion people and the support of all the world, will blow to smithereens, resolve founded on a destructive ideology.

So what can we do. My mind races in multiple directions.

As Sreeram Chaulia suggests, how about a community led role ? We have got to get there. Lets not stay with fiddling with the TV remote and passing acerbic judgements about the incompetent, insensitive politician or that inept bureaucrat.

Many nations have conscription! Now that could sound as a preposterous suggestion. But isn’t the situation that we are in preposterous. OK, lets stop half way down that road. How about basic, practical education on survival in tough circumstances for everybody. Everybody. From schools, colleges, offices. Where we learn to protect ourselves. We have to do our bit.

All of that is for facing any eventuality.

And then of course, its time to sow reason. Pragmatism. Saying ‘no’ to and shunning jingoism and spreading the debate. We need to educate. We need to reach out. We need to share our shoulders and our arms. We need to be together.

We need to campaign. For responsible politics. For better arms for our troops. For responsibility and accountability in journalism. For peace. To be tolerant of opinions but to be intolerant of divisiveness.

‘We’ ! Yes. Its you. Yes. You as you are reading. And me. And the people that we know, between us.

So, when last did you unpack a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ kit….

Its time.

Give me your shoulder. Will you ?

We are touched in a unique way, by the voices of support that have poured in from other cities dotted under other skies that envelope planet Earth. Thank you.

I am numbed by what i see on TV. Still. I go about my motions with a stoical face and a constructed facade. A multitude of emotions engulf me. And i want to write. But just as i begin, my keyboard seems to have a strange glue on it, and fingers don’t move.

I have been sitting here for about two hours now. Staring a vague and empty stare into the computer screen. The screen saver, like an opportune politician who shows up when there is nothing else to the screen, has least impact today.

My grief seeps through. The innocence of the lives lost best matched by the valour of the sacrifice. The spirit of revelry that is the usual scene at this geography, matched only by the grim canter of duty.

The sun has set here. The heart is heavy. The throat is constricted. The voice refuses to escape the lips. The nails are chewed off. The head is a trifle heavy. I occasionally get up and switch on the TV to see the odd commando fire. I quickly get back to staring at the computer screen.

Yes. As i wrote earlier, We will get them. All of them. In the days to come. But, that, will be, ‘in the days to come’. For, today, allow me to mourn the loss of life. To grieve. Let the residues emerge. Let my tears flow from my eyes. And perhaps from my soul.

Give me your shoulder.

Will you ?

Blowin’ In The Wind

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

And until the next post, this picture of flowers that i clicked at Mahabaleshwar last month, and Dylan ( who has been keeping me company for a while now) will perhaps echo to you, a sense, of the cornucopia of multiple emotions running through me.

My day today. When Mumbai was beseiged.

Late last night, oblivious to all that was happening in the same city that is home, under the same sky, i blogged, read, chatted and went to bed. Only to be woken up very shortly later, by a call from my boss. At midnight you don’t expect your boss to call. ‘All well ?’, he asked, and proceeded to check if i knew of people in our organisation who were traveling to Mumbai.

My sleep drenched hand searched for the TV remote. As i absorbed the images. numbed for sometime,i took in heavy heaps of air, as much as my lungs could fill. I distinctly recall the slight quiver in his voice. And the tremble in my heart.

‘Is there anything that i can do ?’ I asked. He replied in the negative and hung up. It was an uncomfortable call.

‘Is there anything that i can do?’ is the question that stayed with me through the night as i shifted and turned uncomfortably.

After a stern night, i wake up early, switch on the TV, only to realise that night might have been over. But ‘stern’ was far from. I decide to step outside home to gather some fresh air. Not great dare devilry but just a walk within the precincts of the apartment complex.

At the entrance, is the security guard. Actually, an ordinary middle aged man, wearing an uniform. Nothing more. A gent who chats up rarely, but watches carefully. I doubt if he is trained on combat or whatever. But he still is there.

On other days, i greet him. Today, i walk past. My mind absorbed with the images on TV. I stand there and look into the sky, to ask ‘why’.

Today, he tells me as i step out : ‘Take care. But do go out. I am here to protect. Nothing will happen.”

I look at him for a stupefied second. I think : Forget RDX. This gent wont last a ricocheted bullet from a pistol. But that didn’t stop him from saying what he did. And doing so, held my attention. It seems that i don’t have to look any further for answers to the question that kept me up for most parts of the night.

My eyes moisten, and i tell him, ‘You take care too’. He nods his head.

We stare at each other. We are just two plain men. With a shared skyline, a wounded psyche and a determined spirit. The silence lingers for a while. His presence comforts me. In the ordinariness of his form and but the power of those simple words that touch me. Just letting me know that grief was not mine alone. He was with me. And so were many others.

Many hours later, i am at home. Wielding the remote. Jumping from channel to channel. Rejoicing in small mercies and wallowing in a strange syncretic grief. Offices have been declared closed today.

My hair is disheveled with hands running through them as i answer calls and watch TV. My heart is at multiple places. South Mumbai. In the shoes of all those held hostage. In the pall of gloom that would pervade the homes of slain police officers. In the anxiety of friends and relatives of people close to action. And so on.

I write. And that appears to resonate with people like Sundar, sitting many miles away.
And then, the doorbell rings. Breaking the footage monotony of policemen, rabid media & gun shots. I wonder who it could be.

I open the door, to find the courier boy delivering mail. A trifle surprised that this mail delivering was happening as the city was held to ransom, i collect the mail. And just as i am set to close the door, i tell him, ‘ Take care’. I swallow hard.

And he stops. A trifle surprised. Lingers for a while and states with a nonchalance of a commando.

With a straight chin, a fulgent gleam and a young mind , he speaks. ‘Nothing will happens sir. We just need to be more careful. And besides i have mail to deliver & much work to complete. I cant be afraid of these people, sir’.

I keep staring at him. As he disappears into the lift.

I close the door with a strange resolve. I switch off the TV. And open the laptop. And begin work. I am a Mumbaikar. I am Indian. I am a citizen of the world. I am not going to be cowed down by terror.

I know we will get them. I know we will win. At the nucleus of that victory will be this spirit. This spirit of labouring on, spreading the message and just going forward immaterial of whatever happens.

And friends call. There seems to be a resolute need to do something. And their anguish spills out as war crys and oaths, strange resolutions and ideas emerge. ‘Form vigil squads’. ‘Learn martial arts’. ‘Basic weapon training.’ ‘Spreading the message of love’. ‘Lets galvanise action and people’. ‘Lets blog more’. Etc. Etc.

I realise, ‘ I want to do something’ seems to be a core message. There is an educated mass, able, willing and wanting to do something.

Somewhere between the resolute yet concerned quiver of the first call, and the spirit of the security guard and courier boy, and the anguish ridden restive energy expressed by fellow men and women : i realise, that we need to carry on with our work, yet seek out and do what we can, in our spaces.

We are hurt. And perhaps bleeding. But still not dead. Never will be. The soul is new. And tomorrow, when the same sun lights a new dawn, and when we get back to work, we will not be wallowing in questions of ‘why us’.

It rather will be ‘From here, where ? How ?

I seek your help. We seek your ideas.

We Will Get You

So you had another swipe at us again. Like you did some months ago. And some years ago. Like you did at some other place. Ok.

But lest you rejoice that you won, i just wanted to write and say, we’ll get you. I may be a little perturbed today. My fingers sport a slight tremor as i type this. & the soul reeks of anger like a broken perfume battle. Images on TV are indeed depressing. But make no mistake, we’ll get you.

Three police officers & many innocents lost their lives. They fought you & in their life time, got many of you. And there are many others who still will fight on. The might of our nation resides in the glory of our history and the possibilities for our future. We will not let those possibilities be still born. Mark my words, we’ll get you.

Our politicians are infirm. They are out to exploit every crevice to establish a valley. And you have thrived by opening new crevices and fronts. But for the man on the street, the one who gives a day long toil a hard sinew, these crevices dont matter. And with the strength of that twisting sinew & noble thought of the men, women and children on the street, i promise you : we’ll get you.

For long now, we have remained silent. Our ministers spoke the same speeches with different suits. Enough. Enough. Its time to stop all of this. And dont even hesitate to think, ‘if’ we will get you. We sure will.

You may wonder where i get such confidence from, when you have struck with impunity.

My confidence stems from what we have inside us. The strength of our spirit, the resilience of our soul, the grit of our grip and of course, the blood that has dripped by on the floor, all far easily outweigh the combined might of all strings of bullets and the stream of bombs that you can muster.

We will get you.

PS : I have been dwarfed by the depth of concern and voices of support from the world over. Friends, relatives, people who just passed by this blog and of course fellow bloggers, who i havent met at all. The phone has been constantly ringing or beeping. The mail box shows ‘new mail’ almost as a permanent addition. Thank You !

For an inconsequential chap like me, this is overwhelming enough. It seems to me that the weight of the world, measured in gold backs us up. That to me is the strength of the spirit.

I can almost hear the keyboard cringe in pain, as i key in each alphabet with emphasis and force :

‘We Will Get You’.