Of Self-induced Complications

Of musings.in transition.impatient.incomplete.obscure and obdurate.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Of 'people like us'

Over the last week I have engaged in multiple conversations over the Ayodhya verdict. Everyone has an opinion (the dhobi-mark of an active citizen one could suppose), and most have no direct stakes in the verdict. Of course, the nature of being a south delhi-thinktank employee-somewhat left liberal is that most political conversations are flat "people-like-us" debates. Concerns over faith-based claim being converted to a legal right, concerns on implications on Indian jurisprudence and Indian secularism. Each conversation was much like an Indian Express Op-Ed - what "we" hoped for and what "we" abhor. One of the Express columns today even told us why we should care. We guard our notions of secularism with careful words, measured headlines and an emphatic shake of the head.

Over time I have learnt to box people. The stereotypes help. Those I have political conversations with because I know we all agree and claim believe in the same values. We generally sit comfortably left-of-centre. Then there are others, those I meet occasionally and I have learnt to assiduously avoid conversations on secularism, Gujarat and other such matters.

Then the other day I had to step out of my comfort circle to meet the latest on the block of nouveau secularists over beer. This new lot is a creation of the Ayodhya verdict, I claim. 'It's a good verdict," he exclaimed. 'Fair and Just. They recognised that this is Ram's birthplace and also gave a share to the Muslims." Of course, we're the good Hindus. We recognise the demands a secular state makes on us. And so we part charitably with our share. Another comment on facebook caught my attention: "Ram was our forefather...not only to Hindus but all Indians. The verdict brings together all Indians." I cringe and I distance myself.

I might recognise that I impose my qualificatory lable of being a 'liberal secularist' or some such -ism to my political and social interactions. Maybe closing out conversations or dismissing other opinions is being equally conservative.

It's interesting to observe how flashpoints such as the Ayodhya verdict not only play out in the media and mainstream politics, but our political conversations. How socialisations and stereotypes converge and reconverge. It's like the game of four corners we used to play at birthdays - the horses, fishes, frogs and monkeys occupy one corner each. Everyone has to scramble away from the middle to occupy one corner. What about those left undecided? Well, they're "out."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reference to context

This is the year I build. My sense of self. Thoughts on me and the baggage I can do without. The baggage that I can convert into not-being-baggage before somebody or everybody gets hurt. This is the year I tell myself that I can write. About governance and accountability. Grasp and link, like she in college said I could do so well. Unpack words that I could string together for my next step to what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up.

Driven by relationships I learn to preserve. The people I think of often. She who is my guide to me. She sat with chai and laughed as I told her how terribly I f***** up. It was deja vu. We both knew it. This is not the first time we mirrored each other. I made her bite her tongue. Thrice. He who taught me to love the idea of superheroes. Who introduced me to a bookshop and played Coldplay on repeat, as we taught ourselves together to love our city. She never fails to look good in front of the camera. Who knows my moods and taught me to colour coordinate. We have our song in 817. And Sangria. And only he, my spirited bundle of all things bright and beautiful, who simplifies my life. Because, God knows, I complicate it.

Of course, there are those who I want to write to everyday. She, my smile-inducing solace away from London, now in London. He who I know about only through facebook. He who is my favourite cow. And she who I think about in passing when I think about me at 5, at 10, at 12, at 18 and at 24.

I need to convert the drafts on gmail into emails. Talk about how I love the drive home alone with my radio. My sometimes-love-sometimes-not for my new curls. I now like Timeout Delhi as much as I did London. How I liked Kabul disco. How my confidence in my ability to write (professionally) is at an all time low. How I am terrible at self-motivation and hence should not do a PhD. How I think Jakob Dylan is goodlooking. How I really want NYC to be my next London.

This is the year I figure focus and depth and patience and order.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


On Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 11:46 PM, tonusree basu wrote:
Dear you, It was my story. of longitudes. where I cried in one city. wished in another. and loved in the third. Ego meets vacuum. Send me words and give me attention. Explore me. Drive me. Draw me out. ...who knew one feels the loneliest at home. Teach me how to shut down again?

I am sorry I stayed away for so long. The a/pathetic me needed some getting used to. My insecurities have piled up in a neat stack. They lie in the corner, by my melted candlestick and stained wineglass. A broken piece of clay, a brand new postcard and a scrawled post-it are my points of focus today. Familiar spaces constrict. as do lack of two conversations. The strange bit is, validation is not what I am looking for. Neither is it my bookmarked lyrics on Google Chrome. I need 18-year old me. Maybe with bigger boobs. and five streaks of rebellion. I need to love fiction again - of strung dreams and conflicting selves. I need whole. I need centre. I need to sing the alphabet song again. or was it Do Re Me? I need to weave, three strands at a time. my drive to work. my eyelashes against the cheek. the broken band of my silver ring. my right to be loved. my faith filling the cracks in my mould.

So do I miss out on my this-is-it moment? chasing tails and swatting my need-to-have-faith-to-write-to-plan-to-believe-to-know-to-learn monsters. I'm picking out the me's from my pile. Smile?

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Last night I watched a film after quite a while. I realised that the last few months have been a blue blur. Rushed stories retold in my head, green pints and glasses of red, and drives. A steady stream of brakelights crossing my consciousness. Have I met new people? Yes. Maybe. I feel saturated. So many people to meet. I think I need to get into a quiet phase. Where it's me, my books and five quiet minutes of solitude. Even as I write this I find white noise, a cacophony of distractions, poking my attempts at undulated focus. They gnaw away at my sense of self. slowly.

Friday, December 25, 2009

My Big City Lights

As the plane touched down, I strained to hear the music above the drone of the engine. Well, the city always drove me to mind-stirring intensity. the kind that made me think in hyphenated phrases and with hollowed rationality. eat-love-pray mode. Where layers protect other layers, with hopeful, simplistic complications. I create them. I disengage them. I turn them over and over on my mind skewers. and then I leave them out to dry....all in this city.

So cities become holidays. Airport welcomes. Suitcase stays. Holding onto days.

Do homecomings count as holidays? The kind that involve long unmapped walks in worn-out boots. Bus rides and turnstiles that have been figured. and people that figure large in the word 'home.'

I'm back to the glitzy shop windows, a year later. Cinderella-clowns have replaced the Santas. That's about it. Storytellers who teach how to dream. Snowflakes on eyelashes and black umbrella spikes on my head. Bridges on grey water and canal walks with bare trees. chocolate-tobasco-cocktails downed drowning fights. and turkish kebabs under the lantern-lit ceilings where I never learnt to order well. That and lining up for mass at the Cathedral. I think it's been a happy homecoming...

My red bus-waiting, kronenberg-drinking, perfect evening-planning, red-nose-dribbling, multiple conversations-etching, 3am walks and 3pm strolls by river/canal/on bridge alone-and-not-alone two weeks.

And my comfort. The one that the many longitudes makes me sweep under the carpet and keep on gchat. comfort in pink and wine and moving images and black gloves and egg-breakfasts and toothbrushes and nice hair. comfort in crying and screaming and name-calling. comfort in a vacuum cleaner and endless hours of same-space-disbelief.
that and shared introspection. what-next-i-dont-know-i-want-a-plan-where-to-where-are-you. the honesty that comes tumbling out on an airport escalator, dealt with head-clearing-clarity and familiar pragmatism.
alone-not-alone questions that my self-preservation was pricking me with are now on the back-burner.

My city. My Christmas stocking full of no debit cards, promises to the self, oft-clustered thoughts and lots of wine. Of best friends and soul searches and soul mates. I think it's been a jolly season.

Post-script: This is what my favourite storyteller wrote about the city...for the fables and streams of consciousness on night buses cannot be left untold:
I love this dirty town - I
"There is something magical about London. It can coax a water lily to sink its roots into soil."
- Mohsin Hamid

Somewhere in between the suits on London Bridge, and the leather-bag carrying army on Liverpool Street, lives a soul. A soul that defines a city.

If you were being trained to be a writer, I'd like to throw in my two dollars (pounds?) worth..don't write after a night out in the city! A night out, that involes....endless rounds of scotch at Ain't nothing but the blues bar, off Carnaby Street. Where the music plays with your senses, and the barmaid well, also plays with your senses.
With old friends buying rounds, and discussing life.Life = crisis, something that one needs to go through,as soon as the biological clock touches 23. More often than not its about the job you don't like, or the winter thats suddenly become,well, unbearable?the British Home Office, that decides to take months to process a Visa? Or just the girl. The term 'girl' on such a night is not very well defined. It could be the one you miss, or the one across the bar.
And at such places, one makes new friends. Those found at the bar, slyly sipping a pint of water whilst the others dont watch. Its a cardinal sin, but also a necessity (thats my justification, and I will stand by it!).
While the drummer looked bored, with talent oozing out of him. The basisst requested for several pints of bitter.The lighting helped set the atmosphere. We found ourselves, in a comfort zone. References to 'Someplace Else' in Calcutta. Where we shared our first beer (of course, we had reached the legal drinking age! If you're reading this right now - you can clear your throat, because I just did).

Once the bar closes, London streets are meant for those that are fit for survival. Night buses are crowded.Filled with the craziest people, most of whom behave like their time is spent at institutions, the non-academic type of institution, that is. And if you're in the mood to get a glimpse of the dark side, you might even see movies scripts unfolding around you. Like a fight that breaks out for the smallest reason, or the girl at the crossing of Regents Street looking for company. Or the homeless looking for shelter, or beer. There are Starbucks cups on the sidewalk. And McDonalds brown paper bag lying on the streets. And the wild side is unleashed. You might even see groups of teenagers pledging allegiance,not the one written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, the words are different the meaning similar " I swear blood, for you...anything blood". Dirty town.

Walk down narrow lanes, look for food in Soho. The chances are you'll stumble upon your favourite Russian joint that does the best fried eggs around 3 am. Or the brothers that run the falafel place. And if experimenting isn't your cup of tea, then sleep is the best option! No food at 3 am. Dirty town.

As I waited at the bus stop, for the 453. I had a chance to reflect on all that was. The Christmas lights that look majestic on Oxford Street, the 5 am junta, waiting for the underground to open. The familiarity with which one knows the different underground lines or in my case, the bus numbers. The cold didn't feel all that unbearable. A city is what you make of it. A transition, a holiday destination or in my case...home. London for me, will always be special. As I complete another year here, I have realised that it is possible to live in the city with a negative bank balance (which will require close friends having an additional couch), or with a job that allows you to pay rent. London is what you make of it.

London is a 'she' for me. I have a bench by the river. I have stories of magical nights. There are regular eating joints, where conversations have lasted till last orders, sometimes even beyond. There is the shrink at Freuds, or the Arsenal faithful at Bayswater. The Bengali connections. The winter wonderland. My favourite TV producers. And of course, the 8 am breakfast haunts. And finally the friend, that experienced London, with me.

I love this dirty town.

ps - another tip for those planning on choosing writing as a career, you must read after you finish writing your piece. i have not!

pps - this article isnt for the punctuation police, or the English teacher. :)
ppps - dont you love this dirty town?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

One of those days...

i want to cry. i want to disassociate. i want to be kissed. i want to hug. i want to write. i am scared.
i am scared. i want to believe it will happen. and fight the voices in my head which tell me it will not.
i want to sit on a cliff. i want to drink beer in Bangalore. and strawberry wine in Kasauli. i want to share an ipod by the river. i want to cry on the bridge. i want to listen to that song on the way to work. i want to go to work on the tube. i want to strike out on my to-do list.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I want. thought. a rain-filled text. a full memory. an empty month. an un-crisis of faith. wishing well?


I'd rather dance with you.
I'd rather dance with you, too.