Monday, May 29, 2006

A very romantic rendezvous

I ask you to stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI in Krakow, Poland, Saturday May 27, 2006

I have always been a dreamy lad. Those white fluffy clouds in sleepless eyes. It makes me go bonkers at times and yet prods me to carry on amidst all the lovelessness. Impulsive and illusory. That has been my story thus far. I can’t seem to clearly remember when I mingled the delicate dash between infatuation and love in my mind. I’ve been flying too swift to notice that. Occasional gusts tossed me up in the sky but the flight didn’t end. It glided on. Till Saturday. I reckon, around the same time the celibate Ratzinger was visiting Poland and he said the words,” Stand firm in your love”. It stirred a magical cord in me. My bowels asked me to follow my heart. I was led to a dream.

My angel. Or was it a fairy. I have been thinking of this angel ever since I was a kid.

I dreamt a beautiful dream. I was transported to a surreal land. It was full of wonderful people with lovey-dovey eyes. I was suffused over by pure unadulterated love. Tomes of it. It made me realize that there is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. I clearly rejoiced in the ceaseless love. Only a little laughter broke the spell sporadically.

It was hot. Heat of the plains. I could smell heat even in the brief, compendiary bits I slept. For the first time in my life, I loved the laconic spell of my sleep. God, how I love the feeling. How the countdown to our next reunion almost immediately triggered. Is it a bond? Is this what they call love? I donno. It was a dream, that is for sure. The beat that my heart misses every time the images flicker in my mind. Blue-blooded-elegance. The calm eyes. The emaciated feet. The purple glow in the brow.

Imagine raw sensuality. What I do and what I dream include thee, as the wine must taste of its own grapes as they say. The maxim haunted me since ages. It was right next to me in my dream. When Jhelum flowed into the Chinab river. When heat ceased to exist. When sweaty hugs felt better than a million perfumes. When I didn’t want the smells to go – perhaps for the first time in my life -- and did not use my expensive colognes in a long time. It was a cross between hope and love. Betwixt desire and longing. It felt like crying after a long time stunned. Drinking after a lifetime’s thirst.

There are times when you forget the bed. You also forget the pillow. You share the warmth. Despite the stingy harshness of the summer. You want to hide the relation in camouflage of the darkness. The shadows. There is a name hidden in the shadow of my soul, where I read it night and day. It is a feeling I will nestle in my little heart for long. A very special feeling. Like a bird who comes from cold hills and perches on top of my palm. And cooes most sweetly.

My alarm went off. The dream broke.
It is another day.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

To Reserve or not to Reserve

Everyone's entitled to be stupid, but you're abusing the priveledge.

India seems to be stuck in a reservation rut. There are fierce debates in TV talk-shows. I never knew Dalit writers can speak English so fluently. Endless deliberations continue in university canteens and drawing rooms alike. I had a fiery arguement with a schedule-caste friend, over coffee last Sunday. God, How I hate to use this terminology. Lower and upper. Scheduled and Unscheduled castes. It sucks. We stop being us and suddenly become you chaps and we!

Anti-reservations protestors have now spread all over the country. They tried everything -- hunger strike to candle-light vigil. Cops brutally caned peaceful students in many places. The government of India watches the spectacle. Suddenly a new form of activism has taken over. Reservations have ripped open a pandora's box. The muck, they say, has already spilled. Different groups are busy mopping it up. Arjun Singh, India's ageging education minister is on the verge of doing a VP singh. VP, India's ex Prime minister, let loose the mandal demon, implementing what was long-considered a political tinder-box. No wonder tempers are up. SMSes trickle in by the minute.

Reservations -- for those who came in late -- did not come from the blue. Indian constitution has a provision for bringing at par various groups, castes and tribes in this country who have been deprived equal opportunity for ages. Under the process a certain percentage of seats in places of higher education and government were kept warm -- and safe -- for India's underbelly. VP just accelerated the process. 27% seats to the lowly blokes. The ball was set rolling. Many thought that justice was finally served, piping hot. It will square off many scars, I mused.

Many benefitted. Good. The country is still in deep schisms. Castist, superstitious kinds. Stones on fingers, hypocitical, absolute-hatred for people other than their own. We can't marry them because they are lower-bred Hindus. 'Our caste is higher than yours' is entrenched in the pshyches of millions. Uneducated and educated alike. I guess a small % of modern public school-educated generation-X think otherwise. The lower-caste still cannot make it to good primary education, decent colleges and are looked down upon by the high-end society. So trying to bring about a uniformity through an affirmitive action -- like the reservation policy -- was perhaps sane.

Unfortunately, thats where the buck stops. A famous maxim goes like," You can't have everything. Where would you put it? I think that says it rather succintly. The government of India, led by a technocrat, former economics professor and a champion of globalization Dr Manmohan singh suddenly decided to up the reservation levels from 27% to 49%. Now an idiot can make it out. This is politics. Half the seats to the lower section. India is a country of 1 billion souls. Where are the so-called upper-classes supposed to go? Now it is no rocket science, upper class means, only a stupid tag. You can be poor and upper class. And most people are. What about them? They also need a pat.

Not under-estimating the capabilities of the low-caste folks who make it to our colleges and universities, can they really be at par with the best. Cynics argue that tribal and lower caste students are incapable of engaging issues at a sophisticated level like those who enter through merit. What does merit mean? People ask and whether the wisdom of the current system really works, an expert chips in.

It doesn't work. The government doles out the quota-cards. The cards are used and over-used. Human beings are selfish. In India where mere survival is a challenge, the reservation card is an easy route to success, even if it means scuttling the hopes, chances and dreams of bright meritorous students. Rather than shamelessly emloying the Quota trick for petty politiking, the governmant must try and address the issue of granting these guys access to good schooling. Make it mandatory, perhaps. That will bring them at par. Simply transporting a half-baked, ill-tutored guy to a prestigious institute like AIIMS or IIM and make him share the desk with a brilliant mind doesn't make an iota of sense.

Extending reservation is not the answer. There has to be a nation-wide census and instead of the schedule cates and tribes, we must endeavour to bring in the economically unpriveledged classes -- which includes SC/ST/Upper classes -- in the reservation net. Cancel the cards of the folks who are well to do and flaunt it unnecesarily. Limit the reservation to 30%.

Let merit arise. Let India continue be the world's talent hub. Let us emerge an even stronger, more resplendent democracy.

Hope some sanity prevails on the good old professor of Economics and his vizier with the curved stick.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

The No-No limerick

Do we go out tonight
to catch a yummy bite
No place can you ever find
because you not in my mind
A soul who is outta sight


An imaginary limerick that came to my mind

Friday, May 19, 2006

The good-bye Limerick!

Good bye and see you
words kept so few
Rain in familiar airs
love inside endless layers
You gotta go, I always knew


Limerick is a light, humorous poem of five verses in which the l st , 2 nd , and 5 th lines rhyme and the 3 rd and 4 th lines rhyme. {Rhyme scheme aabba}

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Join me!

How do you describe a place that is at the cusp of beauty and battle. It exudes oodles of charm and yet occassional booms scare the daylights out of you. Fish still swim in its tranquil waters. It brags the purest of airs. Yet a storm is always ready to form. Luckily, I live in a more affluent part of the paradise. We have occassional parakeets as guests, chirping at the top of their voices on pleasant spring mornings. Butterflies in a myriad hues waltz in my small garden. The roses cling tightly to our three-storey home, where only two people live. A lot of sparrows, a few white rabbits and old pictures also live in my home.

I am away from Kashmir, both in distance and time. I miss the sound of rain on my pane, the snow flakes, the radiant sun-downs, the cricketing days with old pals. I work, read, write, reflect and play cross-words these days. When I was a kid, mom would ask me to do sums, read poems aloud, eat my breakfast with a chartreuse-top table-spoon -- often to my great annoyance -- before I could go out and make my own snow-man. How time flies? Mom. I see her in childhood-type dreams and she still asks me to eat and read aloud. Ofcourse I don't obey her now. I don't eat much and instead of reading aloud, I prefer writing poems. For a dream of another kind. I've an electronic juicer in my kitchenette to make my breakfast, which I hardly care to touch. The green-headed tablespoon is still locked away in a tiny corner -- in my bedroom -- in Kashmir.

It used to be so much fun to go to the city suburbs. See the villagers take their flock to graze. Driving past the stunning lakes. I guess evenings in the Dal lake still rock. No amount of mall-lights in our big cities or the plunging necklines in the parties we go to can compare to the balmy evening breeze. The morning sparkle stretching acoss the Pungam lake or the old-world lighting by Srinagar Boulevard. Barbeque in the canoe. Ducks gliding by. A tender sky watching you over.
What are you thinking about? Camp-fires, hi-altitude fishing, heaven! Join me for the Kashmir vacation, will you?


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Waiting for you

I never thought it was worth it, you know waiting for love,
and then I felt your kiss, I could wait forever for you.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Like last night's rain
that fell on your lane
upon my stupid dreams
when the bed went cold

Like the humming bird
which calls its mate
on lonely nights
when black thunders roar

Like old mulberry tree
full of ripe juice
which moists some lips
but spoils my new shirt

Like a bee which is busy
kissing endless flowers
massing sweet piles of honey
in the jagged old comb

You too are pre-occupied
like the slanting rain and tree
Like the humming bird and bee
To even notice me


Saturday, May 13, 2006

That is what war does to you!

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him? Blaise Pascal, the great French mathematician and philosopher who invented the adding machine in the 1600's once remarked. To my mind, nothing can be more preposterous than starting a war and living in a war zone. Even your theory of probability can prove it, Mr Blaise.

Nearer home, Kashmir has been experiencing a low-intensity conflict for 17 long years now. Among the first fatalities of the war have been the cherished values of Kashmir. In local idiom they called it Kashmiryat. Ellaborated it means -- the secular fabric. When my hindu teachers would force me to eat red-red Rajma at their home. When mom's specially-made pickle was an essential part of our hindu neighbours' dinner. Suddenly it was all gone.

Almost instantly all social institutions which contribute -- brick by brick -- in the development of any decent civil society started collapsing. Morals, ethics and discipline vanished almost overnight. Hooliganism and vandaism of the first order started. Some people looted abandoned homes, weeding out what was left of the centuries old trust we reposed in one another. Many became rich overnight. Fake drugs, fake bills, fake fruits. Everything became so unreal. This was a state that was reeling under severe economic harships -- all development funds went to the security apparaturs -- and still people drove around in glitzy new cars. It befuddled me as a youngster.

Religion took centre-stage. That age old ploy. Exploit the ignorants. Use electronic beads and rosaries. God's chant turned digital. People continued to die. Get killed. Yet others continued to get rich. The likes of those who lived in servant quaters and some of the hoi polloi. No one knows how. Lots of mysteries hover the small paradise. No one ever knows who kills whom, for example.

I am not very surprised to learn about the latest sex-scandal emanating from the peripheries of the famous Dal-lake. A nexus of politicians-policemen-prominent people. Sex-clips from a war-zone. Amidst the blood and bombs. I am sure most of these guys would feign religion and claim to be nice. I've been cynical about the Kashmiri in general since the war began. That is because one wintry night in 1989, we lost our innocence.

There never was a good war or a bad peace. Benjamin Franklin American printer, journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, abolitionist, public servant, scientist, librarian, diplomat, and inventor said. True, mate!

Sameer bhat

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Silences make the real conversations between friends.
Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.
`Margaret Lee Runbeck -- US author (1905-1956)

Have you ever felt compelled to say something to somone but you didn't say it? It happens to most of us. When we want to holler, but stop just short of doing so. When you go completely blank as you meet the one who makes butterflies' circle in your stomach. When you ring someone up only to utter everything you don't want to say. When you miss a person like hell and you meet up -- and get together for a long drive -- you suddenly are at a loss to mutter a word.

The captivating silences that creep in. The beguiling thoughts that come to your mind. Looking at each other from the corner of your eyes. Lump in the throat. I think saying nothing...sometimes says the most.

I often wonder -- Don't I wonder a lot!! -- how nature grows in silence. The trees, flowers, grass. The stars, the moon, the clouds and the sun, how they move in silence. Isn't it beautiful. We need silence to be able to touch souls. I used to feel strifled earlier when somone clammed up before me. I realised soon that silence is sometimes the answer.

In a world of loud sound bytes and defeaning noise, where every beautiful expression is drowned in cacophony, silence too is lost. In media and politics -- expression is paramount. In a cutting-edge technological world, one needs to present his point. As market forces get more powerful and advertisers more boisterous, speaking out becomes necessary. Asserting yourself. Saying it loud and clear and crisp and fluent.

I understand the premise but can we ever equate or contrast it with walking on a beach, pants folded, twilight in the evening sky, sea-gulls hovering by, a deep blue sea in your eyes, someone special walking besides you, touching your little finger, in heavenly silence.

You can't compare some things in life!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The heat is On!!!

It is early May 2006 and the mercury is merciless. It touched 112 degree Fahrenheit -- 44.5 degree Celsius -- on Friday. I think 118 and the psychological barrier of 120 -- 49 degree -- will be breached in the weeks ahead. Yet people continue to work. Amidst the grime and gunk. Feeble workers go about carrying brick-loads on their delicate heads in ridiculous temperatures. Their unwashed children not far away. Watching their poor parents build roads and overpasses for globalised Indians.

Life is harsh in this part of the world. Not that it doesn't get difficult -- or hot -- elsewhere. In parts of the US, it is hot -- Florida and Hawaii for instance. I think only Las Vegas and Phoenix touch 90 F in July but there is no cause to fret. Developed west has conquered nature long back. Snow or Swelter, rain or heat -- nature is stopped in its tracks. We rate miserably when it comes to giving our populace even basic amenities like power, water, heathcare and infrastructure, despite -- having a nuke -- and stupidly considering ourselves at par!

Nearer home, Gulf is very hot. The African continent is on the boil -- in perpetuity. However, the Arabs are super-rich and hardly a soul ventures out in the sun. The Africans are too well adapted -- because of their color and genetic make-up -- to the blistering sun. That leaves only the blokes in sub-continent to reel. I personally think anything above 100 F is difficult.

India gets sultry in summers. The hot winds singe you in the face. However, the humdrum never stops. Hopes never fade. People continue to work. Fight. Children go to the school. Lovers canoodle. Peasants water their fields. A million mutinies, functioning. Evolving all the time. The show must go on, as they say. There is no heat emergency-- even at 120 F. More than half the population does not have an AC comfort. No probs. Brought up the hard way, Indian's tackle the tacky temperate hands-on. Resilience, mates.

On a more individual note, I was born with an allergy for heat. Bred in the cool zephyrs of Kashmir -- India's honeymooning paradise -- I just cannot take heat. These days I have to make do with the artificial machine chill. Home, Car, Office. I am not in my element, the moment, I step out of it.

Sometimes in the middle of the night -- when there is a power-cut -- I close my eyes and think about Kashmir. Cool, quiet nights with seductive layers of darkness all around. Breeze in the hair. Only the sweet cooing of a small nightingale in the distance.

I keep thinking and thinking about it. Till light comes in the capital city of the fastest growing economy in the world!


Saturday, May 06, 2006

What is beauty?

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Kahlil Gibran -- Lebanese poet, artist and philosopher

It has been haunting me since many moons. I am conflicted in my mind. A little Confused. Something stirs in me like a reed in the wind. Tugs at me on lonely nights. Frightens me. I doodle about the most beautiful eyes I've seen. Taken by them. Something in me moves, shifts and settles down. Moves again. I begin to ask questions -- to my own soul. Answer myself. An emotional whirlpool draws me in and out!

Are we enchanted by beauty? Don't heads turn -- and hearts tip -- when something beautiful walks down the ramp or anything graceful meanders by. It is all natural. Within the obvious brackets of human perception. Whatever impinges my heart hides somewhere in this precarious zone. The thought. Can eyes deceive? Can nice faces cheat on you? What really is beauty?

I am no Confucius. I cannot truly comment on this. I am not even able to understand the only person I liked in a long while. I think 'what is striking and beautiful' is not always good, but 'what is good' is always beautiful, as Ninon would aver. Beauty may mesmerise us. Eyes may rake a small flood in the viens. Physical appearance may overwhelm. Still the heart must conquer and not the face. True beauty is what's found inside, what is in our hearts. Humility is beautiful. So is sincerity. So is truthfulness. Goodness of soul. Self-esteem too. In the end it is the love in your heart -- and belly -- that subdues everything else.

Eye-candy, beautiful, sizzling. Can these characteristics ever compare to compassion, care and the love in you. No. The reason is simple. Things transient and temporary cannot outlast the eternal.
Looks flee. Love remains.

Bernard Shaw was an influential thinker of his times and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. He wrote to his friend:

I hope you have lost your good looks, for while they last any fool can adore you, and the adoration of fools is bad for the soul. No, give me a ruined complexion and a lost figure and sixteen chins on a farmyard of Crow's feet and an obvious wig. Then you shall see me coming out strong.

I guess that sums it up!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hate Mail

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do.
Dale Carnegie. United States educator (1888-1955)

I began by creating my own space. This was when my entire band of friends -- in Lower Manhattan, Clare Market and Houghton Street were contriving to log-onto the newest technological marvel -- Weblog! I stopped talking to my good old dairy. Suddenly I was tuned into a medium that made me express myself to the whole world. (Or whoever cared to read me). Not long after, my fav New York Times had competition. Alternate media, as hacks began to call the now-famous blogs.

Blogs come in all shapes and cuts. Stupid to absurd to personal to political. Some jot about food. Others feel obsessed about sex. Yet others doodle philosophy. I decided to keep mine eclectic -- mixed for those who don't like philosophical digresses. At first only my pals read me. Soon after completely strange people started stopping by -- visiting my blog -- occassionally dropping comments. Bland to Buck-up types. Frankly, I never expected any feedback. I only smile when I see my friends' drop by. I am woefully choosy and hate undue attention.

After some nice and not-so-nice comments, a barrage of hate comments followed. In newspaper lingo we call it hate-mail. Often seen as a positive sign. I reckon, some netizens can't simply stomach my space. I am not surprised. Susan Sarandon, the academy award winning American actress is net-stalked these days because of her political views. I occassionally like to jibe George Bush and must have slammed Isreal a couple of times in these pages.

True, debate and dissent is part of the democratic world but offensive jargon. Swear-words. Dumb, inerudite small-talk. Unacceptable. I guess one learns how to keep the tasteless blokes off your space. I am not for positive signs.

In hindsight, nothing can take away my love of literature from me. I will continue to scribble. And a small caveat to the gate-crashers: This is my kitchen, if you can't stand the heat, Get out.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

When I am dead

An old composition. I understand people don't talk death in their 20's. Mind you I too have no premotion regarding mine. I often wonder if someone -- with flirtatious eyes -- will ever pass my resting place with a flower in hand. I'll love those impassioned moments.

One often wonders how short our life-spans are! We are born once. We die once. We truly love once. Anything else is only habit, settlement, companionship.

In reality we never die. We continue to live in memories. In old hopes. Alongside ancient thoughts. In hearts. In friends who care. In the laughter of children. Old walls. Like cute rodents scurrying across a roof.

I think some people may miss me when I am no more. If you miss me, I'll sure compliment it with a smile from the sky. I wrote this poem -- many aeons back-- but I mean it.

When I am dead, my dearest
dig no crosses for me

When the gusts go strong, my dearest
breathe no gasps for me
As my echoes wear off
say no praises for me

When I am visible no more
drop no tears for me
When the lights go out, my dearest
lit no candles for me
As my thoughts fade away
hold no hands for me
When the spring breaks again, my dearest
Watch me in the cowslips
by my grave
I'll be there for you


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

God, Put them to Sleep!

It doesn't get more disheartening than this. Thirty innocent people are slaughtered -- yet again -- in the forbidden mountains of Kashmir. Masked gunmen stormed a tiny hamlet and ask people out. Next moment a volley of bullets was showered on the petrified villages. In an instant thirty humans are cut to a swift, horrible death. In cold blood. Some people had to feign death to escape the marauders. They call it a freedom struggle. I think this is a violent struggle. Taken over by criminals and assassins. When you kill 6-year olds just because they have a different faith -- in this case Hindus -- you deserve to be called inhumans. Period.

I can't be an adjudicator sitting in plush ac-ed comfort -- in my space -- far from the action. It may well be intelligence sleuths.The government rarely knows about the serpentine games of these dreaded organizations. Whoever the culprits, I think we have long lost the right to be called civilised. That happened one wintry night about 17 years back. 1989. The first gun-shots in the beautiful, serene valleys of Kashmir were fired. The nightingales suddenly stopped chirpping. The tweedle was abruptly silenced. Overnight, the cherished Kashmiriyat went up in flames.

I was close to the grotesque events in Kashmir -- for some time -- and I could see first hand-- even at a tender age -- the futility of war. Tryst with a destiny that was not ours. A fortuity full of gore that was red. Red in runnels. Red skies. Red waters. Suddenly the famed band-pather (dances) gave away to abomination. For no rhyme. Bombs in markets full of people. Stray bullets hitting people in their homes. Sisters' running barefoot after their brothers' coffins. Old parents staring at their children's graves on their birthdays.

At times, I am glad that we left the bad tidings behind. Incidents such as yesterday's bring back the ugly reality of the senseless violence. Kashmir -- it seems -- has been completely stripped of its innocence. Or whatever remained of it!

Meantime an endless cycle of violence continues. It is both vicious and costly. It cost the bloodied paradise another 30 innocent souls last night. The killers are on prowl. Hope someone fixes the problem. I wish God puts the barbarians to sleep and they never walk to kill again.



Monday, May 01, 2006

Life Line

Another poem from the lost repertoire. Now that I try to remember why I wrote this poem, I cannot. I -- however -- can recall that I was in a library and my mind was drifting away from books. I took a bit of paper and jotted the poem in a matter of minutes.

I've always been me. A regular guy. I may attempt to appear sensible in my musings. I reckon, I do that only under the creative license that writers think they can weild. Stupid me! As humans we are so fragile. Last night, I cried. For a very small thing. Like a kid insisting on his favourite candy. Not realising that we need to grow up in life and try and be content.

The rebel in us revolts. The kid insists. The candy allures. The heart weeps. The spirit consoles. Life carries on with its many vissicitudes. Ground beneath our feet supports us. Not many souls who walked upon her got what they wanted from life. I may not be an exception. Just one of the legion who wished for too much and got too little.

Some people are tough. I wish I too were! But then I may loose the power to dream, to reflect, to write, to smile, to cry, to love!

Here, I might drift again. The poem:

A cartful of desires
in a life full of mire
Across corners and crossroads
as my cart trundles on
I find no virtues
only evil in flow
Ragged airs in a rude world
indifferent souls with emotions curled
Lonely pangs hold me fast
Uneven tides tear my mast
Narrow creaks in the gabled door
tender worlds I seek to explore
I trod to end of the planet (on my cart)
met only dazzled doves
My love-darts still in my bag
can't shoot, won't throw it away
Everything is so rife
in a short, sweet life.

Poem orginally written in June, 2003