Friday, September 29, 2006

La Docle Vita

La docle vita means ‘The Sweet Life’. Like the famous 1960’s movie, my life has been a sweet journey. A florid odyssey. It has been a series of nights and mornings along this huge metropolis called Delhi. Cruising through its multitude bends, seeking that lasting relationship, spacing my existence, juggling between humor and melancholy -- all of this has been tiring but worthwhile. I became even-paced. Earlier, I used to think, I’ll aim for my dream at the appropriate time. I’ve been lucky to always meet great people in life. One such friend – without much explaining – taught me the essence of doing things now and quick. On soft pillows and lukewarm tubs I read those eyes. The scents have long funneled deep down me. I realized that now is the only time there is. I must make my now wow. Now makes your minutes miracles, and your days pay.

As a jaded 20-something hack, I've always attempted to look at life through the kaleidoscope of love and longing. Often using my humor to stop myself from falling into life’s cruel travails. The stressful rigarmarole. The past month has been rather anfractuous for me. I’ve laid low. I met with a near-death accident. Many things indescribable. I celebrated my birthday with very special people in the best of places. I cried. I laughed. I canoodled. I hugged. I felt spent. I felt loved. If there was any divine meaning to this mink mélange, if there was any profound lesson to be learned here, I couldn’t think what it could be. At one level it appeared to me the same old human circus of passion and love, stupidity and semblance, selfishness and selflessness. Only the players change. Alexander the Great ventured into it. I am in same territory. It is called the sweet life.

More of my musings to follow.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Birthday Boy

Sep 18, 2006. My Birthday. I lay reading a riveting book in my bed as the clock struck 12. Some little part of my mind knew it was my Birthday. I will confess what I was thinking just then. I thought what if a candle factory burns down. Everyone will just stand around and sing Happy Birthday. As if on cue, Kokes – my cute little bro – walked in with a brown-hued cake in his hands, candles burning and suddenly everyone sang, 'Happy Birthday Samy'. It was a very well orchestrated surprise and I felt truly touched in my heart. I admit I love a very few souls on God’s blue mossy planet and they sure love me back! After a long while, I slept happy.

Tagore is one of my fav Indian philosophers. I can’t bring myself to disagree with the wise old man of Shantiniketan. I'm lost in the middle of my birthday, the great man quipped once. I want my friends, their touch, with the earth's last love. I will take life's final offering, I will take the last human blessing. As always, my friends overwhelmed me. Wasy – my best buddy -- was the first one to call. Jitz followed up. I think Wasy beat him by fraction of a second. Texts kept trickling in from all over. Tanseer, my childhood buddy, chipped in with a sweet one from Baku, good ol' Brij texted from Marine drive. My sis rang me. Curiously enough even Dad remembered my birthday. I got a complimentary call from him just now and I feel double blessed.

I’ve already sliced two Birthday cakes apart. From end to end. I think Birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake. In hindsight, I think Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest. On a more serious note, I reason, it is so important to know right people in life. Those who care for us. Those who understand the true meaning of care and love. They bring us joy and cheer. They are the one's who make life worthwhile. I am glad I know a few such people!

Because in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

Happy birthday to me!!


Ratzy, you're wrong.

I think it is time I look up from the many vicissitudes that my life is taking to things worldlier. This happened three days back. My eyes went to a particularly inciting news headline in the morning paper. I knew what was in the coming. A lot of bad blood, protests, condemnation, violence and apologies. That the source of this new scandal was the holiest seer of catholic faith didn’t surprise me. I have read about Benedict the sixteenth, even before he became His Holiness. Let us have no assumptions. The chap has no love lost for Islam. That he will come up with this particular rant at a time when every religious leader worth his salt is hard trying to bridge the huge gulf between Islam and the west flummoxed me. Ratzinger it seems is not only ultra-conservative but also hugely misinformed.

I am a simpleton when it comes to matters theological. I think all religions lead to the same path. That of goodness and love. And God! There is a lot to prove that and might I add -- a lot to unprove it too. However, I know that in the end it boils down to this. All holy men will give you the same hackneyed bit of their mind: My religion is the best, rest others are but a compromise. That puts me off. I think we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. All religionists of the world somehow are the same tribe.

In retrospect I liked Karen Armstrong’s superb argument in Britain’s influential Berliner ‘The Guardian’. Karen is one of Europe’s leading intellectuals and has authored a successful book on Islam, dubbed ‘Islam: A short History’. Ms Armstrong tries to make a subtle point and she is quite frank in her assertion: We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam.

A sponging follows. The medieval cast of mind is still alive and well. Last week, Pope Benedict XVI quoted, without qualification and with apparent approval, the words of the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Vatican claimed that the Holy Father had simply intended "to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, and obviously also towards Islam". The pope has since apologized for his crude remarks.

But the Pope's good intentions seem far from obvious. Hatred of Islam is so ubiquitous and so deeply rooted in western culture that it brings together people who are usually at daggers drawn. Neither the Danish cartoonists, who published the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad last February, nor the Christian fundamentalists who have called Muhammad many nasty things, would ordinarily make common cause with the Pope; yet on the subject of Islam they are in full agreement.

West’s Islamophobia dates back to the time of the Crusades, and is entwined with the chronic anti-semitism. Some of the first Crusaders began their journey to the Holy Land by massacring the Jewish communities along the Rhine valley; the Crusaders ended their campaign in 1099 by slaughtering some 30,000 Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. It is always difficult to forgive people we know we have wronged, as they say. Thenceforth Jews and Muslims became the shadow-self of Christendom, the mirror image of everything that they hoped they were not - or feared that they were.

The fearful fantasies created by Europeans at this time endured for centuries and reveal a buried anxiety about Christian identity and behaviour. When respective popes called for a Crusade to the Holy Land, Christians often persecuted the local Jewish communities: why march 3,000 miles to Palestine to liberate the tomb of Christ, and leave unscathed the people who had - or so the Crusaders mistakenly assumed - actually killed Jesus. Jews were believed to kill little children and mix their blood with the leavened bread of Passover: this "blood libel" regularly inspired pogroms in Europe, and the image of the Jew as the child slayer laid bare an almost Oedipal terror of the parent faith.

Jesus had told his followers to love their enemies, not to exterminate them. It was when the Christians of Europe were fighting brutal holy wars against Muslims in the Middle East that Islam first became known in the west as the religion of the sword. At this time, when the popes were trying to impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy, Muhammad was portrayed by the scholar monks of Europe as a lecher, and Islam condemned - with ill-concealed envy - as a faith that encouraged Muslims to indulge their basest sexual instincts. At a time when European social order was deeply hierarchical, despite the egalitarian message of the gospel, Islam was condemned for giving too much respect to women and other menials.

In a state of unhealthy denial, Christians were projecting subterranean disquiet about their activities on to the victims of the Crusades, creating fantastic enemies in their own image and likeness. This habit has persisted. The Muslims who have objected so vociferously to the Pope's denigration of Islam have accused him of "hypocrisy", pointing out that the Catholic church is ill-placed to condemn violent jihad when it has itself been guilty of unholy violence in crusades, persecutions and inquisitions and, under Pope Pius XII, tacitly condoned the Nazi Holocaust.

Pope Benedict delivered his controversial speech in Germany the day after the fifth anniversary of September 11. It is difficult to believe that his reference to an inherently violent strain in Islam was entirely accidental. He has, most unfortunately, withdrawn from the interfaith initiatives inaugurated by his predecessor, John Paul II, at a time when they are more desperately needed than ever. Coming on the heels of the Danish cartoon crisis, his remarks were extremely dangerous. They will convince more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic and engaged in a new crusade.

We simply cannot afford this type of bigotry. The trouble is that too many people in the western world unconsciously share this prejudice, convinced that Islam is addicted to violence. The 9/11 terrorists, who in fact violated essential Islamic principles, have confirmed this deep-rooted western perception and are seen as typical Muslims instead of the deviants they really were.

With disturbing regularity, this medieval conviction surfaces every time there is trouble in the Middle East. Yet until the 20th century, Islam was a far more tolerant and peaceful faith than Christianity. The Qur'an strictly forbids any coercion in religion and regards all rightly guided religion as coming from God; and despite the western belief to the contrary, Muslims did not impose their faith by the sword.

The old myth of Islam as a chronically violent faith persists, and surfaces at the most inappropriate moments. As one of the received ideas of the west, it seems well-nigh impossible to eradicate. Indeed, we may even be strengthening it by falling back into our old habits of projection. As we see the violence - in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon - for which we bear a measure of responsibility, there is a temptation, perhaps, to blame it all on "Islam".

An American humorist I remember once said,” People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.” I agree.


Saturday, September 16, 2006


Life is so strange. One day you feel top of the world. Exuberant. Uppish. Beautiful. Next morning you find yourself under a fine mist of mistrust. Rejected. Sick. Down. Alone. In pain. Lots of it. One may contrive to find some meaning to it. There is none! I think only one slender flicker keeps the world go round and round: And that is Hope. It keeps the sick sticking to their bed. The dying from being almost there. The rich in good mood. The poor in enough cheer. Those alone in the needed wait. The unloved strangely gleeful. The loved wanting for more!

It also keeps the humor intact. Through humor, we soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful the situation might be, we can survive it, Bill Cosby feels. I feel the same. One must never let hope die. Isn’t it curious that when we have nothing, we still have a wonderful thing in us? Hope. The most exciting thing in life. If we honestly believe that love is out there, it will come. And even if it doesn't come straight away there is still that chance all through our life that it will.

As humans we often get glum. Thinking we have lost everything in life. It is in these difficult moments that people, who really like us, come to brush a tear away. You suddenly discover cute angels, you never knew existed. A friend of mine said a million dollar thing, over a cup of coffee, the other day. Sam, he whispered, in all things it is better to hope than to despair. Never feel sorry for yourself. Have faith. Hope.

Interestingly, the most introspective moments in our life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection we feel rise in us a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments. We count what has to be counted. We pledge. We think. We sob quietly. We get up next morning -- not great -- but not sorry as well. Still aching softly in the heart but hoping nonetheless!

I remember, an angel saying,” Those who wish to sing always find a song.”


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Attitude of Silence

You say it best
when you say nothing at all

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.

`Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Here I come

God, I hate the hiatus. I know I have not been regular in these pages. I got mails from chums asking me the reason for my frondescence. There are lots of things in life one cannot explain. Many storms you cannot escape. Realities that one has to face. You try hiding from yourself and from the world that surrounds you, yet the wind blows. It traces you to the farthest you can run. It hurts you in the eye. I have been down. I have been not thinking too much. I have been not writing. I won’t label it the matter-of-course writer’s block. It was perhaps all of the above or none of it. I don’t think I can reason many things in life.

I reckon I could never grow up -- in conventional terms -- in life . I always remained a kid from within. True, it has helped me be distinct and look at the world from a detached, innocent angle. I think I am unconventional. I like cartoons; I like to make the kids laugh. I like the tender shard of an unfinished dream. Tears come to me whenever a good samartian dies in a movie. My peers must laugh at my antics. My best buddy told me on my face that I look down upon weak people and behave like an elitist. I don’t think he is right. However, I agree that he may not be entirely wrong also: I may appear so. That is because I have never cared about such intricacies in life.

Am I being stupid? Is there a little fool jumping up and down in my tummy? Questions I have asked myself. There are no answers. I think I must learn to love the fool in me, the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, laughs and cries, hurts and gets hurt. Hurt. God, that stings. I've been hurt but I'll continue to love, for that gives me courage to go on with my life. It is very difficult in reality and something in me shifts and moves even right now! I try to shut out the hurt. I seem not to!

I don't pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I can tell you what it is for me; love is knowing all about someone, and still wanting to be with them more than any other person, love is trusting them enough to tell them everything about yourself, including the things you might be ashamed of, love is feeling comfortable and safe with someone, but still getting weak knees when they walk into a room and smile at you.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Of mishaps and muffs

I was on my way back from heaven-colored happiness. Memories of ice-cold water, beatific smiles, high rides on lowlands and a faint cackle of laughter with pals seemed to do a little jig in my dreamy brain. It smelled of sweet aroma -- emanating -- from the effervescent fields of Punjab. Eighteen till I die, Bryan Adams crooned from inside my car’s music system. I shut my eyes tight. For a moment the whole world seemed touched by God’s little finger. I was excited. Enthusiastic about my own dream. Excitement is like a forest fire - you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away.

My cousin was on the wheel. All of a sudden, I could hear the screeching of breaks being applied. The car skidded for some distance. The dream met a loud interlude. An accident. I could see we were slammed up against a monstrous truck. My car was hugely damaged. Both of us my cousin – and – me were safe. A split second decision saved us the day. Had he not braked quick enough, I’d have been a memory myself. I still have nightmares. After a long time, I thanked heavens. How selfish humans are? God must smirk.

More than a week after the mishap, I sit and contemplate. The famed French monarch Napoleon Bonaparte once said that there is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed. I think it was in my fate-book to survive. Yet the crude jolt tickles me. I don’t want to infer any arcane meanings from the experience. One little lesson learnt is perhaps to never make haste. Rashness is like a storm, which only breaks, and wrecks things. Nimbleness -- on the other hand -- is a full, fair wind, blowing with speed to the heaven.

My Kashmir sojourn posts will follow soon. I am just trying to compose myself. I’m down but not-out. I have lived to tell you more tales.

See you, soon.


Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm back

Fifteen fun-filled days. Destination Paradise. An absolutely delectable company. Adventure. Night-outs in the jungle. A windy barbeque. Leopards. In the lap of nature. Impish moves. Starlit dinners. Lots of laughter.

I'll be posting my Kashmir sojourn -- with lots of pics -- in parts.
Scroll down for some pics from the thrilling trip.


Water-Water everywhere

Salus frolicks in the ice-cold water of Dreng, near Gulmarg, Kashmir.
Pic: Raj Posted by Picasa


Raj with his usual antics: Frigid waters and his backward leap.
Pic: Sam Posted by Picasa

The green effect

In the middle of the Dachigam forest.
Posted by Picasa