Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surround Sound

I tell you there is too much noise in the room. You tell me to figure it out. I happily agree, confident that I will do so. I then find out that your concern for the noise supersedes your belief in me sorting it out. So, you go ahead and install sound proofing. I am still in that room with all the noise, which is now more pronounced because of your dampners. It's fine, you can continue to think you are helping me. I already know you are only helping yourself.


"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." 
~ Graham Greene, "The End of the Affair"

Where did it begin, when does it end? Right here, right now - my words to blend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


"Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts." ~ Sigmund Freud

This surprising patch of yellow seemed to mock this quote as it bloomed resiliently alongside a busy road that does not offer the habitat for curb-side blossoms. And yet there it was, a display of everything but a lack of emotion. Defiance is an emotion too.


"I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start."
~ Chakotay, Nemesis, Star Trek Voyager

Can you end that which you start? More importantly, would you want to? Most importantly, will it let you?


"Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look" ~ Henry Miller

As I watched colors shift from a sunny blue-and-golden to a misty grey-and-silver all in the span of 90 minutes, I could not help but be awed by the paintbrush with which nature paints a masterpiece every single day, in her very own art gallery. 

Veiwing is not free of course. It needs you to pay attention. Oh, and a sense of adventure coupled with loads of humour especially when you are naive enough to believe a weather forecast that proudly proclaims a "warm day in Big Sur"  :)

Needless to say, the photograph does not do justice to the engaging beauty and mysterious temperament of the Pacific Coast. 


"I assumed that romantic love was a human weakness. But clearly it can also be a source of strength. Perhaps my analogy was flawed. Love is not a disease. Get well soon." ~ Seven of Nine, Star Trek Voyager

It would seem strange how the last two sentences there contradict each other. A second thought, and they silently fit well. For what is love if not a contradiction, for how does one explain an affliction that harbors rapture.


As a child, I remember once asking my elderly relatives why she served tea to her household help in an old, chipped tea cup. She had looked at me nonchalantly and had said:

"We don't use that cup anymore- why throw it when she can use it?
"Why don't you give it in the cups you use? 
Her nonchalance had now turned to indignation. 
"We cannot drink tea in the same cup that a servant has used!" 
"But she washes the plates we eat in, then why do you ..." 
"Priya.. GO PLAY!!
My Mom voice interrupted me as she stared at me with her "wait till we get home" eyes. I dutifully slipped out, as I overheard the relative curtly commenting to my Mom how kids nowadays don't have any manners. 

Almost 20 years later, I thought of that "forbidden" question as I was pouring out tea for Lakshmi Bhabhi, our household help in two identical cups - one for me, one for her. The question had answered itself. 

I was reminded of that incident again today when I watched this video. I wish we would do this in schools in India as well. I would be very happy if I am told that it is already being done. 

Skin color discrimination might not be the top rated issue in India, but the self importance that humans tend to associate with themselves is pretty clear from the wide array of factors that people have identified to continue indulging into their discrimination addiction. Making a child realize how cancerous this attitude is might serve as the right foundation for eradicating this disease.. Well, maybe some day!

Unity in Diversity

I listened to this song once. And then I listened to it again. And again. And again. It reminded me of what Independence Day has meant to me. And should mean to me. 

Of course, there is no shortage of cynics in India who complain about everything ranging from bad governance and rampant corruption, to inexcusable flaws in Rahman's Bengali pronunciation. I don't understand Bengali, but I did feel happiness ripple through me when I heard him sing the words that Tagore put down decades ago. 

This composition is a beautiful and rich tapestry of hope and inspiration. It is the epitome of how Tagore co-exists with rap, how a powerful, traditional Hindustani sargam can co-exist with super funky bass guitar. 

It epitomizes how we have co-existed as this diverse group of idiosyncratic people who collectively define what I know as "India". On this Independence Day, I hope for us to awake in that heaven of freedom that Tagore had envisioned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


"Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength." 
~ Unknown

Such strength comes at a price, and sometimes the price becomes fully known after it is paid.

Figments of moments

Picturesque San Francisco Streets. Aloo Parantha. Entertaining Exploratorium. Lively Pier 39. Kheer. Lazy Seals. The evergreen Golden Gate Bridge. Puran Poli. Scenic Marin Headlands. Rustic Point Bonita Lighthouse. Gajar ka halwa. Blooming Japanese Tea Garden. Awe inspiringly beautiful Big Sur. Upma-Idli-Dosa-Podi. Enchanting Heart Castle. "Nako". Playful Elephant Seals. Sunset-hued Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park. Thalipeeth. Festive Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. "He ghari banavata yete". Silhouetted Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Exciting Universal Studios. Methi Parantha. Entertaining Sea World. Animated San Diego Zoo. Foggy Point Reyes National Seashore. Bharwa Baingan. Aristocratic Castello Di Amorosa. Amazing Old Faithful Geyser. Majestic Yosemite. Gobi Parantha. Peaceful Livermore Temple. Beet Root Raita. Surprising Lake Tahoe. Sambhar-chutney. Scintillating Las Vegas.

The collage on the wall triggers random memories of your whirlwind trip. As you reach your home seven seas away, this home of yours is left wanting for more of your presence. We are waiting for your next trip Aai, Mummy, Pappa..


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, 
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

~ Rumi

Grey is a very intriguing color.

The Half Dome Adventure

".. and before starting my hike, my son said to me - 'There is a squirrel on the top. Get me a picture of that squirrel.' Sure enough there was a squirrel at the top. It is always there, telling people that it does not matter how big or small you are, you can get where you want to" Brandon said waving his hands. Brandon is a wonderful gentleman who volunteers in the Yosemite bookstore. He has scaled the Half Dome at Yosemite more than 10 times. For me, it was going to be the first time the very next day. 

Many folks had told me that having done Grand Canyon, Half Dome would be a piece of cake. Well, I found out that Half Dome was more like a tough cookie. The figures might not seem much different from our Grand Canyon adventure last summer- an elevation gain and loss of 4800 ft in around 17 miles. But like many other things in life, figures are not indicative of the experience.

I cannot put a number on how the cold mist from Vernal falls engulfed me, or how it made the rocky trail path so much more treacherous. Neither can I put a number on the beautiful sound of the gushing Merced river, or on the really steep path that it had carved out for us to traverse. I cannot count the number of times I had to stop completely exhausted, my heart beating like drums in my ears, or the number of times I willed myself to continue. Neither can I capture in figures the spirit of exploration among passing hikers, seen alike in a boy all of 10 years and a lady all of 65 years. 

I also crunched some numbers, just for the sake of statistics. After all, we live in a world that is obsessed with data and figures.. 

The number of animals (deers, coyote, bear included) we sighted was more than the number water stations we encountered (just 1!). 5 was the number of liters of water each one of us carried. 

The number of seconds for which I was frozen with fear on steps-less sub dome was a little more than 80, which was the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit that day. 90 is what it felt like. 

My pulse rate as I started at the bottom of the cables was MUCH higher than 70, which was the angle at which the cables sloped up the dome. 400 feet was the distance to the top. 

The number of complete strangers who were kind to me was 12, which was also the number of hours I climbed and walked. And then there was Kathie. I am sorry I did not ask for your full name Kathie, but the harness that you gave away to me without a second thought was probably what strengthened my resolve to go up the cables. 

The number of times I smiled at the top of the dome was way more than 37, which is the number of photographs that I took at the summit. 300 is the total number of photographs that I took through the trip. 

If that's not enough here are some more figures: 

Number of people we were: 6
Number of hours we barely managed to sleep: 5
Number of funny movie reviews and parodies we watched repeatedly: 4
Number of songs we sang late into the night: 3 
Number of cuisines we sampled: 2
Number of things I checked-off my wishlist: 1
Number of memories I made: countless. 

This trip was like a contradiction in itself. The awesome live music performance at Southgate Brewery (which by the way, serves the best oil-dipped garlic fries and fig desert pizza :-D) was equally matched by the delicious food at Taste of China, mismatched completely by the disastrous late night trip to Denny's. It was almost like a combination of Yo Yo Honey Singh's senseless rap, Irshad Kamil's philosophical poetry and foot tapping country music. It was silly, challenging and fun. Most importantly, it was test of mental strength at more than one level. And I daresay, we passed with flying colors. 

Oh, I did see the squirrel, right there, at the top of Half Dome. I was where I wanted to be.

The Power Delusion

"Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness." 
~ Erica Jong

I share or talk about something like this and often a retort/question comes up: "Not sure what YOU are being so feminist about? It does not look like you have ever been exploited into being powerless"

The answer that is expected in my response is a relieved smile: "I have been so lucky to have been born to parents who told me I have my own voice, and luckier to be married into a family encourages me to believe the same. But I still feel sad for all those girls out there who are not as fortunate"

The real answer is a question - Does a girl need to be "lucky" to be born into a family that raises her to believe in herself? Should her being married into a family that allows her voice be a matter of "good fortune"? 

I have been told, repeatedly, that the answer to that question is a "yes"- that it is actually a matter of luck and not of practice or principles. And simply being grateful and loving for being "lucky" is not enough, one would actually have to be indebted for life for having the "good fortune" of being treated right. 

So much for being idealized. 

Torn Apart

It is like a rich tapestry, life. You start with a thread. Different people come in and weave their threads inseparably with yours. If a thread is now suddenly pulled out, it affects all the threads it was woven in with. It cannot be replaced, and it cannot be put back in. You can patch the gap, you just hide it. Over time the patch becomes so familiar that it stops feeling like one. It becomes a part of the tapestry, lived in. And then, the patch comes off. You try to protect it, put it back on, but it's too worn out for that. And you are left with the gap again. 

I don't want to put up a patch anymore. I know our threads will not weave-in the same way again. And no, that is not fine. But I have to start admitting that no other patch or thread can replace the pattern that I had, would have created with you.