All of life’s ridicule
caught in a tired noose
I seek my veins 
to meet blood so non-blue
He walks on in my shadows
back from the dead in a drink
is it the haze of the pills
or my inability to unthink
Haunting my shadows
ruining my past
he has led me to this place
to sighing my last
What is it to be
a string around the neck
or a knife run in too deep
to celebrate this murder of self respect
Tonight the trigger is friendly
one wound welcomes some more
for in that last moment
his ghost haunts me no more….

Dewarists: What a find!

A surreal melody, some beautiful and meaningful words, and we have a beautiful song that transcends two warring countries without even mentioning the deeper issues they have. Music, as always, knows how to connect. The beautiful series started in Star World called “The Dewarists” has managed to prove something so many leaders couldn’t articulate, music can mean more than just a message for peace, it can be a mere welcome to a friend, it can help one achieve a deeper meaning in one’s existence.

Just two episodes into the “journey” and the show has managed to combine, the best from the west (Grammy award winning Imogen Heap) and the fresh from the east (Vishal-Shekhar) to bring about a story of personal victory, it has brought together 4 artists from across the borders to come up with a melody of friendship.
“Mind without Fear”, inspired by the famous Tagore poem, takes one through a journey of personal freedom. What started off as a thought for a young nation by Vishal, now, thanks to Imogen’s genius has become a journey towards destiny for the individual. The song is more about its music supported by the words.

“Kya Khayal Hai” appealed to me more simply because it hit a chord at the poet in me, Swanand Kirkire, is an honest and humble poet whose humility shows itself beautifully in the words. They don’t talk about leaving the war behind; in fact they don’t talk of any issue and yet in its subtle soothing tone, the song talks about meeting an old friend and letting go of the past. Zeb and Haniya symbolize the new age Pakistani music, something we’d like to hear more of (hope they come over more often!), they are a blend of their Sufi roots and the fresh sounds of the western influence they have grown up with. Shantanu Moitra is at his best when there are “no character to be written for, no approval to be sought”.

Lyricist Swanand Kirkire (of the bawra mann fame) manages to bring about the story of friendship that has survived between the two countries and, rarely, has listening to an Ind-Pak collaboration brought such a smile to one’s face, cant wait for more Diwarist tracks, do follow it!

“Chalo baant le hum zindagi zara aaj yoon kar le, Kaho kya khayal hai?”  Hope Diwarists churns out more musical genius like this one

Waiting for a bad dream

No blood work
no incredulous screams
my life is a canvas
tearing off at its seams

it ends before it begins
in an empty box
I have already been in there
already ran out my clock

no tragic death
no loose ends
I hope for sorrow
for my joy’s misery never ends

when the imaginary knife
plunges through my fake veins
I pretend I have my life
well within my reigns

No broken heart 
that meets an end
with only the pen and paper
my imaginary friends

As a new night shuts in
brings a bad dream
and I wake up with a tired smile
for sometimes pain is better than it seems

Of writing a nightmare…

I had a nightmare. Which is a worse kind of speech than I had a dream, but the point is, I have been having these nightmares and turning them into stories almost all my life. Which brings me to how we write stories, why do we write them? Why do we write AT ALL? Writers all around the world have a weird sense of non-artist-ness about them, they don’t paint beautiful pictures or sing songs or dance, they write. They just put down on paper what most people think and that’s that. Beauty, its basic definition for a writer, is just what he/she writes on a scrap of paper.  
There is a very thin line for most writers between reality and fiction which is why it seems only real to write about dreams and nightmares and what we see. I remember reading the Finkler Question and telling myself I’m a lot like one of the main characters in the book Treslove, who almost always was waiting for something tragic to happen in life. I have been waiting that wait.
A life which is a little too uneventful is no perfection for a writer’s life. Hence, the nightmares, they are my subconscious’ way of feeling the exhilaration, of a tragedy. Unlike a lot of “artists”, I have had too many things that have gone right for me. A less than perfect yet uneventful childhood, a more eventful but less tragic youth, so I wait. I wait for fortune to bring me a misfortune. Meanwhile, my mind brings about unrealities in front of me, plays the truth of death and helps me write about lives full of lies.
But when eventually the lines blur, between reality and fiction, that’s when my masterpiece would present itself (or so I think). Virginia Woolf was right; a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
So this is me waiting, wanting and hoping for a tragedy, until then my dreams would stalk me until I pen them down. 

No One Here Gets Out Alive

The lights grew dim
And I am alone
All the noise and the beauty
Stopped by a stone

She wraps her tiny fingers
Around my filthy hand
She knows little of the price you pay
For being the solitary man

I cry in the middle of the night
For nothing makes me smile
Even her sweet laughter
Lets the pain go only for a while

I walk in to the greenhouse
The sweet spring leaves beckon
This last stand would be easy
No heavens or hells to welcome

I take a deep breath, pull the trigger
Let go of the light of day
What world would know me 
Is it better to burn out than to fade away?

The Epidemic of Mental Illness

As I passed by an abandoned sanatorium in Matheran on Sunday, the vibes from the place were not necessarily the best. Out of want for an adventure, I imagined a mishap and the number of unwanted human beings that must have at some point inhabited the place. In my head, I briefly lived through that scene in 15 Park Avenue, when the protagonist Rahul Bose comes across his schizophrenic ex-girlfriend.
Mental health has always been a mystery to me. But the entire idea of it being a medical issue boggles my mind. It moves from a medical realm to a philosophical one in a matter of seconds (possibly why I would never have made a good psychiatrist!) It’s relative and behavioral and can never, in my opinion, follow a set of definitions.
I always remember the one line by Paolo Coehlo in his book Veronica decided to die, an inmate of the asylum questions what those walls are for, “Are they to protect the world from us or to protect us from the world?”
With the rising number of reported cases, I begin to wonder what is good for our society. America currently claims to be going through a raging epidemic of mental illness. All numbers point towards double digit increase in the number of people (children more so) suffering from some disorder or other.
Is that what we are headed as well? A population more dependent on their therapists and lawyers than their friends and family, is that what we are aspiring to turn into? All these disorders, are these not mere stereotypes? Everything has a medicine, they even have a medicine for rudeness (an observation from PS I love you!). My side of the argument is simple. What if a “disorder” is the inherent nature of the person? Wouldn’t drugs that cure his so-called condition alter his personality and no longer preserve his true identity? Are we not altering behavior to suit that of the masses? Are we simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one?
A recent acquaintance with a psycho-analyst opened my eyes to the good side of the dreaded electric shock. The process apparently is a fool proof method into shocking craziness into submission. The method may seem brutal (images of old hindi movies and the million horror flicks), but it seems to have been in use for centuries and has worked wonders in the field of psychiatry. Perhaps I need a little more research to have some faith in the field.
Right now, it just seems like a way to build stereotypes in the desperate need of giving people an identity (“the Sylvia Plath effect” is the perfect example of such stereotyping). Perhaps a little more insight into the medicine of it might change my opinion. For now, it seems rather romantic to be depressed, anxious or paranoid, until of course they make a drug to cure my being me!

Second bests

I am a voracious reader. I think (or like to think) I get that from my mother who sometimes gets so engrossed in a book that she forgets the conversation doing rounds around her. For most writers, voracious readers must be the easiest challenge, for they read anything! If it is a bad book, they read and tell the world it sucks! But they still read it because sometimes book reviews aren’t always right and most of the times the author’s most famous book is not necessarily his best and more importantly, might not go on to become your favorite. So here is a list of the so-called “second bests” which are my favorite:
1. “Diary of a Bad Year”, JM Coetzee: better known for his work in “Disgrace” and “Life and Times of Micheal K” this guy manages to change the way he tells a story in each one of his novels. Why Diary… appealed to me as because of its unique method of running parallel stories in the diaries of the various characters. It was political and apolitical at the same time. Romantic and unromantic simultaneously. Now, I agree Life and Times is definitely the best stories ever told but Diary became my favorite simply because being such a famous novelist, sometimes authors forget to take risks and the Diary is a risky book. Not everyone gets it and yet he wrote it! 
2. “Chronicles of a Death foretold”: it’s hard to find a favorite Marquez. But among “No one writes to the colonel” and “love in time of cholera” (the only romantic novel I could stand till date) and the most famous “Hundred Years of solitude”, the chronicles wins because of its unique storyline and Marquez managing to intrigue the reader in spite of the ending being given away in the very first sentence! 
3. “Like a flowing river”, Paolo Coehlo: I’m not a Coehlo fan but again I have read most of his famous work like the Alchemist and the Zahir and not really agreed with his so-called “philosophy of life” but in Like a flowing river, he is more honest, possibly because it’s a collection of his thoughts, it helped me come to terms with what he blatantly tries to say in his novels. It was more personal and one of the only two books of his I could finish without being angry at him for writing(Veronica decides to die being the other one)
4. “The Meek one”, Dostoevsky: a friend of mine recently went wide eyed and shook his head and said of doestovsky, “That dude was twisted!”  Between the “Brothers Karamazov” and the most famous crime and punishment, doestvsky came up with a group of short stories and among them it was this unassuming tale of a working class man living in loneliness that really stuck! This is the best take on the lives of the middle class all over the world. For a lot of years I used to compare, every death and every life happening around me to this story and it seemed to define the way I saw mankind!
5. “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” Edgar Allan Poe: “The king of darkness” as I call him, he started the concept of a cult. Poe remains to this date quite a mystery, even in death (the flower that was laid at his grave every year until 2009 is sufficient proof). “The System..” appears in most short stories and has now become such a common tale spoofed in almost all scary movies that involve a lunatic asylum and yet as always no one really knows it originated with this short story. At a time when dark literature was not generally popular, Poe provided the perfect stage for future writers of horror and sci-fi. Of course, “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” are better known poems from him but this story was the perfect start to amazing things to come!

The Wall Street Occupied

As we near the end of one month of protests in New York called “Occupy the Wall Street”, one can’t help but notice a lot of similarities in the methods of our fellow democratic citizens. Of course, there are no hunger strikes, no Baba Ramdevs and no Gandhian philosophies (What we do, we, Indians just tend to be more dramatic)
The basic premise of both the protests is essentially the same; bring justice to the millions who have lost their money. For processes that blatantly ridicule capitalism, isn’t this a capitalistic demand in itself? The reason I never really like these strict economic concepts like capitalism or communism is that somewhere in their implementation, their definition gets distorted.
Micheal Moore is the perfect example of such a distortion, on one hand he talks of the extreme results of capitalism (Capitalism: A Love Story- a good watch!) and on the other, ends up appearing for support in the Zuccotti Park, lower Manhattan and talking about his upcoming book! Now an activist who blatantly banishes capitalism is out there SELLING his books to the world. Explain how that is NOT capitalistic!
The campaign, now being compared to Tahrir Square (what protest isn’t?), started off with good intentions, with every decision being made after a vote from the crowd. But as the hoopla grows, celebrities trickle in because supporting them is “cool”. And with the celebrities walking in the power slowly creeps away from the people, without even them realizing it!
Now, it is difficult to make the case for the Wall Streeters and the bad government policies of the world without being the devil’s advocate here. Yes, they took people’s money and gambled it away and yes, the baffled American government didn’t really do the best damage control in the world. But the point remains, that it happened and lessons WERE learnt (contrary to popular perception!). Now putting all the wrong doers to justice (which happens to be one of the protesters demands) would mean a complete change in leadership across all big banks around the world. Now the people did say “occupy” the Wall Street but do they actually intend to RUN it?!  

Another demand happens to be decreasing the corporate influence on democracy, now with elections and presidential candidate races happening on both sides, the politicians wouldn’t want to mess with the big boys in the “mean” street. And more importantly, the complete lack of cohesion between the corporate and the political world causes huge damages to the economy (circa the License Raj era in India). Such a system where parties would have to raise funds themselves will further raise the chances of corruption during election campaigns (trust me! lessons from the biggest democracy in the world!)
The common thread running through both the movements (Indian and American) seems to be the people’s frustration with the systems of justice in place. But both the protests also have a common flaw, the demands are too haphazard and can be easily manipulated. The more successful revolutions have been led by just one reason, the Tahrir square was all about getting Mubarak to leave and that’s that. The people in that case knew the real root cause of their problems and were not just gathering in a park to state them.
Corruption is so deep-rooted in our behavior that a real protest will have to be that of protesting the mindset of our billion and not add another law to the thousands of legislations in our country. Capitalism and greed, similarly is the American people’s brainchild, so no matter how hard they try, they know deep down the only reason they are crying is because they can no longer take loans without repaying them. At the end of the day, protesters in both countries end up sounding like whiny kids who don’t really know what to do about their problems.
So Micheal Moore would be really adept at telling the big bosses, they got it wrong but does he really have a solution?

My Little Dark Beans

The little dark beans,
they call me home
wire me up
even when I’m alone

The little dark beans
They crush and crumble
As the big black machine
It rumbles

Little girl screams
nice and sweet
she wishes for her mommy
as she eats

Little girl screams
wouldn’t give me peace
for me and my beloved
little coffee beans

Tonight my coffee
Is nice and dark
The juicy fingers
They leave a red mark

The little girl is quiet
her voice is gone
in this dark night
I’m finally alone

The clock strikes 3
And there is blood on the floor
My little black beans
Ain’t black no  more

Stuck in a Bell Jar

Appear, disappear
My mundane dreams,
They beckon a shadow
In a brightly lit room
In a crowded buzz
I’m in the dark, alone
The chair stares me down
An empty executioner
With nowhere to go
They smile and laugh
And appear, disappear
And suddenly I’m crying alone
Inside out or outside in
Does it really matter?
I wouldn’t really know
But as the day ends
The dawn sets in
For an unlikely morrow
I still wake up all alone