Let it spin.

A few years ago, I can’t say exactly when, I stopped listening to music. Now I hear a song or two sometimes while driving, sometimes when I take the Metro. But it’s not really listening, like it used to be.

I don’t think my memory exaggerates when it recalls entire nights spent listening to the same album. Not reading, not watching, not liking; just listening. Spending a fortune on music players and headphones and amplifiers when I didn’t have money for an auto ride home. Even this blog’s ancestors, as some particularly persistent readers might recall, were influenced by this. Posts used to begin (rather embarrassingly, in retrospect) with songs, and most titles used to be vague, mysterious-sounding “adaptations” of lyrics.

Oh well, maybe that bit hasn’t changed much.

A couple of (undeserved) friends recently gifted me a record player.  My first record is ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’ Just taking it out of the sleeve and feeling its weight and running a finger across its grooves (not recommended, I have since learnt) is quite something. It’s the same thing that makes me scoff at Kindles and iPads. One in hand is infinitely more inspiring than 40,000 in the goddamn cloud.

And yes, the sound makes mp3s sound like midis.

I don’t know if this will last, or if it’ll end up in the cupboard with the guitars and the drawing pads. Maybe those days of burning impatience, of promises to keep, are not coming back. But I’m going to start listening again. If nothing else, it could remind me of some things I ought to remember.

Like the lyrics to Me and Bobby McGee.

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Oh, Lenina.

I have a job, like many of you, most of you. But unlike you, perhaps, I spend a disproportionate amount of time pondering why. It’s a dangerous word, that why. If you start asking yourself why, there’s no stopping. In the end, you will have no answers, and no choices but to lock yourself up for 3 days and read Charles Bukowski. Or something.

So, I try to distract myself. Luckily, we have the world wide web.

I spent the early afternoon reading about the Russian Revolution. I began by reading about Anastasia, but you know how Wikipedia is. Actually, I began by listening to Sympathy for the Devil. Because I was checking the price of Keith Richards’ book.

No, this is ridiculous. We can’t keep going back. The Russian Revolution, right.

What I found interesting was a bit about the abolition of serfdom by Tsar, ‘the Liberator’.

Revolutionaries believed that the newly freed serfs were merely being sold into wage slavery in the onset of the industrial revolution, and that the bourgeoisie had effectively replaced landowners.

You may not want to click on that link. I did, and early afternoon turned to late afternoon.

This is nothing new, of course. (Wage slavery, I mean; not me clicking on links.) It has existed in every form of society right from tribes of the Stone Ages. And it will do so until the end. There will be slaves, and there will be masters. The slaves will fight wars or elections. They will get promoted to boardrooms or cabinets. Then they will be masters. The pigs will become the farmers.

The only way it could stop is if the slaves started believing they were free. Or if they were too busy watching game shows and collecting virtual badges to even care. Then they shall be emancipated, liberated, satiated.

Which means I can be never be happy being a slave, and I’ll never care enough to be a master. I could, however, continue writing pointless blog posts about vague nonsense, when I should be earning my wages like a good citizen.

Perhaps I should just go out, take a cover picture or something.

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The lights were low-oh-oh.

I’m quite an admirer of Richard Feynman. It’s hard not be one, if you know anything about him. Often when I’m bored and tired of everything – which is often – I pull out one of his books or watch his old videos on YouTube. Just watch him explain magnets or atoms with his childlike ferocity, and you’ll know what I mean.

Last night, I found a new biography written by Lawrence Krauss, and started reading about him. You may have heard his famous quote about how we’re all stardust. In one of his talks, he says a remarkable thing:

If you held up your thumb and forefinger against the night sky, and looked through a hole no bigger than a coin – that area would hold a 100,000 galaxies.

A 100,000 galaxies. Billions of stars.

And on any given night, you would see 10 stars exploding. 10 Supernovae. In that little space.

The point? The universe is huge, and rare things happen all the time.

I’m usually not as ardent an admirer of our educational system. Schools are designed to slowly, painfully grind your brains into a textbook regurgitators, and colleges are just another way to rob the non-rich for the rich.

But listening to him, I was surprised to find that I knew what he was talking about. I knew the equations for the cosmological constant. I knew why its value determines the shape of the universe – open, closed or flat. And I knew about the goddamn particle.

I had been taught all of it in school and college.

Not that it helps me today, as I try to devise a ‘strategy’ to flog some toothpaste with shiny bits in it. But then, neither does knowing the chemical structure of water or Gandhi’s middle name. Still, it’s good to know.

Today, I was late for work. No wonder, considering I spent the night watching physicists talk about the universe and the nature of infinity. I like how people find it pointless. “What’s the use of knowing all that universe stuff? How does it matter to our lives, whether there’s dark matter or not?”

Yes, what’s use of anything. I suppose it’s more meaningful to just post pictures of our fucking breakfasts.

Anyway, so I was late for work. Nobody really noticed. I found the same parking spot too. There were no emails from any of the dozens of people I’ve written to for a job. The cellphone bill is the same as it was last month. It’s still 42 degrees outside. Although my nails seem to be growing faster.

There are 10 stars exploding in a dimeful of sky, and I’m sitting here waiting for the rain.

Rare things happen all the time, maybe. But hey, Mr. Starman, I haven’t got all the time.

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Afternoon ends, evening begins.

I don’t think I’ve met, or even heard of, a single person who is happy doing whatever she is doing.

Almost everyone I know wants to change jobs, change careers, change cities, exchange lives.

The exceptions are the ones who have accepted that driving Corollas to and from shiny glass ghettos of Gurgaon was their dream, or imagine themselves breaking free soon, once they have ‘enough’ money, to open a fucking café or something. Delusions parading as ambitions.

Some days are bad. Some days are worse than all the bad ones put together.

There should be no reason for it. It’s not like I have it too bad. Compared to about 90% of the country, I have it unbelievably fantastic, in fact. But if you’re not after something as tastelessly tangible as money, it seems impossible to ever be satisfied.

Taking a walk, as I do each fiery afternoon, I walked into a boutique run by some French people. The shop was full of junk which foreigners and rich folk might call ‘Indian chic’. You know: old Bollywood posters, vintage Eveready ads, painted lanterns. All sorts of shit your mother sold to the kabaadi a decade ago.

Which gave me an idea I spent the rest of the afternoon nurturing. Build a network of kabaadi-walas; source all this trash for peanuts; paint it in bright, contrasting colours; sell it all in a little shop in Paris. The shop could also sell samosas and jalebis, screen Sunny Deol movies on weekends, and live stream shaadis. Okay, maybe not. But everything for Indophiles or expats desperate for fried aloo.

I re-read Wikipedia and Wikitravel for Paris. (Not the first time I’ve had such a thought. Yesterday was spent exploring Sydney.) Checked the airfares and immigration processes. Dug out the French with Michel Thomas CDs. Smoked.

For now, I must get back to writing mailers to privileged customers of a friendly bank; back to paying bills and EMIs and petrol surcharges.

Mais demain, je vais rever encore.

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Automatic for the people.

The one good thing about taking autos in Delhi – apart from not having to park them  – is that you get to talk to some of the wildest people in the city. Autowalle. If you’re anything like me – a typical middle-class Delhi-ite – you probably count that as the biggest disadvantage. They’re not the most beloved lot, no. The first thing that comes to mind  is probably the image of a pot-bellied, crooked-toothed, unscrupulous, greedy, smelly, horny bastard.

But after you get through the negotiation phase and slide into the preposterously designed vehicle with an exasperated look on your sweaty face, probably without realizing how much of your life you’ve cumulatively wasted arguing over 20 bucks, you promptly forget about them. It has always surprised me how people in this city can build a psychological barrier against those ‘other’ people, despite being within sneezing distance. We have the most intimate, personal conversations on that rocky backseat, as if another breathing, sweating stranger wasn’t sitting at an arm’s length. I don’t know what to make of it. Do we not care because it’s a stranger in every sense, removed from our reality; or do we refuse to recognize their existence because we’ve dehumanized them completely?  Either way, I often find myself uncomfortable with these inferences.

Long ago, I used to fantasize about this movie. An auto driver who hears a couple’s conversation, starts following them around, gets involved in a tangled web of their mundane bullshit (which seems infinitely exciting to him), and kills himself in the end, obviously. The Lives of Others in South Delhi. Just not as good, even in my fantasies.

Yesterday, I found myself stuck in an auto stuck in a jam for an hour. Since we were in it together, I started a conversation. When you do that, you can often feel their joy as the dull monotony of being honked at by assholes in white SUVs is disrupted, and all kinds of shit comes flowing out. It’s shockingly interesting. The monologue went around Aamir Khan, the dignity of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi, the absurdity of stoning buses, diesel subsidies, greed and Delhi weddings. He was quite informed and talked objectively, without swearing much (we assume them to be illiterate fools, don’t we.)

Today, I had the good fortune of finding one who never, ever, not goes by the meter. He railed against the autowalla community in general, and told me how he starts work at 7 in the morning, goes wherever the savaari asks him to go – by the meter – and returns home at 5 with ice cream for his kids. Two days ago, I met one who told me he doesn’t just take anybody anywhere. He only takes the ‘good’ people. He can look at their faces and tell if they’re goonde, chor or haraami. And he only goes to respectable places – no ‘dirty’ areas. I admit I felt somewhat flattered and proud to have met these strict requirements.

I seldom spend more than 5 seconds haggling. It’s not about the ten bucks, we say; it’s about the principle. It’s about their greed. And we can’t just start giving away money to everyone who asks for it. We have earned it after all. We’re not greedy for more than we get, more than we deserve, are we? God, no. Why should they be? But whatever your principles may be, it’s slightly difficult to fight over 10 Rupees, when the dinner you just left unfinished cost more than half the country’s monthly wages.

Oh yes, there’s another thing. Some of them play crappy old Hindi songs really loud. The one last night played “Tere dar par sanam chale aaye”. Where else would you hear that?

“Chale aaye. Chale aaye.”

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Who taught the elephants to swim?

While you were busy wasting away yet another weekend in your pointless lives, waiting in queues to get popcorn to go with your superhero formula-bullshit (3D), I watched Submarine. It’s based on a book by Joe Dunthorne, who can now be added to the small list of people (Salinger, Hornby, Amis) with the ability to capture the beautiful agony of young love.

I’m not the kind of fool who’s going to sit and review it for you. You probably won’t like it anyway. But for some reason, it has stayed with me for a few days. It had a strange, unsettling effect, especially the girl. Perhaps it reminded me of some things I was starting to forget. In one scene, the boy is sitting in his house, staring at the door, waiting for the girl to ring the bell. It lasts about 5 seconds, and in those 5 seconds, my fantastic brain somehow slowed down time to run a full disk scan and came up with 5 different stories it thought I would find relevant and helpful in that moment. Little piece of shit.

No, I’m not going to tell you what they were. Not like there’s exciting shit to tell, anyway. One of them had me walking around the city for six fucking hours, waiting for the phone to ring. I took apart the battery and shit and put it back again, even called my mother, just to check if it was working. Sat around smoking like a miserable little cunt.

Oh, what the hell. Looking back, those were interesting times. Promising, tantalizing, heartbreaking times. More interesting that sitting around in an over-airconditioned glass palace and staring at idiots talk bullshit all day.

The entire soundtrack is by Alex Turner, and it’s absolutely fucking stunning. Maybe that’s what it was about the movie. I don’t know how someone can keep writing stuff like that. And all I can do is steal his lines and put them in a shitty old blog.

Yes, I felt like swearing today. One of those days. What’s your fucking problem.

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“You cannot lose if you do not play.”

Anticipation.

It’s 3 am. You’ve spent exactly two hours now, trying to find the right configuration of body and bed, trying not to look at the time. But you do, and you give in. You wake the computer up and ask it again. It looks back at you with that same blank look, again. A t-shirt sale, a bank statement, a reminder to ‘link in’ with some HR woman called Richa, or Monica.

A cigarette will help you relax, sleep. Indeed.

The little voice in your head warns you again. It doesn’t matter so much, you know; it’s not the end of the world; don’t get your hopes up, you know where that goes. You dismiss it. The little sport-spoiler. Of course it matters. It will change your life. Finally, something good will happen to you. Hell knows you’ve worked for it. Yes.

The look on their faces when you tell them. Oh, how they’ll burn. You’ll show them who’s a worthless, mediocre hack. You’ll walk away with a smirk on your face and never look back.

Just a few hours to go. Isn’t it the most exhilarating thing in the world, waiting for a miracle to happen … waiting for the world to stop and tip its hat to you.

Disappointment.

The computer, that heartless sonovabitch. It pretends as if it’s nothing. It gives it the same little yellow flag it gives to the bloody phone bill. You spring up from the bed, take a deep breath and click.

Is there anything more agonizing than the pain of rejection?

You read it again. Slowly. You imagine the relief when you realize you’d just missed your name. But you know. Your heart knows. Not the metaphorical one; the real, physical heart. Deep inside, you actually feel it sink.

What were you thinking? Why did you have to do this? Oh no, you can’t get away from it now. If you were willing to take their opinions as approval, you must accept their rejection too. There you go then. Your mediocrity now has the stamp of confirmation. You can’t write.

You’re a pointless waste of time. You can’t find words to express this emptiness. Oh, fuck words. Words are what got you here, in this mess. They made you believe they were on your side. With words, you will astonish Paris. Balls. Your words are not worth the pirated Office 2007 Enterprise Edition CD you borrowed to regurgitate them, and shamelessly thrust them in the face an innocent world.

You want to throw up, but you find the idea so predictable, so banal. Just like your writing. You ignore calls from your friends. You feel no fatigue, no hunger, no heat. Just the tingling in your nerves. The desire to run, to some place else. You sit at the window and stare. At the people running to catch the bus. At a sparrow searching frantically, as the sun sets behind its back. And you light another cigarette, because there’s nothing left to do.

Hope.

You discover an old playlist. Knopfler, The Cure, the Boss. It reminds you of another time. It reminds you that you may not be young any more. But you aren’t too old. Not yet. Not until the last day.

You read a line in Bob Dylan’s book, and you stop, and read it again. “The one thing about my wife that I always loved was that she was never one of those people who think that someone else is the answer to their happiness. Me or anybody else. She’s always had her own built-in happiness.”

You realize what is so stupidly obvious, you can’t even call it a realization.

As much as you admire, love or respect someone, they’re still human. They have their weaknesses, their prejudices. And their opinions are just that. Opinions.

How pathetic it is to crave for the approval of other men and women. Pick yourself up, for fuck’s sake, drag yourself out of this disgraceful puddle of self-pity. And write. Write until your fingers ache with joy, until you grab those words by their necks and line them up to create something more interesting. Something beautiful.

Or, forget about the whole business and watch Boston Legal again. Just remember that no mortal with armpit hair and rotting teeth can judge you for it.

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