Saturday, January 29, 2005

R L Stevenson: Slinger of Ink

"All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. "
There's a new biography of Robert Louis Stevenson out there in bookstores. Here is an excellent review of the book. I am excited to know that there's work still being done on him. (Disclosure: I am a great fan of his as I grew up with his works).Though there is a another biography by Mr.Frank McLynn, I believe this one takes the cake.

There's a tendency I noticed in people to dismiss Mr.Stevenson as a writer of childrens tales(probably because of popular works introduced in school like "Kidnapped" or "Treasure Island"). These people might not have read "Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde" or "Master of Ballantrae" (which is a subtle study of human nature). For all those budding writers out there, there is hardly a substitute of his essays on "Art Of Writing".

"With the half of a broken hope for a pillow at night
That somehow the right is the right
And the smooth shall bloom from the rough
Lord, if that were enough?"

He wrote a lot of poetry ever since he was a kid but they are usually tinged with a deep philosophical insight of human nature, occasionally self-pity and mostly optimistic of the next things to come.(He believed that he outlived life but its still good fun)

"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life." - An Apology for Idlers

So he got out whenever his health permitted, which brings us to another facet that he is extraordinarily talented.Travel Writing. I definitely enjoyed Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes" ( Cevennes is mountain range of south central France) while I am yet to read his other travel works. The style is much akin to Naipaul's early travel literature with humor and insight.

As the article says, his self-abuse led him to various diseases but finally succumbed to Hameorrage when he was in South Samoam islands.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live, and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies, where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Art of Motoring - Part 1

How is motoring different from driving? Physically, they're the same process.You apply gas, let off the clutch and steer by turning the wheel. The difference is in the mind of the operator. Just because you drive, doesn't mean you motor.When you drive, you go from A to B. When you motor, you go from A to Z. It's all about living. Nobody can tell you when you're motoring. You just know.

When motoring, its important to occasionally take a left when you're supposed to go right.In this way you can avoid ruts. A rut cannot be seen but it can be felt. If you feel like you've taken the same path so many times before that there should be a groove worn into the street, you are in a rut.Take a left immediately.

Everyday you probably drive by a street and have no idea where it goes. Why not feed your curiosity? Find out. Get Lost. Getting lost is a great way to find weird stuff you've been looking for, like a store that sells giant cardboard tubes or metal lunchboxes like the ones you had when you were a kid, Or maybe you'll discover an empty parking garage with one of those spiral ramp things.Of course it's poissible that nothing will happen but thats OK,too.At the very least you'll get a few minutes in your car, when you're in complete control of where you go and what you do.Not a bad bargain.

If you find that you have trouble getting lost, dig through your closet and pull out a Magic 8 Ball. Try letting that be your navigation system for a while."Should I take the next left?" "SIGNS POINT TO YES".

Look for shortcuts. Always take a chance on finding a secret path. The best time to find a shortcut is on a Sunday, when most people are still sleeping.There's less traffic, so you can take your time.A great shortcut cant be rushed.
Warning : Never look for shortcuts on your way to work.This can be stressful and thats not what motoring is about.

It would be remiss not to mention the long cut or the "scenic route", another well respected maxim of the motorer.Many long cuts include aseries of twisties that would take you back to the glory of the old days.

Motoring is about mileage. City miles. Highway miles.Its all the same.A car with a lot of mileageis more interesting than a car with only a few miles on it. So don't be afraid of a seasoned odometer, consider it an experience-o-meter. Its says you've been places... It's a scrapbook bursting at the seams. And there's nothing sadder than a 4 year old photo album with only six pictures in it.

When you see other car owners try not to rub it in if you have more miles than they do.They are trying. Maybe they've been busy working.And dont be embarassed when if you meet someone with more miles on their car.You'll get there.If you feel like you're not hitting the road as much as you'd like,dont feel guilty.Just being a car meansyou're motoring more than the next guy.Some people believe high mileage lowers the resale value of their car.Motorer's believe high mileage validates their car's existence.

Never stay at home if you dont have to.Get out there.Stay at cheap hotels,mom-and-pop diners and stop at roadside novelty shops.There's no better time to learn about your friends than when the radio stations arent cutting in and you discover the lost art of conversation.Priorities become a lot clearer.And the problems that plague your daily life seem less significant when there's 300 miles of asphalt separating you from them.Motorers love the road trip.Because they love the world.

Always keep your gas tank atleast half full. Because you never know when inspiration will hit and you'll get the urge to motor someplace you have never been. The more gas you have, the further you'll get before you need to stop.Stopping is hesitation.And Hesitation is the
enemy of spontaneity.And Spontaneity is the ally of the motorer.

When you motor properly, there'll be dirt aropund the tires,dust on the bonnet,and bugs on the grille. Consider this signs of motoring.Wear them with Pride.Of course,its fun to wash your car, too. Just dont be in such a hurry to erase your experiences. Remember,a memento doesnt have to be a snow globe or a beer stein. It just has to remind you of a moment in time.And when birds happen to leave a mark on your car, try not to be too mad.Its inevitable.After all the world is their in-flight lavatory.

Dont freak out if your car gets a nick or a ding. Just think of them as cars. And as most people will tell you, scars are sexy. They tell a story. They are evidence of an active life. A life worth living.You'll probably get them fixed but while they are there, take solace in the fact that they represent a life experienced.And as with scars, feel free to embellish on how a nick came to be. Maybe it came from the steel-studded collar of a rabid dog that had been chasing you for three blocks and threw himself at your door the moment you jumped in your car.Exaggeration is a motorer's prerogative.

Most drivers hate congested areas. They avoid them whenever possible. Now, while motorers love open roads more than the next person, they don’t exactly consider traffic jams to be an asphalt sea of torture and despair. They’re proud when their emotions aren’t poisoned by the tension and frustration in the air around them. They know you can still motor whether you’re going six or sixty. If someone changes into your lane, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It’s just another guest at the party in lane three. Be the person who lets people in. True, you’ll reach your destination about four or five car lengths later but it will make for a stress-free trip.

This is a marketing promo for a car launched fairly recently in the US and as you can see it is aiming at lifestyle instead of simply the market.Nevertheless there's an element of true ringing to it that is so pleasant to imagine.

This is much akin to people taking the left with the VW Beetle in the sixties. Most of them ring true to me because once in a while you feel as if you are one with the car. The accelerator becomes an extension of your leg and the engine communicating with your mind. Now that a Zen..More to come in part 2 (including the name of the Car if you havent already guessed! A good clue is that this car is designed by Ferdinand Porsche)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

First Strike

The Prisoners' Dilemma was extensively studied as a model of first strike nuclear ballistic missile strategy. In it, two prisoners are held separately, and both are offered the following deal, `If neither of you confess, you shall both go free. If both of you confess, you will both receive long sentences. If only one of you confesses, that one will receive a short sentence, but the other will receive a doubley long one.'

Is there really an advantage to first strike?? If so what prevented the Cold War from exploiting this fact.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Winter of Discount

The snowflakes running wild
across the face in my window
the first slow waves of winter
are settling at my door

Words break together
in this half-articulated song of thought,
Looking for answers

I sleep and I dream
a dark midsummer's dream
of the wind in your winter eyes

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Does snow follow 5 year patterns.I remember exactly the same day 5 years back we had the first snowfall in our area.Last couple of years, I have been waiting up and savoring the first snowfalls with a cup of coffee.No such luck this time, because waiting till 4:00 am in the morning provided futile

Waking up to the million white ambassadors of morning and a peek outside my window..Ah! The white city earth tones are relaxing on the first day of snowfall but gradually wear off their fun factor. Kids coming out to play and cars losing control of their way. Inspires me to write a bad haiku.

Novel Delight
Lonely flake in air
Only to melt

Sunday, January 16, 2005

English is a Phunny Language!

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.

Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

------------Author Unknown

Thursday, January 13, 2005

War Of Dreams

"Because we have been locked out.And when we look through the windows, all we see are shadows. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A War that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves."

Our Dreams have been doctored.
We belong nowhere.
We sail unanchored on troubled seas.
We may never be allowed ashore.
Our sorrows will never be sad enough.
Our joys will never be happy enough.
Our dreams never big enough.
Our Lives never important enough.
To Matter.

-Page 52:Chacko to Estha and Rahel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Light Inversion

My torch is upside down,
and it consumes me;
I didn't know
that I had turned it over.
I never realized the actual moment
the light that was
bright enough
upright enough
got too dim to see --
like going from the black into the red,
like slipping from my interest
to my principal --
unawares --
compelled by life itself
(by death itself)
to continue
to consume
even me.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Death Of Karna

One of the most interestingly ironic characters in the entire Mahabharata is Karna. Born to the Sun God and Kunti, disavowed by his own mother, grew up as a "Sut Putra", just simply craving for acceptance finds himself by the side of Duryodhana. In his moral code a.k.a Dharma, it didnt matter which side he fought as long as he fought upto his own standard of satisfaction. An extract from "The God Of Small Things" helps drive home the point :

"He is Karna, whom the world has abandoned. Karna Alone. Condemned goods. A prince raised in poverty. Born to die unfairly, unarmed and alone at the hands of his brother. Majestic in his complete despair. Praying on the banks of the Ganga. Stoned out of his skull.

Then Kunti appeared. She too was a man, but a man grown soft and womanly, a man with breasts, from doing female parts for years. Her movements were fluid. Full of women. Kunti, too, was stoned. High on the same shared joints. She had come to tell Karna a story.
Karna inclined his beautiful head and listened.

Red-eyed, Kunti danced for him. She told him of a young woman who had been granted a boon. A secret mantra that she could use to choose a lover from among the gods. Of how, with the imprudence of youth, the woman decided to test it to see if it really worked. How she stood alone in an empty field, turned her face to the heavens and recited the mantra. The words had scarcely left her foolish lips, Kunti said, when Surya, the God of Day, appeared before her. The young woman, bewitched by the beauty of the shimmering young god, gave herself to him. Nine months later she bore him a son. The baby was born sheathed in light, with gold earrings in his ears and a gold breastplate on his chest, engraved with the emblem of the sun.

The young mother loved her first-born son deeply, Kunti said, but she was unmarried and couldn't keep him. She put him in a reed basket and cast him away in a river. The child was found downriver by Adhirata, a charioteer. And named Karna.
Karna looked up to Kunti. Who was she? Who was my mother? Tell me where she is. Take me to her.

Kunti bowed her head. She's here, she said. Standing before you.
Karna's elation and anger at the revelation. His dance of confusion and despair. Where were you, he asked her, when I needed you the most? Did you ever hold me in your arms? Did you feed me? Did you ever look for me? Did you wonder where I might be?

In reply Kunti took the regal face in her hands, green the face, red the eyes, and kissed him on his brow. Karna shuddered in delight. A warrior reduced to infancy. The ecstasy of that kiss. He dispatched it to the ends of his body. To his toes. His fingertips. His lovely mother's kiss. Did you know how much I missed you? Rahel could see it coursing through his veins, as clearly as an egg travelling down an ostrich's neck.

A travelling kiss whose journey was cut short by dismay when Karna realised that his mother had revealed herself to him only to secure the safety of her five other, more beloved sons - the Pandavas - poised on the brink of their epic battle with their one hundred cousins. It is them that Kunti sought to protect by announcing to Karna that she was his mother. She had a promise to extract.

She invoked the Love Laws."

Ahh! The Love Laws being invoked against a man who wouldnt refuse them or go against his own code . BTW For the movie junkies Maniratnam's "Dalapati" was inspired by this and Our "Thalaivar" Rajnikanth played this role of Karna in a metaphorical sense)

Its a pity to have such prowess and yet find his talent failing him when he needed the most. As long as Duryodhana was by his side, he did shine brilliantly. The moment Duryodhana expected something of him, he did fail his captain not as much due to his own as due to his past.

Imagine a dementor taking his toll just at the moment of your greatest glory. I had this weird dream. That I was dying exactly like Karna did. That I was to be stuck when I needed my wits the most. The good part though is what follows next but the bad part is that only I know the better part.The rest of the world knows just Karna's tragic demise but not what happens after. I recollect visiting the alleged place of Karna's death in Haryana called "Baan Ganga". I was with my brother at that barren place trying to conjure up the image of India's greatest war ever. In the words of Emily Dickinson

"Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality."

My personal theory is that he is an alter ego of Arjuna.It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons now in his last moments crystallized with the pain of death.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A New Leaf

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get Somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Welcome to Another year thats full of these forks.....