Wasn’t there someone named John Galt?

It was three hours since mid noon, roads were desolate and asphalt shining bright. It was dry with thermometer reading 40 degrees. The usual clutter of Godowlia and flood of juntaa was missing. There were few fruit vendors braving the summer sun to quench the primal need of roti-kapda-makaan.  Policeman from the security forces guarding the entry-exits, tussling against the afternoon ennui , dozing on and off. Their metal chamber was cooled by an old rusty pedestal fan which creaked in rebellion, asking for a voluntary retirement. Apparently although it was three am  the galis were cool like a tropical forest clearing canopied by old houses from either side, strewn with organic and inorganic refuse. He ventured deep into Vishwanath gali. A bull greeted him, with a vigorous swaying of his horns, ‘wanna tussle?’

“Fear not , it won’t hurt”, someone added from an adjoining clothes shop, sensing his uneasiness and probably knowing that the lad wasn’t frequent to galis.

He had learned the typical sound made by cowherds in Rajasthan to guide cows around. He tried and inferior version of this acquired learning , and surprisingly it worked. The bull calmly retreated to its own world.

There was a rush of old memories, they moved around in his head. The idli guy at the entry of gali. The sweet shop ‘Kunju Saav’ which made sweets specific to vrat, and what a diversity he had. A small shops selling local handicraft goods , benarasi sarees and brass utensils. There was another one which sold beads and rudraksha beads. He tried to remember when was the last time he was here, but his memory failed him. He ventured into the rudraksha shop.

“No no, not from Nepal. We buy directly from Indonesia. Nepalese rudraksha is dwindling, Indonesia is filling in the gap”

Do you have 1-2 faced rudraksha bead?

Actually there is nothing like one or two faced bead, its very rare. Usually people go for 16-17 faced one”

Oh really ! Can I have a look ?

He observed the 16 faced rudraksha bead, and tried to understand the hullabaloo around it.

One hour later he was back to Godowlia chauraha, the rising body temperature got him into a state of trance, there was quietude and everything became slow the way he liked. There was rush now and the road was like a mad rush to eternity. Everyone wanted their five minutes of heaven.

Scene 2

There was an old couple trying to pull a cart loaded with long bamboo stems. It was way too bulky for them and their age didn’t help them out either.  She felt sorry for them when he was still surmising the precarious swinging of the loose end of bamboos, might hurt someone or scratch the automobile.  The on goers drove cautiously around it , muttering under their breath. He silently admired her sensitive side,  may be he had lost touch with his emotional side and cared more for logic and reasoning. He remembered quote by ayn rand

You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. When you meet them, they’re not what you met last. In any given hour, they kill some part of themselves. They change, they deny, they contradict–and they call it growth. At the end there’s nothing left, nothing unreversed or unbetrayed; as if there had never been an entity, only a succession of adjectives fading in and out on an unformed mass.

 

For what was logic sans emotions, it was a chicken-egg question . Yet when he saw the front tyre of hand pulled cart hobbling up in the air from weight, and the old sexagenarians struggling against inertia,  it caught him offguard. His old sweating wife struggling, yet pushing it from behind.  But as often it happens we let these moments go and rather than helping the troubled , we keep it in our head. Alas ! C’est la vie

May be when they say karma et al it might be true, who knows. He was just trying to rationalize his inaction.  Wasn’t there someone named John Galt?

Foreign native digressions

He was hesitant to go inside, it had started to get too nostalgic in there. A calm yet shrieking silence prevailed around post marriage ceremony, only challenged by the faint but constant hub dub of an electric generator. There were few cars coming and going , their harsh headlights tearing through the darkness. From his childhood days, he hated the lacklustre, the unceremonious wrapping up of an event. Guest departing, tents getting wrapped up , long haul trolleys taking away the furnitures and lights. The place which was teeming with laughs and smiles, of heavy perfumes and ittar, would be as desolate and quite as morgue.  He remembered that a similar sight would conjure up after college festivals and events.

– Probably thats what happens when one dies – packing up ! But as they say cest la vie (such is life).

But there was not much digression on cest-la-vie, for the latest blinding light was of his friend’s car. Thus ended his brief moment of epiphany, and thanks to apple’s smartphone ( and a pinch of right hemisphere), he saved some of it in words.

 Little did he know that ditto same feeling would impunge his first week  after his vacation in India. Singapore felt too dull, like a saltless cuisine , after his India trip. The hum-drum, the halla, the liveliness was in stark contrast to this nation’s systematic inertia. He missed his homeland.
Today :
The ennui at office reminded him to similar bored feeling during his school days. It was like revisiting the same monotonous routine after eons, yet he was able to pinpoint the same old ennui of school days.   The sad part was that everyone seemed oblivious to the fact , no one was complaining. May be it was classic case of stuck in ‘Maya’ as they describe in Hindu scriptures. But this corporate ‘maya’ was strangling him. A throbbing monotonicity was building up in his brain challenging him to ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’.
Rewind to 19 days back 
2 Feb
He was flummoxed at the ensuing crowd, and the majestic evening scenery at the vast banks of Ganges.  Although only 1 hour before he was proclaiming my gonna-be-atheist attitude to an old friend, yet the whole scenery of the Kumbh Mela captivated and enthralled him. He had read somewhere that Kumbh’s attendance exceeds over 50 millions devotees. !!
– Fucking big number!!
So far this vacation had been a calm composite one. He had expected India to surprise him after 13 months abroad, but it didn’t.  Things move too slow in this part of the world.  Only thing out of place was his initial  urge to get down from taxi and start dusting New Delhi’s flyover railings. The dust has been overwhelming. It took him some time to grow accustomed to Indian capital, and by the time he got down near Akshardham Temple, his original self had been returning. It was good to see advertisement hoardings in Hindi. Some familiar and some new faces on print ads. Someone reading this might reduce the feeling to oh-yet-another-foreign-return-banter. But truth has been told. Delhi had disappointed him lately, and it was his first time that he was more than glad to leave Delhi, without hanging around for few days.
Moving across towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh, which might as well be least developed state of India, with reins in hands of goons and dons, there seemed to be no respite in sight. Owing to recent happenings (read Delhi gang rape ) the Indian within him had been tortured, and was now raring to come out to do something. He was quickly shuffling through stacks of ideas to an extent that he had started romancing with an idea of writing civil services exams, but leaving the perfect-Singapore life needed some more weights on the scale.
The sun was high, and there was a some breeze that one encounters during winter end in India. It was serene and the flannel shirt provided a much needed sheer. His mind was largely blank, and he was enumerating an acquaintance he made in high-court-city of east UP. How he is pursuing a goal to become a IAS officer? To which came an expected reply, “it’s useless, the unlimited power corrupts the officers”.
14 Feb
Fast forward to Varanasi. The traffic was going berserk and random. It would have flabbergasted NNT. A particular gust of dust cloud blinded him beneath his rimmed glasses. He was recuperating with the dust, when a truck horn jolted him and responded with a cuss. In spite of all the bodily unpleasantness, his heart was at peace. His soul was at ease. It had been …some 395 days… since he had last came here, and he had missed these blaring horns… the humdrum, the liveliness… the random bovines on roads, and the extreme motion which would have looked like a vigrous brownian motion from a great height. Singapore seemed like a distant utopia, he read someone blaring out on Singaporeans, hating their kiasu spirit et al, in last month’s GQ issue.
“I should now really get that power goggles for driving here”, he thought, finally clearing the dust off his eyes.  (Btw still need to get hands on that last copy of his mother’s novel  “heat & dust”). A different feeling had dawned when he met his college friends after ages, few after what…5 years…his mind was like…dude is this it? But then by that time effects of Shiva’s Prasad also had started empowering his thinking.
Near Dasaswamedh ghat there was infinite queue of juntaa and faith,thanks to Kumbh mela. All for, ten seconds of ‘darshan’ of deity. Although having been brought up in the religious capital, logically his emotions were not justified. But few years away from this religious capital of India, had instilled seeds of doubt, rather questions  in his mind. Now he had started dissecting religious beliefs with a logical reasoning, and quite often they had been defeated with logic. Yet the faith is one thing which has defeated many atheists and non-believers. (And then ofcourse there was ongoing MahaKumbh)
Image
Buying books at his favourite book store near Assi Ghat, he lamented yet another aspect being missed , the literary and artistic upper hand of the city. Being a bibliophile buying a book in ‘x’ dollars would fetch 4 books in equivalent INR , and much better ones than those available back in videsh…    (to be continued)

Day 15: Railroads and Atlas shrugged

There can be worst thing than waking up mid-sleep at 3:35 in morning, and writing this. Guess the body wasn’t too happy of temperature changes, from 18.8 C of Varanasi to 32 C of Mumbai. Mr. nose complained, and retorted to subtle means of cold.

Yet eyes are heavy and droopy, thankfully I caught my best mates online, and it’s a joy catching souls at this hour, atleast that justifies and gives some brownie points to waking up mid sleep. Damn you dear nose !!

And yes I finished Atlas shrugged, proud ++

And it had one of the best speech on philosophy I ever read, (granted that I never read philosophy. Might be my first ). Day 5: unfinished novels,

The best part was I finished it while undertaking this cross country ride on railroad, and what better time to read Dagny Taggart, John Galt

Confessions of a caffeine addict…

This tribute has way too long shot its deadline.
Whenever I am mesmerized by the aroma of coffee beans, I promise the writer in me, “Come on !!you cant ask for a better afflatus.”. (I know the title is cliched, but who cares !!)

May be today is the day, especially ever since I sipped the south Indian filter coffee…
That nanoseconds of orgasms, when you are drowned in aroma and your palates send first pulse to brain. That is THE MOMENT. No past, no future

Nothing beats afternoon cold kapi @ Singapore’s kopitiam- a black coffee with lots of ice. Or the urbane espressos at America’s finest Starbucks.Thanks to the flat world of Friedman, you can enjoy the authentic south Indian coffee @ Hot chips/saravana bhavan/Murugan. But then too you will miss the roadside coffee they serve in wee hours of morning at Chennai’s roadside.

Even those school days in Varanasi when I waited weeks to enjoy the thick cold coffee of “the kerala cafe”, it always had something in offing. It kind of marked my days of teenage coffee fan. Or even the famous VT’s cold coffee @ BHU, Varanasi.

 

Then came the days of undergraduate days of Himalyan odyssey, those four years went pretty caffeine-less sans the last year, when I started brewing coffee from CCD coffee beans. Man !! It was an joint effort, when you struggled with electric heater, white cotton kerchief as sieve, and aroma filling up whole of corridors after midnight. Other time we usually made hay with nescafe machine coffee-which was like a cheap B grade bollywood flick. Baker’s cafe at Gangtok provided some respite once or twice a month.

Then came the corporate days, which were lost in cappuccinos and frappacinos and macchiato of CCD and Barista in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi. But then cold coffee was my childhood fav, could not give up on that.  And once I caught a entrepreneur lost in “How Starbucks saved my life”, I got fascinated in a conossieurs way, and bought Howard Schultz’s “Pour your heart into it”. I have been pouring my heart ever since 🙂
I thought not giving a mention to shots of espresso will be blasphemy.
It wasnt until I arrived in Chennai- Heart of south India, I tasted the filter coffee, and that’s it !!

 

PS: sequel on hold till I visit Baristas in Italy or if I win World Barista Championship or another afflatus !

 

 

“This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion.  Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place.

Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of with start up like sharpshooters.  Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder.”

-Honore de Balzac, “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee”

Hamlet at Assi Ghat “यह India में कुछ भी हो सकता है . ससुर एक हड्डी ले बैठ गए , जनता तमाशा देखने आ गयी ”

It was a lazy day starting early morning at 10:45 AM, I reclined on winter sun on the swing and like a septuagenarian was reading newspaper with lukewarm tea. And then it happened,

“wtf! Hamlet on Assi Ghat. You got to be kidding me. But there  it was, as it usually happens in La Kashi bunch of firangs always start doing strange stuffs here.”

But yeah it reminded me of my days in South, when I would rush to any theatre performance so within minutes I was hustling to Assi Ghat. It turned out that they were doing a mime on Hamlet and posed 24hours non stop with a human skull(OMG)

So here I was on assi ghat, and one benarasi at chai commented

“यह  India में  कुछ  भी  हो  सकता  है . ससुर  एक  हड्डी  ले  बैठ  गए , जनता  तमाशा  देखने  आ  गयी ”

(In India anything is possible, bloody sat with a skull and people are flocking around.)

I would leave the rest as picture blog.But all said it was sweet but still couldnt stop humming song lyrics of Indian Ocean ” देश मेरा रंगरेज़ रे  बाबु”


-Arunabh

An Amateur @ haiku

GANGA GHATS
The water burning
bright in the cold sun light.
Face sees familiar

ROADS
Dust high in the air
horn shattering winter bliss
Wheels move invisible

AN AMATEUR
He moved his pen away
Drip drip of rain demanding
Is this the right way?

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